JENNYMAY AND LAWRENCE’S HOMEBIRTH BY Jennymay

You can read Jennymay’s husband’s version of their baby’s birth here.

Lawrence and I went for what was going to be our final date before the baby came out (although obviously we didn’t know that at the time). We went to see a beautiful film ‘The Artist’ in Islington, and then I ate the spiciest meal of my life in Wagamama’s. It was so spicy it made me cry, and the waitress took it away and replaced it. I also had my first cup of raspberry leaf tea that night! I was bound to go in to labour with all that going on…The next morning there was an incredible frost and we went out very early to walk in the park and take pictures. It was the first time in a while that I’d felt the urge to take lots of pictures, and it was magical. Everything sparkled. A friend had said to me that I should take a picture of the sunrise every morning so I’d have a picture of the day Jim was born, and although I think we do have a picture somewhere of the Monday morning, these mean more to me somehow and are a direct reminder of the happy weekend we had before he was born. That Saturday I had multiple Braxton-Hicks but nothing serious. In fact I went to see my friend Charlie and her baby who live round the corner. However at 1.30am on Sunday morning I woke up feeling mild contractions, and when I went to the toilet it seemed as though my waters had broken.

We called Andy, one of our brilliant independent midwives, and she agreed to come over in the morning. She was not convinced that my waters had gone despite me trying to persuade her! Mild contractions rumbled on and off throughout Sunday, sometimes 10 minutes apart, but usually with hours of nothing in between. Nothing really happened to cause anyone any alarm, and Andy suggested it could still be days or weeks before anything concrete happened. We started worrying that if nothing happened we would have to start making decisions about inductions and discussed how long we could leave it from when the waters may have broke. I went to bed as normal Sunday night… and then again at 1.30am I woke up with stronger contractions. They were probably 15 minutes apart to start with but quickly settled into 10 minutes apart. I got up quietly on my own, as I couldn’t sleep through them but thought Lawrence should get as much rest as possible, and settled myself in the living room to monitor them. For some reason I started writing down the timings of each one on a newspaper article about Ricky Gervais that was open on the table…In between each one I was sometimes dozing a little, having strange dreams until 5am, when they started becoming more uncomfortable and I wanted Lawrence’s support. So I got him up and he started helping me through them. It went on like this for most of the morning.

The contractions were quite strong and I was starting to feel much more uncomfortable. I started making more noise and needing Lawrence to lean on. In fact after trying lots of positions and NCT related ideas I mostly plunged head first into the beanbags while Lawrence rubbed my back and moaned along with me. I’m kind of glad there’s no video evidence of this…We kept everyone informed of what was happening, but because the contractions remained at 10 mins apart and it was my first labour, the midwives were pretty sure I wouldn’t be giving birth for a long while. During the contractions we played ambient sounds through speakers in the living room – I think we stuck with waves and seagulls for hours! It helped me tune everything else out and reminded me of the beach images from the hypnobirthing cd. I also managed to read in between the earlier ones.

At about 2 / 3pm we called Rebecca, our Doula, and asked her to come over, as the contractions were getting closer together and much stronger. By the time she arrived I was in quite a lot of pain and she suggested I get in the bath while she sorted out the water pool. The bath felt great but very cramped so I couldn’t wait to get in the pool but it seemed to be taking forever! After some time in the bath I began to feel the first stages of wanting to push. Not like later – real agonising and incredible urges – but a definite feeling. Although feeling like I couldn’t get out, Lawrence and Rebecca helped me into the pool. I don’t even remember whether the midwives were there by this point, I was so inwardly focused and not sure who was around. The pool felt huge and wonderful at this point, like a hot swimming pool, and I was so happy to be in it I didn’t want to leave ever again. I thought I had minutes or half an hour at the most to go so when it seemed to drag on and on for hours I started to get demoralised and tired and began to struggle.

Rebecca fed me honey on a teaspoon as I wasn’t able to eat anything, and Lawrence gave me cartons of juice through straws, although at one point he squirted me in the face with it accidentally! As the contractions and the pushing sensations got stronger my moans got higher, and almost turned into song – I could hear myself kind of singing and Lawrence copying. At one point he sang ‘Minky Whaaaaale’ which was something we’d been singing as a joke weeks before after watching ‘Frozen Planet’. I couldn’t laugh because I wasn’t really all there, but somewhere inside me it made me smile.

I want to say at this point that Lawrence was totally amazing – he was there constantly from 5am til 6.30 in the evening when Jim was born. I think he missed two contractions. That was it. Other than that he was swaying and massaging and moaning with me, with no embarrassment, totally in the zone. I really don’t think I could have done it without him; he is my total hero and an incredible man. At some point after getting in the pool I became aware of the midwives, and the fact there was a different one there (Viv instead of Marjin) although at the time I had no idea why. I think they had not been expecting me to progress so quickly and so had left it quite late to arrive. At one point they apparently weren’t even sure I was in labour as I was so relaxed. I didn’t feel relaxed. I felt like my body was splitting itself in two and thought I was screaming, shouting, swearing. I was totally shocked to hear the different version of my birth story from everyone else later; they all said it was a ‘gentle birth’!

I was very frightened during the pushing stage and felt like I was going to tear. At one point I think I said this and was reassured that I was fine. Andy said that the baby would go back and forward for a while to stretch everything out and that this was ok. By this time I could feel it was all happening and it was a struggle not to push the baby out quickly as hard as I could, although I think because I was quite tired by this point I probably couldn’t have done that anyway, even though it felt like it. The contractions were absolutely easy and straightforward in comparison to the pushing.

At some stage here my waters broke – Andy was right, they hadn’t gone on Sunday morning – and it was a very strange sensation, like a balloon bursting. I didn’t know what it was until someone told me so it was frightening for a second as I thought some part of me had come out that wasn’t supposed to! When the head finally came out I was incredibly relieved, but then almost immediately I started worrying that the baby was drowning. I remember everyone around me saying how amazing it was to see his face moving under water. At one point I could feel him moving and it was very uncomfortable so I started getting desperate to get him out. The midwives told me to push him out with the next contraction but I suddenly felt like I wasn’t having anymore contractions and panicked a little bit. I shouted ‘I’m not having any more!!’ and everyone misunderstood me, thinking I was talking about having another baby!

Anyway, I did have another contraction, and out he came like a slippery octopus. It makes me a bit sad that I have no recollection of what happened next – apparently I sat back and picked him up out of the water. I wish I could remember this. In fact this is the point where I wish someone had secretly videoed everything! Anyway, we lay in the pool together for a while, the baby on my chest. I could see Lawrence was crying but I felt dazed and strangely calm. Happy, but not wanting to cry. I didn’t in fact cry until a good 3 or 4 days later – when Lawrence read aloud through the midwives account of the birth. Jim was extremely calm and beautiful, so calm I was worried whether he was ok. He lay on me quietly while I tried to keep him warm in the water without it going in his mouth.

Rebecca reminded us gently that we might want some photos of this amazing moment in our lives, and took some polaroids of me and Jim in the pool, some with Lawrence in as well. These are extremely precious photos to us now, despite how mad we look in them!! Having felt like a crazed and tired animal for hours and hours I was suddenly feeling normal. I started thinking about food and drink. The midwives and Rebecca left us alone for a bit which was lovely but then came back in and started talking about the placenta. I had forgotten about that and was hoping it would just come out on it’s own. I had a small ‘graze’ or tear but nothing requiring stitches.

During the days that followed it gradually became more painful as the crazy powerful hormones wore off and the numbness receded, but at the time I just felt totally normal and amazed that I had managed to give birth without anything going wrong at all. My brain had told me all along that something would mess up. I was still half expecting serious blood loss or some other complication for days afterwards.The placenta caused a bit of a stir as Rebecca and the midwives all got excited about it’s shape and rarity. It was shaped like a heart. They laid it out and took pictures of it. In fact they were more excited about the placenta than the baby! It had some special membrane or extra bit that they all said was very unusual, so they were all fascinated! Eventually, we got to crack open the champagne, thank God. It was very peaceful lying on the sofa propped up by a beanbag, with my son on my chest and the champagne in my hand. I felt very happy. Everyone gradually left until it was only Andy remaining, writing up notes. Lawrence made bacon sandwiches for us all, and the two of them prepared the bedroom for us to try and co-sleep with Jim.

Andy eventually settled us all into bed and left, leaving us a bit shellshocked in the dark and quiet with this new creature on my chest. Lawrence started phoning around and letting everyone know what had occurred, and eventually I dozed on and off through the night with Jim on my chest. It didn’t feel right to put him down yet. He felt like an extension of my body still, and I wasn’t ready to be separated from him for too long. The next couple of days I felt like superwoman, and was high on hormones and the crazy newness of it all. On the third day I felt like I’d been in a car crash. My whole body ached; I felt shattered and suddenly realised I had to stop rushing about pretending everything was normal. The first week now just seems like a haze of sitting around being visited, cards, presents, and lots of casseroles! The midwives were excellent and kept coming over to check up on me, finally signing me off at around 5 weeks. Rebecca was also lovely, coming over again to visit and helping us debrief with somebody who totally understood what we had achieved. She also brought us another sling to try which has been excellent and despite having three others, we’re going to get our own version of the one she brought because Jim loves it and it’s very comfortable.Since then it’s been a fascinating journey, mostly consisting of Lawrence and I asking questions constantly. Is he hungry? Is he warm? Is he upset? Should we try this? Maybe it could be that? We’ve found it startling, amazing, upsetting, bizarre, incredible and fascinating and sometimes it feels like Jim has always been here. We can’t wait for all the next stages that he’ll go through, and we want to thank everyone who helped him get here. You were all brilliant.

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