The female body is incredible.
I ended up in the first stage of labour for circa 36 hours which was fairly long but manageable as we did nice walks/watched films/ate good food (when I say good, I also had a lot of chocolate, sweets, toast – anything I could stomach /had lots of long showers and I spent copious hours sat on my Pilates ball bouncing/leaning over it and trying to stay in my UFO positions. I didn’t get much sleep but surprisingly I was OK as I was just excited that she was actually coming and that I was going to meet her soon!
I was so nearly in established labour on the Tuesday night (we nearly ended up with a 22.02.2022 baby) as I was getting contractions every four minutes and had started losing my mucus plug too, but then suddenly my contractions jumped to every ten minutes and slowed down massively. I knew that this was normal, even if it did annoy me slightly at the time. My contractions soon ramped up again throughout the next day and I started to rely more on my TENS machine (which I found provided so much relief) and my breathing and everything that I had learnt throughout the course. Once contractions got to three every ten minutes we left for the hospital letting them know we were on the way. As we were driving in rush hour, I popped an eye mask on, put my music on loud and tried to just focus on my breathing.
We arrived at around 9am and they wanted to assess me at the maternity assessment unit first and check I was actually in established labour before heading to the birth centre. They made me wait for quite a while in a waiting room as the midwife said I looked like I would only be around 1/2cm dilated. She primed us that we might need to go home. We desperately didn’t want to go home, so I asked her to check because I felt like I was further along than this and when she did I was actually 4cm and ready to go! Trust your instincts! The midwife offered a sweep at this stage so I said yes to this to see if it got things moving a little quicker.
We then went straight through to the Home From Home birth centre. Our room was absolutely lovely! Overlooking Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament (St Thomas’, London) and we had three midwives attending to us (one was a trainee and I thought I wouldn’t like this initially, but it meant we had a little team going and they were all absolutely amazing). They read my birth preferences and got the pool going straight away and I was in the pool by 10am. I then laboured in the pool using gas and air (we had our speaker and dimmed lights, etc. and it was a really nice/calm room – save for my mucus plus floating in the pool). I was 10cm dilated by around 2pm. My husband was amazing and held the gas and air for me, talked me through my breathing which massively made a difference and fed me Percy Pigs. The midwives were great/guided me through everything and kept a constant eye on mine and baby’s heartbeats. At one stage I felt someone rubbing my back as I had quite a lot of pressure in my lower back (my waters didn’t break until she was basically born) and thinking it was my husband I shouted at him to stop saying ‘that’s not helping!’ and actually it was the poor midwife trying to help. I definitely hit that transition stage where my hormones went a bit off and I had a little cry – but I was totally aware that’s what it was and so l was able to recognise it and had primed my husband that it would most likely happen and if it did I needed him to tell me that I could do it.
I was then in the pushing stage for about an hour and making all sorts of weird noises I didn’t know my body could make (the mooing is a real thing!), but I got into the zone and just went with it – it’s amazing that your body seems to know exactly what to do. That was the hardest but also shortest stage and it is the most surreal feeling being able to feel baby’s head popping in and out. I was aware that I probably wouldn’t be just birthing the head out straight away and that it would come in and out a few times, but I did find this bit hard (and it seemed to last forever!) as I kept thinking she was out and she wasn’t so it felt a little bit like I was going backwards and not progressing, but, within no time, she was here.
Born at 3.05pm, while (coincidentally) Ellie Goulding’s ‘Your Song’ was playing (my sister/dad played and sang this at our wedding) and then ‘The Greatest Day of Our Lives’ (it sounds like I’ve made this up, but we couldn’t believe it either!). She floated up from the water and they put her straight on my chest and we stayed in the water and did delayed cord clamping and skin-to-skin. It’s such an incredible moment seeing them for the first time. My husband got to cut the cord and they then took us back to our room and, after a bit of manipulation of my stomach, the placenta came away without intervention. It’s a little uncomfortable them pressing on your tum post-birth but it doesn’t take long to come away. They then left us with our baby girl for cuddles for a while and came back a bit later to weigh her, etc. and check me for tearing. I was super lucky and had no tearing so maybe the perennial massage worked! I had a few grazes which they said they could leave or pop a few stitches in. I opted for a few stitches as they said there was a risk my labia could potentially fuse together if I didn’t have them, but they numb you and that didn’t hurt at all. Then we were just left alone for the rest of the eve to get to know our baby girl. I managed my shower and went to the toilet (make sure you take lots of maternity pads as there was more bleeding than I thought!). The staff came to check in throughout the night and were totally on hand if we needed anything. They were incredible.
We were home the next day with our beautiful baby girl. Those first few days at home were really tough and slightly terrifying (I was having quite a few issues with breastfeeding and we were all exhausted!), but the love you feel for your baby is something else.
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