Twas the night before Christmas, when all was still, except for… the fact I was in labour in Milton Keynes General Hospital.
After rolling over in bed on the morning of Christmas Eve, I didn’t feel excitement that Santa was coming that night. What I did feel was my waters break. I was 38 weeks and five days pregnant – and this is exactly the point when I had my daughter in January of the same year. That’s right folks, I was definitely having two children in 2013, despite my early 2014 due date for number two. Crazy, huh!? I would have said we couldn’t have planned it better, but we didn’t plan this at all!
After dropping Halle at nursery and Ralphie (the dog) with a super helpful friend, we headed over to the hospital to get checked out. Yes, my waters had broken, they said, and if labour didn’t start naturally within 24 hours I’d be back in hospital to be induced on Christmas morning! Timing!
With Halle, my waters broke at 4am and labour started at 9am so we hoped for the same this time around, neither of us being patient in nature. Having not completed our Christmas food shop yet, me and hubby dashed into town to collect the turkey, top up our supplies and scoff some food ourselves. I didn’t get chance to eat with Halle’s birth and was utterly ravenous once she was delivered, more interested in my tea and toast than my newborn. Sort of. So, with the benefit of experience, I recognised the importance of eating while I had the chance.
Then we headed home, tidied up and went on a walk to try and shake the baby out. By the time we’d collected Halle from nursery and my mum had made the long festive jaunt from the shire, arriving at 6.30pm, there was no sign of a spontaneous labour. I was getting tired and looked forward to a decent night’s sleep before a yuletide induction.
But less than an hour later, those period pains started. Is this it, I thought? We ate dinner – again I wanted to keep my strength up – and shared my ‘Idiot’s Guide to Halle’ with my mum. Thank God she’d got there in time or Halle would have been coming to the hospital with us. Christmas isn’t the easiest time to get babysitters!
I have to confess, I was ridiculously scared at this point. It had been less than a year since I’d done the whole labour thing and while it was pretty quick for a first at eight hours, I knew how horribly painful and exhausting it all was. My healing process – stitches and a breastfeeding experience from hell – knocked the shine clean off my first weeks as a new mum and I was fearful of a repeat. With first time pregnancies, you know it’ll hurt but don’t know what to expect so go with the flow. Second time around, I knew what was coming and that it would be more than a little bit ouchy.
The contractions got stronger and closer together, quite quickly, but were a tad irregular. The hospital said to hold out a bit longer and try a bath and paracetamol. Pah! This is where my yoga breathing and relaxation kicked in, it really helped, and I could physically feel the pain ease a little, just by relaxing a bit and breathing through it. And relaxing while contracting is not the easiest thing to to do!
15 minutes later and we needed to go, I was in agony and having up to three contractions in 10 minutes, albeit still not regularly. Off we went – and thank God it’s less than a 10 minute drive to the hospital.
To stop the car or not stop the car?
On the journey there, I threw up all over myself. That eagerness to scoff down a full dinner just an hour or so earlier, not such a good idea after all! Hubby asked if he should stop the car but I said no, to keep driving. The pain was worse than being covered in my own vomit. The only trouble is, it’s hard to bend forward and puke in a ‘safe’ ish place when you’re having a contraction. I threw up into my scarf, hoping it would take most of the hit, but my coat, pyjama bottoms and hoody (oh yes, I was all glammed up for my trip to the hospital!) were plastered. When I rocked up at the maternity ward I was damp and very smelly. Not glamourous!
Our midwife Becky greeted us and scooted us into a delivery suite, telling us we were a pretty sure bet for the first Christmas baby on the ward. She examined me and I was 4cms dilated. I was 7cms when I went in with my daughter and felt like a failure. I cried. I couldn’t do this much longer, I was sure of it.
But an hour later, I was a mum again, a newborn baby in my arms. After sucking on gas and air and dropping myself into the birthing pool, Becky told me we weren’t going to have a Christmas baby after all. I didn’t believe her; I thought she was being nice to me and trying to make me feel better by implying a speedy labour. But she wasn’t wrong. And it was a good job, I cried some more to hubby as the pain took hold.
Noisy crisp eater
This time I managed to stay in the pool for the birth (I couldn’t do the pushing bit in the water with Halle as I was flailing around like a wet fish, so had to get out) and jeez did it hurt, but it was so much easier second time around. I couldn’t believe how quickly it all happened, my head was in a spin.
Austin James William (as known as AJ) popped out at 11pm and the midwives were looking to discharge us sharpish so we could get home. But AJ was a tad cold and then started ‘grunting’ which is when babies try hard to breathe. He was checked by a paediatrician and we were told to stay overnight, just for monitoring. Boo.
I didn’t stay in with Halle, we were home in four hours, so the maternity ward was a new experience for me. It was fairly quiet save for a few crying babies (no shit, Sherlock) – there were only three others on the ward – and a new mum chomping VERY loudly on a packet of crisps at 4am. The quieter you try to eat crisps, the louder it is. Richard left us to it, he felt bad leaving but he needed sleep too and we wanted him to be home when Halle woke up for her first Christmas Day. How mad that this was to be the first Christmas for BOTH our children.
I had no idea how to move the bed up and down, where the light was and why it was so goddam hot on the ward, I was sweating buckets, but I managed to sleep a little, mostly woken by a strong thirst and frequent need to pee. No stitches this time meant moving and weeing was a much more pleasant experience. And my first post-baby poo wasn’t like waiting for Armageddon. Sorry, too much information?!
Morning came and I was still there so after some nagging (I chose to nag the midwife wearing reindeer antlers as she looked like a softie) we saw the doc and were discharged. Richard and Halle came to the ward to get us and we all headed home for a relatively normal Christmas Day, with the best present we could have asked for, little baby AJ. Our family is complete!