Alix, 33, from West Byfleet, Surrey, had a shock when her baby, Grace Bronte, decided to come early...
When were you due?
My husband and I had recently moved from Australia to have the baby - I was due on the 22nd October. We went up to visit friends and family in the North of England and stayed at a friend's house in Shropshire for one night. At this point I still had six weeks to go. We were sitting at her dining room table when my waters broke. I didn't realise what was going on and I panicked but my friend took control. We went to hospital and they kept me overnight for observation. I had pains but they were more like period pains than contractions. My contractions properly started the next day at one o'clock.
Did you know what to expect from the birth?
I did feel nervous as I hadn't read about the birth so I didn't know what to expect. I thought I could get through the contractions but I was worried about the delivery, the ripping and the stitches. Women always tell you about their own horror birth stories so I was really quite nervous about it but when it came to it I took advice from my mum. She told me to put a mantra in my head, saying the words of a poem, song or prayer. When I had the pain of a contractions coming I would take the first lines of a prayer to get through. I really didn't want a dramatic birth and it helped with mental strength. I wanted to stay in control. I actually found the birth empowering. My husband, Rik, didn't know what to expect - he went very pale after the birth. He's quite squeamish so he stayed at the head end. He didn't even look. He was support for me instead.
Did you have any pain relief?
We'd just moved from Australia so hadn't done any classes on delivery or pain relief. I didn't really know what to expect which was probably a good thing. The nurse asked if I wanted pain relief and added that on average women dilate one cm every two hours. I genuinely thought I had hours and I didn't want to ask for pain relief too early on so I said no. At 3.30 my contractions got to three mins apart, an hour later they got to two minutes apart and I still hadn't had any pain relief. The midwives said that at 6pm they'd give me co-codamol. They didn't do any internal inspections as my waters had broken and they were worried that it would introduce infections to myself or the baby. They relied on me to tell them how I was doing which was strange as I had absolutely no idea.
What happened next?
At half four I started being really sick and felt a bit out of it by then so they gave me a pethidine injection. Twenty minutes later they checked my internally and the baby's head was sitting in the birth canal - I was way closer than anyone realised. They rushed me down to the antenatal ward - they told my husband that the baby was going to be born any minute! The feeling came on that I wanted to push but they told me not to as I was mid-corridor. I hung on, they got me to the delivery room and moved me to a different bed. They could see that the baby has a shock of dark hair. I did about four pushes and twenty minutes later my baby was born. It was all very quick and surprising really. It was a shock as she was so early and she was such a fast delivery. She was five and a half weeks early.
How big was your baby, Grace?
She was five pounds six which was quite big for a baby so early. They asked if I had my dates right! She wasn't a heavy baby but she was very long. Long limbs, long arms, long body... My husband and I are quite tall. The midwives questioned whether she would have gone full term as she would have been huge and that perhaps my body had decided that now was the time.
Were you prepared at all for the birth?
We only had a moses basket! We'd only just moved back so we didn't have a car seat or pushchair. I was going to do my research on equipment in the last six weeks of pregnancy! We didn't even have a girl's name picked as we were convinced we were having a boy. It was such as surprise but then she's done everything her way. She's got such as strong personality now, even at 11 weeks.