Three days after Tictac’s* due date, I started having some cramping at about midnight. The cramps came in waves, anywhere between 6 – 15 minutes apart. I decided not to wake my husband because early labour could take days and I didn’t want us both to be sleep deprived. I stuck TENS machine pads on my lower back, ate some left overs and tried to sleep by listening to relaxation and hypnobirthing tracks. When the sun started coming up, I gave up trying to sleep and started rocking on my fitball during contractions and timing them with an iPhone app – they were coming every 5 – 7 minutes, and lasting about 45 seconds. I felt completely normal until another one came. I kept reminding myself to stay in the present and not worry about what was coming next or what had just been.
I’d been listening to various relaxation tracks in the lead up (Marie Mongan’s “Hypnobirthing”, “Natal Hypnotherapy” and a birth preparation one by my sister’s doula) – they tempered my “Tube rage” in the mornings and helped me go to sleep at night. The doula’s tracks were my favourite. I’d been saving her “labour” track for the big day– it started with “So the day has arrived. This is the day your baby will be born. This is now just a surrender process, a deep relaxation process” and ended with “you have my love, my trust and my profound belief in you”. I kept repeating in my head – I can do this. Millions of women have done this. It is a natural process. My body knows what to do.
At about midday, we went for a walk to try to get my contractions to come closer together. We ended up going to ASDA – but left quite quickly because it would be quite embarrassing to give birth there. Just before 3pm, I texted a student midwife who was following my pregnancy that I thought I was in early labour and he responded that this stage could last a while and that paracetemol and a warm bath might help. I followed his advice and after about an hour, I got out of the bath, went to the toilet and saw lots of blood. Slight freak out until I realised it was my “show”, the mucous plug which seals off the cervix.
I kept listening to my relaxation and hypnobirthing tracks on repeat, rocking on my birth ball with my eye mask on, trying to stay in the zone, breathing deeply and relaxing. I tried to eat and drink to keep my energy levels up. I asked my hubby not to make any noise during contractions so that I could concentrate on relaxing. Around 7pm, my contractions were coming every 3 – 5 minutes, and I wanted to know how far along we were – so my hubby called the midwives.
At 8:15pm, our midwife arrived and examined me. My cervix was 6cms dilated (yay!), my waters were intact and Tictac was doing fine. Only 4 cms to go! In the next contraction, I vomitted up my lunch – in hindsight spicy dhal was probably not the best choice. Our midwife said I was far enough along that to go into the birth pool. My hubby had been busy pumping up our “birth pool in a box” in our kitchen and filling it with hot water. I climbed in and felt weightless – floating in the water. The contractions became more intense and closer together. I was on all fours and started groaning during contractions – our midwife asked whether we’d warned the neighbours. We hadn’t. I didn’t care, it felt good to be loud.
At about 9:30pm, I felt like I needed to go to the toilet – the baby’s head was pressing down on my bowels. Our midwife checked me again and said that I could start pushing. Pushing felt good because it was productive. As I was pushing, I could feel a hard thing moving further down inside me with each contraction. Our midwife told me that she could see the head and that I could feel it with my hand. I reached down and felt something hard covered in soft folds of skin – Tictac’s head. Tictac’s head started coming out during contractions and then sliding back in after the contractions finished. Our midwife reassured me the “two steps forward, one step back” was normal and gave my body a chance to stretch. I focussed on meeting our baby – and in one big gush, our little baby girl entered the world at 10:16pm – 7 pounds 2 oz and 55 cms tall. I breastfed her, delivered the placenta naturally and my hubby cut the cord. No stitches needed! It was so relaxing to be at home – a familiar environment, no visiting hours or crying babies (other than our own!) – and amazing to finally meet our daughter Alice.
* We called my bump “Tictac” when I was pregnant because a character in Kaz Cooke’s “Up the Duff” book said that it was crazy that something the size of a tictac inside her was making her feel so tired and sick and she wasn’t allowed to tell anyone.