It started with a favourable cervix – Ross’ birth story (Part 1)
The plan had always been a water birth. We live by the sea and both Debbie (my wife) and I love being in, on or under the water so it was a natural choice. The antenatal classes (we went with NCT and would recommend it) sung the praises of water births as both a relaxing and natural way for the little fella to arrive, whilst also acting as pain relief for mum.
This sounded like a good option as we wanted to avoid pain relief drugs if possible, well my wife did anyway. I was open to gas and air after watching my fair share of Channel Four’s ‘One born every minute’. The thought of watching your nearest and dearest inconsolable with pain certainly felt like it would be more bearable if I was high on nitrous oxide, one for you, one for me…!
We discussed it with our midwife and were excited to hear our local hospital in Poole had a relatively new midwife led maternity unit called the Haven suite with at least four private rooms, all with birthing pools. Where do we sign up?!
If a midwife led delivery and pool birth is also something you are considering it is worth keeping in mind availability of beds in units like the Haven. In Poole they only have limited rooms so even if your wife is low risk, she could still get whipped away to the main delivery suite quicker than you can say “get me an epidural” if all the beds are taken.
Considering a private birth?
To guarantee such luxury you could consider private options like this crazy hospital in London called the Portland which recently featured on a BBC Two documentary “Five star babies: Inside the Portland hospital”. For around ten thousand pounds you can choose your perfect birth and even end the day with caviar and champagne rather than cuddles with your baby if you’d prefer! Given that we are not millionaires we opted for the Haven and kept our fingers and toes crossed it would work out as we hoped.
However, despite planning for a midwife led pool birth our reality was very different in the end, as I’m sure it is for thousands of other couples. Our due date was April 10th which came and went without anything too eventful happening.
In the preceding weeks we had extra growth scans, four in total, as our midwife couldn’t decide if the baby was measuring large or small which left my wife convinced she was carrying a giant baby. Not great for stress levels, especially as I was nearly nine pounds at birth, a fact that actually brought her to tears before one growth scan when contemplating exactly how he would exit the building if ours was that size…!
Old wives tales about birth and a stretch and sweep
The further past due date you go, different options need to be discussed to help encourage your little human to make an appearance. Traditional old wives tales advise you to try eating spicy food, pineapple, embarking on long walks, drinking raspberry leaf tea and trying the awkward pursuit of pregnancy sexy time. We tried them all (not on the same night!) but still no movement. We then got offered midwife intervention using a sinister sounding manoeuvre called the stretch and sweep.
Now from what I understand it was as uncomfortable and unpleasant as it sounds, and the first of many ‘examinations’ my wife would have to endure. However every cloud has a silver lining as our midwife excitedly reported back that Debbie had a ‘favourable’ cervix, however to this day I’m still not quite sure what she meant, but it sounded positive!
She also said that her waters were likely to break soon (based on having a good feel around) so I decided to work from home the next day just in case we got movement, especially now she was eight days overdue. This was definitely a good move as after baking two cakes in the morning, my very own Mary Berry’s waters broke about lunch-time, all over the kitchen floor, so I quickly deposited her in the shower to minimise the mess. Let labour commence!
Waters have broken and preparing for labour
This was the biggest sign yet that labour was starting so we started preparing for what was about to happen. That afternoon I frantically finished off a few outstanding work emails, checked the hospital bag and started cleaning the kitchen so we didn’t come home to a messy house, the last thing you need with a new-born. I also prepared everything my wife would need at home whilst she had a bath to get things moving; candles, music, dim lights, Swiss ball and the tens machine were all ready and waiting, along with an app to help track contractions.
It all kicked off about 6pm on Tuesday 19th April, and with contractions getting more regular we moved to the sofa to make her more comfortable. It was at this point I realised I was in for a long night so I started to make some food, a Jamie Oliver prawn Laska to be precise. In hindsight this was an oversight and a little ambitious based on my culinary ability, especially when having to switch between wooden spoon and contraction counting during the cooking. If I had my time again I’d change up for something simple like beans on toast instead, enough to keep the energy up but would save messing around with coconut milk, a wok and deshelling prawns!
Dealing with contractions
By 9pm her contractions were taking hold and coming more often; difficult to watch as there is only so much help you can offer to get your partner through. I focused my efforts on lots of hand holding, encouraging whispers, reminding her to breathe and helping with the tens machine. This got us through until about midnight when my wife reached her pain threshold and we set off to the hospital to find out if she was far enough dilated for admission.
Unfortunately though, we were soon on our way back home – she was only 3cms! This was a particularly tough time as like many first-time mums, Deb was convinced the baby’s arrival was imminent after the first three hours of contractions, but the reality was quite different and a few hours away yet.
We arrived home about 1am with instructions to rest and sleep which I’m told is nigh on impossible when your uterus is contracting every five minutes! Nevertheless we tried, riding out contractions in bed, but it all got too much again around 3am so we drove back to the hospital, but this time were admitted as she’d reached the magic 5cm minimum, success!
To hear how it went in the hospital please click here to read “Part 2 – Gas and air only got us so far”