Here's a birth story... Going into your first labour, no matter how well equipped with hypnobirthing gems and antenatal fodder, is a flipping scary experience. You may have watched every single episode of One Born and read a stack of pregnancy manuals but when you’ve not experienced labour for yourself yet, the anxiety of what’s to come can be pretty frightening - but it’s true what they say, relax and follow the lead that your body takes because one thing’s for sure, you won’t be the only person in the history of the world to remain pregnant forever!
That baby is coming out one way or another and when it does you’ll have just signed a lifelong membership deal with the best club in the world! It might be the birth of your new little babe but it is also the rebirth of you yourself; a new person will emerge after you’ve been to battle and brought home the trophy of your first born baby and this birth story, the one you will now be the proud owner of, will be one you will tell with glory for the rest of your life.
Beautiful, magical, amazing and wondrous... Also blooming hard work! But the beginning of everything really and absolutely, the best thing you ever did!
christmas time and labour began... babies come pretty quickly on TV, right?!
I was 39 weeks pregnant with my first and had managed to push myself through Christmas day with only a few pretend labour pains during lunch (had to get my kicks from somewhere while the rest of my fam plunged into the fizz like it was going out of fashion) and on the day we were due to go home from my parents to our flat in London it all started. I woke up at 2am on the 28th December with a show (pretty grim) and immediately hit the Norfolk and Norwich hospital expecting the baby to be out within a couple of hours! That’s what happens on TV, right? Waters break (technically mine hadn’t but, you know, blood is thicker than water and all that) and then the pushing begins some advert break later...
Only the hospital staff smirked at me as I de-robed and started to unpack like I was here for an extended holiday and they sent me back off to my Mum’s with my tail (and the baby) very firmly between my legs. And what happened next, aside from the many phone calls and texts asking "is there any news yet" was absolutely nothing. No pain. No waters and no baby in the foreseeable. So we waited and ate food and I napped here and there and then after 24 hours, everything ramped up a gear. Now when I say ramped I mean I was getting some pain. Discomfort really I should say and nothing with any regularity but my husband bundled (rolled to be accurate – this was a heavily pregnant me after a week-long binge on Christmas food) me into the car and off we went to the N&N for another assessment.
As we sat in the car park listening to Alicia Keys sing New York on the radio (this was the end of 2009), I touched his arm as I looked at the starry night sky filled with the beginnings of snowfall and said "This is probably the last time we will be in the car just us, next time we’re here and we’ll have a baby with us – you did bring the car seat right?"
Wrong on both counts as it turns out. There was no need for him to dash back to my Mum’s for the seat for within the hour that’s where we both were. Waiting. Again.
again, no waters. no baby.
the m25, a blizzard and a baby... maybe?
By the afternoon I’d made a very clear if irrational decision (occupational hazard of a woman in her 9th month of pregnancy) that we were to drive back to London and attempt the home birth I’d longed for. Yes, even though it was snowing (pretty heavily at this point) and even though I was now experiencing what I think we can safely call contractions albeit ones which only came once an hour. My husband Jonny did as he was bid and packed the car up (WITH the baby car seat in the back) before driving us along the M25 slower than a snail with narcolepsy. I was convinced the baby was coming and my local home birth midwife came out to examine me bringing all her gear with her. The gas and air canisters, the medical bag, scales, torches (torches seem to be a thing when you’re having a home birth and everyone needs one – I’m still unclear as to why?) and then, an hour later, as she and all her gear traipsed out of my flat and back into her car, we were left waiting once more.
once more, no waters. no baby.
30th December and I woke up after spending the night in constant pain. Ok, maybe not constant but at least once every couple of hours and yet despite many phone calls to the midwife, SHE didn’t think it was necessary to come out AGAIN! I was in total disagreement so eventually, we landed on that she would come to me late afternoon. Hmmm... Until then I was to walk and eat. To get things moving and to build up my energy. I think she might have even suggested taking a trip onto the glass floor of the rudie dance. I laughed at this and thankfully Jonny looked just as horrified!
In the afternoon she presented what seemed to be a giant needle and attempted to break my water. It didn’t work so she gave me a sweep. I always think the word sweep suggests romance and gentleness, he swept me off my feet for instance. This. Did. Not. The antithesis of gentle romance and the contractions were coming a little more together.
Nothing too earth shattering but on the move for sure... Here we go I thought, and then, by bedtime... We were back to no progress.
still, no waters. no baby!
At 39 weeks gestation and 102 years into labour I was beginning to wonder if there would ever be any waters bursting (as seems to happen on tv) and if, indeed, there would ever be a baby! Sweeps, hospital dashes and even giant needles hadn’t managed to convince my little babe to make an appearance so we wondered if a New Year’s Eve party might just coax her out instead...
let’s have a party... that'll be a birth story!
Morning broke on New Year’s Eve and I had resigned myself to nothing happening by this point. "Get on the blower and tell everyone to come round for a party tonight!" I commanded my husband Jonny. We’d vaguely talked over Christmas about having his sister and our neighbours in for midnight celebrations to ring in 2010 but with my labour beginning I’d abandoned such plans, expecting instead to be cradling our babe and watching the fireworks on the tele.
HOURS later with no more contractions and not having been able to get through to the guests who were already en route for the party of the year, I reluctantly agreed it was time to go into hospital for a trace leaving behind a key under the doormat for our party pals to gain entry and entertain themselves with our M&S mini foods.
We got to hospital and still with no water and no baby were left for hours to our own devices. Highlights of that time include:
• Jonny asking the nurse if it would go on much longer as he didn’t think he could take much more.
• Jonny asking if he could eat the sandwich the nurses brought in for me.
• Jonny asking me if he could pop to McDonald's.
• Jonny moaning that he had to go up a flight of stairs to get to the toilet.
• Jonny GOING TO SLEEP!
happy new year baby...
Eventually, when the Doctor came to examine me, he said I was already 5cm dilated. That was 3 more than I had been at home and suddenly, for real, with family and friends having a party in our flat and my hungry but well-rested husband clutching my hand, it was all kicking off. Slowly (why change the habit of a lifetime) but surely, at twenty minutes to midnight and through more tremendous pain than I’d ever felt before but bringing with it more elation than I knew possible, out came the baby. WITH the water. Some 96 HOURS after my initial show and she’d arrived!
Florence Mary Ladybird swam out to meet us. In my arms, I held her for the first time while I could hear the bells of the local church ringing in a new year and see from the window the fireworks popping and snow falling softly. A perfect moment that was worth ALL the wait in the world. She had been born and so had I.
A new year, a new life, and a new club!
Ruth Davies Knowles, writer and actress.