When I was pregnant with my first born I decided to have a hospital birth. My reason was the same that many women give; I just didn’t feel confident that I wouldn’t need the medical facilities at a hospital.
My waters broke in the early hours of Saturday morning. It was only a trickle and I had no pain so I went back to bed to rest some more. After breakfast I phoned St Michaels and was asked to come in, where a midwife confirmed my waters had broken. I was now feeling a dull pain very low round my abdomen a bit like a heavy period pain. The midwife booked me in for an induction on Monday morning should contractions not begin naturally. Although I was keen not to have labour started artificially, 48 hours seemed an awfully long wait!
When we returned home, I had a bath and took some paracetamol. Paracetamol has an accumulative effect, so by taking it early in labour I hoped it would be more effective when the labour pains increased. After the bath I didn’t feel like sitting down at all so gently paced around the house. I had some surgery squash which I sipped throughout labour as I didn’t feel like eating. Contractions started around 5.30pm. These felt like a wave of dull pain going down my tummy and into my abdomen. I phoned the delivery suite, but as contractions were not regular and I was coping with the pain I stayed at home. As the evening went on contractions did get gradually stronger so that I would often moan at the height. They became regular but as the pain was bearable I still thought that we were in for a long wait.
Although all I was doing was gently walking around, the time did pass quite quickly. Around 8pm I was aware that I had been on my feet for 7 or so hours. I really didn’t feel like being still, least of all sitting down but also knew that I was getting tired. The quality of the contractions had changed and felt like a band of pain tightening around my abdomen. I knelt on a cushion on the floor and rested my head on an arm chair. During the time I leant against the chair the contraction pain and frequency lessoned. My Mum rang at 9pm to see how things were going and advised me to go to the toilet. As soon as I stood up I could feel ‘something’ between my legs. As I hovered over the loo I touched what I realised must be baby’s head. I immediately rang St Michaels and explained how and what I felt like, but the midwife explained it would feel “heavy down there” and as contractions had slowed I should stay at home. I felt confused and for the first time worried. My husband was saying “just tell her we’re coming in”. When I hung up the phone I was rooted to the spot and couldn’t believe ‘this is it’.
Luckily the car was parked right outside the house and I got on all fours on the back seat. As the car reversed I felt a ring of stinging around my cervix. I was having no contractions. I looked down at the seat just willing all the traffic lights green.
As I got out of the car fluid gushed down my legs. I waddled across the car park. The midwife calmly greeted us and asked me to lie on the bed but I wasn’t sure how to get up there without sitting first. I had on some loose black trousers so I don’t think the midwife could see how far along I was. I tried to explain but she just looked perplexed! Somehow I was helped onto the bed and immediately it was a rush to get my shoes, trousers and underwear off as quickly as possible. Baby just slipped out and was lifted straight onto my chest. It all happened so quickly, at 9pm I had still thought we were in for a long wait and at 9.35 my baby was in my arms.
I decided to deliver the placenta naturally which took 21 minutes and then my husband cut the cord. It wasn’t until another midwife came in and asked if we had a boy or a girl that we thought to look! We had Harry James, perfect.
The experience of my first labour gave me the confidence to have a home birth for my second child. You never know exactly how labour will go and my labour with Harry wasn’t as I had expected. In retrospect it seems that the rush to the hospital would have been stressful, but it didn’t feel like that at the time. My body took over and knew exactly what to do; the contractions stopped, I didn’t push and my mind did not race with unhelpful thoughts of ‘what if’ and ‘oh help’! This allowed me to maintain a certain level of calm. In my view every birth is positive, a home or hospital birth, a birth with or without intervention, or a caesarean. The point is however labour unfolds a woman brings new life into the world and comes out the other side as a Mother. The key is to take the experiences of your labour and use them in a positive way. Most of us would wish for a relatively painless birth with as little intervention as possible, but if that is not what happens you will most likely come out the other side of labour with a greater opportunity to learn from your experience as you embark on the next journey of motherhood.