Our baby was officially due on 6 April. As our first baby, Jemima, arrived 27 days after her due date, we considered this date fairly academic!
I had decided against having routine scans during this pregnancy for a number of reasons. I was surprised to find it quite liberating and found an increased intimacy with my pregnancy - just my baby and I, it was lovely. The pregnancy progressed uneventfully; I was very busy running after our toddler.
I was hoping for a shorter pregnancy this time around and had a mental date of 42 weeks as my "real due day". I was very excited when I started to lose mucus; I really thought this baby was on its way. As 42 weeks dragged on I really felt down and disappointed that the baby had not turned up. Despite being previously overdue, I worried and fretted a lot; I felt very twitchy, having had a miscarriage since the birth of our toddler. Our new baby was long-anticipated and hoped for.
We considered induction, as we did with Jemima, but again it felt inappropriate and not for us. I believe that birth is important, that how we bring our children into the world has a long lasting impact. I was aware that the baby was in the posterior position and was concerned about the risk of starting a labour that wasn't ready to start and potentially create a lot of problems.
We decided to attend post-dates fetal assessment at Kings College in London at 43 weeks. This is where we went during my first pregnancy and I was satisfied with their competency (although I understand there are no guarantees). I hated the scan - after so long without one it felt very intrusive. Nevertheless, it did feel like an appropriate use of technology and showed that all appeared well, which was what I had believed, but was nice to have confirmed. The scan also confirmed the baby had moved anterior. Hurrah!
I woke on Sunday, 1 May and had quite strong braxton hicks, but not for the first time so I didn't pay close attention to them. I did notice at church that I went to the loo three times in one hour - should have been a giveaway! On the way home we went shopping and I felt really out of sorts and had to apologise to my husband for being veeerry grumpy. Eventually I left him to the shopping and went home and had a good lunch and observed that my braxton hicks appeared to have a rhythm to them.
At 1.30pm I admitted to Rob that I was probably in labour and reluctantly rang my independent midwife to warn her out. (She lives over an hour away). I was contracting every eight minutes, they were taking my attention, but they were short. I was quite clear that I didn't want her there yet, as I am intensely private in early labour and want as few people as possible around me). I was also terrified of the humiliation of a 'false alarm'!
I can't remember what I spent the next two hours doing, just general tidying and keeping away from my husband and daughter. My husband Rob knows what I am like and he did a good job giving me space, tidying up and doing the ironing.
At 3.20 I rang my Midwife to tell her to come. I was contracting three times in ten minutes, but they were only lasting 30 seconds, which seemed too short to be 'real labour'. I was still convinced nothing was really happening, but the frequency of contractions was surprising and the pain was beginning to step up and really take my concentration.
My midwife Andrya's sixth sense was obviously on high alert. She mentioned precipitous birth to me and I passed the phone to Rob to be briefed. I briefly logged on to my antenatal groups' internet board and let them know something is finally 'happening'. It is 3.24pm.
By this time I was keen to have a bath. A self VE beforehand suggested 3-4cm, so I was pretty happy with that.
Once in the bath things started coming on intensely. The contractions and concentration needed really stepped up. I recall thinking, "damn, I can't remember it being this painful!"
It felt very hard to keep on top of the contractions. Rob popped his head in a couple of times, once to offer advice on breathing (yeah, right!) Eternally private in labour and needing to be on my own, I recall hissing "don't look at me" at him!
I was really concentrating on the image of my cervix opening up, like a roll neck jersey has to open to allow your head through. Mentally, I repeatedly pulled it open as I repeated my mantra "I am a good person and deserve a good birth" over and over again.
At 4pm, suddenly, I was desperate to get out of the bath. I leap out of bath and writhe on the floor - literally - stagger to bedroom. It is very full-on, but I still manage another self-VE: now 5cm with bulging waters. Somewhere in my thinking mind I muse on how interesting it all is. A past conversation with my midwife about how multiparous women can go from 5cm to birth in half an hour briefly floated into my mind.
Back in my bedroom and on the floor moving and vocalizing strongly through the contractions I said to Rob "I don't know what's happening". But I did know what was happening; I just couldn't believe how fast and furious it felt. The contractions were relentless; I felt like a swimmer out of their depth struggling to keep their head above water.
At 4.15pm, the doorbell rang, a friend to pick up our daughter who thankfully had fallen asleep watching a video. Rob was running around the house trying to get the birth kit together - towels, floor coverings, and I am now shouting to him, "don't leave me!".
Suddenly I heard a pop and I felt it too, but I couldn't think what it was, beyond the fact that it was very painful and I didn't like it. I cried out in confusion and pain and Rob had to tell me that my waters had gone. Looking down at the show on the inco sheet my sluggish brain finally understands what has happened.
Then there was unbelievable painful pressure coming through my bottom.
Huge, womphing great contractions and I was aware I need to push but nothing is budging. I have ordered my trooper of a husband down to the business end to look for any sign of a baby and he is now catching loads of poo!! I knew that despite my best efforts the baby wasn't coming and with each contraction tried a different position. The feeling of the baby being stuck despite the huge contractions was excruciating.
Despite the pain, through it all we are calm and I feel safe and in control. Rob is taking it all in his stride. There is no panic, we are just working together, doing it together.
Inspiration strikes and suddenly I said, "I have to go to the toilet" (what a giveaway). I literally ran to the bathroom and went to sit on the toilet, but I couldn't sit down! Rob asked if he could turn the light on. "NO!" I snapped and his eyes adjusted in time to see, at the next contraction, the bulge of the head starting to emerge. I was standing, hanging off the basin and the wooden 'Argos' towel rail, desperately hoping Argos quality would stand the test! Seconds later the head was born. A moment to wait for the next contraction and at 4.34pm our baby was born into Rob's hands.
He passed our little girl to me and she started breathing and then crying almost immediately. Whatever fantasies you have about your baby having a peaceful entry into the world, when you're on your own that cry is very welcome. I think she was as shocked as we were at the speed of her arrival. I had to sit down for a few minutes and Rob raced to get blankets to wrap around us and then helped us get to the bedroom and under the covers. I am beginning to shake with shock and I was very sore.
While we waited for the midwife to arrive, Rob jumped into bed with us to help keep the baby warm as he was surprised at how quickly she was cooling down. I was very shaken by the speed of what had happened and was not very coherent.
At 4.45pm our lovely midwife arrived. After all that, it was great to have her take control and organize a cup of tea. My bleeding was minimal and the placenta arrived without fuss. She helped me cut the cord and with the arrival of the second midwife, do all the things that needed doing. Later we all enjoyed a curry together as we had done for the birth of Jemima. What a great tradition!
Our daughter, Beatrice Hannah Anne, weighed 8lb, 9.5oz, born 1 May at 16.34hrs at gestation of 43+4. I had no drugs, a natural third stage and minimal blood loss. Unfortunately a perineal tear required stitches but Sue and Andrya took their time and did a great job. By the next day I was feeling a million dollars. Rob was great, totally calm and unpanicked and loves telling everyone he caught our baby!
Going overdue was difficult again. I had really hoped that this pregnancy would be shorter as I had convinced myself that I held onto my first pregnancy because of a death in the family near my due date. I have now concluded that 43-44 week pregnancies is normal for me.
Declining induction is very difficult in our culture where there is a tremendous culture of fear and bullying surrounding post-dates pregnancies. I am very grateful that I have the support of midwives who understand that some babies need longer "cooking" and have the confidence and skill to support women to birth their babies in their own time and space.
Beatrice is a delight. Everyone comments on how relaxed and jolly she is. I am so pleased she had the birth she wanted when she was ready. We all adore her!
Home Birth Stories
Fast Labours - is quicker always better? What do you do if your baby is arriving faster than your midwife?
The Third Stage of Labour - what are your options, and the pros and cons of each?
Overdue - what are the risks? What are your options?
Independent Midwives - what they do, and where to find one.
Home Birth Reference Page