11th April, our due date, I felt great and was therefore convinced I was in for a long overdue waiting game, I went for a lovely swim in the morning and a walk around the lakes near our house in the afternoon. Then at about 4pm I sat in the garden in the sun reading a book about breastfeeding with Molly, our cat, next to me and I remember feeling an overwhelming feeling of contentment. Quite poignantly it was always that spot in the garden that I used to picture when in hypnobirthing we had to imagine our place of calm. I used to imagine being sat there with the sun warm on my skin and the sound of the birds tweeting. At that moment I thought to myself ‘ok baby, I am ready for you now’. She (not that I knew she was a she at the time) obviously got the message as when I next went in to use the loo I had my first ‘show’. I didn’t want to get too excited as I had no other signs and a quick Google told me that can happen weeks before a baby arrives so I didn’t tell my husband. He went off to the pub that evening (just down the road and he was limited to one beer just in case!) and I had a bounce on the birthing ball, a relaxing lavender and clary sage bath while listening to my positive affirmations, still felt nothing and went off to bed at 10pm!
At 2am I woke up having surges (contractions for anyone not familiar with hypnobirthing lingo). Wanting to be sure they were not just braxton hicks I lay for about an hour in the dark expecting them to ease off. They were regular and strong and I just knew this was it so I woke up my husband who sprung into action.
We put on my ‘Happy Birthing’ play list, I had two, one of upbeat songs to lift the mood, and one of relaxing songs, both play lists consisted of lots of songs from our wedding, my sister’s wedding, songs my Dad used to play, the sort of songs that take you back to a happy memory when you hear them. I sat on the birthing ball while my husband added the last minute bits to the hospital bag, got himself showered and ready and made us some toast.
By about 4am my surges were getting more intense so we ran a warm bath with Clary Sage and Lavender and I spent the next 2 hours or so in the bath listening to a mixture of my ‘relaxing birth’ play list, the relaxation tracks and positive affirmations from hypnobirthing, and using all of the breathing techniques to help me through the surges.
At about 6am I got out of the bath because I didn’t feel that things were changing, and if anything my surges had eased off a bit. At this point we rang the hospital just to let them know that I was in labour and to see if the water birth room in the Mulberry birthing centre was free, because it was on my mind that it was something I so desperately wanted. They reassured me it was and that they didn’t have anyone else on the radar to use it any time soon.
My surges then really ramped up again and felt harder to breath through, making me realise how much the water of the bath had been helping. I sat on the ball and leant forward on to my husband every time I had one. When I needed to move about we had a little slow dance. I cried, partly because of some nerves creeping in, but mainly because I found it so emotional and beautiful and couldn’t believe I was close to meeting my baby! At one point I tried to get comfy laying down on the bed and Molly cat came and lay with me. It was such a sweet moment and in my emotional state it felt like my little friend knew I needed her. Laying down was not very comfy so I quickly went back to rocking on the ball.
By 7am the app we were using to time the surges told us it was time to go to the hospital. I think they were about every 3 minutes and lasting about 40 seconds. We called and said we felt we needed to come in, the midwife replied with ‘Ok, come on in and we will check you out, but be aware that first labours are usually quite long so there is a good chance we might send you home’. The surges were regular and strong so I hoped that it was just my hypnobirthing calm disguising how progressed I was and that we wouldn’t get sent back. Before we left we called the builders and told them they should come to the house and crack on, I was determined I would not bring my baby home to a house with no working kitchen!
I found the car journey one of the most uncomfortable parts because of not being able to move around, but we had the relaxing play list on and I put on an eye mask and breathed in lavender from a muslin cloth to help try and keep me in the calm zone. I must have looked totally crazy to anyone passing!
From the car park to the Mulberry suite I think I had to stop and lean against a wall to focus on breathing through a surge about 6 times. One of the times in the main reception which, in hindsight, is slightly embarrassing but at the time I was just completely in my bubble and wasn’t aware at all.
As we reached the ward the smiley midwife who greeted me, to my great relief, took one look at me and promptly told the student midwife to get the pool ready. I was taken to one of the lovely private rooms, and I felt instant relief at the fact that it didn’t look like a hospital, it wasn’t clinical and had a big double bed, ensuite, birthing ball and lots of space. I chose to accept an examination and the midwife said ‘wow, well done you, you are 7cm dilated, let’s get you in the pool’. I cried with relief. Being my first baby I had no idea how it was going to feel, so knowing I had made it to that point already with no pain relief and was now close to meeting my baby made me sure I could do it. My husband had been told by a friend to wear shorts because it was so hot on the wards, but he made the bad decision to wear jeans and boots to the hospital with the intention of changing when we were there. Unfortunately he didn’t get time for that, and so he spent two hours lent over a hot birthing pool sweating, bad decision!
Very soon after I got into the pool my surges changed and were accompanied by the intense pressure of my body pushing her out. The first couple of surges like this scared me slightly because it was an involuntary thing, like when you are being sick and wretch and it scared me that I wasn’t in control of the pushes and that I suddenly realised it was time to have a baby and I didn’t have any pain relief. I asked about gas and air but just as she was about to start explaining it I had another, her head crowned, and I just sort of forgot about it. I drew to mind some of the most relevant positive affirmations ‘My surges cannot be stronger than me, because they are me’ and ‘Every surge brings me one step closer to meeting my baby’ and because we had learnt about transitioning in the hypnobirthing classes I knew what this change and the sudden fear and doubt was and it helped me to rationalise and refocus. The visualisation technique of going to my place of calm and picturing the moment I was handed my baby were keeping me going. All the time I was in the pool I had on our ‘relaxing birth’ playlist. This was lovely as the songs made it feel so special and emotional. I had been listening to the same playlist for weeks while having my relaxing baths at home so it was just another way to help me do all the visualisation and breathing I had been practicing. It sounds a little odd, but during this time, and the whole of my labour I felt like superwoman. I felt strong and amazing, and totally empowered!
Our midwife was by the side of the pool the whole time and was regularly checking what was going on with a mirror and reassuring me that I was doing amazingly, but she was just the right amount of involved and for the most part I was unaware she was there and felt like the pool and Thom by the side was my little safe haven. Once her head was nearly out they realised that my waters hadn’t broken and so she was coming out inside her amniotic sack and as this is quite rare she called in another midwife in to have a look, it was the first time the student midwife had seen it! This is a symbol of good luck apparently, so our little Pops was special from the start.
At 10.46am I felt the final push and our little baby in a bubble came into the world and was lifted towards me. Ellie Goldings song ‘How long will I love you’ was playing on our playlist, and I could not have picked a song more fitting. The first feeling as I held her was utter relief, I remember saying ‘Oh my god, I have done it’. Then I looked down and saw that little face, a perfect face with the most gorgeous dark hair and two little hands entwined in a prayer position. I thought I looked down and saw boy bits (think it was just the cord) and so I said ‘It’s a boy’ to which my husband turned to the midwife and said ‘have I got it wrong?’ she assured him he hadn’t and I learnt that I had a little girl. My tears went up a notch as I wept ‘I have a daughter, I have a daughter’. I hope I never forget how that moment felt, I have never felt joy, love or relief like it.
A little pink knitted hat was popped on her head, I sat up slightly out of the water and she was wrapped in a towel against me. Thom and the midwife helped me out of the pool and over to a big beanbag bed that they have in the room. We delayed cord clamping and I remember the feeling off standing up with the cord still coming from between my legs feeling very strange! The placenta was taking a little while but, just as she was about to give me the injection to help it along, it came out. The warm gush felt so strange, but I didn’t find it painful. The placenta was delivered and as nobody was waiting for the room the midwife said she would give us some time. We sat in that room on the beanbag for about an hour. We pretty much immediately decided that she perfectly suited the name that we had discussed for her, Poppy Emilia Reynolds. So Poppy stayed wrapped up with me and had her first feed while we called our parents. We didn’t tell anyone I was in labour as it was so early in the morning, so it was the most amazing surprise to be able to tell them they had a granddaughter.
We were then taken back into the first room I had been in, again we were so lucky that the Mulberry suite was so quiet that day so we were able to stay in the privacy of that room. I then had internal checks that have to be done post birth, that was a little uncomfortable and it was decided that I needed a couple of stitches. After having the injections to numb things I couldn’t feel them doing the stitches at all. It was something I had been scared about when I thought about birth but with Poppy in my arms and Thom feeding me Jaffa cake after Jaffa cake (I suddenly realised I was absolutely starving) it didn’t seem so bad.
The rest of the day we were able to just relax together in the private room. The midwife, Fran, kept popping back in to check we were ok and see that Poppy had managed some more feeds, which thankfully she had. Both sets of grandparents popped in, but nobody got cuddles that first day as she stayed skin to skin in my top where she belonged. At about 1.30 I finally gave her over to be weighed (7lbs 14) and checked, and of course for Daddy to get his very special first cuddle and put on her first nappy! When I handed her over and got up to go to the loo it was the weirdest feeling. I had been so used to my big hard bump and all of a sudden it was gone! When I stood up I felt a bit weak and like every muscle in my body had been through a really hard workout! I also wasn’t expecting the amount of blood that came out, the big M&S stretchy knickers and the maternity pads really are necessary! At about 5pm the midwife said she felt happy that I could go home if I felt happy to, which I did. So after some final checks, and less than 12 hours after arriving we arrived, we were setting off home. Putting our little dinky dot in her car seat made her look so tiny.
At 8pm that evening we arrived home with our brand new baby!