I wrote the birth story for my first while heavily pregnant and awaiting our second child (codename: Cookie) to make his appearance. I might have even daydreamed how the birth would be and the changes I was intending on making while in the hospital. Yet again I had no birth plan, but had hoped to have delayed cord cutting and to hypnobirth as long as possible before going onto the gas and air to hallucinate the pain away.
It didn’t quite happen that way, but I’m totally happy with the crazy way it all panned out. If I have a third it will definitely be a homebirth (they aren’t so usual in Sweden it seems).
Three days before my due date I awoke at somewhere around 3am to a contraction. I’d been getting irregular tightenings previously, but they hadn’t really been that exciting. The contraction timer I’d downloaded had only been on once — I think the first time around it was at least four times before I was actually in labour. Sleepily trying not to awake our 20 month old daughter in the middle of the bed, I took my phone and turned on the contraction timer. I figured I may as well practice those deep breaths that the hypnobirthing book had promised would ease labour and nodded off again in between. The contractions were around eight minutes apart, and so I became pretty sure that things were starting to kick off.
Around 5am they were four to five minutes apart, and I needed to move from the bed to be more comfortable. Wiggling off the bed (trying not to disturb either of the bed occupants), I ferreted around to find the gym ball, and bounced on that at the foot of the bed for a couple of uncomfortable contractions before my husband (codename: Mr. T) woke to see me grimace and gurn my way through one. He slightly excitedly asked if it was time. When I replied in the affirmative he offered to ring the delivery ward for me (last time my Swedish was a lot dodgy and I was terrified of talking on the phone), I decided though this time I’d brave it, and asked him to get our daughter ready to go to the grandparents while I made the call.
When my call got answered, it turned out there were no rooms available at my nearby hospital other than the intake rooms (smaller, no gas and air on tap, uncomfortable beds). The midwife offered to ring around the other hospitals in Stockholm (which would later turn out to also be full), but in the end thinking that there was a good few hours left to go I said I’d stay home, take a bath and call back later.
I ran the bath and turned on a hypnobirthing track on Spotify. The contractions were pretty intense at this point, and I gave up trying to time them. Once in the bath, I began to follow the hypnobirthing track in between contractions, at some point my Mr. T returned from dropping our daughter off and laid on the bed resting, trying not to laugh at the hypnobirthing track which was a little too “hippie” for his tastes.
At 6:30, the hypnobirthing wasn’t seeming to help anymore and I was groaning and moaning my way through the contractions, swearing that the hypnobirthing didn’t work and being quite grumpy. At that point Mr. T called the delivery ward to say we’d take the intake/triage room, gas and air or not. I cursed myself for not going in the first time we’d called and for leaving it too late to get an epidural (looking back on it, this was my transition phase from dilating to pushing no wonder I felt out of my depth), while he sorted the car out, I tried to get out of the bath to make the dreaded move to the hospital, but then…
I started feeling pressure and with each contraction the need to push instead of the horrible pain I’d had before. At that point I realised that we weren’t going anywhere and that our baby was coming! I tried to shout Mr. T to come upstairs, but he didn’t hear me — he actually came upstairs wondering where I was. I told him that the baby was coming, and after trying to ring delivery again for advice (and being in a phone queue), he helped me move from the bathroom onto the bed on all fours. He took a look but couldn’t see anything, so continued pacing the room while on hold. As each contraction came, I would say that I allowed myself to push but instinct had very much taken over. There was no fear though in the room, maybe because there was no time, I’d like to think that we are just that calm in an emergency.
While still in a telephone queue at around 6:45am, I felt the head emerge, shouting Mr. T over with a very eloquent “Oh Shit! The head!” He’d just looked moments before and not seen anything, so I think it was a bit of a shock. He held the head, as I quickly told him not to pull (which he later said was his very brief initial thought, though he knew not to), shortly afterwards with the next push the rest of our baby came out, screaming (and peeing!) along with the amniotic fluid. His cord was pretty short, so from on all fours it took a bit of maneuvering to turn myself around so I could have a good look at our newest addition — pink, covered in gunk and not so impressed to have been ejected from the warmth.
Around five minutes after he was born we finally got through to the delivery ward to say it was too late. They ordered an ambulance (my very first, and in full view of the neighbours heading to work) to transfer us to the hospital where I delivered the placenta and got sewn up (which I swear is worse than labour). We could have stayed overnight (Sweden seems to have an awesome system where you can stay with your partner in an almost hotel setting but with midwives on hand after the birth while you recuperate and get to grips with your new baby), but it felt a little strange after being at home for the birth, so we got an early discharge and were back, sharing our story with the neighbours by late afternoon and introducing our daughter to her little brother.
We have a picture that Mr. T took shortly after Cookie was born. I’m sat naked (yet not revealing anything) on the bed holding him, the cord still filled with blood and with a slightly bemused yet ecstatic look on my face. At the time I was a bit confused as to why he was taking a picture, but looking back, it brings a smile to my face every time I see it. The photo makes the whole experience real again.
Our experience was far from an ideal situation — there could have been complications, we could have been in a hell of a lot of trouble — but it was an absolutely incredible experience, and our son will never live it down. It’s sad in the fact that it highlights the critical need for more hospital places in our area, but hasn’t changed my interest and desire to retrain as a midwife in the near future.