It didn’t go to birth-plan, but she’d had enough candid conversations with various friends with babies, that she’d been ready for that anyway. Planned to have no plan.
She’d been on edge for a week, every twitch and pang examined in minute detail in case it was a contraction. That was one thing no-one had been able to tell her - what a contraction felt like. It was really irritating at the time, but funnily enough, now that it was all over she realised she would be hard pushed (no pun intended) to describe the sensation to anyone else. Everyone at work had, for no good reason, convinced themselves she was going to give birth at 38 weeks, and they’d half convinced her as well. So when that date came and went with no baby, she wasn’t sure what to do with herself. They’d decided on names, – Kirrin for a girl, Edgar for a boy – the nursery was ready, clothes, pushchair, car seat, books and toys had been purchased, all waiting now, like Kathy, for their owner to claim them. Finally, at 39 weeks and one day, a tense, tightening, pushing sensation gripped her belly and she knew this was it.
We are here. We are warm and floating. Getting tighter but warm and safe. We are joined by this. This part of us doesn’t move. It is nice to hold. The far part of us, not so far now, fades and glows. We push this part of us into the far part of us, and sometimes the out part of us pushes back. We like the push back. We can hear. There are lots of things to hear but our favourite thing to hear is outside-us. It is soft and warm and makes us buzz. This is the thing we hear more often than any of the other things. There is another thing we hear which is not-us, but low and rumbly and we like this one too. The far part is glowing. We push and it is easier to push.
We used to turn and twist but now the far parts are very close and it is hard to move far. Now this part of us stays here; it feels right. The far part is gold and glowing.
It came on hard and strong, but this was her first pregnancy so she thought maybe that was normal. There didn’t seem to be much respite between contractions though, so she called her midwife.
“Jo, it’s Kathy, i think the baby’s coming.” She was nervous, tripping over her words.
“OK Kath, just try to relax. When was your first contraction?” Jo’s calm, capable voice made Kathy feel better immediately.
“About half an hour ago.” she replied.
“OK, we should have plenty of time then. Do you want to take a bath? How far apart are the contractions?”
Kathy tried to reply, but another intense contraction gripped her and she almost dropped the phone.
“Kathy? Don’t forget to breathe. Remember the colours exercise?”
Kathy concentrated on imagining each breath blowing out a different colour, and surprisingly the pain diminished a bit, became more manageable. She breathed her way through the rest of the contraction, gripping the phone like a lifeline. The relief when it stopped was so intense it was something like ecstasy.
“Kathy? You through that one? It seemed pretty intense, how often are you getting them?”
“I don’t know, I haven’t timed exactly, but every five minutes or so?”
There was a brief silence on the end of the line.
“OK, Kathy, I don’t want to alarm you, but I think your baby is coming pretty quickly.” The slight edge in Jo’s voice scared Kathy even more than the anticipation of the next contraction. “I’m coming round - is Ben home?”
No-one told me there would be so much blood.
I was at work, I’d spoken to Kathy at lunchtime, she was fine, just frustrated at the waiting you know? She was restless, couldn’t even sit down and read, it was driving her mad. She’d been great all through the pregnancy, hardly any mood swings and no demands to get her asparagus ice cream at 3am or anything.
We went to all those ante-natal class things. They were ok, but mostly they just pointed out how useless us fathers are once we’re finished with the whole impregnating business. In one class we watched one of those birth videos and I got the giggles. The midwife wasn’t too impressed, especially when Kathy started too. But it was just so... seventies. The father had these big sideburns and flares on, and they were all humming together and talking about the wonder of nature. “Yeah, it’s far out man”. But then the actual birth bit started and we stopped giggling pretty quick. Kath was quiet in the car on the way home. I think she was more scared than she wanted to let on.
“He’s at work, he doesn’t know, I need to call him.” Kathy was starting to panic, wondering if it was too late to change her mind, back out of this whole venture.
“Listen, you need to stay calm. Babies only come fast if they are really ready and fast births are nearly always straightforward.”
Kathy heard the word ‘nearly’ and wanted to scream it at Jo, but another contraction gripped her and her scream turned into something more primal.
“Kathy? I’m going to hang up now. I need you to remember your breathing. I want you unlock the front door and find somewhere in the house you’ll be comfortable giving birth. If you feel up to it, get some sheets and towels. I’ll call Ben and be there as quick as I can.”
“Giving birth? But I don’t want a homebirth... Jo?”
Something new. The far part is not soft. It is hard and squeezing, pushing us this way. We don’t want to go this way. It stops and goes soft again and we are glad. But then it is hard and squeezing and pushing again and we don’t like it. We don’t like it! Stop.
But when it stops it starts again and we don’t like it, the squeezing and pushing on this part of us and this part and this part. Stop.
There was a click and the line went dead. Kathy felt panic rise up to overwhelm her, but then a small kick and wriggle deep inside stopped her, breathing hard. This wasn’t about her now. An incredibly warm, calm feeling spread through her, filling her up. She made it to the front door and unlocked it before the next contraction gripped her. She breathed through it, thinking through the colours and the dragon’s fiery breath like she’d practiced. She was starting to feel an urge to push, but she stroked her belly and murmured “not yet, hold on little one, just for a bit longer.”
Some time passed, it could have been 10 minutes, it could have been an hour, but Kathy was so deeply focused on her baby and her breathing, she couldn’t have said. Suddenly the door burst wide and a flurry of action invaded her calm.
Why don’t they tell you about the blood? Someone should warn you. I thought...
When Jo called, I was expecting to be told to drive Kathy to the birthing centre. Not that Kath was about to give birth at home. That wasn’t on her plan thing. What was the point of that?
I got there with Jo and she was all busy and Kathy, I’ve never seen her like that, her face was so... serene. And then the contraction came and I could tell it was just pain like nothing I’ve ever experienced, and I wanted to do something, to take the pain away and I couldn’t.
It was everywhere. How can anyone lose that much and not...
Jo and Ben arrived simultaneously, Jo organising with practised efficiency, flicking sheets and fluffing pillows to create a cosy, clean space for Kathy to birth in. Ben was standing in the doorway, wide-eyed and twisting his wedding ring, a sure sign of stress. When a particularly intense contraction gripped Kathy his eyes grew even wider and his face took on a green tinge. When she could speak, Kathy smiled at her husband and his shoulders relaxed slightly. “Could you get me some water babe?” she asked “And a cup of tea for Jo?”
Relieved, he rushed out to the kitchen, and Kathy and Jo exchanged a knowing smile. But just then another contraction arrived, along with an irrepressible urge to push. Jo hurried to help Kathy undress, leaving her in her tee-shirt - Ben’s actually, it was all she fit.
“You’re ten centimetres, it’s time to push. How do you want to do this?” Jo asked.
Kathy knew she needed to crouch, and then it was nothing but pushing and pain and relief and Ben and sweating and screaming and pain and stretching and tearing and pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing and finally, finally... there.
It doesn’t stop, and then we are moving, to a new place we haven’t been before. It is a tight place, a hard place, we don’t like the new place, we don’t want to go there. Stop, stop. But the far part of us keeps pushing and squeezing us into the new place. This is a new feeling, this is down, pushing down, squeezing down, forcing down, we don’t want to go down, stop, stop, stop. And there is pushing and we don’t like it and squeezing and we don’t like it, and down and down and down. And the new place brings a new feeling - cold on the down part of us and blowing. And the warm is going away, out of the down place and we are going away into the down place and it is hard and pushing and squeezing and we don’t like it, stop, we don’t like it, stop. Stop.
They sent me off on a busy-job, but I was so grateful for something to do at that point, I didn’t care. And then I heard Kathy scream and I rushed back in and just held her hand and she squeezed it, and then Jo said the baby was coming. I knelt down and Kathy’s body stretched and stretched, how the hell it does that I don’t know.
The down is getting faster and harder and it hurts and we don’t like it. Stop. And then we are through and out of the squeezing and down place and into a new place where is it not warm and we are not floating we are falling. But we stop against something like the far place but not as soft but safe. It belongs to the rumbly sound.
And out she came, in a rush of blood and slime and just body stuff, and I caught her. This tiny thing, warm and covered in gunk and wrinkled up like a pink prune.
But there was so much blood. The smell of it, and slashing across the white sheets. Even as I held my daughter in my hands, I didn’t know if...
A gusty cry rent the air, and there she was, their daughter, purple and wrinkly and oh, so beautiful.
There was afterbirth and stitching and business being taken care of, but all Kathy and Ben could do was stare at each other, and at her, the thing they had made, in awe.
She cried. My daughter. My daughter. The most incredible sound. And then I looked up into Kathy’s eyes and passed her our baby, and Jo was smiling and she handed me some scissors. I cut the cord, which was bizarre and completely different to what I was expecting. We’d talked about it and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it, but it just happened so fast so I did, without even thinking about it. It crunched which I really wasn’t expecting, and there was even more blood till Jo tied it all off. And then I looked at Kath and the baby and I knew, finally, everything, everyone was ok.
The rumbly sound not-soft far place moves us to another place and it is you. And you are not we and you are the outside place.
And I am me. And I am here.
They should warn you about the blood.
First names: Kirrin Lucy
NHI number: ZWS8676
Place of birth: Homebirth
Length of pregnancy: 39 weeks
Type of delivery: Vaginal
Birth weight: 3.54kg (7lbs 13 oz)
Head circumference: 35cm
Fast labour, 90 minute duration, mother had intended to give birth in birthing centre but was unable to reach in time. Straightforward labour, no pain relief administered.
Placenta delivered intact, infant not given vit k, will need this administered in next 1-3 days.
Infant latched successfully soon after birth, feeding well.
Mother and infant both well, no follow up required.