It’s 6.30am on December 11th and I’m now 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant. I wake up with what feels like contractions that are stronger than the pre-labour pains and Braxton Hicks contractions I’ve been feeling over the past few weeks. By that time, as you can imagine, my patience was starting to run out. No one likes to go overdue. I tell Rom that today may just be the day we meet our princess, because those contractions are getting stronger and occurring at regular intervals. My hospital bag is packed: a large suitcase for me and a beige travel bag for the baby, both waiting at the bottom of the stairs and ready to be thrown into the car at any moment.
Confident that I’m in labour, I jump in the shower, get ready, get my sons ready for the day and Rom takes them to school. Around 7.55am I decide it’s time to call the birth centre at Queen Elizabeth hospital where I’m due to give birth, to let them know that I’m having contractions and they should expect me at some point today.
After timing my contractions for a couple of hours, the pain starts to intensify. We eventually arrive at the hospital around 10.30am and one of the midwives is tasked with observing my contractions for a while. She then examines me and concludes that whilst my contractions are strong and regular, my cervix is still quite high and dilation hasn’t even started yet. Therefore according to her, I’m not in labour yet. Her conclusions about the position of my cervix are not wrong, as this was exactly what my community midwife found during my last examination 4 days prior. In midwifery terms, things were still ‘unfavourable’, meaning labour wasn’t about to begin for at least a few hours, or even a couple of days.
“I can see you’re having regular contractions, but you’re not in labour yet.”
At this point, I’m given two options. The midwife tells me I can either walk around the hospital, chill in the canteen downstairs, wait for things progress, “listen to my body”, and when the pain gets too intense, I can come back upstairs to the birth centre.
Or… I can go home where labour would be a lot more comfortable (than in the hospital corridors/canteen!), and again “listen to my body” and when the pain becomes unbearable, make my way back to the hospital. Home is obviously where I’m most comfortable; home is where I can scream and shout as much as I want; and by the looks of it I still have a few hours to go.
So I make the decision to head back home. Rom supports my decision, so we walk back to the car park.
Whilst in the car, I have a few more contractions but more importantly I’m also very hungry. Don’t come between a pregnant woman and her food… we decide to make a quick stop at our local Greggs. I feel strong enough to get out of the car and buy my own lunch – after all the midwife did advise me to stay active and walk as much as I can. I have two contractions while picking my sandwich in Greggs. Ouch.
We arrive home and I’m walking around trying to firm these contractions. I finish my lunch, grab one last piece of Madeira cake and all of a sudden the pain becomes really, really intense. By this time I can barely walk, even talking is becoming difficult because with every contraction I feel almost ‘drunk’, like in a daze.
“I know we’ve only been here for 20 minutes but we’re gonna have to go back to the hospital…” I tell Rom, in between desperate pleas for a back massage. “I can’t take the pain anymore.”
Just as we were about to put our coats on and jump into the car, I have one very, very strong contraction. Rom starts to panic, he doesn’t know what to do, he just grabs his phone… I’m now leaning against the coffee table in our living room, in absolute agony. My waters break with that contraction and it’s just total panic, especially because I know another one is coming soon.
“My waters!!! My waaaaters!!!” I scream and moan, almost in and out of consciousness. I manage to start taking off my leggings and scream “Call an ambulaaaaance!!”
I have never seen my husband so stressed before. On the phone to 999, panicking and agitated, running from one room to another, then to me, trying to take instructions from the operator, trying to find towels… until he sees what looks like the baby’s head coming out.
“Something’s coming out!! She’s coming!! I can’t stop pushiiiiiiing!!” I scream.
I’m still standing up and leaning against the coffee table with my leggings half way down… and literally a few seconds after my waters broke, another very powerful contraction comes. I begin to realise what’s really going on…
This is it. This is the birth, and there’s no way to stop it.
Rom throws the phone on the floor and runs towards me, grabs the baby’s head as she descends and I simultaneously grab her by the leg. I think at that point we’re both holding her for a split second and I immediately place her on my chest, under my dress to keep her warm. It might be worth mentioning that Rom and I have a slightly different recollection of what happened at that exact moment (i.e. who grabbed the baby first!) It’s hard to remember exactly how it happened because it was all a blur! But regardless, it was such a great moment, and being able to do skin to skin straight away was amazing.
Maëlys – that’s her name – lets out two screams, letting us know she’s alive and well. She’s pink, she’s breathing, she’s moving. A cute little head full of hair. She looks perfectly healthy, her eyes are wide open and she’s just looking around. Thank you Jesus – what a relief!
It’s 12:18pm, everything is so surreal, it feels like a dream. I deliver the placenta a few seconds later. It all happens so fast, yet so naturally and safely.
“Can you believe it?!!” I say about ten times in complete shock and disbelief. Rom grabs his phone, still shaking and erratic – the 999 operator is still on the line believe it or not, still giving him instructions on how to dry the baby with a clean towel, etc. But my poor husband is still anxious…
“Why isn’t she crying like in the movies?!” he asks, genuinely worried.
“She’s fine!” I say. “Can’t you see she’s breathing and looking around?”
The paramedic arrives about 7 minutes after the birth. He checks her heart, temperature, lets me cut the cord (Rom was still too shaken to do it!). He confirms we have a healthy baby girl and encourages me to breastfeed straight away. Maëlys latches on like a pro.
About 45 minutes later, we’re taken to Queen Elizabeth hospital by ambulance, where Maëlys and I receive the rest of our care and spend the night. We were discharged the following day with no complications whatsoever.
How did this happen so quickly? How did everything go from 0 to 10 in less than an hour? I think I know why. Aside from the fact that this is my third baby (and with thirds, things happen either very quickly or very slowly…) women’s bodies are also very powerful. The body usually knows what to do when the time comes, and everything is engineered to deliver that baby. And I believe this is just as true for vaginal births as it is for cesarean sections. Our organs and muscles just work together to make it all happen and the body just learns to deal with it.
How my body went from “Not even in labour yet” to “The baby’s coming out!” in less than an hour, I don’t know.
This whole experience has been such an eye opener as well for me because I’m someone who’s never been comfortable with the idea of home births, let alone unassisted births. So the fact that I’ve gone through exactly that is quite interesting and something I have to reconcile with my mind.
I also think it’s important for me to clarify that I have absolutely no regrets, and no resentment whatsoever towards the midwife who didn’t give me a room/bed straight away when I went in with strong contractions. No one could have guessed what was going to happen, and how quickly it was going to happen. And she did give me two options, one of which was to stay on hospital grounds.
Could I have stayed in the hospital? – Yes. But the midwife seemed to imply that I still had a few hours to go. What was I to do? spend ‘hours’ agonising in the hospital canteen? My decision to go home when I did was all part of my daughter’s story of how she made her grand entrance into this world. I’m glad I’ll have a beautiful tale to tell her and my future grandchildren. Besides the birth itself was easy compared to what I’ve experienced previously, despite having no pain relief whatsoever, not even gas and air… it all went brilliantly. I have zero complaints.
And as for our living room, in case you’re wondering – yes we did have a complete chemical clean of the area where I gave birth! it’s as if nothing has happened there – when in fact, our biggest miracle and most surreal experience took place right there, in the room where we gather everyday as a family. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
More photos of our baby girl on my Instagram