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I blame the cats!!

I was totally organised and had a clear plan for the birth of our 1st baby. That was until the cat fight woke us the morning of June 23rd 2009.

It was my 1st pregnancy. I worked at a wonderful birth unit in London. My Midwifery colleagues were an amazing bunch of talented and kind women. My obstetric colleagues were equally as talented in their field of speciality. I wanted my baby to be born there, who wouldn’t! The only problem was that we lived in Devon. So a plan was hatched that we would move to London at 38 weeks of pregnancy so that we would just have a short hop into the unit once our baby decided to arrive.

I had had a wonderful pregnancy. I was relaxed and calm. I was able to focus on the positives and not dwell on the possible complications of pregnancy and birth. At 36 weeks Jon and I headed to London for our antenatal education weekend. I saw Rachel for my routine antenatal appointment whilst we were there. I dropped into the conversation that I had had a small amount of clear show come away and that i had changing bowel habits (softer and more frequent).

I should have listened to the words of this wise woman with a wealth of deep rooted instincts and wisdom. She asked if this baby could be coming early?? Her words floated over my head, and off to Devon we went at the end of the weekend.

A week later at 4.45am a cat fight woke us up. As I crossed the landing to empty my constantly pressured but rarely full bladder, a gush of wonderfully clear amniotic fluid came. I shouted to Jon that my waters had broken and that we should head to London as I was likely to go into labour in the next 24 hours. A fit of headless chicken packing ensued. An hour later we set off to have our baby.

As we pulled onto the motorway I asked Jon to pull over so that I could get into the back and lie down on the back seat. The theory being that i could maybe delay labour a little if my baby’s head was not pushing down on my cervix....... it didn’t work.

30 minutes later the contractions were coming thick and fast. As we passed Exeter Jon suggested we pop in there to have our baby. I know that to turn up unbooked at a unit would cause no end of extra work for the staff. There was no way i was prepared to turn up, unbooked and as a Midwife as well!!

3 hours later, Jon had suggested many other units. “Swindon?, Reading?? “I was born at Reading, what’s wrong with Reading??”, he asked. I lay in the back seat with no choice but to get on and cope with the contractions. I occasionally sat up to squat over a plastic bag to wee, or to throw up. Having hit rush hour traffic and Hayes and Hillingdon I shouted at Jon to take the bus lane. Passing Harrods my foot kept hitting the window controls. The people walking the Knightsbridge pavement must have wondered what on earth was going on as our car passed with the electric window going up and down and a heavily pregnant woman lay across the back seat shouting “go away” (‘go away’ to the contractions, I wasn't very good at ‘welcoming’ them :)

Eventually we arrived at the Birth Unit. Hilary and Charlotte stood waiting for us at the entrance. What a welcome sight they were. Poor Jon could hardly walk as he had needed a wee since Devon, and I hadn’t let him stop for one. He limped off into the toilet whilst i was whisked off up to the birth unit. I later learned he shed a few tears of relief whilst in the loo, relieved he had got us to the Unit in time.

Hils and Charlotte had the room ready for us. It was a sanctuary of calm, so different to the hectic nature of the journey. The room was dark, candles were lit, chill out music played softly and it smelt of calming aromatherapy oils. The birth pool was run and ready for me. Instead of jumping in and letting go I found myself still crunched up in the foetal position on the floor. I think my body now didn't know how to labour any other way. After being gently coaxed into the pool by Hils and Charlotte I did eventually begin to open out and relax. I was 9cm. We all anticipated our little baby should arrive in the not too distant future. We all had a cup of tea in celebration. The best cup of tea EVER-thank you Charlotte.

Two hours later there were no signs. I was fully dilated, but unable to push. I had no urge and the pain across my bladder made it impossible to to do anything other than get through each contraction one by one.

Eventually I had an epidural which brought such relief. I was back in the room mentally and able to focus on the task in hand without the bladder pain blocking me. Hils had called in Ed the Consultant anticipating I might need a hand in letting go to this baby. He arrived and examined me then went off to get changed. I think a flash of determination must have come over me. I got up into a squat (it was a mobile epidural I had been given) and pushed with all my might. Ed returned just in time to witness our gorgeous baby girl slip into the world. Lola was tiny and covered in vernix. She was just perfect.

I felt immense relief that she was a girl. I have 4 sisters and they all have daughters themselves. I always thought I would so miss that mother/daughter relationship if I didn’t have a girl myself. I now feel guilty that my initial thoughts weren't about her wellbeing. Concerns for her health started a few days later as I noticed Lola had an extra soft spot on her head. Dr Google told me this could be a soft marker for Down Syndrome. I spent the next 6 weeks staring at her looking for other signs. She did have low set ears, she still does but I now know that she gets those from her Uncle Marcus!

When others hear my birth story I sense their stress levels start to rise, but for me it wasn’t stressful at all. My gorgeous little Lola arrived safe and sound and in the place where we intended for her to be born. I’m pretty sure it was the intervention of the epidural, that made a normal birth possible for me.

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