The days that I gave birth to all three of my children, gave me the three best stories that I will ever tell. My three favourite stories of all time and all three, so different from each other… Just like my babies. In the throws of labour, the adrenaline, the pain, the intensity, the excitement and the fear, I think every mother wonders how any woman can forget a single second of it. You swear that you will never forget how much it hurts your body, how it takes everything that you have got, to get through it. You don’t understand how other people tell you that you will soon forget it once you have your baby in your arms. You think that they must be mad.
I’ve forgotten already!
Not everything of course but the reality of having Dexter in my life now has made every second of birthing him somewhat irrelevant. Since he was born, I have fallen in love again and have been completely swept away… and it feels like my memory of the pain and self-doubt was too.
I was exactly 41 weeks pregnant on the day that I gave birth to my baby boy, my baby number three. It had been a long, hard, nine month slog. I had a hard time of things. I suffered most days of it and as much as I tried not to complain… most days involved some kind of tears, me thinking unkind things about myself or sitting on the bathroom floor, back against the door, deep breaths, lips quivering, head in hands and trying to pluck the strength from deep down to get me through the days, weeks and months to follow. The hard parts of giving birth will fade more and more over time. The hard parts of being pregnant, I will remember forever. In the end, the only thing that was keeping me going and smiling through it, was love. Raw, unconditional, overwhelming love, for the little life that I was growing in my body. My baby boy who I knew that I would do anything for. Who I would give my life for.
Anyway… rewind a day. It was Monday, 3rd July 2017 and I was 40 weeks and 6 days pregnant. I was also beyond fed up. Being overdue by even one day was bad enough, I don’t know how some women cope with anything up to 2 weeks over. It wasn’t my lightest time in terms of my emotions. However, I had refused intervention by the way of a membrane sweep to start my labour off…purely due to my ideals of a natural pregnancy, labour and delivery and because I am ever so stubborn. I had no control over so many things during my pregnancy, the hyperemesis Gravidarum and Pelvic Girdle pain being the main culprits, I was desperate to have the birth the way that I wanted. I have had two children before Dexter and both were natural births without a shred of pain relief… I wanted to do it again and so I refused any interference and carried on.
After having some particularly aggressive but unconvincing braxton hicks the night before, in to the early hours… by the time I had woken up that day, they had stopped. Out of nowhere, I had a new lease of life, a real energy burst. So, I took the opportunity to arrange a hike in our local woods with my brother to see if I could naturally give this labour a little shove in the right direction. As I say, I was feeling fed up and ready to meet my baby by this point so was getting a little desperate. I had a close family friend on stand-by, just in-case anything happened while out walking and I needed to be shoved into a car quickly.
We walked for ages and not slowly either. There were plenty of hills and I worked up a sweat. Eventually, I went home to freshen up before I went on the school run. I’m not going to lie… I was very disappointed that nothing was happening. By the time I walked to collect Noah and Ellenah from school, my pace had slowed down and my head was hanging low too. It didn’t help my mood when I met them both from their class and they looked sad that I was still pregnant. We were all ready to meet our final puzzle piece to our family.
As we walked home, my pace started to slow even more and not by choice. It felt like something had taken over me, was protecting me… or when I look back, was preparing my body for what it was soon to endure. Ellenah needed the toilet so needed me to hurry but I couldn’t pick up speed. I had to truly concentrate to put one foot in front of the other and my pelvis felt like it had turned to a really painful jelly…almost like from my pelvis down, I wasn’t attached together properly. It was peculiar. I had never felt so happy to put the key in the door as we reached home and once inside, I basically fell onto the sofa and that was where I wanted to stay.
At around 5pm, I felt my waters break and so did a smile, across my entire face. It was finally time…
With this, I ran upstairs to clean myself up as best as I could and then I called Matt to get him to come home. I explained what was happening to the children and took a shower… At this point, I was in absolutely no pain. Matt arrived home shortly and because I was booked in for a home birth, we made the decision to call the hospital to have a midwife sent out to examine me. Between the time we made the phone call and the first midwife arriving, the reality of my home birth was sinking in. Of course, I was a bag of nerves mixed in with pure excitement, but for the first time in my whole pregnancy, I felt such a stillness and a true sense of calm and I was taking myself to a different place in my head… so that I could get through the next stages. I busied myself before she arrived, preparing my living room for my birth. I made sure that I had enough towels, shower curtains, buckets…everything down to the right music and right lighting. We gave the children dinner and they waited with me in anticipation for the midwife to come.
Hers was a fleeting visit. She checked my vitals and respected my decision not to be examined. She was confident, due to the sheer volume of fluid that I was losing and had already lost, that my waters had broken and so advised me to eat and try to get some rest in preparation for the big event. As I was still in no pain, she went on her merry way and off shift, after giving me the information that I would need for when things started to happen.
So, once we had said our goodbye’s and her, some ‘good luck’s’, we said goodnight to Noah and Ellenah, who went to sleep quickly, tucked up in their bunk beds. I ate and put my feet up for a while…and waited. I kept the lights dimply lit and continued to get myself in the right headspace to handle labour head on. I spent some time saying goodbye to my bump, my pregnant belly. I stroked it and tried to get in tune with my body so that I could let it do what it is naturally meant to. I wish that I could tell you how I do that because three babies on, it has helped me every single time. I have never read up on hypnobirthing…The most that I did in preparation like that was listen to relaxing music on spotify. If I’m honest, all that ever made me do is think about what needs to go on my shopping list and what is going on in the months ahead that I need to remember. I’m not sure that is how you are meant to use it…
Anyway, just before 10pm, five hours after my waters had broken, my hand protectively and forcefully gripped onto my lower abdomen as I felt my first intense contraction. Again, that smile broke across my face. I just remember thinking that I was one step closer…and that it hurt so much! It lasted around fifty seconds and it made me hold my breath and my eyes water. I knew that with the next one, I had to handle it better… I had to breathe and push the pain away. And so, I waited for the next one to arrive…
I wasn’t waiting long, just less than 3 minutes actually and the contraction lasted over a minute. A pattern in my contractions appeared immediately. Every 2 and half to 3 minutes for between 57 seconds to 1 minute and 27 seconds. Each and every pain feeling much harder than the last. We called the midwife after my eleventh contraction and she told us that she was on her way.
While we waited for her to arrive, with my arms and head resting on my birthing ball, I rocked and continued to physically push the pain away with my hands. I was desperately trying to stay active, to keep my pelvis moving. I was desperate to have my baby in our home. Desperate for Noah and Ellenah to wake up in the morning, to come in to our bedroom and to find him fast asleep. So, between every contraction, I continued to move…knowing in the back of my mind that I had been previously advised to consider a cesarian section due to SPD and then after seeking a second opinion from a midwife with alternative views, I had chosen to trust her and my body and stay as far away from any hospital as I could. Now was the time that I had to know my body more that ever, give it everything that I could and to not let the fear penetrate my focus.
The midwife soon knocked at the door and came through to our dimly lit living room with the sound of Billy Joel’s music playing gently. It was very quiet. She spoke calmly, softly and confidently about how this was going to go. She let me lead the way with my vision and birth plan. She reminded me that she had gas and air in the car if I was to need it. I remember shaking my head as I threw off another contraction with gritted teeth.
It really was very quiet. Kind of beautiful.
I was hot. It was exhausting. Matt kept bringing me water which I refused often. I was so focussed and even taking a sip of water felt like it was interrupting my flow. I didn’t want to stop. I remember that it was hard and I was fighting my way to the end. Constantly reminding myself that this was my last hurdle, just breathe, push away the pain, keep moving…Keep on keeping on!!
Matt was with me every step of the way. He rubbed my back, encouraged me when I was struggling to keep going and let me squeeze his hands as hard as I could. He helped me to move around, knowing that my broken body wasn’t allowing me to do it for myself. He held me up, kissed me and told me that I was doing well. I remember looking into his eyes and thinking to myself that I had to tell him how much I loved him in that moment… Once I had the energy, when this was over… I would! It felt like it was just him and me in the room. Him, me and the promise of our new life as a family of five.
As things became more intense and it was harder and harder to push away the pain, the second midwife arrived.
I remember saying to Matt that I didn’t think that I was doing very well, after I had been pushing down for some time. I remember telling the three of them that something was wrong. The sensation when I pushed… It was different, like it wasn’t doing anything at all, like baby boy was stuck. It wasn’t that I wasn’t pushing. I was pushing for my life. Pushing so hard that I felt like I could burst. I started to get very frustrated with everyone and myself. I felt like I wasn’t communicating well enough and I felt like I wasn’t being heard in the right way at all. So, I asked Matt to help me upstairs to the toilet. I wasn’t sure if I actually needed to go more than I needed a little bit of time by myself. I’ll be honest, I quite liked sitting there. It was comfortable and supportive to my tired body. Something about it just made sense.
Eventually, I went back downstairs to try again at the pushing and so that I could have baby listened to and all of my vitals checked for the hundredth time…Just to make sure that we were both happy still. We were but I didn’t stay downstairs for long. I could feel that I was close to the end as I manouvered heavily and clumsily between positions. Instinct took over eventually and the next thing I know, I was half crawling up the stairs, half pulling myself up by my arms. I think I knew deep down that at that point, I wasn’t coming back downstairs without my baby.
Once I was in the bathroom, in the early hours of Tuesday morning, I was examined for the first time.
I was definitely right to be pushing…but to the midwife’s surprise, due to how much fluid I had visibly lost and was continuing to lose, a second, bulging amniotic sac was completely blocking him from progressing any further.
I knew it. I knew in my heart that something wasn’t working right.
Medically there a few reasons why a second amniotic sac was present with only one baby. It is likely that for me, the cause is due to my hind waters developing a leak at 37 weeks but closing up again. But… nobody really knows!
Anyway… everything suddenly made sense to me and the midwives. With the next contraction, the midwife gave the sac a shove to the side to try and help baby boy out. And with that, my waters… the last ones, burst… and flooded the floor of my tiny bathroom.
From that moment, everything felt so intense. My body took over completely and I had no time to think. The contractions were amped up and my body was shaking. Matt was physically holding me up. He held onto me as I screamed through the ultimate pain of birthing my baby boy’s head. He held on to me as I panted and waited for his body to follow. He held on to me, lifting my fragile body, keeping me on my feet in the moments that our son came into the world and was handed to me. Our beautiful boy, with the big, alert eyes… heavy on my chest as his wrinkly hands with long, skinny fingers gripped on to the neck line of my night dress. My beautiful boy who I had fallen in love with in an instant.
I don’t remember how I was lowered down on to the toilet seat, how my feet were deep in blood and fluid or even too much of Matt cutting the cord like the proud Papa that he is. I only remember it because it was so tight and had to be done quickly. I delivered my placenta in to the toilet and it was trying to pull my baby in there with it. I vividly remember holding our new life tightly, sobbing and smiling… telling him that he would be so loved and that he is going to have the happiest life. I remember our eyes locking and staring at each other for what felt like an eternity. I know that I could have stayed there, in that moment forever.
Dexter James was born on Tuesday the 4th of July 2017 at 1.55am. He was born on USA’s Independence Day. He was and is still, so beautiful. So perfect. A dream come true. Everything that I imagined he would be. Just as I thought he would look. The missing puzzle piece of The Sweetest Life family. Our final team member. The youngest in our gang. He is pure, innocent, wonderful and we are all so in love with him.
I can’t believe that this is my life now and I am a mama to three beautiful humans. I feel so lucky that I get to love them every day and to bring them up. To raise them to have kind, open hearts, adventure in their veins and to love our beautiful world and the people in it.
On Dexter’s Birth Day, a new life started for us. A new chapter, a new journey… new adventures. I am so excited for everything to come, for all of the wonderful times ahead of us… as a family of five.