This time last year, I was around nine weeks pregnant and expected to give birth towards the end of April this year. Yet here I am writing the birth story of our rainbow baby boy Maximilian born in August instead.I imagine that my second birth story could and most likely would have been very different if we hadn’t suffered a missed miscarriage. There have been days when I have imagined how different our lives would have been but when I look at Max every single day now, I realise that if it wasn’t for the miscarriage he wouldn’t have been conceived and so I feel ever so blessed that he is here with us today. His birth story is a very special one in that sense.
My pregnancy with Max couldn’t have been easier in terms of my physical state of wellbeing. I had no sickness, not even a twinge of nausea, I slept relatively well until very late into the third trimester, and I generally had more energy than when I was pregnant with my older son Leo – with him, I could easily fall asleep at 5pm and sleep until the morning. However, constant anxiety about something being wrong with this last pregnancy and potentially losing the baby again was something that I found really difficult to deal with. I initially told myself (and everyone else close enough to me to understand the anxiety I was going through) that I would be much calmer after that milestone 12-week dating scan. Then the milestones kept moving – the first feeling of fluttering, a private scan at 14 and 16 weeks, first movements of the baby, then the 20-week scan… I was panicking about everything!
The one thing I was calm about was labour though! Some women love being pregnant but I must be the craziest person who has ever said that she has loved giving birth! But I truly loved it when Leo was born (even though there were interventions and my birth plan had gone out of the window) and so I couldn’t wait for Max’s birth – not least because that was the ultimate milestone for me to rid myself from my anxiety.
This time round, just as five years ago with Leo, I had planned to have an active and ‘natural’ birth – i.e. no interventions, no or as little pain relief as possible, whilst totally trusting my instincts and relying on nature to take its course. As I mentioned before, Leo’s birth wasn’t completely straightforward and I ended up having interventions which I had not wanted. His journey into this world started nine days past the due date after I woke up at 5am in the morning with some significant bleeding – I panicked as it wasn’t the mucousy cervix plug that I had read about so we went straight to hospital. The midwife insisted it was the plug and wanted us to go back home which I was really scared of doing. But I stuck to my gut feeling (you see, sometimes panicking isn’t such a bad thing!) and I demanded a doctor examined me. As it was fresh blood, they decided to keep me in and unfortunately, the bleeding continued throughout the labour.
As a result, I was strapped to a monitor and checked by midwives every 15 minutes. I couldn’t do anything to help me dilate naturally so after a few hours, the midwife informed us that it would be best for me to have the oxytocin to help with the dilation and I was recommended to opt for an epidural to help me with the pain. As a first time Mum, I felt I had to trust the medical staff who clearly knew what they were doing and so I opted for the epidural. Fortunately for me, as I later realised, it didn’t work and numbed only half of my body. A very lovely Italian midwife insisted on not administering the epidural again and instead, she kept topping it up and moving me from side to side.
Eventually when the epidural started to work, I had dilated much more and there was no longer a need to induce me with the oxytocin. A few hours later (and after two and a half hours of pushing, and an episiotomy) and Leo was born – straight onto my chest for those precious first skin-to-skin cuddles. It wasn’t the natural birth I had hoped for but I still loved every minute of it. I stayed calm throughout, with amazing support from my husband, and felt really connected to my body and the baby which I feel is the reason my experience was so positive.
Nearly five years later and I had high hopes for that active and ‘natural’ birth experience that I had previously wanted but I was very much aware that my wish may not be granted, given my first birth.
Two days after Max’s due date, and two Thai and Indian curries later, I was still pregnant, despite a lot of tightening over the course of the previous week. I was getting ever so impatient, especially as I really didn’t want to be induced. On the third day though, at 4am in the morning I woke up feeling contractions coming in regular 4-minute flows. After looking at the clock for 10 minutes, I started timing the contractions on an app but after about two or three hours, I fell asleep holding my phone in my hands.
When I woke up about an hour later, the contractions were still there but less regular and my husband asked if he should be going to work. As the contractions were irregular, we decided that he would go to work and as my Mum was staying with us, I felt I was in safe hands in case something unexpected happened. Little did I know that two hours later, I discovered some minor bleeding when peeing and memories of Leo’s birth flooded in. However, I really surprised myself with how calm I remained and went downstairs to update my Mum on the situation and then called the husband to ask him to return home and take me to hospital. At this point, contractions were still around four minutes apart and lasted about 30-40 seconds.
At around 12.30pm, we were at the hospital and following an hour of monitoring, we were told to go back home and wait for contractions to become more frequent and longer. Back in the car, we actually considered whether it was worth driving half an hour back home, in case the situation changed but I was in too much pain to sit idly in the car and couldn’t quite imagine myself walking around the car park or a nearby town/ shopping centre. So back home we went – at that point, contractions were intense, about every three minutes and so I tried a TENS machine but it really got on my nerves (no pun intended!) and I actually felt I coped with the pain much better without it. I even did some salsa dancing to prove to my Mum that I had it all under control as she had panicked the moment she saw us coming back from the hospital. I think she had this vision of helping me deliver the baby on a bathroom floor!
Less than an hour later (around 3-4pm) and contractions became much more intense so after another consultation call to the hospital, we were on the road again. This time, I would not let the staff send me home! But I didn’t have to – when we got there, they monitored me for a while and then a doctor carried out an internal examination which revealed that I was six centimeters dilated – this was at 5.25pm.
We were then taken to a midwifery-led birthing unit where a midwife ran water into a birthing pool and so the active and natural birth that I had wanted began. I got into the pool and got into a kneeling position, resting my arms on the side of the pool while my husband helpfully handed me energy bars and water. I can only describe the next stage of my labour as fast because looking back at the course of events, it all happened so quickly but of course back in that moment, going through pain, time definitely dragged on. Contractions started getting more and more intense but I continued to use breathing to distract me and that definitely helped. They suggested I use gas and air which I did – with the first few inhales, I got myself a bit too dizzy though and for a moment felt like I was on some sort of a cloud, floating and feeling weightless (clearly, I breathed in too much!).
It took less than half an hour for me to feel the urge to push and for a while, I tried to stop it whilst whispering to my husband that I was scared of doing a ‘number two’ in the pool. The midwives picked up on my body’s movements though and told me to listen to it. At 6.30pm, my waters broke and I continued to experience the pressure to push. With a few pushes, Max’s head finally emerged at 7.04pm and I was immediately asked to stand up in the pool. What happened next was such a special moment as I helped the midwives hold him as he made his way into this world at 7.06pm. Moments later, the two of us were lying down cuddled up and once again, I can claim I absolutely loved every minute of that labour.
I feel really blessed that I was able to experience this birth in a very different way to my first one because to me, those births are my badges of strength and courage. Giving birth to my babies is the most courageous thing I have done in my life and I feel so proud of myself. Having experienced such high levels of anxiety in the past year though, I didn’t think I had so much strength inside me. Yet again though, nature has proven to me that we women are such strong beings and we can handle a lot, much more than we often give ourselves credit for. At the same time, I believe that giving birth is only a very small part of the hard work that needs to be put into bringing up our children into decent human beings so this amazing parenting journey has only just begun for us and our two glorious boys!
How were your birth experience(s)? I’d really love to hear from you.