At 7.12pm on 1st November 2018 I reached down into the water and brought my baby boy to the surface. Felix Theodore Coleman arrived into the world in the birthing pool after a short yet (obviously) very memorable labour.
I decided early on in my pregnancy to invest in my physical and mental wellbeing in order to build my confidence around the birthing process. I was lucky to meet some fabulous women along the way who supported me through acupuncture, hypnobirthing and yoga. However, babies are unpredictable and we all know despite the best intentions, plans can often go awry – I am well aware I had a huge dose of luck on the day my son decided to make his entrance.
Through the second and third trimester I attended weekly yoga sessions. The classes were small with just two other ladies and our teacher Claire tailored every session to our stage of pregnancy, as well as adapting positions for my ongoing nausea. I look back on those sessions fondly as it was a time I felt really connected to my growing bump.
James and I both read Hollie De Cruz’ Your Baby, Your Birth book. I bloody love this as it features testimonials from all forms of birth; vaginal, c-section, epidural, water and reassured me that whatever the situation it was possible to feel in control. I listened to daily meditations, had affirmation cards dotted around the house and actively sought out birth stories to prepare myself for every eventuality. Near the end of the pregnancy James and I attended a session with Emma-Jane, a local hypnobirthing tutor who helped me refine my breathing and build on what James and I had already learned about the hypnobirthing process. As I suffer from nasal problems I had struggled with the various breaths so meeting Emma-Jane was really helpful as she helped me nail my technique.
At 36 weeks I started a course of four pre-birth acupuncture sessions in order to prepare my cervix and uterus. However I didn’t make it to the fourth session. At 39 weeks +2 days a certain someone decided it was time to arrive. He clearly didn’t care we had a carpet arriving the next day or that I hadn’t managed to finish my tax return!
The Big Day
On the morning of the 1st November I woke at 3am with Braxton Hicks and stumbled to the bathroom for yet another toilet trip. This time though I was met with a show. I stayed awake until 6am as every twenty minutes an uncomfortable tightening surged across my back. I fell asleep for a couple of hours and woke to find the pain continued and began rising in intensity and frequency. As the morning progressed the pain across my back grew more powerful and was only slightly eased by standing in the jet of the shower.
In terms of labour aids, I’d bought it all – the birthing ball, the woven scarf for reboza sifting, the relaxing candles and the melodic playlist. What did I use? None of it. All I wanted to do was to lengthen my body. As each contraction came I breathed and swayed on James’ shoulders. At one point I even hung off the bedroom door! Despite their lack of use, I’m so glad I’d collected together all the various aids as these preparations made me feel in control as my due date grew closer.
Around 11am James called the birthing centre to confirm they were open. We were advised the best place to stay was at home until the contractions came closer to together and increased to a minute in length. I made my way to the bathroom and crouched on all fours in the tub insisting James used the shower hose to spray my lower back. As early labour continued, water became a bit of a theme.
By early afternoon I had reached the all-important ‘three in ten’, I deliberated when we should make the fifteen minute trip to the hospital. I didn’t want to be told I hadn’t progressed enough but equally didn’t want to get caught in rush hour traffic. At 3pm I was contracting on the drive outside our house, swaying back and forth and summoning up the courage to get into the car. Somehow I climbed in. I clung onto the grab handles and willed the journey to pass quickly. Thank god we found a parking space just outside the door to the maternity unit and made our way inside.
On arriving at the birthing centre we met the midwifery team, the lovely Emily and the equally excellent student Eve. I was offered an internal examination which revealed I was three centimetres dilated. I was gutted. With active labour being defined at 4cm, it was suggested I think about going home or going for a walk.
Then at that moment I felt a pop as my waters broke. I was hit by the most overwhelming contraction, a wave of extreme nausea and an intense need to use the loo. I dashed into the bathroom. Apparently while I was otherwise engaged the team had decided the latest turn of events could mean it was likely I was going to advance quickly and so just after 4pm I climbed into the birthing pool.
Thankfully things progressed very quickly. James was incredible but I spent most of the time with my chin in the water, head dipped and eyes down concentrating on my breathing. Yes there were expletives but most of the time I spoke only to James only to demand a drink or the spray of water across my back as each surge came and passed. Later when I was out of the pool I looked down at my toes and most of my nail polish had disappeared despite having a pedicure days earlier. While I was pretty good at relaxing the top half of my body I struggled with my legs and feet and must have scraped them along the bottom of the pool as I entered each wave!
Around 6.30pm I begged the midwives to ‘help me’ and I knew I had reached transition. I was on the home straight. Then came the need to push and what can only be described as a primal, animalistic urge to birth. As my body convulsed, uncontrollable guttural moans came from deep within. At one point Eve told me I’d need to conserve my energy to get the baby out but I felt I had little control over the noise.
The midwifery team used only a mirror and doppler to check on my progress and as the second stage of labour advanced the baby’s heartbeat was monitored after each contraction. After about 40 minutes Felix’s heartbeat began to slow and I was told I needed to push with all my might otherwise I was going to have to leave the pool. There was no bloody way I was getting out. With one final contraction I gave it my all and birthed my beautiful baby boy. The labour was intense, exhilarating and painful, but it was everything I hoped it would be.
Despite the quick birth, as you all know it had taken quite some time to get to this point. After several years of infertility, two rounds of IVF and over 240 days of sickness, he was finally here. And just like everyone said, he was well and truly worth the wait.