'My Daughter Wanted To Catch Her Brother When I Gave Birth – So We Practised'

"She said she expected him to be slimy, but he was 'lovely and soft'."
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In HuffPost Birth Diaries we hear the extraordinary stories of the everyday miracle of birth. This week, Louise Harrison shares her story. If you’d like to share yours, email amy.packham@huffpost.com.

At 35 weeks pregnant, I had a car accident – and it started early labour. It happened so quickly – I was driving but stationary at a roundabout, waiting to go right, when an old man drove into the back of me. My two daughters – 10 and 12 at the time – were in the car.

Nobody stopped. The old man didn’t even realise he’d been in an accident and tried to drive off, so I had to take his keys and hand them to the police once they arrived. It was the summer holidays and we’d been on the way to a theme park, but ended up in hospital instead.

I prepped for labour, as (what I thought were) my contractions started. The doctors thought my son could’ve been born that day, putting me on close monitoring and giving me a steroid injection. I was so upset – I hated hospitals and had planned to give birth at home, but of course I wanted my son to be okay. I stayed overnight so they could keep an eye on me, and the next day, they sent me home, confident everything was okay.

The labour we all thought had started had stopped.

I went into actual labour at 41 weeks on a Sunday evening, while I was on the sofa watching The Handmaid’s Tale. My waters came gushing out, as my husband was upstairs putting our daughters to bed. They’d both been born at home and wanted their brother Freddie to be, too.

We called the midwife, who advised me my contractions were likely to start soon. She headed over, but nothing happened. I’d sent my husband and daughters to bed, letting them know I’d wake them up if anything actually started happening. My midwife also headed home as things settled.

At 4.30am, I woke up my partner to fill up the birth pool. Things seem to be moving, but the pain was bearable – I was using hypnobirthing techniques. My contractions were getting more regular at 7.30am, so two day shift midwives came over in the morning. We’d all been awake and had breakfast together when they arrived. That’s when they checked me and said I was 5cm dilated.

I spent most of the morning in the garden – it was nice, not too hot, and my family was around me. My daughters massaged my back when it was painful, even managing to get me on the trampoline! I stood on it, did a small bounce and thought: “No, this isn’t going to work”.

I didn’t understand why things weren’t moving more quickly. The midwives thought my waters may not have fully gone, so they told me to sit on the toilet – and when I did, more waters came flushing out, ramping up my contractions.

That’s when I got back in the birth pool. My two daughters were with me – one in the pool in a wetsuit and the other on the side filming. My daughter in the pool wanted to catch him – before I went into labour, we’d explained the cord to her and we even practised, with me on all fours, showing how she should pass him to me! We used a doll with a rope tied around to show her, that was funny.

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In the pool it was really intense, I didn’t think I could do it anymore. But then something in my brain clicked, and I remember reading something that when you hear women say that, they’re about to deliver. It felt good, it felt like I didn’t have long to go.

When I pushed him out I was sitting on my bum, so my daughter was able to lift him up. She was slightly in shock – she said she was expecting him to be slimy, but he was “lovely and soft”. Tears were in her eyes, it was the loveliest thing I’ve ever seen – she was so overwhelmed with emotion.

My other daughter was a little more scared when I was making noises, but afterwards took delight in recording the moments and showing it to our family.

They both love their brother, so very much.

My birth advice?

Do lots of research about it and take things like home comforts, even if you don’t give birth at home. You can take your own pillows or anything that makes you feel safe and in your own environment. You’ll get through it!