I cannot believe I’m here at this point in time where I have a second birth story. And, somehow, it’s even more empowering and glorious than the first.
I honestly feel so lucky to have experienced two smooth births. I know it’s not like that for so many people. For this second one, I truly believe that knowledge and acceptance was my power. I knew what was coming, I knew I could do it and I learnt even more beforehand to give me the best chance at being in control. During Elma’s birth, there was a point that my body was flooded with adrenaline and I began to shake all over between contractions. I was scared. I didn’t want that to happen again. I had read about the wonders to oxytocin before her birth but, I suppose, I hadn’t researched enough about how to relax and create my own safe zone. Afterall, how can you relax when it’s so painful? Well, amazingly, you can relax. I found it took a great deal of mindfulness and I definitely didn’t do it “perfectly” but it worked as much as I needed it to in the end.
A friend gifted me her hypnobirthing track – although I fell to sleep every time I tried to listen to it, I recommend it from YesMum along with her affirmation cards. I mostly used Facebook groups and Instagram profiles to find all the information I felt I needed. I felt like my lack of fear came from me seeing the beauty in birth. From the first waves to crowning to birthing the placenta. It’s all incredible and the female body can do it all! Feeling like it’s horrific and disgusting can surely only lead to fear?
If you’re about to embark on a birth experience, I recommend two places:
The Empowered Birth Project – who have recently campaigned and won the right to show uncensored birth photos on Instagram. There isn’t anything that is off limits in this group and if you’re squeamish (and about to give birth) then I recommend it even more! Embrace the beauty of the human body. The more you see it, the less scary it’ll be.
Positively Birthing – Run by a student midwife who teaches hypnobirthing and shares the message that any birth can be positive. Whether that be vaginal, C-section, medically assisted, at home, in hospital or WHATEVER. She shares lots of great information about the science behind birth. Something to share with your birthing partner too I’d say. There’s an interactive and active Facebook group to join too.
So. The story.
On the 23rd May 2018, at 40 weeks and 3 days, at 3am, I woke up with the first hint of pain. I managed to get back to sleep but woke up off and on until 3.50am when I couldn’t sleep any longer. Partly because of the pain and partly the excitement that it could all be starting!
I text my parents at 5am with a pre-warning and Mr. F woke around 6am, if I remember rightly, and I told him how long I’d been feeling the pains come and go. No work today for Daddy or Nanny! The Squidge woke shortly after and they went downstairs while I really in bed.
I just watched some mindless vlogs on YouTube and began to breathe calmly through the surges at around 7am.
I imagined the baby moving downwards with every pain. I focused on that surge being one step closer to holding him. Although the pain wasn’t too intense, I felt it was a good time to practise having soft hands and a soft jaw. I tried to acknowledge any tension in my body and then let it go. It sounds so airy fairy now but I promise it worked. The mind is a powerful tool for so many things! I got quite emotional. The longing to meet him and the thought it was going to happen was quite overwhelming. The thought that this would be the last time it was just the three of us… I decided I wanted to be downstairs with my family.
At this point, I still felt hungry too so I thought it best to get some fuel in. I hopped downstairs for a chat, bounce on my ball, some breakfast and a bucket of tea!
My mum arrived about 8.30am and I was beginning to be stopped in my tracks by the contractions. I was still breathing deeply and swaying with each wave. They were lasting around 45 seconds and were about 5-7 minutes apart. I learnt from Elma not to get hung up on timings but just go with how they felt. Having said that, we timed three just before I rang pregnancy assessment just to be able to report the frequency with some form of accuracy. But timing them for hours, like with Elma, is just stressful.
Mr. F and I both fought back the tears. She left without fuss or worry. She was having a Nanny day! One of the best days apparently. They went to her usual playgroup, to a café (for beans on toast) and back to theirs for an afternoon of playing (with her Uncle and Grandpa who came home early) and a dinner (of jacket potato and more beans – I can feel the gas building just writing it – an absolute winner of a day for Squidge dining) before heading back to ours for bed.
Whilst the bean feasts were in motion, her parents were busy labouring and birthing… So back to that. Once Elma left, my body was telling me I needed warm water to sit in so off I went for a bath. I felt instantly better once I was in which both soothed and worried me at the same time! I hoped it didn’t mean that things weren’t progressing like I hoped but it was nice to have some light relief from the pain.
Once I was in there, I just couldn’t imagine getting myself up, dressed, in the car and to the hospital! I decided to ring PAU and ask if there was anyway I could switch to a homebirth. Afterall, the worst they could say is no! After a bit of ringing around…
They said no.
Apparently, they do some home checks beforehand so they know a bit about where you’re giving birth. However, after hearing me have some contractions during the phone call, she asked me to consider getting dressed and coming in immediately.
So I did.
Mr. F wired up my TENs machine (selling for £20 in a like new condition with the box… Just FYI – only needs new pads for £5. Get in touch! *wink*) and I began to use the pulses through the contractions. They were coming good and strong now. I’d been advised not to get in the car if I felt the urge to push. Luckily, I didn’t. So we went. I packed a few random clothes at the last minute – for some reason I was absolutely sure about at the time – and headed off to the car.
“I DON’T LIKE BEING IN THE CAR” was my initial reaction to flying around the first bend on our road through a contraction. Excellent start.
But I soon calmed down. I actually found that vocalising, “I think I’m panicking” a good way to reign it back to relaxation and breathing. I made a really conscious effort again to focus and breath. I’d also, naturally, started using a low humming noise on the outward breath which really helped. I remember reading about low sounds being a good tool for pain management and apparently my body found it! I mean, it sounded a liiiitle “moo” like on reflection but hey, whatever works! I tried not to care to much about how I was being perceived to be coping this time and I think that also helped. I actually used the TENs machine to pulse my muscles between contractions which was the best thing in the car. I seemed to tense up in anticipation otherwise.
In the car, I wondered if I was actually as close as I felt because, between contractions, I felt totally normal! I could speak, I wasn’t in any sort of zone, I wasn’t feeling “out of it” like I was towards the transition stage with Elma. I wondered whether it was because it was daytime or because I wasn’t exhausted from labouring all night…
I soon found my zone. After skipping the epic queue for the parking and abandoning the car in the drop off (with an official note from reception) and being examined at totally effaced and 4cm, I was well and truly on the way! NOTE: Now, I don’t remember examinations being bloody hideous with Elma but it was this time… A particularly unfavourable part of the process actually but over quickly) They asked me where I wanted to give birth. It actually took a bit of thought as I was so comfy on the bean bag but my mind went back to my desire to be in the bath. The pool was filled and in I popped.
“I’m glad I’m here now” and I truly was. The slight disappointment of having to drive there melted away and I was soon rocking, humming and breathing my way to meeting the little hero himself. I used the gas and air too but less religiously than with Elma. I didn’t feel I needed it as much. With Daddy on water duty, we progressed quickly.
Transition always seems to be a poignant moment for most births. The place where you question everything and no thought about ending the process is off limits. Some of my thoughts, most of which I said out loud, were:
“Can’t we just cut him out now?”
“Can’t you do this now?” (To Mr. F)
“I don’t want to birth his head”
“I’m panicking and I can’t stop!”
And, my personal favourite,
“I just want it to be yesterday”
Which basically translated to: I want to go back to when it wasn’t happening because even wishing for it to be over meant I actually have to do it… Crystal clear logic when it’s explained you see!!
But none of those things happened and after a pep talk from “the one that did this to me again” and a focus onto my downward breathing, I got to it. I mean, it was every bit as intense as I remembered. This time, I desperately wanted to a avoid “coached pushing” as I’d read about how your body does tell you how to birth your baby if you listen. How true that turned out to be. This time, I could feel every little bit of my baby’s body descend into the world. The pressure of his head on the entire circumference of those epic 10cm was incredible. Incredibly painful for me too mind you, though not for everyone. I felt the moment where he slid back up, I felt the desperate need for my bulging waters to burst, I was the first person to touch the top of his head (although I did get told off for some reason) which gave me the motivation to get him here, I felt the waters burst when his head popped out to exist half earth side and half inside and then I felt his shoulders and body glide into the water. The relief of it all distracted me from the fact he’d actually been born. A few beats passed and the midwife said, “Pick up your baby!”… And I did. All 7lbs and 2.5oz of his little body rose from the water in my hands. His cord was fairly short so I had support to untangle him a bit so I could shift him higher up my chest.
In red tinged water, we became two.
Oh, the warmth of his wrinkly skin, the wriggling of his limbs and the sight of all that hair.
“So this is your face!” Closely followed by, “I’m so glad I don’t have to birth your beautiful head again”… I think we’re my first words to him.
Daddy peered at this baby of his for the first time and gulped back the tears once more.
We had some photos of the three of us but, unfortunately, the midwife had her finger over the lens!
He cried and cried. I offered the breast in the pool but he declined. Our first suckle happened ten or so minutes later.
I had the oxytocin to deliver the placenta, which took a little longer than Elma and had me slightly concerned at one point. With a gentle wiggle (bleugh) from the second midwife, it was birthed. Phew.
Unfortunately, no four magic words this time… A tear was identified. Up near (what was later described by the doctor after accidentally catching it as she stitched) my “sensitive area”. Now, we’re all grown ups here and, for that reason, I was inclined to correct her with the atonomically correct name ooooof — clitoris! Having just been through a birthing process, I obviously felt like I had the right to be a little bit of a shite towards the comment, “sorry, that was your sensitive area” which basically had me peeling my eyeballs off the ceiling from the fright and pain. I got that you stiched my clit, cheers love!
(Luckily, I write this almost six weeks weeks later knowing there’s no harm or damage done!)
Thankfully we had an hour or so on my chest, before the aforementioned time of torture. During my time in the stirrups, this is how he spent his time (above). Those lucky boys… *Tisk* My feet being in stirrups, being catheterised and not realising I’d get local anesthetic during the stitching process induced those adrenaline shakes again… but the relief when it was all over was blissful and, in the end, it wasn’t as bad as I imagined (minus the accidental stitching of the sensitive area…) in case anyone else has to do it too.
Then, the closing scene of: skin to skin with my newborn, giggles with my love, a cup of tea, cold coke zero and a whole bag of Walkers Sensations Lime and Chilli poppadoms back on the bean bag was pretty divine.
So there it is. The birth.
Otis Marcus Jesse. 23rd May 2018. 13.57.
The encore, following the final scene, was an unfortunate but precautionary night in hospital to check his bloods for jaundice. After my initial sobs about not being there for Elma in the morning, and then putting up with a night broken by snores, inconsiderate phone use and, unavoidably, other people’s babies crying, it wasn’t too bad. We were discharged at 3pm on the 24th with a clean bill of health. He was a hero with his bloods being taken too. Not a sob was uttered. Amazing little soul.