Caught by her daddy in the early hours

Let's hear from dad, Jim*, first:

"Jenni gave birth to baby girl Melissa on Saturday.

Her contractions started 10pm and she rested till 3am when they ramped up, she then had 2 paracetamols, put on the TENs machine and went through each of your exercises and movements with the relaxation tracks.

So relaxed and in the zone that by 5am she was in full established labor and gave birth at 5.24am caught by her daddy in the early hour, 5 minutes before the midwife or ambulance crew could even get to us!

I wanted to say thank you for helping us to have such a positive birth experience, especially since our first one took 3 days! This time I could really see Jenni's confidence going into labor and she moved through each stage instinctively."

Jenni's says "My daughter had not been sleeping well in the weeks running up to Melissa's birth, hence childcare was our single main source of stress in whole labour. She had been in our bed, requesting midnight milk bottles and also rejecting Daddy! 

Since the active birth workshop with Tessa, I had been doing regular stretches like the Side Lying Release and labouring positions every evening (as I caught up on covid BBC news!). In this pregnancy I had Symphasis Pubic Disorder and upper shoulder/back pain from about 20 weeks on so the exercises helped.

I finished work just before 37 weeks. The next 4 days was spent nesting at home - I re-did my daughter's new 'big girl' bedroom. I had been feeling very, very heavy and tired all week. Intuitively I felt the baby would come around 38 weeks, just like her sister. 

Friday morning (37 wks + 4 days), I had planned a long 2-hour lockdown walk with my friend; she showed me the University lakes and the hidden korean shop in the Student Union. There were a number of recipies I was planning in the last week of pregnancy (alas never got round to it).

Friday evening started with our usual toddler bedtime routine. I was getting more braxton hicks than normal (few per hour) so I had a sense something was happening but then also dismissed it to the exercise I had done that day.

10pm - I was settling into bed, I felt some mild cramps. They were painless and not regular - after the long labour last time I decided the best thing to do was sleep it off. 

1am - My daughter was awake again. I carried her into our bed and she proceeded to kick my husband out. This was when I noticed that the cramps were becoming regular and focused on the bottom half of my bump. I focused on cuddling and getting her back to sleep, practising the golden thread breath.

It was mixed emotions when I realised this might be early labour - is this it? I felt ready but not at the same time.

2.15 am - I quietly slipped out of bed to tell my husband (who was relegated to the bedroom upstairs) that I might be in early labour, but that we should rest (wisdom from last time and from Tessa). In my mind, I envisioned getting my duaghter to nursery and the baby might arrive some point during the daytime.

Jim decided to get a few things sorted - preparing our kitchen diner (creating space for the pool and setting out snacks) and moving the cars for the midwives cars before going back to bed.

I lay down next to my daughter, Tessa's advice clear in my head: "nest and rest". I cuddled my firstborn and listened to her snores. I could hear the sound of my husband shuffling downstairs and the stairs creaking as he headed back to sleep in her bed.

I drifted in and out of sleep. Instead of dreading each contraction, I focused on what it felt like - a tightening of the lower part of my tummy only and imagined each one pulling a bigger and bigger "hole" at the bottom of my uterus.

3.15am - I could no longer stay lying down in bed as have to stand up and move my hips with each one. For each one, I breathed the golden thread breath.

3.30am - I woke Jim to let him know the contractions were getting intense. He went and got me two hot water bottles as I tried to relax more, lying in bed. We decided now that we should probably move my daughter back into her own room (she was completely sparko) to allow me more space to labour.

3.54am - record of when I decided to first time my contractions, which were about 4 mins apart each one lasting 45 seconds. In hindsight by this stage I was already close to if not already in established labour. However I did not want to be engrossed with numbers - it was all I focused on last time yet it still took my first daughter another 48 hours to arrive. I took some paracetamol.

4am - Jim suggested I take a shower to get warm water on my back. Shower lasted about 2 mins as did not help at this stage. I quickly put my nightie back on. I constantly felt the urge to poo; I was keen to empty my bowels now whilst everything was still relatively under control, I kept trying to sit on the toilet.

With hindsight, this was baby pushing down on tailbone and me rocking back helped opened up my pelvis (something which Tessa again mentioned - tilt pelvis back in early labour and forwards in late labour).

4.15am - moved downstairs to do some yoga poses (all fours and rocking on my ball). Jim turned on my wireless headphones.  Again, I noticed and each one made my whole uterus tighten rather than just the bottom half as it was earlier. I was breathing through each contraction and rocking my hips with my hands pressed against the utility room door.

Things were moving. I told Jim I could manage a little longer - perhaps 5am before we call the homebirth midwife. 

4.45am - He decided to call the midwife.

4.50am - Contractions were getting very intense, minutes apart. I abandoned the Freya app by 5am. With each one the urge to 'have a poo' was still there, but when I sat on the loo or rolled backwards on the birth ball, it would 'create' another contraction.

5.05am - Jim called midwife again and said I was mooing. It was so intense at this point especially pressure on tailbone that I had to arch my back and get on tippy toes each time. Midwife told us to hang up and call the ambulance.

5.15am  - my waters broke as I was arching my back on tip toes and splatters everywhere on the kitchen floor. The moment that happened I felt the most strange sensation of her head moving down birth canal - this is the most memorable feeling during the whole labour.

I told Jim I had to push. He scattered a bunch of towels over the floor and I instinctively got on my hands and knees leaning on a footstool.

5.26am (the paramedics had to check through the emergency call records to get the exact time of birth). Melissa shot out, after about 2-3 pushes. Jim caught her, ruffled her on the towel and immediately she started screaming.

So she arrived in the early hours of Saturday 23 Jan (37+4days), at home, delivered by Daddy, and weighing 6lbs 9oz.

He brought her onto my chest for immediate skin-to-skin (distinctly remember ripping off my nightie and throwing it across the room!!). The paramedics arrived five minutes afterwards.

The best thing is.... we realised a few days later that our google Ring doorbell had captured footage of the ambulance arriving and Melissa's first cries!

First midwife came another 15 mins later. I was examined and at this point I accepted the gas and air. The examination was actually the most 'painful' part of the birth. I had a small 1st degree tear and needed no stitches. I took the injection to birth the placenta afterwards - this actually came from the ambulance as the second midwife had not yet arrived in the kit bag.

My eldest woke up at 7am and came to meet her sister just as the first midwife was leaving to attend another birth. That day happened to be the most amazing first snow day of 2021 so we felt so lucky to birth at home. De-frosting the car would have been a nightmare!

Melissa has since then been a fantastic feeder, immediately latching well from the beginning and my milk arrived on time. During my pregnancy I was so absorbed in other things and the birth experience that I did not really think about myself in the postpartum recovery stage.

Laboring at home and immediately being home after birth solved all my childcare logistical worries in one swoop, and more importantly made the world of difference to my post partum recovery.

Every now and again, we walk past the 'spot' on the kitchen and still joke about how we will carve up the floorboards and take it with us when we move house.

My birth did not go exactly as planned; there should have been more midwives; I was not wearing my 'labour' nightdown which was meant to be breastfeeding and skin to skin friendly; and I never got to try out my wonderful birth pool which Jim spent many hours figuring out the logistics of how to inflate and position it.

It is hard to put words, as throughout I felt a profound sense of control and trust in my body.

A powerful experience that will stay with me forever.

A very heartfelt thank you for the wisdom shared on the course, book and yoga sessions. It made a real difference in how I approached this second birth, which is completely counter cultural to how I've been brought up.

(*The names are pseudonyms.)