If there’s anything quite as appealing as reading a birth story, from the minute you find out you’re pregnant, than I don’t know it. In all three pregnancies I’ve spent hours scouring the internet for them, with the Googled phrase changing slightly with each pregnancy, going from bog standard ‘first birth’ to a tentative ‘home birth story’ to a tired ‘is it true third births are unpredictable’. The answer to the latter, incase you were wondering, is no, third births do not have to be unpredictable. I worried about this from my midwife appointment at six weeks when she said cheerfully ‘oo third births are notoriously unpredictable’, about nine months before I really wanted to think about that.
After a long, but relatively uncomplicated, first birth in a birth centre, and a second home birth – which was great, except Pearl arrived before the midwives and was greeted by a perplexed ambulance first response unit strolling through the front door – I was all set for a third birth at home. Preparations were scant. Pearl made her appearance before my husband had even started filling the birth pool (I put this down to my pessimistic nature, so convinced was I it would go on for hours although the app I was timing contractions with was insisting otherwise) so I couldn’t be bothered with the faff of a pool this time around. Finding it, storing it . . it all seemed like a hassle. Plus, I was 37 weeks before I seriously started to think about it and felt I’d left it too late. I wouldn’t recommend this way of preparing for birth, but a matter-of-fact, blithely positive approach it worked for me.
Both my first two were ‘late’ – Dory by five days, Pearl by eight – and so I was ready to resist the unending chat about sweeps, induction, etc etc as my due date hit. I’d been having intense Braxton Hicks for weeks, and it had got to the point where I was convinced several times I was in labour, and looking back I do think I was in slow labour for a couple of days beforehand, with contractions happening on and off. On my due date I went to bed already resigned it wasn’t happening. I had a set time it could happen – it could happen in the middle of the night, so the girls would be safely in bed and we wouldn’t need to call anyone, or it could happen in the middle of the day, so we had time to get them out the house somehow. It could not happen at about six in the morning, as that was when they were waking up and it was an awkward time to get them out, if they were up. So when I woke up at about two am with mild-ish contractions, it was irritating, but I thought if it carried on like this until about nine am that would be OK. By three though, I was timing them, and waking Tom up turning my Tens machine on and off. I felt bad, and told him I was going to have bath. Hilariously, I grabbed my book (A Sentimental Education by Flaubert, ie not conducive to a chilled labour) and shuffled off to run one. In retrospect, I probably should have just sorted out that birthing pool, but the bath worked well as a lazy woman’s second choice.
I never did crack open poor Flaubert, who I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for until at least ten days postpartum, when I finally finished him. Contractions got steadily more intense but I still couldn’t really believe it wasn’t all going to stop, and breathing through them – in for four, out for eight – rather than resisting them, was working the best it had as a form of coping in all three labours. Every time it was particularly bad, I made myself think about how it was a good thing and meant the baby was nearly here. When we eventually called the midwife at 4.30am, she wasn’t convinced however and told me to call back in half an hour. I said OK, hung up and told Tom to call her straight back and tell her to come right now (labour came in handy here when it came to my usual avoidance of confrontation). Luckily, she didn’t tell me on the phone she lived a good 40 minutes away or I would have lost some of the calm I was working hard to achieve. When she and another midwife did arrive, it was about 5.15am and I was panicking – the baby needs to be here before six! – I told them as they walked in the door. They were great, telling me it probably would be, and letting me wallow in the bath, still despairing it was all going to stop any minute. Fortunately, it didn’t, and Agatha was born in the bath at 5.56am. After telling them I wanted to see the sex for myself, I ended up just holding her for ten minutes – ‘are you going to look and see what it is?’ my lovely midwife had to prompt me, but at that point, strange as it may seem after months of being desperate to know, it just didn’t matter.
At 6.10am, the girls were up – the relief at meeting my deadline, meaning Tom could see Agatha being born then go downstairs to watch Cbeebies, was immense. The midwives sorted out both me and the bathroom, brought me a cup of tea, checked she was feeding and left the five of us to it. They were gone by 7ish. Pearl barely looked up from Paw Patrol when I sat next to her holding Agatha. Isadora had a quick cuddle then went off to school. It couldn’t have gone more perfectly. Oh, and the sieve in the title? It was on the list of things you need for a home birth (along with hand mirror, towels etc) that I ignored, sending Tom running down to the kitchen for one when the midwifes arrived. And if you don’t know why, I’ll leave you in blissful ignorance.