Beautiful Births #1

AKA: “Good things come to those who wait”

Who?
I (Wishful Earth Mama!) gave birth to my second child, a beautiful boy weighing 8lbs 7oz

When?
7.15am on Sunday 11 November 2018

Where?
Aylesbury Birth Centre, Stoke Mandeville Hospital

How?
In the warm waters of the birthing pool

Birth in brief:
Glorious! Long-awaited but fast and furious when it eventually happened. A perfect spontaneous labour and beautiful water birth.

Birth in full:
My son, my second child, arrived in the world at 7.15am on Sunday 11 November 2018. Despite a taxingly long lead-up, his birth was one of the most joyful and proudest moments of my life, and I’m detailing it here not only as a happy reminder of such a very special event but in the hope that it might reassure or even inspire other women experiencing a ‘prolonged’ pregnancy.

My baby boy was due on 29 October. Earlier in the month, my midwife had stretched her paper tape measure across my straining stomach and uttered the chilling words ‘static growth’. My husband raced home from work to hold my hand as three sonographers performed an ultrasound to determine growth more accurately. The words that finally broke the excruciating silence were surprising: “He seems to be a very good size indeed”. Their measurements suggested our boy would weigh a sizeable 9lbs 7oz by his due date, but they warned that “his abdominal circumference has grown too big too quickly, and you have a large pocket of amniotic fluid”. The gestational diabetes test I was subsequently given showed I was ‘borderline’ diabetic. Not enough to warrant medication or prompt induction conversations, but “put it this way”, smiled the nurse, “if you’re still pregnant at 42 weeks you’ll certainly be diabetic, but of course you’ll have had the baby by then”.

Except I very nearly didn’t. My baby arrived at 41 weeks and 6 days gestation. Those 13 extra days passed in a torturous cycle of uncomfortable daytimes, hopeful bedtimes and disappointing mornings, as I repeatedly awoke to a stoic absence of any signs of labour. When my due date came and went, I breezily informed the world that “in France, gestation is considered to be 41 weeks”. I was sure he’d arrive by that milestone – my daughter had been born at 41 weeks the previous year, and her birth had followed several days of unmistakable signs of early labour and full-blown contractions the day before.

And yet, the 41 week milestone also passed without a whimper or whisper of labour. Was baby okay? Were his big tummy and my strange amniotic fluid measurements signs of a problem that meant he wasn’t ready to, or just couldn’t, emerge?

As part of my hypnobirthing practice I regularly visualised the joyful moment I went, spontaneously, into labour. I imagined waking up in the middle of the night to the dramatic breaking of my waters, and then rushing around the house pulling on mismatching pyjamas and flinging snacks and toiletries into my hospital bag. My husband and I would make sure our daughter was sleeping soundly, then make late-night calls to my midwife and my mum before zooming off to the birth centre for a calm, intervention-free water birth. Such was my dream.

As the days passed, my hopes of this scenario faded, and I prepared myself for the inevitable but unwanted recommendation that labour be induced.

I am a staunch advocate of natural birth, and for me this includes allowing labour to happen spontaneously. This should not be misunderstood to imply that intervention makes birth ‘less’, ‘worse’ or ‘inferior’ in any way. Any birth is a true feat and I look forward to documenting a wide variety of fabulous birth stories as my “Beautiful Births” blogpost series develops. Positive births feature healthy babies, happy mamas and a solid foundation of information, understanding, consent and respect. To be clear, I believe these factors are as feasible in an induced labour or caesarean section as they are in a spontaneous home birth.

My lovely community midwife broached the induction with a clear and comprehensive outline of the various induction techniques and procedures, alongside the reasons why they might be considered. The ‘might’ is important here. Crucial, in fact. Women are under absolutely no obligation to be induced. I urge you to gaily correct the semantics of all those who ask a heavily pregnant woman “how overdue will they let you go?” It’s not a case of ‘permission’. In the UK, induction is offered because there’s a higher risk of stillbirth after 42 weeks of pregnancy (the exact date at which induction is performed varies between hospital trusts). However, if you and baby are thriving and your pregnancy is classed as “low risk” it is totally your choice whether to agree to any induction procedures.

I am not a health professional, so will not attempt to detail the various methods of inducing labour, or the statistics that support (or argue against) their efficacy and necessity. If you would like to learn more, I recommend consulting the NHS website’s Inducing labour page (particularly the Choices when pregnancy reaches 41 weeks leaflet), and the statistics-packed induction bible Inducing labour: Making informed decisions by Dr Sara Wickham. For further inexpert ramblings, have a peek at my Wishfully waiting for baby blogpost, which I wrote 6 days after my due date.

Suffice it to say, I politely refused all methods of induction…until 11 days after my due date, when I asked my midwife to perform a membrane sweep. She hadn’t batted an eyelid when I’d refused this previously (it was first offered at 39 weeks), and seemed similarly unfazed at my volte-face three weeks later. I had been warned to expect resistance to my persistent refusal of induction, and I felt my position would be stronger if I’d already undergone some form of induction (a membrane/cervical sweep is a simple, quick, physical procedure that doesn’t requires artificial drugs, but can sometimes kick-start labour. For this reason, many class it as a labour induction method). Furthermore, I knew that the invasive nature of the sweep required investigation of the cervix, and I was keen to know what (if anything) was occurring in that area! I found the sweep uncomfortable rather than painful. Much worse was the news that my cervix was still “high and hard, more like I’d expect to see at around 38 weeks”. I left the appointment feeling utterly convinced that labour was a long way off indeed.

That night, our daughter decided to have one of the worst night’s sleep of her little life, which for her, was no mean feat! At 4am, after a fitful few hours, she was clutching me and screaming inconsolably. I began to sob too. Days of frustration, worry, sleep deprivation and overall physical discomfort had taken their toll. My husband, usually the most patient and gentle of men, lost his temper, and then his resolve. He began to cry too. It was a bleak moment for us all. Exhausted and emotional, we all climbed into bed together, and eventually drifted off in a tangled mess of hot tears and love.

The next morning, all was calm. The trauma of the small hours had been cathartic, and perspective had been regained. We were healthy and secure, and I suddenly knew with absolute certainty that our newest and much longed-for addition would come when, and only when, he was ready.

We had a lovely day. I had to go into hospital for monitoring in the form of cardiotocography (a ‘CTG’ or ‘trace’), and happily, this showed us that baby was healthy. My husband and I made an appointment for a scan the next day, and we then went for lunch. We spent the afternoon playing with our daughter, and had a lovely dinner with my parents. We were relaxed. We laughed, joked and soaked up some precious family time.

That night, our daughter slept through the night for the first time in weeks. Ironically, I was up from 1.30am. I didn’t mind at all though, because, finally, my vision was realised.

I was in labour.

A lovely community midwife came out to assess me at 3.30am. I’d lost my mucous plug and my contractions had become regular, but I wasn’t sure if my waters had broken. We laughed at the absurdity of having to creep around the house silently despite being in labour, such was the rarity of our daughter sleeping through the night! And I will always remember the comic indignity of being intimately examined by the light of an iPhone 6. (Our living room light is pathetically romantically dim!)

The midwife recommended I head to the hospital, as she was finding it difficult to ascertain whether or not my waters had broken. She warned that leaving the comfort of my home might cause labour to slow down. I felt differently: “I’m worried I’ll give birth in the car”. She took me at my word: “If that starts to happen, just call me and I’ll find you on the road!” She called the hospital to explain I’d be arriving soon, and that I wanted a water birth, so could they start filling the pool?

We arrived at the hospital at 5am. I staggered into triage, where I was gauged to be 4cm dilated. “Would you like me to give you a cervical sweep, to help move things along?”, asked another kindly midwife. “That really won’t be necessary”, I managed to say in between increasingly painful surges. “Can I get in the pool now?” I was keen to leave the bright lights and commotion of the triage ward. I was also very aware that the couple beyond my bed’s flimsy curtain were becoming distressed by the sounds I was emitting to help me through each surge, and I felt strongly that I needed to be somewhere much more private.

I vaguely remember walking to the birth centre. I vividly remember setting eyes upon the birthing pool, which, crushingly, was empty. Two midwives were attaching hoses to a tiny hand basin. As disappointment rose within me, so did pain. I couldn’t get comfortable on the bed, and a trip to the bathroom saw me crawling back into the room, desperate to find respite from the near-overwhelming power of each surge. I was in shock – their gut-wrenching strength seemed far, far stronger and less manageable than during my previous labour. I desperately wanted to immerse myself in the warm waters of the pool, but it seemed ‘immersion’ wouldn’t be possible for at least half an hour.

I lay on the floor, and to my shame, began to scream through each surge. My husband was panicking too. “Would you like your rain soundtrack?” In desperation, he was pawing at my iPad, trying to find the soothing rain soundtrack that always accompanied my hypnobirthing practice. I’d asked for it to be played on loop for the last ten hours of my previous labour, and quite understandably, my husband thought it might help me again. Unfortunately, I felt differently: “NO!”

The fact was, this labour wasn’t going to last ten hours. In total, my previous labour was 21 hours, and I believe this allowed my body to very gradually build up to the crescendo of surges that immediately precedes baby’s arrival. Second time around, my labour was progressing more quickly than I had anticipated. My surprise was turning to fear, the mortal enemy of a positive birth experience. Very quickly, I began to believe I couldn’t cope with the power of the surges.

I gasped a plea for help. “What do you want?” asked the midwife. “Pool!” I shouted. “It’s not ready”, she said sadly. “How about gas and air?” Reluctantly, I nodded. I had desperately hoped for a birth free of pain relief (like my first birth), but I realised I wasn’t managing this stage of labour at all well, and would have to accept help.

Once I’d mastered how to inhale the Entonox, I began to feel some very welcome relief. The effect is hard to describe. It’s a tasteless substance which you need to start inhaling as soon as a surge begins, so you’ll have some in your system during the surge’s strongest moments. I’ve heard women say that it made them feel dizzy, disorientated or nauseous, but I only felt a sense of calm, and a sudden ability to cope with the surges. My panic had ebbed away and crucially, I felt I had regained control.

I’m not sure how long I used the gas for, but it ran out pretty quickly! I was upset by this and asked for more repeatedly, but a farcical scene of reappearing empty canisters and too-short breathing tubes was playing elsewhere in the room. There was no more gas to be had, but I finally received better news: the pool was ready.

I had managed to labour on the floor for a further 30 minutes or so without Entonox, and all thoughts of the wonder substance completely disappeared as soon as I slid into the pool’s surprisingly warm water. It was blissful, and I knew I wouldn’t emerge again until I had my baby in my arms.

At 7am, I started to push. The midwife feared this was early, but a quick check of proceedings (using a skilfully-wielded mirror!) proved that it was absolutely the right time.

Amazingly, our son rose gently through the water and into my arms at 7.15am. Just ten minutes and a few long pushes had finally brought him to us. We were overjoyed, and I was elated that I’d delivered him naturally. I had always feared the pushing stage but actually, genuinely, it was painless. Not without sensation, of course, and it was an almighty effort, but compared to the ravaging surges I’d felt only an hour previously, it was far, far more comfortable. I remembered a key line from a hypnobirthing ‘birth confidence’ script: “Let your body push your baby. It knows what to do”.

As I met my son for the very first time, I’m told I greeted him thus: “Hello beautiful baby! Where have you been?!”. Quite simply, he was where he should have been, happily thriving, until he was ready to meet us. He was a fabulously healthy (and not, contrary to earlier warnings, an overly hefty) 8lbs 7oz, and he heralded an overwhelming wave of love that has continued to wash over all of us ever since.

I don’t know if I’ll ever have the privilege of carrying a baby and bringing them into the world again. To be honest, I suspect not. But if I ever should again, I will remember these important lessons:

  • A ‘due date’ is an estimate.
  • Growth scans are predictions with margins of error.
  • You shouldn’t eat too much sugar during pregnancy (and actually, it’s very easy to give up).
  • Ask, ask, and ask your chosen birth location to fill up the birth pool in good time. Then check, check, check that it’s happening (this is a great task for a birth partner!)
  • Your body knows what to do.
  • Trust your instincts.

Welcome to the world, beautiful boy.

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Feeling a loss in the expansion of love

It’s day 11 of our life as a family of four. I’m in bed, wrapped in just a towel, with tangled, sodden hair soaking my pile of pillows. My son is curled on my chest, little fists clenched, legs tucked under his bum, forehead wrinkling above closed eyelids as he dreams of all the colours, smells and sounds he’s encountered in his very first week.

My diary tells me I should be at Tick Tock Music right now. I should be sitting at the edge of a church hall, surrounded by other parents, watching my toddler daughter dance to tinny music played from an iPhone. Her favourite songs are those with actions: ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’, ‘Sleeping Bunnies’ and the ‘Tick Tock song’, which, much to her hilarity, involves rubbing tummies, flexing fingers and tickling toes. The class has a different theme each week, and features little plays in which the children can participate. My daughter loves these. She is a born performer. My heart swells with joy as she is given the ‘role’ of a bee, or a frog, or memorably, an envelope. At the end of the class we sing the ‘Hokey Cokey’, and I swing her high into the throng of toddlers. We have a jubilant cuddle, then she trots off to get a biscuit. Not yet introduced to the hedonistic delights of chocolate, she is thrilled with her malted milk biscuit and always brings it to show me. We then put on her coat and walk hand-in-hand to the car; she telling me through crummy mouthfuls about the songs we sang together.

I love these classes. I also love Jacqu’in The Box on Mondays, Eeny Meeny Music on Tuesdays and Track City on Fridays. I love our post-class debriefs and celebratory biscuits, our walks home and occasional detours to the park. I love our pre-nap nappy changes and our post-nap cuddles. I love our lunch preparations and soundtrack negotiations (“will you eat some omelette if I play ‘Five Little Speckled Frogs’?”).

These simple activities have been the very backbone of our time together for months. I’m a stay-at-home mum, and it’s very rare that I miss my former life as a high-heeled, high-earning creative marketer. I have been truly privileged to spend almost every minute of every day of the past 21 months in the intoxicating company of my daughter.

Until this week. As our routine dictates, she is at Tick Tock Music. But without me. She’s there with her Dada, and her Granny and Granddad. I know they’ll have a blast, but I worry they won’t sit in our usual spot. They don’t know the actions to the Tick Tock song. They might assume she’d prefer a chocolate digestive.

I grieve for our time together.

11 days in, still battling roiling hormones, vicious sleep deprivation and post-birth anaemia, ‘grief’ is absolutely what I feel. My soul aches at her absence. I held her so tightly in bed this morning, inhaling her scent and clutching her little body as it struggled to wriggle free of “silly Mama” and head downstairs for porridge and playtime. I sobbed silently as I heard the front door close while I lay trapped under a nursing newborn.

Before our son arrived, I worried about our daughter’s reaction. I feared she’d experience jealousy for the first time in her little life, and, that she wouldn’t know how to handle such a complex emotion. I feared she’d show anger, or become overly clingy, demanding a level of attention we just couldn’t give her whilst caring for a newborn. I had visions of sly, spiteful behaviour towards our new arrival.

Thankfully, my fears were completely unfounded. Shamefully, I completely underestimated my daughter’s capacity for compassion and generosity. Really, she’s just a baby herself, and hasn’t yet reached the frustrated, tantrumming toddler stage. She only knows love and kindness and silliness and gentle tactility, so this is what she’s shown her brother. Furthermore, we’ve worked hard to ensure that his sudden appearance caused only minimal disruption to her busy routine of classes, naps, mealtimes and afternoon jaunts. We are incredibly lucky to have one set of grandparents just five minutes away, and were able to fly in the other set to support us during the tricky early days. Our daughter’s routine therefore hasn’t skipped a beat; the arrival of her baby brother simply added a steady but unexciting bass note to her daily melody.

This continued harmony is to the absolute credit of our loving family. I’m thrilled that the seismic shift of becoming a four-person family has barely rippled the surface of our daughter’s life. But what I totally, utterly failed to even consider, let alone prepare for, was the effect on me. I had vague concerns about not spending enough time bonding with our new baby (alongside the classic fear, “how could I love him as much as my firstborn?”), but again, these proved to be unfounded. Instead, the loss of my carefully-contructed mama-daughter routine has completely knocked me for six. I’m typing this furiously, desperate to channel my sadness into something cathartically productive. I have barely seen my daughter in the past two weeks. I haven’t cooked her breakfast, or dressed her, or taken her to a class, or soaped her in the bath, or read her bedtime stories, or comforted her in the night. Our interactions are limited to (slightly frantic on my part) ‘conversations’ about the activities she’s enjoyed without me: “park, swings!”, ” chips and peas!”, “Granny help drawing!”.

I’m ashamed of the fact that we’ve spent 11 days this way. I did try to go to Tick Tock Music this morning. I changed our baby boy’s nappy, packed a heavy bag of baby ‘essentials’, and even managed to drag a brush through my matted hair. But exiting the house defeated me. Baby was hungry, and I felt mean, giving him just a fraction of a feed to “keep him going” until we reached the class. I bundled him into a snowsuit but the sling proved too tricky. We were (of course!) running late, and I couldn’t secure it properly in my haste. I knew it would be foolhardy to risk his discomfort and possibly even endangering him in an ill-fitting carrier just to be punctual. Our daughter was getting fractious in the pram. I glanced in the mirror. I was pale, overweight, comically half-wrapped in a cotton sling and utterly, utterly pathetic.

So I peeled off the sling, unbundled the baby, and settled down to feed him properly while everyone else headed off to the class. When he’d fed, I lay him in his moses basket and took him into the bathroom so I could at least shower and compose myself. The rhythmic flow and splash of the water lulled him to sleep, and washed away my self-pity.

This is the second time in less than two years that I’ve cared for a newborn baby. The second time I’ve doggedly (happily!) committed to exclusively breastfeeding. My second baby is the calmest bundle you’ll ever see – a laughably stark contrast to my unsettled, colicky firstborn. And yet, this is a totally new and far more difficult experience for me. The first time around, I had everything to gain. My life suddenly had a love and a purpose it was clearly missing beforehand.

Now, the love and purpose has expanded, but fractured. I am fortunate to have bonded immediately with my new baby – I’m utterly smitten, but I feel that the life I carefully built around my firstborn has disintegrated. She is absolutely thriving, and loving every second of the doting attention her Dada and grandparents can give her. I cannot, should not, ask for anything more.

I can only be thankful for the time the two of us selfishly, indulgently shared together. It’s early days, and I look forward to the new equilibrium which will, of course, settle upon all of us in the coming weeks.

And I look forward to again singing the Tick Tock song: heartily, lustily, with my toddler in my arms and my baby (safely!) in his sling.

‘Original’ baby, it’s been an absolute privilege. There’s so much joy ahead.

Hypnobirthing and me

If you were asked, right now, to close your eyes and picture your “safe and special” place, what would you see? Could you conjure such an environment on demand? Would a calming milieu blossom into your consciousness, or would you strain to see past your desk, or your phone, or wherever you were at the time?

A couple of years ago, any such request would have elicited no more than a raised eyebrow from me, and the very term “safe and special place” would have set my alarm bells ringing. But now, thanks to hypnobirthing, my “safe and special place” has become my bedrock.

Safe place

My special place is imaginary, but this photograph is a close representation. When I feel stressed, or scared, or nervous, or simply need to still the whirring cogs of an overactive mind and fall asleep, I picture this beach. It’s in Ireland, and has a special significance to me and my husband. I picture him there too, and our beautiful daughter. I am barefooted, and I scrunch my toes in the warm sand. Sometimes I stand on a rock that rises gently from the clear waters, or I wade into their warmth. I sink below the gently undulating waves and marvel at the underwater landscape. Calmness envelops me.

Hypnobirthing is often misunderstood to be the sole preserve of militant natural birthers. Actually, it is simply a set of visualisation, relaxation and breathing techniques that can help women during labour and birth. Any kind of birth. ANY kind of birth. And I think it’s utterly fabulous.

I stumbled across the practice two years ago, when I was desperately searching for help to manage the fear of childbirth that was souring every moment of my first pregnancy. My daughter was due in 8 weeks, and I had driven myself to near total denial of her arrival. I am a chronic information-seeker, which was doing me no favours whatsoever. I had gorged on others’ birth stories, and my brain did an impressive job of storing all the frightening details while neatly disposing of anything vaguely positive. My mind’s eye played a graphic stereotrope of violence and pain on loop. My waking hours became torturous, and I slept as much as I could, simply to escape.

When a wonderfully no-nonsense pal mentioned that she’d found ‘hypnobirthing’ helpful, I turned my forensic research skills to learning more about it. There is a plethora of books, recordings and online resources on the subject. I dug beyond the dangerously misleading ‘testimonials’ (“I turned my breech baby simply by the power of my dreams!”) to uncover a solid foundation of positive experience, whereby hypnobirthing women reported lower stress, fear and anxiety levels, less need for further pain relief methods during labour, and in general, a calmer birth experience than perhaps they had expected or indeed previously endured.

A week later, my husband and I found ourselves attending group hypnobirthing classes in the home of a local practitioner. She was calm and qualified, with personal experience of hypnobirthing’s benefits. Using the Jenny Mullan Method, we learned about how hypnobirthing can complement and support the mental and physical processes of birth. We learned how to create the ideal birth environment; what role the birth companion should play; and we built up a ‘toolkit’ of visualisation, relaxation, breathing and light-touch massage techniques. We were encouraged to practise and perfect the techniques in the class, and questions were warmly welcomed. The course contained a few wayward excursions into birthing ‘history’, and some slightly dubious ‘facts’ about the power of the mind to achieve the very highest levels of physical endurance and achievement without preparation (I had to restrain my athlete husband, with his sports science degree, from challenging this too strongly), but in general, the course provided a very comprehensive introduction to the practice. I say ‘introduction’, because the key to hypnobirthing is homework. You need to hone your skills so that, come the big event, you are easily able to perform the breathing exercises, summon up the visualisations, and transport yourself to the necessary state of relaxation. Personally I found that this required daily practice. The course fee included a set of downloadable audio files, each of which featured Jenny Mullan narrating a relaxation, breathing or visualisation script over a pacifying rainfall soundtrack. I would listen to one or two each day, and when I went into labour, I asked for the rain ‘music’ (without narration) to be played constantly, so I could sink into relaxation at my own pace.

I had an excellent first birth experience. I went into labour spontaneously, and spent the first 11 hours at home, happily bathing, watching silly films, and dozing between contractions. We went into hospital when my contractions became more frequent, and my labour progressed steadily over the next 10 hours. Hypnobirthing recommends a highly relaxing birth environment and encourages movement during labour, alongside the use of aids such as birthing balls, massage and birthing pools: i.e., either a home or midwife-led setup. Due to previous health complications, baby and I needed constant monitoring, so I was taken to a very clinical delivery suite, strapped up to various monitors and spent the last 8 hours of my labour on my back, in a hospital bed. I required a forceps delivery. It doesn’t sound ideal, but, genuinely, it was absolutely fine. Hypnobirthing (alongside, it has to be said, my beautiful husband and a truly wonderful, supportive midwife and consultant team) helped me stay calm, comfortable and in control. I never needed to ask for pain relief, and was simply allowed to manage my labour on my own terms. I have very positive memories of my daughter’s birth, and my long-held fears of childbirth are mercifully allayed.

As I write this, I am 9 days overdue with my second baby. There are concerns about his large size, and about the levels of my amniotic fluid. This may mean I don’t labour spontaneously (although I will fight for my right to do so – see my Wishfully waiting for baby blog post). It may mean I won’t be able to deliver in the midwife-led unit as I had hoped. I don’t know what’s in store, and although I’m apprehensive, I’m not frightened. I’m calm, in control, and looking forward to meeting my son. For this, I thank hypnobirthing.

Now, back to my beach…

Our lovely hypnobirthing practitioner was Emma Harwood-Jones of Together Birthing in Hertfordshire.

I would like to note that attending a hypnobirthing course is not a cheap option. However, learning about hypnobirthing doesn’t have to be costly. Local libraries stock hypnobirthing books and CDs, and lots of local maternity services offer free antenatal classes, a key component of which is often breathing and relaxation techniques.

Wishfully waiting for baby

Pregnant mama - 1

It would be appropriate to launch my blog with news of the ultimate new beginning: birth. I could regale you with the arrival story of one of earth’s newest people. I could roar and rave about the pain and joy and blood and sweat and tears (dual meaning intentional) and of course, all the love.

Except I can’t. Yet. Because my baby hasn’t arrived.

The sonographer’s scans and the midwife’s cardboard wheel of dates authoritatively state that my baby boy should have burst into the world on 29 October. I’m typing this on 4 November, and I’m very much still full of baby. My tummy aches. My feet and fingers pulse with hot swelling. I’m sleepy, and nauseous, and nervous, and heavy in all limbs. My baby boy rolls and roils and swells and shrinks inside me. I feel him everywhere.

The fatigue and discomfort can be near-overwhelming, but I refuse to be frustrated. I rail against the temptation to slip into impatience. I tread the gentle waters of acceptance. My baby isn’t ‘late’ or ‘post-dates’. He isn’t ‘overdue’, and my pregnancy isn’t ‘prolonged’. He’ll be perfectly on time, I’m sure. My body isn’t ready to let him go just yet; it’s still preparing. The tightening I feel across my tummy is my muscles tuning up, pushing and pulling every fibre ready for the effort of birth. The pressure in my pelvis is my baby shifting south. I seek calm quiet in which to listen and respond to my body. I drink when thirsty, eat when hungry, walk when I feel movement is needed, and submerse myself in warm water when the tumult of aches and fatigue needs pacifying.

I saw my midwife two days ago. She performed her tests, then lay her hands upon my swollen tummy. “He feels good”, she said, and the happy heartbeat that pulsed through her monitor echoed her sentiment. I lay on the bed and watched my young daughter dance around the room to her brother’s rhythm. All was well.

And then, my midwife broached the topic of induction. I’m relieved to say that she and I are of one mind: whilst my baby and I are demonstrably healthy, there is no need for intervention. I will not be ‘swept’, and I balk at the idea of synthetic hormones being artificially introduced into me. I understand that induced labour can be more painful than spontaneous labour, and statistics show that it is more likely to require further intervention in the form of pain relief and delivery assistance. This is not the birth experience I want for my baby or myself, and I am fortunate enough to have experienced a spontaneous natural labour previously: my dancing daughter arrived of her own accord last year, just a week after her estimated ‘due date’. She has a beautiful French name, and had she been born in France, she would have arrived precisely on time, for due dates there are calculated at 41 weeks. It is also generally understood that a pregnancy’s ‘full-term’ falls anywhere between 37 and 42 weeks.

So, baby boy, at just 40 weeks and 6 days today, you’ve clearly decided you have some more cooking to do. And that’s okay. If we reach 42 weeks and you’ve still not arrived, I will happily accept increased monitoring to make sure you are comfortable and content. And until then, I will wait calmly, happily and wishfully to meet you.

NB: “Inducing Labour: Making Informed Decisions” by Dr Sara Wickham, is an excellent recent source of statistics, research, debates and experience of labour induction.