One thing I have learnt through my work is how strong a Mother’s institution is. Even though my baby wasn’t due until the 4th April and statistically he was more likely to come after that I’d always said he’d come on Easter Sunday. Funny what our bodies tell us isn’t it and how right they are if we just listen. This was the first part of me trusting and listening to my body which is a bit of a theme during of Rory’s birth and something I implore every mother to try and do.
In the week leading up I’d had a couple of false starts. It seems this boy was already trying to wind his mummy up. I’d woken with light contractions a couple of times in the week before he came and as these hadn't come to anything, I didn’t get over excited in the early hours of April 1st when I awoke at 4am with some light surges. And sure enough by the time my toddler was up they had faded away. It was April fool’s day after all.
We got up as normal, but I did feel like today might be the day and suggested a nice long walk in Bushy Park with our dog. By 10am we were in the park with the three of us jumping in puddles and sliding through mud. At one stage our toddler was dragging her heels and I told her the game of ‘let’s just stand still’ was boring and to get a move on. She then replied “Mummy I want to be boring” which we made us laugh so hard I actually peed myself!
After a break in the cafe and me heading to use the facilities, I could feel the tightenings coming pretty regularly (about every 10 mins) and it crossed my mind that the leak might of actually been my waters breaking..... I flagged to my husband it was probably time to head back to the car. But of course, Everley wasn’t playing ball and wouldn’t get in her buggy. I’d been warned a few times that this birth was likely to be a quick one, so my poor husband carried her all the way back to the car to speed up the journey.
Once we were home, Everley went for a much needed nap and I was having light waves every 12/15 mins or so. I knew this wasn’t full labour just a build-up and was aware it might tail off, so we decided to stick to our plans and head to my parents for Easter lunch and just see how it went. During the time at home, I popped some clarysage into my diffuser and manically cleaned the house, getting my husband to move boxes and tidy bags just in case.
After a lovely roast at my parents, which I ate bouncing on a yoga ball while at the table, we did an Easter egg hunt and it was once this had finished that I gave my husband the signal we should head home. I was needing to take myself away from the group with each surge now and give it a bit more attention. So, we said an emotional farewell to our baby girl, soon to be big sister, then left her and the dog with my folks.
Once at home more manic cleaning began and we tidied the house in preparation for our new arrival. I texted our doula to let her know we might be on for this evening and she said to just keep doing what I was doing. She’d be round in an hour or so. It was around 5pm when I took myself upstairs and decided to have a little dance around our bedroom to help this baby move down. I cranked up my favourite songs playlist and danced away. This definitely helped the baby move down and each surge became much stronger, with me needing to add a visualisation to my breathing.
Through this stage I kept dancing and closing my eyes, imagining Everley and I were having one of our kitchen discos, picturing her little face laughing. Once my doula arrived, I asked for a hot water bottle to hold on my tummy which helped a lot. She suggested not retreating to my room too early and maybe go to watch a film and have a snack. I took her advice and I headed back downstairs as she popped out for a bit so that I didn’t feel observed. The only problem with this idea was that I found everything annoying, whatever we put on TV grated on me and I couldn’t get in a relaxed position. I soon gave up and headed back upstairs for a lay down.
I decided to have a lie on my bed surround by pillows (nest style) and listen to my current audio book. I was here for a good hour just resting to conserve my energy. Once the surges became more intense I asked Ross to come and lie with me to rub my back or apply pressure to my hips as they came. My doula returned around 7pm and said she’d flag to the midwives they would be needed soon.
It was at this time that everything ramped up a notch and I’d say my real labour began. My doula placed a flannel with lavender oil on my pillow and as my surges hit me, I’d cover my face and breathe deeply, with her holding my back applying counter pressure to ‘catch’ the wave with me. I used my visualisations to focus, often thinking about my toddler and how worth it this is or picturing exactly what my body was doing while doing my up breathing.
After a few strong waves, I decided I needed the toilet and popped/waddled to the bathroom. On my way back to the bedroom a had a much stronger surge that meant I needed to hold the banisters to ride it. My doula suggested I get to the ground, to lessen the gravity a bit as it was making things go really quickly and the midwife still hadn't arrived.
I couldn’t though and felt I needed to just lean over my bed. I then spent some time either standing and leaning over the bed or kneeling besides it and burying my head down when my body told me to rest. A tennis ball was used to rub up and down my back as I loved this during my first labour and I was offered a snack to eat but couldn’t face it. At one point, I remember opening my eyes and noticing it had gotten dark. This baby really was working with nature and the warm dark environment of my bedroom did everything to help me move along to the next stage. A few times I’d mutter affirmations out loud reminding myself to soften, open and relax to let by baby out.
One thing I hadn’t noticed until afterwards was that my cat had been with me the whole time until this point. She just wanted to lay next to me, almost trying to comfort me. Maybe it’s because I’d been with her during two labours and she wanted to return the favour? But she was a good reminder to just trust my body and have faith in nature. Almost a physical affirmation.
I heard the midwife arrive downstairs and by this point I was on all fours with a pile of pillows in front of my head. It really helped me to take the rest breaks when they came. A couple of times, my doula reminded me to relax and let my baby do the work now, I just needed to relax and let him.
My midwife Tracy popped up and by this time it was completely dark. She was wonderful, and respected my wishes from beginning to end. She quietly introduced herself and asked to listen to the baby’s heart. It was lovely to hear it pounding away when she did this and gave me renewed faith in him and my body. Shortly after this I had a really powerful contraction where I just didn’t know what to do with myself and this was the first time I shouted as it came as a shock, and then I told myself out loud just to breathe through it.
Once it had passed I asked if I could get into the birth pool and everyone agreed it was now time. I was offered a vaginal examination which I declined before stumbling through the bedroom door to head down to our living room. As I made my way along the hall I noticed my husband sitting on the stairs, bless him, he’d been there the whole time not wanting to disturb but wanting to be close by. As I took it slowly one step at a time I was told I could crawl if I needed to, but I just wanted to get in that water pronto.
At the bottom of my stairs I had a huge contraction which I needed to squat down for it. It was then that I noted they had changed direction, and I was instinctively bearing down to let my baby out. I was pulling my clothes off as I walked into the living room which had been set up beautifully with candles everywhere, flowers and my birth pool.
As I took my trackies off, I saw I had been bleeding and I was reassured it was my ‘show’ or mucus plug. This was the same as my first labour, which often surprises people as we’re always led to believe it goes much earlier in the process. To say I felt the fetual ejection reflex working is an understatement. As soon as my bottom half was naked, I couldn’t get in the water quick enough. I remember someone asking if I wanted my top off and just thinking to myself, there isn’t time. After a couple of seconds in the pool I had one contraction and a really strong urge to push, so I just went with it and as I burrowed my head into the side of the pool I knew I was making a long deep mooing sound and I could sense that someone was topping the water up but nothing other than that.
I then felt something strange between my legs floating around and put my hands down to see what it was. I could feel a big balloon there which was almost slimy and my doula told me it was probably my waters bulging but not yet broken. I then shouted for Ross to come quickly and got him to sit on the armchair in front of me. I grabbed his hands so tight he thought I’d break them and I went through what felt like the longest contraction ever. Breathing the lavender flannel, holding his hands and making a deep mooing sound. I tried to relax my body but felt this insatiable urge to push so I just went with it. Once the feeling had subsided I looked up at Ross and said I can feel something between my legs, I felt like I repeated it 100 times and no one was listening to me, but I’m sure it was seconds. My doula took and look, helped me to sit back and said “it’s your baby” as she guided him up towards me.
He was perfect! As I scooped him up from the warm water I think we were all in shock and it’s then that the midwife came back into the room to find the baby had arrived. His umbilical cord was really short and he could only just reach up to my chest. I was just staring at him and then at Ross in complete awe. My labour was over and my baby was here safely in my arms, I was almost disappointed it had happened so quickly. Upon reading my notes afterward the midwife had recorded my second stage of labour at 2 minutes! It was that fast, no time for all the support kit I had planned, not even a moment to process I was about to meet my little man. He was here in all his chubby cheeked glory.
After a while having cuddles in the pool I decided it was time to get out. His cord was so short that to ensure he wasn’t under water I was having to sit with my back arched which wasn’t the most comfortable position. Ross passed the midwife our cord tie and she looked fairly surprised saying she’s never used one before, after a bit of kerfuffle it was done and Ross cut the cord that had bonded me to my baby for all those months.
I got out of the water with some help while Ross held our little boy and I was freezing. Even though the heating was up full blast, I was then wrapped in towels and blankets on the sofa and Rory was popped onto my chest but I was shaking, which was probably shock. In my first labour I had a managed third stage (the Syntometrine injection) due to my placenta not willingly coming after 45 mins, and I really reacted badly, suffering a number of the possible side effects. So, this time around I was desperate to have a physiological (natural) third stage. To help this along I tried feeding the baby and held him close, didn’t allow any lights to be turned on, drank a cup of raspberry leave tea (this can be used after birth too to help your uterus contract back to original size).
I had asked for the room to remain as quite as possible - to help produce oxytocin naturally and start my uterus contracting. After around 10 minutes my doula gave me secale which is a homeopathic remedy and it worked a treat. I called the midwife and told her I was getting pains and she told me to push on the next one. Then do a little cough to pop out the final bit. Apparently, my placenta was huge, so that’s what my big bump was.... not baby! It was a beautiful heart shape which was rather apt as it provided life for my little love all those months.
After some stitches (my worst part of labour) on the sofa while Rory was weighed and checked over we were done. Time for a lovely cup of tea and hot cross buns – benefit of an Easter baby.I went upstairs to my own bed with my baby boy and Ross started operation clean-up which only really consisted of pumping the pool water down the loo and throwing out the lining. He then joined us in bed and the phone calls to grandparents commenced. Our little family now was four.
To say it was everything I’d hoped would be an understatement, Rory John Daniel Leighton was in a hurry to get into this world and I’m sure it’s a sign of the personality we can expect to see as he grows up.