As my youngest son turned 1 at the weekend, I remembered that high on endorphins and sleep deprivation, I promised Clemmie my birth story. A whole year ago. So, as I wait for this mythical ‘it gets easier when the youngest is one’ thing to take hold, I thought I should probably get round to it now. Here goes….
My delivery with my eldest son almost 3 years prior to William’s arrival had been a long and protracted affair. Ineffective pessary, waters broken, then sent away for the ritualistic march up and down the stairs. 12 hours later, no action, so a lovely epidural and swift twist of the forceps and there he was. Not traumatic or awful, but pretty exhausting and far from what you hope for, once you’ve gotten all of that ‘I just want a healthy baby’ business out of the way.
I was determined that it wouldn’t be that way for my second. This would be a relaxed home birth. I borrowed a pool, collected more old towels and bedding than I knew what to do with, and readied an army of babysitters to look after Albert. Except William had other plans. Due date came and went, no sign. Daily sweeps told me that I was 3cm dilated with a ‘favourable’ cervix, but it seemed that no amount of bouncing on a ball, long walks or vacuuming the stairs was going to move him along. I was due to be booked in for an induction on 4th Feb, but decided, after a good chat with my midwives to leave him for a few more days to see if he fancied vacating of his own accord. Still nothing, and with that, the chances of my homebirth disappeared. I trudged into Kings on 7th Feb, only to be told that yes, I was still 3-4cm dilated, yes, my waters should just be broken so that we can get on with it, but sadly, they were extremely busy and had no staff or space. I obviously reacted in the way that any massively overdue, hormonal woman would do and cried, huffed and puffed at my husband, and then settled down to watch Homes under the Hammer on the ipad.
I hadn’t, however, banked on the appearance of my midwife at 10.30pm on a Friday night. She breezed in to the ward, rolled up her sleeves, and very kindly instructed me that we were ‘going to meet this baby. Tonight.’ I’m a big fan of the gung-ho approach, so completely went with it. She found a delivery suite, settled us in, and promptly broke my waters. She found a mat and a blanket for my husband and instructed him to have a nap because he ‘wasn’t going to be much use yet’ and left me to get on with it. Brilliant.
The room was lovely and calm, and the lighting was pleasant – not hospital like at all. There was a docking station, so I bravely left my iPod on shuffle and out of reach. The fear that the next song could be Wham kept me going to be honest…. My contractions started pretty immediately after my waters went and became regular quickly. I was on my feet and moving around the room, stopping to lean on furniture and hum when the contractions came. After around 90 minutes, and still on my feet, the contractions were getting much stronger, and had moved downwards into my lower back. Humming had turned more into growling and I wasn’t so much leaning on the furniture as clinging to it at this point. My midwife asked how I was doing, and the words that came out of her mouth surprised me as much as her – ‘I think I need to push’. ‘Hmm, you’d better take your pants off then’ came the reply. By this time I was scorching hot, so thought it a good opportunity to strip off every last stitch. Amazing what those hormones do to you. My husband made himself useful with cool flannels and encouraging words, and I was examined – I was 8.5 centimetres, but still had work to do before I could push. To be honest I thought I was heading for a repeat of my last labour and was starting to feel disheartened – I didn’t want a ‘medical’ delivery this time, and had felt like it was all going well up to now.
My midwife advised me to try lying on my side on a mat on the floor. I was dubious at first – grasvity didn’t seem to be on my side here, but that shows what I know. Contractions started coming along thick and fast, and I had some gas and air to take the edge off. I’m not entirely sure that the gas had much effect, but the mouthpiece and regularity of using it was a useful distraction from pain and focusing on breathing. What felt like two minutes later (but was actually about 40) the urge to push returned. This time I got the green light to push and a delighted voice from the other end told me ‘I can see the head!’ This is where Vanessa really came into her own (as if she hadn’t already!) – we had already ascertained that he was a big baby, so hurrying this part could have been disastrous. I followed her every instructions about pushing, stopping, puffing – to be honest, if she’d told me to stand up and do the Macarena I would have – and a few minutes later Williams head emerged. A couple more pushed and the rest of him followed, all 9lbs 5oz of him, with not a single tear, graze or stitch. There was a calm sense of amazement in the room afterwards – I was staggered that my body had done what it needed to so efficiently after a slow start, and we were all a bit dazzled by this enormous (and beautiful!) baby.
I was the last person who was ever going to describe childbirth as ‘amazing’ or ‘relaxed’ or even ‘calm’. However, my delivery with William was all of those things. Although I was in a busy hospital, it felt like there was only me, my husband and Vanessa in the world, and then William too! It was calm, I was calm, and William’s welcome into the world was calm and overwhelmingly happy. The whole process took 3 hours from start to finish, and I was home and introducing William to his big brother 2 hours later. If you find yourself having an induction or hospital delivery that you didn’t hope for, don’t despair!