Two weeks ago today our baby girl made her arrival. The first fortnight has flown by and after a few wobbles and deviations, we eventually decided to call her the name we chose on the day she was born. Alice Jane was born in the year of the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice In Wonderland and her middle name pays tribute to three members of our family, including my sister.
The birth itself is something I really wanted to write a blog post about. Partly because, thanks to my sister, I have some wonderful photos to show off and also because it was an incredibly positive experience and I want to get the story down into words before I forget the details.
Theo’s birth was pretty unremarkable. Like many first babies he was overdue which lead to an induction and a very long medicated labour. The whole experience felt beyond my control and despite the fact I had taken a hypnobirthing course I never felt I had the opportunity to reign in what was happening to me and relax. For this second labour I wanted a chance to do it my way, so we opted for a homebirth.
I was extremely lucky to have a friend who had had a homebirth before which meant she was able to provide us with some of the kit we needed including the plastic sheets and a tens machine, but crucially she also gave me the kind of positive and reassuring words that I needed when every now and again I thought maybe I was slightly mad for planning to do at home what most other women do in hospital.
My birth story starts with the passing of my due date on Friday 23rd October when there was very little sign of anything progressing. On the Saturday night I was sick just after I went to bed, but I felt fine afterwards and the following morning everything seemed normal. On the Sunday night Jim did his weekly commute back to his temporary base in Wiltshire leaving me at home. Monday and Tuesday then passed without event.
On Tuesday night I woke three or four times with what felt like mild period pains, there was no tightening of my tummy and nothing that seemed to me to indicate what I thought contractions should be, so I went back to sleep. At 7:30am thinking I was still a long way off being in proper labour, I decided to email (rather than call!) Jim and my parents just to let them know what was happening. My mum picked the email up quite quickly, replied and came round to the house at 9am by which stage I was lying in bed with Theo watching videos on the iPad and I was getting ‘cramps’ which seemed to be quite regular.
I called Jim, wary that I might be wasting his time by asking him to drive back home, but we decided he should get in the car and he could always go back later if nothing progressed. He left Wiltshire at 10:15am and my mum suggested we time the cramps I was having which turned out (much to my surprise) to be averaging five minutes apart and 40 seconds in duration.
My dad took Theo and the dogs out for a walk and I switched on Radio 4 to give me some relaxing and distracting audio to listen to. I was quite happily breathing through the ‘cramps’ whilst listening to Woman’s Hour without too much discomfort.
Despite my protests about wasting the midwife’s time, my mum decided to call her and she arrived just before 11am. She checked me over and declared me 3 centimetres dilated, to which I said “See we’ve got ages, some people are 3cm before labour even starts.” – Everyone else in the room suspected differently!
At about 11am, my sister Jane arrived with my teenage niece and nephew who had been coming down for the day to visit, but had been pre-warned by my mum that our plans for the day looked like they were changing! Jane came up to the bedroom to see me while the kids kept out of the way downstairs keeping Theo occupied. By this point things had got a bit more painful and I was using the Tens machine and gas and air (despite my dad saying “I really don’t think putting electricity through your body when you are pregnant is a good idea.” – Dads!!!)
With Jane taking over, my parents headed home with the three kids and at midday Jim arrived to discover that a birth was imminent! Jane, Jim and the midwife did a great job encouraging me through the final hour, although even when they were telling me they could see the head, I thought they were making it up and just telling me what I wanted to hear. Jane also got her camera out to record the final stage of labour and Alice’s arrival. Something we had talked about for several weeks and had never dared hope would actually happen during daylight hours!
The second midwife arrived just five minutes before Alice was born and although the ten minutes or so proceeding it were tough, the moment she was slipped into the world was relatively pain free and quite amazing.
The second stage of Theo’s labour had been nearly six hours, where as the second stage of this one was just 14 minutes.
After the birth we called family to tell them news, whilst I got into the bath water we’d run but never used for the birth. The midwives did the paperwork and we tidied up the bedroom and stripped the sheets. It was early afternoon and the sun was streaming in through our south facing windows lighting up the whole room. Alice had arrived on the most incredible autumn day.
The homebirth had been pretty amazing, but the best bit was after the midwives had left and we were able to enjoy our new baby at home in our own bedroom. Theo, my parents and his cousins returned to the house and we opened a bottle of champagne we’d bought back in May on our French holiday. Everyone had their turn to cuddle the baby and Alice’s cousins got to meet a newborn who was only a few hours old, which I’m sure is something they’ll remember for a long time.
Theo had only been gone from the house for about 4 hours, barely enough time to have lunch and play with his cousins and suddenly he was returning to a world where he was a big brother and there was a tiny baby sister waiting for him. Seeing him approach the moses in our bedroom with the entirely spontaneous hand over his mouth is an image that I will always remember, but which I’m extremely glad we actually have a photographic record of.
The small thing he is holding in the black and white photo below is a little wind up music box which plays Happy Birthday which he serenaded Alice with!
In the months leading up to Alice’s birth, I’d read stories on other people’s blogs (mostly in America) of happy births with glasses of champagne and family around to share the moments afterwards, but it felt like fiction and I never believed we’d be lucky enough to experience it for ourselves. Now we have one of those stories to tell too and it’s something that will always make me feel very lucky…
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