Contractions started at around 1.30am on Monday night (my first day of maternity leave!). I didn't really believe they were contractions as I'd had similar feelings the previous night and it had amounted to nothing. But then I felt the overwhelming urge to empty my bowels and I had read that this could be a sign of impending labour so I became more hopeful. Baby wasn't due for another 9 days (and I'd heard that first babies are 'always' late) so I still couldn't really believe it.
I went down into the lounge as I didn't want to wake my other half if it was a false alarm as he had work in the morning. Contractions were happening rather irregularly and I attempted to sleep in between them. My cats had other ideas and decided it was a great time to chase each other around the room. I decided to time the length and frequency of my contractions and by 6am they were about 3-4 minutes apart. I welcomed them as I still couldn't really believe I was going to give birth soon. I decided to call the midwife led unit by this time to see whether I should keep my other half at home. They said it sounded like baby was going to arrive sometime soon so he should stay at home. So I woke him up gently and told him he needed to let work know that he wasn't coming in today.
On the advice of the midwife I had spoken to I then had some breakfast and decided to have a shower (and wash, dry and straighten my hair!). My contractions slowed down around this point and were sometimes as far as 15 minutes apart. I took this opportunity to rest while I could. By 1pm the contractions were irregular but getting more intense. I called the hospital again and they advised me to remain at home for as long as I felt I could. I found breathing out heavily was a really good way of dealing with contractions and, as I said earlier, I welcomed them as I couldn't really believe it was happening.
By 4pm I felt as though everything was really ramping up so I called to say we were going to come in. I was quite anxious about the car journey as I had managed the contractions with ease whilst standing up so was nervous about sitting down. This is when I wish I had opted for a home birth! Despite my reservations, the car journey was absolutely fine as I kept my good humour about me and ended up only having 2 contractions during the 30 minute journey. This did worry me, though, as I was certain I would therefore be sent back home! I was so convinced that when we arrived at the hospital I told Jamie to leave my 'hospital bag' in the car as I would 'definitely be sent home'.
We made our way to the midwife led unit and they welcomed us into a cosy room. I was examined (which I didn't find unpleasant at all) and to my surprise was told that I was 4cm dilated so would not be going home without a baby! To help things progress they advised me to go for a walk so I joined Jamie on the walk back to the car to get my 'hospital bag'. I also decided it might be a suitable time to let my mum know what was happening! It was a surreal experience walking through the hospital and experiencing contractions but breathing out heavily made them very manageable.
Once back in the room I found that standing up in a wide legged stance with my hands resting on the bed was the best way to deal with the contractions. When the contraction began I breathed in really deeply and then breathed our very heavily for as long as I could. I would then breathe in sharply and breathe out as slowly and as deeply as I could. This broke the contractions down into manageable chunks of about 15 seconds. I viewed each contraction as a crescendo. As I reached the peak I knew that it would just be easier to handle after. I even (to the midwife's amusement!) said 'ah, lovely' after some of my contractions as I knew I had time to relax in between. I used this time to chat with Jamie and the midwife. I did request that they didn't talk while I was having contractions, though, as I really needed to focus inwards and wanted to know what they were talking about when they talked!
During one of my contractions I found it rather overwhelming so I asked if I could use some gas and air. I tried it and as much as I liked it I found that it didn't work with my breathing pattern. So I then asked if I could try a Tens machine. This was great for distracting my attention during a contraction and I found it really useful.
At 9.30 the midwife wanted to check my progress. He told me I was 7-8 cm dilated so could move into the birthing pool. I chucked on a nightdress to make myself decent for the short walk to the birthing pool room. When I got into the pool it was an incredible feeling. The water felt so soft and warm against my skin and I completely relaxed into it. I found myself instinctively moving my hips from side to side which helped to keep my contractions going. The room was lovely and warm and had such a calm atmosphere. I still thought that it could be many hours until baby arrived so relaxed into my surroundings.
Jamie had a jug of water and in between contractions I made sure I drank lots to keep myself hydrated. Quite soon during contractions I felt as though my whole body was opening up. I described this feeling to my midwife and he said that it was a very good thing to be feeling. Before long I had an overwhelming urge to push which I shared with my midwife. He told me to follow my instincts. I could feel the baby moving down inside of me and automatically pushed down. It was such a releasing feeling and I let myself go with it. Jamie held my arms as when I pushed my bottom raised up which is not ideal when giving birth in water. Between contractions at this point I was swaying from side to side as if in a trance. When the contraction came I made a growling sound that took me by surprise but really helped with pushing. It just felt like such a release and suddenly I was very aware that I would be meeting my baby very soon and this filled me with joy and love. I could feel baby moving down inside of me which was such an amazing feeling. I pushed and baby's head came out (at 11.58pm) I couldn't believe that baby was going to be here so soon! My next contraction took 5 minutes to arrive which was quite a surreal experience. But then my final push brought an amazing relief and then my baby was passed between my legs and into my arms (at 12.03am!) Jamie told me that we had had a girl and I felt an amazing rush or emotions that I had never felt before. I was also amazed that her head was born on one day and her body on the next!
Thankyou Anna for sharing your amazing birth story!