A few weeks ago, we were blessed with the arrival of the youngest member of our family – Little Z. After my birth with Little H didn’t go as I’d hoped, I spent more time mentally preparing for the birth of our second child. The outcome: an experience worlds apart from my first labour. An experience I am keen to document before it fades from my memory. Unlike Little H’s birth where for a long time I felt like I’d failed both myself and Little H, this time everything went as well as I could have hoped.
During Little H’s labour I had tried to use breathing techniques to manage the pain. Whilst I wasn’t successful, I still felt there was a lot of power and potential in using the right breathing approach. A friend of mine was also a massive advocate of hypnobirthing and encouraged me to consider it. I looked into Wise Hippo classes but it didn’t work for us. Instead I bought myself a copy of ‘Mindful Hypnobirthing‘ by Sophie Fletcher. It helped me mentally prepare for what may come by addressing my fears and getting me to visualise what could happen. It reminded me that the key to successful breathing is getting into what the book refers to as my ‘Birthing Zone’. I also did seemingly easy things which I didn’t do last time: pack a well considered food bag and pre-prepare some playlists on my phone; both things I failed at the first time round!
As my due date passed I was getting incredibly uncomfortable and tired. I asked my midwife to give me a sweep at my appointment at 40+1 but I resigned myself to a longer wait when over 36 hours later nothing had started. Then roll forward another 12 hours, I suddenly started getting sporadic pains in my lower back. I also had what I suspected was my ‘show’. I thought perhaps I was in early labour but didn’t want to get my hopes up so just kept quiet.
Sam was at home that day so after lunch the three of us went for a walk. Little H zoomed around on her balance bike with Sam chasing after her and me plodding behind. The pains in my lower back were still there even when I was walking so I found myself slowing down every 5 – 10 minutes to just deal with the discomfort. Little H was ever concerned about my wellbeing though because every few minutes she’d turn round and zoom back to me to check I was okay – such a cutie! We got part way round our walk though and I’d had enough – I cut back home via a shortcut whilst Sam took Little H on the longer route she wanted to cover.
I felt a bit better again once back home, sitting on my exercise ball. But once Little H and Sam got home, I found the noise all too much so escaped upstairs for a lie down. The back pains were just as strong and still every 5 – 15 minutes. Whilst they weren’t predictable yet, I was becoming fairly confident that they were contractions. When I went back downstairs just before Little H’s dinner, I mentioned them to Sam and, after a discussion, we agreed to keep a eye on how they progressed over the next hour leading to Little H’s bedtime. Then, if necessary we would call his parents. Ultimately, at 6pm, we called them and asked them to come over as a precaution and then headed up to put Little H to bed.
Despite my discomfort, I focused all my efforts on making sure Little H had a normal bedtime. A little part of me was starting to feel quite emotional as this was likely to be my last bedtime with just her. Whilst I was excited about meeting our new child, it felt like a really big deal that it would no longer just be me and my sidekick, Little H! So we did her bath and then I sat with her and combed and dried her hair like normal. We played some games, tucked her in and kissed her goodnight not knowing when we’d next see her.
Sam started making dinner as he wanted to be sure we’d both had a decent meal unlike before Little H’s birth. Meanwhile, I decided it was time to ring the hospital. So I called the local Midwifery Led Unit (MLU) and told them that I may be coming at some point in the near future. I then ate as much as I could stomach of my dinner of quorn pie, peas and homemade wedges; the wedges particularly went down very easily so bless him, Sam even gave me some of his to ensure I had lots of energy for what was coming!
Sam’s parents arrived during dinner. They made some food for themselves and then we all settled down quietly to watch the final episode of ‘Endeavour’ on TV. Leant over my exercise ball, the contractions were coming approach every 15 minutes and lasting about 50 seconds. Towards the end of the episode I moved to sit on my ball to eat a snack; at that point the contractions seemed to stop and I wondered if I had been imagining things. However, as soon as I went upstairs to get ready for bed they came back stronger than before.
Sam took the hospital bags downstairs, just in case. Then we both got into bed and tried to get some rest. Sam fell asleep and I dozed whilst trying to time contractions on my watch. About 1.30am I got up and went to the bathroom then got back into bed. About 20 minutes later my contractions had suddenly ramped up to being 1 minute long and 2.5 minutes apart. I woke Sam and said I thought it was time to ring the hospital. I rang MLU and after a brief chat with the midwife she told me to head over as soon as we could. We both got dressed and headed to the car. Sam loaded the bags and we set off in the darkness just after 2am. Sam and I both remarked that it felt like when you get up early to go to the airport on holiday, only this time I was unable to talk because of pain every 2 minutes!
When we arrived at the hospital, we parked and then headed into the MLU with me stopping every now and then to breath through a contraction. We were taken to a room with a birthing pool and after a short weight, a student midwife arrived to ‘check us in’. Bizarrely, the student midwife had been shadowing my community midwife until 2 weeks before so had actually checked me at 3 previous antenatal appointments. She thought it was wonderful that she was there to see the birth. Whilst I was happy to see her, I was mainly focused on breathing as my contractions and increased in frequency and intensity at this point.
The lead midwife came in and read my birth preferences (Sam told me afterwards that apparently they were very impressed with them!) and clarified a couple of things with me. I had requested no internal examinations unless medically necessary. I also said I wanted no offer of pain relief -I’d ask if I needed any. I was still really focused on delivering without pain relief.
The contractions were getting stronger so I asked for a birthing ball. I leant over that for a while. Then they felt intense enough for me to use the pool. It was delightful when I got in. Even though it had to be 37 degrees, it felt so warm. The water immediately helped relieve some of the pain. However they were so strong at this point that I had momentary doubts about doing it all without at least gas and air. I drew on my hypnobirthing reading though and reminded myself that it was just pain and it would pass. Slow breathing saw me through each one. The only annoyance was having to move every 15 minutes so the midwives could check the baby’s heart rate. I was much more assertive this time though and if a contraction started to build, I just told them to stop and wait.
Eventually I felt the discomfort change from back pain to downward pressure. I realised I was transitioning. It such a strange feeling and one thing I’d never experienced with Little H. I listened to my body and pushed when I felt the urge. I knew the baby was coming down and at one point I reached back and could feel the head. However the midwives were concerned the baby’s heart rate as they couldn’t get a clear reading so they asked me to get out of the pool onto the bed.
I really didn’t want to move but needed to know my baby was okay. The only thought in my head was to please let the baby be okay and not need any intervention when I’d got this far. I really didn’t want my ideal birth snatched away so close to the finish line! When I’d made the uncomfortable move from pool to bed, they got a healthy heart rate reading – an incredible relief. They could easily see the baby’s had though so there was no time to get back into the pool. I pushed and the baby started to crown – I can see why people call it ‘The Ring of Fire’! It didn’t come out at the next contraction at which point one of the midwives told me the baby been sat there long enough so I my needed to get them out. At the best contraction I followed their guidance, internalised my discomfort and used it to push down as hard as I could. And just before 6am, out came Little Z!
The baby was put straight onto me which was amazing as I didn’t get that experience with Little H. We still didn’t know the gender and were too overwhelmed to just look ourselves so we asked the midwives and they said we had another girl. It was a wonderful moment. Meanwhile the midwives waited for the cord to stop pulsating before cutting it. Then they delivered the placenta. I’d said I wanted a managed delivery of the placenta but it came out naturally in 8 minute.
I needed a few minor stitches so Sam took Little Z and had cuddles. The midwives sorted me out and then made me comfortable. Sam brought the baby over and I put her to feed – she latched straight away and fed easily. It felt really natural having learnt from nursing Little H. The midwives congratulated me on getting through the birth naturally and then left us to have some quiet time together. But not until they’d brought me the traditional tea and toast which was the best thing I have ever consumed in my life!
The next few hours drifted by in a weary but happy haze. Eventually I felt strong enough to have a shower – it was the best shower EVER! The only thing that would have improved it was a hotter temperature but I didn’t dare risk fainting! I put on my pj’s and then went back for cuddles. Sam found the room very bit and stuffy so he wandered off a few times to get us food or drink. I tested, ate and watched a bit of ‘Friends’ on Netflix whilst people popped in and out checking Little Z abs I fit various things. In the end the only thing left was my Anti D jab but due to a confusion in ordering it, we decided to go home and come back the following day.
Just like with Little H, we ended up driving home over rush hour. But the drive was quick and before I knew it we were almost home. It was surreal to think Little Z had been in the world for less than 12 hours. As we pulled into the drive Little H was at the door waiting. I left Sam to bring in Little Z so I could go she see my big girl but she was only interested in seeing the baby! We’d not told Sam’s parents the gender or name so Little H would be the first to know. And so she met her sister and our family was complete! (Little H ran off to keep watching her Peppa Pig about 2 minutes later – typical 3 year old.)
Even weeks later I am in disbelief at how the birth went. It was exactly as I wanted in every way and I feel genuinely proud of myself and my approach. I think it will take me some time to come to terms with it all but in almost the opposite way to when Little H arrived. What I can say though is that those feelings of failure I had after Little H was born have been well and truly put to bed. I have accepted that what happened then was the right sequence of events for that time and they helped me learn for Little Z’s birth. Now I can move on and focus on how truly lucky I am to have my two wonderful girls!