Day 9 overdue, I woke up before anyone else, at around six in the morning, and noticed the annoying Braxton Hick’s contractions which had been annoying me for a few weeks now. I didn’t think much of it all. My daughter woke at about quarter to seven and I got her up and out of her night nappy. I went to the loo and realised that these tightenings weren’t going away like they usually did when I got up and started doing things. They were very short, barely twenty seconds long, but happening every two or three minutes, and they were a bit more intense than anything I’d noticed before. I texted my doula to let her know that something a little different was happening, then I took my daughter downstairs, letting my husband get a bit of a lie-in. I started getting her breakfast together, and my mum came down. We sat and chatted, drinking tea and eating breakfast, with me stopping every couple of minutes, still just twenty or thirty seconds at a time, for these pretty powerful contractions. It wasn’t long at all until I really needed to give these contractions my full attention and by eight o’clock I was kneeling on the floor, leaning on a kitchen chair, with these very short contractions coming pretty frequently.
My husband was down by this point and I was fairly sure that this was it. It definitely felt different from the Braxton Hicks. It seemed to be stepping up pretty quickly, so I wanted my doula here now. For some strange reason our phone signal had completely died, so I think we spent about half an hour trying to get in touch with her. I panicked just a little bit at this point. Eventually we managed and when she asked if I wanted her to come over I said YES just a little too desperately.
It seemed mere moments until she arrived and it was like having my superhero fly in to rescue me. She instantly got everything sorted for me, putting a roll-up mattress down on the floor for me to kneel on, and a cushion for me to lean on for the chair. This was absolutely the only position I wanted to be in and she was great at getting me really comfy. My daughter thought it was wonderful, and kept trying to ride on my back, doing horsey rides. My mum took her out in the garden to play at this point, so that I could focus.
I think it was about half nine that we phoned the midwife. I was coping pretty well, with amazing back massages during the contractions, my favourite music playing in the background, the smell of clarey sage everywhere, and not moving from that kitchen chair, just the perfect height to lean on. The midwife insisted on speaking to me, and was there trying to get my address details right in the middle of a contraction. She said she’d pop by the local hospital and pick up some gas and air, and would then come and see how I was getting on. To be honest I didn’t really want her there yet, I felt like I was doing ok, and I worried that she would interfere with things if she got there too soon.
My birth plan was short and sweet. I did not want any routine vaginal examinations. I did not want to be told when or how to push. I wanted to choose my position for myself. I wanted to be in the pool. I wanted to have a natural third stage and not to cut the cord until I agreed. These few requests were written out large on bright orange card on the wall for the midwives to see, but after all my requests were ignored the first time I was a little nervous about how the midwife arriving would affect things.
My husband started pumping up and then filling the birth pool.
It turned out to be a lot less easy than we had thought, with the hose not fitting properly to any of the taps. He ended up having to run it down through the house from the upstairs bathroom, and prior to that there had been quite a lot of kettle boiling going on. I managed to block most of that out though, focusing on my contractions, with the hypnobirthing practice I had done really seeming to help me. My doula gave me regular sips of water, spoonfuls of honey, and incredible back massages. She did make me get up and walk to the loo every half hour or so for a wee, which felt like a massive effort, but still a million times better than the three catheters I had had last time
The midwife seemed to be taking her time, and eventually we got a call to say she’d got lost. Maybe making me tell her my address in the middle of a contraction hadn’t been the best idea. My contractions were seeming to be changing, from upwards and inwards, to a definite down and out feeling and I started to panic. I was scared that the midwife wouldn’t find us, and I was very close to asking my husband to take me to the hospital. I was sure I couldn’t do this, I needed somebody to look after me. At this precise moment, without me asking, my husband took a moment from his frantic pool filling efforts, to kneel beside me, with his arm around my shoulders. It felt like the strongest, safest, warmest arm I had ever felt, and it totally gave me the strength and bravery I needed to keep going.
The pool was now ready, but my doula wanted me to wait till the midwife arrived before I got in. She didn’t want to risk her insisting I got out again. Thankfully the midwife arrived, with me mid contraction, and waited wonderfully until it passed before coming and introducing herself. She quickly listened in to the baby, felt my tummy, and checked my blood pressure. She asked if I’d be able to go and do a wee sample, and as the obedient patient that I am, I said of course. I got up to walk to the loo, a contraction hit, and I just said that I have to get into the pool RIGHT NOW.
As I got into the pool I needed to push immediately. I think I had probably needed to push for a while by now, but until the midwife arrived I hadn’t let my body get on and do what it needed. I had thought that I wouldn’t actively push at all, just let my body do it, but I really needed to push with all my might. I was in the pool, on my knees, with my body up straight now, desperate for this baby to come out. The midwife got straight on the phone for the second midwife to arrive, and she turned up very shortly afterwards.
Having dealt with the contractions up to this point pretty easily, I could now feel the baby’s head about to crown, and it felt as if my entire body was about to rip in half. This really was absolute agony, and it was like I was straight back in my first birth, in that terrible fear and pain, that certainty that I absolutely could not survive this. And I’m sure that I had that thought of third degree tears and hours in theatre and months of recovery and I was so scared of this. I started to get really loud and shouty and hysterical, but somehow I managed to put my hand down and I could feel my baby’s head, right there, ready to arrive at any second. The waters broke now, and there were just a few more, shouty, terrified pushes and my baby tumbled his way into the water. I could see him lying on the floor of the pool, with these enormous hands reaching up to me. It took me a moment, and my doula gently said “pick up your baby Rachel.”
I picked him up, noticing the cord was wrapped around his neck. Without even thinking about it for a moment I unhooked it and brought him up to hold him on my chest. This was when I got to check and find out that it really was a He after all. Throughout the pregnancy I had been so completely certain that he was a boy, and I was so relieved, so pleased that he was who I thought, so pleased to finally see this little man that it felt like I had always known.
I desperately wanted my daughter to meet him, so without really thinking about what he wanted, I sent my husband off to fetch my mum and daughter. They arrived to say hello just four minutes after he was born. My husband held my daughter and she cautiously watched me and her new brother as we cuddled in the pool.
I kept holding him, with the cord still whole, and despite no injection it wasn’t long until I started contracting again, and around half an hour later I delivered the placenta, still in the pool. At this point I clamped and cut the cord myself. My husband cut my daughter’s cord, and that had been the plan this time too, but I suddenly felt very strongly that I wanted to. I had managed this far to get him into the world by myself, I felt I needed to complete his journey into becoming his own separate person.
Up to this point I had been the only person to touch this new person. I passed him now to his Daddy so I could get out of the pool, but my daughter became very upset by this, so my Mum took him instead and I was helped out of the pool, going to lie down on the mattress on the floor. My daughter wanted me, so we all lay together, my husband by my side, getting to know each other, there on our kitchen floor.
He was an hour old before the midwives asked to weigh him and check him over. They checked me too, and decided I didn’t need a single stitch, this was such a relief after the horrors of the first time. He weighed a remarkable 10lb3, my fabulous, not so little, man. I hadn’t even had a paracetamol, the midwife had never got the gas and air out of her car. Being at home and having my amazing support made it all feel manageable, except for those last few minutes, and whilst I will never forget that pain and knowing it would surely kill me, it instantly vanished when he arrived.
So, from my first twinges at six, convincing full blown labour around half eight, the first midwife arriving at eleven, my boy was born at quarter to twelve. We all celebrated with home made cake for our lunch, as my doula cleaned and steamed my placenta on our stove, ready for encapsulatiom the next day. I headed upstairs for cuddles in bed while my husband and daughter cleaned out the birth pool in the May sunshine in the garden.
It really was the most perfect, magical day. I wouldn’t change a single moment of it, and would happily do it again tomorrow. My midwives were wonderful, and totally respected my wishes. My doula was incredible, and gives the best massages of all time. I was so pleased that my daughter was a part of it and that my mother was there too. Everything just came together perfectly and was everything I had ever dreamed of. And our lives have all been improved as a result of our wonderful son joining our family, it was like he was the piece of the puzzle that we needed to make us whole.