The morning started like any other, I had slept the sleep of the dead and that was after having had lots of nap time the day before. It was a lovely calm windless morning so I decided that I should go paddleboarding since who knows when I’d be able to go again after baby arrived. My husband and son stayed home and off I went for one last paddleboard around haulashore island. At 41 weeks and 1 day everything I did for the the past few weeks, I kept saying, this might be the last time I do this for a while. Paddleboarding went without a hitch, just a few of my usual braxton hicks contractions but nothing to get excited about. Later that day our family of 3 went for a long walk on the beach and as I was walking sometimes I got some funny twinges around my hips and pelvis which felt like the bones were separating or a nerve was being pushed on. Again I thought this was nothing to get excited about since I had gone over 42 weeks with my first and was expecting this baby to be very similar.
The rest of the day was uneventful. That evening in the shower I did my own internal exam to see if I could feel my cervix but it was still nearly out of reach it was so high, it did feel about 2cm’s dilated to me but I am not an expert. In the evening whilst we were watching tv and I was going through my spinning babies exercises to try and turn my posterior baby girl I started to have some stronger braxton hicks contractions (these may not have been braxton hicks!). But they weren’t any more painful than the regular ones I’d been having for weeks. I did however have some spotting. Again I thought this was probably nothing except for me having somehow irritated my own cervix as I had just tried to feel it. In hindsight this was probably the “bloody show” I had read about, but not experienced with my first birth. These braxton hicks or early labour contractions got a little stronger towards bedtime but when I changed positions they seemed to ease off….again this seemed to suggest to me that they were braxton hicks rather than true contractions. I told my husband that this might be the start of something but that I was going to go to bed to try and get some sleep just in case they turned out to be real contractions then I would need to be well rested. (With my first birth I had about 5 hours of contractions that I slept off and on through)
I went to bed at about 11.15pm and after lying in bed for a bit I realised that lying on my side made the contractions worse so I got up again and started to move around. By this stage I realised that these were most likely real labour contractions and not just braxton hicks, but they seemed very focused on my back (which was totally unlike my first labour). Having read so much about posterior births my first thoughts were that this must be “back labour” that I had read about, since I knew she was posterior last time I got checked. I thought that if this was back labour then it is meant to last quite a long time!
After trying a few different positions I decided to get in a warm bath. This was just before midnight. My husband asked if he should start filling the birth pool up. I said that it was probably too early for that but that he should pump it up and not start putting water in just yet. I also sent him away to get some hot cloths for my back. By this time it was just after midnight, around an hour since the contractions had become intense enough for me to believe I was in early labour. Since I was in the bath, I thought I would have a feel and see what my cervix was doing. This time it was easy to reach and I could feel something bulgy. I said to my husband that I thought I could feel that sack of waters and that maybe we should call the midwife soon. But first I wanted to see how far apart the contractions were so we knew what to say to the midwife. Hubby asked if he could fill the pool and I said yes but then no sooner had he left the room to start connecting the hoses, than I called him back as the pain was quite intense now on my lower back. Hubby did an excellent and intuitive job of rubbing my sacrum. At this point being in the bath wasn’t doing enough and I felt like I needed a change so I got out and used the toilet. I heard a pop and said that was my waters breaking. My husband had been timing my contractions and they were not regular but 5 minutes or 3 minutes apart and then I remember him saying “is that the same one or the start of a new one?”, as they seemed to come with no gap. I said “I don’t know but I need your help and I need a poo.” I tried getting back in the bath but it was not deep enough to relieve the sensations so I had to get out of the bath again. I went to the toilet again and said it’s a really big poo. Inwardly cursing myself for trying a spicy curry the night before in order to kick start labour! I was so convinced that this was still the first stage of labour as it had only just started. I was thinking that if this level of discomfort carried on for hours there was no way I was going to cope. In hindsight I was already in transition or the second stage of labour.
I got down onto all fours to ease the feeling of heaviness around my bottom and sacrum and Hubby called the midwife. The midwife said that those were pushing noises I was making and she was on her way. Minutes later I felt between my legs and said “ I can feel her head, I can’t stop this.” Hubby was disbelieving as he couldn’t see it himself but called the midwife back again to tell her. No sooner had he finished on the phone than I said to him you’ll have to catch her. I instinctively tried to use my hand to open myself up to ease her out and out she came, followed by a huge gush of my waters.This was at 12.30 am.
I asked Hubby to hand her to me but he handed her around the side and I could feel the cord tugging so I had to hand her back and get him to hand her to me between my legs. At this point she was quite purple and we still hadn’t heard a cry. The funny thing was that I was quite calm and so was Hubby (outwardly). The week before we had been having a conversation with our midwife about a local woman who had free birthed a baby and what they did when the baby wasn’t breathing. The midwife had told us that if a baby isn’t breathing then rub it’s back and feet vigorously. So Hubby went into autopilot and got a towel and we started rubbing her back. She let out a big cry just as the midwife walked in the door.
The midwife and her assistant then took charge and Hubby heated a wheat bag to warm our wee girl up whilst the midwife got me onto the toilet. At this point I was shaking and I don’t think I was very coherent. I finally realised that I was on the toilet to birth the placenta and I got Hubby go go and get the ice cream container that I had organised for this. I tried to feed our baby girl whilst the placenta slipped out and then the midwife tied the umbilical cord off with our beautiful crocheted tie that I had bought from Luna Bloom. (We planted the placenta under a rose and a week later tied the umbilical tie around it.) Then Hubby came to cut the cord with our kitchen scissors as the assistant midwife had left her bag behind in all the rush! By this point the cord had gone completely white, just as I had wanted in my birth plan. (Which was all carefully thought-out in my head but I had shared the important details with the midwife in our conversations over the weeks prior.)
We then all moved to our bedroom and I was bought cold drinks whilst I fed our baby girl. We were all in shock about how fast everything happened. From the time that I thought labour had started to holding her in my arms was less than one and a half hours. Once the shock had subsided I was really grateful that I got the opportunity to push when I felt like it and to choose my own positions. No-one was there telling me the right thing to do, I had to trust in my own body and create my own story. I only got one small first degree tear and didn’t need stitches.
This was so different than first home birth where I had been pressured into an induction due to a posterior unengaged baby, (he came a few hours before the appointment), had submitted to internal examinations and then been told not to push due to a cervical lip for nearly two hours. I also had to get into positions that the midwife suggested and then I was told that I needed an episiotomy. The result was the same, a healthy baby born at home but it was a far cry from the freedom of this birth.
My midwife said that such a fast labour was more like a 5th birth than a second. This brought a tear to my eye as it was actually my fifth pregnancy but only my second live birth. Maybe that was why it was so fast. Maybe it was because of all the raspberry leaf tea and dates I had been consuming or maybe I was just in denial and didn’t notice all the early labour signs and twinges. I will also never know if this was a posterior labour as my husband was in such a state of shock that he can’t in all honesty say which way my little girl was facing when she came out and no-one else was there to witness her birth. After the birth I eyed up my bag full of bits and piece,the birth pool from my friend, my birth guardian (made by Marti from Lunabloom), my bracelet (gifted to me by some amazing women), the birth affirmation cards, the essential oil, all the things I never got to use. and it served as a reminder that you can “plan” for your birth but you will never really know what is going to happen.
Despite being very grateful and loving my midwife and all the support she has given me before and after the birth, I am so lucky that I got to have my primitive style free birth, my husband felt very blessed that he got to be there to catch his daughter and the feelings of power and confidence that this birth have given me have helped me to find strength in myself in these first sleepless days and weeks.