Photo by Siobhan Calder
One of my good friends recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and upon seeing a photo of her little one, all sleepy and new to the world, bundled up in a hospital blanket, I couldn’t help but be taken back to those emotional first few days after Evie was born – suddenly overwhelmed with the memory of that post birth euphoria, that powerful and undeniable surge of love and that complete disbelief that this tiny perfect human was created by us.
Evie is now 12 weeks old (I know – honestly I can hardly fathom it) and while I can’t say I’ve reached the point of forgetting her journey into the world, I can definitely appreciate that the memories have faded slightly. The moments of excruciating pain, the points where it felt like it might never end, the times when I was certain I couldn’t go on, have all been overtaken by that one magical moment when she was first placed on my chest and our journey as a family of three began.
Instead of looking back on the birth and feeling a familiar shudder down my back as images of blood (so. much. blood.), pain, screaming, aching limbs and tears, reminded me that the experience was simply too fresh to recount, I can now look back and see a hazy version of that day, almost as if I’ve removed myself from the story and can re-tell it without re-living it. The joyful moments stand out and remain crystal clear while the moments which are better forgotten reside in that fuzzy, not entirely real, space that could just as easily be a memory from a TV show as it could be my own life. We are now able to laugh at the parts of our story that at the time were anything but funny, like when we realised Stu had been timing my contractions wrong for the best part of an hour, when we got stuck in rush hour traffic on our way to the hospital, me having contractions at every set of traffic lights and beginning to think I might give birth in the front seat of the car, or us having to wait for the only lift to the birth centre for what felt like an eternity while I whimpered like a crazy person in the corridor.
I’ve found that certain, rather comical, moments are the ones that stand out and remain vividly etched in my mind, such as Stu asking the midwife whether she’d watched the Oscars the night before, the Primark ‘labour’ nightie I’d spent hours, days, weeks considering, getting thrown off almost as quickly as it had been put on when it barely fit across my front, and having mini mars bar bites and Lucozade out of a straw thrust in my mouth by my ‘feeder’ Stu after every contraction.
So before even those moments disappear from my memory too, I thought I’d record the story of Evie’s birth. I guess I’m doing it for selfish reasons really, a diary entry of sorts to look back on in years to come (perhaps when I think I’m ready to do it again?).
I realise that birth stories aren’t for everyone. Personally I loved reading them during my pregnancy and devoured every possible different experience I could find, as a way to somehow equip myself for any and all of the situations I may find myself in. I’m one of those people who needs to know all the facts, to be told the worst case scenario and hear every possible outcome. Being as informed as I possibly can be is the only thing that calms me, my only coping mechanism. But equally I know there are others who operate on a ‘need to know’ basis and would prefer to go in blind and just take whatever comes their way. There’s no right or wrong, everyone deals with pregnancy and the prospect of birth differently, so if you’d rather not know the ins and outs or are at all squeamish (you know by now I’m an over sharer so this story probably won’t leave much out) then by all means feel free to skip this one and come back when I’m talking about clothes and recipes again (soon I promise!).
What I will say however is that I was as terrified about giving birth as any person can be. From the moment I saw those two blue lines on a stick, I was already thinking ‘dear god I’m going to have to give birth to a baby!’ and spent the entirety of my pregnancy convincing myself that I wouldn’t be able to do it, absolutely petrified about the unknown of what was to come and constantly imagining the worst. But I did do it, I was able, and getting my gorgeous girl at the end of it was the reward that assures me with every certainty that regardless of how horrendous the experience was I know I’d do it all again tomorrow if I needed to, for her. Giving birth to Evie is absolutely my greatest achievement to date, and it might well end up being my greatest achievement ever and so for that reason, I am immensely proud of myself. Just like any women who brings a child into the world should be, regardless of the hows, and the where’s and the by what means.
And so, on that note, this is how Evie James Watt came to be…
Evie James Watt – 27th February 2017 – 1.17pm – 7lb 15oz
In my extensive experience of reading birth stories, I’ve surmised that there are essentially two types; the ones which make the whole thing sound like a walk in the park, enjoyable even, using phrases such as ‘the miracle of life’ and assuring you that this act is what your body was born to do… and then there are the ones which are such horror stories you wonder why you ever thought it was a good idea to get pregnant in the first place!
My story is neither of the two extremes, and sits somewhere down the middle. I can’t sugar coat it for you, even if I wanted to. As much as I love Evie and as in awe of my body and the beauty of nature as I am, I can’t in any way describe labour as ‘enjoyable’. It was absolutely THE hardest thing I have ever, ever, EVER had to endure, I spent every single second of it wishing for it to be over and I am in NO hurry to repeat it any time soon. However, I know that as far as labours go, mine went as well as it probably could have gone, was complication free and I got the natural birth I’d hoped for. It was utterly horrendous but in medical terms at least, it was fairly straight forward and both me and Evie were described as calm throughout, although on the inside I felt anything but (the word ‘textbook’ was getting thrown around a lot by the midwife, which annoyed me greatly at the time as there was NOTHING textbook about what I was feeling).
I’ve come to realise, through extensive sharing with other Mum’s and my NCT group, that no two birth stories are ever the same, and everyone’s experience is truly their own. There really was nothing – no amount of reading or swatting up, no level of NCT class or Active Birth workshop and no amount of planning – that could have ever prepared us for the reality of labour. For the sheer horror of what actually occurs in that room you spend so many hours in. For the level of blood, gore and disgusting-ness that you lie witness to throughout.
But equally, there was nothing that could have prepared us for how little we would care about any of the above when it came down to it. How despite shying away from the gory details during NCT classes, Stu and I would think nothing of pragmatically discussing the loss of my mucus plug. How quickly the ‘stay up top’ rule would go out of the window when my two go-to positions seemed to be either ass in the air or legs akimbo and Stu found himself championing on me and the sight of Evie’s head like a sports coach. How after weeks of me trying to decide what would be the best thing to wear during and buying multiple bikini tops for the pool, it would seem ridiculous to be anything other than butt naked in front of complete strangers. And how I’d actively welcome those complete strangers staring intently at my nether region while I screamed and sweated and thrashed about trying to get a hairy head out of it. It’s insane really (it’s no wonder that I feel slightly removed from the story when you think about it) but there it is. I guess there’s a reason it’s called labour.
But I’m getting ahead of myself so let’s journey back to the beginning. Evie was born on the 27th February and by the time she arrived I was 5 days overdue. To say I was growing impatient would be a huge understatement – I was the last pregnant woman standing in my NCT group and felt as if I’d been carrying that bump around for an eternity. The week previous to my due date, both Stu and I got hit with an almighty flu bug and I found myself panicking that the baby would come while we were both totally exhausted and unable to move, but then the flu passed, my due date passed and suddenly we were doing everything we could think of to get things moving. That final waiting game at the end of your pregnancy is as frustrating as everyone describes it – you’ve finished work, you’ve been told to put your feet up, you can barely waddle to the corner shop and you’re just left to wait patiently – each morning waking up thinking ‘will today be the day?’ and then each evening going to bed disappointed when you’re faced with another sleepless night cradling that enormous belly of yours. Within that last week we’d been on more day trips than we could handle, had countless coffee and lunch dates nearby, stocked up on hospital snacks only for impatience to see us tear through them before having to stock up again and tried every trick in the book from raspberry leaf tea to spicy curries and walking up and down the stairs sideways.
On the Sunday before my due date we took a trip to Whitstable in a bid to walk as far as we could and hope that the sea air would get the baby moving. During the car journey I was describing a sore stomach, which felt a bit like the beginnings of period pain – that familiar dull ache that I hadn’t experienced for 9 months – and by the time we parked up and set off in search of coffee, my stomach was cramping slightly. I’ll admit that I thought ‘this is it, it’s happening’ but an hour or so of walking and some fish and chips on the beach and the pain all but subsided, me left wondering whether it might just have been indigestion after all. The disappointment when I retreated to bed that night realising it had come to nothing was real. This same pain continued on and off for the next week. Occasionally one evening I’d feel an all over ache across my lower stomach and back, but after a bit of bouncing on the ball it would fade and each night I’d head to bed, wondering if it was the start of something, only to wake up the following morning feeling normal again. When my 40 week midwife appointment came and went, and I’d reluctantly booked in for a sweep the following Wednesday(which thankfully I didn’t end up needing), I was all but convinced that our baby was going to keep us waiting and I’d end up needing to be induced. Perhaps it was that – plan for the worst case scenario – mentality again but from then on when I felt backache or stomach flutters, I dismissed it as my imagination and didn’t allow myself to get my hopes up.
By the time another weekend rolled around we were going about business as usual, me grumpy, Stu trying to keep me occupied. On the Sunday (26th, the day before Evie was born) we’d arranged to go for coffee with one of the couples from our NCT group to meet their 10 day old baby. I woke that morning feeling a little odd – that achy stomach was back and something was a little off. When I went to the loo first thing, I had a bit of a show and went downstairs to tell Stu that I *might* have just lost my mucus plug (sorry if that’s TMI but I really don’t know any less disgusting way to describe it). I was actually surprisingly calm at this point. Even though I knew it could still take a few days before anything actually happened, this was the first ‘sign’ of labour I’d been waiting for and told me that things were moving in the right direction. Seeing as generally I felt fine and there were currently no other signs, we headed off on our coffee date anyway. A few hours of chit chat and cuddles with a tiny baby girl commenced, me trying my best not to get excited that our own bundle may soon be on the way and Stu trying his best to mask the horror on his face as their birth story was recounted. A trip to the loo in the coffee shop confirmed my show and as we waved goodbye to our friends and headed for home, I couldn’t help but let my stomach do a little flip of excitement. Of course I had no idea how long it would be before things started kicking off and after stories of 3 days labours and false starts within our group, I didn’t dare imagine that our baby would be with us by that time tomorrow. When we got home that afternoon I decided to get back into bed and try to rest. Part of me thinking that if things did start later that night, I’d need some energy and sleep, the other part of me not able to sit in the same room as Stu without getting carried away with what might be about to happen. Stu, at this point was faltering slightly and getting increasingly jittery. He blamed it on the three coffees he’d had without much food but I knew it was also the apprehension of what was in front of us, finally after endless waiting. I made him a sandwich, reassured him that your show can happen up to a week before labour and left him watching the rugby while I retreated upstairs to watch a movie on my tablet and doze off.
I didn’t sleep much but the few hours of rest and chill out time definitely helped me. I got up in the evening, we had some dinner, I bounced around on my birthing ball (my stomach still aching a little) and by about 10pm I admitted defeat and went to bed, the anticipation proving too much.
From the minute I got into bed, I realised sleep was going to be difficult. I tried my best to shut my eyes and switch off my brain, to ignore the achy period pains which were now progressing into what I can only describe as really intense butterflies in my tummy. But the feeling was similar to when you get really really nervous about something and almost feel like the flutters inside your stomach might just make you explode. I didn’t know whether the feeling was down to my labour beginning, or simply the nervous excitement I was feeling because my labour might be beginning soon. With my eyes clenched shut and my head on the pillow I kept telling myself to just ‘calm down’ ,’go to sleep’, ‘stop thinking about it’, ‘you’ll more than likely wake up tomorrow disappointed’. By the time Stu got into bed next to me about 11pm and told me ‘wake me if you need me‘, I was feeling really agitated and restless and got up to go to the loo. As I groggily sat on the toilet I felt something a little different and stood up to see blood. I didn’t realise it at the time but I think this was when my waters broke slightly (I never experienced a huge gush like the movies portray and when we arrived at the birth centre I was told they were already gone even though I’d had no idea when it happened). At this point any part of me that was previously calm, began to freak out slightly. Seeing the blood told me that this wasn’t like any of the other nights, and the sudden realisation that it was actually happening, and I was going to have to go through with it, was too much. When I came back into the bedroom and told Stu what had happened, I was shaking. He asked whether we should call the birth centre, but I suddenly felt incapable of making any decisions, the tears started rolling down my cheeks and I felt my whole body shaking so uncontrollably that he simply had to hold me really tight for the best part of 30 mins telling me to take deep breaths, until I calmed down a little. Almost from the minute I’d got up to use the loo, I realised that my stomach pain was now a lot more intense than I’d been aware of. Obviously my ‘go to sleep’ mantras had been helping me block it out (maybe that hypno birthing audio I listened to each night the week before had helped somewhat) but now I was acutely aware of how much pain I was in. Needing some reassurance we called in to the birth centre, where I spoke to one of the midwifes for the first time (they always want to speak to the mother to assess how far along you are). I can’t remember the exact time but I think it was around 12.30/1am and even though I was a little worried and wobbly on the phone, it was clear that I wasn’t suffering too much at this point. I remember my exact words being; ‘I think I might be in the beginnings of labour but I’m not sure’ and the advice given was to take some paracetamol and try where possible to rest. She told me to get in the bath or go back to bed for a few hours. The idea of waiting for the bath to fill up and being in the right head space to get in to it, seemed ridiculous in my current state where I was getting more and more ancy, so I took some painkillers and got back into bed, with the pain now having spread across my entire lower body.
I have no idea how I got through the next few hours that passed in bed. We worked our way through at least three episodes of ‘The People vs OJ Simpson’ with me drifting in and out of a strange half awake sleep and clinging on to Stu’s arm each time the pain intensified, curled into him to try and relax when I found myself getting shaky again. By the time we reached the finale of the season, I was really feeling it – working on my breathing and crying through the pain. I got up to go the loo again and sitting on the toilet seemed to increase the pain intensity ten times over and instead of just tears, the moans and wails began. I announced that I couldn’t stay in bed any longer and had to start moving around. I went downstairs while Stu got up and by the time he’d come down I was on all fours on the floor groaning. Suddenly things seemed to ramp up very quickly (I don’t know whether I’d just been really good at distracting myself and blocking out the pain while I was in bed but it felt as if suddenly I had no control over it) and I was having to switch between leaning over the birthing ball wailing, hanging off the fireplace wailing and on all fours wailing. The TENS machine had been strapped to my back and I was pressing that ‘boost’ button what felt like every few minutes. Obviously as this was our first baby, I had no idea what contractions were going to feel like but I’d always imagined that they would be surges of pain that would start slowly and far apart, getting closer together as they intensified. I’d imagined there would be a break in between them where I’d feel normal again, but for me at least it wasn’t like that at all. My pain was continuous, all over my stomach, back and thighs which had ached from 11pm that night when I’d got into bed and just steadily intensified as the time went on. There seemed to be no let up, no breaks, no stopping and starting – the pain just grew and grew and the intensity rose. The contractions seemed to happen on top of what I was already suffering with, and seemed to happen so often it made it difficult to time them.
Another phone call to the birth occurred at some point and we were told to call again when the contractions were 1 minute long and 5 minutes apart and at that point we’d be able to come in. (I chose to give birth in a birth centre which is a midwife led unit that’s designed to be a bit of a home from home, more relaxed and less ‘medical’ than that of a hospital room, and in general they encourage you to stay at home for as much of the early stages of labour as possible. We were lucky that our local hospital had a fantastic birth centre within the maternity unit so it was simply across the hall from the labour ward had anything have gone wrong. My pregnancy was considered low risk throughout which is why I was able to be admitted to the birth centre but obviously several factors which can occur on the day such as how your waters break, how long the labour is taking, whether you decide to have an epidural (the birth centres are only able to carry out non invasive pain relief), if the baby is in distress etc can mean having to be transferred and I was glad to have that option nearby should I need it.)
We started focusing on timing the contractions as best we could (by this point I was writhing around on the birthing ball in absolute agony with the TENS machine on full blast) but as I was pretty out of it, I was leaving this task primarily to Stu. Even though it felt like they were lasting forever, we were only timing around 45 seconds for a good while but in what felt like no time at all, there appeared to be no let up in between them. I’d be hanging off Stu’s neck screaming and then as soon as that one finished he’d attempt to run to the loo telling me ‘don’t have another one until I’m back!’ and no sooner had he reached the top of the stairs when I’d be screaming for him to come back again. Knowing that we’d be leaving the house soon and with me still in an old pyjama top and no bra, I suddenly felt a huge necessity to ‘get ready’. I was absolutely adamant that I had to wash my face and brush my teeth before we could leave as it might be hours before I’d get to do it again and I sent Stu upstairs to find me a bra and some clothes. Despite him telling me that brushing my teeth was really the last thing I should be worrying about, I hauled myself upstairs, splashed cold water on my face, brushed my teeth and threw my hair up in a bun, having to stop in between each task to cling onto the towel rail and scream through a contraction. Once back downstairs and on all fours again, Stu somehow managed to get a bra on me and I climbed into a pair of joggers and a T-shirt. Feeling like my contractions were starting to change and get even more intense, and with what felt like only seconds between them, I asked Stu how far apart they were now and whether we needed to phone the birth centre back. His response was ‘they’re only 3 minutes apart we need to wait until they get to 5 minutes apart‘!!!!! In his sleep deprived, frantic state while tending to me he’d been so focused on getting to the 5 minute mark as the midwife on the phone had told him, he hadn’t realised we’d skipped that and gone straight to them being 3 minutes apart! I screamed at him that we were counting down not up! (seriously!) And so our final call to the birth centre was made, once again them asking to speak to me, and me crying so much I couldn’t string a sentence together except to say ‘I’m DEFINITELY in labour now, PLEASE can I come in?!’ and thankfully we were told to head on in.
I was becoming increasingly panicked at this stage – although looking back on it I’m really glad that I managed to get through so much of the labour at home without really knowing that I was doing so, at the time things felt very out of control and we had know idea at what stage we were at or how far we had to go, which left me feeling vulnerable and in need of reassurance. I’d always known that the biggest hurdle for me would be dealing with the mental part of labour rather than the physical. I’m such an anxious person that for me, I knew that as long as I could stay calm, and not get worked up or stressed when things changed or problems occurred, I’d get through it. It’s part of the reason that I was so keen on a natural birth in a calm environment like a birth centre as I just knew that dealing with the stress and uncertainty of a hospital room, being strapped up to machines and having doctors intervene would be a huge hurdle for me (although I do think that you just do whatever it takes when it comes to it). Throughout my whole pregnancy I’d attempted to work on my anxiety, telling myself that I’d do whatever it took to meet our baby, and focusing on preparing myself for any and all of the scenarios I might find myself in. Although I was desperate to get to the hospital and have a midwife with me for reassurance, I honestly felt like I might not be able to get in the car. The contractions were coming so thick and fast that I had no time in between to even regulate my breathing and as Stu rushed around packing the final things in the hospital bag and putting on his shoes (and mine) I told him I didn’t think I could do it and that I wasn’t sure I’d make it to the hospital. Despite the timings blip, Stu was fantastic throughout and at this point really stepped up. He practically carried me to the car and remained super calm throughout the journey, simply telling me to boost the TENS each time I had a contraction, holding my hand and reassuring me he was there.
By now it was around 8am and of course, the traffic was insane as everyone began to make their way to work on a Monday morning. What should have been a 10 minute journey seemed to last forever as we repeatedly got stuck at traffic lights and caught behind a build up. I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate on my breathing, praying that we would get there soon and this ordeal might almost be over. We found the closest parking lot to the main entrance (we later found out there was a much easier way to get into the hospital for those in labour!) which still saw me having to walk a good few yards, clinging onto Stu and only able to go at snails pace while having to stop each time a contraction hit. I realised how ridiculous we must’ve looked to all those just heading into the hospital for something routine like visiting a relative or having a check up. Two bleary eyed and unwashed people clinging onto each other, the woman whimpering with tears down her face, walking as slow as anyone could walk. The walk through the hospital corridors and towards the lift which took us to the birth centre on the fourth floor (like I said – there was an easier way, we just didn’t realise it) felt like the longest walk of my life. Stu kept asking if I needed to stop but all I wanted was to get to our destination as quick as possible, so I breathed through the pain and kept putting one foot in front of the other. We reached the lift and a tedious wait for it to return to our level ensued – me pacing up and down because I couldn’t stand still and whimpering like a crazy person. Eventually after the longest time it arrived and we piled in to the world’s smallest lift along with an old man who was looking at me with such horror as I swayed in the corner letting out little yelps and cries. We reached the fourth floor, somehow managed to take a wrong turn despite having visited numerous times and found ourselves having to stop and ask a staff member which corridor led to the birth centre. By now I was about ready to just plonk myself on the floor right there and have the baby, I was crying huge sobbing tears and struggling to stand up. She took one look at me, smiled, said ‘I think you’re about ready to go aren’t you?’ before taking my other arm and leading us around to the birth centre entrance. All I could do was sob a little thank you before practically falling through the door.
Now I can obviously only go on my own experience but from what I’ve heard there is a point in the labour process where you think the baby is coming RIGHT THAT SECOND, the urge to push begins and the contractions sort of change course slightly. I believe it’s when you go from early labour into active labour and this is the point that medical professionals deem the labour to ‘begin’ (are you kidding me? Everything up until this point has been what? Just an intro?). Now I’d been at this point since we left the house so by the time I finally stepped through the doors of the birth centre, I was entirely sure that it was PANIC STATIONS and that I’d be descended on by a team of midwifes and rushed into a room somewhere as they told me they could see the head coming! Imagine my horror then as I hobbled in frantically telling them my name, that we’d called in and that I was in labour, and they simply smiled, very calmly asked for my hospital notes and told us to take a seat in the lounge until a midwife was free to come and chat to us! TAKE A SEAT? WAIT FOR A MIDWIFE?? ARE THEY MAD??? DON’T THEY KNOW I’M HAVING A BABY????!!!!! Stu ushered me in before another contraction started and I remember clearly thinking that I’d scream especially loud during this one so they’d know just how bad this really was. Clearly they see it all the time, a woman in labour is commonplace to them and every woman they meet probably feels like they’re the only person in the world to have suffered like this.
Finally, Janet, the woman who would become our midwife came in – a rather stern woman with a no nonsense approach but who by the end had completely and utterly won me over, she was so fantastic. She took me to a triage room to be examined, which was probably one of the least enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had, aside from, you know, a baby’s head tearing through my body, but I was overjoyed when she said the words ‘good news – you’re already 6 cm dilated’ (you need to be at least 4cm before they admit you and I might not have been able to handle it if they’d told us to go back home). She told us she couldn’t feel my waters so they must have already broken, but she could feel hair so the baby was already making its way down (even in the thick of it, I was aware that having someone stick their hand up my vagina and tell me they could feel a hairy head was all kinds of bizarre!) I can remember asking the midwife how much longer she thought it would be before this was all over and we had a baby, and she was brutally honest – telling me it could be 3 hours or it could be 10 hours! 10 hours seemed like the worst news in the world as I was in so much pain and I pleaded with her that she must be mistaken, but she simply said ‘well I can’t lie’. Yes, yes you can dear midwife, you can always lie.
I’d always thought I might like to try a birthing pool but at this time there wasn’t one available in the centre so we were led through to one of the other birth rooms instead (I was so consumed by the contractions by now that I would have been happy wherever they took us). My clothes had come off for the examination and a towel put around and it was then that the shirt nightie was attempted and then swiftly removed when it barely did up over my belly. I fell to my knees and rested my arms and upper body on the ‘bed’ in the room (less a bed, more a giant cushion). I was given gas and air and the TENS machine was relegated (the contractions were so intense by this point it was no longer helping) and immediately things began to step up another gear. With every contraction, I felt a full body surge, my entire weight bearing down and my whole lower half feeling like it was going to drop out. They say your body takes over somewhat at this point and it was absolutely true for me, I had no control over it, my body was simply doing the work and the baby was making their way down, while all I could do was try and get myself through each contraction, breathing in that gas and air and groaning through it. But, pretty much from the moment I’d entered that room, I’d felt immediately calmer. The reassurance that all was going well, moving in the right direction and things were escalating fairly quickly, gave me a sense of determination and having my midwife there by my side telling me I was doing great helped me remain level headed. I was completely ‘in the zone’ and honestly anything could have happened around me and I probably wouldn’t have taken much notice. I remember snippets of conversation between Stu and the midwife, snippets of mortifying episodes like when she put her hand in between my legs to check the babies heartbeat and I started weeing all over her arm. Me, apologising profusely between the panting, her telling me it was a good sign and meant the baby was moving down (let’s pray I never run into her in the aisles of Asda!). She kept mentioning how calm we were, both me and baby, and even though inside I felt a little frantic at each contraction it was good to know that both our heart beats were stable and strong and my body was getting through it.
Pain morphed into pressure. In some ways the early stage at home had been much harder to manage, as the pain was ongoing, all over and with no let up. Now it was undeniably worse, but it was focused in one area, intense for a few minutes but with breaks in between and it had a purpose to it. I could feel a sensation of something moving down inside me, and the desire to bear down and push was getting stronger with each contraction. We’d been told my blood sugar levels were low and I was lacking energy (probably as we’d been up all night) so it was about this time that the ‘feeding’ began with Stu religiously removing the gas and air and replacing it with a bottle of Lucozade and something sugary during each break. He has since told me that he always thought he’d find it difficult seeing me in pain but actually found the screaming a positive thing as he knew things were progressing and the baby was coming.
About an hour in, I was told a birth pool had become available and asked whether I wanted to stay as I was or move through to that room. As I had got myself into quite a good zone, I almost told them to forget it and remained where I was, but something reminded me that I’d always wanted to at least try the pool and I figured if it helped the pain even in the slightest, it was worth moving for. And, I’m SO glad I did. Evie ended up being born in the pool and I honestly can’t rate a water birth highly enough, it was absolutely the turning point in my labour. Even Stu said that from the second I stepped into the water, I was coping so much better. If you think about that feeling of immediate relaxation when you step into a warm bath after a hard day and all your muscles let out a sigh of relief from the days stresses, then you get an idea of how therapeutic it was for my muscles during labour. The biggest change for me was that the water held my weight and the intensity of that ‘bearing down’ feeling was reduced as I didn’t also have to think about holding up my heavy body. Being nine months pregnant is cumbersome, being 9 months pregnant and with a baby travelling down through the birth canal is insanely cumbersome. Being surrounded by warm water and feeling weightless allowed me to fully concentrate on the task in hand.
Another couple of hours of pushing commenced, the gas and air still being used religiously and Haribo still being thrown in my mouth during every break. I felt as if I’d been at it for hours and was utterly exhausted but the midwife just kept telling me I was doing great, taking a look during each contraction and saying the baby was coming and things were moving in the right direction. Both our heart beats were still strong and she told me the baby was ‘just like Mum – totally chilled’ (I didn’t feel in any way chilled on the inside but I was so in the zone that I can see how it might have appeared this way on the outside). But it seemed as if my contractions were slowing down slightly, and each one seemed to be passing without much happening and I began to get frustrated. I kept asking how much longer it would be, kept telling Stu I couldn’t do it (to which he’d reply ‘you ARE doing it’) and just wanted the whole ordeal to be over.
But then the midwife said something that signalled the next big change, she told me I was wasting my contractions and using the gas and air to get through them instead of using them to move things along. She told me; ‘the baby isn’t going to come without your help. You need to push’. Now there’s no doubt that I had been pushing… a lot, but I had been so focused since 11pm the previous night on just getting through the contractions that I’d almost taught myself to grit my teeth and ride them out, to suck in the gas and air and wait for it to be over. When I realised I had to actually put all my energy into using the contraction rather than just distracting myself during it, everything changed and I became utterly determined. Despite my exhaustion I found a surge of energy, had a new focus and was entirely fixated on getting this baby out in as short a time as I could manage so that this crazy experience could come to an end and I could rest. A bit like a marathon runner, I guess I’d hit my wall and then found that second wind of energy to make it through to the end. I was on all fours in the pool, clinging onto the two handle bars at the top with Stu kneeling in front of me helping me through it, I gave up the gas and air and set about focusing on the pushing. The midwife told us I needed three good pushes within every contraction and we started chanting ‘three good pushes, three good pushes‘ during every break. As soon as the contractions hit I put every ounce of strength I had into pushing, and would get so annoyed when the contraction wouldn’t last long enough for me to manage three pushes. The midwife kept telling me I was doing great, but I wasn’t happy with one or two pushes, I wanted three. I wanted this to be over and the frustration was unreal when I had to wait for another contraction to come.
They say labour slows down a little before it ramps up for the final stretch, giving you a bit of a break before you really need to use ever fibre of your being. And this was what happened. The breaks between contractions got longer and I was getting more and more frustrated. The midwife suggested some aromatherapy oils, and willing to try anything, I agreed. Stu rubbed some Clara sage across my shoulders and over my wrists, and who knows whether it was that that helped or just simply the passing of time, but soon after that things started progressing again. In all of the classes we attended, I was told that the point when the head begins to emerge is one of the hardest parts of labour. One midwife told me ‘it stings a little’ which must be the politest way of putting it in the history of childbirth because let me tell you, it stings A LOT. Even after everything I’d been through up until that point, all the pain I’d endured, the exhaustion I felt, the mental zone I’d managed to get myself into, I couldn’t disguise my horror when I had that first contraction where the head began to push its way out. IT. WAS. INSANE. If I thought the pushing had been difficult up until then, it was now utterly horrendous. I felt as if my body was ripping in two (which I guess it kind of was) and my screams turned into full body roars. The thing that no-one does tell you however is that the head doesn’t come out in one fell swoop, it bobs in and out for, well, a long time. So each time I felt that sting, that rip, that roar, I’d pray that this would be the time that it finally pushed out completely, and each time I’d feel it retreat back up inside me and sink into Stu’s chest, exhausted.
My midwife told me that if things didn’t start progressing soon, I might need to get out of the pool and try something different but not wanting to leave the comfort of the warm water behind, it was suggested that I try a different position. And so I abandoned my kneeling position and lay on my back, my head resting against the back of the pool, my arms holding onto the sides and Stu leaning over holding my shoulders. A few more good contractions allowed me a few more good strong pushes and I could really begin to feel the head emerging more with every one. Reassured by the midwife’s chants of ‘that’s it, you’re nearly there’, ‘I can see the head’ ‘keep going’, I started to feel like I could do this, I was almost at the end, soon we’d be meeting our baby. By now it was about 12.45pm and as they do an internal examination every four hours, my midwife told me; ‘you’re due for another examination at 1.45 but I don’t think you’l need it, I think you’ll have a baby by then.’ and that was the final motivation that I needed to spur me on for the final hurdle. I was doing this, I was getting this baby out within the hour. I grit my teeth, held on to Stu and with one more huge push, I felt something tear through me before my body flopped back in exhaustion. The head was out. With it came cheers from the midwife and a collective ‘well done’ and ‘the hard part is over’ and I felt such a massive flood of relief wash over me. By now another midwife had come into the room to assist with the final stages and it felt as if everyone around me was acting as if it was all over, Stu and the two midwifes were excitedly chatting and staring down at this little head and Stu’s hand was getting shaken and there I was, still lying there with half a baby dangling out of me wondering what on earth was going on.
In reality this skit must’ve only lasted seconds but in my head it went on for ages, as we waited for another contraction so I could push the body out. I lay there in the water willing the next contraction on, tearily asking the midwife why wasn’t my baby coming out and grabbing Stu and telling him I needed it out, I needed it to be over. But they all smiled at me, laughed even, told me I’d done it, just one more push and the baby would be here, the joy clear on everyone’s face that the journey had almost come to an end. And right enough, finally I felt that now familiar wave wash over my body that signalled another contraction, what would be my last contraction, and with a final (much less terrifying) push, our baby was out and in the world, falling straight into the water, picked up by the midwife and held up towards us.
Evie James Watt was born. In the water at 1.17pm. Our whole world changed. And it was the most joyous moment of my life.
As we didn’t know what we were having, we’d asked if Stu could reveal the gender to me, and once again it felt like the longest time before he told me what we had. There she was this little purple wrinkly being, held up in front of us and about to be placed on my chest and as the umbilical cord dangled in front of her legs I could see him squirming to see what we had, me completely out of it but shouting ‘what is it??’ before he finally announced with pure joy in his voice and tears in his eyes that we had a girl! I’m not sure why, but throughout the whole pregnancy we’d always had the sense I was carrying a boy. There was one small falter at our 20 week scan where we thought there was something feminine looking about the baby in the image given to us, but by the 29 week one we were back to be convinced of team blue (although looking at the scans now and knowing what Evie now looks like, it seems so obvious it was a girl!). So having a little girl handed to us was a shock, a wonderful, beautiful, incredible shock.
I can’t even begin to explain the feelings that occurred within me when our little Evie was placed on my chest for the first time. The reality of it is blurry to me (I had to ask GB later whether she started crying straight away) because I was so overcome with emotion. Relief washed over me – relief that we’d got through it, that our baby was safely delivered into the world, and that 14 hours of labour was behind me. But also love like I’d never felt before. A realisation that everything in the world had changed in that single moment. Immense joy that this tiny being was ours to keep. I cried happy tears and stared at her in disbelief. It was utterly magical.
One of the midwifes took a few photos of us all, which are possibly the worst photos of myself ever to exist but at the same time depict a sea of emotion. We stayed in the pool having skin to skin for a while, while waiting for the cord to be cut (our hospital does delayed cord clamping to make sure the baby gets the best of it) and then I got out of the pool and lay on the bed to deliver the placenta. I’d previously said I’d deliver it naturally but after ten or so minutes with no contraction in sight, me now shivering slightly out of the pool and with only a towel draped over me, my legs beginning to ache and Stu behind me cradling our baby, I opted to have the injection and it was out seconds later. By that stage I just so wanted the labour experience to be over, to draw a line under it and be left to cuddle my baby and so it was the right decision for me. I needed a few stitches which thankfully the midwife was able to do there and then without me needing to go to another room, and despite that being a less than pleasant experience, it was over soon enough, I was propped up on the bed, my baby placed back on my chest and we were left on our own for an hour or two to soak her up and do lots of skin to skin, before the midwife came back and helped me shower (my whole body felt like jelly), get into a clean pair of pyjamas (best.feeling.ever) and move us into the recovery room where we spent the night.
I found myself incredibly emotional that whole day, I couldn’t stop crying and felt overwhelmed with gratitude towards our midwife who assured me I was ‘a joy to work with’ and ‘the perfect patient’. She also told me, which I hadn’t been aware of at the time, that Evie had actually come out with the cord wrapped around her neck, but you’d never have known she was in any way distressed as her heartbeat was so calm and steady throughout. Apparently my waters hadn’t ruptured in one full swoop and instead come away in parts which then led to slightly heavier than usual blood loss for the next few days (again another post partum shocker that no-one tells you about. Top tip, don’t put your brand new PJ’s on straight after the birth, chances are they’ll last about 5 minutes!). We spent that first night in a ward with two other couples and their babies and Stu only had a reclining chair to sleep on (although I have heard that in other hospitals the men aren’t even allowed to stay so I’m grateful he could be there) so not much sleep was had but no matter where we’d been I think that would have been the case. I was utterly drained – both physically and emotionally – but at the same time, life had taken on this strange new aura and I found myself repeatedly getting out of bed just so I could stare at my new baby and check she was still breathing.
The next day family came to visit us, we attempted to establish breastfeeding with the help of the midwife’s and stayed another night where we got our own double room which was perfect. The day after, we felt ready to head home but Evie had become jaundice so we had to wait until she’d been checked over by a doctor before we got the all clear. By around 3pm we finally got the ok to bundle her into her car seat for the first time, Stu drove the slowest I’ve ever seen him go, and we arrived back at the house we’d left mid contraction 2 days earlier, my parents waiting to greet their new granddaughter for the first time.
Those early days which followed were just magical. Once everyone had gone home and it was just us, our new family, tentatively taking those first steps into life as parents. Time slowed down and every moment with Evie, every new face she made or noise she uttered was a joy to behold. A lot has changed since that first week, 3 months have passed and we’ve been through so much together. Each day Evie seems to show us a little more of her personality and we see her change and grow before us, but I still think back on those initial first few days and feel that warm glow once again. That surge of love that I was totally unprepared for and which overwhelmed me completely. That feeling of wanting to protect our precious little girl with everything that I had, to not let a single bad thing happen to her and to shield her from the world. I still feel all of those things of course, but now it seems second nature and the things I find myself worrying about are more practical, rather than just that I might burst with love for her.
The name was decided upon fairly quickly. We had three girl names we liked, but while our boy’s name was definite, we’d left things open for a girl. Once she was with us however, the other two just didn’t seem right for her and Evie was the obvious choice. And the elephant in the room – her middle name – was always to be James. We’d decided early on that if a boy, we’d take a middle name from Stu’s family, and if a girl a name from my side. We both loved the name James, which is a big family name in both my Mum and Dad’s side of the family with my Dad and my Grandpa both sporting it and my brother having it as a middle name too. But we didn’t want it as a boy name, as we already have so many James’ within our families and circles of friends. We’re both big fans of boy’s names for girls and after originally considering it as a first name, shortened to Jaime (hey if it’s good enough for Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds!) we settled on using it as a family middle name and (hopefully) avoiding her hating us when she goes to school!
Although my labour was by no means quick or easy, having got through it and able to look back from the other side, I do feel incredibly grateful that it went the way it did. While 14 hours was absolutely long enough for me, I realise that many people suffer a lot longer and it could have all been so much worse. I still don’t feel completely back to myself and there are still days now, 3 months later, that I realise I’ve not fully recovered either physically or mentally. But I was given the best care I could have asked for both during and after the birth, and I’m so thankful that for the most part I got the birth I wanted, without any complications and with little to no intervention. While I’ll never fully forget the pain, I look at Evie now and know that it was absolutely worth every second.
So, welcome to the world Evie James. I promise we’ll do our best to make it as wonderful an adventure for you as we can.
P.S the top photo is from a recent family photoshoot we did with the lovely and extremely talented Siobhan Watts. I’m going to share more of the photos in a separate blog post as we are so over the moon with them! Siobhan came out to visit us and we had the best day with her – she is so relaxed and made everything very easy (despite being a blogger I actually am not very comfortable having my photo taken). If you’re looking for someone to do a relaxed family shoot, then definitely check her out (her new website is amazing!).