Unfortunately, the one thing that a smug, due-date delivery (also known as my childbirth experience with D where water breaks, show appears, contractions start, by 8am I'm 9cm dilated and the baby arrives in time for lunch) doesn't prepare you for is... anything that isn't as straightforward.
When I called my midwife in a panic the day after I was due, explaining that I understood that it was unlikely my second child would also be born on her due date but that I didn't know how to be overdue and wasn't quite sure what I was supposed to be doing with myself since the waiting was getting to be more than agonising (and I had binge-watched all my TV shows in advance since I was preparing for an early arrival), she replied: 'But you're only one day late. Relax.'
Relax?! It's not that I wasn't trying. But the baby's head was putting so much pressure on my pelvis I could barely walk, acid reflux and heartburn meant sleep was an impossible dream and when I did venture out in public, my enormous girth practically made me a tourist attraction. One can only smile so many times at the 'ready to pop?' comments, particularly when one has been hearing them from the second trimester of pregnancy.
I could barely respond to cheery emails asking how I was doing; 'I'm scared and tired and immobile and I want to cry all the time because I think I might be pregnant forever and my body will explode,' I wanted to write back. Of course, instead I'd type a merry-sounding 'Hanging in there! Any day now! How are you? :)' before stuffing another box of chocolates down my throat and trying to remember how to be a decent parent to Diana.
In an effort to expedite things, I convinced myself that my waters had broken three days after the due date came and went and told my in-laws not to go away for the weekend since the baby was definitely coming ASAP. But of course they hadn't, and eight days and two sweeps later, there was no baby. On the plus side, I did have an induction date two weeks after my due date in the diary to look forward to.
I am terrible at being pregnant; turns out, I am even worse at being overdue. Those nine days I went over, I was a complete wreck, physically and emotionally. I just hadn't prepared myself to go late and I regret it, and the combination of stress and hormones were making me more insane than usual. It didn't help my anxiety that I woke up one morning to find Bolshy the bulldog playing with a new toy – a dead mouse.
My contractions finally started at midnight, and I was thrilled to be heading to the hospital but devastated when, five hours later, I was still only three centimetres dilated (Gross fact: apparently your cervix never closes fully after giving birth) and wasn't even in established labour. I almost started sobbing when the midwife told me I would be able to go home if nothing changed by 9:30. I didn't want to be home! I wanted a baby.
Determined to progress the labour, I power-walked along the Thames and insisted on climbing the eight double flights of stairs back up to my room (a struggle considering my size and the fact I was having contractions the entire way) and when I was examined at 9:30, mid-contraction, my waters broke (for real this time!) and I was told I was 7cm gone. I completely broke down, sobbing with relief, exhaustion and fear – the thing I most wanted had finally arrived. I was ready. And terrified.
Very shortly after that, at 11:15, I found myself holding my second baby girl in my arms, struggling to process the sudden swiftness of it all. I ended up having another water birth with minimal pain relief (TENS machine, gas and air and lavender-and-lemon essential oil doused tissues) and I felt every second of it. It was incredibly intense; some moments wonderful, some brutal.
I seemed to be much more aware of everything this time (unlike my first labour, where I was almost falling asleep from exhaustion by the end), and seeing the state of the birthing pool room – which looked like a scene out of Dexter – post-labour was quite traumatic. I'm sure the fact baby Liv weighed in at 10lbs, 5oz (almost two whole pounds more than D!) also contributed to the extreme intensity of it all.
Being born enormous has its advantages, namely adorable chubbiness (in places I didn't know could store fat, like eyebrows and sideburns!) Unlike her fair sister, Liv popped out covered in dark brown tufts of hair (on her head, ears, shoulders and back), and I cut her cord myself (under supervision!).
It felt like I counted down every minute of the six hours before we could leave the hospital. Not that I didn't enjoy it - I fell head-over-heels in love from the first moment. But I was also desperate to get home so that Liv could meet a very special person: her big sister. You can read more from Jen here.
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