After about a week of on off mild surges keeping me guessing, on Thursday 22nd March I was woken around 5am by 2 fairly close surges in much the same way my labour with Florence started. I felt excited, sure that today was the day! I got up and though nothing really seemed to be happening bar the occasional very mild surge, the instinctive feeling was still there. I dropped Florence off to preschool letting her know that if things ramped up we would make sure someone collected her to be there, sent Matt off to work knowing he wasn’t far away, then took our dog for a walk around the local park where I was having mild surges every 5-6minutes. We walked in the sun before heading home to wait for the midwife to pop in – I’d been due to see mine at her clinic but didn’t feel up to the half hour drive, so she said someone from the community team would pop by. A midwife I hadn’t met before called Sam came by and she was lovely, I asked if she would check my cervix to see if the build up showed any changes. I think I knew deep down that it wasn’t needed, but was starting to want some kind of light at the end of the tunnel as the on/off surges were becoming quite emotionally draining.
She listened in with her pinnard (a first for me!) before examining me, I was 1cm. I’d been hoping for a little more, but thankfully wasn’t too disheartened, knowing that cervical changes aren’t linear. After she left things continued as before, mild surges every 5mins or so, slowly getting closer together. I asked Matt to come home early afternoon for some company and we walked a similar route to when I was in labour with Florence, surges growing slightly stronger and closer together.
He collected Flossie at 3.30 as I didn’t want to venture out in the car. When Matt told her we thought the baby was coming she asked to stop off to buy me some of her favourite flowers – daffodils! When she got home, as lovely as she was being, the surges started to tail off, something inside told me this was still ‘it’ though, despite nothing massively different happening to previous days. Once she was tucked up in bed, they ramped back up in frequency, but still not intensity and by about 8.30pm they were around 3 mins apart, so on Matts request I called the hospital to say we hoped we would need someone during the night due to the frequency, but that we were coping fine at home alone for now. I was listening to calm music, utilising the birth ball, walking, light touch massage and sniffing clary sage on a tissue to help encourage surges and comfort.
By about 10pm the surges were coming every 2-2.5mins, so we called back as after our last labour Matt was worried staffing issues may affect someone reaching us. My midwife Lisa happened to be on call, so she came out to see us. Despite being a familiar face I still felt the observation change my mood slightly, and that combined with tiredness seemed to be easing things off again. I kept finding myself upstairs alone in our dark bathroom using the warm towel rail to lean on and gently breathe through surges which were much more frequent when up there. By around 12.30 Lisa could see things were not progressing fast, and suggested that I try and get some sleep. I was reluctant to in case it meant another complete stop to the surges like previous nights – by this point Matt had started to fill the pool knowing we would need to let the water reheat to get it full enough for me to get in, and I really didn’t want to waste the water! I decided to opt for a vaginal exam and told myself ‘4cm and under: go and rest, any more: push on’.
Unfortunately found the exam painful and I asked Lisa to stop, it definitely spiked my adrenaline and my surges came to a stop. I found the experience and change in sensations difficult, but having been told I was 3cm I headed to bed to try and rest. I was sure I wouldn’t be able to, given the sharp pains now in my cervix and the mixed emotions that I’d asked for an exam which (despite helping me answer the ‘sleep or not?’ question) had left me feeling in pain, upset and annoyed at myself for not trusting myself more and making a decision without it! Lisa also went home to rest letting us know she would be back if things ramped up before 8am.
I did actually fall asleep some time after 1am listening to our fear release audio, before waking with a start around 3.15am. I wasn’t having surges, or in any pain, but I leapt out of bed desperate to bring this pregnancy to an end and meet my baby, so I hoped things would start up again if I got moving. I found Matt dozing on the sofa, but he hadn’t been there long as he had been emptying water from the pool with a bucket to ensure there was space for enough hot for when we needed it. He said he was heading to bed as I wasn’t having surges and he was exhausted, but to let him know if I needed him.. I think the previous stop / starts had him thinking this wouldn’t come to much either!
I stated to pace the living/dining room with just the dim light of my salt lamp, reading the affirmations my friends wrote on my bunting, smelling clary sage on a tissue and moving on my birth ball. My surges quickly came back, now with a sharp pain in my cervix which hadn’t been there previously, so as the intensity quickly increased I presumed it was more the earlier VE causing me to feel things more intensely, rather than me progressing quickly.
Almost hour after I came down I realised I was really having to focus and breathe through each surge whilst leaning over the ball, and that I was starting to feel pressure during them… I was still in denial that I could be getting close, but called up to Matt and asked him to come down as I felt I wasn’t coping given just hours ago I was ‘only’ 3cm dilated – he really wasn’t expecting to see me so ‘in labour’ and immediately snapped out of his dozey state and asked if I wanted to get in the pool, which I did. He started to top it back up with hot water whilst I continued leaning over my ball during each surge, breathing and vocalising slightly more each time. I didn’t realise it at the time but he also began to try and contact the hospital again around now (4.30am ish).
As soon as the pool was warm enough after a few pans & kettles as well hot coming through the hose, Matt helped me climb in between surges, which were by now incredibly frequent. The warm water was such a relief… for a few seconds, before I felt the next surge take things up a notch. Deep down I knew this was the start of transition, but I was trying to stay in total denial! I told Matt I needed to wee (just like in transition last time) he started to help me out, but I had to sink back into the water as 2 or three strong surges one after another took over (just like transition last time!), then I insisted I HAD to get out, so with help I got out and headed up the stairs. By then I was starting to shiver, but did a wee trying to tell myself I was just chilly, even when I started to really shake head to toe (surely not transition, despite this being JUST LIKE TRANSITION LAST TIME!). I actually find denial a really helpful coping tool but looking back it’s amusing to think how hard I tried to tell myself I was still hours off meeting our baby.
We went back downstairs and I got back into the pool and almost immediately my surges started to slowly move baby down.
Getting on for 5am Matt finally admitted to me that he had been trying to get a midwife out to us, but there was no answer from any of the contact numbers for the hospital, by then he was worried baby would come before we had any support, and we decided to contact our doula Lynsey so we had some emotional support and a second pair of hands to let me feel comfortable waking Florence up to join us.
Matt got through to the hospital just after speaking to Lynsey. They said someone would call us back to arrange coming out, but Lynsey arrived quietly and unobtrusively before we heard anything. We decided it was time to get Florence up as by now the foetal ejection reflex was causing me to bear down and growl increasingly loudly! Matt woke her and told her baby was close, they waited upstairs for another surge to let her get used to the sounds I was making, and ensure she was happy to come down. The surge they listened through was the one where my waters went and I felt baby drop down lower, which I announced to Lynsey – it was the first thing I had said to her I think! She calmly reassured me they were clear, and at some point she also raised with me the question of if I wanted the paramedics called if the midwives didn’t arrive soon as it was looking close. I decided yes, but they could wait outside until if they were needed, so as not to change the atmosphere in the room.
Matt and Florence came into the room, it was a little surreal to see my not even three year old daughter sleepily coming towards me with a look on her face like nothing I’ve seen before: excitement, love, anticipation, joy, and a little bewilderment, before she reached out for me and we had the biggest cuddle over the pool edge. We held each other tight and she told me the baby would be here soon. It’s a bit of a blur, but she was lovely – at some point was stroking me gently, she offered me drinks of my Capri-sun, told me I was doing great and she came for another cuddle at some point just as a surge began. I pulled her in close, before realising I was starting to hold her a little tight and guiding her to Matt not wanting to worry her with the intensity I was feeling / giving off! She then sat on a chair in front of me watching with a look of awe on her face (whilst eating an Elsa cake bar!)
At some point during this there had been a knock and the two midwives had arrived without the call back to let us know (which would have saved Matt a lot of stress!), as they came in I demanded the gas and air! I don’t really know why, I think I was shocked by how fast things had progressed and still trying to convince myself I had way to go despite the intensity and feeling of fullness / pushing! They set it up for me and I took 2 or 3 breaths, before realising it was doing nothing at all for me… other than irritating & distracting me from my breathing and focus, so I dropped the mouthpiece at Matt returning to my zone.
As baby started to crown I naturally reached down to support the head emerging, feeling my body stretch slowly to accommodate what I could feel was a larger baby than Florence had been. I was so conscious to go as slow as I could, despite also wanting to just get the head out! Once the head had been born Matt had a look, and Lynsey lifted Florence over to the pool so she could see too. The excitement in her voice as she announced the baby’s head was out spurred me on so much! I reached back down and supported baby’s head, feeling the cord around his neck and him wriggle as he helped on his journey out. It was completely surreal! On the next surge, just after 6am on Friday 23rd March, I was able to lift baby through my legs and to the surface, cord was still around his neck and with help I unlooped it. I was staring at his face when someone asked about the gender, I don’t know if she had seen by then or was just feeling hopeful, but Florence shouted with glee ‘it’s a bruddah!!’ And as I lifted him to check I could see she was right. We had a baby boy, I was strangely unsurprised by the news. One daughter, one son, so perfect. She immediately asked to cuddle and kiss him
I moved closer to the edge of the pool where her and Matt were able to lean in and touch/hold us both. We stayed in the pool a while and our son soon began to search for the breast. I was feeling the smaller surges helping bring the placenta out, and when he latched on they intensified. After 30+ mins I decided to get out to birth the placenta, and after trying a few positions did so. I then spent another hour laid on the sofa with my baby boy connected to his former life source, the placenta.
Around 2 hours after his birth (and a shift change for the midwives) we decided to cut the cord. Matt tied the avocado cord tie I had made tightly, and Florence proudly helped cut the cord with him. We had a look at the placenta before letting the midwife weigh our baby. I had said for weeks before he was born ‘this is an 8lb baby’ but after he was born I looked and thought he could be no more than 7.5lbs… I was right the first time – he was 7lb 15oz of pure perfection. We drank tea, ate the birthday cake Florence helped me bake on the Wednesday evening, and enjoyed watching Florence fall as in love with her brother as we were.
I then showered whilst Matt snuggled our newborn skin to skin, before Lynsey helped me settle into bed and brought our baby up, helped put his first (tiny cloth!) nappy on and cuddle up for skin to skin and feeding. Matt then continued his hard work clearning up, emptying the pool and getting Florence fed. The day continued to be a blur of cuddles, breastfeeds, runs of Frozen and a few short visits from grandparents!
There is so much more I could say, but I would be here all day, so I’ll wrap it up! A fortnight on it’s like he was never not here. He’s slotted in perfectly, and I feel like I’ve recovered well already in such a short space of time.
I’m so proud of Florence for the support, love and maturity she showed throughout, and of Matt for being the strong presence I needed during the whole experience despite having his own worries at points (and I’m eternally grateful for him leading operation cleanup… homebirth dads deserve a medal of their own!!). I’m also hugely proud of myself for what I achieved; that despite a few hiccups along the way I felt mostly calm, confident, positive and excited about meeting my baby during the labour, that I was able to utilise all the tools I know from before help hugely during labour, and also for trusting that things would work out well at home despite hospital policy advising I should be in a much more medical environment after my previous minor PPH. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect birth for us to have experienced as a family. I ran on an absolute high for days and would absolutely do it all again tomorrow if I could, the experience felt so beautiful and powerful.
I’m also grateful for Lynsey’s support – she seemed to ensure the perfect environment was maintained with minimal effort, that both Florence and I received the full amount of support we needed throughout, and for the breastfeeding support which has helped us get off to a much better start than last time (I’m sure a feeding post will follow at some point soon!). If you would like to hear more about how she could support you drop her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can read my previous birth story here too if you would like.
My breastfeeding story from Florence here,
And if you would like to experience a birth you feel this incredible about check out our courses. I will be back offering private sessions in the comfort of your own home soon – sooner if you are happy for a tiny boy to join us with a discounted rate to compensate for it!