I am so glad that I documented Belle’s birth story just after she was born because it is amazing how much of it fades away with time and I never want to forget the days that my babies came into the world. They are far to special.
I had learnt my lesson from my first pregnancy not set my heart on that magical due date and so totally prepared myself to go overdue again. Just that morning we had been to the natural crunchy organic health store in Hoboken to stock up on red raspberry leaf capsules, evening primrose oil and labour tea in preparation for going overdue again. So when I felt those first familiar cramps on Sunday afternoon at 39 weeks exactly it took us both by surprise.
The little cramps started at around 4pm and by 8pm on that Sunday evening they were five minutes apart and lasting 40 seconds. Me being me felt the need to clean the whole apartment and get all of the laundry done in preparation for being more than a little busy over the next few weeks. Looking back, that is totally ridiculous and a complete waste of energy and I wouldn’t advise that any labouring woman does that, but at the time it seemed really important. Sorry for not listening to you J!
I was in labour (no doubt) but my contractions were not that painful at this point so we decided to go to bed and try and get a few hours sleep in. However by midnight I was wide awake, pacing around and in a lot more pain. I had a bath (which didn’t help at all) and text my friend who was going to look after Belle for us, to give her a heads up that things were happening. We called our midwife and she wanted us to come straight in with it being a second baby and the contractions being so close and so strong. However, we had a little problem.
The problem was that Belle has chronic travel sickness. I’m talking within ten minutes of any car journey this girl is very ill. We haven’t had a car since being married (city life!) and so she is just not used to it. Give the girl a subway, train, plane or boat even and it is not a problem but if she goes near an Uber we have a major sickness situation. To get to our friend’s place and the hospital we had an Uber journey to get through. The only way to do that is with her travel sickness medicine which has to be taken an hour before getting in the car. So at 2am, J had to wake her up, give her the tablet and then we had to keep her up for an hour whilst we waited for it to kick in. The most ridiculous hour ever!
Our midwife had warned us that this labour could progress very quickly so waiting an hour to leave was a little crazy looking back but traveling in labour with a screaming sick toddler was a risk that I was willing to take.
J caught these photos of me having full blown contractions, bouncing away, with little Belle on my knee having our last cuddles before she became a big sister. So very special.
Thank God for Dramamine. We got Belle to our amazingly understanding friends on the Upper West Side without any problems and by 4am we made it to the hospital. I got examined and told that whilst my contractions were three minutes apart and lasting a minute, I was only 1cm. Ergh. No labouring woman wants to hear the words 1cm. Ever.
So off we went for a two hour walk around the streets of Manhattan at 5am in the hope of making some progress. At this point the pain was pretty bad and we were both pretty tired. We went back to the hospital at 7am to be told that I was still 1cm and sent out walking for another two hours. We now know those streets around Columbus Circle very VERY well.
When we returned to the hospital at 11am, after four hours of pacing the streets, my contractions were so strong that I was sure that this baby was coming soon. I was so confident that I was going to be something amazing like 6 or 8cm. But guess what… still 1cm! My midwife was shocked as this is apparently rather unusual for a second baby. She decided to hook me up to a monitor for 20 minutes to see what was going on.
After a few minutes Sabine (our midwife) came into the room looking a little serious and told us that she had seen a couple of incidences of cord compression which was not a huge worry but would mean that I would now be classified ‘higher risk’ and need constant monitoring for the rest of my labour. That meant no birth centre for us. Worry, hormones, tiredness and generally things not going to plan meant that I had a big cry on J and Sabine but once I understood that Sabine wasn’t going anywhere and that she would still be delivering my baby I felt a lot better.
I was moved to a regular labour and delivery room (which was rather nice) and got all set up for a higher risk labour; IV drip, monitors and bed bound. There was only on position that the baby seemed happy with which was lying on my left hand side and so that is how I had to stay. Every time I would move the babies heart rate would dip. Whilst lying in one position was not my plan for labour at 16 hours in and with this cord compression worry I just wanted my baby safely out and in my arms, whatever that would take.
Hours and hours went by, still no progress and still regular incidences of cord compression. My midwife made the call to start Pitocin. I knew that Pitocin meant stronger and more painful contractions which was a little scary considering I was bed bound and on just gas and air. And I was right. Those contractions after the Pitcoin started were so much worse than anything that I had experienced before. I struggled through for a few hours with the gas and air but by 8pm in my 24th hour of labour, exhaustion took over and I finally asked/begged for an epidural. I could feel my body giving in to exhaustion and I was worried that I would have nothing left for when it was time to push. At this point I was 24 hours into labour and still just 3cm dilated.
It took an hour to get the epidural because the ward was so busy but by 9pm it was in. The relief that came with it was so wonderful. I could finally get a little rest from the pain and even managed to drift in and out of sleep in-between the contractions. The lights were turned down and the room was calm and peaceful for the first time. After all of the pain and exhaustion that epidural was the most incredible feeling. It was like it allowed my body to relax and take over.
An hour later I felt a huge thud in my body and a huge noise from the monitor. J ran out into the corridor to get help. Turns out that that was my waters breaking. My midwife came in, checked me and called a nurse in straight away because I was ready to push. I think that we were all in shock because things had changed SO quickly. Ten minutes later, with just a three contractions and a nurse rushing around getting ready for delivery our baby boy was born. We didn’t know whether we were having a boy or girl and so J shouting “It’s a boy!” was such a special moment. I didn’t realise how much I wanted a boy until I heard those words.
It took a good few seconds to get him to my chest because Sabine had a job untangling him from his cord. He had managed to get his cord wrapped around and under his arm and over his shoulders – that would explain the cord compression! She passed him to me all pink and crying. Nothing compares to that moment when you hold your baby for the first time. He lay on my chest and started feeding almost straight away. Now that we know him, that is extra funny. He has barely stopped eating since that moment!
26 long hard hours of labour was not what I was expecting with my second baby after such a straight forward birth the first time around, but the deeper I get into this parenting gig the more than I learn to hold our plans and expectations with very open hands.
I cannot believe how normal it feels to have our little Alfred Jonathan (Freddie) at home. He feels like he has always been here and I cannot even remember what life was like before him. He already brings so much laughter and joy into this home and we are all totally in love with him.
I fell pregnant with Freddie when Belle was 11 months old and we were in the middle of the big move from London to NYC. So once we got here we very quickly had to get our heads around the American healthcare system. I wrote this blog post about our struggle to find an NHS style midwife led birth centre like I had had with Belle.
I have had a few people in the same position reach out to me since that post and so if you are a NYC/NJ mama-to-be looking for a similar thing, I will link our midwifes and the hospital below for you to check out. We didn’t get to use the birthing centre in the end because of the complications but my midwifes were phenomenal so and I would highly recommend both of them.