Born 28th May 2018
“You’re mad” was the general cry. Hahaha we cackled while googling ‘life with three’. But I tried to keep in mind a lady in the park telling me about life with three children when I first found out I was pregnant. Fresh from the pregnancy test double line fireworks, she had simply said it was: magic. I gathered a little bit of select further information and listened to those good bits. I didn’t know what I was doing of course – who really and truly does? – but I ensured I was blissfully following our OWN path as much as possible. Those days of sea swims followed by brie, baguettes and ciders on the beach in Cornwall when we met – just yesterday. Now we were two, plus soon, three. Five is a big number.
I think it was the “three babies!” moment that I was envisaging for nine months. Hospital sheets, a warm limbed little baby on my chest, toast and tea in a pot. That magnificent combination of having birthed the baby that you knew so well and yet were meeting for the first time, together with streaming oxytocin from your eyes, heart and slightly shaking body.
The pregnancy had been both swift and three years long. I knew I was pregnant very early because I had felt so different. A weekend, I had to work away from home on a freelance project interviewing from the back seat of old cars (so very sick). I was hot, full of the most intense migraine, nausea, fatigue and mostly, I felt some kind of massive tidal shift within me. A few weeks later I took a cheap test and in record time, there were the lines.
There followed a first trimester full of everything; all the feelings sharp and severe, topped with one of total and complete numbness. I could only eat lying down, I had motion sickness, general sickness, and the number three – three croissants, three pairs of small socks – made me stare and close my eyes to imagine, then cry. Obsessed. Eventually there followed the second trimester energy, pow, pow, pow – I was able to do EVERYTHING. I was a great beaming person with inaccurate and impossible ambitions for life’s nesting spring clean and general world takeover pouring out of me. Obviously! I think I was probably massive fun. Once I got over my power trip and incessant pinning, I settled nicely into Netflix binges. I spent lots of time with my two children, I completed freelance work, got a new Lionheart out and did huge amounts of pregnancy yoga. I ended with a finale of total and complete exhaustion. I was elated and deflated, happy, crying, overwhelmed and as the polaroid my daughter took looking upwards so gently illustrates, enormous.
Due date came and went (see: previous birth stories) and I couldn’t help but feel that it wasn’t time yet anyway for the new babe. After a few fretful moments, four days overdue I suddenly felt immense calm. This was very strange, but welcomed. I also felt I knew the name I wanted for our new baby. Genuinely, it came to me one morning as I sipped my tea. Like a gentle lapping wave of clarity! I know how this sounds and I have decided to be OK with / own this feeling, because when does clarity strike you like a chiming clock of sunbeam illumination? Not often enough for me!
Day seven: I’d had a night of 10 minute apart contractions. Not enough to believe I was in labour, but plenty to keep me restless and wondering. I decided to put on my new floral turquoise top over my black outfit, it felt… birthy?! Something was going to happen today. A show. So it could happen today. We travelled to the other side of the river, to the garden centre. Pausing for contractions, buying pots and herbs. Coffee by the river, babycinos for the four and two-year-old and a milky decaf latte, up and down. Running to burn their energy because they might be waiting somewhere a while. The baby wasn’t coming. The baby was coming. Was the baby coming? Furiously texting my friend Lou, I decide though I would still love a home birth, a. I’m not allowed because of Alba’s birth and b. I can’t relax enough to give birth knowing my other two children are swinging off the bannisters and asking for buttered crackers between contractions. Mainly, I think I messaged Lou because she is so calm. She assured me it was all fine and to drop the kids round whenever we needed. It’s all fine, you know what to do, this is your third! Oh, how I laugh. Driving back from the city centre I become sure that the surges are becoming more ferocious. But equally, I can’t be sure.
A few hours pass. Oh, the hours. I feel too sorry for myself, so everyone goes out. I pace around. Nothing. At tea time I lie down and watch some excruciating but comfortingly bad telly, and eat some chocolate, having decided that nothing was going to happen for at least a day or two / EVER.
They come back and have a bath. I message Charlie from the bedroom to the bathroom, ‘We need to leave.’ New message: ‘Right now!’ I don’t know where it came from. But then, I suppose I do. I relaxed well and truly and labour swooped over me and settled on me like a soft and gentle blanket to wear. Or a cape! I call the hospital and talk to perhaps the loveliest midwife and she tells me to come on over. Super chilled, oh MY.
Then literally, a tornado! I wanted to get this birth on the go, I was suddenly pumped! Dave, our next door neighbour (good on, Dave), came round and we both looked mildly alarmed, and I stared at a plate of food that I had no intention of eating while Charlie hunted for an extraordinarily long time for charger cables. Charger cables, I ask you! Dave and I chuckle. I’m nearly sick. Children, I love you. Lou is coming. Adios! I sit in the car while he still looks for the cables, then five minutes later, he emerges from the house clutching those ridiculous white leads and off we go in our new mega wagon to transport three children.
Zoom, zoom – we pass the roads I know, the names I know, we pass Lou – hi Lou – glasses on, she looks determined. Thanks Lou. We are determined, I AM DETERMINED. We get to the hospital and park, something which seems like a miracle and soon settle into our enormous room. The birth, raised up and with steps and lights, looks absolutely massive. The bed has fresh sheets and looks very neat and rectangular, sharp sides. A misty light, floor mats. While Charlie takes 45 minutes (LOLZ) to get a coffee, I lay a blanket out, turn on the fairy lights on and spray scents around like an excitable pumpkin. I walk. I pace, I bounce on the birth ball, I listen to the same four minutes and 21 seconds of birth affirmations from the Penguin website, Mindful Hypnobirthing: Hypnosis and mindfulness techniques for a calm and confident birth by Sophie Fletcher. I’m actually listening to this now as I write and I can practically feel my uterus contracting. Seriously! Listening to this and then breathing in the oils of my Bohobo roller, I’ve got a muslin filled with this scent; clary sage and lavender. It feels really very amazingly and empowering, like a great parting of barriers for me to walk and breathe through during each contraction. I sail within the waves between contractions. Really in my rhythm, I feel relaxed and pretty good. I try to live within this moment and not to even think about the impending actual birth. Loving the zen, loving the zen, stay with me, dear ZEN.
The midwife examines me and I am four centimetres. I go back to the waves, clary sage and to Sophie. Hours and hours and hours (two hours) of swaying and repeated four minutes and 21 seconds of birth affirmations and Charlie READING A BOOK pass. I am lost in my own world. It’s actually very peaceful in this cocoon. I feel at one – I don’t think I have ever used that phrase before. I bend over the bed and clench my hands tightly as the waves slowly start to envelop me just a little. Then more. The midwife comes in and I ask for a paracetamol. I have no idea why – one paracetamol pill. I take it and obviously feel that this has absolutely impact whatsoever and I scrabble to pull my body and mind back to the zone I was loving so much previously. I’ll just return to the soft voice and scents, thank you, I think to myself. Luckily, she’s still there, but it was getting harder to rest there, not so comfortable, sharper and the smoothness of the voice was feeling too smooth.
I decide to lie down on the mats and Charlie rubs my back, which then starts some kind of epic flood of oxytocin and the contractions go absolutely off the scale. Calm voice lady is banished, scented muslin is over my eyes. So, so intense. I stand up, I lie down. I stand up and put my head in my hands as I rock beside the rectangle bed. “EPIDURAL!” I shout. Somehow exceptionally quickly, I have arrived at saying I can’t do it, I want an epidural, it’s over. Squirming I hear myself say I can’t do it again and again. Charlie asks for more pain relief when the midwife comes in, but she says she has to examine me first to give it to me. GAH! I lie down and then instantly stand up, there’s no way I can lie down. I do this three times, then eventually she catches me between contractions. I feel a wave build up quickly and I look over the drop off to the depths below, where turquoise becomes deep blue. Then things start to blur.
I can feel her.
I hear a voice saying, “She’s six centimetres, she can’t have…” Something, I can’t hear. Then Charlie’s voice slightly faster, talking, talking. Pressure. I am in the cocoon. I am floating in the swirling shell of birth with my baby as she pushes down, down, DOWN. “I can see the head.” I bend my knees up and I can feel her pushing SO HARD, pushing down through me, filling my whole body with the biggest crashing waves hitting and then melting within me. Pushing down, I can’t believe the pressure of this force. The gas, I have the gas and I breathe deeply. I can hear piano music. I can feel my baby being born, I can feel every part of my baby. Still in its waters, they break them, whoosh. The baby I’ve grown in my womb moves further. A tremendous pull down. “The head is out!” says Charlie. I feel like I am out of my body, dancing above it with that piano music, next to the moon. I can see it so closely. We are here together. “Little push” they say and I feel the legs, the last release.
A hot wriggling, screaming baby on, legs, tiny, plump, the scent. So round; pink round cheeks, round little limbs and howling little face. She bellows on my chest and we ask the gender, a moment later discovering our baby’s a girl. With fierce eyes darting around, that circular little face, so sweet, so powerful, connected to water, she could only be Oona. Of course it was, Oona Rae.
“That was, that was… some kind of out of body experience!” I remember saying. I felt like I had danced with the oceans, with the moon, those piano notes (was it piano?!) and the mist filled starry skies. I’d never felt so in tune with my body, with this intense motion birth had put me in. It took my breath away and filled my eyes and heart with a sea of light. I love her.
Six-month later, Oona just as bold, calm, beautiful, powerful and with a cackle that will have your endorphins shooting like laser beams from your smile. While the reality of three kids is both full of utter startling joy and occasionally the most flustered despair (the school run, getting stuck in a forest in the rain). But mostly, we live in a bumbling along unique sort of simple goodness. This is life!