Our birth story with James
Before I was pregnant with George, I never really understood why people shared their birth stories online. It seemed overly and unnecessarily intimate, sharing one of life’s most traumatic-stroke-special moments with the world.
Though when I fell pregnant with George, I devoured birth stories. I asked for my Mum’s detailed stories, my mother-in-law’s and also recent new mothers in my suburb for theirs (and not to worry, I tended to know them rather than pounce on unsuspecting mamas bouncing babies in the local café). I fell short of watching them though - that I just could not handle.
As James’ entry into this world was far more textbook and relatively speaking somewhat bearable, I thought it cause for sharing.
George’s entry into the world involved Hollywood-style breaking waters and my cervix dilating to 10cm in under three hours on nothing more than a hot bath and paracetamol. Not my goal, nor advisable. It was topped off with a mad dash to hospital via an ambulance at 2 a.m., my urge to push having had Sam at the ready with towels laid down in our hallway for delivery. Fair to say, we both found it to be rather traumatic.
While we were overjoyed to fall pregnant with James, a small but rather loud voice in the back of my head was yelling ‘you know how this ends!’ A week before James joined us, I experienced something no pregnant woman ought to. Waiting for a routine positioning scan at the hospital, I had to sit in a waiting room for thirty minutes. A waiting room right next to the birthing centre. Rooms filled with women actively labouring. You could hear everything. EVERYTHING. It seriously sounded like someone was dying through the wall next to me. I nearly bolted. Except running at my size was no longer possible, so it would have been more like a penguin waddling unnaturally fast.
Luckily for us, everything that we had heard about second-time births being kinder proved out to be true. So true in fact, that I was in labour at work for a few hours before fully realising it. I’d been feeling uncomfortable all day, having taken off my belt after lunch (my maternity jeans were now holding themselves up, ha!). I constantly getting up to walk about. At 5 p.m. I realised I was feeling something ‘regular’ in the way of a cramp, but I still wasn’t convinced it was labour, that it was merely my body playing tricks on me. I made my way home to Sam and asked him to start timing these ‘sensations’. We quickly learned I was already only four minutes apart. I called the hospital who advised we come in given that we were only just at 35 weeks gestation - technically two weeks premature, and five weeks ahead of due date. We hurried about the house, throwing the final items in our hospital bag, calling back George’s superstar nanny who had just left us twenty minutes ago to watch him and hopping in an Uber. Sam’s brother and his girlfriend arrived at ours soon after and watched George over the coming days - we were so grateful.
We arrived to the hospital just before seven o’clock, and were effectively held in a ‘triage’ maternity unit while handover was taking place amongst the midwives. The contractions were still regular, and had started to increase in their intensity and length. I began to walk them out and breathe with more intention. We were in the waiting room for a while, and it wasn’t until a midwife walked out and saw me white-knuckled against a gurney that she realised I needed to be seen rather swiftly. I was loaded onto a bed with a heart rate monitor for baby, and a waistband to track my contractions. A doctor then came in and we learned I was ready to start the active part of labour and was transferred to a room on the labour ward rather than the birthing centre given our premature start.
Like last time, I got lucky with an amazing cheerleader of a midwife. Over the next couple hours I sucked away on the sweet gas and air until about 6 cm dilation. I remember feeling incredibly high - a good thing during labour, in my books. After a while things started to get pretty uncomfortable, and I asked for and was fairly promptly given an epidural. Those things are pure magic. I started cracking jokes again and laughed. They make labour enjoyable. Well not quite, but a lot better than without. Just ask Sam. Before an epidural his hand is almost crushed in mine, his ears ringing thanks to the odd scream or two. Afterwards, I’m stroking his arm, chatting with excitement about meeting our new little one. I even told him I loved him too much for him to go through the pain. I unreservedly now retract this statement, and would really love science to figure out how men can birth babies.
I was almost fully dilated close to midnight, and the midwife said it would be a close call as what day baby officially joined us. She also had to break my waters for me, which wasn’t painful at all.. Another midwife was ushered in to help with the pushing and the doctor was brought in too, to check James as soon as he was born. I was rolled onto my side with one leg bent upwards to deliver on my side rather than on my back. Pushing this time was far easier thanks to the ‘muscle memory’ my body clearly had from birthing George. All it took were four focused pushes guided by the midwife. Little James came into the world in the first few minutes of the new day.
James was weighed and checked over, and was perfect - only 100g lighter than George at a respectably healthy 2.8kg. I escaped with one minor internal stitch, and delivered the placenta without a hitch. I never quite understood how women felt that giving birth was ‘empowering’, and now I do. I felt like a rockstar.
With James curled on my chest I was fed marmalade on toast, which was so unbelievably delicious that the gods must have made it themselves. The three of us lay there for an hour soaking this new world of ours in, before calling home to disbelieving family members with our new news. Thank you, as ever, to the phenomenal team at Chelsea & Westminster and to Sam, for always being in my corner.
Welcome to the world, sweet Baby James.