In My Story, readers share their unique, life-changing experiences. Today, we hear from mum-of-three, Corinne Card, 41, from Brighton.
In the run up to my due date, there was this weird thing where I thought: what if, for some reason, I’m on my own when I give birth? What if no-one can help me and I’m all on my own, how would I give birth to a baby? And in my head I literally planned out how I would do it. How I would lift the baby up as it was born so it wouldn’t bang its head. I was trying to imagine it to make myself feel better, not actually thinking it would happen...
It was October 14, 2020 – in the middle of the pandemic – and I was booked to go on Zoom calls with several clients. I told my husband Jon I was getting contractions and that he’d have to do the calls on his own. I thought they were Braxton Hicks contractions and I really didn’t want to have them on a work call.
At 3pm, I had to go and pick up my daughter Zoe from school. I was still getting these little contractions, but I didn’t think it was a big deal. Then, as I was walking up the hill with my daughter to head back home, I had to stop and properly breathe. They were getting strong.
I called the hospital when we got back because by now, they felt like proper contractions. The midwife asked how far apart and all that information, and said: “Don’t worry, it’s not really happening yet. If it’s hurting, have a couple of paracetamol and get in the bath.” So I did.
Originally I’d planned a water birth at home. I’d bought a big birth pool we were going to pump up. But about a week before the due date, they measured my bump and said it was a bit smaller than it ought to be, so it was best to go into hospital for the birth. I was disappointed, but wanted whatever was safest.
I think my husband was still on a Zoom call when my contractions began to get more powerful. I got out of the bath and called the midwife again, who said: “No, no don’t worry, it’s still not happening. You’re way off.”
Back in the water, it all seemed less painful, but the contractions kept ramping up. I told Jon about the intensity once he’d finished his call – it felt like it was getting quite dramatic with the pain – and he phoned the hospital who put me on the phone to hear me during a contraction. I’d been in the bath about an hour but they still said: “No, we don’t recommend you come in yet because it’ll be a long time before the baby’s born.”
I think it was about 4.30pm, although I’m not sure exactly what time as I didn’t want to have my phone in there, the bathroom was so steamed up.
My plan, when it came to it, was to stay in the bath until the second we needed to leave the house to go to hospital. The midwives had asked if my waters had broken, and they hadn’t. From their point of view, I think they were making the right call from all the information we were giving them.
What happened next was that I put my hand down to check how dilated I was and realised I could feel what seemed to be a bit of the baby’s head.
I told Jon: “I think the head’s there!” and I was shouting so much at this point a neighbour came to the window to ask: “What’s happening in here?” Jon shouted back: “She’s having a baby!” When he called the hospital again, the midwife told him to call the paramedics, which he did.
From my other births, I remembered that the baby shouldn’t be in the birth canal for too long, so I got on my hands and knees in the bath, waited for a contraction and gave a tiny little push and the head just popped out. Or what I thought was the head...
It was the shape of a head, but it was white with purple veins across it. I later realised that the baby was still in his amniotic sac.
It was like an out-of-body experience, it was all so weird. I shouted: “The head’s out.” And Jon told the paramedics: “The head’s out!” He was still in the kitchen. He didn’t want to bring the phone in the bathroom in case the call cut out.
“And there he was, and he was crying, and I was totally alone.”
I waited for another contraction, gave another little push and the baby came out – and just as I’d imagined it, months earlier, I put my hands out quickly and grabbed what was now a baby. I didn’t let him stay under water. And there he was, and he was crying, and I was totally alone.
That final push had freed my son from the sac. I’m trying to pinpoint how you describe the feeling of seeing your new baby there, in your hands: it’s like nothing else. I’ve had two other babies in hospital and there’s that feeling of lots of people being around and everyone managing you. I was very relieved not to be in the midst of all that. It was very exciting and I was so happy. No pain.
When Jon came into the bathroom to say the paramedics were on their way, he couldn’t believe the baby was just there. He was amazed and I think we were both in shock a little bit. We wanted to keep Freddie safe and warm. I’d had a water birth in hospital before and they’d quickly wrapped the baby in cloths, so I said: “Get some towels, let’s keep him warm.”
We knew the paramedics were coming but didn’t know how long they’d be, so we just wrapped him up. He was so clean as he’d come through the bath – a proper clean baby.
It was such a special moment. I was not ever expecting to do something like that on my own. In those seconds when I was managing it myself, I wasn’t panicking, but I knew I was in a situation where something could go badly wrong. I had no idea if there were going to be any complications.
But I remembered what I’d planned out with the pandemic in mind and I felt quite accomplished. I could see there was nothing wrong – the baby cried, he was all normal, and it was amazing. I did wonder a little bit if it was real.
Five or 10 minutes later, the paramedics arrived. Until they came I didn’t get out of the bath, because I didn’t know physically how to get out without accidentally pulling the umbilical cord. So I just sat there, holding the baby in towels until they walked in. It all felt like something out of Casualty.
When they arrived, they cut the cord and helped me get onto the bed with the baby and a little while later some midwives arrived – I think there were four – who helped deliver the afterbirth and did a lot of paperwork.
“I felt quite accomplished. I could see there was nothing wrong – the baby cried, he was all normal, and it was amazing. I did wonder a little bit if it was real.”
Then we had chicken for dinner and we watched Quadrophenia with the baby – and it felt so weird because it all went back to normal. As soon as the midwives left, we had a normal evening – just with an extra person.
I would say I found it easy. Not like having-a-cup-of-tea easy, but easy compared to my other two births. I didn’t have any interventions, so no one was messing with my body. I wasn’t given any drugs, – not that I don’t agree with that – it’s just there wasn’t the complication of it.
And I wasn’t in a hospital, which I find quite stressful. I know it has to have bright lights, and busy people, and an intense feeling to it. But in the calm environment of my home, it felt easier.
Corinne Card is the author of Parenting Tips Your Mother Didn’t Tell You - An A-Z of Parenting in the Digital Age (£4.99). She was interviewed by Natasha Hinde, and her answers were edited for length and clarity.
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