At two AM on August 21st I was woken up by a contraction that had crossed over from uncomfortable into the realm of downright painful, though in my half-sleep state I couldn’t be sure if that was what happened, so I quietly waited to see if it would happen again. The next one came roughly five minutes later and, even though I had never experienced going into labour naturally, I could tell these contractions were very different to the ones I had been experiencing in the last few days… I knew straight away this was the real deal.
Not wanting to get overwhelmingly excited, I downloaded a contraction timer app to my phone to begin tracking their frequency and duration and laid there in the dark next to my sleeping husband, timing each one as they came and working through my thoughts and emotions. As I stated before, my one wish, as it were, for this birth experience was to do so without fear, to be as calm as possible, I began searching every corner of my emotions in that moment, assessing how I was feeling and looking for evidence of fear or anxiety. Even though intensely excited that meeting our Bean was finally imminent, I was surprised in how calm I felt overall: there wasn’t that nervous anxiety that was prevalent the first time around, only this confidence in myself, my husband, my body, and this child that was preparing to come into the world.
The contractions quickly became the type that needed “working through” as I practiced my breathing exercises and moved into a hands-and-knees position for each one. Though they were already two-in-ten and about a minute long, I wanted to continue to labour in the comfort of our home a bit longer, the quiet dark of our familiar bedroom infinitely preferable to the hospital. It wasn’t until around three hours later, just as the sun was coming up at five AM, that I shook Mark awake, informing him this was it, this was really happening. I went upstairs to draw up a warm bath as he phoned his mum to come on over for Maddie duty, before joining me in the bathroom with a small breakfast to keep me going. Once I found a comfortable position, the warm bath water helped with the pain and discomfort of the contractions, but I could tell already that this was going to be another back labour experience… I’m still not entirely sure what a full blown contraction feels like in the front, as the back pain has always overshadowed it in intensity.
With my mum-in-law Jessie having arrived for Maddie and the contractions getting stronger and stronger, I made the call to leave for the hospital at seven-thirty, knowing full well that the ten minute drive to the hospital along the seafront would quickly become an hour long ordeal before long with rush hour traffic. So we woke Moo up so I could give her a very tearful hug and kiss, and we were off to the hospital.
Upon arriving I was admitted to a mostly-empty ward to labour to 4 cm before my labour was considered to be “active” and it was there that the fear took over. I experienced a complete breakdown in what had been, up to that point, a situation completely in my control, and I felt the fear seep in at the periphery before becoming all-consuming. I was afraid of being sent home (as you’re not technically in active labour until 4 cm), afraid I wasn’t going to be able to do this, and I suppose emotionally overwhelmed with it all. But the fear only got ten minutes: I slowly began pep-talking myself out of it, telling myself I could have a birth experience out of my control, driven by fear and anxiety, or I could rein this in and regain that calm, collected composure I had had for the last several hours. I chose the latter: I wasn’t going to let what should be an intensely amazing experience be ruined by unchecked and unfounded fear. I requested a birthing ball, found a comfortable position, and began once more breathing through each increasingly-intense contraction, with Mark applying counter pressure to my lower back.
In between each contraction Mark and I amused ourselves with remembering little stories about Maddie, wondering what Bean was going to be like, and talking about everything and nothing at all: “hang on a second don’t talk……… okay, the BBC has a new zombie series you were saying?”
Mid-afternoon I requested to have my progress checked and, found to be at 5-6 cm, was moved into a delivery suite to continue labouring. Now having been self – managing each contraction for more than twelve hours I decided to go ahead and request the epidural. Between being exhausted at this point and the back labour becoming too intense to handle, I didn’t want to suddenly find myself past the point of being able to get one so just before four PM I got a little respite with that magical, magical drug.
Things slowed down considerably, and I napped off and on as my body marched on to the full ten centimetres, but by the time we got there and began pushing, my contractions had all but stopped. A syntocinon drip was hung and brought the contractions back at every ninety seconds and, a mere five to ten minutes of pushing later, Dexter made his way into the world.
This perfect little baby, who had been known as Bean for so long and whom we had dreamed of before he was even a sparkle in my eye, was briefly attended to as there had been meconium in my waters before being laid upon me for some skin to skin time. Everything slowed down in those precious moments as both Mark and I cried uncontrollably: here was our son, and he was even more perfect than we could have ever hoped.
The midwives delivered the placenta just five minutes later, stitched up my small episiotomy, and then left the three of us there to get privately acquainted. Dexter quietly observed us through beautiful muddy blue eyes, cooing and making little mewing noises as Mark and I drank him in. I had imagined those first few moments so many times for forty weeks, but for all the dreaming I wasn’t ready for the truly awesome power those moments held: there, with my husband and this gorgeous little boy we had made.
We stayed that way for over two hours, there would be plenty of time to share him with the world but for those two hours he was all ours, his arrival our little secret. We used that time to study his every little feature, marvel at his head of hair, and remark on how much he looks like his sister did. I brought him to the breast within thirty minutes of birth and he latched perfectly, feeding for the very first time. And we were on top of the world in this perfect moment.
As I was moved out of delivery I sent Mark home to get some rest, as morning would bring grandma collection, a flurry of family, and one very energetic four year old. We opted to pay for a private room as we were kept for twenty four hours to monitor Dexter’s blood sugar (low due to my beta blockers) and then Saturday at lunchtime we were discharged and on our way home.
Dexter’s birth was an immensely positive experience, having produced a high on which we are still riding. We have settled in beautifully at home with our little man, my milk has come in and he is breastfeeding like a champ, and we honestly couldn’t be happier. With my mom in town for three weeks and my dad to follow for the next three I am blessed with help for everything from Maddie care to day to day chores, giving me even more time to simply curl up on the couch and drink in this new arrival. I wondered, as I suppose most mothers do, if I would have enough love for both… and I have found the answer to be an overwhelming yes: we are simply full to bursting with love.
Love, love, here we are.