It was approximately 11am when my midwife arrived. She came straight into the bathroom to try to gently coerce me out of the bath water. There was no way I could move, I was not able to get up. I wanted to stay in the water, it felt like mercy. I knew the baby was coming soon, I needed to stay in the water, I needed to push.
“You need to relax, dear. Your baby is not coming for some time yet. If you get out of the bath, I will be able to examine you to see how things are progressing.”
I could not believe it. Her words cut straight through my confusion. Suddenly I became very scared. If this was the early latent phase, then I knew I would certainly not be able to cope with the later stages of labour. It was already so intense, so overwhelming I would not be able to continue like this for hours.
Eventually I was able to stand and, leaning heavily on G’s strength, I walked over to the bedroom and lay down. I was crying and deflated as I opened my legs for Steph to examine me. I needed to calm myself down, to find a way to get through the early phase of labour. I drew on my inner strength and the guidance from hypno birthing. Perhaps I had been overconfident to believe that I was capable of getting through childbirth at home, with no interventions other than breathing and love. I began to have doubts, to wonder if I was strong enough to cope.
G and I had decided to try for a home birth. We spent the weeks leading up to the birth attending antenatal workshops, preparing ourselves physically and mentally to cope with the arrival of our baby. We both wanted to share the experience with our parents, in the comfort and safety of our flat. We bought a birth pool, prepared the bedroom for resting. We were excited, but relaxed. I was jittery with third trimester nerves whilst G remained outwardly calm and level headed. After all, first babies are always at least 10 days later than their due date. We knew we had lots of time to prepare to buy all the necessary bits and pieces.
So without concern we went to bed on the 8th. March in the comfort and knowledge that we had time. We would go out to buy nappies and a blanket later that week. We would test out the pool some time tomorrow, and possibly even go out for drinks with some friends that evening.
For these reasons, when I woke on the morning of the 9th. March with cramps, I was sure that I had constipation. It was quite a surprise when we both finally realized that the cramps were minutes apart and I was in labour. At 7am., the process had begun. By 9.30a.m. I was unable to move. I rocked on the bed, hugging my knees with my head in G’s lap. We were confused, it was all happening so quickly.
We finally decided to ring the maternity ward to give them the co-ordinates. Needless to say, they calmly suggested I take two paracetamol and go for a walk or soak in a hot bath. And that is how I came to be stuck in a cold, shallow bathtub for an hour and forty five minutes.
G called for a midwife to come and help, because he was unable to keep count of the contractions. It was too erratic so we asked for someone to come along to make an assessment. As my birthing partner, G was tasked with the important job of keeping count. As my soulmate, he was my strength, the keeper of the space. Ready to solve, ready to count contractions, ready to light the candles, burn the essential oils, fill the pool, monitor the temperature. He was ready to hold me up, lay me down, ready to speak for me, to sing for me or leave for me if I called for it. However, it just so happened that at that point, he was not quite ready for what happened next. Through gritted teeth, I demanded that he ‘get someone who knows what the fuck is going on!’. And that is how Steph came to my rescue.
To my infinite relief, after the internal examination, I recall Steph’s voice uttering words to G I shall never forget: ‘Here are my car keys, please fetch my bag, and be quick, the baby is coming now!’ I was ten centimetres dilated, and the baby, Ella, was ready to be born.
There was no time for the pool, not time for candles, oils or music. I manoeuvred to the floor, leaded against G and helped the baby birth on dry land. By 12.47 she was born, by 1.47 the placenta was out. Unfortunately the cord was very short so it had to be cut, freeing Ella from the comfort of the placenta shortly after her birth. I was then able to reach her up to my chest. I watched in awe of the majestic power of mother nature as her swollen lips suckled on my breast for the first time.
Five hours after her descent began through the birth canal, Ella lay with her bare skin touching mine. Breathing against my chest, totally content.