Overdue and fed up
I was 11 days overdue, and very fed up with being pregnant, when things finally kicked off. I'd had a fairly routine and uneventful pregnancy, and my partner and I had our bags packed, TENS machine hired and birth plan at the ready.
It was a Saturday afternoon and I was just about to go out for yet another long walk when I went to the toilet and some clear liquid trickled out that I wasn't able to stop. I thought it might be my waters breaking but because it was so undramatic and was only a small amount I couldn't be sure. Over the next hour, more and more fluid was leaking out, so I rang the midwife who advised me to put on a maternity pad and come in to the birth centre so they could check my progress.
When I got there the midwife examined me and said I was 1cm dilated, and that contractions should start in the next 24 hours - if they didn't, I'd need to go to the hospital for induction as the risk of infection increases once the amniotic sac has ruptured.
The contractions start and off to the birth centre...
Back home, feeling nervous and excited and willing the contractions to start, we settled down with some dinner (chicken madras, just to try to encourage things!). About 8pm I felt contractions starting, like period cramps that got increasingly strong. Within an hour they were coming every 3-4 minutes, which we hadn't expected. We timed them for a few hours and although they weren't unbearably painful, they kept coming quite close together, so we decided to go to the birth centre.
We arrived about midnight, and the midwife did an internal examination and said I still had a while to go. She advised us that things would probably move along more quickly if we returned home, and told us to come back when the contractions were not only close together, but also consistent in length.
...and back home again
We got back home about 2am and tried to get a bit of sleep, although the pain of the contractions intensified over the next few hours and by 6am the slow breathing and TENS machine weren't really helping any more.
The contractions still weren't any more consistent, but I was making enough noise that my partner had woken up and, because I was in quite a lot of pain by now, he rang the birth centre for advice. The midwife heard me having a contraction in the background, and said we should get back to the birth centre as quickly as we could.
Because we'd been waiting for the contractions to become consistent, which didn't happen, we'd left it a bit late and I could now feel a lot of pressure to push down. In a panic, we called a taxi, grabbed our bags and ran out the door (leaving it open, as we'd discover when we returned home after the birth!). I'd heard many taxi drivers were none too pleased to have a woman in labour in their cab, but we were lucky to get a lovely man who cheerfully told me I could make as much noise as I needed to.
The room was ready, the birthing pool filled
The staff at the birth centre were brilliant, and the atmosphere was calm and unhurried. When we arrived, they had the room ready for me, with low lighting and the birthing pool just filled. Being midwife-led and without doctors or anaesthetists, the centre couldn't offer epidurals, and it was too late for pethidine to be an option for me, but the midwife offered me the gas and air tube.
I took a few deep breaths of it, felt a pleasant floaty sensation, and promptly threw up. After this I just wanted to get into the water to help the pain, and I can remember feeling more concerned about having vomit all over my clothes than being naked in front of strangers, so I stripped off and was helped into the pool. It was wonderful being in the warm water, and I found it helped in the same way that having a bath helps deal with period cramps - it doesn't take the pain away but makes it more bearable.
The hard work begins
After a few minutes in the pool the midwife said I was ready to start pushing, and this was when it started to feel like really hard work. I changed position a few times, from lying on my back to facing forwards on all fours, and pushed as hard as I could, but it just didn't feel like anything was moving. I got more and more frustrated, and eventually reached a point where I was convinced I couldn't do it any more.
I had read that this feeling often arrived just before the final push, but I was so exhausted I just wanted to stop and have a lie down. I asked to get out of the pool, and the midwife suggested I stay in there but put the birthing stool in and sit on it in the water. With my partner offering encouragement like a mantra ("You're doing so well, just a few more pushes, he's nearly here"), I agreed to give it a try and found it immediately made the pushing easier - it was just like sitting on a toilet so it was easier to focus on bearing down. After a few pushes on the stool, I could feel the baby on his way (we knew it was a boy) and with a massive effort, his head came out.
As we waited for the next contraction to push his body out, my partner saw him open his eyes under the water. Seconds later the next contraction arrived and, as the midwife had instructed, I reached down and lifted the baby out on to my chest, then lay back in the pool holding him, feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. The time from our arrival at the birth centre to the baby being born was just over two hours.
Hello baby Angus
We spent what felt like an eternity and a nanosecond at the same time gawping at this little snuffly bundle. The umbilical cord was cut by my beaming partner, and he then took off his shirt for a skin-to-skin cuddle with baby Angus. I'd had a second-degree tear and needed eight stitches, so I was helped from the pool and onto a beanbag, then without warning the placenta came out but I barely felt it. Once I'd been stitched up and showered, I crawled onto the bed with my partner and watched the peacefully snoozing baby. We were both completely knackered but for those first few hours, we couldn't take our eyes off him.
'I was so exhausted I just wanted to stop and have a lie down'