At 9pm on the 6th June 2020, I was lying on the sofa and my waters broke. It was far from dramatic, there was no big swoosh, I only felt a trickle, but somehow knew what was going on. After speaking to a good friend, who is a doctor and a mum of two, I received confirmation that I indeed did not pee myself. Call the hospital she said. I hung up and went to find my maternity notes. I dialled the number for the midwifery led unit and no answer. I waited and then called another few times - still no answer. I had no idea what was going on. So I then called the consultant led unit. A gentleman answered. I told him what had happened, that this was my second birth and that I had planned a home water birth. He said he needed to check whether there was a midwife available to come over and take a look at me as my waters had broken.
A few minutes later, he calls me back and tells me no one is available, everyone is at homebirths and that if I go into labour that night, I will likely have to go into hospital. I was devastated. I had my heart set on giving birth at home. And don't get me wrong, I am fully aware that nothing goes to plan, this wasn't my first birth after all, but I found it difficult to accept that it came down to this. He then added, and this was the icing on the cake for me, that the midwifery led unit is closed due to a broken lift - hence why no one was answering my calls - and I would need to come into the consultant led unit where limited birthing pools would be available, if none at all. I hung up the phone and cried. I hadn't even gone into labour yet and I already had to grieve a birthing plan that was shattered into a million pieces.
Everything will be ok, I said.
The midwife felt I had no desire to come into hospital to get myself checked, so he gave me the option to take my temperature every few hours and to call if I started running a fever. I gladly accepted. It was getting late and I wanted to save my energy especially as there was a high chance I would be going into labour that night. I felt confident that everything was running its course. And for the benefit of those unaware, there is a risk of infection if the woman gives birth too long after waters have broken.
I proceeded to set my alarm, I wiped away my tears and at around 10.30pm, my husband and I went upstairs to get some sleep. Regardless of how it was going to happen, my baby girl was on her way and I was so excited. Ok quietly excited, you know, to conserve my energy and all :)
At around midnight, I started having some mild contractions. I tried to rest as much as I could between them. Then at around 3am, they started to intensify and I no longer found it comfortable to be lying in bed, so I went downstairs and drew myself a bath. As I waited for the bath to fill up, I felt soothed by the sound of the water and the steam of the heat evaporating from the tap. I stepped into the bath and lay on my left side. I let out a long exhale. I knew this was where I needed to be. I rode my breath through the contractions, half asleep, dazed and enjoying the rest in between.
At around 3.45am, I decided to call the hospital again. During my briefing with a midwife weeks before, she had told me to call in when my contractions were 3-4mins apart for a period of about 45mins, so as to give them enough time to get to my house.
The same gentleman answers. I am in labour I say, I give all the details then ask - with some hope still - whether any one is available to come over. He puts me on hold, and then comes back on the line and says, "No I'm really sorry, there will be no one available until the next shift at 7am, though you seem to be doing really well with the contractions so it is up to you whether you want to come in or continue as you are". I had no desire to get out of the bath and into a car with these contractions so we agreed that I would keep going as I am and would call if anything changes. I hung up the phone. Great! I thought to myself. I can keep doing this for another 3-4 hours and someone will be able to come assist me at 7am. My hope was alive.
At this point, my husband comes down, sees me in the bath and I explain the situation. Within about 15-20mins, the contractions start to get even more intense and closer and closer together. He helps me by strongly massaging my lower back. Then another 15-20mins later, my husband and I agree that it is likely time to go into hospital, so I dial the number again. As soon as the lady picks up, I immediately hand the phone over to my husband as I feel another strong contraction coming on. After a few hellos, my husband responds and explains the situation. This contraction is different however, and completely to my surprise, I feel a sudden need to push. Instinctively I then change position and go on all fours, leaning my elbows on the side of the bath. I eventually somehow articulate this to my husband, who then tells the lady on the phone. She instructs him to hang up and call the paramedics.
All the while, my contractions are at their full force, with the sensation to push getting more and more intense. He dials 999 and a lady picks up. He puts her on speaker and explains the situation. She then asks for our address. As he begins to pronounce the first line - and it is important to note at this point that my husband has a very strong french accent - I can already tell that she has a hard time understanding him, and then he gets to the postcode... If there is any chance that these paramedics arrive before this baby turns one, I bloody well have to interfere. So, in the middle of a contraction, in the middle of pushing a baby out no less, I exclaim very calmly "LLLL ffor Limaaaaa, SSSS for Sugarrr"... As I write this now, almost 9 months later, I can't help but smile at the pure comedy factor of it all. Your birth will be peaceful they said, you'll create an environment of calm and serenity they said :D.
Once that was done, I returned my focus to my body and my baby. And then, around 4 pushes later - I can only vividly remember how many - she was there. Although it all happened at the speed of light, I somehow knew she was right there. I lifted my left leg up, caught her with both of my hands and pulled her up onto my chest.
All I can hear at this point is her cry, and my husband exclaiming to the lady on the phone "Wait wait!! She's here, she's here!". Try reading this with a french accent, it is much more entertaining :P. Shortly after, he hangs up the phone. A rush of emotions fill my body and then I say to myself, "Is it over already?!" strangely, that was my first thought. I couldn't believe what had just happened. I was in labour for so long with my first-born Sofia that I had prepared myself mentally for the long haul this time around too. So when this little miracle appeared at 4.45am on the Sunday 7th June 2020, I was in complete shock, and in utter awe of my body and myself.
A few seconds later the phone rings again, and it's the 999 lady again "Sir, please don't hang up on me. I will stay on the line until the paramedics arrive" I burst out laughing. She then asks my husband to go find a piece of string or a shoelace (note: one of his pairs of shoes is now missing a shoelace) and instructs us to tie it x inches from the baby. In his french accent he exclaims "What is it in centimetres please! I don't know inches!!" Oh the comedy. I crack up again.
Thankfully the paramedics knock on the door and help us clamp the umbilical cord. My husband covers our sofa with tarpaulin and towels, I start getting out of the bloody bath - which I had only noticed was filled with blood as I stepped out - and I walk over to the sofa and lay down. A few minutes later, I hear little footsteps at the bottom of the stairs. My 2 year old was up. With surprise and excitement, she walks over to the sofa and meets her little sister.
As I prop myself up into a comfortable position, feeling the warmth of my newborn baby on my chest, and the love emanating from my first-born beside me, I feel like I am floating. I feel like I am floating, and yet I feel more rooted and more grounded than ever before. I was home.
I was home.
I was home.