******Reposted in its entirety from my original blog******
I wanted to write my birth story straight away; but of course life and a large amount of procrastination have allowed 9 days to pass by since I started it, and here I am 12 days later finally finishing it. I still don’t really feel emotionally in the right place to tackle how I really feel about what happened, but I guess if I don’t write it now then I run the risk that the timeline of what happened will all become a bit of a blur. I debated whether to watch the video that Justin recorded first to remind me of the final stages a little bit; but the more I think about it, the more I’ve been thinking that it actually might give me false memories of what I actually experienced, or make me more aware of outside things that were occurring than I actually was at the time. Of course my journey in bringing Dominic into the world is vastly different from those who watched it happen, I was obviously focused on different aspects of the birth and experienced it very introspectively, so what follows is how I remember what was a very personal journey in giving birth to my son, and finally welcoming him into the family. So apologies if it is not entirely accurate, but as it was a largely emotional experience in both positive and negative ways, this is what happened from my perspective.
The week leading up to his birth had been awful. I was exhausted, and Elliot just seemed to be going out of his way to be as obstinate and whiney as he possibly could be. I was reduced to tears on quite a few occasions, overwhelmed by the enormity of having to do everything alone, and feeling like an utterly terrible mother. My stomach seemed to be growing by the day, still with the odd niggles here and there and the almost constant braxton hicks. I never felt like he was about to come at any point though. I’m not sure if it was denial or just because I was so used to the contractions by then. I’d been joking for weeks about how I wanted to give birth on the 30th of September, as it would enable me to go to the pre school quiz that I wanted to, Justin would be here as he was baby sitting and I would get a September baby. I’d seen one of the Drs at the GP’s surgery on the Tuesday, and she’d said that from my symptoms she didn’t think that it would be long before the baby made an appearance, nor did she think that the labour would be long as I was probably walking around quite dilated. She suggested that I didn’t stray too far from home, as if my water went, it could be very quick. It was exciting hearing that the baby could be here sooner rather than later, but it still didn’t seem real.
On the Friday (29th September) a friend of mine Nathalie offered to take Elliot after school. I have never been so grateful for a break. It was primarily so I could get some rest, but as soon as I got home from the school drop off I started manically preparing everything for the birth. All the little things that I’d put off, like checking that the hose connector fitted, writing my birth plan and giving the bathroom another clean became suddenly important to finish off. I also hoovered and mopped downstairs. When I’d done everything I sat down exhausted, but happy that I was finally physically ready for the baby. I could tick off everything from my list, now I just had to prepare myself for the emotional change that was about to happen.
The baby had been pretty quiet for the whole of the last week, it felt low, and when I checked, my cervix did seem lower, somewhat thinner and still quite dilated with the bag of water obviously bulging out a bit. I could feel the baby’s head, occasionally squirming a little bit. Although bizarre as it was, it was rather thrilling to feel the hardness of the head, thinking that I was touching my little boy or girl and by their little squirms that they were reacting to my touch. I bled a bit that afternoon, but put it down to me poking about a bit and ignored it. Nathalie dropped Elliot off, and the second the door was closed he started crying and whining and generally making life very difficult. By the time he and Lilia were in bed, I was exhausted and completely not in the mood to go out. But knowing that it might be the last time that I would for a while, and knowing that Jo was on her way, I got myself changed quickly and headed out the door as soon as Justin walked in. My parting shot to him was to make sure that he didn’t mess up anything downstairs unless he wanted to be pulling a hoover out at 3am when I was in labour! Little did I know that I actually would be!
The quiz was fun, but I wasn’t really in the mood. I’d been up since 5am that morning (a mixture of going to the toilet and not being able to go back to sleep and the kids getting up very early), so I was yawning away and desperate to go home to bed. The chairs were uncomfortable as well and I had a bit of backache, which I think was actually due to the horrible chairs and not what was about to happen! Throughout the course of the evening I had the same conversation repeatedly about the neatness of my bump, about the fact that I hadn’t put on any weight, and me making the same old tired joke about the fact that it could happen any time soon. I was sitting with Nathalie and we were talking about Max’s birth and laughing about the way that he had literally kicked his way out (he gave her a sharp kick and her waters broke). Jo left a little early with strict instructions for me to not go into labour as Simon was away working, and Vicki told me that I wasn’t allowed to go into labour that night as she was far too drunk! I got a lift back with Esme’s new man in his incredibly expensive car, and again jokes were made about it happening any time now and how my waters could go at any point…
I was dead on my feet when I got in, so I got ready for bed straight away. I noted the big pile of beer cans in the bin (I counted at least 5), and was not at all surprised to find Justin half unconscious in bed. I climbed into bed but rather than being able to sleep I very quickly started to get really bad stomach pains. They weren’t contraction pains at all, as they were right in my stomach. I was in so much pain I had to get out of bed and lean over; I managed to wake Justin up, as they were bad enough to make me moan and groan. He obviously took me at my word when I said that they definitely weren’t contractions as they were in the wrong place (he went back to sleep), even though the waves of pain were coming every few minutes. I eventually went downstairs, convinced that the houmous at the quiz must have been dodgy, and sat on the toilet. I started feeling better after a while and decided to drag myself back upstairs to bed. I briefly paused by the towels and considered taking one upstairs, but shrugged it off as being a silly idea. I eventually started dropping off the pains having subsided. I suddenly felt a “bang, bang” right down low. I was immediately wide-awake, thinking that felt just like the baby punching me. I couldn’t think of anything else it could be. I gingerly moved wondering if my water had broken. There was no gush, no nothing. I lay back down my mind working over time trying to figure out what on earth could have just happened. I was just starting to relax again when I felt another almighty “bang” and the next thing I knew there was a sudden release of pressure and a warm gush of water (it was 12.58am, I remember looking at the clock). Almost involuntarily I shouted, “oh my god my water’s just broken”, which got Justin’s attention. Still being a bit drunk and having been woken up from a deep sleep, he flapped about uselessly asking if I was sure and what on earth was he meant to do about it? I just barked at him to go and get a towel now. He eventually came back with one and thanks to the fact that I’d lain there like a statue, I managed to not soak the entire bed and there were only two wet spots. As soon as I moved off the bed it came out in gushes. The smell of the amniotic fluid immediately took me back to when my water broke in hospital with Elliot. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I saw that the fluid was clear, that was another thing that I could tick off my list as a reason that they might make me go to hospital.
I was gripped by a mild sense of panic and urgency as I tried to cajole a very grumpy and miserable Justin into putting the birth pool up. He wasn’t taking any initiative for himself and I had to walk him through what to do repeatedly before eventually just shouting at him telling him to just get on with it. I was very, very aware of the fact that I was on borrowed time until I could no longer walk about and talk. I phoned Jo, no answer… I phoned the labour ward… number not recognised! I was just about to phone the labour ward on another number that I had when the phone went and it was Jo. She just couldn’t believe that it was happening right then. She went off to phone Simon whilst I tried the other number. I got a busy tone so guessed it was the right number. After phoning a few times I got through. I told them who I was, the fact that I was booked for a homebirth and the fact that I was told to phone straight in if my waters went as they thought it would be quick. I told them that my contractions had started about 5 minutes after my waters went, but were very mild and completely cope-able with at the moment. They told me that they would let the community midwife know and she would phone me back. Jo then phoned back saying that Simon was finished his gig and was 45 minutes away, so she thought she’d get to me by about 3am. I was so relieved, especially with Justin being so cold towards me; I really felt that I needed someone there who cared about me.
I then went on a mission to get things ready. I got Justin to take one last belly picture (after all I was just 38 weeks so one was due!) I then got the TENS machine out, kicking myself for still not having read past the first stage. I got Justin to put it on (which was a battle as he was as grumpy as anything and kept putting it on in the wrong place), even though the contractions weren’t too bad as I remembered that you’re meant to wear it right from the beginning the contractions start. The contractions were picking up slowly, and were starting to get a bit uncomfortable. It was actually quite scary how quickly they were progressing; slowly getting stronger and longer it seemed with each one. At this stage they were already about three minutes apart and I was still getting gushes of water with most of them. I actually didn’t end up timing them at all, I was just too busy and I could tell that they were getting closer and longer by how they felt in intensity.
Carrying the phone with me thinking that the midwife would ring any minute, with a towel wedged between my legs as water periodically gushed out of me, I went upstairs to get the last few things that I had left. I got a couple of baby outfits and a baby blanket or two from my bedroom. I also decided that I wanted to put a bra and a vest on (as I was in my pjs) and got a few pairs of old knickers and headed downstairs to see how Justin was getting on with blowing up the pool (I guess I should point out that he was using an electric pump and not having to physically blow it up!). I went downstairs to find that Justin had blown it up (all bar the middle ring, which I had to ask him to do… he of course acted like it was a huge big hassle). He then attempted to get the disposable liner on. His frustration levels were rising and rising, so rather than approach it logically, he just got angry with it. After about 5 minutes of trying to get him to just hold onto it whilst I deflated the pool a bit and attempted to pull it over in between contractions, the doorbell went. Justin came downstairs saying that the midwife was here and that he recognised her but didn’t know why. She’d gone back to the car to get her stuff, so I went upstairs to say hello. As soon as she walked back through the door I recognised her. It was Margo, the lovely, practical midwife who took the antenatal classes we went to when I was pregnant with Elliot.
She couldn’t believe how much I’d changed since then, but it was lovely to catch up a little, even though it was between contractions that I was now having to breath and rock through. I showed her my birth plan, which she said seemed pretty straightforward (although she was surprised to see that Justin was down as ex-partner, and asked if he was the father of this one!!!! Like I’d have him there otherwise!), and I emphasised the fact that I was desperate not to tear as I was worried that I’d have to go to hospital to be stitched up. She laughed and said there was nothing she could do about it (which initially confused me a bit), until she explained that it was entirely down to how I pushed the baby out, but she would help me breathe through the pushing phase. She did say that she needed to examine me to check the baby’s position, even though I’d asked for no unnecessary checking. It turns out (as I found out later) that she wanted to check that baby wasn’t breech as I was still gushing water and that could be why the baby wasn’t engaged. I said that I just wanted to go and get the last things from upstairs before the contractions got too bad. She laughed and said ok, but that she really did need to do her checks soon.
I then attempted to tiptoe into the kid’s bedroom to get the old cot mattress and a couple of blankets. Lilia stirred as I opened the door and lifted her head up to look at me. I froze and just smiled at her thinking that if she woke up I might have to spend a long time resettling her, which would be a nightmare. Luckily, after mumbling “Mummy?” she went back to sleep and I grabbed as much as I could carry and headed downstairs where Margo was helping Justin put the disposable liner on. Some time in all of this Jo turned up by which point I was leaning against the wall by the sofa rocking through each contraction, but still managing to chat away happily in between. In between contractions Margo had a listen to the baby and felt the position. She said that the back was on might right side, which I’d been aware of since Friday and had been trying to change by lying on my left as much as possible. Blood pressure was fine and then she did an internal (again having to wait as I jumped up with each contraction). She kept referring to the baby as “him”, and I wondered whether she always did, or it was because she had an inkling that it was a boy. A huge gush of water came out when she nudged the baby’s head. We all thought that was the rest of my waters, but then as she nudged the head again (it still wasn’t fully engaged which had worried her in her initial exam in case I was breech) another huge big gush came out. About 8 gushes later, with all of us utterly amazed as to how much water there actually was (she said she’d never seen so much) with me flapping about getting some water proof sheeting down to protect my newly cleaned sofa (it seemed important at the time!) she announced that I was 4cms, thin and very stretchy. The contractions really picked up from here, I was having to concentrate and found myself starting to moan through them. Justin had started filling the pool, but it seemed to be taking a very long time, even though I wasn’t feeling the need to get in it yet, I knew that it probably wouldn’t be long until I did. I kept on my feet, and remember trying to go to the toilet as much as possible (didn’t want to poo in the pool or need to get out for a wee!). Justin seemed to be making an effort with everyone else and there were biscuits and tea being offered around… all in all everyone seemed very jovial. Margo suggested that I try and eat something, and even though I agreed, I didn’t fancy it and knew that I wouldn’t.
I was getting more and more vocal at this point. Jo had thankfully read ahead in the TENS instruction booklet by this point for me for me and told me how to skip ahead to the third setting on the TENS machine which is meant for the final stages. She seemed surprised that I wanted this setting already (the second setting I found useless), but the contractions really were coming on strong now. I was trying to squat a little bit and open my pelvis up as much as I could as I held onto things and rocked my way through them. I remember at one point holding onto the piano really starting to have to concentrate, trying to relax my body as much as possible, focusing on the pain and trying to envisage everything opening up, and realising that everyone had been upstairs for ages and I was all by myself. I could hear them laughing and talking and passing around the biscuits and felt quite indignant that I’d just been left to it downstairs. I was in so much pain and remember thinking that I would just love someone to apply some counter pressure to my back when a contraction hit. But no one was there to ask, so I purposely went up to moan away in front of them in the hope that they would perhaps remember why they were all there! I didn’t stay up there for long though. It was just too bright and noisy and I just felt bizarrely out of place moaning against the back of the sofa with everyone chatting away, so I went back downstairs where it was quieter and darker again.
I called up to Margo that the contractions were definitely getting stronger and that I thought that I’d want to go in the pool soon (thankfully it was pretty much ready) but we agreed that I should stay out for as long as I could because the baby wasn’t in a great position… it had apparently moved posterior at some point (I barely remember her checking me or the baby during the later contractions). Justin hadn’t got anything that I’d asked him set up (I wanted the old baby mattress in the corner in case I had to get out in an emergency) and everything was still just sitting there where I had left it, there was nothing I could do about it at this point though. The contractions really were agonising by now, and only 3 or 4 contractions after I’d agreed to stay out of the pool for as long as I could I had got to the point where I felt like I wasn’t coping very well and called up to Margo and said I had to get into the pool. She said that was fine and I was glad to have something to refocus me and stop me getting panicky about not being able to cope. I’d been feeling the baby’s head shift a little, which just felt like bone scraping against bone and was sickeningly uncomfortable, but I guess it was the baby working its way around into the correct position. I remember being a bit snappy asking for someone to help me get the TENS off, as I didn’t want to be caught between the TENS and the pool when the next contraction hit. Thankfully Jo helped me, and I stripped off and got in the pool as quickly as I could.
The water felt wonderful. It was beautifully warm and felt like and big old duvet being wrapped around me. When the next contraction hit, it was no less painful, but the warmth and slight buoyancy the water gave me helped me find a more comfortable position. I ended up on my knees with my legs wide apart (to keep as much of my body in the water as possible, the pool is shallower than you would think, as well as to open the pelvis up) with my arms over the side of the pool and my head buried into in. My body then let me have a little break; perhaps 5 minutes or so went past with nothing happening. I seem to remember spending most of this time trying to get someone, anyone to start taking pictures and recording it all. I’d been reminding Justin that I wanted pictures for the whole labour so far and none had been taken. He kept saying “What, now?” though, and with increasing frustration I had to say over and over again that it wouldn’t be long until the baby was here. Whilst I was grateful at the time for a little rest, I knew deep down that this was probably my body gearing itself up for the final stages, and that things were likely to be quite brutal from here on in. The midwife moved me to the other side of the pool so she could catch the baby and Justin got the chair out of the way so she had somewhere to stand. She asked for a torch, I told Justin where it was, only to find out that the kids had worn the battery down. Luckily Justin found some new ones and by the time the contractions started up again, I think everyone was ready.
I’d wanted all the lights off at this point. But no one seemed to be listening and the bathroom light and the kitchen light stayed on. Jo did light a few candles and turn on the lamp that I’d brought down. Margo said that she needed some light, but I was in no state to argue my case for staying in the dark. I just wanted everyone to be quiet and let me get on with it. At this point I have no idea what everyone was doing. I remember Jo getting some cold flannels for my head and my shoulders and me thinking that it was just what I needed, but that they were only staying cold for a matter of seconds. Each time she reapplied them it was blissful though. The contractions at this stage were at the point where they were just unbearable. I was “aaaaaaaaagghghhhing” loudly through each one, vaguely aware of conversations going on around me, and the odd words of encouragement from Margo. It soon got to the point where I thought that I couldn’t do it anymore. The contractions were coming on top of each other, each one seeming longer and more painful. I could hear my voice going hoarse and thankfully, Jo appeared with something for me to drink. I barely lifted my head between each one now, I was exhausted and just concentrating on resting as much as I could before the pain ripped through me again. Eventually when I thought that I couldn’t cope anymore, I decided to give a little tester push. I remember that with Lilia it made the pain stop, so I guess in desperation I thought that perhaps this was my way to make it all go away. Nothing really happened, and much to my disappointment, the pain felt no more bearable. I ended up bearing down a bit at the end of each contraction, half voluntary, half instinctively. I was pushing very gingerly though, I knew it wasn’t enough to do anything, but I was still feeling the baby’s head moving and grinding painfully against my pelvis as it tried to find the right position. I don’t know what held me back at this time, perhaps it was because I was unsure whether it was the right time to push or not, but this carried on for a few contractions until my body just took over and I found myself pushing whether I wanted to or not. I remember hearing Margo say that she was going to phone the second midwife at some point in all of this and knowing that it meant that the baby would be here soon.
I soon started making an effort to push more effectively, bearing down into my bum. I just couldn’t stand the pain of the contractions any longer and realising this, I think my body made me get past whatever fear it was and start concentrating on pushing with every contraction. I pushed long and hard a few times, before suddenly there was the most gut wrenchingly painful and sickening feeling as the baby suddenly seemed to lurch forwards. I think that the head had turned a little, enough to get past my pelvic bone and shot into the birth canal. Almost immediately I felt like I’d lost control. The pain was indescribable; I was “aggghhhhhing” at the top of my voice in-between pushing involuntarily. I very quickly felt the burning pain as the baby was crowning. I remember shouting that the baby was coming, desperately trying to breathe through the urge to push as Margo was telling me to. Every time I did I could feel the baby move back a little and the pain intensify. I scrabbled around for something to hold onto, and finding nothing just waved my hand about desperately saying “hand, hand”. Someone slipped their hand into mine, I think it may have been the second midwife who’d arrived at some point. It became a battle with myself, fighting the urge to push the baby out, even though the burning pain was excruciating or just breathing through it and having the agony of the baby just sitting there. I ended up doing a mixture of both, fighting the urge to push until I couldn’t anymore and I felt what a thought was a huge ripping pain as the baby’s head was born. Margo at this point was saying that she needed to check me. I remember saying repeatedly that the baby was coming, wondering why she didn’t believe me (I mean I could feel it!). She quickly checked and said that there was lots of hair. I immediately knew that it would be a little boy just like Elliot. She tried to get me to move backwards so I could catch the baby. But I was like a stone, completely immovable, in total agony feeling almost wild with pain. I remember just saying “I can’t, I can’t” and then suddenly pushing with everything I had, through the pain… and then nothing. Instantly the pain went. I thought I heard something about a boy, but wasn’t sure whether it was someone asking whether it was a boy or not. Margo told me to catch the baby, and I sat back and saw this beautiful baby coming towards me. The baby was placed in my arms, feeling all hot and slippery and someone called out 4am as the time. I then peeked between the legs and saw that he was very much the little boy that I’d always known he was. He was so quiet and peaceful. I remember thinking how soft he felt in my arms. I stared at his beautiful face, not worried at all by the silence. There was such a sense of peace after all the pain and noise that the birth had brought about. It immediately felt like he belonged there in my arms, sleeping peacefully like being born was the most gentle experience he could have gone through; irrespective of the brutal pain that had helped him into the world. I touched his hair over and over and stroked his cheek. I noticed the large amount of vernix on his back, how long his fingers and fingernails were and how he just felt like he fitted perfectly in my arms. My little boy had arrived in the exact way I had wanted, in circumstances that I’d never wish on anyone. I knew then and there that this new journey we were all embarking on would be the hardest, but most rewarding of them all. From now on Elliot, Lilia, my littlest baby boy and myself were our own little family, and nothing would ever be more important to me than that.
8th April 2012
I'm linking this post up to Actually Mummy''s ever expanding list of birth stories. The irony of this lovely home birth is that we may have avoided hospital on this one occasion, but then went on to spend about 3 out of the next 5 years living in them. Also check out the other posts written for #blogitforbabies where bloggers from across the UK are coming together to raise awareness and funds for Save The Children’s Build it for Babies campaign.