On Wednesday the 26th of May at 41+3 things finally started to happen. I had a surge that was strong enough to wake me up, but still gentle enough that I could stay in bed and breathe through.
I took a screenshot on my phone to bookmark the time without waking myself up too much or giving it too much thought. I did this for the next three surges then decided to look.
5 minutes apart.
I knew that this could be very early labour so I wanted to stay in bed and rest, but after 4 of these I knew I needed to hop out of bed and find a better position. I rolled over onto my hands and knees on the floor and worked through my next one.
At this point it was 3am. My little guy who had been sleeping next to me intuitively woke up and said “Hi Mum.” I acknowledged him and went back to breathing through.
He then climbed on my back and said “I’m a poss” (possum) and stayed there for the rest of the surge. I had a giggle and encouraged him to go find Dad in the other bed.
Conscious that my husband had only made it to bed at 2am I decided to use this time to labour alone. I put some candles around the house between surges and worked through each one. I didn’t make it very far though, as by 3:10am they were 2 minutes apart. I spent an hour working through them quietly, hypnobirthing track in my ears before I made the decision to start calling my team. I had hoped to wait until 5am as that felt like a reasonable hour to wake them up, but I feared if I did they might miss it- in hindsight a good call!
I decided to start with Kel (my doula) as I figured she could then call the rest of my team on my behalf. Despite 5 weeks of being on call, she missed my first call. And my next 4. I actually had a giggle as I knew she would be kicking herself (this was Kel’s first birth as a doula and I think she learnt a lot).
I then called my midwife and had three back to back surges before the phone call dropped out. Then my photographer who let me know she would be there within the hour. At this point I couldn’t handle making anymore phone calls- the pauses between surges were heating too short.
I needed to get out of my head and surrender, so I decided to wake my husband up.
It was just on 4am, and I told him “I think it’s go time.” He hopped out of bed quickly and got straight into doing light touch massage while continuing to call my team.
I grabbed the birth ball and plonked myself in a corner of the kitchen. I held on to the bench as I worked through surges breathing deeply.
I closed my eyes, turned my “Surge of the Sea” hypnobirthing track right up and tried to find my rhythm. As my team arrived I paid no attention to them.
I felt emotional and overwhelmed by the fact that it was finally time and with only 1-2 minutes between surges I felt I needed to stay “in control.” The one time I got emotional was thinking about my little boy, sound asleep in the next room. How much life was about to change for him.
I longed to have him close but knew I needed this time to focus.
In the background my team were busy trying to get the pool filled and warm.
Kel waited ready to step in and offer comfort, reassurance, anything that would help, but I was deep in labour land with my husband and couldn’t even entertain the idea of anyone else touching me.
At some point I turned around on the ball to face my husband. I knew I needed him to ground me as the intensity continued to ramp up. He squeezed my hand and held me close.
I could feel an immense amount of pressure in my bum and a bulging beneath me. In hindsight this was my waters ready to break.
My deep breathing turned in to groans. I tried horse lips to relax my pelvic floor and slow things down, but fairly soon these all just turned to shrieks.
I was conscious of how loud I was being, slightly embarrassed to be so noisy and also acutely aware that my 3 year old was sleeping in the next room.
At some point my little boy joined us. We had spent many many months preparing him for what birth would look like and sound like, but I still worried how he would cope seeing me in such intensity. We had always planned to have my mum at the birth, to ensure he had a person who was entirely responsible and committed to meeting his needs. My mum knew that should it become too much she would need to take him elsewhere, but I was reassured to see him sleepy eyed, in his pyjamas, noise cancelling earphones on and sitting contently on my mum’s lap.
My midwife came over with the doppler as I roared through another surge (roar is a loose term. My three year old later told me I sounded like a dinosaur- a pterodactyl to be precise. And he is not wrong). My waters released and soaked my pants. My team had suggested on numerous occasions that I undress, but I couldn’t even entertain the idea of moving off the ball. I felt my waters soak my pants but at the point I really couldn’t have cared less- if anything it provided some temporary relief from the intense stinging I was feeling.
I knew it was time to hop in the pool- despite it being less than half full. I remember thinking, “if I don’t move before this next surge I’m not going to make it.”
I stripped my shirt off, stood up to walk the 5 steps from the kitchen to the pool, pulled down my pants and lent against the pool as another surge hit.
I thought to myself; “there is no way I can lift my leg to hop in that pool” and concluded that I would have to have dive in.
Before I could attempt such a manoeuvre the next contraction hit and the baby shot out into my midwife’s arms.
My midwife and my husband attempted to pass her to me and I told them I wasn’t ready. I needed a second to process what had just happened. But I quickly reconsidered and asked them to help me hold her.
My legs felt weak and I worried if I didn’t sit down they would give in.
Someone got me a chair and we briefly sat and checked the sex of the baby.
We had a little girl.
At this point my photographer suggested I might like to hop in the pool for a snuggle: I loved that idea.
I slid in, and the warmth provided immediate relief.
Just a couple of relatively painless contractions and I birthed my placenta, giving it a small tug to help it out. My blood loss was minimal (150ml) and my placenta had taken just 15 minutes to birth- all good signs.
The water wasn’t quite warm enough so after a little while in the pool we decided to move to the bed. I noticed a true knot in baby’s cord which I found fascinating.
I took a quick shower to warm up and headed to the bedroom.
We snuggled in bed, and my husband got to have his first proper hold. I was surprised at how ready I felt to hand her over to people. Unlike my first baby, I really felt unconcerned by her being passed around.
I think this was a combination of the fact that every person in the room deeply loved and supported us, and the fact that I was in a surprising amount of pain. I was finding it hard to concentrate when I was still uncomfortable.
I found this surprising as I had really anticipated the endorphin high/ post birth euphoria. While I did experience this it was dimmed by the ongoing pain and the intensity of what I had just experienced.
Despite preparing our little boy to cut the cord, in the moment he decided he didn’t want to. We followed his lead and decided my husband would do it.
Kel gave me a lovely foot massage and fed me some avocado toast and then it was time to assess for tears.
If you are pregnant, or just looking to read a beautiful birth story you might wish to stop reading here.
My birth was incredible and everything I dreamed of, but towards the end we ran into a few unexpected issues. They could not have been anticipated and did not detract from what was an incredible experience.
Given the opportunity there is nothing I would change, birth is unpredictable and sometimes things happen. When they do, we are lucky to have access to incredible medical care.