My (Second) Birth Story: Jo

I KNOW what you’re thinking… about ruddy time! Well, yes, Wilf is now eighteen months old but better late than never, no?
I’ve written about life since he arrived; how things have been with two in tow. I wrote about my preparations for a positive birth experience and a guide to Home Birth, and lots of fourth trimester stuff, but not about his actual arrival. Here’s how things turned out…

At 41+3, I saw my midwife and geared myself up to fight to continue with my planned homebirth – the ‘cut off’ for homebirths in our trust is 41+5, when they advise being in hospital (though cannot refuse to attend a homebirth). Happily, rather than having to argue my point and talk about my rights, I was grateful to hear her say not to worry – I was an excellent candidate for homebirth. I promised I’d go straight to the labour ward should I feel any change in baby’s movements, as I had done a few weeks previously, when I’d felt reduced movement. We also had a chuckle as she mentioned a ‘stretch and sweep’ – she knew what my response would be, but I understood that she had a box to tick, so had to ask the question. Some of you may remember a ranty post I wrote at 41 weeks, about due dates and interventions. If not, you can read it here).

By this stage, the birthing pool in our room, up since 37w, was being used as a bouncy castle by Primrose – the only thing stopping the dust settling on it! That said, there was a film company filming where we live for the week of Wilf’s EDD and security was tight – I’m glad that the midwives didn’t have to battle to get in!  I was grateful that it was the school holidays, as chasing around after her was tricky, and painful – my pelvis and hips were sore, and I learned that relaxin, present in your during pregnancy only disappears four months after one stops breastfeeding. As I’d continued to feed until four months pregnant, my ligaments had had no time to unsoften before being hit by the relaxin for this pregnancy. I felt like a painful and wobbly jelly!

I started to feel the familiar surges of early labour at 1800h at 41+4. By 2245h, they were two in every ten minutes and, given the speed of Primrose’s birth, we’d been advised to call the labour ward at this point. The torrential rain outside meant that Kim, first midwife on call would take a while to reach us, so it was Becca, second on call, who came to us first, arriving at 2315h. Kim arrived at midnight and I was able to get into the pool shortly after, having declined an examination.That set the scene for the next few hours, as everything I’d written in my birth preferences was honoured – I felt completely in control and supported by these ladies. This was fortunate as Primrose had woken up when Becca arrived and Phil was MIA for 3/4 of my labour!

By 0050h, my surges were four every ten minutes, and increasing in intensity. They remained manageable, though, and Becca gave me *the* best back rubs with each one. The atmosphere was perfect for feeling calm and relaxed – dark, with some fairy light and candles, my hypnobirthing music playing on a loop, and a bottle of gin up on the shelf, next to the bunting made by my lovely girlfriends during my ‘Mother Blessing‘. I also had the necklace they made me hanging close by, and they all knew I was in labour, meaning they could cut the bracelets they’d been wearing since the gathering. We chatted about gin and holidays, ate jelly babies and they made coffee and toast. Although I’d rather have had Phil there too, there was something to be said about being surrounded by women – physically and spiritually – which meant I didn’t worry at not having him with me. Primrose waking like that, and refusing to go back to sleep was/is very unusual, so we knew she must be able to sense that something was going on. Her need was greater than mine at this point, and it was lovely for Phil to be able to reassure her.

For the next few hours, surges followed this four in ten pattern. I got a little frustrated at one point, for no reason other than this labour was taking longer than Primrose’s (very fast) labour. After (gently) reminding me I’d been in active labour for only a few hours (we laughed about my impatience afterwards), Kim predicted that this was due to the fact my waters hadn’t broken yet. I asked if she thought I should let her rupture them, which went completely against my birth plan. Knowing this, and knowing also that baby and I were safe, she suggested letting nature take its course. She thought they were providing baby with a nice cushion and, once they went, out he’d pop. She wasn’t wrong…

Somewhere around 0315h, Wilf’s heart rate sped up and I got out of the pool. Whilst we realised it was due to the temperature of the water being a little warm, and it quickly went back to a healthy speed, Becca and Kim asked if I would mind staying ‘on dry land’ whilst they kept an eye (or ear) on things. Whilst I would have rather stayed in water, it wasn’t as uncomfortable as I’d imagined and I was happy to remain out of the water. An ambulance remained on standby outside and, shortly afterwards, at around 0345h, Phil finally made it out of Primrose’s room and could help me stagger up to the bathroom for a wee. I cannot tell you how difficult it was getting back down the stairs, feeling like his head was already born and having a huge surge halfway down. I resumed my super-dignified position on our bed (on all fours, bum in the air) and decided I’d quite like a bit of the ol’ gas and air, thank you very much. After being taught how to use it properly, it did take the edge off the intensity of each surge, and gave me a focus for my breathing as I approached the ‘I can’t do this’ transitional phase, meaning baby was almost ready to be born. Sure enough, my waters broke spontaneously at 0407h, though they were filled with a huge amount of meconium. Wilf followed eight minutes later, after his pudgy shoulder had got a bit stuck, meaning Kim had needed to hook her finger in, in order to free it. He gave a cry and was placed on me straight away.

Given the amount of meconium in his waters, we needed to transfer to the labour ward. I also had a second degree tear that needed suturing. I lay on our bed with Wilf as Phil and the midwives gathered up the things we would need and tidied up some of the ‘Birth Carnage’: sheets, pads and bodily fluids. I was a bit gutted that we couldn’t stay here, in our little bubble of home, but needs must, so off I went with Becca, into the bright lights of the ambulance, and Phil followed behind with Primrose – she may as well have just stayed up rather than him getting her back to sleep! When we arrived at the hospital and the doors of the ambulance opened, the first thing I saw was two people sat smoking right outside the labour ward. Both Becca and the two lovely paramedics asked them to stop, and reminded them that it was a non-smoking site, but they didn’t care. I tried not to feel angry but the selfishness of some people is staggering. Once inside, Wilf was weighed as I was stitched. I remember hearing Kim say to Phil that the scales needed recalibrating – he couldn’t possibly be that heavy. But they weren’t wrong; he was 9lbs 14oz. And this was after his first poo! Shortly afterwards, we called him ‘The Tubby Bubby’ and that was it – Primrose heard us say it, and so it became his nickname for a long time

After a shower and change of clothes, we were moved up to the maternity ward; a place I hadn’t previously experienced and somewhere so out of keeping with the joy of having a newborn. Wilf needed a six checks on his breathing – once every two hours – to check no meconium had been aspirated. Given that Primrose was functioning on very little sleep, Phil needed to take her for a drive-snooze, and I found myself feeling completely alone in a place where I should have felt anything but. I had been trying to feed Wilf since we’d arrived at hospital and was convinced he was tongue tied. When his newborn checks were carried out, I mentioned my suspicions to the midwife. She was dismissive and non-committal and, only when I said quite forcefully that I was 99.9% certain, from the way he was latching, that he had a tie, that she conceded that he ‘might have a minor one’. When we eventually arrived home that evening, whilst Phil finished tidying up the birthing pool and got the towels and sheets washed, I contacted Suzanne Barber at BabytoBreastLtd. Fortunately, we were able to visit her the next day, when a fairly substantial tie was divided, and breastfeeding became instantly easier. We are still nursing now, 18 months on.

The next week was a babymoon bubble – no guests and lots of bonding. Phil had to whizz my placenta up the motorway to my lovely friend Jade at The Village Midwives, so she could encapsulate it but, otherwise, all was calm. The second week, too, was quiet and only grandparents visited. I felt SO much better, physically and emotionally the second time around – easier feeding, better preparation and realistic (low) expectations all helped. I wrote this after four weeks, and this at the end of the fourth trimester. Of course, despite all our preparations for her, there were times when Primrose struggled to adjust. You can read about that here, and this post was a quick piece about the things I found really useful with a toddler and a newborn.

And there we have it. Feel free to ask anything about home birth, tongue ties, or anything else you’d like to know more about.

Jo, The Mother Side x

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