On the morning of the 13th of December I got up as usual and made my mum who was staying with us a cup of tea, asking her how she had slept she mentioned she had had a terrible tummy ache but felt better now. We joked she was getting sympathy contractions for me as she had been getting sympathy nesting instincts all week were I had none. For the past week since my mum had been down we had been doing my pregnancy yoga DVD every day which we had both noted had been making us feel more energetic, we started doing the DVD in the early afternoon and I remember saying it was making me feel a bit sick and sat out some of the exercises.
After the yoga I still felt quite queazy so went to have a lie down, I remember getting up in the evening to watch Studio Ghibli's Castle of Cagliostro but not really enjoying it due to still feeling a bit off. Tom made dinner which I couldn't finish and I decided to call it a night at 10pm. At 12pm I woke up feeling very sick and ended up running to the bathroom to be violently sick for a good half an hour, I returned to bed and started to feel some contraction like pains but ignored them as I had been having Braxton Hicks for the past week or so. At 2am I woke again with some uncomfortable contractions making it impossible to get back to sleep, I suddenly felt sick again and once again spent the next half an hour or so being violently sick.
My mum got up with me and I told her about the contraction type pains, I decided to download a contraction app on my phone in which to time them and we went downstairs as there was no way I could get back to sleep. My mum made me various different drinks in order to keep me hydrated but I found I couldn't stomach any of them I them developed a strong headache I think maybe due lack of water and the strength of the sickness. I used some cooling strips for my head which helped. I was getting contractions every five minutes or so at this point lasting 30 - 45 seconds or so but they were not bothering me. I used my birth ball and just closed my eyes through contractions which made me feel calm, I wouldn't describe them as painful just strong enough to not be able to sleep, at this point I was still convinced it was a false start and was mainly just focusing on getting my headache to go away.
Around 4am (I think?) I told my mum to wake Tom up (I had told him before it was just a false start and to go back to sleep) I still thought it was at this point but think I just wanted him up with us at this point.
I feel the need to mention the tummy bug as this was what started my contractions that put me into labour but do not include this is my labour experience.
I had previously made a play list of my hypnobirth affirmations and music mixed in with some Leonard Cohen/Mamas and Papas and Regina Spektor and decided to start playing it now. I also asked for Tom to set off the aromatherapy oils and during the labour differentiated between Lavender to calm and Clary Sage to speed up contractions.
Tom was put in charge of timing my contractions and at about 6am I called the out of hours midwife to tell her my contractions were 45 seconds and 4-5 mins apart. I was able to speak through my contractions clearly and she informed me that this was the very beginning and it would probably be this evening before anything would happen. She said to call the midwife's when they opened at 9am unless things changed dramatically. I was happy with this as I thought this would probably be the case so wasn't upset by their response. At this point my head was still hurting me but I was able to take down isotonic drinks and no longer felt sick, unfortunately I had ran out of paracetamol the day before so my mum went out to 24 hour Tesco and picked up some more of these supplies. I think at some time around this point I got out the Tens machine not because they were painful as such but mainly as something to do/distract me, I also took two paracetamol. My contractions remained the same for the next few hours and I became convinced they would die down and stop. My mum agreed that being sick would have tensed my stomach muscles into contracting which would have started them off and they could very possibly stop and not progress into labour. At 9am I called the midwifes, I think my headache had gone at this point and I was feeling a lot better.
Funny enough I was supposed to have a midwife appointment at 9.30 that morning so I began the conversation saying 'I'm sorry I'm not going to make the appointment I think I might be in labour, we chatted about how long they were etc and I remember apologising and pausing in our conversation to close my eyes and hum quietly though a contraction. Half way through the conversation I felt a sensation like I had wee'd myself a little and said 'Oh! either I've wee'd myself or my waters have just broken!' My midwife Nikki said she had a few things to clear up at the practise but would pop round in a few hours and see how I was getting on.
After this I felt a lot more positive as my mum was pretty sure my waters had broken too (I kept leaking as such off and on for the next few hours) and this would mean that at some point I was actually going to have a baby! I remember having a sudden energy boost and was happy and chatting knowing things were happening! I think I may have taken the Tens machine off at this point as I felt I wanted a shower and brush my teeth after being so sick.
Nikki arrived around 11am and checked my pads and confirmed my waters had broken. She said I was coping really well through contractions (I was still just using my ball and sort of closing my eyes and humming through them whilst making circular motions on the ball). She said she wasn't going to examine me as if she did and I hadn't progressed by a certain time the hospital would get funny about how long my labour had been and maybe try and get me to come in. I had been expecting her to examine me and tell me how dilated I was so I was a little disappointed at first but when she explained the reason it made perfect sense. She advised to call back if they get a lot longer/quicker or if not to call back around 3.30 anyway to let her know my temperature.
The time between this and calling her back (at 2pm) is sort of a blur, certainly during this time my contractions must have got stronger/faster but I really don't remember them being painful or hard to manage. If I was to describe the sensation it would be sort of annoying more than anything, if I was in an awkward position (for example I sat on a firm hard back chair at one point and this made my back uncomfortable). I know I took a bath at one point but again the position I was in was hurting my back a little so I didn't find it all that helpful. I decided to try the shower instead at some point and this was a great help, my mum gave me a plastic stool and I just sat in there and directed the shower head on my contractions and I could barely feel the sensation. I was even able to nap in there a little, afterwards my mum said she thought I was probably around 5cm at this point (you can tell without examination by the line from your bum apparently).
Going back downstairs my playlist of hypnobirth and calming music drifted in and out of my consciousness and occasionally I would hear things like 'I trust my body' and 'focus on the colour pink' etc mixed in with Leonard Cohen's 'Marianne'
I hadn't eaten anything by this point, I had tried a bite of banana and a bit of toast but both made my sick although this wasn't a violent sort of sick and is quite normal in labour so it wasn't too upsetting. I do remember saying that being sick was my biggest fear, and was worse part so far. Instead I drank lots of isotonic drinks which I was able to keep down and boosted my energy.
At 2pm my contractions were coming on fast and longer (around one and a half minutes and every 30 seconds or so) I called Nikki and she said she would pop by the hospital to pick up the gas and air (which I didn't use in the end)and be over in about an hour. I was still finding the ball a great help, and humming through them with my eyes closed. Still i would not describe the sensation as 'painful' as such, not in the way that falling over or bashing your toe etc more like a intense surge, like a period pain perhaps? I was convinced that I was only barely dilated as was still feeling pretty comfortable (I kept telling Tom & my mum I was sure I would be 2cm so for them not to get their hopes up) because of this I didn't want to get in the pool yet (as it can slow down labour) but instead told Tom to start filling the pool in preparation just in case.
Nikki arrived around 3pm and I had decided to get in the pool about 10 minutes before hand as my contractions had become back to back. I got out the pool to be examined and was shocked to be told I was 9cm! (a few days later Nikki actually told me that by the sound of my voice they assumed I was only 4/5cm and were just as shocked to find I had progressed so far)
At this point I felt pretty excited that it might not be long until he was born and this is another reason I think its good perhaps not to be told how far you are progressing. The previous 'however many' hours had seemingly gone by in a blur, I was unaware of time so it didn't feel like very long at all. But knowing I was so close then made the next two hours seem very long. Unfortunately I had a lip on my cervix which was causing me to not progress any further, I had started to feel 'pushy' shortly after being examined (not sure if this was because I thought I was close or not) and with every push Nikki and my mum would say 'well done!' or 'thats great, your doing brilliantly' which made me think something was happening.
Up until this point I had felt totally calm and relaxed but the frustration of awareness of time made me start to get a little impatient and I remember saying 'you keep saying well done but nothing is happening!' and 'how long do you think it will be??'. I then remember feeling ashamed for being rude and apologising. This point in labour was the first time I started to feel uncomfortable, the sensation of wanting to push was making me feel very primal and I remember making the most embarrassing 'roar' noise. I was holding on to the handles of the pool, roaring and then pushing myself underwater with the strength of the push. It was at this point I began to feel suddenly tired, and said to my mum 'I can do it but I'm just so tired, can I take a break and try again tomorrow?' and Nikki saying 'but you've done so well you done want to start again!' to which I remember saying 'no we'll just pause it here and come back to the same point'.
Still the sensation was not of that of pain but of physical endurance, I would liken it to running a marathon (not that I have done) but in that the act of running is not exhausting but the act of running a great distance over a large amount of time is. Also the fact that the contractions in them self were not painful but the fact they were coming as soon as the last one had finished gives you no time to catch your breath or rest in between. My main memory of this part of labour was leaning against the side of the pool like a boxer leaning against the ropes and my mum squirting water in my mouth and wiping my brow between pushes. I think I even mentioned the comparison between a boxer and myself at the time!
At about 6pm the second midwife Frances turned up, I said hi and then mentioned again that it was taking a very long time to which she replied 'nature takes its time' which struck a cord with me and I decided then to not complain again. It was at this time that Nikki decided to examine me again and see if she could push the last bit of cervix out the way. I got out the pool to be told I was 10cm at last, hurrah! I felt that going back in the pool would continue the cycle of things taking a long time so Tom lent against the wall and I lent into him and I was told to keep pushing! I was still making this funny 'roar' noise for the first few pushes but Frances said that doing this was putting all my energy into the noise and not the push, which made sense. I was told to hold my breath and push into my bum, which was funny as my pregnancy yoga and NCT classes had made a point of telling us to breath into the push not hold our breath and the importance of being upright to let gravity help. Neither of which worked for me in the end!
Because of the two hours I had been pushing in the pool and the encouragement from Nikki and my mum in regards to my progress I was suspicious of their 'yes that's great' 'your doing so well' comments whilst pushing. I assumed they were just being encouraging and that again nothing was actually happening, at some point both midwives put on plastic aprons and Tom saying 'see something is happening Fritha, people don't put on plastic aprons if nothing is happening' I have no idea of time but suddenly my mum said 'do you want to feel the head Fritha?' and then it seemed like one big push and I had a baby! Tom laughs at me when we reminisce about this part as he said I still didn't seem to believe anything was happening and suddenly I had a baby! The final pushes did sting I'm not going to lie but this is the only part I would describe as 'painful' as such but only lasted a few minutes. I ended up getting stitches due to the angle he came out (but they just numb the area and so you cannot feel this part at all).
Wilfryd was born at 7.05pm on the 15th of December weighing 9,02lbs to Leonard Cohen's 'Famous Blue Raincoat' (which I was glad of rather than the plinky plonky hypnobirth music which is a little less cool). He was placed in my arms with me leaning against Tom and we just stared at him listening to his crying being the most amazing sound we had ever heard. He started to nurse straight away and I just stroked his hair and looked at his perfect scrunched up face. This little person I had grown inside me for nine months, writing him letters and feeling his little kicks and punches was here and it was like always had been.
I thought this was the end but clearly I still had to push out the placenta which is the part where things perhaps did not go to plan, I had been pushing for an hour and nothing was happening so Nikki advised I should try the injection to help get it out. I asked her what would happen if I had this injection and it still wasn't coming out to which I was told I would have to go into surgery to remove it but this was very unlikely. I opted for the injection but didn't feel too concerned at this point as I was too engrossed in my baby and anything else seemed a little inconsequential. Still however the placenta wasn't budging, once you have the injection you only have a short amount of time before the cervix closes again and I became aware of the midwives discussing hospital which is when I started to take notice! I knew that this was it and I was going to be dammed if I had to go to hospital now! I also remember looking over to my mum and seeing her looking a little concerned which made me realise this was serious. With a couple of big pushes and what felt like an immense amount of effort it came out just in time and by god it was huge!
I realise I am very lucky to have had such an easy and pleasant birth. I know that things can go wrong and that some people find it very traumatic/painful and I don't attempt to undermine their experiences by saying this but I actually enjoyed childbirth, yes it was hard work, physically exhausting and long but it was amazing. My birth didn't go exactly as planned, for example I didn't have the waterbirth I had hoped for, the tummy bug that put me into labour was unpleasant (but I don't count that part as labour) and had some trouble with delivering the placenta but I am very happy with the way it went. I'm not sure if it was being at home/the hypnobirth/having my mum as well as Tom there/perhaps having a high pain threshold (or a combination of the lot) but felt straight away that I would do it again. I also believe that fear heightens pain and I never once felt fear, exasperation and tiredness yes but never fear I feel empowered after giving birth, I brought a life into this world, after doing that I feel I can do anything.