A letter to Lila, one year later.
Sitting down to reflect on your birth story is like having the opportunity to step back in time. I think about how it felt to feel your movements before you were earth side and can’t help but compare those tiny flutters to the confident 14 month old who toddles when there’s a good enough snack to be had.
We had a good ride during pregnancy, my only complaint being a classic case of reflux. I loved learning how to nourish the both of us with food - as long as it didn't contain tomatoes - and I felt more in tune with my body than ever before. I was excited about birth and surrounded myself with information that empowered me. We completed a hypnobirthing course and read fantastic books filled with encouraging memos and powerful, evidence based reminders of what the female body is designed to do. I lived in a paradox of desperately wanting to meet you, and experience birth, but not wanting the way we were bound together to end.
After a phone call to the midwife regarding my ‘frequent Braxton Hicks’, we found ourselves in the delivery suite. At 34 weeks you decided this was the time you were ready to be born. We were calm, we were prepared enough and we were giddy at the idea of meeting our baby. Fast forward a few days and I was discharged from the hospital being encouraged to rest until you were born, as early labour could begin again at any time. Reflecting back this time feels surreal. Let’s be honest, no-one expects to knowingly do their weekly grocery shop at 1cm dilated. 3 times.
The next few weeks were spent moving between the bed and the sofa, forbidden from drinking raspberry leaf tea or bouncing on my birth ball. Aware that our pregnancy was going to end sooner than I expected, I soaked in every second I could. I hadn’t been out much and was looking forward to meeting my work colleagues for coffee and doughnuts as a last minute, relaxing farewell. The morning of said farewell, I wake up for wee number #1,234 and there it was. My first real clue that you were thinking about making your way. Cue a message to my bestie asking ‘what did your mucus plug look like’ and l ask Ash to be near by with the baby bags that day - just in case.
I enjoyed the afternoon with my work colleagues and spend the rest of the day at my in-laws with my feet up on their super comfy recliner sofa. Although, heaving yourself back up again at 9 months pregnant is something only someone who has been 9 months pregnant could imagine. The evening is long and clue number two arrives as we get into the car to head home. A very big, very panicked cry. I feel worried that I am not prepared for labour. A thought that hadn’t crossed my mind once until now.
Agreeing to stop off at the supermarket on the way home to pick up some (more) food, I plod my way around the aisles uninspired by my choices. Clue number three involved a second round of tears - feeling defeated and disappointed by my choice of pot noodle. Before we go to bed, I have packed away the washing, zhuzhed the nursery and my husband is starting to get suspicious.
I look back now and recognise more clearly my state of mind. I was subconsciously preparing for your arrival. I knew I needed to eat something and that pot noodle just intuitively didn’t feel like the right choice to fuel my body for labour. I was preparing my environment, making it feel safe and calm.
It’s early hours of the morning but I haven’t checked the time exactly. I know I have slept but it’s still dark outside. I’m having contractions, they are mild and I’m giddy once again. This time I know it’s the real deal. They have been washing over me for a while now and I decide it’s time to wake Ash. ‘I think it’s happening and we are 37 weeks today’ I tell him smug in the knowledge that we can head the Horton when we are ready.
This period of early labour feels so special to me. I laboured in our living room, candles lit, meditation music playing. I was calm and I was confident. Supporting me was Ash and one of my closest friends, Honor - who was also our birth photographer. We honoured each contraction for what it was and held space for me to breathe and focus on working through each one. I felt strong and amazed by what was happening. I kept looking back at my birth affirmations knowing that I was getting closer to meeting you.
My memory of traveling to the Horton consists of timing my contractions and holding onto Ash. We arrived at 1:30 and were seen quickly. I asked to be examined which confirmed I was in active labour. You were coming today. 3 weeks of anticipation was going to end soon. I felt in control and couldn’t believe we were running the birthing pool in preparation for you to be born.
Ash ensured the room was as I wished - music, lighting, essential oils and wooden combs for natural pain relief if I wanted them. My birth plan was being followed and the midwife stood back allowing me to labour in my own way without interruption. This is a room where I feel safe.
I’m in the pool for two hours before getting out to be examined. It has been around 4 hours since my last examination and I haven’t dilated any further. At this point I feel disappointed and we discuss all my options, asking questions and seeing what felt right to us. Interested in having stronger pain relief than gas and air and on the midwife’s recommendation, I agree to go to the John Radcliffe.
In the transfer, something shifts and I am contracting very frequently. I learn how to use the gas and air more effectively and the midwife beside me encourages me through each one. I am not focusing on where I am or who I am with. I am focussed on my body and my breathing. it feels primal. It feels instinctive.
We arrive to the John Radcliffe and there is the most wonderful community midwife waiting to great me. She is kind, she is respectful and instantly I know she will be brilliant. I agree to be examined again following our eventful transfer and I am 9cm dilated! I can’t believe my luck, we must be getting close.
It’s now around 9pm, Ash and Honor are back in the room and we are settled once again. It’s the third space I’ve laboured in today but somehow they’ve all melted into one. The waves of labour continue for a couple more hours before I experience a pause. A sense of returning to the room and holding brief conversation. It was like everything stood still and I had stepped out of my labouring body.
The urge to push is a fascinating one and a simple reminder of how powerful you are. I never understood when someone would say ‘you’ll know when you need to push’ but there is so much truth in this statement. Your body really will push without you consciously straining. Take it in and notice just how strong you are.
It’s now 12am and we are entering the final stages of labour. It was apparent that the gradually increasing heart rate of Lila was something we now needed to note. We try different labour positions and discuss breaking my waters to speed up these final moments. After 45 minutes of pushing, we discuss what we could do next.
My midwife explained that a forcep delivery would be the recommended next step. She explained who would enter the room, what would happen before, during and after and what equipment would be brought into the room too. I agree and we are one step closer to meeting you.
It’s 2am and we are ready to go. I am so close to meeting you. Honor - who has been quietly advocating for me and cheering me on - positions herself to capture the money shots of our birth. After two contractions with the forceps, you are born. I ask to have you on my chest immediately and I sink into the bed with my arms wrapped around you. I can feel your skin against mine, whilst we are bundled in blankets to keep you warm. It’s a girl Ash announces! She is here.
After a while, once all the team had left the room and Ash and Honor finally went to refuel themselves. My midwife sat next to me and asked me how I was feeling. She held space to acknowledge this was a change to my birth plan. At that time, I held you close, grateful that you were well, my thoughts centred on you. Pregnancy and labour were everything I hoped they would be and although those final few moments of birth were different to I had hoped, I am so proud of us.
I pulled out my laptop bag a few days ago in preparation to go back to work. Fishing around in all the pockets I find the Tim Hortons receipt. Time stamped 15:38 on 7th December 2022, 12 hours before I went into labour. How incredible our bodies are.