We found out I was pregnant on the 3rd of January 2020, and two months later the UK went into its’ first national lockdown as the covid-19 pandemic officially hit. Just as the nausea was passing and I started to feel a little more like myself again, we were indoors except for our daily walks by the canal to stretch our legs. I spent a lot of my pregnancy hoping for things. I dreamed of my Mom coming to see us (most of my family are in South Africa) around the time he was due, of having some sort of celebration with friends and family as Summer was coming to an end, of going shopping to buy him outfits and meeting up with people to tell them all our plans for a babymoon trip before he was born, of meeting and spending time with other parents to be. This wasn’t our story of the journey towards having our first baby. Yet, the birth of our son Elliot was everything I hoped for. I didn’t imagine a birth free from pain or uncertainty but I did imagine one where I felt seen and empowered. Bringing him into the world made me feel like the best version of myself. I attribute a large part of this to what I learnt during the hypnobirthing course my husband Sam and I did with Colleen.
The course we did helped me to understand the value of learning to calm my mind and therefore my body in preparation for labour. We talked about the various resources available to us to help that process. The great thing was that this looked different for every woman, and Colleen explored that with us. It encouraged me to find and hold onto the things that would rejuvinate and bring a sense of peace to me – my own rhythm of life. I took lavender baths, did pilates and early morning walks, prayed, listened to my hypnobirthing tracks and did breathing exercises, ate some of my favourite food, binged watched my favourite series (like Friends), and read books.
In retrospect this rhythm of life helped me remain calm and focussed even before I was in labour, particularly when my “due” date – the 30th August 2020 came and went I was encouraged to be induced. During the course we talked about birth preferences and we learnt about the physiology of labour (this was fascinating to me!) as well as the various interventions available to me – an induction being one of them. I was armed with the information that gave me the confidence to have conversations with my midwives about this. I had no intention of going through with the induction. I was a low risk pregnancy and had no complications. I had my final appointment with the midwife at nearly 41 weeks where she tentatively booked me in to be induced the following week. I agreed to the appointment for the doctor to discuss it with me, to monitor the baby and answer any further questions I had. I knew I needed to hold my birth preferences lightly, and I must admit at this point it was difficult for me as I really wanted to go into labour spontaneously but also wanted to weigh up the risks with the health care professionals instead of holding onto my ideal.
On Monday the 7th of September I had come around to the idea that if I had not gone into labour by the end of the week I would probably choose to be induced. Sam and I went out that morning for an early breakfast, came home and chilled. I had a bath and listened to one of my tracks as I drifted off for an afternoon nap at about 3pm. I woke up to my waters breaking at 4:30pm. It was a huge gush of water and I just about managed to get to the loo. I was quiet for a minute, suddenly realising what was happening and then felt a huge leap of excitement. I shouted to Sam in the living room that my waters had broken. From there, we called the birth centre.
Very mild contractions had started at this point. They asked me to come in. We went to the birth centre where the midwife timed by contractions – they were coming every 5 minutes or so and she said her feeling was that he would be born early that morning. I knew as a first time mother that statistically my labour would not necessarily be short, so when she said this I wondered. We went home to chill while labour progressed. I ate pie and chips and watched a few episodes of Friends while I bounced lightly on my birthing ball. The midwife had asked us to take my temperature to check there were no signs of fever developing since my waters has broken and there was an increased risk of infection. We realised we didn’t have a working thermometer so Sam rushed around for about an hour trying to find one at the local shops and eventually our friends dropped theirs off (phew). By now the contractions were coming every minute and lasting for about a minute. I had a shower, which was nice and soothing. I was a little surprised at how quickly labour seemed to be progressing so we called the birth centre and they suggested I come in.
By the time we arrived at around 10pm the contractions definitely felt stronger and I wondered how much more painful it could get. I had been doing the breathing exercises consistently. The midwife offered me a cervical examination which I agreed to. I was 3cm dilated but as my contractions had progressed quickly and since my waters had broken they told me to stay. (normally they would say go home until you are 4cm or more dilated). The examination was pretty uncomfortable – I think because I was on my back. I knew then I probably would not want to be on my back the rest of the labour because it intensified the contractions.
I told the midwife I felt pressure, as if I needed to push. I remember in the course Colleen told us I may feel a downward sensation, like my body was doing what it needed to to get the baby out. The midwife coached me in gently pushing and breathing. She told Sam and I that I was crowning – and we both looked at each other and her in shock saying “really?” How could it happen this quickly?” I continued to push gently when the contractions came. I remember the down breath we learnt about and the pushing felt natural.
Once Elliot’s head was out he pushed through with his arm and his shoulders weren’t coming out easily, so the midwives asked me to get out of the pool onto the couch next to it on all fours so they could help him. I stood up in the pool and heard him crying. It felt surreal. I remember saying – “hello baby.”After about 3 massive contractions he was born at 2:07 am on the 8th September. I had asked the midwives to let me hold him and look at his face before placing him on my chest for skin to skin. I couldn’t turn around to pick him up on my own as I was shaking so much, so they and Sam helped me. When I did look at him, I was amazed. I just kept on saying my baby, my baby. After 9 plus months of a lot of things not going the way I expected them to, giving birth and meeting Elliot is and will be one of the greatest moments of my life.