‘Every contraction brings my baby closer to me’

Joshua’s Birth Story – by Lauren

I was 5 days overdue and becoming increasingly impatient. Up until the weekend (this was Sunday) I had been fairly relaxed about when labour would start but I was becoming more and more uncomfortable and really ready for things to start happening.

I had declined a stretch and sweep at 40 weeks and as excited and impatient as I was feeling, I was fully geared up to refuse one again at 41 weeks and had armed myself with all the information I needed in order to decline induction until it was absolutely a necessity.

I went for a walk with my Dad during the day and remember joking about how it would save him a trip from London where he lives if I went into labour while he was already here. He left at 5.30 pm. Gary left for his night shift at 6 pm and I settled myself in for another night of waiting.

At 8.30 pm I went to spend a penny and on walking back down stairs felt a warm trickle. I ran back upstairs thinking ‘Oh my God it can’t be, can it?!’ My waters had definitely broken and I tried to stem the flow as instructed but water kept coming.

I hadn’t really prepared myself for my waters to go first as I’d read that it happens in 20% of pregnancies so, as a fairly average individual, I assumed I wouldn’t buck the norm and that my contractions would start first. I grabbed my copy of ‘What to expect…’ and looked up what to do. It said that labour normally follows between 12-24 hours later. Okay I thought, I’ve got a while but yeh things are happening, I was very excited.

I called the midwife at Chipping Norton who said that it would probably take a while to get going and to keep them posted but that she was on the night shift so didn’t expect to see me. I then called Gary and explained what had happened and what the midwife had said and told him to hang on at work as there was no rush, that I’d call him again in an hour and let him know how I was. I also called my Mum who was going to drive down from Cheshire and she said she’d leave then so as not to get caught in any rush-hour traffic in the morning but that she’d let herself in and see us in the morning.

As I couldn’t sit still I decided to bake a birth-day cake for my baby (I can’t take the credit for this idea – I stole it from my NCT teacher) and after an hour, as my sponges were cooling I called Gary again to say that nothing else was happening. We decided at that point though that it was probably a good idea for him to come home, if I went into labour in the morning he would have had no sleep and that wouldn’t be a good start.

He arrived home at 11pm. I’d taken two paracetamol as instructed by the midwife and was getting ready for bed. At 11.15 I felt something happening. I remember thinking ‘Thank God we decided Gary should come back’. The midwife asked what we would like to do with regards to coming into the unit and we said that our plan was to stay at home as long as possible.

My first contraction felt quite strong, like an urge to go to the bathroom. I spent the following hours between the bathroom (I found it comfortable to be sitting on the toilet) and lying prone (as much as possible with the bump) on my bed. Early on I said to Gary ‘I’m scared, it really hurts’. I had expected the contractions to start like period pain and gradually get worse but they started as they meant to go on, strong and steady. Once I realised that the intensity wasn’t growing I settled into a bit of a rhythm with them, the intensity remained the same for the whole of my labour.

I remember my Mum arriving and Gary on/off the phone to the midwife but I wasn’t really aware of what was happening except for the contractions, I lost all sense of time. At one point Gary said to the midwife on the phone okay we’ll see you in an hour or so and I clearly remember thinking ‘What?! We need to go sooner than that’ but the time went like a blur and the hour felt like just a few minutes.

I was dreading the car journey but I held my Mum’s hand in the back of the car and breathed through the contractions. The breathing techniques that we’d learned during the hypnobirthing course worked really well to keep me focused and to stop any panic from rising. Gary also put on my ‘anchor’ music in the car which I’d visualised so many times and I think that was comforting too. The only drama was that we got stuck behind a white van travelling 40 mph in a 60 down the windy country roads at 3 o’clock in the morning – I just remember Gary saying ‘What are the chances?!’

We arrived at Chipping Norton and went inside to meet our lovely midwife Lesley, I had written in my birth plan that I wanted to have one examination to determine how far dilated I was and I remember all I was thinking at this point was ‘Please be 5 cm dilated, please be 5’ as I really wanted to use the birthing pool and this was the condition. Before being examined though I had to breathe through a couple more contractions, Lesley asked Gary whether they were coming more frequently than before and he said he wasn’t sure but he thought so. When she examined me I was fully dilated – I couldn’t believe it. I was whisked straight into the pool – it was about 4 am.

The water felt really good and the next couple of hours felt in one way like they went on forever and in another way that it was by in a flash. It didn’t feel like very long before Lesley and my second midwife Stevie were telling me that they thought it was time to start breathing the baby down (I can’t remember if that’s exactly what they said but I knew the baby was on his way). The contractions were very painful but I concentrated on the affirmations I had made, especially the one which said ‘Every contraction brings my baby closer to me’. I tried to focus on each contraction and think that ‘Okay, that one is over now and I don’t have to repeat that one’. Gary was with me, holding my hands and reminding me to breathe, telling me how proud he was and how excited. I was definitely ‘roaring like a lioness’ but not out of fear, it came from somewhere deep and felt powerful, not panicked.

The stinging sensation when the baby came down made me thankful that we had practised perineal massage as I wasn’t scared of the sensation, I knew what it was and although it was more intense I knew again that it meant the baby was coming soon.

I think I was physically exhausted and it seemed to take a while for me to muster enough energy to push the baby out, the head came out and I was so relieved, we were about to meet our baby. Lesley asked if Gary or I would like to lift him out of the water and I said ‘Oh let Gary’ I felt so tired. When it came to that final push though I was on all fours (I had to keep shifting position because of cramp in my calves) and Lesley said that because of the positioning I should reach down and lift the baby from the water.

When he popped out he shot backwards and I reached down, I couldn’t find him… ‘I can’t find him, I can’t find him!’ I shouted so Lesley gently pushed him forward between my legs in the water and I took hold of this tiny, red, slippery baby and pulled him from the water. I was in total shock. I just remember looking at Gary and looking at the baby and tears filled my eyes. Our baby was born at 06.20 am on Monday 28th April 2014.

Lesley and Stevie helped him to latch on and I sat with him suckling in the water for about 45 minutes. When I was ready to get out, I passed our son to Gary who held him, skin-to-skin whilst the midwives helped me from the water. I delivered the placenta naturally with no problems and was very happy to come away with just two minor lacerations to my labia. My perineum, my worry throughout my whole pregnancy and for years before, had come though intact. I cannot say how relieved I was, I am.

We had the proverbial tea and toast and moved to another room to recover. I just couldn’t stop looking at the baby, unable to believe that he was mine. We left the unit at 2.30 pm and went home to see my dad, Gary’s parents and eat our cake!

It was a completely incredible experience, I have tried to capture it here but words cannot describe it really. I feel incredibly humbled to have had such a wonderful experience. I wouldn’t change it for the world and feel somehow more whole having been through it together with Gary. I am also incredibly thankful that I was able to have the birth I wanted, for me and for Gary and for Joshua. It was exactly as my birth plan was written, the only difference being that I chose to birth in the water instead of getting out. I am so glad that I didn’t have any intervention and that I didn’t have any pain relief, I wanted to fully experience the birth without any haziness and I was able to do that. Our baby was so alert when he was born, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.