Please excuse the quality of some of the photos in this post, we filmed bits of my labour and so some pictures are screenshots of that footage. The lighting was kept dim too which reduced the quality some more.
Let me set the scene.
It’s the third of July 2018, we’re in the middle of one of the most severe heatwaves the UK has seen in years and I am nine days overdue. I’m hot, swollen and becoming increasingly annoyed by the poor time keeping skills of my second child. It had never occurred to me that Ernie would be later than Darcie was, if anything I was expecting him early and had therefore been on the edge of my seat since about 37 weeks pregnant. Five weeks later and I was beginning to lose my cool, literally.
I’d been for my second sweep that morning and been disappointed to learn that I was still 3cm dilated which was the same as the previous week. I’d been having a lot of Braxton Hicks contraction pain and losing my plug for many weeks by this point and was finding this slow, drawn out early labour so frustrating. I just wanted proper labour to begin so that I could not be pregnant anymore and meet my baby boy. I’d also had a couple of pretty convincing false starts and was fed up of getting my hopes up only to be dissapointed again.
That evening Darcie and I had been to Dan’s Nan’s house and when we got home she was so overexcited that she didn’t end up going to bed until 11.30pm. I’m pretty sure that is the latest that she’s ever gone to bed and it’s almost like she knew that something was going to happen the next day and was trying to lengthen our last evening as a family of three.
When she had eventually settled in bed I clambered into my own bed and fell asleep, exhausted from the day. I woke up just before 2am with a bad stomach and got up to go to the toilet. After a couple of minutes awake I realised that it had in fact been a contraction that had woken me up and that going to the toilet wasn’t going to solve the problem. The contractions were every 3 to 4 minutes but bearable. I waited until I’d had a few contractions in a row before waking Dan up to tell him that I thought I was in labour. We then rang his Mum and Nan to ask them to come and look after Darcie. I rang labour line who told me to wait half an hour or so before ringing back, because although my contractions were close together and regular, I hadn’t had that many yet and I was coping well with them.
Dan’s Mum and Nan arrived and within minutes of me getting off the phone with Labour Line the contractions suddenly increased to every two minutes. I rang back and told them that they were becoming more frequent and they then told me to go to The Birth Centre as things were progressing really quickly. Because I had been in early labour for a few weeks and was already 3cm dilated before the contractions had even begun, I was really thinking that the baby could come very quickly. We arrived at the Birth Centre by 2.30am where they checked me and confirmed I was 4cm dilated and in active labour.
They took me through to one of the birthing rooms and I was so pleased to see that it was the same one that I had delivered Darcie in. That instantly made me feel at ease as it was a room that was so familiar to me and that held such positive memories for me. They began to fill the birth pool for me and I immediately started using the gas and air. I had planned on using a TENS machine before gas and air but we couldn’t make the machine work at home and by the time we arrived at the birth centre I was in enough pain that I wanted the gas and air. The birth pool was as good pain relief as I remembered from last time. At one point I was sick and when they emptied the pool out to fill it with fresh water, the pain increased drastically. That made me appreciate it so much more once it was full again. Dan was, once again, a fantastic birth partner, despite me crushing his hand as hard as I could! I had also done a bit of hypno birth preparation during my pregnancy and I found using the breathing techniques really helpful for managing the pain and staying calm throughout labour.
The timings and exact details of the next few hours are a blur, but I laboured in the birth pool until around 6am when I felt the urge to push. My waters still hadn’t broken at this point, but I kept being told that they were ‘bulging’ which was a sensation I could distinctly feel despite all the other pain. I remember wishing that they would just pop to relieve some of the discomfort.
As soon as a I felt the urge to push, I just went with it. The midwives were excellent at guiding me through each contraction but honestly I found the best and only thing I could really do was just to listen to and trust my body. It was comforting to know that I had done it before and I kept telling myself over and over again that this pain wouldn’t last forever.
When I had been pushing for half an hour or so, the midwife was doing one of her routine checks and expressed her concern at how things were progressing. She said she couldn’t tell which was round he was anymore and that I had to get out of the birth pool so they could monitor and examine me further. If I hadn’t have been so high on gas and air I would have probably panicked more at this information but all I could do in that moment was focus on getting myself out of the birth pool and across the room onto the bed. Any woman who has ever been in labour will know how horrendous it is trying to do anything while contracting and pushing.
Once I was on the bed they examined me further and told us that he had in fact turned to be back to back. After being the right way round throughout my entire pregnancy, Ernie had chosen that moment (mid push!) to decide to stretch his legs and have a change of scenery. A combination of his moving position, his size (which we weren’t even aware of at the time) and being on my back on the bed all added up to things becoming increasingly difficult for me. Throughout every contraction I was pushing and pushing to the point where I felt that I had made progress and then as soon as the contraction ended I could feel him almost crawling back up inside me. That feeling of him going back the wrong way will haunt me much longer than the memory of the contractions. I’ve never felt more disheartened or defeated and the pain of him going back up was on another level to my contractions. When I was on the bed, I had an episiotomy and I only remember feeling relieved as I didn’t think I would get the baby out myself otherwise. They also put a catheter in, which I didn’t even notice with everything else going on. I got to the point where he just wasn’t coming out. If anything he was regressing not progressing and I just broke down. I cried and told them that I couldn’t do it. I’m not a dramatic person in situations like this, I honestly believed that I couldn’t do it, that I wouldn’t be able to get him out myself. I’d given birth before and never felt this level of despair. They must hear women say that every day but for some reason they believed me and called an ambulance to take me to Princess Anne where there was more pain relief and the possibility of a cesarean should it come to that.
Minutes later, they told me that the ambulance was outside and when I heard those words I somehow found the motivation and strength I needed to push him out. It was a strength I didn’t know I had, and I can say with absolute certainty that giving birth to Ernie is the greatest physical achievement of my life. It was significantly harder than giving birth to Darcie, I can’t say whether that was down to his size, him turning sunny side up, or giving birth lying on my back, but it was probably a combination of those three factors.
Ernie weighed ten pounds and six ounces at birth and was one of the heaviest babies ever born at the New Forest Birth Centre. There had been no indication during my pregnancy that he would be big, otherwise I would have had growth scans and the chances are that I would have been advised to give birth at the hospital. Darcie weighed seven pounds eight ounces, so his size was a total shock to everyone.
After being stitched up and hosed down (you ladies know the drill), we were transferred to the hospital so that he could be monitored. Big babies have a higher chance of developing hypoglycemia so we had to stay in for his blood sugar levels to be checked every four hours. I think I will write a post on this experience at a later date but the long story short is that his blood sugar levels were perfect, much better than they had hoped! I also had to be kept in as they were concerned about my blood loss. His placenta weighed 900 grams, I don’t know much about placentas but apparently this is large. It meant that my blood loss was higher than normal but not quite high enough to require a transfusion. I was very weak for a few days, much weaker than after having Darcie, but essentially fine!
Ernie and I stayed in hospital for one night before coming home to his adoring big sister and Daddy.
He is absolutely perfect and we are so in love.
Ernest Grayson Street. 4th July 2018.
You can read Darcie’s Birth Story here!