It feels as though this post has been a long time coming…mainly because my little boy himself took his sweet time to arrive! And it’s a long post in itself, too, since this labour was another long one just like my first! Ready? Time to settle in…
Like every woman who has ever been pregnant, I felt I was on tenterhooks during the final few weeks of those long 9 months. The pregnancy had felt so different to Ottilie’s- instead of getting 38 weeks and finding out that I had a baby who was breech, as I did with her, Arlo (or as I feel I should refer to him, ‘the baby’, given we didn’t then know his sex!) had been engaged since week 35. The Braxton Hicks were strong and constant, and since I’d gone into labour on my due date with Ottilie, I hoped and expected that perhaps this baby would follow suit with a timely, or even early, arrival.
But my due date came and my due date went, sadly unmarked by the arrival of our baby. I’d had a sweep from my midwife that morning which set off a day of regular tightenings, but they frustratingly tailed off to nothing at bedtime. You can imagine what mood that left this grumpy pregnant lady in!
Wednesday 10th October, 40+5.
The day I went into labour was such a lovely one. It was bright, crisp, and sunny, and at Ottilie’s request we spent the morning in town together, drinking juice and eating pasta in the cafe and watching buses driving up and down the high street. I was looking forward to seeing our lovely midwife later that day, not least because being with the home birth team meant all my antenatal appointments were at home and accompanied by plenty of tea and biscuits!
I had another sweep done at the appointment, and then spent the afternoon stomping round the fields with the dogs and bouncing endlessly on my birth ball. Surges had begun almost immediately following the sweep, and by the time I’d put Ottilie to bed, eaten dinner (Pasta! I carbed up!!), and then bounced on my birth ball for a couple of hours, they were coming every 5-10 minutes and I knew they were the real deal. We set up the room with tea lights, lavender oil misting from my diffuser, dim lighting and gentle music, and at 10pm Jason began to inflate the birth pool and called my Mum to come round so that someone was here for Ottie if things ramped up fast. I felt like Christmas morning had arrived, knowing that our little baby was finally on its way!
As the evening wore on and I got tired, we decided to go to bed to try and get some rest. I learnt during my first labour how exhausting it is to contract for days on end, and having a feeling that I was in for another lengthy one, we decided to strategise! I’ll admit though that I did have a wobble here, convinced that if I were to lay down and rest the surges would die off all together and I’d have wasted everyone’s time. But though that night whilst I slept the surges slowed to every half hour or so, they were still enough to wake me up and required a little breathing and concentration to get through…
Thursday 11th October.
We woke the following morning and while I had breakfast with Ottie and my Mum, Jason got the final few bits ready for Ottilie’s sleepover at Grandma’s house. I paced round the kitchen as the surges began to ramp up again in frequency and intensity, and around mid-morning, once we’d waved goodbye to Ottilie knowing she’d be a sister the next time we saw her, they’d kicked up another notch and I was making full use of the ‘up breathing’ technique and visualisations I learnt on my hypnobirth course.
That day we walked, and walked, and walked! I wanted to try and stay active to bring the baby down, and as we walked through the fields that I’d paced so many times trying to bring the labour on, I reminded myself over and over to welcome each surge with open arms. The mantra ‘Every surge brings me closer to meeting my baby’ went over and over in my head, and I truly was glad each time I could feel one approaching! Which was a positive, as at times whilst we walked they were coming every two minutes and lasting a minute each time! I held tight onto Jason whilst breathing strongly through each surge, rocking my hips back and forth to release the tightness and pressure in my lower belly.
But over the course of the day the surges would increase and decrease in intensity and frequency, even easing off to every 10-15 minutes at times which was so incredibly frustrating! I text my midwife, Heather, asking what to do, and her advice was to rest, not think too much about it, and to call her when things had increased to a level where I knew I needed her there. I wasn’t sure I’d know when that moment was…but she was right!
Friday 12th October.
At around 1am, I knew. I’d been laying on the bed on my side trying to sleep, and the surges had become so strong I was pulling down hard on the bed frame as each one came on. I’d begun to sink into that ‘labour zone’, where time slips past in flashes and you start to retreat inside yourself. Jason phoned Heather, and she was with us just a few surges later.
I remember laying on the bed whilst she monitored a few of my surges, and then said the magic words ‘Do you want to get in the pool?’
The relief from the water was complete and utter bliss. I didn’t realise how heavy my belly felt until the water took the weight of it, and though the surges were getting stronger and stronger at an overwhelming pace by now, it was such a peaceful time during the labour. We had candles burning and classical music playing, I was overjoyed that things were going ‘right’, and between surges we were chatting with Heather and the lovely second midwife about how Jason and I had met and how it was my Grandma who gave us the nudge to be together! It was honestly an wonderful experience, and I was so so happy!
After a couple of hours the surges began to change and I had started to get a strong downwards pressure, and so Heather suggested checking how dilated I was as my body had started to bear down with each surge already. It came as a shock (and slightly devastating for me at that point!!) then to find out I was only 3cm! It was the first sign that things weren’t going exactly to plan.
In order to get some rest and help my body relax and dilate, I had an injection of Meptid (a home birth-friendly version of Pethedine), which strangely didn’t do anything other than intensify my surges massively! As I was laying down in bed they became relentless, every two minutes apart and each one lasting seemingly forever. The pressure in my pelvis was becoming so strong I found it hard to focus on my breathing, and though I didn’t feel like I could push intentionally yet it felt as though the baby was trying to force its way out already! Jason and Heather sat with me on our bedroom floor, and I tried to keep control of my breathing and focus as each surge came and went.
I remember getting up to use the loo, and as I left the bathroom the biggest surge yet hit and I couldn’t stay standing through it. My whole body was bearing down, and Heather told me my baby was on its way! We went back downstairs and I returned to the pool, and I couldn’t help but make loud mooing sounds with the intensity of each surge.
I’m not quite sure how long passed, but it felt as though something changed. Up until this point I’d been welcoming each surge, despite how intense they were, but they suddenly became unbearable. In my mind’s eye they went from intensity to pain, from surge to contraction- I felt as though I could barely think straight with how quickly they’d changed. It was as though my body was simultaneously trying both to push and not push at the same time, and an examination showed I was still only 5cm which didn’t match with what my body was doing.
I think in that moment we all knew that something wasn’t right, and so an ambulance was called. Enduring that bumpy journey with contractions coming every two minutes and no pain relief (gas didn’t work for me at all!) was probably the worst part of my entire labour! I was desperate to keep my hips raised in the air to try and take the pressure of the baby’s head out of my pelvis, but was stuck laid down on my side on the stretcher. I had to just close my eyes tight and get through each contraction one at a time.
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When we arrived in hospital, I had an epidural to try and encourage my body to relax. It was only a small dose so I could still feel all the contractions and never lost any control of my legs, but it was enough to knock the edge off the surges and the most blessed relief of my life!!
Not long after, our midwife started trying to listen to the baby’s heartbeat. As she passed the wand low over my pelvis where I knew it’d been picked up through all of the intermittent monitoring we’d had at home, I remember thinking to myself how faint and slow it sounded.
An emergency buzzer was pressed, and in an instant the room filled with people. The baby’s heart rate had dipped to around 50bpm and wasn’t picking back up, and all of a sudden, less than an hour after I’d been labouring in the comfort and quiet of my home, I was being prepped for a crash Caesarian section under general anaesthetic and Jason was told he wouldn’t be able to be in the room whilst his baby was delivered. I felt totally numb and in shock in that moment, and just had my eyes fixed to the monitor showing the baby’s heartrate praying that it would come back up again.
I’ve never been so relieved in my life as I was when that number started to rise, when I was laying in theatre on the bed. After conducting some tests and an examination that somehow showed, despite all the stress we’d been under I was now fully dilated, the consultant decided that so long as the baby’s heartrate continued to be stable I should try and deliver naturally.
So with no time at all to breathe, I was back in a delivery room and told I was going to be laid flat, would have forceps used to deliver my baby, and since the small initial epidural I’d had had worn off, a big top up was suggested too! In that moment, I felt I took back some control over my birth experience. I politely declined all three of those things, and asked to be given chance to deliver my baby myself. The consultant agreed I could have 10 minutes to push unassisted, but that after that point an instrumental delivery would be needed to get baby out quickly.
And so with forceps threatened, I’ve never worked so hard in my LIFE!
It took every scrap of strength I had, but within ten minutes of starting to push, my baby was out! And a quick peep showed Jason and I that we had a baby boy! He’d been born with the cord around his neck, and so after being put on my chest very briefly was taken outside to be given a puff of oxygen and a check over by a paediatrician, but almost immediately after being taken from the room we heard his wonderfully loud, strong cry, and my baby boy was back in my arms within just a minute of his arrival.
It was heaven, feeling the warmth of his soft pink skin on mine and seeing his little dark eyes blinking away. He looked so much like his sister, and the relief of having him safe in our arms was overwhelming.
Arlo Louis, 9.9lbs, born at 12.27pm on Friday 12th October <3
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And so, despite all the challenges we faced, I’m so proud of what I accomplished with the arrival of our beautiful baby boy. I’ll admit though that I’ve shed a fair few tears over how far from a gentle, intimate home birth it turned out to be, over how scary it was seeing things go wrong so quickly, and over what my body went through in having to deliver such a surprisingly big baby in such a pressured environment. But all in all, I came away from the experience feeling empowered by the strength it took to deliver him, and by the knowledge and ability hypnobirthing gave Jason and I to speak up for ourselves and our choices even in a high-stress environment. And spending the vast majority of the labour at home was absolutely amazing, and an experience I would recommend in a heartbeat.
This last week has been complete heaven- falling in love with our baby boy, seeing Ottilie cuddle her baby brother and watching how he turns his head to the sound of her voice, breastfeeding, evenings spent with a warm little bundle snoozing on my chest, and finding our feet as a family of four.
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Welcome to the world, baby Arlo! We’re so glad you’re here <3