At half past ten at night, partway through a film and without a single contraction, I had my first indication that my baby was finally on its way. At eight days past my due date I was dreading my booked visit with the consultant to talk about induction, which I was set on refusing as long as possible. So my waters breaking were a relief, if a small one – it was barely a trickle and I hadn’t had any pains for 24 hours.
I wasn’t at all sure it wasn’t another false start, or that I was perhaps imagining it after all, so I tried to get some sleep. At midnight I was having contractions and trying to resist timing them, by half past two in the morning I knew I was in labour and there would be no more attempts at sleep. The midwives had instructed me to call the triage number but it was engaged, so I called my mum next in case Jenna woke and needed someone. As she arrived I was sick, and from then on between contractions I was sick fairly often – the pains were coming so close together that sometimes I wasn’t getting a break between them, and the pool wasn’t full yet.
We finally spoke to triage, and moments later a midwife who was on her way and hoped she would be with us before the baby. My mum started to seriously worry that we would be having an unassisted birth after all! But I was starting to drift and feel that odd sense of calm and distance, that whatever was happening would happen and that soon enough I would have a job to do. I felt amazingly alive, but couldn’t wait any longer to get in the water as moving through the contractions was getting impossible.
The water helped me feel more in control right away, and soon my two midwives arrived and pronounced me coping wonderfully before sitting down to coffee and brownies. Throughout the next hour their only job was to check baby’s heartbeat with the sonicaid (three times, and twice when they asked and I said no lol). They didn’t suggest any dilation checks, which I was grateful for, I wanted to just let things happen and not think in terms of “how much longer”!
Between contractions I sank into the water and closed my eyes, drifting dreamlike and content with Martin and my mum taking it in turns to massage my head and murmur encouragements. It wasn’t long before transition, marked by my sudden panic and a couple of such strong pains I couldn’t even change position with the help of the water and I began to say I couldn’t carry on.
Thankfully everyone argued with me on that one, and the midwives gently put me off on fetching the enotox (telling me it would make me feel more sick and probably dizzy too, and I was lucid enough to know that my panic was temporary and due to how progressed we were and not actual inability to cope). Whatever I might say in the grips of an intense phase of labour I knew I still wanted to be strong and keep hold of the birth I needed for my baby. I was already being healed by going through this time myself and not as a passive observer.
Those five or six pains were the hardest part of the night, I couldn’t move as I felt the baby’s head pressing so low, and breathing through the contractions became shouting through them. Help me, I can’t do it, I’m not strong enough, I don’t want another baby any more… I want to go to hospital! Lyn, a wonderfully jolly lady, laughed and told me that if I was in hospital I’d right now be saying I wanted to go home and I wanted my mum, but since I was AT home and I HAD my mum… Even I managed to laugh. Anyhow I was feeling certain that birth was immanent and it would have been the most ridiculous time to transfer. I told them I wanted to push and was told (again by Lyn) that if I though baby was coming I was probably right and I should go for it when I was ready. That was all I needed, to be told that I was in control not them, and I stopped saying I couldn’t do it.
Between pains I pulled myself to my knees and flopped over the side of the pool, as Martin held me and told me how close it was and how great I was doing. I shouted through the next contraction, “Come on baby, you can do it, GET OUT!” I could only think about my body and the baby inside me by now, as I closed my eyes and reached out inwardly for the strength to push the pain away. In another moment the head crowned, I don’t remember any pain just the fear that I would reach down and not actually feel the head there. And with one more push I held my slippery long newborn and gently lifted it from the water onto my chest.
The baby gazed at me silently blinking in surprise. Time stopped.
It was about ten minutes later that someone reminded me to check what we had, me and my precious cargo still dazed and shaking with the newness of each other and amazement and what I’d done. I announced that we had a second daughter, and suddenly all my naming arguments fell away and I knew that Martin had won on this one – she was a Morgan for certain.
The contractions were still strong enough for me to be afraid of dropping or ducking her, so we cut the cord soon after as it had stopped pulsing and Martin held her as I climbed out and delivered the placenta gently and easily by the side of the pool. It was quarter to six in the morning.
I would love to tell you about the following hours, the rest of our first day just spent staring at each other, naked and overjoyed. I would love to express in words the look on Jenna’s face when she saw her sister in my arms, and the ease of those first feeds since my Morgan turned out to be a perfectionist with her latch. It is all a blur now, a gentle haze of ecstatic hormonal simplicity.