In HuffPost Birth Diaries we hear the extraordinary stories of the everyday miracle of birth. This week, Tinuke Bernard, 33, shares her story. If you’d like to share yours, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
My send-off party at work before I went on maternity leave was a blast, full of drinks, cake, and balloons – or at least that’s what I heard. Sadly, I couldn’t attend because while my colleagues sipped champers, I was dashing round Tesco and Mothercare in a panic, frantically acquiring such essentials as nappies and toiletries for my newly-born little girl.
I hadn’t intended to have my baby before my leaving do, of course. The day before the party, at 37 weeks pregnant, I’d decided to work from home as I’d felt a bit off the night before. Switching on my laptop at 7am, I looked through my emails, then went to wake my eldest daughter, Princess, 10, for school – popping to the loo for a quick wee on the way.
In retrospect the strength of that “wee” should have set alarm bells ringing, but to be honest I was still half asleep and assumed I must have just really, really needed it. So, even though my waters had just broken, I carried on as normal, waking up Princess and getting ready to do some work.
“They honestly thought I had sent a random stock image of a baby over, just to tease them."”
Then the sharp pains began – contractions, I was sure of it. But I still didn’t think there reason to panic just yet. My partner works night shifts and would soon be on his way home, so I gave him a buzz without too much urgency. “I think we’re having this baby today,” I told him. “No rush though, it’s just contractions.”
Nobody had told my baby about this timescale. It seemed she was determined to be born not just three weeks early, but also in an incredible rush. Afterwards, when I emailed colleagues a photo of my daughter Bobby lying on my chest moments after being born – and about two hours after I last spoke to them – they honestly thought I had sent a random stock image of a baby over, just to tease them. “Did you actually just have a baby?” my manager asked on the phone.
Yes, I did actually just have a baby. I must admit to being pretty surprised by that fact myself: after all, I’d started my day as normal, and by lunchtime I was a mum-of-two.
It was about 15 minutes after the contractions began that I realised Bobby probably wasn’t going to hang around, as I found myself knelt over the furniture in agony. Determined not to panic my 10-year-old daughter, I waddled to my neighbours and asked them to take her to school. All the time, my contractions were getting closer together.
By the time my partner arrived home, I knew we really needed to get in the car and to hospital – a 45-minute drive away as we live in a small, rural village. I spent the whole car journey with my eyes tight shut, terrified that if I opened them I’d realise how far we still had left to travel and would be overwhelmed by the desire to push.
To be honest, I spent quite a lot of that next hour with my eyes screwed shut, out of fear. I’d wanted a water birth, but as we arrived at the hospital it became clear there would be no time for that: the baby’s head was crowning.
Bobby was in distress; her heartbeat was high. Within seconds, the room became crowded – midwives, doctors, an incubator unit.
“What’s happening?” I shouted. “Is my baby okay?”
With no time to be hooked up to gas and air, I had to push. My dress was hoiked up around my hips, I pushed several times, and Bobby was born.
I was in total shock, but I also saw the humour in the moment – as the doctors stitched me, I found myself apologising for shouting at everyone in the room. They laughed. “We’ve had much worse,” they told me.
I wonder if they get many births that speedy though. From parking at the hospital to holding our new little girl, it had been just 14 minutes.
My birth advice?
“Every birth is different so do read up and listen to other people’s stories, yours probably won’t follow that same path. You can read and watch baby programmes to the hills and something will still surprise you when you have a baby... and that’s okay.”
Tinuke shares her experiences of parenthood on her blog Circus Mums.
As told to Amy Packham.