My first child was born three weeks early, but my second and third were each born a couple of days after their due date. I was really confident, this pregnancy, that I knew exactly when the baby was ‘made’ so my official due date of 21 September and my own internal clock, saying 28 September, were at odds. This may explain why having this baby – even though I was officially ‘overdue’ – took me by surprise….
Saturday 22 September
We had arranged to go to my parents for the day, to visit itsgrandpaswork before his next round of chemo, to pick up some special photo portraits we had bought to celebrate their ruby wedding, and to catch a glimpse of my new nephew J who would also be visiting, with his mum and dad – my SIL and my third brother. Instead, our plans were knocked on the head when #3, our youngest threw up copiously in the middle of the night. In retrospect, this was a lucky break as it meant that I didn’t go into labour at my parents house, and we didn’t have to drive frantically back home worrying about giving birth beside the motorway. At the time I was fed up to be spending what I thought would be our last ‘free’ weekend doing nothing much with three stir-crazy children who all really wanted to be down at itsgrandmaswork’s house.
Mid afternoon, I noticed that I was getting contraction-like cramps. This is where I was silly enough to ignore the text books. Most birthing experts would agree that there are three stages to labour: First Stage – Opening the Cervix; Second Stage – Pushing the baby out; Third Stage – Delivering the Placenta. Instead, having already had a ‘false alarm’ the previous week, I chose to ignore these feelings (“nah – my cervix isn’t opening up for another week”), thereby creating a four stage labour: First Stage – not taking this seriously at all; Second Stage – Maybe something might be happening; Third Stage – Ohmigod I’m Having a Baby; Fourth Stage – Writing up the notes!
Sat 4:00pm. I pretended nothing was happening. As a bit of a concession to the possibility that these cramps might turn out to be proper contractions, I suggested to DH that he put a liner in the pool – as a project to entertain the kids.
Sat 8:00pm. I said I’d had a few weak contractions. DH and I agreed that as we had a spare pool liner we might as well do a ‘practice run’. Then the pool would be ready if anything did happen, and if not, I could have a float and a glass of wine. Rang the delivery ward, told them I had a planned home birth and that something might be happening or it might not. So they gave me the phone number of the on call midwife. I asked if they could ring K, who had delivered #2 and #3, and they agreed to, even though she wasn’t on call. I pottered around doing bits and bobs, chatting on line, watching some rubbish TV [CSI Vegas if you really want to know].
Sat: 11:30 pm. Took the stairs a bit fast going to the loo in the commercial break. And suddenly ‘wallop’. This was the type of contraction I recognised!! Proper, serious, this really is labour ‘cos it definitely hurts. So I phoned the on-call midwife and said, ‘I think it would be good if someone came to check me out’. She said that she’d phoned K, but because it was a Saturday and she wasn’t on call she’d had too many drinks to be able to drive. That was a real shame (but obviously totally fair enough). The on-call midwife said she’d go to the hospital and pick up her gear and be with me by about 12:30. I bounced on my birthing ball a bit to help the baby move down. And then realised that that might be helping a bit too much. So, for some silly reason, I sat very still and tried to hold my breath to see if the contractions would stop, or at least slow down.
MW arrived as promised at about 12:30 and although I hadn’t recognised her on the phone, I realised I knew her as she had done some of the post-natal visits with #3. I was very nearly reassured by this until I mentioned that we were filling the pool and I hoped to deliver in it. She said: “I think I can just about manage that”. Yikes!
The local midwives have got a specific protocol that they have to follow for each assessment, so although I was longing to get in the pool, I had to wait for blood pressure, pulse, baby’s heartbeat etc. before the internal exam, at which MW told me I was 6cm dilated. What a disappointment! I had been at 8cms by the time K arrived in both my previous home births.
MW said I could get in the pool and reckoned I had a couple of hours to go, so she set about writing up her initial assessment notes in the kitchen while I lowered myself into the pool.
Sunday 23 September – Third Stage
Sun: 01:00am Getting into the water was pure bliss. It felt fantastic. For about 2 minutes. Then suddenly – OHMIGOD! Wave after wave of one HUUUGE contraction. 6cms – 10cms in a single go, I think! Once I had finished shouting the house down, I asked for the gas and air, and the midwife brought it, before returning to her notes to jot down ‘entonox requested 1:05’. I was saying to myself “Just-a-little-break-please-just-a-little-break” – but I wasn’t going to get one. The next big contraction came only about a minute later. I tried to work the gas and air, but to be honest, I was shouting too much to get my teeth round the mouthpiece. The midwife, from the kitchen, said: “Tell me when you’re ready to push, won’t you?” and I tried to get out the words “I think this baby is coming by itself”, but I could only get as far as “I think…I think…” before the next wave hit me. MW was a bit snappy and said “I don’t need you to think, just to tell me if you want to push”. I didn’t have any words left to tell her– just a big, huge shout.
I was sure the baby was about to be born, but I was waiting for the sensation of my waters breaking and it didn’t come – but still there was another huge wave of a contraction and my feeling ‘down under’ told me something had happened. I started yelling– “I’ve had a baby, I’ve had a baby!!!” (er…duh!) and then the midwife came into the room and went “Oh, yes, so you have”
Then: “The head is out. Try to keep your bottom under the water.”
The next contraction couldn’t come fast enough for me. #3 popped out all in one go like a champagne cork, and I really didn’t like the sensation of this baby being only half-way out. I didn’t have to wait long. At 1:15 and only 6 contractions after getting into the pool #4, my now 5yo, was born – still entirely inside her amniotic sac [what midwives often speak of as “born in her caul”]. The midwife then “broke my waters” and lifted her onto my chest. Wow!
Writing up the notes.
It isn’t recommended to deliver the placenta in the pool as it’s too hard to tell how much blood has been lost (pool always looks like a scene from Jaws afterwards) so I got out of the pool and went to rest with #4 on the sofa while DH made tea and the midwife started writing up the notes. DH wondered aloud whether he should make tea for the second midwife (who had missed the birth but arrived just in time for a cuppa on the previous two occasions) but the midwife who was present said that she hadn’t even made a call to the second midwife as, based on the internal, she’d thought I’d ‘be a while yet’. When the chord stopped pulsing, the midwife cut it, noting that it was very thin. About 20 minutes after the birth the placenta was delivered. The midwife massaged my belly a little to help it on its way but wouldn’t tug on the cord at all, as she was worried that it would snap. She said the placenta too was very small.
DH popped in to wake the other children. We had promised that if ‘anything happened’ we would wake them (#1 had been there for #3’s birth), but because it all went so quickly there wasn’t time. In the end, only #2 got up to come and see her little sister – pronouncing her ‘perfect’ before going straight back to bed.
Extraordinarily, the midwife didn’t leave until 3:00am. All the time in between 1:40 and 3:00am was spent writing up the notes. In other words, it took longer to write up the notes than to deliver the baby.
Just after 3:00 DH and I went to bed, snuggled up together, with #4 in her Moses basket beside the bed.
Just after 7:00am, a little troupe of wide-eyed siblings arrived – led by #2, who enjoyed being ‘in the know’ – to meet and greet the fourth and final addition to our family.