I woke at 5.30 and noticed dull cramping in my lower abdomen, like the start of a period. I'd been having feelings like this for a few days but instinctively knew these were different, far more rhythmic than what I'd had before. I downloaded a 'contraction app' and they were about 5mins apart and 1min long, apparently I should have gone to the hospital then! I knew we weren't ready.
The contractions continued all day so we stayed home watching tv and eating. I managed to nap (whilst the sport was on obvs) but started feeling really sick in the afternoon.
At 6pm I was feeling claustrophobic and we went for a walk. By 6.30pm we were home and things were starting to pick up, the contractions were more intense and still about 5mins apart but was all manageable. I took an anti-sickness and 2 paracetamol to take the edge off the nausea and allow me to focus on my breathing. I was leaning on the exercise ball and watching Gardeners World - it was really peaceful and calming watching Monty and his dogs potter around.
At 8.30 (just as the Wagamamas takeout arrived) I was on all fours on the sofa rocking my pelvis from side to side and feeling big changes- everything felt really low and heavy in my pelvis and there was starting to be a more intense peak to the contractions- I couldn't get comfy in any position and was getting pretty grouchy. I was feeling so sick now I couldn't face eating - I just remember Sam's dinner smelling exceptionally fishy! I decided to use the tens machine - which worked rather nicely.
I felt like I wanted a bath so Sam kindly ran me one and we watched Gardeners World on the laptop. By now I was getting pretty vocal when the contractions were at their peak, and certainly shouted "who's stupid idea was it to have a baby anyway?" at one stage! Sam was being super calm and reminding me to breathe - I didn't want to breathe I just wanted to emit a raw guttural moan with each contraction, it helped, it helped to release some more of the tension in my body that the breathing wasn't reaching. I can see so clearly lying in the bath and watching my body prepare for the height of another contraction and tensing up - Sam noticed too and reminded me to breathe and relax and gentle shush shush shushed me as I was getting panicked.
That short time in the bath was such a transitional period, I was scared. I was scared this was early labour and I'd feel like this for days - I didn't feel I could do this for the next contraction let alone countless hours ahead. But the next contraction came and went as did the next.
I got out of the bath and crawled to the bed. Sam was cuddling me shushing and breathing with me, I was howling and
crying when my waters broke and the relief was immense! I think it was about 9.30pm - my concept of time was now completely shot. There was only contraction and no contraction the hypnobirthing affirmation "each surge brings me closer to my baby" surfaced and I just surrendered to my body - it knew what it had to do.
Sam called the hospital, as I was now getting the urge to push with each contraction. I was certain I couldn't be too far dilated so was trying not to but some are just involuntary. I crawled back to the bathroom and sat on the toilet certain I was going to pass out, it felt so surreal. I was sipping water and ginger beer swaying back and forth in the dark, mooing with each contraction but felt fine, like I could do this. That we could do this, my baby and me, he was doing his part, he was ready to be born and sending all the right signals to my body to do what it needed to do so we could finally meet face to face. And my body was responding, doing exactly what it was built for, all the muscles working as they should to squeeze my baby out and it all felt ok.
I was bossing Sam around to get the final stuff together, why I thought I'd still want my relaxing music and diffuser I'll never know, but I didn't want to be at the hospital without it as was convinced I was going to be only 4cms dilated when we arrived and be in for a long old slog so wanted to be prepared.
I somehow managed to get to the car (a nice couple I cut up in the street wished me luck) then sat in the footwell cursing every red light all the way to the hospital and electrocuting myself with the tens machine every time I had a contraction.
When we got there I was immediately on all fours again mooing like a demented cow between the car and the central delivery suite. I was booked into the midwife led birth unit so this was a bit of a surprise seeing the huge red and white sign sway into focus (hadn't worn my glasses for a while now) which did make me panic slightly as only complicated births go there - thankfully it was just because the birth centre was full.
It was so dark and calm when we arrived that I immediately felt at ease. The head midwife took us into my room, where she listened to the baby and examined me. She then said the best three words I think I've ever heard "she's fully dilated" the relief was so incredible! She gave me some gas and air which took the edge off the peak of the contractions and just having something to clench was a nice distraction.
I think it was about 11pm when our midwife Claire came in. She was greeted by my bum in the air and me growling out a contraction. I asked her what the plan was and she said we'd have two hours of pushing before thinking about any interventions. Two hours seemed easy! I felt two hours was entirely doable. It felt like a dreadful workout at the gym - you know you can do it but only because the end is in sight. I did ask at one point "are you going to send me home?" both Sam and Claire laughed at me. She kept needing me to lie on my back to examine me and check the baby which I didn't want to do as it really restricts the birth passage and just didn't feel right, but I had such little energy to be constantly switching positions that I stayed like that longer than I would have liked. Claire suggested I lie on my side, leg on her shoulder which still wasn't great but better, she then had the greatest idea – a birthing stool. It's essentially a stool with a toilet seat on top.
So I squatted down on that hanging on to the end of the bed whilst Sam fed me coconut water and moved the fan - or should I say arctic winds - whenever I asked, which felt like constantly! I'm not sure if I was apologising for being so bossy, I was still sucking on the gas and air, so was having a lot of conversation in my head. I'm not sure how long passed and had no idea how far advanced through labour I was. I was starting to feel really drained, when she asked if I would like to feel baby's head. This felt like such a momentous moment as I finally realised we were so close.
It was like the last 41 weeks and 3 days rewound to the moment I was standing in Malta with ridiculously sore boobs and a niggling inclination I was pregnant then fast forward again through all the joy and fear to that moment and I felt so ready to meet my little one.
Henry was born at 11.43pm.
The final stages of labour feel like a dream. The midwife was fussing to my right constantly trying to get in to see what was happening and telling me to push and not breath. It was against everything I’d learnt during my hypnobirthing preparations and everything my body was telling me to do. I listened to my body and breathed Henry out with a bit of pushing at the end of each contraction when I ran out of breath.
He was born onto the floor. His big dark eyes staring up at me from the most beautifully serious face. A full head of red hair capped off this wonderful creature I’d grown-although it made me question whether he was my child as I was certain he’d be blonde. The fact he was still connected to me by the umbilical cord was absolute proof he was mine.