“Our little bundle of baby boy joy, Robert David Moran was born at 4.40am on Friday 28th October. He arrived in an unexpected way (then again, don’t babies always come that way??), but everything went smoothly and we’re all well and happy. The story of his grand entrance to the world is quite an interesting one…
On Monday 24th October, I’d had a cervical sweep as nothing much was happening and the midwife said it might get things moving in the right direction. However, I was only 1cm dilated and the cervix was still thick and long – so we reckoned we’d probably have to wait a while longer… It didn’t matter – I was only just overdue and I knew that most first babies are late by a few days, so I kept an open mind about when things might happen.
Then, on Wednesday morning I started to have pains in my lower abdomen. “Ha-ha,” I thought. “This could be something happening.” It was a bit like a strong period pain, but perfectly manageable, so I did a bit of housework and swept our front garden (as you do!) and in the afternoon I watched a film while sitting on my birthing ball to help ease the muscle aches that came and went. By the end of the day, the pains were regular and increasingly strong. On Wednesday night, I realised that these pains were probably contractions, so I called the midwife to ask her advice. She said that this was likely to be the ‘transitional phase’ and it could last anything up to a few days before labour began properly. Since the contractions were only coming about every 10-25 minutes, and I could still breathe through them with my trusty straw, I just thought “Ho hum, I’m not in full blown labour yet.”
By Thursday morning, the pains were stronger still and coming at least every 10 minutes. Paul took the day off, as he was pretty sure things were gearing up. I called the midwife at lunchtime to let her know what was happening, but she said to carry on with my yoga and birthing ball work for the moment, as the contractions weren’t frequent enough. Paul and I went for a walk in the afternoon, and I found I had to stop and take a couple of breaths if a contraction came. He also read to me while I worked on the ball, which really helped to distract me and gave me something to focus on. By tea-time, my appetite had gone, and I was unable to keep any food down – every time a contraction arrived I was retching. Paul massaged my back and helped me count my breaths (just like we’d learned at Ann’s birthing partner class) and this helped me to manage the pain. I really didn’t think I was anywhere near blast-off, as the contractions were still about 10 minutes apart.
Eventually, at about midnight, I decided the pain was getting just a bit hard to manage on my own. I’d taken paracetamol, but this hadn’t touched it, and while the straw breathing helped me through each contraction, it wasn’t easing the pain any more. I called the labour ward and said I wanted to go in and get checked out.
Bags in car – Check… CDs and birthing ball at the ready – Check… Straw safely in my pocket for quick access – Check.
Weirdly, I went to the bathroom and put on eyeliner. Even now, I have no idea why I did this, but for some reason it made me feel better. The strange things you do when you’re having a baby!
The drive to Arrowe Park was one of the longest drives of my life, but thankfully all the lights were on green. Paul kept me focused and counted ratio breaths with me all the way. I kept muttering on about the fact that I was making mountains out of mole-hills, and they’d probably send me home, but Paul told me to stop being silly. He was right – when we got to the car park, I climbed out of the car and had a massive contraction. It was so strong I threw up there and then. Paul says he could have swung for me at that point, as I went back into the car get some water to wash it away (well I didn’t want to eave a mess in the car park!!). I can just about remember him putting his arm around me and saying rather forcefully “Stop messing about and get in there, will you?”
In the waiting room, I was having to use my straw breathing over and over, and it did wonders. The pain was so intense that it should have been distressing, but it wasn’t. I just counted patiently and let it pass, thinking all the time of Ann’s wave metaphor. I pictured myself in the sea, seeing the ocean breakers as they came towards me, crashed over me, and then passed me by… Another one out the way… and another…
The midwife took us into an examination room and after having a look at me, she said: “Right-ho. You’re dilated to eight centimetres – we’re nearly there!” I couldn’t believe it, though I was also pretty relieved at this news. After all our plans and careful preparation, it seemed that we’d got most of the first stage of labour out of the way at home!
The midwife smiled at me. “I’ll go and get a delivery room ready – is there anything in particular you need?”
I clenched my teeth at this point, and Paul tells me I did look like was about to lose it for a second… But I managed to say as politely as I could: “Can I have some gas and air now?”
They monitored both my contractions and the baby’s heart rate. It appeared that – every time a contraction came – the baby’s heart rate was dropping. This wasn’t necessarily dangerous at this point, but they did want to keep an eye on things, just in case… Bad news – this meant they had to put electrodes on the baby’s head, which in turn meant I couldn’t have the water-birth that I’d planned… But what the heck, I remembered that the top item on my birth plan (highlighted in lovely florescent pink) was “Remember that plans can change!”
In order to attach the electrodes, the midwife broke my waters (which she almost thought had already gone because the baby’s head was so low down!). Then the electrodes were in, and I found myself hot-footing it down the corridor with a towel wrapped around me, thinking “Bring it on!” I must have looked so dignified!!
All through the next three hours, I could hear the baby’s heart bopping away on the monitor. I focussed on this sound – it was so constant and persistent, and I thought “That’s our little one raring to come out and meet us!”
The entonox was amazing – one of the most surreal feelings I’ve ever had in my life. I could feel the pain of each contraction (they were really strong now) but my brain was saying “It’s ok – you can cope with this!” Paul was brilliant. Sometimes I forgot to breathe properly, and I wasn’t getting enough entonox, so he helped me to slow my breaths and count. That little heart beat and the whirring of the air conditioning mixed and oscillated. It all got a bit psychadellic at one point, and I can remember the head-rush each contraction brought as I realised we were one step closer.
For the very end, I had to stop using the gas and air, as I needed to be nice and sharp for the big push. The prospect of doing this without pain relief was very intimidating at first, but then I just thought “Hey – we’ve got this far!” I knew that in the next hour, I would have a baby in my arms. Paul was really strong, and he helped me to prepare myself.
The actual birth took me by surprise. To start with it was blooming hard work! I knew it would take effort, but crikey! At one point I got total jelly-limbs, and I blurted out “I can’t do it – I haven’t got any strength left!” But Paul and the midwife just kept me going. There’s always a bit of strength buried somewhere if you need it enough.
At the very end, it was a different kind of pain – not the long, slow wave of the contractions, but a strong, sharp blast. I shouted a lot as I pushed, but (amazingly for me!) I didn’t swear. The head came first (hurrah – that was the hard bit!) and at this point, Paul quoted Rob Brydon at me: “It’s like a human playing card!” and I actually laughed out loud. I guess you had to be there…
Then I stole myself for the last contraction and our baby was suddenly there in the midwife’s arms, slimy and squirming and brimming with life. ‘It’ was suddenly a ‘he’. Our baby Robert was here at last. As he was placed on my chest, with his big shiny black eyes and a scrunchy little face, and I felt his tiny, wriggly limbs on my skin, I thought “Welcome to the world, little Goblin-baby.” We’d done it. Job done, Clan Moran.
As I said to the midwife, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’d do it again. The key things I’d recommend to anyone going through labour would be:
1 – Make sure you have a drinking straw with you. Everyone says this in their birthing stories, but there’s a reason for that! It works!!
2 – Remember to go with the flow a little bit – births hardly ever go completely to plan, so expect the unexpected. We had prepared CDs for relaxation, deflated my birthing ball and put it in the car, taken food and sweet snacks to keep going, and in the end we didn’t use any of them! But on a different day we could just have easily needed them all.
3 – (And this is the most important!) KEEP CALM and TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. Calmness of mind kept me focussed and in tune with my own body – and with the baby. Despite the labour ward telling me on the phone that I wasn’t in engaged labour, I knew when Robert was on his way, and I knew when I had to get help. If I’d been panicking, I might have gone in too soon, or lost confidence and not gone in until it was too late. As it was, Paul and I could observe what was happening and make rational decisions. This in itself, we owe to the yoga. The importance of keeping a focussed, clear and calm mind was something we learned through regular yoga practice, and so when the big day arrived it was second nature to us.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to the unit at Arrowe Park for their fantastic care, but above all, I want to thank Ann. She guided me through pregnancy, and the same wisdom saw us through labour. We can’t put into words how the yoga made the whole experience positive and life-changing. It’s a powerful thing, Ladies! You’ll know what I mean when your time comes.
Good luck, and Namaste.”