Owen James was born on Friday, 9th June at 1:04 pm, but to me his birth story began on Monday the 5th. I was already starting to feel a bit pestered being six days overdue so when I felt a huge gush while emptying the tumble dryer condenser I was shocked but delighted. My waters have gone! I calmly phoned daddy who tidied up a few things at work before striding out of the office thinking (and announcing) ‘this is it’. I also phoned Colin to leave a message for Janette that she might need to collect Lewis from nursery.
When David arrived home we headed down to the hospital for an examination only to be told that it was a false alarm. I felt very low for the rest of the day not to mention embarrassed. The following day (Tuesday) I had my 41 week appointment and left feeling much more positive thanks to a very kind midwife called Jen. I wanted to wait as long as possible before being induced but there were no beds available for Monday (41+6) so we booked in for an induction on Friday (41+3). Luckily when I phoned the maternity day bed ward on Thursday, some space had been freed up for Monday so that bought me an extra three days. I felt much more relaxed, convinced that the baby would come on its own over the weekend.
On Thursday night we had Subway for dinner and I spent some time bouncing on my ball. David took a short video of the bouncing action for my ‘one second a day’ project. I arranged for Janette to take Lewis to M&S cafe to meet a friend in the morning, and for Lorna and Aaron to come round in the afternoon, and went to bed convinced nothing was going to happen.
I woke around 3am with mild pains – I had been having similar around the same time for a few nights. I got up and went to the toilet and David asked if anything was happening. Feeling quite tetchy, I replied “I am so f*cked off! This f*cking baby is never coming out! I’m so sick of it!” After that I laid down and the pains kept coming except this time they seemed to be escalating slightly. I lay there and tried to relax into them, willing labour to start in earnest. By 4:30 I was pretty sure labour might be starting. I was grimacing at the pains and having to concentrate on breathing during them. I woke David up and we decided to call Janette at 5:00am. I knew that it probably wasn’t time to go to the hospital yet but I also didn’t want to wait till it got to the point I was desperate to go and she hadn’t arrived yet… She arrived shortly after 5:30 and I stayed upstairs for another 45 minutes just making sure it was the real thing. I knelt on the floor over the bed, bounced on my ball and paced the room timing contractions that were close together – 2-3 minutes apart but only lasting 30-45 seconds. Nevertheless they felt increasingly intense and we decided to go. David phoned the labour ward and they said to come in; however no birthing pools were available at the time.
We put last minute things into the bag – frozen water bottles, etc and Janette helped me into the car. As we drove to the hospital David asked how I was feeling and I remember feeling reasonably calm, excited and apprehensive about what lay ahead. I said I had a feeling that this might be a stop-and-start deal like the last time and that the baby would end up being born tomorrow, but was reassured that the contractions kept up in the car. We arrived at the hospital just after 6:30 and sat in the same chairs as Monday when I had the false alarm. A midwife came to show me down the corridor and arrived mid-contraction so I had to wait to stand and walk. Another mum was being wheeled out of the labour ward to go up to the maternity ward, holding a new bundle. The midwife said ‘you’ll be next!’ I hoped she was right.
We were shown into the same room I had been checked over on Monday and the midwife did an internal exam. I was convinced she would say I was 2cm (or even less!) and to go home. But instead she said, ‘the good news is you’re staying here.’ I was 5cm, fully effaced with a paperthin cervix. Hoorah! She reckoned I would have a baby by lunchtime. That midwife was at the end of her shift so at that point she went to get my paperwork started and handover to someone else. We phoned Janette to let her know and called my parents but told them not to rush…
Two midwives came in – one a second year student called Helen. They asked lots of questions (many repeats) and typed everything into the computer. It was the day after the general election so we had 24 hour coverage on the TV. The midwife said soon it will be Wimbledon that everyone’s watching but the worst are the World Cup years when the husbands are glued to the tv!
After a while I started to become anxious that the midwives were hanging around making chit-chat. I felt my contractions stalling and just wanted to be left to relax. I kept having to change positions so that the baby’s heartbeat could be monitored for a full minute every 15 minutes. I found it quite distracting. Soon they were finished and said they’d be back to transfer me into a room with a birthing pool once it had been cleaned. I noticed a difference as soon as they’d left my contractions picked up again – strongest when I lay on the bed which is counter to the advice given.
We moved into the birthing suite around 9am and more chit chat, more hanging about, more questions… I was starting to get really irritable.
We phoned both sets of parents to tell them not to expect any news imminently… Janette was at the M&S Gyle café with Lewis and Coral. My parents didn’t answer – they had already left Helensburgh to drive over.
David asked if there was a possibility of going home as I was worried about lack of progress. Helen was a bit taken aback but said she would ask… the answer was ‘no’. 5cm was too far progressed to go home and if labour had stalled there was ‘things they could do’. I was adamant about no sintocin so the primary midwife said she’d leave me for an hour, come back and check progress around 10:45 and break my waters if necessary. I wasn’t thrilled about that, but it seemed like a good compromise. The tub was full and ready for me to get in, but I wanted things to pick up first to prevent the contractions stalling when I got in the water.
Just after 11 they came back and the contractions had returned. Although they were bearable I felt like I wanted gas and air. I took some just before the next examination and it helped so much! I remember why I loved gas and air the first time around. It does make my voice sound oddly low which I hadn’t remembered from the first time around. Breaking the waters turned out to be no big deal. Fortunately they were clear (no meconium) which meant I could get in the tub. I asked the midwives whether women typically deliver in the birthing pool once they’re in and she said nearly everyone does – especially if it’s not their first babies.
I changed and was helped into the tub. I wasn’t sure if I would be a ‘water birth person’ (apparently you either are or aren’t) but I instantly felt more comfortable. The midwives left met to get on with it and sure enough the contractions started to come hard and fast. It was intense and painful but I never doubted myself or wanted to get out of the water. I repeated some of the mantras from the relaxation track I had been listening to in the weeks leading up like “I relax into my labour”, “I trust that my baby will be born when my body and my baby are ready” and “Each contraction brings me closer to meeting my baby”. I remember thinking that my memory had failed me and I didn’t remember how sore it was first time around! Nature has a way of making you forget. At 12:15 I suddenly shouted to David to push the buzzer as I felt the urge to bear down. Within seconds the midwives were back, checked me and didn’t say anything except ‘Ohh!’. They checked baby’s heartbeat which was still strong and recovering well after each contraction and kept topping up the water so it remained at exactly 37.5 degrees. I was warm but not too uncomfortable which is one of the things I had slight concerns about – overheating and feeling faint/nauseous but thankfully I didn’t.
After a short time my body took over and started to push on its own. The most powerful and amazing thing – it’s true that babies literally birth themselves. One of the midwives whispered to the other ‘I see vernex’ and told David she could see the baby’s head come forward with each contraction and that it wasn’t retreating back much. I tried to stay calm between contractions and not think about the next one (they were only 1-2 minutes maximum apart!) At one point I asked if it was almost over and was reassured that it was. After about five powerful contractions combined with a bit of pushing, they said the next one the head would be out! I supressed any fear and just told myself to get through it. The anticipation of seeing the baby and finding out if it’s a boy or a girl was a powerful incentive. Sure enough the next surge came with a huge amount of pressure and I felt the head pop out! Almost like a grape! The main midwife said to the student midwife that the body would follow with the next contraction “or right away” which it did. They placed you on my chest and the first thing I said was “you’re so cute!”. You were very white and lay quite still, stomach down on my chest. I was assured that you were fine – just so chilled from emerging into nice warm water. After a minute I asked if anyone had said whether it’s a girl or a boy?! They turned you over and said it’s a boy! Later daddy said he knew right away – whether just by seeing your face or whether he caught sight of the boy bits.
When daddy cut the cord they realised it had a knot in it! Fortunately it hadn’t had any effect on you – I didn’t let myself contemplate what the repercussions might have been. After another couple of minutes they took you over to wipe you down and at that point you turned bright pink and started wailing – a healthy set of lungs!
I was helped out of the pool and over to the bed. The afterbirth process was longer and more uncomfortable than it had been first time around. I got an injection into the top of my leg to help deliver the placenta and the midwives pulled it out which was a really strange sensation – large and squishy and a bit stingy. At that point I was told I would need stitches which was a bit disappointing – I had hoped the water might have prevented it.
You were brought back over for skin to skin and latched on well right away. Nature never ceases to amaze me that babies are born with such strong instincts.
Just after 3pm I was all stitched up and we phoned the grandparents to tell them the news. Oma and Opa were the first to arrive around 3:30 to meet you. After they left I was helped to the shower (a big en suite wet room/bathroom). Grandma and Grandpa arrived around 4:45 for a quick cuddle just as visiting hours were finishing – they had to ‘handover’ Lewis’s care first to my mum and dad. They brought your first gift – a lovely teddy with a turquoise bow.
Everyone was keen to find out your name but we decided to keep an air of secrecy and to sleep on it for a night to make absolutely certain of the choice.
Once Grandma and Grandpa had gone they were keen to move us up to the maternity ward so that the room could be cleaned. I was wheeled backwards through the long corridors with you bundled up in my arms – just as I had seen another mum being pushed with a tired but deeply content look on her face just 11 hours earlier.