So I started writing a blog post in January – an update about my pregnancy. And here I am and its early April and I have been blessed with a third daughter Luna Octavia and I haven’t written a post since October. I remember being pregnant with Mila three years ago and I was constantly writing blog posts probably a few a week and here I am three years later with three incredible children but a little bit busier than before! Thats the thing about first pregnancy vs subsequent pregnancies – you have lots of time to take care of yourself but when you already have children that you hardly have time to think about the pregnancy let alone many other things. When people asked me how many weeks I was this time around sometimes I didn’t even remember that. But I wanted to take the time to share my birth story because I really think you can have a positive birth experience even if it doesn’t go exactly how you think it will (I never have a plan because chances are it won’t go to plan.) I have had three positive experiences with childbirth but I think birth is still very much something that a lot of women fear so if I can put even one person at ease that will make me happy.
Ive always been open about the fact that I love pregnancy. Everything about it. It makes me feel calm and happy. I love the way I look when I am pregnant – the curves and of course my bump. I love the feeling of growing a baby inside me. The flutters and kicks. But my favourite part even though its the hardest part is the few weeks before giving birth mainly because of the excitement and anticipation. Of meeting your new baby and of not knowing how exactly your labour is going to go. For someone who usually likes being very in control of a situation, during birth I have never tried to be in control and have just gone with it. I am just going to put something out there that will probably make lots of you think I am utterly bonkers: I also enjoy the experience of childbirth. First time around when I had no idea what to expect I would watch non stop episodes of One Born Every Minute. Totally not for everyone and its not exactly educational but it made me feel like childbirth was something that everyone gets through – the moment they all saw their babies they looked elated and forgot about the birth even if it was the most difficult thing they had ever done. I think childbirth is one of those experiences that is unlike anything else you will ever do – you feel so many emotions and it almost doesn’t feel like its your body at the time but at the same time feels like one of the most real and raw experiences you will ever have. I feel almost greedy saying this but we would love at least one more baby (mayyyyybe two) and it actually makes me sad thinking I might only go through this beautiful journey one more time. I feel SO incredibly blessed that I have gone through it three times.
My second birth experience with Anoushka was pretty much a dream birth. I had a strong contraction which woke me up at 4:30am and she was born a few hours later. I hynobirthed and was aware of course that I was in pain but it was very calm and quick. I think that sort of threw me a little bit this time. I sort of assumed the birth would be similar this time and was always prepared for a short birth but what I wasn’t prepared for was a long one. But the one thing about childbirth is that you never know how it is going to go. Anoushka was born the morning after her due date and Mila was born a few days before so I have never gone really overdue and although my hypnobirthing teacher would tell me that I shouldn’t focus on a due date (which I think is great advice), its pretty difficult not to when those last days are so tiring and at the back of your mind you do think about your due date. There was nothing particularly out of the ordinary with this birth – my waters didn’t break dramatically and the birth itself was totally drama free (which of course is a good thing – I had plenty of drama with Mila’s birth as the cord was around her neck and I spent 10 hours lying on one side as it was the only position in which she was happy.) But I really wanted to avoid an induction. On the day of my due date when absolutely nothing seemed to be happening I had to start thinking about my options. Yes I think hynobirthing is wonderful and in some countries you aren’t actually due until 42 weeks but I also trust my obstetrician entirely and I know she wasn’t keen for me to go past 41 weeks. And I wasn’t comfortable with going past 41 weeks but that’s just a personal preference. In any case when I saw her at 40 weeks we decided that we would wait a week and see how things progressed.
Its funny because a few weeks before at around 37 weeks I had started having mild contractions and was convinced I was going to give birth way before my due date but then it all died down. At the time I remember feeling a little nervous about the whole thing which has never happened to me before and perhaps thats why it died down. I think labour happens when your baby is ready and when you feel ready. In the lead up I tried EVERYTHING to bring on labour naturally – baths with lavender oil, bouncing on my ball, curry’s, sex, lunges, walking up and down stairs. Then I tried reflexology. I didn’t really know if I should go for reflexology or acupuncture but in the end went for reflexology because I was recommended two practitioners. I had two separate therapists (one of whom was pretty out there!) but unfortunately they did little to help bring on the birth. Luna was just way too comfortable in my tummy.
For anyone wondering why I wanted to avoid induction it is because first time around my obstetrician broke my waters and the labour progressed in such an intense way and I dilated so quickly that I ended up asking for an epidural as I couldn’t handle the pain. There is nothing wrong with having an epidural but I had always wanted to know what it felt like to have a totally drug free birth so last time I was adamant to not be induced and luckily got to have the birth I wanted.
Anyways Monday 25th March rolled around and I was still pregnant. 41 weeks pregnant. Not sure about anyone else but I reached a point where I felt like I was going a bit loopy – I wasn’t able to sleep more than a few hours a night and I was so ready to meet our baby. I had written my obstetrician the night before asking if I could come for a sweep in the morning and so at 10:30 on the Monday morning my husband and I went to see her after dropping Mila off at nursery. She did the sweep and turned out I was already 4cm dilated. So all this time I thought that nothing was happening but actually my body was slowly getting ready. We picked Mila up from nursery and all went out for lunch – it felt nice to do something one last time as a family of 4. My contractions started pretty much immediately after the sweep but were still quite irregular. They got increasingly strong as we walked to lunch and I started thinking perhaps this is finally happening. We went home and then took the girls to the park – it was the most BEAUTIFUL day with clear blue skies – it was one of those days when you felt like Spring was finally here. My contractions were getting stronger and whilst my husband played with the girls I watched them, put on my hypnobirthing tracks and started walking around the park. I felt so emotional and knew that in the next hours/days I would finally get to meet my third baby. At this point I was having regular contractions and wrote my obstetrician as thought it was probably time to go to hospital. Given my quick birth last time I didn’t want to risk giving birth in the park lol. My mother was here to look after the girls and after I kissed them all goodbye and we got in a taxi and made our way to hospital.
And then what I feared might happen happened. As we sat down in the taxi all of my contractions slowed down. I really didn’t want to unnecessarily leave my girls unless I was actually in labour so I felt really deflated but I thought as long as I stay active there was a chance things might pick up again. We got into our room and my obstetrician suggested doing an examination which last time I would have been so against – I had wanted it to be as natural as possible and to let my body do everything but this time I had reached a point where I wanted a little help and so I agreed. I was 7cm dilated at this point. We went for a long walk and sure enough my contractions picked up so we came back to the hospital and my obstetrician asked if I wanted to go to one of the birthing suites. With Anoushka I had wanted to labour in water but never had time for it given it was such a quick birth but this time I thought what a great idea. I’ve had all three babies at The Kensington Wing in the Chelsea Westminster Hospital – this is the first time I went into one of the birthing suites which are on the NHS side and I have to say they are INCREDIBLE – so much nicer than in the private wing.
I felt really relaxed at this point. The whole day had been lovely and I was totally calm and ready for the birth. I got into the water and the midwife suggested having some clary sage oil to sniff to help bring on more contractions which again I was more than happy to try. I was told that water can do one of two things – speed up your contractions or slow everything down. Well guess what? It all slowed down for me again! It was just going to be one of those stop start labours.
Its not often that I feel really tired – I don’t need a lot of sleep as a person and I always have a lot of energy. But I hadn’t slept properly in weeks, Luna’s foot was wedged in the most uncomfortable place next to my ribs, I had back pain, and I just wasn’t prepared to be in labour for hours upon hours if I could help it. I figured that I could still use my hypnobirthing techniques and have a calm birth but if I did need some sort of help along the way then I was happy to do that. So I got out the pool and began walking around the room. This perhaps sounds odd given that last time I just wanted to focus on breathing and listen to my relaxation recordings but this time I welcomed a distraction so we ended up watching that new Ricky Gervais series on Netflix – all 6 episodes! My husband kept asking me if we should stop and wondered if I wanted to listen to some hypnobirthing tracks but I was loving the distraction. We had arrived in hospital at around 5:30pm and at around 11pm my obstetrician did another examination – I was still exactly the same 7cm. She asked if I wanted her to break my waters but I wanted to hold off a bit longer – I knew it would speed things up but so much that I didn’t know if I was ready for that. I think my body actually labours really quickly once it is in full blown labour but for some reason this one just didn’t want to get going. I said I wanted to wait a few more hours and see where we were. I tried different positions on the bean bag but walking seemed to be the best thing for me. At this point we put the computer away and I was just focused on breathing through the contractions. My husband massaged oils into my hands, I bounced on my ball, I did squats and lunges but it still didn’t feel like the contractions were getting any stronger. They were painful but totally maneagable. The good news was that Luna was so happy during the entire labour – her heartrate was perfect every time they checked so that was something I didn’t need to worry about.
1am and STILL there was no change. It was at this point that I had hit a wall – I was just so tired. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep and was just too exhausted to wait for many more hours – I would rather just deal with the pain and meet my baby. So at around 1:15am she broke my waters and sure enough the contractions came on thick and fast. Its difficult even a few weeks later to remember exactly how you feel at the time but I started dilating very quickly and I could feel a lot of pressure almost immediately afterwards. I had gas & air – when I gave birth to Mila I hated it as it made me feel sick but last time and this time I felt like it really helped and I didn’t feel sick at all. It got to the point where the contractions were almost non stop – one long one would finish and I didn’t have time for a break before the next one would start – and I could feel her head pushing against my cervix. Its a really intense feeling I wouldn’t even describe it as pain but again it just makes you feel a bit loopy its so overwhelming. My obstetrician kept telling me to stop pushing and that I still have a little bit of cervix in the way I was around 9cm dilated. That I needed to breathe but Luna was now determined to meet us and however much I tried to breathe through it I felt like I couldn’t do anything to stop it. I couldn’t not push when that’s all my body was telling me to do. You sort of lose all concept of time but around 30 minutes after she broke my waters I was FINALLY fully dilated and with a few pushes my perfect Luna was born at 1:45am.
We kept the gender a surprise this time and I have to say that it was one of the most amazing things I have ever done – best best surprise. We didn’t care either way (I think people assume my husband wants a boy but if anything he actually prefers having a big team of girls!) but it really was such a surprise – I think I was convinced I was having a boy until the last few weeks of pregnancy when I just got a feeling that perhaps it might be another girl after all. Labour, even if you have a really positive experience, is A LOT of hard work. You feel such a sense of achievement afterwards and it was just the most incredible added bonus to have this surprise. There are so few real surprises in life.
I said on my stories shortly after giving birth that it was a tougher birth than last time. But it wasn’t the birth itself that was tough. I spent the majority of the birth feeling very relaxed. I was in “active” labour from around 5:30pm until 1:45am but it was only the last part that was really hard. The final 30 minutes were tough and painful and exhausting and I definitely felt like I couldn’t go on at one point. But the next day it was already forgotten. The hardest part for me was the waiting for the labour itself. If I am lucky enough to have more children then my lesson is to not focus on the due date or at least to prepare myself for the fact that I might go past the due date. And also to not compare the birth to a previous one because they are all so different. In any case all that matters is that she is here – she arrived safely and it was a very uncomplicated birth so I couldn’t be more grateful. And she is an absolute little dream – she was content in my tummy and now she seems super content in her new home too. xx