BETHAN & FINLEY
As I tend to be late for everything, I expected the arrival of my baby boy to be late as well, plus I’d heard your first one tends to be overdue. I had worked right up to 3 weeks before my due date as I wanted to have as much time on maternity leave as possible. So, I was surprised when he came a week earlier than the due date - we weren’t really prepared! Our house was in chaos because my partner Dan was in the middle of converting the loft into a much needed bedroom for his 17 yr old son Jacob who lives with us. I like to think of the build as extreme nesting! Of course, the building schedule had over-run but luckily our bedroom had the wall and ceiling back on it and was freshly painted by the time Finley was born.
I remember buying paint in our local hardware store and the owner commenting on how low my bump was and that I looked like I was just about to drop. I was in denial about the whole thing and laughed the comment off saying I still had a good couple of weeks still to go! How wrong was I !
The next morning, as usual, I woke in the early hours of the night unable to get back to sleep and feeling a bit anxious, I was starting to feel apprehensive about the actual birth in a few weeks time (!). So, I took myself off downstairs and watched an hour or two of a comedy series. I then went back to sleep and woke again at 7.30am. I had a slight pain like period pains but thought nothing of it at first. My step son googled it and suggested it was Braxton Hicks which I readily agreed. An hour later the pains were back and started to come and go and I realised this was it! By pure luck, Dan had the day off work, probably to carry on completing the loft conversion..
I had planned to have a hospital birth with the hope of using the birthing pool there. In his previous life as a hippy, living in a converted bus in Ireland, Dan had built a birthing pool out of hay bales for his then girlfriend to give birth in, heating up the water for it on an open fire. So, I thought he would be excellent at supporting me through my birth, and I didn’t think to ask anyone else along. He’d been through it all with Jacob 17 yrs previously, up the side of a mountain, surely a straight forward hospital birth would be easy peasy! Dan was keeping note of the contractions and how frequent they were, about an hour in he rang my mum to see if she could come round and look after me while he had a quick shower. She whizzed round bringing my sister Gudrun for moral support. My mum kept saying we should go to hospital but the rest of us were all quite keen not to go too early. My sister had been sent back two times from the hospital when she was in labour with her first born. The thought of getting in a car whilst in labour filled me with horror so I didn’t want to go back and forth too much, the hospital was 45 mins away. I have always done yoga and we’d attended an NCT course. My friend gave me a hypnobirthing CD which I’d listened to on the train on my commute. I’d always suffered from really bad period pains, and labour was exactly like that, but came in waves with gaps between the pain. So I think all of that prepared me quite well, plus I have quite a high pain threshold and a laid back calm demeanour.
Looking back, it was really good for Dan to have my sister and mum there too. I was in “the zone” and not really with it, so it’s nice for the person looking after you to have other people looking out for them too and to discuss what’s best to do. They decided to ring a midwife so she could check how far dilated I was and make a decision if we should go to hospital, the contractions were getting quite strong and frequent. But I was only 3 hours in…surely it would be way too early to go to hospital, these things take HOURS!! The midwife took ages to come and in the end we decided we should go to hospital. I was trying to put some trousers on next to the kitchen table when my waters broke, my mum was then really insistent that we should go, I remember my sister helping me as I fumbled around putting fresh knickers on with a pad. Dan was wandering around trying to find the hospital bag and his book to read at the hospital. We still all thought we had ages to go, apart from my mum who was really insistent we should leave NOW.
We waved goodbye to Jacob, who was probably relieved not to witness any more! They bundled me into the back of my mum’s camper van so I could move around more freely and be on all fours as the pain was pretty intense by then. They had just driven round the corner (on to my least favourite road in the village - a very quiet residential road full of bungalows with neatly trimmed front lawns) when I screamed out I wanted to push. My mum who was driving the van slammed on her breaks and rushed to speak to Dan and Gudrun in the car behind following us. I remember them running around the van in a frenzy and then all squabbling about who was going to take a look at me to see how far I was dilated, each saying you look, no you look!! There was an elderly man trimming his hedge (it’s that type of road) he must have wondered what all the commotion was about! They decided to drive me back home and rang an ambulance. When we got back to our road they saw Jacob waving off a lady at our front door, it was the midwife finally arriving. I have never seen my mum run so fast, she raced down and alerted the midwife and brought her up to the van. Jacob looking confused to see us back so soon. The midwife (who was not expecting to deliver a baby, she had merely been called out to check how far dilated I was!) got ready to deliver the baby in the back of the camper van. However, in the nick of time, the ambulance crew arrived and gave me some gas and air which slowed everything down, long enough for them to bundle me back out of the van and up into our building site house and into our bedroom (with a towel wrapped round me for dignity – how embarrassing in front of all the neighbours!) When safely on the bed, the midwife encouraged me to push – everyone downstairs (and probably on the street) said I sounded like a mooing cow. 2 or 3 pushes later, Finley popped out. It was 2pm.
A home birth wahey! With only gas and air! No tears either, so no stiches required! I was not expecting that at all. The two ambulance men were standing in our dusty building site of a stairway. They were really lovely and supportive. The midwife was thrilled when someone told her I wanted to keep the placenta so Charlotte (of Birthtale) could make it into placenta pills. It meant that she didn’t have to take it away with her. At the time I remember thinking that was the most painful experience of my life, but really it was such a straightforward and quick birth. I was so lucky, and so lucky to have Dan, my mum and sister with me. I really enjoyed not having to be in hospital, if I’d known the birth was going to be that straight forward I would definitely have planned a home birth. Getting into a car in labour is so uncomfortable.
Unfortunately, we had to visit the hospital the next day and wait in the stuffy room to be seen and get the baby checked out. It took hours and it made me feel relieved I’d had a home birth. Considering how lucky I was with a straight forward birth I was sorry that I then had massive struggles getting Finn to latch on properly and experienced 6 weeks of anguish trying to master breastfeeding. We checked for tongue tie but it wasn’t that, he just didn’t seem interested. I was producing loads of milk (thanks to the placenta pills and fennel tea?) so was pumping it and feeding it to him in a bottle. After 6 long stressful and tiring weeks persevering we finally nailed it. Maybe his mouth just needed to get bigger? I will never know what the issue was… but was so glad to have mastered it in the end