On a chilly winter’s afternoon in Oxford, just a few days before Christmas, I was sitting on the bed breastfeeding Indi, who was only 11 months old at the time. I was sitting meditating, as I often did while I was breastfeeding, when suddenly I was hit by a bout of dizziness that had me reaching for the wall to steady myself.
Papa had only recently recovered from an ear infection and labyrinthitis and my first thought was “Oh no, I don’t believe that I’ve got it too, and just before Christmas at that”. I sat waiting for the spinning to subside and as it did, another thought came into my head. I remembered that sensation from something else: my pregnancy with your sister. And then it dawned on me that my bleeding was a week late.
Interestingly, Daddy and I had only very recently had a conversation about having another baby. About how, after being told that it was unlikely that we would have children naturally and trying for three and a half years for Indi, we felt incredibly blessed and completely accepting of the fact that we may only have one child.
Clearly you had other ideas about that!
Indi and I went for a walk to the pharmacy and that night, after she was asleep and without thinking to tell Daddy about my suspicions, I did the pregnancy test. I was so shocked at the positive result that I couldn’t speak and just went downstairs and showed it to Papa. Understandably, he was a little confused about the situation, and it took a few minutes for what he was seeing to sink in.
We sat and held one another for quite a long time while we let the news soak in. What a truly wonderful Christmas gift. I did have one concern though: how on earth was I going to find the same amount of love for another baby, that I had for your sister? Was my capacity to love that great?
Apart from nausea and some extra tiredness until I was around 14 weeks pregnant, early pregnancy was fairly uneventful with you. The biggest challenge for me was breastfeeding your sister through the intensely sensitive nipples I had during those first weeks. My pregnancy was busy, healthy and active and the months whizzed by. Naturally, we planned a home birth for you.
Some time before 5am on a beautiful summer’s morning I woke up thinking that I might have just had two contractions in my sleep. Carefully disentangling myself from Indira who was asleep with her arms wrapped tightly around my neck and her face pressed against mine, I excitedly rolled out of bed as quietly and gracefully as my very large bump would allow!
I was barely out of the bedroom when what was most definitely a contraction doubled me over and took my breath away. For many hours of my labour with Indira, I had experienced very light surges, many minutes apart, which had slowly built up over about fourteen hours to the intensity I was experiencing now. I guessed that the contractions were less than five minutes apart and lasting for a good minute.
This was our timing cue for calling the community midwives and Auntie Katie, who was coming to be with Indira so that Papa could focus on me and you. And I’d only just woken up! Padding dazedly back to the bedroom, I woke Daddy up to let him know that I was in labour and that my contractions were really close together and pretty painful already. I asked if he could call the midwives while I called Auntie Katie.
Daddy and I had lots of plans for your birth. Indi’s had been a very organic journey that we had flowed through and loved. Afterward, we wished that we’d have had the opportunity to take some more photographs. We had taken photos until about 4pm, and then nothing until about an hour after Indi was born. This time we wanted photos of the whole experience and the people with us: shots of me in labour, shots of Daddy and Indi, Auntie Katie, the midwives and the spaces that we were in (which I was planning on decorating with freshly cut roses from the garden and many, many candles while I swayed through contractions). We wanted your story in pictures as well as words. I even had a list of all of the photos I wanted!
Again, you had other plans!
Daddy and I finished our telephone calls and the midwife and Auntie Katie were on their way. The midwife would be at least an hour and Auntie Katie around two and a half and warned that there was a chance that she might not make it before you did! Daddy and Indi set to work on filling the birth pool and having breakfast.
I’d not packed a ‘just in case’ hospital bag and thought that I should probably go and do that, thinking that I had ages to go and cut flowers and light candles, take photos, hang out with Daddy and Indi, drink tea, eat breakfast, etc. By the time I got upstairs and into the bedroom, the surges were coming thick and fast and I was struggling to integrate them. It quickly became apparent to me that if I remained upright, you would be joining us before the midwife even.
My plan, as with Indi’s birth, had been to be as mobile as possible throughout the whole birth. At that point in time, lying on the bed just felt like the right thing to do.
As soon as I lay down on my side, the contractions eased a little and I was able to breathe myself into them and become a part of them, instead of them overwhelming me as they had been threatening to do. I then just lay there with my hand on my belly, breathing deeply and connecting with you. The sounds of Daddy and Indi drifted up the stairs, as the rays of the early morning sun streamed in through the sheer curtains and bathed us in a warm and magical light.
Before long, Louise, our midwife arrived and came upstairs. We’d never met before and she just sat on the bed next to me, tuning into me while I breathed through some surges. She introduced herself and we chatted for a while. I felt 100% connected to her in just that short space of time. She asked if she could examine me, saying that I was so relaxed, she was unable to tell whether I was in established labour already.
I remember being a little apprehensive at this point because after 8 hours of labour with Indi I was only 1cm dilated. What I was experiencing with you was so intense already, after only a couple of hours of labour. Louise’s news was much more welcome, I was already 5cm dilated. We talked between surges, but when they came, they demanded 100% focus. Daddy and Indi came in and out of the room, they made tea and toast for Louise, everyone had a turn at rubbing my back during contractions (which was bliss by the way) and Indi had her own little medical bag made up to divert her attention from raiding Louise’s!
At some point Louise asked me if I wanted to try some Nitrous Oxide. My contractions had recently increased in intensity and duration and I readily agreed. In no time at all I felt as though I was floating. I was completely blissed out and feeling the whole spectrum of beautiful colours that were pouring into the room with the rays of sun.
Auntie Katie arrived at about 8.15am, and after being fed a quick breakfast, took over Indi’s care to allow Daddy to be fully present with us. We’d said to Auntie Katie that we were happy for Indi to be wherever she wanted to be – whether that was with us, playing in the house or garden, or even out for a walk if that’s what felt right. We had spent a lot of time preparing Indi for you being born at home and she was incredibly excited.
Auntie Katie and Indi came upstairs a few times to say hello, Louise asked me if I wanted to go and get in the pool (I said no as I was really comfortable where I was, but she was aware that I REALLY also wanted a water birth), Daddy was fully present with me, I was floating with the colours, feeling very nauseous, then not. The surges intensified further and Louise suggested that if I wanted a water birth, now would be a good time to go downstairs and get into the pool!
I sank into the warm water and said to no one in particular “this is wonderful, why didn’t I get in here before now?!”. I took big, deep breaths of the Nitrous Oxide as I entered transition and groaned very deeply and loudly on my out-breaths. As with Indira’s birth I then had this magical pause, where I felt no pain and no tension, just perfect calm and clarity. Then the Nitrous Oxide ran out, I looked at Louise slightly panicked and she said “it’s ok, you can do it”.
My body started pushing you out with an incredibly strong reflex. The pressure was so intense, yet something didn’t feel quite right, it didn’t feel as though you were moving. I was on all fours at that point and moving around quite a bit. Finally, after a few more pushes, my waters released with a pop and then I could feel you moving down. My bottom was very buoyant however and it was interfering a bit with being able to move you down further. Louise suggested I try a different position so I moved to a deep squat at the edge of the pool with Daddy behind me and held onto him more and more tightly with each contraction.
And then, that familiar burning sensation began and I began wondering how much more I could take. I was working hard to relax my entire body around the downward surges. And then ‘pop’ your head was born. “Oh my goodness” Louise exclaimed “this looks like a big baby, and with so much hair”. And then I experienced what I now know to be a true ‘birthgasm’ as you were born and Daddy and I reached down to catch you. And suddenly you were in my arms, still, calm, breathing softly, with a squashed nose and your right ear folded over, eyes open briefly to meet mine, a smile and then you closed them again. You were still covered in vernix and for quite some time, your umbilical cord pulsated strongly. I felt amazing, blissed out, beautiful and Goddess-like!
Daddy was kissing me and loving you and someone asked, “are you going to see what you’ve got”? In my heart I already knew, but I took a peek to confirm that we had another she warrior.
Indi and Auntie Katie came into the room just then and you met each other for the first time. Indi wanted to get into the pool with us but my contractions were intensifying again and I needed to hand you over to Daddy so that I could focus on birthing your placenta. The room was abuzz with activity and happy voices. You and Daddy were having some skin-to-skin time, Auntie Katie was taking photos and Indi was chattering nineteen-to-the-dozen.
After your huge placenta was born to more gasps of amazement, I was supported to get out of the pool and then sat down on the sofa wrapped in towels trying to get the hang of feeding a newborn baby again. You were an absolute natural and we never faltered in our breastfeeding journey.
The voices and laughter started fading in and out and suddenly I felt really spun out and dizzy. I asked for tea and toast but everyone was chatting and being slow! I hadn’t eaten for sixteen hours AND I had just given birth. I called out to Daddy and told him that I needed to eat NOW but then couldn’t even chew my toast when it came. I remembered that there were some Haribo sours in the cupboard and they seemed to help!
Louise checked me over at the same time telling me that you had been born with your chin up instead of tucked in, and had popped out pretty quickly resulting in a sizeable perineal tear that would be better stitched on the delivery suite at our local hospital. Unfortunately, purely because of protocol, they were going to have to call an ambulance to take me there. I was so high and blissed out from your birth that I genuinely didn’t mind at all! You too were checked over, proclaimed perfect and weighed in at 4.3kgs!
I asked Papa to call Grandma to come over and help Auntie Katie with Indi while we were all out. She arrived within about half an hour full of smiles, love, and cuddles and laden with home-baked goodies!
An ambulance arrived and the paramedics were brilliant, offered their congratulations and joked with Louise and I as I climbed into the back of the ambulance. You and Daddy followed behind in the car.
Once at the hospital we were seen really quickly. I hadn’t yet stopped eating and you barely had either! Marina, a hilarious Brummie midwife stitched me up and said that thankfully, the tear was only superficially large and everything should be healed in no time at all. She also went off to make me a cup of strong sugary tea on hearing that your birth was only five hours from start to finish, having none of my “I don’t drink caffeine thanks”! It was genuinely one of the best cups of tea I’ve ever had! Daddy was having lots of cuddles with you, you drank more milk and then Louise came in and said that we were good to go home.
Me, you and Daddy drove back home through the beautiful centre of Oxford, you, five hours old and sleeping peacefully, Daddy and I feeling a little dazed! We got home and opened the door to our house and Indira, Grandma and Auntie Katie were all buzzing around. The birth pool had been emptied, the house cleaned and lunch was cooking (lamb kleftiko and roasties!)
I then sat and tandem breastfed you and Indira for the first time. Indi was amazed by you and loved you so much right from the start; she was so beautiful and sweet with you. Our afternoon was full of love, laughter, people, chatter and delicious food and then, the house was quiet, Grandma and Auntie Katie gone home and Indira in bed asleep.
Daddy and I lay on our bed with you and examined you minutely from head to toe, wondering who you looked like, who you were going to be and what we might name you. Marvelling at this beautiful and precious new life that we had created. We congratulated and thanked one another, so full of love and admiration and truly thankful for our wonderful family and friends.
I was exhausted, but too excited to sleep. And so, while Papa dozed and you slept, I just lay there, breathing you in and falling more and more in love with you. I checked on Indi too from time to time, unable to stop smiling, my heart so swollen with love, that I genuinely felt that it might just burst.
My birthing experience with you was spiritual, calm, full of love and deep respect and truly orgasmic. Again, we were in our home and I was able to fully tune into my power and intuition in birthing you.
I think I knew from this time onwards that I wanted to become a midwife and be involved in the birthing world. I had been a children’s nurse for 11 years at that point, but strongly felt the pull to transition to a new path.