I was pulled from a deep sleep by a tensing in my tummy. Looking at the clock, it was around 5.20 right bang on my due date. Straight away I knew that this was the real thing: I was in labour. A smile crept over my face as I tried to lie still and focus on whether another contraction was coming. It did and I was very quickly reminded that, actually, labour isn’t the most comfortable feeling in the world.
I crept downstairs and grabbed a piece of paper and a pen to record the times of the contractions, settling myself on the sofa with Netflix and a large glass of water. There was no way I was going back to sleep, but my body was telling me to get comfy and keep relaxed. Having had two false starts with this labour, I was well aware that these weren’t Braxton Hicks, they were the real thing, and I was already having a contraction every 15 minutes. I closed my eyes with each and breathed through it – now wasn’t the time to panic. After an hour of regular contractions I decided it was time Tom got in on the action and I went to wake him up. The supportive and loving husband that he is, he asked for another hour in bed (the bastard), and I dutifully returned to my position on the sofa. Another hour later I told him to get up, which he did, and we were on our way.
Freddie woke and came downstairs. We kept things calm and he had a cuddle with me while Tom packed his bag for him to take to the grandparents’. By this point in the pregnancy he was used to seeing me on lying down and looking tired, so I don’t think he was too bothered. The in-laws arrived while I took myself off for a bath and the contractions continued.
After a few hours of lying down, having a long bath, a bit to eat and lots of water, we knew the baby would be arriving that day. We called the hospital to ask for the midwife on duty to come over and after speaking to me on the phone, she was on her way. It was about 2.30pm by this point, and I had been in the birthing pool for about half an hour when she arrived. All through the day I had been using the hypnobirthing breathing techniques and keeping really relaxed, hardly talking to Tom and generally getting into my own little zone. After observing me for an hour, the midwife asked to examine me.
Convincing myself that I was surely well on the way to giving birth, I heaved my body out of the pool and lay on a towel on the sofa. It was not comfortable, but clinging onto Tom’s hand and breathing deeply I was examined at 4.00pm. When the midwife told me I was only 2cm I couldn’t believe it. The contractions were regular and getting longer and more painful and I felt so defeated. It took about half an hour to get back into the pool because I had lost my focus during the examination, but once I was back in I relaxed again. The midwife spoke to me calmly and told me that although I was only 2cm things were definitely on their way and I shouldn’t worry. I was so lucky to have a midwife who seemed to understand that all I needed was the reassurance that the baby was coming.
In the pool I was in a bubble. Each contraction came stronger and more powerful than the last. I remember turning slightly with each one, and glancing at the clock which was on the side to my right. I was aware of Tom next to me and the midwife not far away, a drinking straw being placed in my mouth regularly and a bit of chatter. I heard the door go and another midwife arrived. All this time I listened to my body and the feeling of the baby moving down. What felt like minutes later I knew the baby was coming and I started to use the pushing breathing from hypnobirthing – in and down. The overwhelming need to push started and I breathed onto the water, moving slightly to get into a better position. I felt the baby’s head coming and I said ‘he’s coming.’. The midwife replied, ‘or she’. A rush of excitement came over me and the baby’s head was born. (Yes, it hurt, of course. But it was also incredibly exciting.)
I looked down and saw it move sideways as I felt the next contraction coming. My waters had gone only moments before and I felt the liquid flow. There was a little meconium, which worried me, but the midwife reassured me that everything was fine. One push later, the baby swam into the water. The first moments are a little blurry because I know that the cord was cut very quickly for some reason – the meconium? – and the baby wasn’t on my chest instantly. There was enough time for me to ask Tom ‘what is it?’ ‘It’s a girl’, he replied with a huge smile on his face. I couldn’t believe it, but as soon as I saw her face, I felt full of love for our daughter. I was so happy that she was here and safe and ours.
We looked at each other and agreed that this was Lara. Born at 5.59pm, less than 2 hours after my examination and around 4 hours from the midwife arriving. 8lbs 7oz. Born at home, in water, in our living room. It was a beautiful birth.
The placenta arrived quickly after (such a joyous moment) and I suddenly needed to be out of the water. On wobbly legs, I handed Lara over to daddy and I gingerly got out to be checked over and stitched up. It wasn’t until this point that I discovered how lucky we were to have been able to stay at home – apparently the second midwife had to rush over from the hospital and rush back to finish her shift as there was no-one else available. I thanked the gods of the NHS for their compassion and understanding.
I felt like a goddess. Even more so after some tea and toast and a shower, sitting in my living room with my beautiful newborn daughter on my chest. And even more so after the take-away pizza arrived.
This is, of course, not the end of the story. There are many more tales to be told, including the tale of the husband who baked bread while his wife was giving birth (yep), the first meeting of the siblings, and the wonderful world of breastfeeding the second time round. I’d love to tell them, if you’d like to hear.