It never really occurred to me that my baby may come early. I mean, obviously I knew it was a possibility – I knew full well that only 4% of babies arrive on their due date – but for some reason that very loosely guestimated date stuck in my mind as the first likely day things might start to happen. Maybe we were clinging to the fact that first babies are often late, or perhaps it was just denial because our house renovations were due to finish a few days shy of D-Day, but we simply didn’t plan for an early arrival. I was so convinced that baby would take it’s sweet time that I arranged for my maternity to start at the very last minute with just a week of holiday before hand, completely convinced and terrified that I was going to find myself rattling around the house on my own for an age, awaiting the inevitable, with Dan 50 miles away at work. In hindsight, it was bound to happen, because what kind of idiots plan an extension and re-carpeting of the entire house 3 days before an expected birth?? Still, when things actually started moving on the very first day of said leave, at 38 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy, it was a bit of a shock to say the least.
One of the things I worried about while pregnant was how would I know when I went into labour? And almost every time I asked – or heard this asked as it came up a lot during antenatal classes and NCT – the answer was, ‘Oh, you’ll know!’ The thing is though, I just didn’t find this to be true! Things had actually started ‘happening’ a couple of days before. I’d been feeling a little crampy for about 48 hours which I’d put own to Braxton Hicks, but this didn’t register to me as an indicator that things were about to begin. Then on the Sunday afternoon I popped to the loo and stopped in my tracks when I noticed a very slight pink tinge in my underwear. I had done enough obsessive Googling to know this was a sign my cervix was softening and that I may be about to lose my mucus plug (sorry, TMI!) meaning that the end was nigh, but the Internet reliably (ha!) informed me things could still be a couple of weeks yet. Given that Dan was possibly at his peak stressyness with the building works I decided to keep this information to myself for fear that an impending birth might just tip him over the edge, and went to bed that night choc full of nervous energy and anxiety – not a lot of sleep was had, though that had become a new normal for me by this stage.
The next morning things had appeared not to have progressed any further so I assumed I had done my usual and overreacted, vowing to crack on with my day as planned and not give the possibility of giving birth a second thought. The previous Friday had been my last day at work, and as usual, the week had been filled with distractions and surprises meaning I hadn’t actually finished everything I’d planned to, so I spent the day tying up loose ends, replying to emails and generally trying to feel as though I’d properly handed over everything at work. Around lunchtime I took a quick toilet break and this time there was no denying it – the plug had gone. Still, this didn’t need to be something to be concerned about. It could still be a while, right? So I nonchalantly sauntered back into the living room where Dan was also working from home and informed him of this latest development as though passing on a casual update about what we needed to buy from the supermarket or our plans for the weekend. Dan, being the sensible and rational guy that he is, was also of the belief this was not necessarily a major event and we carried on with our day, though I couldn’t help now but quietly ponder every little twinge and movement I felt in my tummy…
At around 5pm I decided to log off despite still having a handful of tasks to complete. I shall do them tomorrow, I thought, as I was full of that twitchy, nervous energy again and was struggling to concentrate. I took the dog for a long walk to try and chill myself out, but I still couldn’t make myself relax. It’s hard to recall now what exactly I was thinking about back then, but I know I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was not in any way prepared for ANYTHING right now, and that I had about a million and one things I should do before the baby came – again, ha! When I got back Dan could see how hard I was finding it to stay calm so suggested I got into the hot tub while he popped to the shops which I did, but not before posting this now hilarious Instagram update:
It was in the tub that I had my first contraction, though I wasn’t aware it was a contraction at the time. I had read plenty of descriptions of what a contraction was supposed to feel like, and none of them were this – a dull, period-pain like ache that lasted a couple of seconds. Again I assumed it was just Braxton Hicks or ligament pains, but I still couldn’t sit still and felt like I should be doing something productive, so I got out and headed for the shower. When I got there I spotted something which really alarmed me – bright red blood in my bathing suit. And there it was again, that achy pain. I also became acutely aware that I couldn’t really remember the last time I felt the baby move – something which hadn’t happened at all throughout the whole of my pregnancy. Somewhere in the back of my head I think I knew this was it, but my brain was still in hyperdrive, so after feeling the pains a few more times in the shower I found myself Googling ‘am I losing my baby’ and other such horrific and unhelpful things while waiting for Dan to return. Unlike me, he was not feeling any kind of worry and duly set me up on the sofa with Phantom of the Opera on the TV and some aromatherapy oils on the go, thinking I had just worked myself up over Braxton Hicks, and set about trying to move furniture out of the house in preparation for the carpeters coming later that week. The pains were coming frequently now, but I still wasn’t convinced they were contractions. I had always expected to feel a sense of movement – a squeezing or tensing or pressure of some kind, but instead all I was feeling was the worst kind of period pain, only now I was sensing a pattern. I started noting them down, and after an hour of complete randomness it became clear that they were now happening every 15 minutes, and I finally accepted the truth – my baby was on it’s way.
Strangely, it was this moment in time that my Mum decided to call. As a family we don’t really chat on the phone, so I remember feeling it odd that she had called, especially when she said she was just checking in to see how my first day of maternity leave had gone. I delivered the news that I thought I may be in labour, thus beginning a very long and sleepless night for her as she paced the floor worrying about me the way my Nana had done 36 years before. Dan had spotted me on the phone so stuck his head in the window to see what was up. It’s time, I told him, and I’m not sure I’ll ever forget the look of both doubt and panic on his face! We called the hospital, who talked through my symptoms and advised they’d talk to me again in an hour and a half to see how things were progressing. From then on things ramped up dramatically! My waters broke, my contractions were now every three minutes and the pain was so intense the only comfortable position I could find was on my knees hunched over the sofa! In what felt like no time at all Dan’s Mum had come to collect the dog, we’d spoken to the hospital again and we were on route to a different hospital a few minutes further away as they were full. Things were really happening, and it was the most surreal few hours of my life! Little did I know that every time I went to the bathroom Dan was feverishly packing away more furniture in case we were stuck at the hospital for a few days, something which confused me greatly when we arrived home the next day as I hadn’t even noticed him doing it!
I’d always been pretty relaxed about my Birth Plan as I knew there was a good chance things would simply not happen according to a schedule, and that served me well as we headed to a completely different place than the one I’d expected to give birth in! Before labour I’d have thought this kind of last minute change might have stressed me out, but the suites were so similar that for a few moments I was confused about which hospital we were at when we first walked in, and as soon as I was told not to worry, they still had a pool for my planned for water birth, any further worries disappeared. From now on all I could concentrate on was the pain, which by now seemed almost constant and intense enough that I couldn’t really speak or think while it was happening. Now, I don’t remember a huge amount about what exactly was talked about during this time, but I do distinctly recall one moment of completely diva like behaviour as the midwife prepped me for my first cervix inspection where I told Dan that if she said I was only 2 centimetres dilated I would kill myself (luckily for all I was 4!) I remember the midwife desperately trying to get me to eat some toast, which I irritatingly threw back up with every contraction! I also remember it seemed to take an age before the pool was finally filled, but otherwise this part was a bit of a blur.
Once the pool was ready I remember feeling instantly better climbing into the warm water, though that comfort was short lived as my contractions came and went with just gas and air for pain relief (it doesn’t actually relieve pain, just in case you didn’t know, but it really does help you focus so I would definitely recommend it!) and the next few hours seemed to both whizz by and drag on for an age both at the same time. Dan was incredible, sitting on the edge of the pool supporting my weight, encouraging me along and consoling me when I cried that I couldn’t do it (among many other other overly dramatic things like ‘I’m going to die’ and ‘It’s never going to come out!’) He showed me pictures of Bonnie and told me I was amazing and really helped to keep me calm. I felt like I’d been pushing for what felt like an eternity when the midwife apologetically let me know that she’d gotten her timings wrong, and that my next cervix inspection wasn’t due for another 4 hours, and that she couldn’t see any obvious signs of baby being ready to crown, and at this point I lost my shit and started to panic. In reality my labour had gone very quickly and very smoothly so far, but at this stage – which I now know to be me transitioning – I felt as though I couldn’t bear the thought of any more. I was exhausted, in incredible pain and completely overwhelmed, not to mention confused as I really felt the urge to push. I got so upset that she agreed to do the check early and much to my relief found that I was fully dilated! Baby was ready and this would all be over soon – this was all I needed to hear to carry on as I honestly was ready to give up and go for pain relief had the news been different despite me thinking before hand that I wanted to avoid the use of drugs!
Things saw a marked change from here on in. I mustered a new found energy to take on the task and get this baby out, and every time she told me to push a little harder, even though that seemed impossible, I did it. The contractions no longer seemed to hurt as much, but instead had been replaced with a terrible pressure in my bottom, a burning sensation in my bits and an incredible frustration each time I felt baby slip back again after pushing with all my might. Finally though, at 4.18am, I felt the definite sensation of baby’s head, and then shoulders and the rest, sliding out, and almost instantly it was all over. The sense of relief was incredible, the pain, the stress and the discomfort instantly disappeared without a trace. Strangely, this sensation of calm was so intense that I kind of forgot about the baby! I sort of collapsed in a blissfully happy pile ready for a sleep, until I became aware that Dan was crying, telling me our baby was here, the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen, and a BOY!
I always imagined I would get emotional as I held my baby for the first time, but instead, as I turned around and they placed my slippery little man into my hands, instead of tears all that came out was confused laughter. Somehow I couldn’t quite comprehend that this serene, gorgeous little creature they’d just given me was the same thing that had been living inside me for the last 9 months, even though he was still physically attached to me at the time. He wasn’t crying, he was just staring back at me with the same kind of confused look in his beautiful eyes. And that is when it hit me – this was my son. He was half me and half Dan, and I was a Mummy now – something I had wanted for such a long time. I didn’t feel that ‘rush of love’ that everyone talks about. There was no rush, no sudden sensation or gushing of feelings. It was more a quiet realisation. It was as though it had always been there, I somehow felt like I already knew him and that we just belonged, and the way he was peacefully gazing back at me made me feel as though he somehow acknowledged that too (which might be the stupidest thing I’ve ever written!) I felt like I just wanted to stare at him forever, and I never wanted to be apart from him or from Dan for one second.
All too quickly it was time for Dan to cut the cord and my little one was taken off me to be cleaned up. Plus I had business to attend to – namely passing the afterbirth and getting stitches. Long story short – because this is already a very long story so I’ve decided to save the more icky bits and my top tips for another day – this part took a while, and frustratingly it wasn’t till around 6.30am that I got to snuggle down for a sleep, though not before the midwife made us some tea and toast, which this time was gratefully received! Sleep is not easy in a hospital as I’m sure you all know, but that moment as we were finally alone, lying there with Dan by my side, my little boy sleeping soundly on my chest with the sunrise shining through the window and the birds starting to sing in the distance outside, was magical, and probably my favourite memory from the whole experience.
It’s hard to believe that was all nearly 5 weeks ago! That our little Bailey has been a part of our lives ever since, even though it also feels like he’s been here forever! There have been tough times – so many tears, anxious thoughts and sleep deprived nights. But oh so much joy and happiness. And I hope to write so much more about it all in the coming months, but for now I’ll leave it here. Giving birth was grueling, recovering from it worse, and parenting has brought a whole new meaning to the word difficult, but I wouldn’t take any of it back because it gave me my boy. I finally get to call myself a Mum, and that is quite simply the greatest feeling in the world.