The Birth of Ernest
Being pregnant the second time around with a very active, early-rising two year old was quite a different experience! Although extremely tiring the pregnancy flew by and I was starting to feel that we’d not spent enough time getting ready for the birth. We decided to have a refresher course to get ours heads back in the game and remind us of all the tools we could use. We both found this so helpful and it was lovely to spend some time focusing on the birth. Following this we listened to one of the hypnobirthing tracks every night and I invested in some amazing Neom essential oils which I used all the time as I was practicing my breathing.
We had planned a home birth. At first I was very relaxed about this, like ‘if we can have a home birth then great but if not fine’ but as time went on I grew more attached to the idea. When I looked back on my birth with Eliza (long, slow, in hospital) I remembered that all the things I found most difficult were down to the environment. Although we had done a course with you we didn’t even consider a home birth the first time round and now I wonder how different the experience might have been…
I was 41+1 weeks pregnant and starting to feel like nothing was ever going to happen. Eliza had been born at 41+3 but I’d been in labour by 41+1 and had probably had a weeks worth of ‘signs’ that something was happening as well as a couple of nights of surges which ended by morning. This time round I’d had absolutely zero! We had already declined being booked in for induction at 41+5 so I was starting to consider how far over I’d want to go before thinking about other options. I knew if I were to be induced I’d lose the home birth which was playing on my mind. My midwife was very understanding and when we had to go and meet with a hospital consultant to discuss my options she came in support.
The consultant was also amazing, she asked me what I was worried about and I explained the home birth/induction problem and she said if you want a home brith why don’t you let me give you a ‘doctors sweep’. I asked what that was and she said it was a slightly more invasive stretch and sweep (eeek). I said I was concerned about it because I think having a sweep with Eliza started me off on a very slow first stage. She said that sweeps were generally much more effective with a second baby and after 41 weeks. She said she estimated that about 50% of the ladies she gave a sweep to after 41 weeks and for a second baby went into labour in the next couple of days. She also said not to expect anything tonight except possibly some period pains and that it would likely be the following day. After discussing it we decided it was worth a try. I also felt that I’d feel better if she could give me some idea if things were imminent or not. It was uncomfortable but a good chance to practice my breathing and it was over very quickly. She said the cervix was still quite far back and but she’d managed to do a good sweep and could have broken my waters if she’d have wanted to. I took this as a positive sign that things might happen on their own. We went home and carried on with the rest of our day as normal. I didn’t have any period pains and once again felt like nothing was going to happen soon.
I remember you messaging to check on me and me saying that I was fed up now and you said that you’d also had no signs with your second and forth babies before it all happened at once. I also had a message from a friend who said that her second baby went from nothing to being born three hours later so I decided to let go of what I couldn’t control and go to bed.
At about 10pm I could hear Eliza calling for me. She had recently started sleeping through so this was a bit unusual. She said her tooth hurt and she wanted to be in our bed. I brought her in and thought this might be one of the last nights she could sleep in our bed without causing a disturbance for baby… at 1.00am I started to feel something but assumed it was just cramps from the sweep. After about 30 mins i started to time them, they seemed to be quite mild and only one every ten minutes. At 2.00am I got up to go to the toilet and I lost my plug. Finally a proper sign, but again I thought it could just be the result of the sweep. As soon as that had happened things really started ramping up. I wasn’t comfortable in bed anymore so I went downstairs and got my oil diffuser going and started bouncing on my ball and put my Tenns machine on. I decided to leave James to sleep for as long as possible.
I was now having three surges in ten minutes and although they were manageable I decided to call the maternity unit so they could find out which home birth midwife was on duty, keeping my fingers crossed that they weren’t at another birth. Half an hour later the midwife phoned me back. I told her what was happening and she said she’d be happy to come out now. I said I wasn’t sure as with my first baby I was at this stage for hours. She said she was 45 minutes away and was happy to come as things can go a lot quicker with a second baby so I said yes.
I decided to run a bath and at this point James woke up and I told him I thought it was happening and that the midwives were on their way. He was very surprised but sprinted into action to get downstairs ready. About two minutes after I got in the bath I heard Eliza crying for me. James ran upstairs to try and settle her but she clearly realised something was going on and wouldn’t settle she just kept shouting ‘MUMMY’. At this point I realised that there was no way I was going to be able to relax and get into the zone with Eliza all upset so I got out of the bath and got back into bed with her (the plan had been for her to go to my mums if it happened during the day but we assumed she’d sleep during the night!!) James called my mum and asked her to come over ASAP. Meanwhile I was really uncomfortable still having regular surges while my two year old tried to go back to sleep on me. I remembered that contact with someone you love builds oxytocin so rather than stressing about the crazy situation I decided to enjoy cuddling my baby, smelling her hair and it honestly did help me feel more relaxed. As soon as she was back asleep I got back in the bath and James was back downstairs, I heard Eliza wake up again and run up and down the hall looking for me!! I couldn’t believe what was going on!! But thankfully my mum then arrived and got straight into our bed with Eliza and I didn’t hear from her again for the rest of the night. Just behind my mum, at 4.30 the midwives arrived while I was still in the bath.
I got out of the bath and came downstairs as I wanted to be examined and have some gas and air. James had stared blowing up the birthing pool and all my candles were lit. It was 5.00am at this point and I was surprised to hear that I was 6cm! It had taken me over 24 hours to get to 4cm last time so I couldn’t believe the difference in speed. The surges were really painful and frequent at this point but I focused on counting my breathing and the gas and air was amazing to grab hold of. The midwife said ‘we will have a baby before Eliza goes to nursery’ which seemed unbelievable. At this point I was knelt on the floor with my head on the sofa. I wanted complete dark and I also remember blocking my ears a lot of the time because I didn’t want to hear anything.
One thing I will say for any future home birth-ers is do not underestimate how long it takes to fill the pool! I didn’t think labour would advance so quickly but in hindsight we should have started filling it much sooner. This meant James was running around filling kettles to try and get it full quicker and I was desperate to get in. It also meant that he wasn’t with me for every minute and I kept shouting him to come back!
Finally at 6.45 the pool was full enough to get into. I made the mistake of sitting down and when I had a surge and it was very painful to be in that position. I lent over the side of the pool which felt much better and meant James could hold my hands and count with me. Within about five minutes I felt an insane amount of pressure (I’d had an epidural with Eliza by this stage so I’d never felt it before). I felt really scared and I told the midwife I didn’t know what was happening and she said ‘it’s good, this is what we want! It means baby is close’ I guess this was transition. It happened so quickly I wasn’t sure what to do but the midwife said ‘Just go with it’ and then I had the most powerful amount of downward pressure, I didn’t push at all my body did all the work, I remember reaching down and could feel the babies head. I felt like I might split in two but it was also such a relief, I will never forget that feeling. One surge later and baby was born at 7.00 am on the dot. James caught him, I felt like I couldn’t move because my legs were shaking but eventually I turned round and James passed him to me. He was perfect. We named him Ernest (Ernie) James.
At that moment my mum walked through the door with the second Midwife! I hadn’t realised but the midwife had left to go back to the hospital to collect more gas and air. She’d arrived back just as baby was born and hearing the front door my mum had come down the stairs and heard baby crying! My mum was crying too now, of course. James went upstairs to take Eliza some milk and I stayed in the pool for skin to skin and he had his first feed. The placenta came out pretty quickly and then I decided to get out of the pool. I laid on the couch with baby in my dressing gown for ages. I felt amazing, I had had the birth I wanted and I was on top of the world. James brought Eliza down stairs to meet her baby brother.
She said he was a sweetie and gave him a kiss and then carried on with her morning (she is now completely obsessed with him!). Mum then took Eliza to nursery and I had some tea and toast.
The Midwife’s stayed a couple of hours to do our checks – he weighed 8lbs 10. We both felt the midwife team had been totally hands off throughout and just let us get on with it, after the birth they were totally relaxed and didn’t rush us and it was great not having people coming and going. Once they left I had a shower and cuddled up with baby in our bed. Absolute bliss! A home birth has many benefits but for me this was the best, I felt so relaxed and happy and it’s a lovely memory to look back on. If only I could bottle the post birth high!! There really is nothing like it.
Thank so much for all your help!
Grace and James, Bradford