I woke up at 2am on 30thMay with what I interpreted as the beginnings of labour – contractions that felt a bit more intense than the ‘twinges’ I’d been having beforehand. I was sleeping in Martha’s room – Martha and Charlie were in our room. This was the best arrangement because it gave me a bit of space. The contractions were few and far between and I was able to doze and listen to a hypnobirthing track or two. By 6am I was sure things were happening and called Maternity Triage at the hospital to let them know I’d started having contractions but no show or waters. Charlie heard my voice and got up – we were very excited but knew it was just early stages. Charlie walked Juno (our dog) and I had a bath and when Martha (6 years old) got up we told her things had started. She was very excited and pleased that she’d predicted the right date that the baby was going to come (also her due date – apparently only 5% of babies arrive on their due date). We had pancakes and bananas for breakfast.
I can’t really remember that well how the day passed. I tried to rest, keep hydrated and well fed. Late morning we decided that a walk would be a good plan so we all headed off to Sissinghurst woods with Juno. Charlie and Martha did their usual mucking around and playing ‘it’ and I waddled along, holding onto a tree or Charlie when I had a contraction.
I’d made contact with Nell (who was due to come and help us with Martha and with the birth) Nell is my closest friend and I attended the birth of her daughter in 2013.
I don’t remember that much about the day. The contractions throughout were very irregular in frequency, duration and intensity. I wonder if the bath and the hypnobirthing made me very relaxed and slowed things down a bit. I was using an app to time contractions – this gave me information but perhaps prevented me from just letting go and allowing the birth to unfold without being too conscious of time passing. Charlie had filled the bottom third of the birthing pool by mid-morning.
Nell arrived around 16.30 – it was lovely to see her and hang out together for a while – she was amazingly supportive. We spent some time in the garden, because that seemed to bring on the contractions (oxytocin-inducing flowers and veg patch). Walking up and downstairs had the same effect. Sitting still or kneeling had the opposite effect. Martha was on and off the scene – she brought me cool flannels and snacks, including the 2ndstrawberry of the year from the garden. She also took a dip in the birthing pool, about which she was absolutely delighted (my water baby)!
Things ramped up during the evening and I retreated to Martha’s room, which was the darkest in the house. It’s clear that I went through transition here. I’d been breathing through contractions and relaxing my shoulders and jaw but felt rising anxiety that the contractions were getting too strong for me to remain so controlled – I felt like they might overwhelm me somehow. Because things had been going on so long I was very tired and anxious about having enough energy to get through. I didn’t want to end up at the hospital!! I was desperate for the midwife to arrive. She did (around 21.00) and she was really, really lovely – Lynne. She listened to the baby’s heartbeat, took my blood pressure, pulse and examined me internally (she dislodged some show too). I was 6cm dilated and she said I could get in the pool. Joy!!!!!! My lovely pool attendant Charlie had made sure it was ready.
I got in, put my hypnobirthing track on and felt such relief. The contractions got more intense and soon I found myself bearing down. I wanted to hold on tight to Charlie’s hands for every contraction – I was on my knees leaning on the edge of the pool. Stretching out one leg behind me provided some relief. I remember groaning a fair bit. It was amazing feeling my body pushing the baby out – I wasn’t pushing consciously, I was really feeling the pushing from my uterus. It was quite remarkable!
At one point I felt like a blew a balloon out of my vagina – this was the outer layer of the amniotic sac that hadn’t yet broken – it wafted around in the water. Lynne said, ‘have we got a head?’ – obviously surprised. I remember asking in a bit of a panic ‘what’s happening, what’s happening’ because it didn’t feel like a head to me and I felt concerned about what it was. I also felt like I’d had a poo and was self conscious about this because I knew everybody was behind me. The midwife explained what had happened but soon after I felt the head of my baby coming down to the bottom of the birth canal. The sac broke as the baby’s head was born. The baby wiggled around a lot when the head was out but the body still in – a very strange sensation but it made me feel really happy to know that the baby was ok. The heart rate had been perfect all along Lynne monitored it as the baby moved from my right hand side, into the middle and down.
Then she was born. Lynne caught her (because it all happened so quickly) and brought her up through my legs and into my arms. The umbilical cord seemed quite short again (as with Martha). We didn’t look at the baby’s gender immediately – I had a cuddle with her and Lynne was trying to get her to move but she seemed in shock. She had gasped when she came out of the water and was still getting oxygen from the pulsing cord so we weren’t too worried. Lynne rubbed her face and chest quite vigorously and she started to make little noises. We cuddled and had a few photos. We also looked and she was a girl so we welcomed Juniper into the world!
Lynne said we needed to be concerned if we could no longer see my feet because of the blood. As the cord was still pulsing we didn’t want to cut it yet so I stayed in the pool a little longer but there was more blood. Lynne asked if the cord was still pulsing and, as it was, I asked if I could get out of the pool with Juniper still attached to assess the bleeding. So that’s what we did. I climbed out of the pool and onto the sofa. It soon became clear that the bleeding wasn’t a problem. The cord stopped pulsing so Lynne clamped it and Charlie cut the cord.
Juniper then suckled on me quite easily and naturally. This caused my uterus to contract, which was quite painful. When I was ready Lynne suggested we use the contractions to deliver the placenta – Juniper went for some skin to skin time with her daddy. I sat up and pushed with half of my bottom on the sofa and the other half raised. It was like giving birth to a big plate of jelly. Sally took the placenta to examine it, showing Nell the different parts, and declared it to be really rather large. After this Lynne inspected me for any tears and said I had a very small tear that didn’t need suturing as it could heal naturally.
Then it was time for cuddles all round (Charlie, me, Nell), more suckling, photos and fizzy wine. Also, the weighing of the baby! She was 7lbs14oz – bit bigger than Martha had been. I was so happy that things had gone to plan thanks to some careful preparation and my amazing birth partners – Charlie, Nell and Martha – and midwives – Lynne and Sally.