Nookie’s birth story:
Prior to becoming a mother I knew virtually nothing about babies and parenting. I have one brother who is only 4 years younger than me, so don’t really remember him as a baby. None of my friends have babies. And the only time I can ever remember holding one was when I was a kid… and I dropped it! I’m not quite sure what made me want to have a baby, given that they have pretty much terrified me since then. I think I just felt something inside me… something missing in my life. And all of a sudden, at the age of about 23, I decided I wanted to be a mother!
It took me about a year to become pregnant, probably due to the contraceptive pill I’d been on, on and off, from the age of about 16. I didn’t realise it could cause fertility issues until I wanted a baby. But my partner and I didn’t worry too much. We just let it happen whenever, trusting it would eventually. In September 2009 we discovered I was pregnant. But unfortunately I had a miscarriage in October at 8 weeks. It was an extremely difficult time, and I was adamant I didn’t want to try again for some time. But, in December I discovered I was pregnant again. Strange how these things turn out!
My pregnancy was uneventful, except some extra tests I had to have on my heart and the baby’s. I was born with a hole in my heart that needed surgery when I was 4, so the doctors needed to check my heart was strong enough for pregnancy, and that my baby’s heart was healthy. I was placed under the care of a cardiologist and had ECGs, etc, and a foetal echocardiogram at a cardiology unit. Luckily everything was fine, and I was discharged from the care of the cardiologist. I was graded from ‘high-risk’ pregnancy to ‘low-risk’, and only saw my midwife from then on.
As my due date approached I think I was in something akin to denial about how my life was about to change. I wasn’t interested in reading, going to ante-natal classes, or even hearing from others about birth and parenting. I had no birth plan, and no real idea about what giving birth would be like. I got the regular information from my midwife, and did attend one ante-natal class, simply so I would get chance to look around the maternity ward and find out what needed to go into my hospital bag! I never, ever considered a home-birth! It never crossed my mind. Everyone I knew had given birth in hospital. It was the done thing. I never gave it a second thought.
I hated being pregnant and couldn’t wait for it to be over! Towards the end of my pregnancy I had pelvic girdle pain, terrible pain in my back, ankles so swollen I only owned one pair of shoes that would (barely) fit my feet, and a terrible itching all over my feet that kept me up most nights. I saw physiotherapists about my pelvis and doctors and my midwife about everything else, and was prescribed all manner of potions for the itching. I suffer terribly from hay-fever and had a hard time over the summer months, unable to take anti-histamines.
Then finally it happened! I had my first contraction at just after 11pm on the 22nd August 2010. I was 38 weeks and 5 days pregnant. I was watching TV with my partner and dogs when all of a sudden I felt a strong cramp in my stomach. I got up to use my birthing ball, thinking it was yet another lot of Braxton-Hicks contractions. And as I did so my waters broke. I told my partner I thought they’d broke, and after a moment of disbelief he sprung into action. I ran to the bathroom, as they started to gush, and shouted for him to get my phone. I rang my mum terrified as I climbed into the shower and my partner mopped the floor. As I spoke to my mum, and tried to calm down, I felt another two lots of strong cramps. But I ignored them. It must have been my imagination!
Over the next half an hour I realised I was really in labour! My contractions had started and were less than 5 minutes apart and getting stronger. I panicked and called the hospital, who told me to come in immediately. This wasn’t what I’d expected! It was my first child – labour wasn’t supposed to be this quick! I had to call the dog-sitter! We have 2 very naughty dogs, and a house full of cats they can’t be trusted alone with! The dog-sitter had been arranged weeks before and was on stand-by. She got in her car and rushed over, but was half an hour away. I couldn’t wait that long! My contractions were now 4 minutes apart!
Frantic, I told my partner to go get the neighbour to sit with the dogs and mind the house until the dog-sitter arrived. He did, and gratefully he kindly agreed. Cue me bent double in the kitchen, panicking, while a near stranger tries to wrangle our 2 massive dogs! I got dressed, grabbed my hospital bag, and we commenced the torturous 30 minute journey to hospital! And of course, the maternity ward is miles away from the only entrance open at night (through A&E). I practically crawled into the A&E reception, and my partner acquired a wheelchair and pushed me, puffing and panting, down endless corridors to the maternity ward.
This was where the real fun started! I was examined and told I was 3cm dilated. The midwife assigned to me then asked me the question… had I felt my baby moving much today. I thought, and realised that unusually I hadn’t. Oh I wish I hadn’t said that! This meant I now needed to wear a belt monitoring the baby’s heartbeat. And I had to lay on my back. Still. Oh the agony!!! All I wanted to do was get up and walk about, and reflecting now I guess I should have. But I felt vulnerable and did as I was told! So I laid on the bed, on my back, and endured wave after wave of contractions while the midwife was off doing who knows what, and my partner was on the phone to the dog-sitter who was apparently lost and needed directions! After what seemed like forever I was offered some pain relief. Paracetamol and Codeine. I nearly laughed! But it was something. And I huffed and puffed on the gas and air hungrily.
Soon after the midwife examined me again and spoke to me about the next steps; I was now 5cm dilated. Apparently she was struggling to decide whether I was far along enough to go to the delivery suite, given how quickly I had progressed, or whether it was worth taking me to a relaxation room until I was a little further along. She opted for the latter, and I was wheeled to a nice calming room, full of birthing balls and soft furnishings. I could finally walk around! And I positioned myself kneeling over a chair and had about 5 minutes of free heaven! Then my contractions kicked up a notch! I was bent double with agony, screaming in pain. And my waters started to gush again! Oh the embarrassment! I cried at my humiliation. The midwife rushed in and offered me some Pethidine for the ever-increasing pain while an assistant tried to calm me. I was given the Pethidine and then wheeled to the delivery suite. I’d been in the room less than 10 minutes!
Everything after that is bathed in a haze. The Pethidine combined with all the gas and air I was guzzling distorted time and made events seem far away. I could still feel the pain, but it felt distant. As I settled into the bed in the delivery room time seemed to stretch forever. I was back on the belt monitor, so had to stay laying on my back, but I was too ‘out of it’ to stand anyway! The minutes felt like hours. My contractions must have been about 2 minutes or so apart, and I dozed in between them. My partner stood next to me and held my hand through it all. He was my rock!
Eventually I started to get the urge to push. This was the truly hard part! I was so sedated, it was all I could do to open my eyes and breathe through the contractions that were wracking my body! But eventually my instincts took over, the drugs started to wear off, and my body did it’s job. It took me just over an hour. An hour of the most strenuous thing I’ve ever done. An hour of screaming I couldn’t do it, and that it hurt too bad. An hour or squeezing my partner’s hand and him telling me how great I was doing. It seemed to last a lifetime. But slowly I managed to push my daughter out into the world.
Those last 5 minutes or so are a blur. I think my purely animal instincts took over and my mind was so focused on this one job that everything else faded. I wasn’t aware of anything going on around me. All I could focus on was the task at hand. I’m told by my partner that I was given a massive injection into my thigh to make my placenta deliver. I don’t remember. All I remember is the pain, and the most bizarre, disturbing feeling of something huge ‘falling’ out of my body. I remember the look on my partner’s face, and his tears falling onto my forehead. And then I remember my daughter, wrapped in a towel and placed on my chest. Her tiny fingers. Her pink skin. And the sound of her cry. The way she looked up at me with confusion. And the way she smelled – the most wonderful smell in the world!
My daughter was born at 4.24am on the 23rd August 2010. She weighed 7lb 2oz. Her hair is blonde, and her eyes are brown. She is the best thing that ever happened to me. At that moment; the moment I held her for the very first time, my life completely changed. All of a sudden she became the centre of the universe! I vowed to be the best mother I could to her, and to always be there for her. I changed into who I am now. I became pretty much a completely different person!
Looking back I feel really sad about my birth story. It was so stressful. Not particularly the labour itself; which was quite short at 5 hours from first contraction to delivery, and easy; I only had one small tear and needed no stitches. But everything else! The trip to hospital; being shipped around; the powerlessness I felt in my own care. I felt I had no control in anything that happened: a semi-conscious, half-willing participant in something I stupidly didn’t prepare for.
I wish I had known what I know now! Nookie was 4 months old before I heard about attachment parenting, purely by accident, and started trusting my instincts. It was then that I started to learn about natural birth and started doing some serious reading on breastfeeding, baby-wearing, labour and pregnancy, etc. Luckily I had decided to breastfeed, and co-slept from the start simply because Nookie wouldn’t have it any other way! But I wish I had been more informed before I had her. Things might have gone a lot more smoothly!
If I have another baby I want a home-birth, if possible. I want to feel in control and calmly deliver my baby without all the hustle and bustle of getting to hospital! I want to take control and feel the power other women have inspired me to take! I wish I had done my research before having my daughter, but at least in the future I’ll be prepared.
Smushface’s birth story:
After Nookie’s birth I vowed next time would be different: this time I would be prepared. I would have a home birth, and I would be in control! I did my research… boy did I do my research. I read book after book, article after article, devouring information on natural pain relief methods, coping with contractions, etc. I don’t think I could have been more prepared.
As my due date came and went I started to get impatient. I knew enough about induction to know I wasn’t being induced, and would just have to be patient. Thankfully my midwife respected my wishes. I was tortured by twinge after twinge: night after night of Braxton-Hicks contractions that would build and build and then slow down and stop. But I waited…
Finally on the morning of 26th October, at about 1.30am, a week after my due date, I awoke to the sensation of leaking waters. I knew this was it. I leapt out of bed, into the bathroom, and proceeded to stand there while my waters gushed. I couldn’t get out the bathroom for about ten minutes! Finally I woke my partner and he started to get things ready: filling the pool, laying tarpaulin, etc. I called my best friend, who would be attending to take care of Nookie as she wanted to see her sister born, and then called the midwives, who advised me to ring again in an hour when I started having contractions. Two minutes after I got off the phone my contractions started in earnest: about five minutes apart. I rung them back and they set off straight away.
In the meantime I ate a cereal bar, started drinking isotonic drinks, and walked about. When a contraction came I would lean over a chair and breathe through it. They were no where near as painful as I remembered from having Nookie! I felt calm and in control. It never even occurred to me to ask for pain relief when the midwives arrived. I’d been determined to do without it anyway, but even if I hadn’t I really didn’t feel it was necessary.
When the midwives arrived I was examined and said to be 3cm dilated. By now the contractions were about three minutes apart and building in intensity. My friend Tanya woke Nookie and she came down to watch the action with interest, in between watching cartoons. I continued to walk about, leaning on the chair when I needed to. Unfortunately the birthing pool ended up not being used. Because the water pressure from the hot tap wasn’t very strong, Hedgehog had filled it from the cold water tap and was topping it up with boiling water from the kettle to bring the temperature up. It never got high enough for me to get in! Three hours after my waters had broken I started getting a lot of pressure and the urge to push, but I was kind of in denial. I took myself off to the shower to cool down, but almost immediately I had another huge contraction with a strong pushing urge and knew this was it! I got straight back out of the shower, told the midwives the baby was coming, and we set up on the sofa so my baby could be born.
I was on my hands and knees, leaning over the chair arm. Hedgehog sat in front of me and held my hands. As the contractions came I bore down, followed my instincts, and went with the rushes. I wouldn’t say I really strained or pushed as such at first, but more tried to relax my body and let the contractions do their work. Nookie and Tanya watched the whole thing. Nookie was fascinated. I don’t remember hitting transition or anything like that. I had no doubts in my mind that I could do this. I just relaxed, stayed calm, and kept reassuring myself that I could do this… that my body could do it’s work.
It hurt of course. But I knew this bit would be over soon and I would have my baby in my arms. Again, it never occurred to me to ask for pain relief. I couldn’t really ask for anything at this point. I was very focused… in a world of my own, not really taking notice of what was going on around me. In between contractions I kept drinking, and letting my body rest. Finally I couldn’t help but push and with just a handful of really strong contractions and pushes, I welcomed my daughter into the world. She was born at exactly 5am: the second stage had lasted thirty minutes. She appeared there in front of me, and I lifted her myself and hugged her tightly. I’d done it! Me. I’ve never been so proud in my life.
We delayed cord clamping, and forty-five minutes later I pushed out the placenta with a little bit of assistance from the midwife. I laid there the whole time with my daughter in my arms, and breastfed her as much as she would take. She looked around at the world. Her beautiful eyes. Nookie was absorbed by her.
When Nookie was born I distinctly remember an immediate fierce love for her, like my whole life suddenly had meaning. I didn’t get that this time. It was a softer, gentler type of knowing that I loved this little person, just as much as I love Nookie. There was no momentous change in perspective: just the knowledge that I had my baby and I loved her.
Smushface was 9lb 2 ounces. I had no tears or damage to my perineum at all, despite her big size. This birth couldn’t have been more different to Nookie’s, and I’m so glad I did it my way. I feel like I could conquer the world now!