2 years after the conversation, after an utterly heartbreaking journey, we found out we were pregnant with our daughter. The pregnancy was full of anxiety and hormones and the delight that is ‘all-bloody-day-and-night-sickness’ right up until the day she was born.
I loved early labour with her but went into hospital too early and got sent home. We went in again, still not in established labour but I was allowed to stay. During the next few painful hours something happened – that lovely birth centre, water birth I thought I’d have went out the window and instead a panic fuelled epidural, motionless labour with constant monitoring of a now stressed baby who’s heartbeat was dropping with every contraction before disappearing. Rushed to theatre for a C-section they then picked up her heartbeat again and eventually she was delivered via Ventouse and I genuinely thought they’d pulled my baby’s head off!
At the time I didn’t care – I had my beautiful baby, she was here, but no way was I going through that again.
But we never wanted just one child.
This time, there was no drama. The big fat positive appeared rather quicker than we’d expected. I had 1 day of sickness before I’d even taken the test, but that was it, no anti-sickness drugs for me and bar the extraordinary tiredness that comes from growing a small human – I felt ridiculously healthy and relaxed.
Already this was such a different experience and I had an overwhelming need for the birth of this baby to be a complete contrast to Mathilda’s.
Enter Holly. One of the group of incredible mummy friends I made after having Mathilda. Amongst many other things she teaches hypnobirthing, something I had never even heard of before but the more I found out about it the more it all made sense. I was also really keen to have a home birth, my husband Alex though – not so much! He needed a lot of persuading which Holly helped with. So we did the workshop, read the book and practised breathing and the MP3’s as well as setting up the ‘birth nest’ with pool, fairy lights and positive bunting and messages from my mama tribe as we got ready for baby to arrive.
After a week of frustrating stop/start contractions, then a bit of a mild panic as my very responsive baby was a bit too quiet for comfort, I agreed to a second, very thorough sweep and to return home instead of taking the registrars advice which was immediate induction. How empowered I felt knowing I had that choice and I could see on the scan and through the trace that actually my baby was just fine and maybe just getting ready?
I had the cramping of early labour but as this had been on and off all week we didn’t get our hopes up. We did however walk up the huge hill next to our house in the pouring rain and cramping became good, strong contractions.
Rather excited family members turned up for a cuppa as I bounced away, still not really believing it was happening.
We went to bed and I got about an hours sleep but rather than fizzle out as they’d done earlier in the week, these things woke me up!
My sister offered to come and keep me company and I bounced and chatted (and got a lovely back massage) but they didn’t seem to be getting stronger and so I suggested we both try and get some sleep. No chance!
But I did put on one of my Calm Birth School tracks and I’m sure that by being alone and relaxing things shifted up a gear. At 3.30am I called the midwives over for a look. The first one who turned up I really didn’t warm to. She examined me and said those dreaded words ‘you’re still 3cm’ (if she’d read my brief birth preferences she have known I did not want to be told this!) She said she’d watch and wait for a bit. Alex started filling up the pool – quite a mammoth task. I was having contractions in quick succession but apparently they weren’t lasting long enough and the midwives left at 5am. Somewhat despondent and getting pretty tired I put another MP3 on. Alex stopped filling the pool and went back to bed. Again, trying to relax and on my own. I was still breathing through the contractions which by now were really quite painful.
Mum texted to see if I was ok. I told her all I wanted was a bath, but the midwives had advised against it. Mum told me to ignore them! There was no hot water left in our tank but the pool had some in so I got in there! It was incredibly hot but oh, what a relief! Until the toddler woke up! I needed to focus on what I was doing so within minutes and still in her nightie she was despatched via another sister, Kathryn, to my mum and dads. Kathryn returned (she was desperate to be at the birth and actually we decided we really didn’t mind and she was amazing). She helped me to shower and timed my contractions. They were still really frequent but not very long. I was pretty much unable to speak by this stage, even in between as they were so close together and as I came out the bathroom Alex was on the phone calling in the midwives again.
Kathryn gave me quick lower back massages in between contractions as I couldn’t stand touch when they came so there was a lot of hand signalling from me for her to start and stop. Alex resumed his task of filling up the pool.
At around 8am in walked my lovely midwife Ruth who was so calm and her arrival made me instantly feel safe. She examined me and delightedly announced I’d made it to 8cm. All by myself. I felt like a frickin’ goddess but like all good goddesses I know my limits and asked to try the gas and air whilst we waited for the pool. By now Alex had an urn and 5 saucepans on the hob plus two kettles on the go – the pool was way deeper than we thought.
As I entered a drug induced high I was able to chat to the midwives briefly (Katherine who I’d met at a previous appointment had arrived) but this was short lived and I was soon puffing away pretty constantly to try and ease the pain. The only downside was that I couldn’t use my ‘in through the nose’ breathing I’d been practising but I still tried taking it in for 7 and out for 7 and controlling my breath when I could.
The pool seemed to take ages to get to the right temperature but once I got in it felt amazing. I could move in a way I just couldn’t on the floor and within five minutes my waters had gone. Partly drug-induced, but I like to think these was some self-hypnosis as I really let my body take over and I still find it absolutely incredible the way I felt my baby moving down inside me (and popping back up again!)
I had Alex and Kathryn’s hands and barely noticed the midwives except for when they checked baby’s heart rate, and apparently this little chap was mega-happy throughout.
The gas and air bottle ran out as he crowned! Getting his head out was not easy so the midwives asked me to turn around and I dropped the mouthpiece. This meant for the final few pushes it was all me and I was totally aware of what was going on. I felt his head and watched as he emerged. The most disgusting but wonderful thing I’ve ever seen.
I did it. I had my baby. And a bloody big baby at that (9lb 10oz) at home, in the water with very little drugs or intervention. I was utterly ecstatic.
We waited for the cord to stop pulsing as I held this beautiful, calm creature in my arms. My mum and sister walked in moments after he was born, unable to wait any longer.
The placenta was taking its time though, finally coming as I stood up to get our of the water. Apparently (I later learnt) that if you can’t see the bottom of the pool then midwives start to worry and you definitely could not see the bottom of our pool.
Alex held Alfred Giacomo whilst I had a couple of stitches to try and stop the bleeding. I also had a double injection to try and contract my uterus but it just wasn’t playing by the rules.
On inspecting my placenta it appeared that a tiny piece was missing. My lovely midwives tried so hard but in the end they had to tell me that I needed to go into hospital.
I have no memory of Mathilda meeting Alfred, despite being in the same room.
When the paramedics walked in I burst into tears.
When the same registrar I’d seen just the day before walked in to talk to me I burst into tears.
I know you can’t plan your birth but it felt like it had all gone so well so why was this happening now?
I used my breathing exercises and positive thinking as much as I could in theatre as they put the spinal in my back and talked me through the procedure. I tried really hard to stay strong but all I wanted to hold and get to know my baby – so the poor theatre staff were asked every few minutes “how long?” “are we nearly finished?”
By the time I got out I was shaking like a leaf (exhaustion/adrenalin) and couldn’t move because of the spinal.
I felt so weak.
But I had done it and I had my boy.
I felt like I was treated like a VIP I hospital, and knowing how much I wanted to be home with my baby they did everything they could to get me better and out as quickly as possible.
It turns out I lost quite a lot of blood which is why I felt so shoddy and whilst it didn’t end up anything like I imagined, I can still say I had the birth I dreamed of having, I am so utterly proud of myself and my whole family, and something Alex will need some future persuasion on – I’d do it all again in a heartbeat!!