Giving birth to our daughter Gemma was the most wonderful experience of my entire life and much greater than I could have possibly imagined!
You can read many books or magazines on giving birth; you can listen to your friends, to other mums or obtain advice from other sources, but whatever you learn or hear - for me at the very least - the whole experience was totally unique and definitely an experience I’ll never forget!
Gemma was due on 19th October 2005 and I decided to stop work 6 weeks prior to the due date because I was suffering from sciatica and Braxton-Hicks. Despite this though, I had a healthy pregnancy and I battled through the almost daily nausea.
Exactly a month before Gemma was born I decided to take a relaxing bath. My husband, Jason, was out on his last lads’ night out (under my strict instructions of course!...) so I had my mobile and cordless phone at close hand. Shortly after getting into the bath I started to feel a strange sensation in my lower stomach area and I felt the need to inhale much more vigorously than usual. My heart suddenly sank as I realised I might not be able to get of out of the bath myself - so I quickly called Jason and asked him to return – but told him it wasn’t urgent. I knew I wasn’t in labour! Jason didn’t heed my advice that it wasn’t urgent and quickly hailed a taxi and was home within 20 minutes. Immediately upon his arrival, he rushed into the bathroom and helped me get out and started to rub my back to help ease the discomfort. I remember crying in Jason’s arms but I couldn’t quite work out why I was crying. Perhaps it was just shear relief in being out of the bath or my emotions were back on the roller coaster! The intense discomfort quickly subsided but that feeling I’d experienced this evening would later prove to be equivalent to the contractions I experienced when I went into labour!
A month on, I woke up in the early hours with an urge to go to the toilet. I got up and whilst peeing my back went into a spasm. I was in so much pain I shouted out and probably woke up our neighbours! I couldn’t move or speak – it was a horrible feeling! Jason quickly got up and started to massage my back. The next morning we went to the Risk Assessment unit in St Thomas’ Hospital. The midwife wrapped my bump with monitoring equipment and every 10 minutes or so we saw a newly plotted line of peaks and troughs and from this - the doctor was able to determine I had regular contractions. The doctor said there wouldn’t be any change over the next 48 to 72 hours! This excited us, as we knew we might be meeting our baby within the next few days.
Three days later and still nothing! I was beginning to get restless! On the 4th day, I finally lost my mucus plug. On the 5th day, I was walking along the river Thames near our home wondering how long we’d have to wait! That evening though I went to bed with the usual backache but this time I couldn’t sleep! I got out of the bed and went into the lounge and bounced on the birthing ball with Jason. I look at the sky and I could see the full moon... We went back to bed but I was so uncomfortable that Jason decided to make my bed in an armchair in the bedroom. Jason kept a keen eye on the clock in case there was a regular contraction. My poor husband! He made it so warm and cosy but within a few minutes I decided to go back to bed and try and sleep there. However, it wasn’t more than 10 to 15 minutes later that my waters broke. The feeling was weird! It was like a bubble of water exploding between my legs! I shouted out: ‘my waters have just broken!’ Jason quickly switched the lights on and rushed over. I had already grabbed a towel and my waters were surprisingly clear. Phew - what a relief! I suddenly went into tears of joy and kept saying to Jason "our baby is coming soon!"
It was 01.45am when my waters broke and within minutes I had contractions with the same pain I had experienced a month earlier. Twenty minutes later my contractions were every 2 to 4 minutes and were getting stronger. Jason put my Tens machine on and I went on all 4s using the birth ball for support - just trying to breathe in and out which seemed to help greatly. I remember visualising a rose slowly opening!
At that time, Jason followed the procedure and called St Thomas’ hospital, as we were both surprised by the frequency of my contractions being so close to each other. The midwife advised us to come into hospital - so Jason rushed to pack a few things for himself, and parked the car in front of our entrance. All mine and baby’s stuff were already pre-packed and ready to go – the army would have been proud! Jason had it all organised; towels on the car seat and plastic bags just in case!
Well, you wouldn’t believe how uncomfortable the drive to hospital was! That’s despite Jason avoiding all the potholes. He felt the need to ask whether I wanted him to stop – probably because of the noise I was making. I just wanted to get there! Within 5 minutes we had passed through the Limehouse tunnel but I couldn’t bear the nausea any more! Jason quickly pulled into a lay-by and I threw up into a carrier bag! It was awful; Jason had to clean up the area I missed the bag! Once we were back on the move, I increased the power setting on the Tens machine which helped alleviate the pain.
When we arrived in St Thomas’ we couldn’t believe that the main entrance to the hospital was closed after midnight! This meant we had to walk up some stairs to access the hospital. This was all we needed! We finally arrived in the reception at around 03.00 am and there were 2 other women waiting patiently with their partners dressed in their lovely maternity clothes. They must have been amused to see me in my dressing gown covered in sick whilst standing and rocking my hips from side-to-side and breathing in and out really loudly.
When we arrived we were both shocked! We were expecting nurses or doctors to rush to our aid – how wrong were we! They obviously see this day-in, day-out and weren’t the slightest interested in our desperate need for help!
Finally, after 5 minutes the midwife checked my file and ‘booked’ us into the ‘home from home’ unit. As soon as we were in our room, I removed my clothes and tried to wash away the sick from my hair. My contractions were now every 2 to 3 minutes. I looked around our room and was struck in awe of the beautiful view of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. We then placed the birthing ball and a mattress on the floor and I went on all 4s - rocking from side-to-side – whilst Jason had rushed back to the car to fetch our bags.
The midwife checked if I was ok but left us alone. This is another situation we weren’t expecting. We thought and had expected someone would have been there all the time to help assure us! I remembered having my eyes closed and just concentrating on my breathing to help mitigate the pain. I realised that I could have some gas and air but we didn’t know how to use it! So I did not use it. The midwife came in when we asked for help and I tried to lie down - but this was impossible! I was too uncomfortable! I then started on the gas and air but can’t remember if it helped or not - but it must have done! All the way through I kept visualising this rose opening wider and wider! and thinking 'one contraction down, I'm going to meet my baby soon'.
The midwife was unable to comment on my progress, as my cervix was too posterior! She proposed I should get into water and this was actually part of my birth plan. I remember thinking to myself: ‘great, I can use a birthing pool where there’s plenty of space to move around’ but in fact she had in mind me getting into a normal domestic bath situated in our room!
Jason removed my Tens machine so I could get into the bath and it was at that time I realised how well my Tens machine was working because the intensity of the contractions returned so quickly.
I don't know how I got into or out of that bath that night. My only memory is that my contractions were constant and so intense! My feelings were so ambivalent. I kept telling myself: ‘your cervix is posterior, it’s going to take a while to dilate. May be I should ask for an epidural’. Then, in another voice, I could hear: ‘Cécile, you don't want an epidural - you’re coping really well! Concentrate on your breathing’. At each contraction, I kept telling myself: ‘one down, nearer to the end now’.
I told Jason I was thinking of having an epidural and the midwife over-heard. She came in and said: ‘let's check you out!’ However, walking from the bath to the bed, gave me an urge to push. The midwife kept saying: ‘don't push Cécile, you are going to damage your cervix!’ Gosh! Being on the bed was extremely difficult but it went quickly and I remember hearing the midwife saying: "Cecile, I have some good news, you are 8cm dilated’. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I replied in disbelief: ‘you’re telling me lies aren't you?’ I think I said that twice!
Next, I was on my knees against the bed, inhaling as much gas and air I could muster. Jason was at my side giving me support! He was a wonderful birth partner. The next thing there’s a new midwife at my side who introduced herself by saying: ‘Cecile, if you want to, you can push now!’
The pushing was for me the easiest thing in the whole labour process. After just 35 minutes - our baby was born - the feeling was totally surreal! I looked down and saw our baby for the first time; a full head of black hair and it was a little girl! Just, what I secretly wanted. The elation was overwhelming for both of us! I couldn’t take my eyes off our little girl and I wanted to hold her straight away but the midwife asked who would be cutting the umbilical cord. Jason stepped in and cut the cord. Our baby, Gemma, was not crying like I would have imagined, she was just making little noises – but thankfully, all was fine! She was born at 8.35am!
I held Gemma in my arms for the first time and I cannot describe the feeling. I was so contented and proud. I tried to breastfeed Gemma straight away and luckily she latched on with ease – what an immense relief.
We stayed at St Thomas’ for another 24 hours in their ‘home from home’ unit. This facility is amazing and we would recommend it to anyone. I had my private room and Jason was able to stay with us on the sofa bed provided. I hardly slept that night, but it didn’t matter as Gemma was next to me. I couldn’t stop looking at her and felt such relief. We went home the following day as a new family.
Although my birth was straightforward, it did take me a while to recover physically.
I was definitely not prepared for the ‘baby blues’ even though I thought it was only affecting women who missed being pregnant. I discovered that it could affect anyone. My experience of the ‘blues’ went on and off for a few months but thankfully I was able to overcome the ‘blues’ by meeting other mums from my local NCT group that held pre-organised events every day.
Over time, I realised that part of my ‘baby blues’ was down to me wanting to relive Gemma's birth all over again! I did not want Gemma to grow too quickly and I was finding it hard to detach myself from her! She was such a beautiful text book baby!
Gemma is now 11 years old and has grown incredibly fast. She is growing to be a beautiful woman and one day I will make sure that she reads 'my beautiful birth'.
I am a very proud mum who will do it all again just to have her!
For further details on how Reflexology can help you during pregnancy please contact Cécile at Ped à Terre Reflexology