On Monday morning I woke up horribly grumpy. I had tossed and turned and muttered and sworn at every twinge and grind of my pelvis. I had been too hot, too cold, too hungry then heartburny, too thirsty and then bursting for a pee.
I told Euan that if I didn't have the baby soon I was going to lose the plot. I had convinced myself that Sam and Leo were being done out of a somewhat capable mother and having to put up with a whale sized automaton. I was pathetic and whiny and to top it off, I felt sick and and over emotional.
Euan had been working from home for a week and while it was great to have him close at hand, I was at the stage where I was getting a bit ungrateful at the moments where the boys were ignoring me completely to try to suck his attention away from his laptop.
When the midwife came out to do my long awaited stretch and sweep, she was doing her best to warn me that while things looked more favourable than the at the last one, there was no guarantee of things starting. But that was the point I decided that birth could be a mental process too. So while Leo slept and Euan was out collecting Sam, I got on my yoga ball and started swaying.
I am by no means unsceptical about the real power of meditation and visualisation but the rarity of a quiet house convinced me to concentrate on my body being open and capable. I also spent a lot of time dismissing the more negative aspects of my memories of Leo's birth and instead picturing what labouring at home would be like. Before Sam the whirlwind got home and Leo woke up, I felt a couple of big downward squeezes.
After lunch Leo and I went for a walk. I was enjoying the one on one and watching how confident he is about his own abilities now. I really enjoy the moments where I can see his little personality taking shape. He is by no means shy but loves to keep a hold of me so he knows I'm seeing what he's seeing. He's chatty too, Sam was always a man of action rather than communication so it's fun to be doing something a little different.
The late afternoon saw a few more of those big squeezes and in between playing with the kids I took the time again to visualise the baby moving down and my body opening up to meet him. I had a warm bath while Euan took over at dinner time and by the time the kids were in bed I was getting more willing to describe the big squeezes as contractions.
I was maintaining to Euan and myself that I wasn't in labour as I had been so disappointed after a false start at 39 weeks. But I did decide to organise the playroom and tackle the mounting pile of clean clothes that needed rehomed from beside the tumble dryer to drawers and wardrobes.
Around 9pm I messaged my mum that I was 85% sure I was contracting. I favoured a small glass of wine and more wiggling on the gym ball rather paracetamol to see if the discomfort lessened at all and when the squeezes carried on I took my mum's very good advice and went to try for some sleep.
Sam hardly wakes through the night now that we're settled in to our new home but for some reason he hopped onto our bed at 2am. I was disgruntled, not at him but at my own body, I'd been asleep for nearly three hours and thought that the whole process had stalled again. I woke Euan just to tell him I was grumpy. He managed to sound genuinely sympathetic, he is a far better person than I am! I told some of my mummy friends via WhatsApp that I didn't think anything was going to happen and I went back to sleep.
Around three in the morning I felt the contractions start again so I kept an eye on the time and breathed through them, resisting the urge to screw my face up or tense my muscles against them because I'd been rereading my faithful Ina May Gaskin and how tightening up one part of you tightens the rest. I stayed on my left side and was vaguely aware of the baby getting lower.
At four I was moving around the room deciding whether or not to phone for the midwife with contractions ten minutes apart as I was also quite hoping to get a little more sleep. A couple of the bigger waves of pressure had me thinking longingly of the gas and air cylinder downstairs in the home birth kit so I woke Euan and asked him to bring some of the stuff I had ready to our room while I made the call. I got back into bed and timed my call to the labour ward and my mum between contractions so I wouldn't be out of breath. Then the community midwife called back to see how I was doing and she was so chilled out that my anxiety disappeared.
I was on my feet again not long after, covering up the carpet and asking Euan to listen out for the midwife and my mum. As the midwife arrived I heard her tell Euan to turn the thermostat up for the baby and I wished that newborns didn't need things quite so toasty because I was getting warm and shaky between the stronger waves. I say waves because I was leaning over the bed and was aware of the sensation of my body working perfectly to bring the baby down. The pain was making me worry a little and I considered asking Anne if I maybe had time to completely abandon the natural childbirth ideal and head in for an epidural! It all felt a little too much as I thought I had another couple of hours ahead.
Anne asked when my contraction stopped how far apart they were. I just had time to say about four minutes as the next one overtook me. Euan had been bringing the kit up to our room and Anne asked him to phone for the other midwife. The gas and air cylinder wasn't working but at that point I had other things on my mind and focused on what another wise mummy friend had said, embrace the pain rather than resist it.
My waters were intact which was a first for me. The pressure against my cervix was phenomenonal and I had my moment of conviction that the baby would be stuck when I realised it was actually his head ready to arrive. Anne and I both shouted for Euan who had gone downstairs to let my mum in. I was relieved that he made it into the room in time for the baby surging on out with one long, leg trembling push. I think Anne was more relieved by the arrival of my mum aka the indomitable Sister Robertson to provide an extra set of hands.
And then I was laughing because voilà, a baby was handed up to me and he was shouting and warm and perfect and pink. With a bit of clever manoeuvring I was helped on the bed with not a splash of anything getting on the sheets (Kitty does not approve of unnecessary housework) and Euan was cuddled up next to me with our newest boy. I think it was my mum who cut the cord when it stopped pulsing and my own midwife arrived too in time to help with all the after care.
Sam was awake by the time I was all cleaned up and Euan took the baby through to meet him. Then he joined us in bed to chat about the noises babies make. The midwives, mum and Sam went downstairs for paperwork and breakfast, my cup of hot fresh nectar (tea made in my own teapot) was brought in and I got lots of lovely skin to skin time with the baby. We were in no rush to find a name because he looked just like his brothers. Leo was only up slightly earlier than normal to meet his new brother and was more excited about the possibility of extra breakfast.
It was the loveliest, calmest way for a baby to join our little family and I'm still revelling in the peace and faith I had in my own body. Ben is just over 48 hours old now but being home the whole time makes us all feel like he's been here forever.