23 May

Fiona’s (Second) Birth Story

Fiona is a thirty-something mother of 2 from Oxford; she was a teacher pre-children, but had to stop work due to post-natal depression after the birth of her first child 5 years ago. She is now a full-time, baby-wearing, breastfeeding mum, attempting to juggle the demands of parenthood with interests in music, writing and sewing, and also squeezing in time to make jewellery (www.morganandpink.co.uk).

My second pregnancy was a pain, frankly, with SPD discomfort, and lots of small indignities, anaemia, iron tablets (and their side effects) and so on. It was also marked by me doing lots of planning and thinking about the birth, and the days immediately afterwards, in a desperate attempt to avoid the miserable car-crash-type experience of my first child’s birth (I’ll try to get round to writing that story too…) So from fairly early on, I had planned to give birth in a midwife led unit where I would feel relatively safe, with a doula or birthing partner (so that someone was there just for me as a person, rather than me feeling like a body on a slab) and we planned all sorts of contingencies, right down to the kind of food my husband would bring to the hospital for me. I also watched “One Born Every Minute” every week, usually reduced to tears by the end, and I felt that this boosted my confidence in my ability, as a woman, to do this crazy thing (this is important, as I was in complete denial during my first pregnancy, and I’m sure it contributed to some of the difficulties I encountered first time round in labour). We eventually decided against a birth doula (too expensive, sadly), but one of my best friends offered to be my birthing partner – it felt wonderful to know I’d have her there. And we did hire a post-natal doula for the few months after the birth.

Despite all these preparations, or perhaps because of them, I was impatient, and spent most of the last trimester hoping my baby would be early, mostly to end the discomfort of pregnancy, but also because
I was keen to meet the little one. I didn’t know if it would be boy or a girl, as the cord was between the baby’s legs during the 20wk scan, so there was no way of telling what it might have been hiding! My first child was born at 38wks and 3 days, so I was quite confident I wouldn’t have to wait until full term. At 36 weeks and 4 days, I started having a slightly funny tummy, which I remembered being one of the signs in the last few days before my first child’s birth. I told myself it couldn’t be that, as I was only 36 weeks
etc. On Wednesday 9th February (36wks, 7days) I began to get a lot more Braxton Hicks, enough to make me feel like I was really waddling up the road to fetch my older one from nursery in the afternoon, and by suppertime enough to make me catch my breath a little. But, as I wrote in an email to my sister that evening, “I’m not 37 weeks yet, so I’m sure it’s nothing.”

By 9pm, when my husband got home, I wasn’t so sure, and told him I thought there was a chance I might be in labour. He naturally thought this was unlikely, and suggested I went to bed to get some rest. By 9.30 I had had two pretty painful contractions, couldn’t sleep, and was sure. We had a cup of tea, and tried to phone my sister, who lived across town, and had agreed to come and baby-sit our 3 year-old when I went into hospital. She didn’t answer – but why would she? She wasn’t expecting the call for another three weeks! After half an hour or so, I was having contractions every 10 minutes, so I rang the hospital. The midwife there said, yes, it did sound as if I was in labour, and that I should wait until I’d had
contractions about 5 minutes apart for an hour or so, and then come into the unit. I rang my birthing partner, but she was on her way home from performing in London, and her partner said to ring again
when we went in to hospital. My husband rang my sister again, and eventually she answered, and he set off to fetch her. They got back at about 11.15ish (I think), by which time I had begun having contractions every 5 minutes or so, but only perhaps for 20 minutes or so – I’d been trying to write them down, but it was all a bit fuzzy! I had a swiss ball in the living room, which I leant over and moaned; the rocking movement helped the pain, and my sister rubbed my back which was lovely.

After a few more of these contractions, I said to my husband that we ought to get going, as it was a 20 minute drive to the hospital. My bags were packed, so all we had to do was hunt for change for the car-park. Even though I said we should go, I had a gut feeling that I didn’t want to go anywhere. I needed to go to the loo before we left; while I was sat there, I had another contraction and my waters
broke with an audible pop. I felt the most overwhelming urge to push really hard, and suddenly felt that burning feeling. I reached down, and felt the baby’s head and hair. I screamed at my husband to
phone an ambulance –he said “Are you sure?” He came to look, and went visibly pale. The ambulance telephone operator told him to get me lying down on the floor, so I staggered into the living room and
lay down on a waterproof bed mat (I’d bought them without really believing anyone ever used them!).
They told him that if I had another contraction, he should push back – I’m still not sure how that would have worked exactly, but in any case the ambulance arrived in less than 4 minutes. The first paramedic came in and said “I’ll just pop back to the van for some entonox, shall I?” and I said, “No – I’m having another contraction”. He came and knelt down, I felt another massive push and stretching feeling, and another sort of “pop”, and that was the head. My sister was sent upstairs to fetch towels, three more
ambulance crew arrived (in a back-up vehicle), and with the next contraction, I delivered the rest, and the ambulance man caught her. He afterwards said that in 25 years of being an ambulance paramedic,
he’d never had to catch a baby before! The time of birth was recorded as 11.57pm. The baby was placed on my stomach, and they told me it was a girl. I remember saying , several times, “Oh my gosh, I just had a baby!” I was able to give her a first feed, which was wonderful, and I’m pretty sure we all cried. I have no idea what my sister thought – she is in her early 20s, and thought she had just come to babysit a sleeping child, instead of which she had a ring-side seat at the business end, as it were, for the birth

I then went into shock, and don’t remember much of the next hour or so, except that I was freezing cold, shivering uncontrollably, and feeling utterly drained. My husband and sister took care of the baby,
and I just lay there feeling miserable. Apparently this is not uncommon after such a quick labour. I didn’t feel I could push anymore, and it took a long time (maybe 45 minutes?) for the placenta to deliver as the ambulance crew didn’t have any drugs with them to speed it up. I remember one of the paramedics becoming a bit anxious about that, and the on-call midwife didn’t arrive for more than an hour so she could do no more than check it when she arrived to make sure it was all there. Eventually I was able to sit up and have some sweet tea, which really helped, and then the midwife helped to clean me up, check that I didn’t need any stitches, and help me change my clothes and get onto the sofa, rather than
lying on the floor. I was able to feed my baby again, and began to get vicious after-pains, so I took some paracetomol, and then threw up. I felt better after that, and had some more tea. After a good feed, I handed the baby over to my husband, and went up to have a bath, which was utterly wonderful. I think it was about this point the happy hormones kicked in, and I remained on a complete high for weeks! It was so glorious to be at home, to be able to have a bath, and then curl up and sleep in my own house.
The midwife was wonderful too, staying with us for several hours to make sure everything was ok. She then went to the hospital to register the birth on their systems, before coming back to see us again at

about 7am. She said she was happy for us to remain at home, unless we wanted to go into hospital to be checked – we said no thanks, we’re very happy here! In every way (apart from the shock) it was a
fantastic experience, and so much better than my first labour.