I’m 40 weeks pregnant plus five days. Everyone told me the third baby comes early, so I had not mentally planned to go to term, let alone almost a week over. I had a crazy day: two playdates with my big kids (ages 5.5 and 2.5), I had frantically vacuumed and lint rolled the car clean (nesting instinct?), took my eldest to gymnastics, and made spaghetti Bolognese for dinner. I told my husband that by 7:00 pm, I was going to be in bed asleep.On the contrary, at 6:45 pm, I went to take a shower, and my waters broke. I called my birth photographer Kathryn Earl who asked me what the hospital said. Oops, I guess I should have called them first. So I rang the birthing centre:
“Hello.” ((pause)) “My name is Laura.” ((silence))
That is all I could get out. I had been desperately waiting to go into labour, and now that I was in it, I was completely tongue tied. The midwives summoned me to the ward to make sure there wasn’t any meconium in the waters, and probably to make sure I wasn’t crazy.
We got to the unit, and I looked at my toenails. There was no way I was giving birth with my nail polish all chipped. Somehow I thought when I was 10 cm dilated and crowing, I would care about these details. I think that is so cute now.
In the observation room, hooked up to monitors, my husband painted my toes bright pink. I had my bright pink eye mask on too. When the midwife came in to assess me and saw that I was in the middle of a pedicure, she apologised profusely for interrupting “spa day” and almost forgot to complete her paperwork. My DH and I laughed; the English are notorious for saying sorry. And then it was my turn to apologise: I barfed dinner in the hospital sink. My poor husband had to push each spaghetti noodle down the drain so it wouldn’t stop up the plumbing. Sorry babe.
We finished the pedicure and the observation; everything was progressing normally. The midwife reluctantly checked me- she didn’t want to interrupt nature’s process, but I begged. I really wanted to know where I was starting from. (See my post on giving birth in the UK). I was 3 cm dilated. She advised me to go bounce on a birthing ball at home and report back when my contractions were 3-5 minutes apart and lasting for 1 minute.
By 9:00 pm, we were back at home. I got to read my 2.5 year old one last story and treasure one final moment before my baby became a middle child.
I started timing contractions on my little contraction app. I got a wee-bit obsessive about this. Start timer. Stop timer. Start. Stop . . . Over 65 times that night. The app is fantastic. After each contraction, it prompts you to select the intensity of the contraction on a scale from very mild to very strong. I decided that every contraction was mild, even when they were two minutes apart. I was afraid that if I put it at very strong, which is what it felt like, when it got even worse, I wouldn’t be able to scale it properly. This didn’t give Kathryn or my husband an accurate picture of what was going on in my body, but I felt a great deal of self-satisfaction that I was declaring each nasty contraction mild. Bring it on.
After labouring on top of my dishwasher for who knows how long (random I know), I got into the bathtub. It was amazing. I had a playlist of worship music playing. Music is such a powerful thing. It brought me back to times where I felt God’s presence really clearly. His steadfast love. His presence. His comfort. I also had some flashbacks to patients in horrific pain, primarily burn patients. I drew inspiration from their resiliency and strength.
I also felt empowered by doing it naturally. The last two had been easy-breasy-epidural labours. And that last contraction?
Sidenote: I had planned to bake brownies in between contractions. I thought it would be a nice “labouring activity.” This was me instead:
Around 11pm, my contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and lasting over a minute (the time we were supposed to be going into the hospital- oops), I told my DH to call the midwife and give her our address. Why was I not having a home birth? I laboured some more. I did not want to get out of the tub, but I also knew that if I didn’t, we would need hot water and some towels. That’s what they say in all the movies, but what do they do with the hot water? I always wondered.
Somehow I got dried, dressed, down the stairs, and in the car at 1:15 am. I decided to finally stop timing the contractions, but they were 1 minute apart and lasting 45 seconds on the last record. By 1:30 am, we pulled up in the parking lot at the hospital, and I felt the urge to push.
I waddled up to the Accident & Emergency door, climbed on a wheelchair, stood on the footplates and leaned over the backrest.
So here I am, backwards on a wheelchair with a massive stomach having really intense contractions, and the receptionist politely welcomes us, seemingly oblivious to what I would think would be a very obvious situation.
“HELP” I yelped.
After my husband explained I was in labour, she advised us to go back outside and through the main entrance of the hospital.
“Help” I yelped.
“Or you can go this way,” she said, and then proceeded to show us the staircase. The freaking staircase. We asked for the elevator instead. My husband wheeled me in to L&D triage and that sweet apologetic midwife from earlier welcomed us.
“Help” I yelped.
Then she gave me nitrous oxide (gas and air), and I thanked her for giving me heroine.
Oops. Worried about a social services referral, I nervously pleaded with the MW that I have actually never done illegal drugs or even smoked a cigarette. I was just so relieved to have some escape from the pain. I flopped over on a bean bag chair in the birthing pool room inhaling the gas as deeply as humanly possible. The MW checked me; I was 10 cm dilated and she could feel my baby’s hair. Oddly, my waters had not broken. (So what in the world happened in my bathroom?).
Me: “Please break my water.”
MW: “No. If we break your water, the baby will come.”
Me: “Yep. That would be why I’m here.” ((WHAT?!)).
My husband massaged my feet; I felt the urge to push. Luckily, he dodged the huge explosion of my waters breaking. The MW, photographer, and my husband lured me into the birth pool with the promise of more
heroine gas and air. I thanked the MW by saying, “Thanks sexy.” Awkward turtle. Then, to combat that awkwardness, I told her that I actually hadn’t opened my eyes and didn’t even know what she looked like. I felt like David at the Dentist. No one give me gas and air if I run for office in the future.
Confession: My friends will tell you that in my 3rd trimester of pregnancy, I love watching animals give birth. My favourite is the giraffe. Mama giraffe nonchalantly wanders around with this baby giraffe just hanging out. My baby crowned and I looked at her floating in the water and proudly thought of myself as a mother giraffe.Then my MW and husband started having a casual conversation about his watch:
Sexy: “Is your watch water resistant?”
DH: ((Thinking about it….. thinking… ))”No not really.”
Me: ((WHAT!?! Hey sexy, let’s get back to business. You can figure out what to buy your boyfriend after I birth this baby giraffe..))
Sexy: Go ahead and take it off.
DH: ((slowly removing watch))
Sexy: On the next contraction, you are going to deliver your baby.
And then all things were forgiven. The next contraction, at 1:59 am, about 5 hours after my contractions had started, my husband pulled our baby out of the water and placed our newborn on my chest. As apart of the birth plan, we wanted my husband to announce the gender.
This was the moment we waited 40 weeks and 5 days for . . . and he “forgot” to look, LOL.
But then, the announcement came, I got my girl. I really, really, wanted a girl. I was so happy. And in so much pain.
For the second time that day, I was tongue tied. I was in complete shock. Our baby had come in about 20 minutes after we arrived at the hospital. I hadn’t even made my brownies; it had all happened so fast.
That night while my husband snored and baby girl dreamed, I was wide awake feeling so loved by God. What an amazing gift. How blessed. How loved. How treasured.
The light came through the window. Then 11 hours and 11 minutes since we first arrived, after several prompts from the midwives that it was time to skee-dattle, we got discharged home.
Side note: I kept waiting for them to bathe her, check her over, take her to the nursery, but no one came in for about 5 hours after we had her. I kept thinking the midwives forgot about us, but actually after they bring you some toast and tea, they leave you alone. I love the English. I just gave birth, bring me a steak!
We welcomed our new baby girl over afternoon tea at the Royal Berkshire hotel, memorising our little girls’ features while eating tiny finger sandwiches, scones, and dessert for hours.
It was perfect. We are all in love.