Looking at our baby boy, asleep in his bassinet, we are so thankful to have been able to welcome him into our lives in our own home, with the support of some wonderful midwives.
We were blessed with a fairly easy pregnancy – Alison worked throughout until Christmas Eve 2010, unaffected by morning sickness or too many other side effects. In late December, rising blood pressure gave us a little scare; Alison shared a teary moment with midwife Kirsty at the thought of not being able to pursue a home birth if pre-eclampsia eventuated. For the first time as parents, we weighed up questions of ‘are we overreacting?’ with ‘but what if professional advice could help our child?’, and headed to our back-up hospital for some monitoring. Happily, all was fine and we were given the all-clear to proceed with plans for homebirth.
Our ‘little fish’ had been expected on 21 January, and the week leading up to that date passed incredibly slowly once all preparations at home were complete. As the 21st passed us by, Richard became even more fractious – we had waited so long to meet our child, we wanted to meet him or her promptly! We reacted with great relief, then, when at 3am on Monday 24th January, Alison got out of bed and called out “Richard, either I have completely lost control of my bladder now, or…”. Richard followed the trail of waters down the hall to the bathroom and confirmed, “no, that’s definitely it”. We were having a baby, and soon!
After a mop up and a shower, we headed back to bed, sending our midwife a text to say what had happened, and settling in for a bit of a rest. It was such a lovely feeling, being together in bed with the knowledge of the big adventure that lay before us that day.
By 6am contractions were making themselves known – an intense period-pain feeling every 15 minutes or so. My midwife visited at 8am (scolding us for texting rather than calling when the waters broke – do these women never sleep??) and gave us confidence that everything was progressing well: that the contractions would become more frequent throughout the day, and that we could expect to welcome our child the next night or morning.
And so we laboured on. But by 11am, Alison was getting quite short with Richard, exclaiming “are you writing these down?” about her escalating contractions. They were coming more quickly than we expected – 3 and 4 minutes apart. We ensured that the midwives were advised and they on their way, whilst we paced around the apartment, breathing through some contractions, moaning through others. There was one moment where Alison turned to Richard and said candidly, “I really don’t know if I can do this” – despite confidence all the way through pregnancy that it was what women were designed to do – but the moment passed. Alison rode the contractions in the knowledge that each one had a peak and then an opportunity for a breath before the next one, with Richard massaging, supporting and fetching drinks, face washers and hot water bottles.
My midwives arrived, and by 2pm we were in active labour. The TENS machine the girls brought with them was a great relief, providing a welcome distraction that became a bit of a lifeline. Alison snacked on honey through a straw, apple juice and icy poles – for the first time in her life, as a restaurateur, she took no notice of whether everyone else was fed and watered! We moved between the bedroom, the living room, the kitchen and what would become the nursery, surrounded by familiar objects, sounds and smells in this, our most challenging day.
My midwife suggested a shower, which Alison jumped at the thought of. The birth pool was filling (frustratingly slowly, due to our small hot water system!) – Richard was attending to practical details whilst the midwives gave some tips for pain relief garnered from their extensive experience.
When we moved into the birth pool, Alison floated around in bliss for a while – weightlessness! warmth! The move also brought with it a sense that we were really into the birthing process now, there was nothing theoretical about it.
Alison bore in mind the midwives’ advice not to push too early, as it would be exhausting, but in the back of her mind felt that the time was coming. As my midwives were having a cup of tea and a chat in the living room, allowing us to do our own thing, they were startled by Alison singing out “IT’S STINGING!.” Little Fish had moved down onto the perineum, and wanted everyone to know about it.
Alison positioned herself on her knees, with her forearms on the edge of the pool and Richard’s strong grasp nearby, and started to push with each contraction. It was frustrating at first that the pushing didn’t seem to get a result – the break in between contractions seemed to be a waste. Soon, however, the pushing was more sustained, and my midwife was encouraging “one more big push, Alison!”. There was pain, but a wonderful sense that our baby was coming.
And soon, with a peculiar popping sensation, a head emerged, then shoulders… Gracefully, effortlessly, our child swam out, up to the water’s edge between us and onto Alison’s chest. “Hello, Little Fish!” we cried, with a depth of emotion never felt before. “Thankyou for coming to be with us!” Enormous tears ran down Richard’s face – our son looked just like him.
At 7pm, dripping, exhausted, and exhilarated, we three were bundled into bed. My midwives had done a marvellous job to support us, allowing us to be fully present in such an important day for our family. Alison delivered the placenta without drugs (and we later had a good poke around at the organ that had sustained our child for so long in utero), and Charlie latched on to the breast for his first feed. Almost unnoticed by us, the midwives had performed all necessary checks and pronounced him a perfect, healthy baby boy. They left us, in bed, for our first night as a family of three, to enjoy all the love, worries and happiness that this momentous journey involves.