I was so impatient this time around. That’s what comes from a combination of knowing what’s coming and having your first arrive at 38 weeks. At 35 weeks I was texting my midwife, Allison, of period feelings, stabby cervix pains, backache. It came to nothing of course. As I neared my due date I felt nothing. I felt like the most unlaboury pregnant woman in the world. The due date passed.
Funnily enough I was due at the same time as many other people I know, or know of. Two bloggers I follow, two Internet friends, and my friend Jill who I met at NCT classes when I was expecting Sandy. She’d been due the same week as me then and was due a week after me now. The bloggers went first and then the internet friends. Nothing happened to me. On Sunday I was 40+2 and miserable. I felt sick. And emotional, so emotional. My skin had been dire for weeks and it had suddenly cleared up. The next day I felt normal again. On Tuesday 6th May I awoke to a text from Jill who had birthed her second son that morning at 39+ weeks. Now it was just me left and I felt nothing.
I put Sandy down for his nap that day and planned a trip to IKEA with him that afternoon, for meatballs. It’s one of my happy places. I read my book and rested and felt quite at ease. As we drove towards the motorway that afternoon I felt a tightening. I welcomed it, a Braxton hicks contraction, at least signs of some form of preparation. I noted the time on the clock on my dashboard. 2:34pm.
I was worried of going too far overdue. Induction was the root of all evil in my mind. Of course I knew if I got to 42 weeks I didn’t have to say yes to anything, we could wait and see, and of course that’s what my logical mind would have done. But as much as I was afraid of the induction process by now I was more afraid of my lack of patience. Here I was at 40+4 and so far beyond happy about still being pregnant that I had no doubts that the offer of a fool proof entrance to labour, and thus the end of nine months of being pregnant, would entice me. It would shimmer and shine to me and I could see myself as a magpie, unable to avert my gaze. As it was though it never came to that. It is actually kind of silly to think of that situation. If I went that overdue I would in actuality have probably been fine with it, and felt as I did before my due date. My baby knew when to come, and though I didn’t know she was coming that day I shouldn’t have needed to worry.
As Sandy and I drove to IKEA I felt calm and noted with interest the return of these tightenings between every five and fifteen minutes. They weren’t sore at all, just, well, tight. Like someone wrapping your belly in a giant elastic and pulling it. I embraced the feeling. We got to IKEA and Sandy climbed the stairs like a big boy, holding both my hands. He pushed the tray trolley around the queue dividers and sat on my hip as we took our meatballs to the till. He picked out my drink (fizzy apple) and I his (fruit smoothie) and we ate. He scooped the mashed potato himself and I ate the meatballs he didn’t want and I realised he wasn’t a baby anymore; a realisation I’d been making daily for weeks by then. I’d expected the contractions to have gone now. At 35 weeks what aches I’d had were confined to the car. One part of me wanted to go back and drive and drive and drive. But I didn’t. I felt a touch of serenity enter me. How very odd, I don’t seem to be a serene person in the slightest. Sandy ate his strawberry tart. We put the trays away. He freaked out in the toilets.
I maintain now that IKEA brought on my labour. It’s a place that I love. I know a lot of people find it stressful – my husband included- but I relish it. The show area upstairs where you see the made up rooms and decorated spaces, plain wooden things painted and ideas flourishing. How I would love to work there, as the person setting up these spaces. Sandy ran around the kids bit, drawing on broads, sitting on seats, playing with abacuses and dipping in and out of play tents. I looked for a duvet cover for him with cars on, but there wasn’t one. He found his favourite mock bedroom and drove the cars down the ramp on the garage. I sat on the little toddler bed and felt uncomfortable with gas and tightenings. I began to consider it could mean something.
The last time I was at IKEA it was just me and my brother. He came across a toy badger wearing pyjamas and demanded we buy it for Sandy. By the time we got to the check out far away he wanted one for himself too. I went back up and got it for him. There had only been two of them. There were baskets filled with other soft characters, but only two badgers, sitting at a kids table display on the wall. We bought them both. Sandy’s is called Boris. On one antenatal visit Allison came upstairs to see Sandy as he got up from nap time and he offered her Boris; she was quite taken. So as I began early labour in the midst of the children’s department of IKEA I searched for a badger for her, a sort of in joke, mostly a thank you. We only found bears wearing waistcoats, but it worked. In the end that’s all we ended up buying and we left the shop not long after. IKEA is a fabulous place to be when you don’t need to get anything, and what’s more it’s a brilliant adventure for a toddler. We went to the play park outside and Sandy blew me away, and a grandmother who was there with her three charges, with his ability to climb the rope ladder to the slide (a feat that really was suited at children far older than him). I sat on the bench, laden with my bump, and corrected his mistakes with my voice. He was careful, I was proud. The grandmother was taken with him and the oldest of her grandchildren helped Sandy as he climbed. She didn’t ask about my bump, and I was grateful.
I then realised it was nearing five o’clock and text Stuart that we would be home late. As we drove I contracted again and the car did bring them closer. We were stuck in traffic on the m8, an accident, but mostly rubber necking, it being on the hard shoulder as we passed. I took the M74 anyway and cut back up to the m8 at ballieston, cheekily pulling in at the last minute. I figured if I was ever allowed it was now, as I laboured in the car. As each tightening came I focused on welcoming them. I relaxed myself and tried to embrace the pain, I encouraged them, told them to do their job. As Allison texted me later, each one was bringing the baby closer.
By the time we got home I told stuart I was still contracting and he was quite excited, though not convinced, and neither was I. Was it early labour? Yes, I was fairly certain. Would stuart be off work the next day? Of that I was dubious. I was under 3cm dilated with Sandy for days. At 6pm I text Allison a heads up message and she told me later she had gone to bed at 7 just incase. She told me to carb load. We put Sandy to bed and as we read his story and I kissed his soft temple I did wonder if it was the last time we would do that to him as a single child. Dinner was pasta as ordered and by the time it was eaten and I was going to try and sleep the contractions were getting painful enough that I couldn’t doze off. I sent stuart to the couch to catch some sleep and told him I would get him if I needed him. That was 8:30pm, when in my notes it says my labour officially started.
I watched some David Attenborough documentary on DVD and didn’t concentrate on it. I tried to lay down and conserve energy but couldn’t. Much like Sandy’s labour, I stood through nearly every contraction, swaying, breathing. By 10pm I roused Stuart and told him I needed him. Much like sandy’s labour he rubbed my back through each contraction. I fished out the baby books and wrote in them. Stuart managed to write in Sandy’s but not the new baby’s as by that time he was monitoring contractions. With sandy there are reels and reels of paper with timings, in my dad’s hand. This time there is barely a sheet of a4, in Stuarts hand. They were regular. Sometime around then sandy woke. Stuart got him milk and I hugged him in the dark of his bedroom before he was put back down. I told him he’d be a big brother soon. I smelled his hair, felt his cushy hands gripping round my neck. It seemed unreal.
By the time 11pm came I made the uneasy decision to call my Dad over. I hadn’t been convinced but suddenly I wanted him. He was to look after sandy in case he awoke. I felt strongly the need to get sandy looked after because I was no longer able to do so myself and stuart needed not to be torn between the two of us. I was establishing. I had my show. Things ramped up, and the memories start to blur a little.
Stuart started getting the birth pool ready. It was still blown up from the trial run which was a good decision otherwise it wouldn’t have been ready in time. As it was it barely was ready anyway. He darted between making room for it’s being taken downstairs and helping me through contractions. They were getting sorer. That hour passed quickly. I was upstairs swaying, in the dark of the bedroom, breathing, and writing down timings until my brain found it too much of a burden to keep doing so. Stuart had gotten the pool up in the living room, moved the furniture out the way, laid down sheets and gotten Alison’s kit in there. He lit two candles; they were still burning by the time it was daylight the next morning. Something happened then at the back of 12 and I started to feel sick. I wished I hadn’t eaten my dinner though in hindsight it’s a good thing I had energy wise. I was shaking. I contracted in the dark in our en suite bathroom sure I was going to vomit. I didn’t. I had felt like this before, in sandy’s labour, when things were getting too hard to cope with. I wish I’d known then what was happening, I with I’d just stayed at home and things might have gone down the way they did this time. Ah, hindsight, how we all hate you. I called Allison and she listened to me down the phone. She asked did I want her to come, I told her I didn’t know, that I was scared that they would tail off. She offered to call back in half an hour. I said I didn’t know what she should do. She listened a few more minutes, then said she was coming over. She told me the shaking and sick feeling was me having established. I couldn’t believe that for some reason. She left at half 12 and arrived at just after 1am. Between the call and her arrival my dad came. Stuart and he worked tirelessly on the pool. Sandy slept. I swayed and told them it wasn’t going to be ready in time as the water trickled into the massive space, ridiculously slowly. Dad and stuart spoke about the pool and I shushed them as I started a contraction. Dad whispered instead and I yelled. How very typical of a labouring woman. Things were getting much more intense. Stuart needed to rub my back during contractions. Counter pressure. He did.
When Allison arrived the first thing she did was tell me how brilliant my t shirt was. For my birthday last year (when I was in early pregnancy) stuart presented me with tickets to see Yes, on my due date. He purchased them before we found out. It was one of the first things I told Allison at our initial meeting, that we weren’t sure if I’d be making it to that gig. As it turned out our baby let me go and danced through the whole thing in utero. Stuart bought me a t shirt from the merch stall, the psychedelic tie dye one. And here I was labouring in it. I found it the next morning, discarded on the couch in a pile, removed in haste.
Allison spent half an hour monitoring me, timing contractions. She took my pulse and temperature. I can honestly say that’s the full extent of observations made, there was no need to do otherwise, a far cry from the endless monitoring and vaginal examinations of sandy’s labour. No wonder women so often feel violated post birth when that is the norm. It wasn’t much later that I started to freak out. The pain became insurmountable. I couldn’t breathe it away. The NCT advice of candle breaths and blowing up balloons went out the window. On each breath I blew out in anger at the pain. I shouted no. Allison told me to shout yes and I shouted back no even louder. I had welcomed those early contractions and now I was fighting them off with all my might. Stuart was still working on the pool but as the contractions got closer and he wasn’t at my back immediately I screamed for him. “Where are you!?” I yelled, “why aren’t you here!?” He had been literally four steps away in the kitchen. I chastised him. Poor man. He pummelled my back and I yelled at him again, for pushing me forward. “I’m not” he said. Turns out I’d been pushing back into him, he told me later. I had Allison in front of me holding up her hands as I put my hands on hers and pushed her away. It went on like this for a while. In between contractions I shook and felt weak, as though the ground beneath me was melting away. Someone had put down the old single mattress with sheets on it, I presume in case the pool wasn’t ready in time. I wanted so unbelievably badly to lie on it but I couldn’t. I couldn’t even sit down. The pressure was unbearable. As these contractions came thick and fast I asked if it was a quick labour and Allison said yes, it was. As they started I began saying “no, no, no”. I told them to go away in much more explicit terms and then I became the textbook transitional labouring woman. I couldn’t do it anymore, I told them. I was going to bed, I wanted to go to sleep and I would. I wasn’t doing it anymore. Quite. I think even in the midst of it I knew I was being typical and it annoyed me, I could see Allison and Stuarts faces, I could tell they knew it was normal and expected. I knew I was in transition, I asked if I would get the rest and be thankful break in the labour before the pushing stage, I was told maybe.
It was five to one. My waters broke and they were clear. Stuart told Allison the pool was 35 degrees centigrade. I looked at it and saw it full. I suddenly realised and asked could I get in. I could, and did. I’m not going to say the relief was incredible. I contracted as soon as I was in and it hurt just as much as before and it was hard not to be standing up but kneeling. Stuart rubbed my back nonetheless as I writhed around in pain. As soon as it passed though, that is when the pool came into its own. The shaking that I’d felt in between, the incredible weakness and fragility, it went. I sat in the pool with my head against the side and relaxed. It was the first rest I’d had. As it turns out that was pretty much the only one I got. I asked Allison for my break. I demanded it. Where is it? When do I get to rest? She said it didn’t always happen. She told me I was resting between contractions. I felt ridiculously fobbed off by my own body, where was my break!? Allison monitored the baby (she had time only to do so twice, with a hand held Doppler) and she was fine. She told me something about what a fabulous position she was in and I said I didn’t care. The next contraction came. The noise I was making (and yes, I was noisy) must have changed because she asked if I felt pushy. I did. Stuart donned his trunks.
I was in the pool for fifteen minutes in total before she was out. Ten of those were pushing. I think she came in three contractions. I was only just aware of stuart being beside me now, braving the already colourful water to be with me. I flopped over the edge of the pool. What a fabulous creation it is, allowing such a brilliant, buoyant support for a perfect labouring position, hands and knees without the pressure on the upper limbs. I started to push. It’s a weird sensation. It didn’t feel like I thought it would. I was told there would be relief in the pushing not the pain of contracting but the pain was all still there only now there was this incredible pressure as she came down. I pushed and felt as though I was splitting. But the time she was beginning to crown it was unbearable. “Oh my god this is so uncomfortable” I shouted. In between contractions felt so wrong, like constipation you could never imagine. Yet I knew it was a person there, a baby, my baby. I asked if she would be out soon and was told of course. I asked if I should push between contractions and was told to do what my body wanted. True to form, Allison was the facilitator of my birthing our daughter, much as she had told me she would be. I always remember her saying to me “I don’t deliver your baby, you do, I just ensure the birth environment is safe”. And she did. My baby’s eyebrows were visible and I contracted. Allison told me to pant and I did, and I did and then I couldn’t bear it anymore so I pushed harder and I tore and I knew it but, wow, I really just didn’t care. The ring of fire wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought, and I took that burning feeling over the pressure happily. That gap between the head coming out and the next contraction was the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been. “Will she come out on the next push?” I asked. Allison told me yes, probably and I said “thank f***” and she repeated the sentiment matter of fact with a hint of amusement in her voice. The contraction came. I pushed. The immense pressure turned to relief as I felt my baby’s body slide out. I’m sure I expressed my relief in some manner but I can’t remember exactly how right now. All I know is it was the best feeling in the world to have achieved it.
I was shell shocked. Stuart had caught her and passed her up between my legs to me and I was surprised to have to do something when all I wanted to do was collapse in a lovely feeling of relief. Then I realised what it had all been for again and I took my baby. I pulled her up through the water and she still had her caul on her, though ruptured. I pulled it from off her head and took her in my arms. I turned and the three of us looked at her. She looked like sandy. I saw it immediately and so did stuart and it was incredible. As Allison had advised us she was slower to start breathing than sandy had been. Water babies often are as the receptors on their face that detect air and encourage them to breathe weren’t exposed to air while she crowned. It took her a minute or two. Allison noted her cord pulsing, and placed my hand on her chest to feel her tiny heart beating. We blew on her face. She was about to set up oxygen just in case when she cried. She was, and is, perfect.
It was now that Carrie, Allison’s second on call midwife arrived, she came in and found us in the pool with the baby in our arms. I’d been warned the second on call doesn’t always make it on time. Typical of second babies apparently. I began to feel rather uncomfortable having torn and really wanted out of the pool and to lie on the mattress. It beckoned me. But Roslyn’s cord was still pulsing blood into her. We were going to wait but in the end managed to get me out with her cord still attached. I lay on the mattress and stuart held Roslyn. When the cord stopped pulsing he cut it, something he never got to do with sandy. We kept the scissors.
After that I felt the contractions for the placenta coming. I’d been lying down and felt I needed up. As I sat up I felt a contraction come, I asked should I push, I did, and there was a massive plop as it came out in a oner. Just as much relief as when Roslyn had emerged followed and I finally felt empty. I was then set up on the sofa with Roslyn who proceeded to feed very efficiently. My tear was checked and allowed to heal without stitches due to it being straight. Allison and stuart took Roslyn to get a nappy and clothes and her oral vitamin k, while I showered and got into my pyjamas. I can’t tell you how good it was to have all I needed on hand and then to get into my own bed with my husband and new baby. We dozed and Allison and carrie tidied up. Allison popped on to check our vitals which were fine. My dad settled sandy back to sleep when he woke at 3am. The next morning we awoke and it was bright and we told the rest of the immediate family and then Sandy met his sister.
It was fast. My, it was fast. After sandy’s epic three day affair I couldn’t believe my midwife was here only for an hour before she arrived, or that the pool was only ready minutes before I was pushing. In some ways though it seems as though it was all timed to perfection by nature, or our own natures’ telling us what to do. Roslyn came into the world without fuss and she’s not made much of a fuss since she’s been here. I don’t think it was as emotional as sandy’s birth, but what with the trauma and PTSD that followed his, I’m very happy for the more muted, but poignant nonetheless, emotions that followed Roslyn’s arrival. It took until the second feed for me to really see her, to see who she was and to feel that bond. I really can’t speak highly enough of my midwife, my dad and of course my ever amazing husband. It was the birth I planned and the birth I wished for and I couldn’t be happier with how it went.