At 5am or thereabouts, on a cold morning in December, I woke up with a slight discomfort. My waters broke. I was amazed, terrified, exhilarated and bewildered. I called out to my husband from the toilet ‘Andy, it’s started!’.
I was aware it could still be a very, very long time before we met our baby so reassured Andy we should just get back into bed and sleep.
Within 30 minutes or so mild contractions had started, but I still wanted to stay in bed and was almost in denial about what was happening. I wanted our doula to know that things might be unfolding, so sent her a text and then carried on pretending it was a usual Monday morning.
We decided to watch a film in bed. I then remembered that keeping things normal,meant I should still eat. So we went downstairs and had porridge and tea. All the while the contractions were getting a bit more distracting but I was determined to carry on ignoring them. Frozen Planet was the next show on TV, I’ll never be able to look at polar bears in the same way! Whilst they were padding about on the ice, I was on all fours in our living room feeling like one of them...
I’m not sure what happens to time when you’re on your journey to having a baby, but I certainly have no concept of it looking back now. I remember retreating to the bedroom and kneeling by the bed with my head under the duvet. I suddenly felt the need to be alone, focus and have a word with myself. The contractions were becoming stronger and I got quite emotional, I needed a big hug and reassurance from Andy, and then I needed to be alone.
My doula arrived. I was so pleased to see her. She and lovely big inhales of lavender oil got me through another couple of intensive hours. I remember wondering when it might be good to go to hospital, and then feeling that actually I wanted to be at the hospital, so around 2pm, we left.
The journey was bizarre. Initially my contractions slowed, but then once under a big blanket in the back of the car, I concentrated on keeping going, I really didn’t want to lose the momentum that was building. I felt that as long as I let it, my body would know what to do. My long, slow breathing, helped me stay on top of the waves of pressure I was feeling.
Arriving at the hospital scared me, the contractions were getting stronger and faster, which was good but I didn’t want to be distracted. I felt that as long as I focused I could handle it. We arrived and I was on the floor, on all fours. My eyes were closed, and I was concentrating deeply so I didn’t feel remotely self-conscious. Being right inside myself, felt a safe place to be and I just wanted to be able to carry on and let it happen.
A midwife approached and started asking questions. I gestured that my doula and Andy should speak for me - I couldn't afford the distraction. They both knew that I wanted a natural water birth and I did not want to know how far dilated I was, just whether I was truly ‘in labour’. The midwife was astounded, but I was adamant. I had planned this as I knew that if I was given a number of centimetres dilation, I would focus on this. Too much and I may have panicked that the baby was coming too soon - too few would mean disappointment.
Fortunately, the midwife confirmed I was staying, but there was no birthpool available. My heart sank. I had only really prepared myself for a water birth. However things were ramping up and I had no time to feel too sorry for myself. My doula assured me we could use water for pain relief and went to run a shower. I began to feel I was losing a bit of control here, I’d managed to stay calm so far, counting my breaths and knowing exactly how many breaths each contraction lasted and knowing a break was coming.
We went into the bathroom only to discover no hot water. With cold water on my back…I lost it. I'd been holding on to the idea of hot water and now I felt helpless. I remember asking my doula for pain relief of any kind and quickly. She calmly and reassuringly suggested I try gas and air before anything else. The midwife set this up and it gave me amazing relief and the confidence boost I had needed.
However I was still nervous of where exactly I was going to give birth. I wanted to be in a pool, I’d only ever imagined being in a pool. The room we were in felt stark, I didn’t want to be on a bed and I couldn’t get comfortable. I don’t know how long we were in this room. I was so focused on breathing, counting, the ramping up and the calming down of each contraction time just went.
I think Andy had a stern word about the lack of hot water, a new midwife started and by some small miracle she found us a birthing pool. I was so delighted. I remember asking her how we would get there, she had a wheelchair for me and when we got to the room, I couldn't believe it - the room was perfect, just what I needed. Dimly-lit, lots of space and the sound of running water as the pool filled.
The relief of the warm water was immense. I could move more freely and got back into the rhythm of the contractions. Things ramped up, I felt scared, but it was because things were changing and I felt the need to push. My doula was amazing, just her presence reassured me that things were going ok. I felt like pushing lasted an eternity and it was harder than I could ever have been prepared for, but at the same time I knew that my body could do this, I just had to keep going.
The moment Tommy was born will stay with me forever, there he was ‘swimming’ in the water, I picked him up and couldn’t believe my eyes. He was perfect and beautiful - our precious son.