Scarlett joined us one week ago today, so now seems like a good time to reflect on the terrifying, exciting, then terrifying then exciting some more experience of the bit where she actually arrived.
We’d been fairly prepared for an early arrival as both my brother and I were born slightly early and I’d heard these things can run in families; so although Scarlett’s due date was 30 September we were ready to head to the hospital any time form mid-month onwards. I say “ready”: we’d got as far as packing the bag and putting the crib together; we’d just taken delivery of a new car the day before, and a base for our car-seat arrived on the morning of labour and Darien had to pop home to fit the thing before we could leave the hospital. That’s skipping ahead somewhat; we had our first intimations of the joyful event on the Monday afternoon at a scheduled consultant’s appointment, where we found out that I was already 1cm dilated and so technically already in labour.
Tuesday passed quietly enough (apart from the new car); Wednesday began with a strong contraction at 5.30am and a trickle of something amniotic. I don’t actually recommend this as a wake-up call; it’s a bit messy and not too relaxing. Seven minutes later I realised it was time to wake Darien and start timing contractions, and by 7am they were three minutes apart and strong enough to leave me doubled up on the floor on the way out to the Birth Centre.
We chose the Whittington Birth Centre not only because it’s a five-minute drive from our home but also because it’s known for supporting Active Birth principles, something I’d been very interested in while preparing for the birth. On arrival at the centre, we were shown to a very comfortable room with en-suite bathroom and in-room birthpool, a double bed and all the birthing balls and bean bags one could ever wish for. The double bed was fantastic – Darien could sit and lie on there with me during labour offering hugs, massages and general supportive vibes throughout the process, and we would eventually all be able to sleep in together overnight.
By this point, I was 3cm dilated and about ready for some pain relief; unfortunately we’d arrived just as the night shift were handing over so it took some time to get hooked up to a tube of Entonox. Entonox is fine so far as it goes, which is about 4cm. From that point on, I heartily recommend Diamorphine, one of my all-time favourite drugs. Bean bags are all very well (and it was great having Darien on the bed for comfort) but some things require strong opiates.
Things happened thick and fast from there; at 1pm a nice lady came by and offered us a sandwich lunch, and no sooner had we got the boxes open (literally: I had a bite out of one corner of a cheese and pickle sandwich) than Darien said he could see something. As we’d only been at the birth centre for five hours at this point I was convinced this meant something going very wrong, like a cord in the wrong place, so we yelled for help in a bit of a panic; when the midwife told us the visible object was the baby’s head we were both astonished. Clearly, Scarlett was in a hurry to get here.
The pushing bit lasted just 36 minutes and, as we were promised by the nice lady at the NCT, didn’t actually hurt as much as the dilation. Scarlett may have been in a hurry to join us but she also wanted to do things her own way, and decided to come out in a posterior position (facing upwards instead of down) so the first Darien saw of our daughter was her face as it popped out, staring around the room. I’m told this was a little freaky; I couldn’t see it myself. Because of her position, the midwife insisted (really quite firmly) that I finish the job immediately, so a rush and a push later there was a whole new person in the room. Despite the nine months of waiting and the various bits of shopping and preparing we’d been doing in that time, having her physically in the room for the first time was a very strange feeling.
The midwives gave us an hour together for skin-to-skin contact and to get to know each other before they did the admin; I’d heard of the rooting instinct but still found it amazing when she found her way up to my breast 18 minutes after being born. Shortly afterwards, Scarlett weighed in at 6lb 13oz, which my mother assures me is the exact weight I was at birth. She spent the night in the birth centre with us for observations and at just after 5pm on Friday we were given the all-clear to put her in her (now-base-having) car seat and head home. And so began the new, exciting-terrifying adventure of the rest of her life.