Having had quite a lot of back pain for a couple of days, I woke up at around 6.30am on the Friday morning, the 13th October (Friday the 13th!) with a really bad cramp in my back. I was 40+4 and had an antenatal appointment in the Rotunda for 10am.While I was pottering around, and getting dressed I realised the cramps in my back were coming quite regularly, every five/six minutes apart, and by 7.30am, I was having to breathe through them, and needed Alan to compress my hips/rub my back. Alan had a hunch that this was it, and must have seen something different in me as he got together all my hospital bags and put some drinks into the bag for me. Not wanting to get my own hopes up, and being a bit stubborn, I insisted that Alan go to work, and I would go to the appointment with my mother as was planned.
I left home in my mothers car at around 8am, and was getting surges every five minutes. They were intense into my back, and I wanted silence - knocking off the radio and just focusing on breathing through every wave. In between, I just tried to relax as best I could. The car was uncomfortable, as I couldn't move, but I was fine, and still wasn't 100% if this was really it. Upon arriving in Dublin however, and getting out of the car, it definitely grew more intense. Walking into the Rotunda, and as far as the semi private clinic, I had to stop twice, to bend over and breathe. I hadn't sat down in the waiting room when my midwife saw me and called me in ahead of everyone else, as she said she knew by looking at me I was in early labour! She helped me breathe through the next two surges. When the doctor came in, he took one look, and said for me to go straight to be assessed.
When the next midwife assessed me, I was "between 2cm and 3cm dilated" but she said she had a feeling I was going to go quickly. I was now squatting for surges, still about 4/5 minutes apart and put in my earphones and began listening to the labour companion track. My mother thankfully ignored my insistence I would be hours like this before it would change and called Alan to make his way up to the hospital. While being brought up to the early labour ward I was referred to by one nurse to another as the "labourer" and that was when reality hit! In the ward I was met by the midwife on duty, Jo, and a student who I had met before at my very first appointment in the hospital. It felt like fate. Jo had read my birth preferences and immediately suggested and encouraged me to continue listening to the tapes. At this stage, I was bent over the bed in the ward for each surge, about 3 minutes apart and was finding myself a bit lost, as my mother had never seen someone actively labour having had sections herself and seeing me in pain she thought the midwife was mad not just sticking some pain relief into me!!!
Jo suggested I get into the bath at around 12pm, and this was the best thing I could have ever done. I got into the bath in the hospital, turned down the lights, and put in my earphones. The pain immediately eased, and the warmth of the water was so so comforting. Surges were still coming, fast and often but I closed my eyes and listened to the track and really felt I was riding the wave of each one. The line that kept standing out in my head was "You are so strong" and I kept telling myself that I was. I focused on my breathing and relaxing totally during the break between each one. I felt I was almost in a trancelike state and I think my mother put a cool cloth on my head as the room was quite warm. I could feel my baby being carried through my body when I was this focused on myself.
After around an hour, the pain did grow a bit more intense, and I was very hot at this stage so I was advised to get out of the bath for a while. I didn't want to, as I had been so calm there. At this stage, I was beginning to grow anxious as to why Alan wasn't here yet, as I could feel my energy waning a little and I just knew he would be able to help me. I have to say to partners, you cannot underestimate how important you are to us in all this, sometimes your being there is the silent strength we need even if we cannot verbalise it at the time.
I got out of the bath, but after about ten minutes outside it I was insistent on getting back in. I couldn't get into the zone while in the ward on a bed with just a curtain between me and the next person - and in hindsight I was probably in very well established labour at this stage. I got back into the bath but the relief was not half as good now and this where I came closest to having a wobble. However, some little voice in my head told me to stick the tracks back on and try focus. I sent my mother off to get Alan up to me, and had fifteen minutes or so in that bath labouring on my own. When Alan arrived up, internally I was so so relieved as I knew he knew what I wanted and understood. I couldn't really talk at this point as the surges were coming so close together, I had very little rest. I began questioning myself, thinking "Have I done all this and I'm still only in pre labour?" so asked Alan to get the midwife to come talk to me about pain relief. I wasn't sure what I wanted but felt I needed to talk it through. When Jo came in, she was very aware of my birth preferences and could see how close the contractions were. She suggested I let her assess me first before we make any decisions. I was nervous as I dreaded being assessed to be told I was only 4cm after all that effort! Getting out of the bath though was what really seemed to kick things into action.
When I stood up in the bath I realised my legs were shaking and could go from underneath me during each contraction. Alan had to hold me upright and help me out and into a chair. During the next one I got down on all fours on the bathroom floor and felt a pop and a gush - my waters broke and I was delighted as I had a feeling things were beginning to move and I was going to meet baby soon. However on trying to get me out of the bathroom Alan had to get Jo, who got a wheelchair to wheel me the ten steps to the bed. It took us another while of breathing me through surges and a bit of groaning on my behalf to get me up onto the bed. When Jo finally got me still enough to be assessed, it took her all of two seconds before I saw her glance up at the student midwife and look at Alan and say I was 9cm dilated and I was going to have this baby very soon. I may not have been able to say it at the time but inside I did a little victory dance - I was doing it. All desire for the epidural went out the window - a bit like breaking through that barrier when running a marathon, I knew since had I gotten this far I was going to finish it.
The next few minutes were a whirlwind and felt distinctly like an out of body experience - I felt like I was in a movie being zoomed down the hall to the delivery suite in a wheelchair and buzz of activity to get me up on the bed and the gas and air into my mouth. The gas was an absolute godsend, as while I still felt the pain, it allowed me to relax and focus enough to concentrate on the job in hand. Jo was a star, she read my birth plan and so sat herself in the corner quietly doing paperwork and left myself and Alan do our thing. I was knelt over the end of the bed, using the gas, and just breathing through each contraction. Alan rubbed my back, held me, and was the perfect support in every way. I just kept repeating to myself to breathe down my baby.
Suddenly, I began to get a real urge to push during the contractions. It was the most amazing feeling as I just let my body take over and when it told me to push I did. I only got this urge every second surge, which Jo noticed, but I explained to her what I was feeling and she just said to go ahead and listen to my body. It felt like no time before I heard her say to me "You're doing great, and your baby has a big head of black hair!". Despite the fact I was in another zone between the gas and breathing through surges, it felt so good to know he was almost here.
I moved down to lying on my back on the bed and after a very short period of time and pushing listening to my body - I just remember one final push and hearing my little boy scream and be whooshed up and land on my chest. I kissed him and held him and can just remember Alan crying, kissing my head and us both staring at this wonderful, purpley/pink little creature. From the word dot, he was so alert, eyes wide open looking straight up at me - thanks I'm sure to how calm and gentle his birth was. We got all our wishes, delayed cord clamping, plenty of skin to skin and I honestly could not have asked for more. Birthing our son was the most incredible experience of my life, and I can't help gushing about it as I feel so much more content in myself now when I sit and look at my beautiful little baby!