DEAR DIARY - FROM BUMP TO BIRTH: THE STORY OF VINCENT'S ARRIVAL

HE MAY BE NEARLY THREE, BUT HERE'S HOW I MET MY FIRST BORN



Giving birth had always been something that I'd dreaded since a little girl. I even told my Mum at one point that I'd only ever adopt, because I'm such a softy and couldn't possibly face that level of pain. All I'd heard from births were bad things and I'm so ridiculously squeamish that the very thought of going through it myself was petrifying.

My beautiful little boy, Vincent


Looking back, it’s quite remarkable how my first born, Vincent, entered the world. Childbirth itself is a miracle in my eyes. From conception to delivery, the 40 week pregnancy cycle is nothing short of mind-blowing. I had a comfortable first pregnancy: the odd bit of initial morning sickness coupled with consistent low blood pressure, the latter resulting in finishing work to start my maternity leave slightly earlier than planned. A decision that I think benefited me greatly. I’d gone from long commutes through traffic-laden motorways to lazing in the sunshine feeling him kicking with delight. From stress to relaxation. From there on in, I loved every minute of being pregnant. 


Enjoying the Summer sunshine with bump


I had made a conscious decision to do the best I could for him and to give him the best possible start. I took the multivitamins and folic acid daily, made sure I ate a well balanced diet filled with nutrients and exercised regularly. I took up Tai Chi, which I found truly wonderful as it focuses on relaxation and breathing techniques. This wasn’t intended to assist in any way during the birth, I thought I’d try it because my Mum and my Aunty Shirley loved it, but as it happened going to the classes proved hugely influential to the path my labour took. I was also lucky that my main cravings throughout my pregnancy were orange juice and spinach. I had been partial to love hearts too (randomly!), but I never used it as an excuse to ‘eat for two’ in the manner of ordering takeaways daily, although on the odd occasion that I did go to McDonalds, I’d order two cheeseburgers instead of one. Would be rude not to, wouldn’t it. I also didn’t deprive myself of the odd sporadic glass of wine. In fact I bloody well enjoyed a glass when I had it.



Savouring a glass of wine at my cousin's wedding


As the weeks passed by and the weekly email alerts of my progress entered the final trimester, I became quite apprehensive about the birth. I’d lie awake at night wondering how it would pan out: would I have a drawn-out labour with complications or would my boy be in a breech position meaning a caesarean? Would I need an episiotomy (my worse fear) or would the pain be too unbearable, meaning I’d resort to an epidural? Despite all my concerns, the one focus I had in my mind was that I had to do everything I could to make the birth as comfortable for him as possible. I did a lot of exercises that had been recommended at the parent craft classes as a tool to make sure baby would be in the correct position, along with a lot of walking. With a fortnight to go I started eating the curries and having regular baths, not knowing whether they actually worked or whether it was all just hocus pocus.



By the time my due date came around, I was overwhelmed with nervous excitement. It was Wednesday 17 September - 40 weeks of carrying and nurturing my boy, 40 weeks since his conception and the day he was due to make his grand entrance. I went to see my midwife, who did her usual checks and confirmed that his head was engaged and that I was already 2cm dilated. She performed a sweep to try to encourage the labour to begin and I went back home filled with trepidation at the day ahead. I danced round the house and in the garden in the sunshine, crying I was that excited at the thought of seeing him.




Bump on my due date

But nothing that I did seemed to work. Two baths, a curry and a lot of hip-swivelling later and my baby boy was playing coy. Maybe he was just too cosy, maybe he was shy, but I couldn’t bear the thought of going 12 days over and having to be induced. My feet were swollen, my back was throbbing and he kept shifting into a kidney bean-shaped position in the middle of my tummy, which hurt like hell. But above anything, I was desperate to meet him. To see his face. To hold his hands for the first time without feeling them through my stomach. Those hands that had punched me constantly, that had curiously prodded me, that responded when I stroked them at night. I was a collective of impatient, anxious, excited and worried all rolled into one. ‘Come on little one, I’ll help you through this,’ I’d say to him. ‘We’ve come this far together, we’re a little team.’


When it got to 10pm and I’d watched my football team Manchester City get beat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League, I admitted defeat. Not even the stress of the match could invoke any movement. I threw in the towel. I sent a text to his Dad, Chris, telling him to go in work the next day as he wasn’t coming anytime soon. I also sent a text to my Dad, who was on his way from Hong Kong, telling him that he would arrive back in the UK before his Grandson was born (Dad was due to land at Manchester airport at 07:40 the next day). I hoped for a comfortable sleep, remaining optimistic that sometime soon I may need all my energy for what lay ahead.



Only a couple of hours later, I was woken with a twinge of stomach ache. Albeit brief, I headed to the toilet to empty my bowels, before heading back to bed thinking nothing more of it. 40 minutes later, the same dull ache woke me with a jolt. The pain built into a crescendo, then quickly faded. I’d had a lot of Braxton Hicks before but the sensation was different. 15 minutes later it happened again, this time more intense. I just knew it. It was happening. I wasn't remotely scared, I was thrilled and ready to embrace the moments ahead. These were contractions - the signal that my son had made the decision to start his journey to meet me. I was finally going to get to hold him. To look into his eyes, kiss him and cradle him. My son. Let’s do this.



I phoned the hospital and, because my contractions were irregular, they advised me to stay at home, run a hot bath and get in it for an hour. But my contractions had gone from 40 minutes to 15, to 10 minutes and then to 6 in just under an hour. There was no time for a bath- there was barely any time to reach the car. I was having a contraction, then packing last minute essentials, then having a contraction, then straightening my hair. For some reason, when a contraction came I decided to go into my own ‘zone’: I stood still, eyes closed, held onto something and gently rocked in silence. I took myself elsewhere; I pictured an idyllic beach and imagined the hot sun on my skin and the warm sea lapping onto my feet. In reality I was clasping onto the bathroom sink, teeth gritted, stomach in writhing pain. Yet I didn’t feel a thing. I spontaneously found my own way of getting through the contractions and dealing with the pain. I normally have a low pain threshold, so even I’m surprised that I was capable of such self-control and awareness in such a moment.



I don’t really remember the car journey to the hospital. I barely remember getting out of the car and rocking gently against the car through a contraction, then again at the hospital door, then again at the lift. There had been no time to phone ahead to let the hospital know I was on my way. I just turned up, me and my birth partners, my mum and his Dad, Chris. I was directed swiftly to the Birth Suite and given gas and air to assist me. The midwife told me to lie down, something I didn’t want to do but did anyway because I was in silence so couldn’t speak for fear of breaking my concentration. If I spoke, I knew I’d instantly feel pain. As it was, in my ‘trance’ state, I couldn’t feel the pain at all. But I did feel the urge to push. So I did. The midwife immediately grabbed my face, telling me that I wasn’t ready and that I’d harm my unborn child. I silently complied, but when another contraction came there was the urge again. I pushed and again she grabbed my face and scolded me. Tutting, at that point she decided to do an internal to see how dilated I was.



‘Well well well. You are fully dilated. You've arrived with us just starting your labour. Get on your knees and push. It’s time to meet your baby’.



I had arrived at the hospital fully dilated. I’d been in the room for a matter of minutes and, before I knew it, I was on all fours. Mum screamed. 

‘Chris, Chris, your son is coming now!’ 

She was squirting lucozade in my mouth as Chris cowered in a corner in a state of bewildered awe. Me? Well I just pushed. Even when I didn’t have a contraction, I pushed. I felt his head crown- the ring of fire- which was fun when it was half way out and my contraction stopped. But with a few more pushes I felt his body slither out. I then heard him cry, the most beautiful music to my ears, and the midwives shouted at me to flip quickly around and kneel up. I felt the umbilical cord stretch out of me and, in a daze, I looked up. In that second I exited my meditative state. That’s when I saw my son for the first time. 



Vincent's first photograph

After Chris cut the cord, I lay down and the midwives brought my little man to me. He was the most beautiful, handsome bundle of perfection that I’ve ever had the pleasure of laying my eyes on. I had produced a flawless creation, a true gift if ever I’d seen one. He gazed up at me with these big blue eyes that glistened like sapphire jewels, his lips met in a peachy pout and his head was coated with fluffy brown hair. A pristine complexion met with the softest skin. The unequivocal, unconditional love I felt, pride oozed through each and every one of my pores. There are not enough superlatives in any language that remotely reflect that feeling, nothing that could possibly equate to how I felt in that moment in time. Time stood still as we were skin to skin, like  we were the only two people in the world. I had to savour this moment, I had to marvel at his splendour.

Everybody was in a state of complete shock. We were equipped for the long haul: we had a huge bag of snacks and drinks in the event of a 36 hour labour. None of us had forecast such a miraculously quick birth. We sat in silence for over an hour until I asked if anybody had told relatives that he had been born. They hadn’t. They were too flabbergasted to speak, overcome at what they had just witnessed. As it happened, the text I sent to my Dad was null and void- his Grandson had arrived three hours before he landed in the UK. He had been flying over Eastern Europe as Vincent made his grand entrance. I phoned him as he was at baggage reclaim to tell him and he shouted ‘WHAT!’ down the phone. He came straight to the hospital for what was a very teary reunion; even the midwives were welling up.


Vincent's proud Grandparents

Amongst all my anxiety towards the event, all the predictions as to how it could go, I had never stopped to consider the fact that I could be capable of feeling no pain whatsoever, of being in labour for an hour and delivering in my ideal position where gravity assisted his entrance greatly. My birth plan suggested a water birth, considered an epidural and discouraged against pethidine and diamorphine. A c-section and episiotomy were to be last resorts. In reality, I’d had what I’d consider to be the dream birth, an experience that I enjoyed immensely. Every step of the way I knew I was closer to meeting my son, I knew that he was on his journey from my womb into my arms. With every push I was that bit closer to him. That thought had never left my mind and that's what made it such an fantastic experience. It had been a pleasure.


Adjusting to life on the outside


Bizarrely, the midwife, with her many years of experience, hadn’t checked how dilated I was before assuming that I was wrong to be pushing. She had also grabbed my face a couple of times. She later admitted that my arrival at the maternity unit was met with rolled eyes and the raising of one finger. The staff on shift had presumed, wrongly, that I was a ‘1cm girl’ as they put it. That I was only 1cm dilated and was being dramatic. She also told me that she had put my birth down in my notes as a ‘hypnobirth’ due to the meditated state I put myself in throughout. That hadn’t been intended. The only kind of relaxation I had encountered similar to it had been during my Tai Chi classes. It’s funny what you can do when you put your mind to it. Upon reflection it’s the most surreal, perplexing feeling. I feel like I somehow cheated giving birth; like a stork actually delivered my baby, when in fact I did push a 7lb 15oz baby boy out of my vagina. I just managed to swerve the whole ‘agonising, excruciating, worse pain of your life’ part of it. I actually loved it. But as for the first trip to the toilet afterwards? Yeah, that stung a teeny bit (for a week I couldn't sit down or pee without being in excruciating agony as I had contracted an infection, nothing that antibiotics couldn't sort out).



Vincent a month old

The first month was a breathless whirlwind of bottles, preparing milk, sterilising, exuberant visitors, preparing milk, power naps, eating my meals really quickly, washing bibs, preparing milk, nappies that smell like the rhino enclosure at the zoo, super fast showers, singing Oasis slow songs to him, more enthusiastic visitors and, you’ve guessed it, preparing milk. It went in a flash and Vincent is now almost three years old. He’s blossoming and it’s a wonder to watch. It’s bloody hard work this whole being a mum stuff, but just the most rewarding and astonishing thing I’ve ever had the pleasure to do. Taking Vincent out on day trips in his pram made my heart swell with pride; watching all his firsts and seeing him learning constantly. It’s been remarkably emotional to process the fact that I am now a mum of two, as Noel is now the youngest, but it’s a life-long dream come true. I’m privileged, honoured and blessed and will do everything in my power to be the best parent I can be for my beautiful sons. I'm ready for the lifetime of adventures that lie ahead with them.



Me and my man

I'm aware that everybody has a different story to tell about their births and each one is never the same. I have friends who suffered greatly; friends who hated the experience and don't know if they'd ever go through it again. Girls who have had 36 hour labours, who have been induced, had c-secs, but we all have one thing in common. We have all been through it and all have healthy and happy children now. I also know people who have been through it and came out the other end having lost a child. It didn't put them off becoming pregnant again and going through it again, only to produce a child at the second time of trying. Women who have had a baby and are unable to have any more. Women who are unable to have any at all. Women who choose not to have any. Everybody is different, has different circumstances and choices and that is life. I also know a family who adopt and do the most wonderful job to give children a better chance in life, with better prospects then they could've even dreamed of previously.

We should embrace our birth stories - these experiences in life only lead to make us stronger and help each other along the way.

My second birth was even quicker than the first. I'll save that one for another day...

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