I woke Saturday early hours at about 3.15am feeling wet and leapt out of bed to go to the loo. ‘Great’ I thought, ‘not only am I suffering with ICP (a liver disorder) now I’ve lost bladder control’. I’d been camped out in our living room on the sofabed for several weeks as I was itching all night and watching TV. I was more concerned about the mattress to be honest. After a wee, I realised my waters had started to leak so I put on some Tena Lady pants and woke Simon, asking him to sniff the bed and check it wasn’t wee. He confirmed it was my waters and suggested I came to our bed which I tried but period pain cramps made it too uncomfortable.
I returned to the living room and sat on a ball watching Sex and the City as my pants continued to fill with water and the cramps came and went. I phoned our midwife, Joy, at 5.50am as I knew she was going to Portsmouth over the weekend and didn’t want to let her know too late. She said she’d call over lunchtime if things didn’t happen before then and she could do an antenatal check. I returned to bed around 7am, my usual time, and slept til about 9.30am. Simon and I then had a normal Saturday. The cramps had stopped. Our midwife explained that if contractions hadn’t started within 24 hours she would have to advise me to go into the RUH for induction but it would still be up to me. I felt reassured that it was still my decision but did feel a slight panic.
Saturday evening was spent watching Frankie and Grace on Netflix and Simon went to bed around 12.30am. I went to bed - our bed – the first time I’d been there in months.
At about 3.30am I started getting period pain type cramps and got out of our bed to sit on the ball. I tried to watch TV but it was too irritating. At about 4.15am I woke Simon and asked him to set the room up with mats and old sheets for our planned homebirth. I felt I needed to be closer to the ground as the ball was too high. As he was doing this the cramps were getting stronger and I felt a mixture of wanting to vomit and wanting to poo. He’d guide me to the loo and I’d sit there focussing on my breathing while he hovered outside.
At about 5.45am I rang our midwife. She sounded so delighted that things were moving on and suggested we rang again in an hour. While I was on the phone to her, a contraction came that made me drop the phone so I could really focus on blowing it away. Simon was telling her what was going on. He did ask if I was still having a contraction and I snapped at him to stop asking – the last thing I wanted to have to do was report back on what was going on!
For the next half an hour or so Simon would place a cold flannel on the back of my neck during a contraction – bliss – then cover my shoulders and back with a blanket between them as I felt so cold. He’d hand me my water bottle or a bowl as I kept feeling sick but stayed completely quiet so I could enjoy being in labourland. I felt desperately tired so put pillows on the floor so I could lie down. The moment I did that, I’d feel sick, a contraction would start and I’d be on my knees holding onto the sofa seats. Simon simply lay on the other sofa while I moved without disturbance. I had a really strong visual image of what the contraction looked like. A kind of Heath Robinson mechanical machine and each contraction a tube would fill up with amber liquid and the pain would dig into my left ovary. I told myself I needed to breathe deeply so the amber liquid – and pain – would disperse around the branches of the uterus. It worked. As each contraction started I doula’d myself….’trust your body’….’smile’…’welcome each contraction’ were they phrases that went through my mind and they really helped.
At about 6.25am I suggested we rang Joy again. I was confused. I’d gone from having period cramps to what felt like full blown contractions in just a couple of hours. I started to feel like a bit of a wuss and wondered how I’d manage a whole day of this. Joy had already made the decision to start her journey as she lived an hour away. It was reassuring to know she’d soon be with us but I felt safe knowing Simon was there and it would be fine if it was just the 2 of us.
I continued breathing through contractions, resting in-between by leaning on my left side against the sofa. I knew I needed to be more upright but was torn between wanting rest and knowing being upright would make it quicker. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place – lean on your left and I can deal with the pain but be in labour forever – or be upright and get on with it. In the end my inner voice reminded me that passing my placenta would mean the itching would stop sooner so I was up on my knees. I could hear myself making low groaning noises and pushy noises that I recognised as a doula. ‘For goodness sake’ I was thinking ‘ why are you putting those noises on, it’s far too soon, you’re nowhere near that stage yet’ But I couldn’t help it. The sounds felt like a release.
As I was on my knees I started to feel my pelvis fill. It must have been the baby moving down but it felt as though someone was putting duplo bricks into me. I started to imagine the baby’s head being angular, like Kryten in Red Dwarf. It felt really satisfying.
At 7.20am the doorbell went and Simon went to greet Joy. I could hear them talking in the hallway. ‘Why isn’t she coming to see me?’ I thought, immediately followed by the thought and reminder that she wasn’t coming to see me because everything was fine. I felt so relaxed. So safe. So calm. I heard Joy say ‘I’d better phone Sue’ and felt excited inwardly -you only call the second midwife when the birth is about to happen! I continued to bear down and make low noises and Joy and Simon ripped off my Tena Lady pants. I’d wanted to do that for a while but couldn’t verbalise it.
I visualised myself opening up softly and gently, knowing and believing I could breathe this baby out. I felt a momentary stretch – the infamous ring of fire – but it didn’t burn as I was so relaxed. The baby came out in one motion and lay on the floor between my legs as I felt a feeling of pure bliss. It was 7.45am.
‘It’s a girl, it’s a girl’ was all I could hear from Simon excitedly behind me and a crying baby below me. I leant back as Simon supported me and looked down. Sure enough it was a girl. Such a huge surprise as we’d spent the entire pregnancy thinking we’d have a boy. I picked her up and put her against my chest. She felt wet, creamy and delicious. Simon moved around infront of me and we both kept looking at her and eachother. Months of uncertainty because of my age, my ICP, and we’d been blessed by a perfect baby girl.
Sue the second midwife arrived about 10 minutes later and she and Joy must have spoken but I wasn’t aware of this as Simon and I were in our own little world with our baby. I could feel a heaviness and knew the placenta was coming but I was too reclined to pass it. I passed the baby, to Sue, then Joy and Simon helped me onto a birthing stool and I breathed it out with a couple of pushes at 8.15am.
Some towels were placed on the sofa and I was supported to go and lie down, cord still attached to baby, and placenta was placed in a bowl next to us. Baby lay on my chest and we were covered with a towel and a blanket. We drank tea and ate bagels and biscuits. At about 10.30am, Simon cut the cord and held our baby daughter for the first time. While he had some skin to skin, I had a lovely candlelit bath.
Being at home for the whole thing has been wonderful and we would both recommend it. Baby Rachel and I spent the next 10 days snuggled up in bed, neither of us wearing more than a pair of Tena Lady pants or a nappy!