Having a second baby means you are constantly comparing yourself to last time, and boy was this time different. For starters, being pregnant and giving birth in a pandemic is not an experience I would aim to replicate. It was strange, lonely and unbelievably hard, but on the flip side it was also one of the most empowering experiences of my life.
This time my pregnancy followed a very similar path to the last. High blood pressure, medication, lots of appointments and a small baby. All of which didn’t faze me to be honest, we had been there before and we knew we were in good hands. However, I didn’t expect to spend New Years Day being admitted, only to find I wouldn’t be leaving without a baby.
Let’s rewind a few weeks.
I have medicated hypertension and I have done for 10 years, so I am under consultant care and have regular growth scans. This is all routine for me and was never something I really ever considered to be a concern. I always knew I would have an induction again and was told from the outset that this should be at 37 weeks due to a variety of risk factors. Fine.
But this time, I didn’t actually see the same consultant twice, which obviously means you get mixed opinions. I had my induction booked and then cancelled due to a very minor growth spurt on the charts. I was so confused and emotional by this point, but I went home thinking that maybe, just maybe, it would mean I could have the spontaneous labour I had always hoped for.
No such luck!
Christmas came and went, New Year’s Eve was spent playing games and drinking non alcoholic champagne and I was sure this baby was going to make an appearance without the need for an induction. However, I woke up on New Year’s Day feeling not quite right, and my blood pressure was consistently high on my home monitor. I was sure I was being over paranoid but I thought I would head to ADAU to be sure. I told Pepper I was off to the shop and that I would be back soon, thinking I would be home by lunchtime. Little did I know I would be bringing her a Sister back from “the shop”.
My blood pressure was higher than they would like and it was advised I stay for 24 hours to monitor it and see if my medication needed to be changed. I spent the next 24 hours hoping it would drop. It didn’t. So guess what, my induction was then rebooked for the same day it had originally been on… again, just shows how consultant opinions play a big part.
Sunday the 3rd January came and I was due to have a pessary induction at 6am. We all know these things never happen on time so it was 12pm before I had the pessary (again, the most aggressive fingering you might experience in your life, but this wasn’t my first rodeo so I was prepared.) However, it was so crap not having Joss’ hand to hold or just talk to afterwards when you are strapped up to a monitor feeling super intense cramps. Bloody Covid!
I started to have contractions and I was convinced this time was following the same path as Pepper, but at an even quicker pace. Joss wasn’t allowed to visit until 6:30pm and I was sure by then I would be heading to the labour ward, so I paced the corridors, bounced on a ball and did everything I could to get things moving. Joss came and they were starting to ramp up, I needed to use some breathing techniques and was even thinking about using a TENS machine, then nothing.
I am absolutely convinced that Joss was my safe place, I felt strong and safe when he was there and the oxytocin was definitely flowing, but then due to Covid he had to leave after just two hours and my contractions left with him. I was gutted!
I spent the night with very mild cramps and as much as I knew rest was going to slow things down I needed sleep in order to face another day on Ward 9. I was woken up at 3:45am for another pessary and I had everything crossed that this was going to kick start my labour once more.
I was feeling a bit deflated as Pepper was born within hours of my pessary last time and I was sure this would happen again. However, I was so adamant that positivity was going to get this baby out, that I tried to paint on a smile, along with a full face of makeup, and waited for the doctor.
At 10am I was given a stretch and sweep and told I was on the list to have my waters broken.
Spoiler alert, I didn’t need them broken.
My contractions started almost instantly and things felt so different this time. By the time Joss arrived to walk around the hospital with me (he wasn’t allowed on the ward even though I was in early labour) I was pacing and having to breathe through every contraction. I was so torn at this point, I really didn’t want to leave him at the ward doors, but I knew I had to go back in and get someone to examine me. I labour quickly and I didn’t want to be squatting my baby out on the hospital floor!
I spent the next couple of hours alone. It was possibly the hardest two hours of my life as I navigated my way through intense contractions, with nothing but a TENS machine and my breathing techniques. And although I was alone, I felt so much calmer and more in control than I did with Pepper. I don’t know if it was because it was my second time or because I knew I had no choice but to be strong for myself, but I felt like I really was controlling my body, rather than it controlling me.
However, I was so relieved when they said I was 5cm and could go to the labour ward, finally, Joss could be with me. The lovely lady in the bed next to me had become a friend over the few days I was in there and so she called Joss for me to let him know it was all happening. Luckily he made it in time, I had visions of him running down the corridor of the hospital like something out of a film and bursting in as they put her on my chest.
Once he was there and I was allowed some gas and air, time just felt like it flew. By the time my waters went she was ready to arrive, but I was adamant I did not want to give birth on my back again. I asked them to lift up the back of the bed and I got myself onto my knees, which just felt really natural. I didn’t know this until after, but with every push Joss was holding my legs from behind so I didn’t fall backwards off the bed, so he really was part of the experience with every single push, we were all a team as she came into the world. She arrived quickly to a piano version of Thinking out loud playing in my ears, and as the midwife handed her up through my legs, she was staring at me with her precious little eyes, another beautiful little girl.
Covid may have meant I didn’t get the birth I wanted, but it still gave me a birth I am immensely proud of. Giving birth during a pandemic is one of my biggest achievements and for all you ladies who have done the same, remember that our little lockdown babies are not the only ones who made history, so did you.