Birth Story Of The Week – Ellie and Ida

Phew, that was a quiet few days…… my last post The truth about maternity leave obviously hit home to so many of you out there, and not just here in the UK. All over the world, it went viral! In fact that post in total was viewed almost half a millions times. I’m completely and utterly blown away with that, I can’t even begin to contemplate what that even looks like in numbers. Apart from some negative comments left on the blog, many of you said it described exactly how you were feeling as new mothers. So to all of you who shared my blog on either Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or just by word of mouth I thank you. You’ve reached out to many many mothers, fathers and grandmothers out there. I hope we can all continue to be honest and support one another when the going gets tough.

So today is a lovely birth story for you all.

This is the birth story of me (Ellie) and my second born (Ida). 

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I was 38 weeks pregnant and the ladies at toddler group were starting to comment that there was no way I would make it to 40 weeks! I was huge! I had worn out two pairs of jeans over the month playing trains with Rufus my 2 year old, was spending most weekends as a ‘single mum’ as my husband travelled up and down the country to work, and was certainly ready to have the baby out rather than in!

We had spent weeks deliberating how we would manage if I went in to labour while Gav was in London working. Friends and family had offered to be on hand to drive me to hospital if necessary, hold the fort until Gav got back, and I had a rota of potential babysitters for Rufus. Nothing to worry about.

That weekend, we had a couple from America staying. They were new to England and we had offered to show them around Leeds and help them to find accommodation. It would be nice to have company while I was heavily pregnant.

I spoke to Gav that evening, him in London suburbia, me in Leeds. ‘If anything happens, keep me in the loop Ellie’. ‘Nothing is going to happen tonight Gav, I’m 38 weeks’ said unsuspecting me.

It was a strange night, I kept waking and having pain across the top of my tummy, not like contractions. I felt worried and started to push the poor baby around with my hands, desperate to feel some foetal movements. I slept on and off until 4am, when I felt a kick….no…a pop? Had my waters broken? I stood up and there was a trickle. When I made it to the toilet there was more of a gush. I decided to call the maternity assessment suite, who said it sounded like it could possibly be my waters and to give it an hour until I came in to be checked. Convinced my waters had broken, I called Gav, ‘Get the first train back from London’ (he could be back in 5 hours. Plenty surely? Especially after a 24 hour labour with Rufus). I called my mum (in the Lake District) ‘my waters have broken, please can you drive over?’ It is only a 2 hour journey for her, so decided I would wait for her to arrive before we head in to the maternity suite.

I tried to sleep a bit more but wasn’t really tired, the adrenaline kicked in. I got myself dressed and decided to get some toast and watch some telly. At 5am contractions started but I called the midwife who said there was no rush to go in unless I thought I was in established labour. From this point on, I think I was delirious! My toast lay uneaten, the tv was never turned on. Gav kept calling telling me to use my contractions app. It was telling me that my contractions were 2 minutes apart but I kept thinking that can’t be right and clearing the whole history to start timing again! He told me to wake our visitors, but I thought it was too early in the morning and I’d be labouring for ages. I straightened my hair(?!), then felt an urge to push and went to the toilet. At this point I called my mum. ‘I don’t think I can wait for you (she still had an hour to go), I think I’d better call a taxi’ to which she replied ‘I think you’d better call an ambulance’. I crouched over on the stairs on the way up to my bedroom, the pain taking over my body and called 999. ‘I’m bearing down’ I told the emergency services, ‘I think I’m going to have a baby’! (Whoever says I’m bearing down???) She replied ‘I’m going to talk you through how to deliver your baby!’ ‘I’m not having it here!’ I cried! She asked me if I could feel any part of the baby, I thought, hmmm can I feel the baby?…oh can I feel the actual baby!! She directed me to get sheets and towels out on the floor, which I did but all the while I was thinking this really is stupid….then woaaaaah….it’s coming. ‘Arrrrrrrggghhhh!’ I screamed. Yep, that woke our visitors up for sure and she rushed up the stairs half asleep only to be greeted with ‘I’m really sorry, it wasn’t supposed to happen like this, but is that a head?!’ ‘I think that’s a head’ she replied! She was amazing! She took the phone from me and (whilst struggling to understand all the Yorkshire twang) delivered Ida Rose Evelyn right there and then on my bedroom floor at 6am. And wow! She was safe, she was beautiful, she was healthy, it was so peaceful. I lay with her in my arms for 8 minutes until the paramedics showed up.

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I called Gav. ‘I’m so sorry, I’ve had her!’ Poor Gav, having paid £50 taxi fair to get to kings cross sat in the back of the taxi, gutted. The burly taxi driver comforting him.

The paramedics treated me like a queen, scurrying round my bedroom finding me bits and pieces (including the toblerone), I was in shock! They delivered the placenta and put it nicely in a  plastic bag and cut the umbilical cord. Rufus woke up, the timing could not have been more perfect. He saw the paramedics and immediately said ‘my baby sister? I go upstairs?’ To which I replied…’ummmm, I’ll be down in a minute!’

What a precious moment, walking down the stairs, Ida wrapped in a towel only to be greeted by her big brother munching his breakfast. What joy radiated from his face!

Off Ida and I went to hospital, she fed beautifully all the way there and I felt such a surge of love and such completeness. Our American visitor had warned my mum to go straight to the hospital, but omitted the finer detail that I had given birth! As the ambulance doors flung open, she thought I was nursing my bump, then ‘you’ve had her?!’

Gav burst into the hospital at 9am. ‘We have to have a third child now so I don’t miss the birth again’ he said whilst cradling Ida and musing at all her petite, dark features. ‘Lets not talk about that right now Gav!’

And A Baby Was Born!

Our single mother nativity scene

Our single mother nativity scene (we can’t find Joseph)

This year as we were decorating  the house for Christmas and singing very loudly (and badly) to The Pogues ‘Fairy Tale of New York’, I set up our little wooden nativity scene.  Now we’re not a religious family (ahem) but I have told my girls about the birth of Jesus minus the virgin bit – far too complicated.  But as I am a little obsessed with all things birth, I felt it was important to talk about one of the most famous births in history.  And a BBA too!  This term stands for Born Before Arrival (of the midwife) and I have to say I praise Mary for being a woman and just getting on with he job in hand despite the circumstances.  In a cold stable, with various cattle watching on and not an midwife in sight.  Joseph stood by and watched his very young wife give birth all by herself.  I often wonder, who was really supporting and looking after that young girl?

There is a joke about what would have happened if three wise women had shown up at Jesus’ birth instead of three wise men.  It goes, “Three wise women would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts.”  I wonder if perhaps a wise woman did attend that young mother in the stable. I always hoped that Mary had someone around who could support her, dry off her baby, help her get started breastfeeding, keep an eye on her bleeding—these are the same things I wish for all women, but unfortunately many lack this very basic care.

If the image of a birth in a stable captures your imagination the way it captures mine, I ask you to think about the conditions and circumstances surrounding birth around the world today.  As a midwife, working in a affluent area of South East London, it is easy for me to forget about the deprivation and poverty that babies are born into every day.  Whatever your personal beliefs, I know that we all wish for safe births attended by loving and supportive midwives.  I know we wish for all children to be educated, valued, fed and loved.  I know we all wish for peace on earth and goodwill for humankind.

Thank you to all of you who read Gas and Air, and I wish you a very merry Christmas.