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Bethany Grace's birth story, by Clare

After two long labours, including the home birth of her second child, Jamie, Clare was anticipating another slow and steady labour with her third child. Instead, she ended up with what must be the world record for going from 3cm to giving birth...

On Monday 7th March, 2 days after my due date, I went to the hospital for a check-up and to book a date to be induced. I didn't feel particularly keen to have the baby yet, and certainly wasn't getting to the impatient stage. We were planning a home birth, but B&Q were in the process of fitting our bathroom, and were 2 weeks behind schedule, so I was quite happy to wait until it was all done! With this in mind, when the midwife offered to perform a membrane sweep "to help things along", I declined.

Note from Angela: two days past the due date may seem very early to be thinking about induction, but some hospitals offer an appointment to *discuss* induction at this time, and at the appointment you can book a date for induction if you have not had the baby by then. It is important to remember that it is always your decision whether you accept induction or not. Many babies are born safely at home, and in hospital, several weeks past their due date. See 'Overdue, but desperate for a homebirth?' for discussion of the issues around postdates pregnancy.

Back to Clare:

However, at home later, I started to think about the reality of being induced, in hospital, which would not be the kind of birth that I had envisaged. The bathroom fitters were not coming back until Friday, so I figured I could have a try to encourage things to get started by myself. (It had worked a treat with Jamie!)

Throughout the day I drank 4 pots of raspberry leaf tea, then after Elisha (6) and Jamie (3) had gone to bed, I put a few drops of clary sage oil in the oil burner, and settled down to watch telly. Within half an hour, contractions started, and by 9:45 they were coming every 2 minutes.

After the 10 o'clock news, I persuaded Graham to lay the lino down in our (partly fitted) bathroom, and to plumb the toilet in! He did this, while I pottered around getting my birthing environment sorted out. At about midnight, everything was ready. I was still having contractions every two minutes, and they were getting stronger, so Graham put my TENS machine on. My other two labours had been 17 hours and 27 hours respectively, so I knew there was a long way to go, and decided to try and get some sleep.

Graham went straight to sleep, and I stayed in bed too, having contractions every few minutes, but controlling them by pressing the boost button on my TENS machine - I think I was almost doing this in my sleep! I didn't get much rest, but was glad I hadn't stayed up all night, as the contractions hadn't really changed in frequency or intensity by morning.

The children woke up, and I went downstairs with them, and made us all some porridge for our breakfast. I was still having contractions every two minutes, but they were still bearable, and I was determined to keep things normal for as long as possible, because of my two previous long labours.

Graham had decided not to go to work (!) and was going to take Elisha to school, but since I was still coping with the pain, and it looked like it was going to be a long day, he was suggesting taking Jamie out for the morning. I got a bit stroppy at this stage, and said that since his wife was in labour, he should probably be staying at home (or words to that effect!). After a bit of persuasion, he took Elisha to school, and Jamie to my mum's house around the corner.

I said goodbye to the children, telling them that the baby was coming, and that it might be born whilst they were at school, or it might be after they went to bed that night. Elisha responded that babies were usually born at night (as Jamie had been), and so nobody was expecting anything to happen any time soon.

Graham got back at about 9:30, and we decided to ring the midwife and let her know what was going on. My contractions felt quite strong by this stage, even with the TENS machine, but I had been experiencing a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions for the last few weeks of pregnancy, and also in my other two labours, my waters had broken very early on. Because this hadn't happened, I was not sure that I was really in labour yet.

The midwife arrived at 10am, with the second one to follow shortly. She examined me, (which I think included a membrane sweep) and just said "not a lot is happening" - I then heard her on the telephone to the other midwife saying that I was only 3cm dilated. I was extremely disappointed by this, and felt that if I had another maybe 10 hours to go, that I would be admitting myself to hospital and asking for an epidural! I suggested she go away and come back later, as it was going to be a boring day for her.

She advised me to get mobile, so I stood up, and Graham went to make coffee. She watched a couple more of my contractions, and said that they needed to get stronger and longer. Just as we all sat down with coffee, at about 10:20, I needed to go to the loo, and as I sat on the toilet I just felt overcome with pain and started howling the house down! I couldn't feel any contractions at this stage, it was just one massive pain. From the bathroom I could just about hear (above my screams) the midwife on the phone to the second midwife saying "just get here, as fast as you can, now!".

She came into the bathroom, and asked me if I needed a poo. I yelled "YES!", and she said not to try for a poo, because it was probably the baby's head. I thought she didn't know what she was talking about because I was only 3cm dilated, and I had always had very long labours, I was sure that no matter how painful it was, there was still a very long way to go. Anyway, the midwife disappeared back into the bedroom, and started to get things ready for the birth, then Graham came and helped me stagger back in there too.

I though everybody was completely overreacting, because all I needed was a poo! I got back into the bedroom, and grabbed onto our bedstead, still overwhelmed by this massive pain. I was desperate for the second midwife to arrive as she was bringing the gas and air! The midwife said "do you need to push?", and I yelled "I don't know!", closely followed by "Yes - I need to push!".

With one big push, Bethany's head appeared. I just couldn't believe it had happened so fast. The midwife got me to hold it there whilst she unwound the cord from her neck, and Graham had to hold onto Bethany's head in the absence of another midwife! With another push, she was born, straight into Graham's waiting hands. I was completely in shock!

 Graham told me that she was a girl, and that the time was 10:40.

We had had no time to discuss a birth plan, so the midwife had given me the injection of syntometrine before I had chance to ask to try for a natural third stage. Anyway, I lay down while the placenta came away, and whilst I was lying there with my legs in the air, the second midwife arrived! She was slightly bemused that it was all over and I had only been 3cm dilated half an hour ago!

I got into my bed, put my new daughter to my breast, and we all got back to our coffee, which was still warm! The midwives cleaned up then disappeared downstairs for an hour to leave us in peace. When they came back, they weighed Bethany, who was 7lb 9oz.

Despite the speed of her arrival, it was a lovely, relaxed birth, and Bethany didn't even cry. She was alert and looking around for a couple of hours, then had a good long sleep and met her big brother and sister when they got home from school that afternoon.

As for me, it took me all day to recover from the shock of the speedy delivery, then I spent most of the next week in bed, nursing Bethany, and being waited on by my husband.

Clare Russell

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