So, this post is a little different from anything else I’ve shared. If birth’s not your thing, I won’t be offended if you don’t want to read ahead! I’ve toyed with the idea of sharing my birth story for the last few months. In some ways, it feels so private. On the other hand, I know from personal experience that women are subjected to so many negative stories of birth throughout pregnancy, that I felt that I should share my overwhelmingly positive experience.
That being said, every birth story is different, and despite my referring to hypno-birthing throughout, I do genuinely believe that some of us are just lucky and will have more straightforward births. It doesn’t make us any better or worse than someone who’s had a tougher time. Any woman who births a child, regardless of the method, or how well it goes, deserves to be celebrated. Fellow Mamas, I salute you.
All throughout my pregnancy I was convinced that Harper would arrive on her due date. I was also born on my due-date, but perhaps it’s my love of planning that meant I was just convinced that she would be born on that date. Either way, that was the date I was always visualising.
The day before my due-date I sat in our living room bouncing up and down on my pregnancy ball as I had done every other evening that week, declaring to Rob that the baby was definitely not going to be arriving the next day. For the past few nights, we’d had the same routine of watching our favourite shows that made us laugh whilst I bounced up and down, and this felt no different. We ended the evening deciding that we’d go out for breakfast the next day and headed to bed about 11pm.
Just after midnight, my tummy started to feel a little funny. I’d had one episode of Braxton hicks, so assumed this was the same and tried to nod off. Around 30 minutes later, I felt another twinge, but again thought nothing of it. Around 1.30am, in a still dozed state, I woke Rob up gently, telling him ‘I keep getting twinges, but I really don’t think I’m in labour, I just needed to tell you’, he reassured me that it would be ok and we both tried to nod off.
At 2am pretty much on the dot, I knew I was definitely in labour. My waters had broken and in spectacular style! I’d felt a sharp kick in my stomach, heard a ‘pop’, and then leapt out of bed (I’ve since been told it was the fastest I’d moved in 9 months…). I was only getting twinges every 20 minutes, and they were just a bit uncomfortable at this point but still, we phoned the hospital who assured us that we were in it for the long haul, so it was time to get some sleep and to come in at 8am.
Wrapped in towels, I got back into bed, with plans of drifting off to the relaxing playlist I’d made just a few days before. It soon became apparent that no sleep was going to be had by either of us. Fairly quickly, my contractions were every three minutes and increasing in intensity. Determined not to panic, I turned to the techniques I’d learnt in hypno-birthing and started breathing my way through them. I quickly established that if I breathed deeply and counted down during each contraction, they were more manageable.
Given that my contractions were so regular, it wasn’t long before we were on the phone again to the hospital. Rob made the call and they asked to speak to me. As I spoke to them, I started having another contraction, but I continued to breathe through it. The person at the other end of the phone clearly thought I was handling them too well and told me again that labour will take a while and I should only come in when I really couldn’t cope anymore.
About 20 minutes later, I instinctively knew that the time was right to go in. It was still only about 4am, and it was dark and cold outside, but there was something inside me that felt strongly that I needed to be in hospital. Rob packed the last bits for the hospital bags using my carefully prepared list (I hate packing, even when I’m not in labour!) and I continued to try and remain calm, even when I couldn’t find a single pair of my maternity bottoms.
I barely remember the car journey to the hospital. Rob put on my birthing playlist and kept the car nice and warm, but I closed my eyes as soon as I sat down. At that point, I was fully ‘in the zone’ and had no real notion of time. Afterwards I was told that I only said three things during the whole journey; ‘I’m warm’ ‘I’m cold now’ and ‘what was that?’ as we hit a dead badger on the road (bad timing). As we arrived at the hospital, I felt so calm. It was still dark, and as it was only 5am on a Saturday morning, there was barely anyone else about. I remember stopping for just a minute to take in the quietness.
Throughout my pregnancy I’d hoped to give birth at the midwife led unit, and as we made our way up in the lift, I still hoped that would happen. When we entered, it was quiet, but warm, and I instantly felt safe. We were taken to an examination room where I was asked to ‘pop up on the bed’ (impossible) and to give a wee sample (also impossible), the midwives didn’t seem to be too concerned and I was asked if they could examine me. I’d originally thought that I would decline this, but I’m so glad I didn’t. As the midwife examined me, she turned to the student with her and said ‘what can you see?’ ‘The head!’ exclaimed the midwife. I was now fully dilated!
At this point the midwives picked up the pace a bit, they had been convinced that I was still in the really early stages of labour due to my calmness and were thinking that they would be having to send me home. Instead they were rushing to fill up the birthing pool. We were taken to one of the delivery rooms and as we walked towards it, I saw a cot outside. ‘That’s for our baby’ I exclaimed to Rob, feeling emotional.
Birthing pools are wonderful things; it’s basically like the biggest bath you’ll ever take, without having to worry about your water bill. I climbed in and carried on with my breathing. Over the next hour the contractions were becoming more intense but I had initially said that I didn’t want to push the baby out, instead preferring to breathe it out (a hypno-birthing technique).
After an hour, it was clear that I was going to need to give it a little push, and then perhaps a bigger push. By this point, the sun was starting to come up, and as I looked out of the window, with the most amazing view of the Oxford skyline, I was still feeling calm. No one knew that we were at the hospital; it felt like we were in our own lovely little bubble.
I continued to push and although the baby was going the right way, it wasn’t happening quickly enough. Constant monitoring of the baby showed that it was still happy, and so I was allowed to continue in the pool for a bit longer, however it then became clear that it sadly wasn’t going to happen this way, and we’d need to be moved down to the delivery suite. At this point I was exhausted and decided to opt for gas and air, as well as eating lots of biscuits (encouraged by the midwives!).
I was moved down to the delivery suite, my midwives staying with me the whole time. I was continuing to push but in the end had to have a little helping hand to get her out. By now, I was beginning to struggle and on numerous times said ‘I can’t do it!’ The midwives continued to support me and assure me that I wasn’t doing anything wrong; there would be a reason why it was taking so long. As our gorgeous little one finally entered the world at 10.28am, it soon became clear to all of us, she was a full 9lb 6oz and was born back to back. I felt like a warrior!
As per our birth plan, Rob then told me that we had a little girl and she was placed in my arms. In that moment, there were so many emotions; happiness, relief, exhaustion, all of them mixed with the gas and air still in my system. Most of all, I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of love.
If you’ve managed to read all of this, thank you! I hope that by sharing this snippet, it helps spread some positivity around birth. Did my birth go exactly to plan? No. Was it the best birth for me on the day, given the circumstances? Yes, and it’s that which is the important thing.