A second baby and a second birth story to prepare that will probably be less daunting than going into this giving birth malarkey blind. But there are still plenty of worries which will naturally take over regardless of being an old hand. As mothers, I’m sure that most of us find our default setting is now set to ‘worry’ so it will come as no surprise to find all the concerns of old are now mingling with fresh. Never before thought of complicities like "will I have enough love for two?" and "is there enough time in 9 months to get everything ready when I already have a baby to look after?"
The answer to both of these questions is a resounding yes! Somehow the love just multiplies without us even having to think. With not even a hint of having to share it out. And just as sure as day and night, the baby will arrive and you’ll be ready because things just have a way of working out in the wash... Aside from newborn baby poo of course, that stain’s the devil!
With very little time to consider a pregnancy or indulge in the nuances of it, this will be a birth story as far removed from the first as could be and yet it still has the same end result, a beautiful and life-changing love that can’t be rivalled.
does anyone smell wee wee?
We decided to try for a second baby in one month and in the next, we found out that he was on his way. I was bowled over by how quickly that happened and the rest of my pregnancy seemed to charge at the same breakneck speed it had begun! All of a sudden, without paying much attention, I was 39 weeks pregnant, home from a swim with my toddler and sat on the sofa trying very hard to take a break. Not easy with a newly turned 2-year-old and a bump screaming LET ME OUT – and then I wet myself.
Not just a little trickle as I was fairly used to with a baby pushing down on my bladder with his every move. But a full-on, humungous wee, all over my red sofa! Which was thankfully leather and wipe clean. And then I considered this turn of events… I’d been swimming and on the move, I hadn’t felt like I’d needed a wee and yet all of a sudden... as if with a gush I was soaked... Could this possibly be?! I mean I wasn’t sure because with my first baby, Florence, my waters didn’t break until they came out with her but after a while and being unable to identify any hint of ‘wee wee’ smell about it. I decided that my waters had well and truly broken!
your waters breaking doesn't mean baby's coming!
I got into a bit of a tizzy at that point because despite having an incredibly long labour with my daughter, I was absolutely convinced that if your waters went it meant the baby was looming. I phoned my cousin and put her on standby for toddler duty. I called the husband home from work. And asked the midwife (I was aiming for a home birth with round two, having been pipped at the final post first time round) if she would come out and examine me. Examine me she did and thankfully in quick enough time for me to ring everyone again and tell them to not quite hold the phone just yet. I wasn’t dilated, not even a tiny bit, and contractions hadn’t started either so she left me be and told me to call her when the pain began.
I sat and twiddled my thumbs for a bit and then my friend Joanne knocked at the door wanting to take Florence out and give me a break... I was a bit baffled by that and then I remembered... In between my frantic phone calls and the midwife telling me that I had a long way to go just yet, I’d updated my Facebook status with ‘In labour’
giving birth, it’s a quicker second time around, isn’t it?!
They said labours progressed much quicker second time around so with the water going I’d considered that a positive nod in the right direction but so far it had been hours and hours yet nothing at all had kicked off. Little did I know that hours later I’d be in exactly the same position and my midwives would be begging me to "pop to hospital for a trace!" There’s never any ‘popping’ anywhere when it comes to labour and hospitals and having had to fight my way out on New Year’s Day with a newborn Florence I absolutely didn’t want to end up in that position again. But they convinced me I must go, that it would be bad for the baby if I didn’t and assured me that I would be allowed to come out again and labour at home if all was well.
All was well thankfully and aside from having lost the fluid, there was absolutely diddly squat going on so when a trace revealed the baby to be happy and dandy I just wanted out of there. I agreed to a sweep and said I’d be back again the next day if nothing had happened. I simply couldn’t wait to get home – for my girl of course. But also, if for nothing else, because my husband Jonny had taken it upon himself to try the gas and air! In a "making sure it was working" capacity, of course. But, and in his ‘foggy’ state, whilst using the toilet he managed to pull the emergency cord in place of the flush! Oh the shame!
After a first labour which had lasted 96 hours I was beginning to lose hope for anything quicker this time round but then these babies do like to keep us on our toes don’t they?!
It was beginning to look like my second birth would take as long as the first and hopes of home birth were rapidly disappearing... Along with the patience of the nursing staff dealing with husbands of expectant mums who pulled emergency cords by mistake! We’d escaped the hospital to progress at home the night before but how long would we manage to stay there?
breaking out of hospital ain’t easy…
In typical me fashion, I was back at the hospital 24 hours later with not much change other than my mood. The sweep had done nothing and they wanted to check the baby again but what they didn’t tell me was that they were ready with their fight gloves on to keep me in. However, they didn’t bank on the ferocity of my home birth midwife who came to the hospital and literally broke me out after arguing quite forcibly with the consultant! I’d had a series of tests to see if I had any infections and the baby was monitored before finally I was allowed to sign a document promising to be back in the morning if there was no progress! Leaving hospital felt like a scene from Rocky. Only with fewer steps (my big ole pregnant self wouldn’t have managed them) and a tinkly musak as the hospital lift soundtrack which wasn’t quite as good as the films!
I knew this was it. It was home birth make or break and I so hated being in hospital that I set my mind to the power of positive thinking and drummed up every warrior chant inside of myself. By evening I was progressing... I’d had a slight set back where my dilation had actually gone backwards (even though the midwife said that NEVER happens – only me) but somehow had got back on track and my contractions were a coming.
the baby's coming, wait, is the baby coming?
Oh yeah... That pain I recognised and it was like a switch that I knew exactly what they meant! Funny how our minds turn the memory off but when you’re back in it it’s as if you never walked away from this point and my body, though still slow, was in the full swing! Or at least it felt that way to me and I begged the midwife for gas and air. I knew it was in the house and I couldn’t wait to get my mitts on it; "Are you sure you’re going to be ok Ruth, really this is just the beginning and you can’t have anything stronger than this at home, if you need it now will you cope?" I growled that I was sure and kicked into those bad boy canisters with greed!
I laboured slowly all night and as the sun came up while I swayed INSIDE the bay window, which incidentally looked straight out onto the pavement, an early rising dog walker caught my eye and I saw panic flash over his face as he went a bit green. It’s funny what you remember and what you don’t. But his reaction to my half-naked, swaying like a hippy, gas and air clutching self was enough to make me laugh and forget the pain I was in. At some point my cousin arrived, Florence and Jonny both got up and while my cousin entertained Florence in another room Jonny busied himself by making cups of teas and in the process generally irritating me. I don’t think men mean to, I actually think they try very hard, but somehow he could do nothing right and I was really quite unpleasant to him despite the fact it was in front of two lovely midwives – goodness knows what they thought of me!
and then everything got a touch scary for a moment…
The second midwife’s face suddenly changed at about 9am and all the joking and jousting banter stopped. Everything stopped at that point in fact and the room became seriously scary. "You’ve been in active labour for too long and the baby isn’t coming, he’s back to back Ruth and I’ve only just been able to discover this by examination. This is very serious now so are you listening?"
"You HAVE to get this baby out in the next few pushes. It’s too late to go to hospital and he HAS to come. Stand up, let gravity help, and push when I tell you to as hard as you can for as long as you can. Understand?
I stood up and Jonny, who had previously expressed an interest in remaining as far away from the business end as possible, shying away from the thought of even cutting the cord, now found himself between my legs ready to catch this baby who was stuck and facing the wrong way round.
I pushed when I was told and it was hard. I pushed harder, and harder and some kind of superpower must have taken over me because in a one track mind I was getting that baby out. And all of a sudden and after what seemed like days of me telling myself I could do it, I actually did it. Oh, the relief! He flew out at the end and Jonny caught the baby in his arms.
Then he dropped him!
A chorus of voices in the room shouted in unison to me "DON’T SIT DOWN" and the baby was scooped up and passed through my legs as I fell backwards onto that red leather sofa of mine, the same one which I hadn’t wet myself on 48 hours earlier!
Jimmy Buster Bumblebee was born at 9.17am with a bit of smarting, tearing and a LOT of gas and air, but he was perfect! I held that beautiful boy in one arm and clutched hold of the gas and air for a tiny bit longer... It was immense but I said immediately, "I’d do it all again!"
Ruth Davies Knowles, writer and actress.