Hector made his appearance eight days earlier than expected on a rainy Sunday near the beginning of October announcing his arrival with a fierce cry. Mercifully the labour was super quick, yep I was the woman that almost gave birth in the car park, but I know that I’m getting ahead of myself just a little here. So let’s take it right back to the beginning of October 2014 where it all began.
I was never scared of labour. In fact I think it’s safe to say that I looked forward to giving birth because it meant the end of pregnancy – a journey that I really really didn’t enjoy. My mindset was that labour was necessary so I might as well get on with it plus there’d be a super cute baby waiting for me at the end. If that isn’t motivation then I don’t know what is.
That said I was under no illusions about the pain side of things; I knew it was going to hurt and I was ready for that. My pain threshold is high but my birth plan incorporated both gas and air and a TENS machine and I was prepared to be open to other methods of pain relief too if necessary.
What did surprise me however was my waters breaking when I was on my own one Saturday evening in early October whilst watching TV. In fact I wasn’t sure if I had wet myself or not. There was none of that dramatic gushing that we’ve seen depicted in films or on the television; instead there was a slow trickle of fluid that released itself in stages over the course of an hour. Once I’d established that I hadn’t in fact lost control of my bladder I realised that actually I hadn’t had and still wasn’t having any contractions. I was aware having attended NCT classes that this situation, whilst uncommon, does affect one in ten women and is officially called ‘prelabour rupture of membranes at term’. Fancy!
Bizarrely I felt utterly calm until I rang the delivery suite at about 9.30pm to let them know what had happened. It was then that they told me that they were very busy and were considering closing the suite. This was not in the birth plan! Since I still hadn’t experienced any contractions they asked me to hang on as long as possible but make my way in before 12am so they could check me over.
The hospital bag was packed, the car seat set up and ready to go in the car so there was nothing really to do other than wait for Ste to come back and take my last shower before giving birth. And that’s how Ste found me, lathering my hair, covered in soap suds. After asking me what I was doing in the shower on a Saturday night, when I should be relaxing on the sofa scoffing chocolate, he then proceeded to run round in a blind panic asking me if there was anything I could do.
We turned up at the hospital at 11.30pm, still not having experienced any contractions, and were seen very quickly by a midwife who after checking me and baby over pronounced that all was fine and it would very likely be another 24 hours before I’d need to come back. Call it Mother’s Intuition or perhaps it’s just a woman’s knowledge of her own body but I knew that things were about to move very quickly and that we’d be back in hospital within the next few hours.
As soon as we got home I went straight to bed knowing that trying to get as much rest as possible would stand me in good stead for the hours ahead. Ste joined me and promptly fell asleep and I just lay there in the dark my mind whirling and swirling about what was to come.
At approximately 2am the contractions started. If you asked me to describe them then I’d say they were like riding waves; the contraction building up as if you were trying to sail up a huge wave and then just when you think you can’t take any more you crest the wave and start sliding back down the other side again. I look back and feel overwhelming grateful that I was able to experience this early part of labour on my own (albeit with Ste asleep next to me), in the dark whilst lying in my own bed. By 3.15am I couldn’t handle the intensity of the contractions any more; I’d had no pain relief (wanting to save this for when I felt I really needed it) and I woke Ste up begging him to take me to hospital.
His first reaction was that I couldn’t possibly be ready to go back yet; after all the midwife had said that it would be at least another twenty four hours hadn’t she. I gave him a withering stare and asked him to time the contractions and how far they were apart. When he realised that they were over two and a half minutes long with only twenty seconds respite between them he looked at me in awe and asked how I’d managed to hold on for so long.
Getting out the house was an ordeal – I was in too much pain to put on my maternity jeans so ended up pulling on a pair of Ste’s joggers (I didn’t much care about my sartorial choices at this point!). Trying to get down the stairs, makes me cry with laughter looking back, I basically sprinted down several steps at a time between contractions before sitting down clenching my fists into balls ready to get up and sprint again.
We made it to the car and were at the hospital parked up 10 minutes later notwithstanding a huge final contraction where I practically screamed the whole way and a quick detour back home to pick up my forgotten contact lenses (we live very close to the hospital!). I was not going to give birth with blurry vision! Ste almost had a heart attack when we got caught up in a bit of late Saturday night traffic too.
The urge to push came as I stepped out of the car and tried to head towards the hospital. I dropped on all fours to Ste’s cries that I couldn’t give birth in the car park. Wanting to stay with me and laden with all the bags but also knowing that he needed to get help he said that when he saw the hospital porter it was like a guardian angel appeared. Three midwives rushed out to me thirty seconds later having been fetched by the porter and I basically half crawled, half walked my way into the delivery suite supported by these amazing women. All very dramatic and slightly embarrassing when I look back.
Stripping off down to simply a bra and t-shirt, I was pronounced fully dilated and I’m ashamed to say at this point I screamed for pain relief complete with a few expletives. Apparently I was too late to the table for any drugs. That wasn’t in the birth plan. You can guarantee that I bring this up at pretty much every appropriate opportunity.
I think any first time mum is a bit unsure as to what she’s supposed to do in labour. I remember feeling exhausted to the point of almost falling asleep for the barest of seconds at moments during my 90 minute labour. I was also incredibly thirsty and drank the equivalent of 1.5l of water in the time I was admitted to hospital to when Hector was born. I also shivered my way through giving birth and experienced crazy cramps in my legs that Ste tried to massage out consistently throughout.
Once I’d realised that I wasn’t actually doing a poo and that it was a head I could feel, I stopped tentatively pushing and went for it with enthusiasm biting down on the back of the hospital bed whilst squatting when the pain got too much. I found that being on my knees gave me a greater sense of control than lying on my back and it felt more comfortable too. It took an hour and a half for Hector to be born but I’m sure that it would have been half that if I’d realised earlier on what I needed to do. Something to bear in mind for next time….I was also lucky enough to get away without needing any stitches either (not sure what that says about me down there?!).
I was lucky enough to have the kindest and most patient midwife – Anne-Marie – who guided me through every step of the journey but never seemed to get in the way (a bit like a brilliant wedding photographer I suppose). But my hero absolutely has to be Ste; he was enduringly motivating without being pushy, completely present and unfailingly there for me when I felt like I was too exhausted to continue and said all the right things at the right times when I most needed to hear them. In short I was amazed at how he seemed to take everything in his stride – I half-joked afterwards that he should consider a new career as a Doula!
Hector was born at 5.04am, all 6lb 5oz of him, completely healthy and screaming at the top of his lungs and weeing all over his mummy; I instantly and overwhelmingly fell in love. Surprisingly I didn’t cry – I thought I would – but I know I was too absorbed in taking in all of his amazing features and his head of thick dark brown hair. Ste more than made up for the pair of us however…
Image by Little Beanies