In HuffPost Birth Diaries we hear the extraordinary stories of the everyday miracle of birth. This week, Lyndsay Gardner, 33, shares her story. If you’d like to share yours, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the day of Brighton Pride 2018, I was sitting in the labour ward on the 13th floor of the Royal Sussex County Hospital, looking out over the most incredible views. I was waiting for an examination – this was my second baby and I was trying to remain calm. I desperately wanted to take my mind off things. I saw the Brighton pier, the sea, crowds of people – and the splattering of pride flags across the city. In that moment, I smiled to myself, thinking just how far things had come and how hard people had fought for LGBT rights.
That being said, I was nervous about going into labour during Pride – if you’ve ever been, you’ll know that it’s chaos. Road closures, people everywhere, the impossibility of getting a taxi. I worried I wouldn’t be able to even get to the hospital. Sod’s law, I woke up on the day and felt mild pains in my tummy.
With my first daughter, Violet, I had quite a traumatic birth. I was unprepared and had no idea what to expect. I lost my cool. I panicked. It ended up far from the water birth I’d dreamed of, with an epidural and then a ventouse delivery. I felt so disappointed, like I’d ‘failed’, but that totally wasn’t the case. I had just put too high an expectation on myself for the perfect delivery. With all births anything can change at any time – realising this helped me second time around.
Rather than worry about the pains in my tummy during my second labour, I remember just trying to ignore them. I assumed it was false labour, so I got up and dressed, and me and my partner, who live just outside Brighton, set off to a local village fair. We’d decided against going to Pride as I was so heavily pregnant. It’s not fun when you’re that big and it’s sweltering hot (though my partner was upset because Britney was headlining, oops).
Fast forward to the fair – it was about 11am and I was having full-on contractions. I’d done a hypno-birthing course, so I managed to stay pretty calm. I wanted to distract myself and I have this really distinct memory of buying some honey and having to stop the man talking to me for a moment because I was mid-contraction. He must have been so confused.
By 12.30pm, we thought it was about time to go to the hospital – so I phoned them. They said my contractions weren’t close enough, but to come in anyway. I think we were being cautious, given how busy the city was. We managed to get a taxi which took us through the back roads, away from the craziness of Pride.
To be honest, I thought the midwife would take one look at me and say I wasn’t even in the full throes of labour, but when they examined me, I was already 4cm dilated. That was enough. I was staying in (thank God!) and I was amazed by how relaxed I felt – with my first birth I was thrashing around like a crazed animal by this stage. They admitted me and I waited for my midwife to take over – and the minute she came down I was so relieved because I recognised her.
Laura looked after Violet after she was born, so I knew she was also in a same-sex relationship with a family of her own. How poignant is that? Giving birth to my Pride baby, on the day of Pride, with a woman who could relate to me more than I ever imagined. I guess it didn’t change my birth in a sense – all midwives would have been lovely – but it just added to the significance.
The birthing pool room was available, so I got in, put on my spa music, sprayed my essential oils and totally relaxed myself. It was labour so it was still hard and painful, but it was such an empowering experience, having been left so scared and fretful from my previous birth.
I didn’t actually give birth in the water. There was meconium in my waters, so I had to get out – this must have been around 5pm. And, after 15 minutes, Pearl was there in my arms. It was painful, don’t get me wrong, but I think I just learned how to cope with it. I had a significant moment after Pearl was born too – when I first fed her, the sun was setting and I looked out that same window I had a few hours earlier and saw the familiar sea of Pride flags. It was beautiful.
Having Pearl on the day of Pride was a big coincidence, but so meaningful to me. Pearl being conceived via IVF to two women and seeing her entrance to this world on that day is just a demonstration to me of how far things have come.
Back in the day, many people had no rights, but there we were having a baby and fitting into society in a normal way. As a family, we don’t stand out at all – we’re not looked upon any differently. But Pearl gave Pride a new meaning and I’m pretty sure she’ll be having Pride-themed birthdays for the rest of her life.
My birth advice?
Just stay calm. Labour is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do but also the most empowering. Stay calm and take each contraction one at a time and you’ll be amazed at what you can do. Just keep picturing that moment when you meet your baby and remember you’ll feel like a superwoman when it’s all over. You can do it, and you will.
Follow Lyndsay’s journey on her blog, Fizzy Peaches.
As told to Amy Packham.