So, I’ve had an eventful couple of weeks! Those following my blog and copious Tweets will know I was expecting our second baby boy, due to arrive on the 11th July. Of course the 11th came and went without incident and in my late pregnancy fatigue I resigned myself to an extended wait to greet our newest family member. Friends and family who had been running an informal pool on when Bump would make an appearance were one by one disappointed, until only my Dad’s bet of Sunday 12th remained.
We spent that Sunday evening casually watching TV as I commented on the occasional Braxton Hicks contraction, which I had been experiencing more frequently over the previous 24 hours or so but were still completely painless and barely uncomfortable. I was convinced I still had days to go. At around 10.30pm we went up to bed, and I suddenly felt a small contraction that was noticeably more unnerving – this was not painless. Then I felt another, and another. Something was happening.
Despite knowing what they would tell me, I rang the Newcastle Birthing Centre (the midwife-led unit at our local hospital) in a mild panic for a bit of advice, and as anticipated the midwife on the phone advised me to take some paracetamol and have a warm bath, and to simply wait for the contractions to become more regular. It’s ok, I told myself. This could go on until morning; try to relax.
Even as I ran my bath though, now past midnight, I could not relax. I downloaded a contraction timer app and started keeping track as I felt the pain steadily get worse with each one. The paracetamol had literally no effect. Within the space of half an hour the contractions were 3-4 minutes apart and lasting a full minute, and I writhed in excruciating discomfort in the bath, trying and failing to keep relatively quiet so I didn’t wake Little Man. Things were progressing much faster than I had expected!
I rang the Birthing Centre again and breathlessly explained to the midwife how much pain I was now in – I think she was convinced by me having a contraction whilst on the phone and I couldn’t talk to her for 60 seconds. I must have sounded sufficiently laborious that I was asked to come in. I then rang my mum who was prepared yet surprised to actually get ‘the call’, and my parents dashed round to the house so we could go to the hospital. I was still attempting to get dressed and get my things together when they arrived. I started to panic more as I had a bit of a show and I knew we had to get a move on. Andy rushed around gathering our bags and shoving in last minute items I thought I would have been in a more composed state to sort out myself.
After managing to get in the car, we drove on mercifully deserted roads to the hospital – a journey which only took ten minutes but felt like a lifetime. I grabbed onto the handle above the door as if I would wrench it off with each contraction. Fortunately, as the hospital provides maternity parking bays we were able to pull up right outside the doors but I still had three contractions between getting out of the car and making it to the Birthing Centre entrance. A couple of paramedics outside offered me a wheelchair but I was so focused on getting myself there I declined and staggered on.
We were welcomed into the Birthing Centre about 1.30am by a smiling midwife who ushered us into a room and waited patiently through a couple of contractions before she asked to examine me ‘to check I was in established labour’. I think we all knew that I was, but I certainly wasn’t expecting her to say I was at 9cm already only three hours after the first uncomfortable contraction. She asked if I wanted to try using a birthing pool, which I did, and suddenly all the wheels were in motion, literally, as she went to get a wheelchair to move me down the corridor to a pool room. I clambered off the bed and as I stood up my waters went with such a huge gush all over the floor that Andy had to leap back to avoid getting his shoes soaked. “I think we’re going to have a baby soon!” said the midwife as I was wheeled along. No kidding.
In the pool room the midwife I had spoken to on the phone was busy running the taps and I was desperate to get in. The lights were dimmed, the water was warm, and the gas and air was on offer – if I wasn’t in excruciating pain it would have been very relaxing! As soon as I got in the water I felt the weight of my bump melt away and I leant over the side clutching the entonox mouthpiece for dear life.
The next 45 minutes or so were everything I wanted but didn’t get in my first labour, when I was induced to deliver Joe three weeks early due to pre-eclampsia. That highly medicalised experience was equally fast progressing but infinitely more stressful and frightening as I felt so out of control of the situation. I have only patchy memories of the sequence of events and don’t clearly recall the moment of his birth as I felt like I was in shock.
By merciful contrast, every second I was in that water, I felt in control. I was in touch with what was happening and spent the entire time with my eyes closed focused on getting my baby out by myself. Andy stayed by my side giving encouragement and reassurance, and had the all important job of passing the gas and air when I needed it. The wonderful midwives who were caring for me gave me gentle support throughout, intervening only occasionally to check the baby’s heartbeat, and disturbing me as little as possible. I was aware only of the voice of the midwife I had spoken to on the phone, quietly guiding me to listen to my body and do what it was telling me. It was telling me to push.
With advice from the midwives on changing position in the water a couple of times to encourage Bump to work his way down, I began to feel him making progress. This was something I don’t remember from my first birth, but I was acutely aware of him moving down the birth canal, and it gave me the strength to keep going. I was doing it! He emerged into the water at 2.42am, a little over 4 hours since I first thought something might be happening. The midwife lifted him out and onto my chest and I just sobbed in relief and gratitude, thanking them over and over for giving me the experience I had always wanted. It had been a lot quicker than I was expecting though!
He did look like a big boy – the last growth scan we had at 37 weeks had estimated his weight at 7lb 11oz. I had expected him to be maybe a pound or so heavier than that. Then came the shock weigh-in: 10lb 2oz. How did I do that?! Had I known beforehand how big he was going to be I think I would have thought twice about my ability to actually get him out of my body but in blissful ignorance I never doubted it for a second. Needless to say I did not escape completely unscathed from giving birth to such a large baby, but that’s a subject for another post. He was just perfect though – more long-bodied and gangly-limbed than chubby and round. We named him Jacob.
And Dad was almost right – he was only out by about three hours so I think he’s claiming victory anyway.
Coming up in part two…. my difficult postnatal recovery
I’m privileged to be a part of the editorial team for the newly relaunched Maternity Matters website, along with my good friend Susanne of Ghostwriter Mummy, and Chelle from Mumington Post, current host of the #BlogBumpClub linky. This month we are asking for your birth story posts – which has worked out conveniently for me! Head on over to Maternity Matters to find out more about the project and to add your post links.