I wrote most of this a few days after giving birth, when it was 100% fresh in my mind. I’ve not really edited it, preferring to keep my birth stories as long and detailed as possible so I can remember everything exactly as it was.
Monday 20th May:
I am officially ‘overdue’. I have my 40 week midwife appointment. She performs a sweep and tells me I am 2cm with a soft cervix – good signs, but I had no other symptoms. The baby doesn’t feel that low down (non of the pressure I remembered from the end of Arlo’s pregnancy).I feel I am still a while from going into labour. My midwife leaves me with a bishop’s score of 5 and says “It may or may not work, we’ll see”.
She also drops the bombshell that she will be going on annual leave in a couple of days… for a week. By the time she gets back, if I haven’t gone into labour, the hospital would have already started talks about inducing. So, it’s looking likely that I will have a different midwife at the birth.
I spend the rest of Monday in a bit of a funny mood, attempting to reset the vague idea of this birth that I’d built up in my head to include a team of midwives that I hadn’t met before. I know I am being silly. I mean, I didn’t know the midwives for Arlo’s birth, and that was fine. But this time I’d had one-to-one appointments with the same midwife for the past six months. Over that time it had become entirely natural to imagine her being there for the birth, and it was going to take me a bit of time to get used to the idea of a different scenario.
I am crampy and have the type of show that is meant to be a very good sign. This continues all day, and the cramps started to feel like irregular contractions. Sam and I go to bed thinking ‘This will either ramp up into labour now or stop all together’. I had been warned that second labours can often be very stop/start, and the latent phase can last for days. As I hadn’t been in slow labour before (Arlo’s just started from nowhere), I assume that this is probably nothing just yet.
Contractions continue late into the night, but then next thing I know it is 6am and I’d been asleep since 2am, so obviously they had stopped. I tell Sam “false alarm, nothing is happening”, as we had predicted. Arlo wakes and joins us for the long morning feed he usually has these days. At 7am, shortly after getting out of bed, I feel a contraction. (I wonder whether Arlo feeding helped to set things off again?) I count 4 contractions in the half an hour that Sam takes to get ready for work. Approx 1 every 7.5 mins and lasting about 30 seconds. More frequent than the day before, but not frequent enough to say “this is definitely it”, and so I give Sam the OK to go to work.
I finish packing Arlo’s overnight bag, and tidy away his toys from the living room floor. I speak to my mum – my sister wants to see Arlo before she leaves to go back to uni, so we arrange for them to come over that morning, although I mention the contractions and warn that there could be a small chance that they might need to take Arlo away with them rather than stick around at ours if things progress.
The next bit is hazy. Things change really rapidly. The contractions start coming on top of each other, there is no longer a gap, and I know this is definitely happening. I find it really hard to focus knowing that I am on my own with Arlo. He is climbing over my back asking me what I am doing, although he doesn’t seem at all bothered by my odd behaviour. Because I am on my own and all of a sudden in a lot of pain, and trying to maintain calm for Arlo, I get quite panicky, which makes the pain worse. Sam has been at work all of half an hour, and I need to call him to come home. It takes him probably 45 minutes, during which time I call him every five minutes because I can’t remember how long he said he’d be. I call my midwife to let her know things are progressing and that I’d let her know when we need her. No one is here and I can’t focus on managing the contractions. I feel panicky, dizzy, and sick.
Sam and my mum arrive within minutes of each other (I think it must have been around 9.30 by this point) and Arlo is dispatched after a quick cuddle. The midwives had repeatedly warned us that second labours can progress very quickly once they get going, and not to leave it too late to call. As my contractions are on top of each other and lasting over a minute, it is decided that the midwife will come to the house now.
Up until this point I’d been on my own, as Sam had to immediately set to work dismantling our dining table, inflating the pool, putting sheets on the floor, etc. I think my midwife’s presence must have calmed me as within a short while of her arriving, contractions are still strong but not on top of each other.
I am 4cm. I am disappointed and feel like I was making a fuss over nothing. I was hoping to have been at least 6cm as the contractions had been so intense. Now I just know I still had a considerable way to go. It was suggested that I try to lie down, if possible, to get a bit of rest in between contractions. I am dubious, as I hadn’t managed to feel relaxed lying down AT ALL during Arlo’s labour. It always made the pain so much worse. But somehow I manage to get myself into a relaxed enough state lying on my left side on my bed (by this point covered in a million dust sheets). In this position, I really have to ‘get in the zone’ enough to keep calm and hold it together during contractions, but it is nice to be lying down. I know I will need the rest as I still have a long way to go.
After an hour or so I am restless and want to get up again. I know that things won’t progress as quickly whilst I am lying down. My midwife encourages me to squat during contractions to increase pressure and encourage the baby to move down. I am reluctant to embrace the pain in this way, but it actually turns out to be quite a satisfying way to manage the contractions.
7cm dilated. Progress, but not as much progress as the midwives would typically expect for a second labour. There is talk of breaking my waters if I haven’t progressed much over the next 2 hours. I keep moving, do some more squats on the stairs, attempt to eat a sandwich because my midwife wasn’t happy with my keytone levels. At this point I use my tens machine which serves as a useful distraction (same as when I was in labour with Arlo). I keep forgetting to take it off ‘boost’. I find that the tens doesn’t actually mask any of the pain of the contractions, but it does feel like a bit of a safety net.
At some point during this stage, I take some photos with my SLR, and adjust the camera settings according to my guesstimate of how the light will be when it came to the final stages. (It was a gloomy day and I figured the baby would arrive in the late afternoon/early evening, so I bumped the ISO right up).
A photo I took of Sam whilst I was leaning over a chair at 7cms dilated
I am feeling in need of some pain relief to help keep me going. I am definitely reaching my “I’m too tired to keep doing this” point. I am reluctant to start on the gas and air (it became somewhat of a crutch during Arlo’s labour), but I still have the pool to try.
With Arlo, the pool had made me feel hot and faint, and due to having hard sides and base, it wasn’t all that comfortable. This time is a completely different experience. I’m not too hot, and an inflatable pool is so much more comfortable. Contractions seem to slow a bit in the pool and not last as long, but I am so much more comfortable that I really don’t care. In fact, I become a bit scared to leave the pool and face strong contractions again. But it is time for another examination.
This is the only point during labour when I use a bit of gas and air. Coming out of the pool and being made to lie on my back during contractions is just too much to bear without it. I am 9cm and everyone is happy. We decide there is no need to break my waters at this stage.
Knowing I am almost there, I have a new-found sense of optimism and enthusiasm to keep going. Although it was to take another two hours before I reached pushing stage, this is probably the most relaxing part of the whole labour. I am happy, chatting and joking with Sam and the midwives (our second midwife had arrived by that point), thinking “it is amazing that I am so lucid and ‘with it’ at this stage during labour”. Not having gas and air really made a difference for me and I remember everything so much more clearly than with Arlo’s labour.
As with Arlo’s labour, I cope so much better with this transition phase of labour than with the earlier stages. 4-8cm has definitely felt like the hardest point during both labours. I don’t know whether it’s the boost from knowing it won’t be long, or the fact that during 8cm-10cm my contractions slow a bit, giving me more of a break between each one. But with both labours I’ve found that stage to be a quieter, almost relaxed time.
Despite being ‘almost there’. I remain at 9cms for another two hours. The baby is posterior, and needs a little longer to get his head in the right position to get past that last lip of cervix in order to be born.
I’m not feeling particularly pushy, and definitely don’t yet have the uncontrollable urges that I remember from Arlo, but at the same time it is starting to feel quite good to push a little bit with the end of my contractions. Contrary to what I was told during Arlo’s labour, this time the midwives don’t think there is a problem with me doing this. They say that some women find they need to push to help the cervix open up that last bit. Just as with Arlo, it seems that we are just waiting for my waters to break and then we’ll be straight into the second stage.
I decide to see what will happen if I really push with the next contraction. I feel a pop, and another pop with the next contraction. My waters. From then it is very quick. The midwives are not able to see a head at all, then suddenly the head is being born. They talk me through slowly breathing the head out. I am slightly panicky, as I can feel everything so much more than I could when Arlo’s head crowned.
The head is out, but nothing is budging with the next contraction. I move from my crouching position onto all fours for the next contraction, but still nothing. Everyone springs into action very quickly and I know I need to listen to the midwives and do everything they say at this point. I get out of the pool and am told to lie flat on my back. Sam is at my head and the midwives are holding my legs up to my chest. I push with all I have for the next contraction. I think there is one more contraction before things start moving and the midwives can help pull his body out. The feeling is insane, it feels much larger than just a baby and I am convinced that the midwives must have their hands up places they shouldn’t normally go (I actually felt compelled to ask them afterwards, but no, it was just my massive son – and probably partly due to the position I was lying in).
Born in the doorway between our kitchen and dining room, the baby is out. He is a boy, and he is much bigger than we were expecting. Now it makes sense that it was a bit tricky to push out his chunky shoulders. He is placed on me and needs quite a lot of rubbing before we hear him. A minute or so later and he is yelling very loudly. Already completely different to his brother, who only let out little mewls.
The now infamous doorway
We lie there until his cord stops pulsating, and then I stand and the placenta comes away with no problems. We move to the sofa.
The good news:
Despite half-delivering a 9lbs 4oz posterior baby lying flat on my back, I don’t need stitches. High five. By the way, that examination after you’ve just given birth? Probably worse than the contractions themselves. I indulged in a bit of gas and air for this part.
The bad news:
I am told that there was grade 3 meconium in the waters (so in hindsight, a good thing that we didn’t opt to break my waters earlier). It is recommended that we transfer to hospital for 24hrs of obs in case the baby has swallowed some and develops an infection. We could refuse and stay at home, but we know we’d worry all night and decide that we have to do what is recommended.
The ambulance crew arrive, I have a shower, and we get our things ready to go. Sam has to repack the baby’s hospital bag as most of the clothes I’d packed are too small for him. We chat with the paramedics and take photos as Sam has never been in an ambulance before. By this point it’s 9pm. I settle in on postnatal ward and Sam goes home. Similar to Arlo’s birth, Sam is only allowed 2 hours with us post birth, and those two hours are busy and hectic (hence why we didn’t settle on Rory’s name immediately).
Rory isn’t as settled as Arlo was on his first night, I am not as tired, and the ward is very noisy. I get a couple of 45 minute stretches, and despite feeling initially pretty good after just giving birth, the next day it catches up with me and I am shattered.
A phone shot I took at 4am, whilst not sleeping.
This has been the longest I’ve left Arlo before, and the first time he’s been away from me overnight, and by the afternoon I am really missing him. He comes to visit his new brother in hospital. He is interested in the baby, but perhaps more interested in his long-anticipated Emily train that Rory has thoughtfully bought for him.
All obs are fine, and we are discharged exactly 24 hours after Rory’s birth.
So, how was the home birth experience all in all? We didn’t get to do the nice bit and have our first night together at home in our own bed. And I would have loved to have given birth in the pool and ‘caught’ my baby myself (Due to the way I had to give birth in the end, I wasn’t able to see Rory being born). But labouring at home was completely the right thing for me, and it made such a difference.
Half way through my labour I do remember having a little chuckle at myself for being so silly to think that perhaps the pain would be different or easier because I was at home – the pain is exactly the same, hospital or no hospital. But being in my own surroundings definitely helped me feel more grounded and in control of my labour. And Sam got to have his long-awaited sandwiches.
Due to the initial difficulty I had in getting Rory’s body out, in the first few days post-birth I was left questioning whether I would choose a home birth for baby number 3 (if/when that happens), assuming that baby 3 would follow the pattern and be even bigger that Rory – would I have even more difficulty at pushing stage? But one of the great bonuses of having one-to-one care under the home birth team is that I was able to fully discuss the birth with my midwife during one of our postnatal appointments. Although in Sam and my eyes it seemed quite serious at one point, she assured me that it wasn’t a major problem, I pushed him out on my own in the end, and had I not been able to, there are many different ways of dealing with it. We discussed some of these methods, and she told me about a few instances where she has had to put these methods in place, and after our chat I felt completely confident that it would be OK to choose a home birth again. If I hadn’t been able to have that chat with my midwife, I’d probably always worry that another home birth would not be the best idea.
Due to us not being prepared for Rory to arrive in the way that he did, concentrating on waiting for him to cry, and my camera not being within reach because I was lying in the doorway with three people surrounding me blocking the way, we didn’t get any photos of the moments just after his arrival. This would have been the case whether it was a professional photographer or Sam taking the photos, so although I’ve yet again missed out on those ‘just been born’ pictures, I know there was no possible way round that one.
Has Sam’s opinion on home births changed at all? Not really. He was glad everything went smoothly and that I was happy, but there has been no “Oh my god, home births are amazing” revelation in hindsight of Rory’s birth. It was a lot of work for Sam, more than we anticipated, I don’t actually recall him being fully available to support me, with no ‘tasks’ to do, until the very end when I was in the pool and ready to push. And what with the ‘drop everything’ trip to hospital, he returned home late at night to a house that needed a full clean and a birth pool that needed sorting. Although Rory was born at the respectable time of 7pm, Sam wasn’t in bed until 4am. If baby number 3 happens, given the choice, Sam would still rather we had a hospital birth.
Three weeks on and I still can’t quite believe that Rory was so big and I had no idea of his size until he was born. I know that subsequent babies are usually bigger than the last, but I wasn’t expecting such a difference between Arlo’s 8lbs and Rory’s 9lbs 4oz. And in pregnancy, Rory was much easier and more comfortable to carry compared to Arlo. Rory’s torso is actually much wider/thicker than his head – as one midwife described him, he is ‘solid’.
Overall, I’m really happy with the way Rory’s birth went, and how I managed the pain. There is a definite sense of achievement that comes with giving birth in your own house… that ‘I can do anything’ feeling. But most of all, it’s lovely to have the daily reminders of welcoming him into the world under our own roof.