On the day before my due date my Mum and Dad came to London for the day to give me a hand with Grace my two year old. We had a lovely day and walked along the river in Richmond in the sun. It was quite a way and that evening I had some slightly more painful tightenings – I had had these for about 8 weeks but they felt a little different.
The next day, Saturday, I had a show so got quite excited. I tried not to though as with my first baby nothing happened after the show for at least 3 days. That evening I slept in the spare room as I felt I needed to have space to get as much sleep as possible. I wasn’t generally sleeping well - tossing and turning all night – so I felt much more relaxed having space to do this without waking my husband Richard.
At midnight I had a few more slightly more painful contractions – every time I moved in bed. I was awake but just dozing. They continued – and I started to have to breathe through them. I was still in bed lying down but around 2 am, I felt I needed to get up and move about/change position as things were more uncomfortable. I also decided to wake Richard up and tell him.
I felt very calm and felt I had been through it all before in my head. I was at this stage finding it best to kneel leaning on the bed onto some cushions. Richard got up and did exactly as he had read to do – kept the lights off, didn’t chat, just got me some juice, made sure we had the bag at the ready, and prepared some flannels as we had learnt to do through a Birth Preparation course I'd done with a local doula; one with lavender and one with frankincense. I inhaled the lavender each time a contraction came on. I also had a small hot water bottle on my lower back which helped a lot. We didn’t time the contractions as I knew they were quite frequent, and just went with it.
An hour later I wanted to move downstairs and put some clothes on as I felt I needed to be ready to leave. I also wanted to avoid waking the toddler up. Richard lit some scented candles and we both had some toast. I was really hungry and thought it would be a good idea to eat something. I also had a bottle of juice on the go and needed a sip every time I had breathed out a contraction. It was cold and delicious.
I was walking around in between the contractions for a few minutes as I felt this kept them coming – I wanted them to keep coming as I was worried it was all slowing down a bit. Every time one came I then dropped to my knees and breathed into the flannel, leaning forward onto cushions on the sofa.
I asked Richard to phone my Mum and Dad at 3.30 knowing it would take an hour for them to get there. They arrived and just got themselves a cup of tea and went upstairs to the spare room – it was all very calm. At 5.30 I asked Richard to phone the hospital to tell them we were on our way and to get the pool ready if one was available – I felt this would help with the pain. The pain at this stage was just about manageable but I wanted to get to hospital before my daughter woke up and wanted to get the journey over with as I knew things were getting more intense and I was starting to feel sick.
The car was all packed and ready to go. I got in the back and was leaning on the back seat, with cushions and still using my flannels, and Richard drove. I now had to close my eyes and really concentrate on the contraction and breathing through it. I found a plastic bag on the floor as I thought I was going to be sick with each contraction.
The journey took about 20 minutes I think and I didn’t open my eyes once. It felt like a long time! We arrived at Chelsea and Westminster hospital and I think I had about 4 contractions on the way to the birthing unit – I just had to stop and do what I had been doing at home.
The triage midwife examined me and I was only 2cm when I arrived – I felt like it was more than this when I think about last time I was in labour. I was also now vomiting with each contraction. She followed by saying she didn’t think she would send me home as the contractions looked intense – they were! We got settled into a room on the birthing unit at about 6.30 and this was when I felt like I couldn’t cope – I was crying – partly with relief that I was there I think - but trying to hold it together at the same time, as I couldn’t breathe properly and cry at the same time.
The midwife offered me an anti-sickness tablet. I think it was the best thing she could have done because it worked completely and calmed me right down: it was one less thing to think about. I was worried about using gas and air because first time round I also couldn’t stop vomiting and I felt it was the gas and air – in retrospect it was probably just labour causing this.
I asked for some pethidine (I really didn’t want an epidural as I knew the recovery would be so much better without one and I had this firmly in my mind). The midwife said it would make the baby a bit sleepy if she gave me that. At this point I knew I must be a bit further along than 2cm as she would probably have given me some otherwise – this spurred me on.
So I had gas and air and my goodness it was amazing. I got really into the breathing and felt like I was on a level above the contractions. I knew I was now moaning like an animal but I felt like I was on another planet. I was kneeling on the floor with a ball and my husband to lean on. Nobody said much as far as I can remember.
After some time it felt like the midwife felt things were about to happen as she asked Richard what the plan was for the birth… he said there was no plan just for it to be born safely! But I knew what she meant – did we specifically want a water birth. I knew we were nearly there. I just had to keep going. I said no we didn’t have a plan but if the water would help then I would like to get in.
I got in and felt instantly some relief. It was hugely soothing. I had more contractions in the water then felt an immense pressure in my bottom – at which point I think I shouted ‘bottom!’. It felt like everything was just coming out. I couldn’t help it, wasn’t pushing particularly, and I don’t remember it happening.
Then, joy of joys, the midwife said ‘don’t push’ (what a relief – because I didn’t have to do anything, and also I knew we were so nearly there!). Then I think the head must have come out. With the next contraction, the baby was out.
What a sensation! What a relief! It was the hardest thing I have ever done but also the most incredible. It all went so well to plan – it is exactly how I had wanted and hoped it would be after a rather grueling and unpleasant experience first time round. To be honest, I didn’t believe it could be that straightforward after what I have experienced being a medic myself and having been through childbirth before. I was in awe – and I have to say felt like this for a good few days.
I delivered the placenta with gas and air and had a second degree tear which was then stitched up – I couldn’t feel it at all afterwards.
We were then left alone in our lovely room, just the three of us. We had tea and toast and chatted about what had just happened – it was really calm, and very happy. We also had time and space to choose a name – Connie Elizabeth May Lee. She was perfect.
I stayed overnight to rest and try to tackle breastfeeding and my husband picked me up the next day with my little girl Grace, who was fascinated and excited I think to meet her little sister Connie.As everyone told me it would be, the recovery from this sort of birth was so quick. I was up and about walking to the park with my daughter the day after I gave birth.
All in all, it was a hugely positive experience and has allowed me not to fear labour like I feared it after the first time. I know I can do it now and so won’t be scared about doing it all over again!