This is a really long one as I want to be able to remember and read back on every single thing that happened so if you cringe at TMI, then you have been warned! I also make some comparisons to my first labour throughout. If you’d like, you can read my first birth story here
I had had what was feeling like the worlds longest pre-labour, even longer than my first pregnancy/birth! Braxton hicks and tightenings, breasts beginning to feel fuller, increase in discharge, period pains, streaks of blood - all of this had been going on daily for weeks before I actually gave birth! I had also definitely lost the mucus plug on the same day as I did in my first pregnancy (38+2) so, that along with it being my second and having an ‘insufficient’ cervix, I was convinced that this baby would be like his brother & be here before his due date………
As I reached full term I was exhausted. Our toddler who was 1 year and 10 months old at this point had been really ill (infected lymph node that saw an urgent trip into A+E) that took a few weeks to resolve and his sleep disruption due to this was off the charts. My husband was doing all the night wakings with him and often sleeping on his floor beside his cot with me in our spare room in a bid to ensure I was as rested as possible, but despite all this I was drained and very emotional. There were lots of tears and I had some wobbles in my ability to cope with the (what I thought) was the imminent labour. Although logically it was the right thing, I was also upset at sleeping apart from my husband as I kept putting pressure on myself to build up on the oxytocin - this was obviously catch 22 as the stress of it all was no doubt killing any oxytocin anyway! None the less, I kept on with my labour prep as best I could; eating 75g of dates daily, started each day with positive affirmations & a stretching routine to aid the baby’s position which then has a knock on affect to the efficiency of labour and I added the Epi-no to my perineal prep routine this week managing to get up to 7.5cm in my first session which I was very happy about (We have a whole collection on how best to prepare for a vaginal birth here in our e-guides section for Umi Plus members, including a follow along video of the stretching sequence I did each day). During this week I had ongoing multiple daily braxton hicks & period pains, intermittent nausea, my bump was noticeably looking lower and I was also getting mild zingy sensations in my pubic & vaginal area (not in a good way!). I was trying my best to keep active whilst at the same time not spending too much of the little energy I had and managed a cycle and a couple of short walks.
All of the same pre-labour signs continued this week with the addition of some diahorea (yay). The tightenings, period like pains and discharge would always tend to be worse/more in the mornings which made me wonder if I’d labour in the morning rather than during the night as I had done with my first born. I managed to get up to 9cm with the epi-no this week and I also begun antenatal expressing. I didn’t have any expectations with the expressing as I hadn’t really been able to get anything when I’d tried in my previous pregnancy but this time round I actually managed to get a few ml in total which I was so happy about! By the end of the week I had a cold and my toddler was off crèche, again(!!), this time with a rebound viral throat infection. Needless to say, sleep had become very minimal in our house again! After my routine 38 week check up with the doctor, I was feeling a bit less anxious about the birth as I was reassured that the baby was in a perfect position for an efficient labour and felt rejuvenated after this.
This was the week of the heatwave in Ireland which I was actually really enjoying! I am such a sun person, I was still sleeping fine (well, as fine as you can at 39 weeks pregnant!) and loving the heat, it really lifted my spirits & I never wanted it to end! I was still feeling low at times and really tired, so I was taking things easy & having daily naps wherever I could. I had my 2nd Covid booster this week on the first day it was offered to those who were pregnant. I was so relieved to get some extra immunity for the baby & the look on the young nurses’ face when I told him how pregnant I was was worth the trip alone! He replied with “ok, wow, please don’t have a baby on me”, “I’ll try not to” I replied! All other pre-labour signs and birth prep continued and I got up to 9.25cm with the epi-no. This weeks check up was with the midwife who was very happy with everything (blood pressure, urine, baby position & heartbeat etc), interestingly she weighed me & I only weighed 75kg - this was the same I had weighed a few weeks before when with the doctor but I only knew this once I had left & looked back at the notes I had made so nothing was said about my weight at the time. All was looking good & healthy anyway so I didn’t really think about it again. My appetite had noticeably started to drop this week due to not having any space left and the return of heartburn if I did try to push it on the portion size which probably explains why my weight had plateaued/reduced.
Week 40 - the due date - full term
My first born had arrived at 39+5 so to reach my due date (20th August) and still be pregnant was completely not what I, or any of my family, had been expecting (or hoping for!), little did I know he’d keep us waiting over a week more from this point!
40+ 1 - The false start
40+1 was such a lovely sunny Sunday. My husband, son and I did a little bit of gardening in the front garden and then all cycled to one of my sons favourite places - the local city farm. In my sons lunchtime nap I managed to have a massage from my husband, sex and a little nap! Bliss! We then had plans to go & meet some friends at a little free festival in town. We cycled the 20 minute journey to them & pretty quickly upon arriving my usual regular tightenings were becoming much stronger… I needed to sit down as they were much stronger when I was standing up. I tried to ignore them as I didn’t want to have to leave having only just arrived! After just over an hour we had to leave as I was finding it hard to focus on anything else whilst the strong tightenings were happening, I decided to try & cycle back as figured it’d be quicker than trying to find a cab anyway & cuts out the faff of having to go back & get our bikes at some point! I reassured/agreed with my husband that if I felt really bad I would stop & get in a cab. The cycle home was interesting to say the least, and I began to uncontrollably shake a bit with the adrenaline and excitement that I was finally going into real labour! As soon as we got back home (approx 5pm) we called my husbands sister who had been on standby to come & collect my son to look after him, we put the TENS machine on, changed into my labour clothes and started timing the tightenings. Immediately the app said I was in established labour given the frequency & length of each surge. By 17:30 we said our goodbyes, took what we thought would be our last family pic as a 3, our son had been collected and we were in the car on our way to hospital as per our birth plan (I had planned a home birth first time round but had to plan a hospital birth second time round due to the amount of blood loss I had with my first. I was told that private midwives would be able to offer me a home birth even with my history but this option wasn't financially available to us).
As it was my second, my first born had arrived relatively quickly and this baby was in the perfect position, every health professional I had met in this pregnancy had advised me to come in to hospital at the earliest sign of established labour so my husband & I were giddy with excitement and were wondering if we were going to meet our second son (we knew it was another boy) that evening! I was laughing to myself that 1 day past my due date wasn’t so bad after all!
When we arrived at hospital, we checked in at the admissions office and were then shown straight up to the labour ward. Once we had settled into the room & the midwife had introduced herself etc she examined me. I personally find that the examinations are one of the worst things about labour and the midwife was struggling to find my cervix! We stopped, let me recover and waited for the incoming contraction to pass & tried the examination again, this time with my hands under my pelvis. Success! She found my cervix but then bluntly told me that “you’re not in labour yet”…… I was so confused by this…… I was having regular contractions (every 2-3 mins) that were lasting about 45-90 secs each, everything about it was feeling the same as my previous labour. I think what the midwife had meant is that my cervix was still towards the back of my pelvis and it wasn’t changed enough yet for established labour, ie it was still thick and not dilated enough. So we agreed to wait a while for another hour or so as I was walking around with the TENS machine (and used the birth stool a bit) & breathing through each contraction before checking again. I felt very happy with this plan and expected in an hour that things would be very different anyway. I did also feel under pressure as the midwife said if I weren’t ‘in labour’ by the time she checked again I would be sent to the antenatal ward, I also was really trying to stop worrying/thinking about my son who I was hoping was going down for his bedtime ok at his cousins.
At approx 20:00 I had a bloody show and the midwife examined me again (I didn’t need my hands in fists under my pelvis this time) but, once again, declared “no, you’re not in labour” (I had written in my birth plan that I didn’t want to be told how dilated I was, or wasn’t as the case may be!). With that the biggest wave of disappointment and worry washed over me. My biggest fear at that moment in time was my husband having to go home as I didn’t want to do it on my own and I was having flashbacks to my worries & concerns from all the Covid restrictions from the first time round. Thankfully I was reassured that those restrictions for labour were over and Dermot was allowed to stay with me for as long as he liked on the antenatal ward. Then, before I knew it I was being taken off the labour ward and onto a 16 bedded bay that was the antenatal ward.
From the moment the midwife told me I wasn’t 'in labour' for the second time, my contractions began to slow down and become less intense. I was desperately trying to claw them back somehow but it was no good. I had another bloody show at around 21:30 but by 22:50 I was turning the TENS machine off as the contractions had pretty much become non-existent. I was feeling so disheartened. The midwife on the antenatal ward suggested that I try to get some rest & see if that helps labour to come back. So from 23:00-00:00 my husband and I snuggled and listened to some relaxing music. Nothing. I was so upset and really wanted to go home, the antenatal ward was so loud and so many women at varying stages of their labour, it felt impossible to switch off and relax. There was a reluctance from the midwife to let me go home (I think she was just assuming I’d be having a baby very soon given my background and history so didn’t want to see me have a wasted journey), but I insisted on letting us leave so she called the doctor who checked me & the baby over, and I was then allowed to go. I figured I’d rather be home for 5 mins and have to come back then spend another minute on that antenatal ward! We finally got back into our own bed at 01:00. I felt so many emotions on the way home; disappointment, like I was a failure, embarrassment - labour is such a rollercoaster!
We woke up at about 6am (thanks body clock being still in my toddlers routiene!) and I desperately wanted to see my son. So we had some toast, drove to my sister in law’s and checked on Lochlann, who was, of course, totally fine! We all walked to crèche & back (a 3km round trip) to drop the boys off (my son is in same crèche as his cousin). I had a couple of strong tightenings when walking and some pinky discharge but was otherwise totally fine. When we got back home I did my morning stretches with positive affirmations (my baby will come when my baby is ready was particularly stingy that morning!) and then had a little nap. I already had a routine appointment in the diary back at the hospital, so at lunchtime I headed back in for that making sure that I treated myself to my favourite salad from Sprout and a coffee & chocolate from Butlers. The check up went perfectly fine, everything was looking great with me & the baby, he was still in the best position possible so we were sent off with the instruction to come back in a week if I was still pregnant. I was grateful of course that baby & I were all good but I just could not believe what had happened, or not happened, the night before. I was in so much disbelief and found the whole thing very testing for my positivity and patience! That night I bathed and put our toddler to bed and then we all had an early night.
For the rest of the week I started each day with my stretches and positive affirmations. I walked everyday for the crèche drop off (4km round trip from our house), carried on with afternoon naps, expressing, walking again during the day, having sex, using the Epi-no (up to just over 9cm), having the clary sage diffuser on every evening and just generally trying to keep myself busy and be patient. I made a banana bread and a huge chocolate oat cake and the period pains and tightenings kept coming and going. I was trying hard each day that i was over when I would wake up each day with the realisation that I was STILL pregnant to turn it into a positive. At the end of the week (40+5) my mum turned up to surprise me all the way from home (Essex, UK)! She had come to say happy birthday and also thought at the time of booking that she’d be meeting her new grandson! The next day was my 36th birthday and as much as I wanted this baby out, I really didn’t fancy sharing!! We had a lovely day having a gorgeous brunch down in Clontarf and just generally didn’t do too much. I must admit, I was a bit teary again when going to bed but felt much better after talking it over with my husband and reading some positive birth stories.
The next day I was awake from 4:30 (why does pregnancy insomnia even exist?!) and turned 41 weeks pregnant.
Still in utter disbelief, (I had never been this pregnant before!) I generally had a relaxing day at home with my mum, husband & son. Interestingly I noticed that I had less period pains and tightenings this day. The sun was still shining and I chatted live on national radio about pregnancy and recovery for sport, anything to pass the time! (If you're interested you can listen/watch back the interview here). We ate leftover pizza for dinner outside in the sun and it was lovely!
The period pains and tightenings returned. After breakfast, stretches and positive affirmations we all headed to the local city farm. My mum had to leave at lunchtime having enjoyed a very quiet birthday with me but missing out on seeing the latest addition to our family. After a lunchtime nap, we went to see the in-laws. The baby felt like it was trying to stretch its way out of my tummy, and I remember feeling SO uncomfortable & stretched, and also beginning to worry about what will be the aftermath for me physically when this baby is eventually out! I went to sleep feeling extra fed up that night.
41+2 - the birth!
I was having occasional extra strong tightenings during the night but was able to mostly stay asleep/ignore them/get back to sleep (by this stage I had had SO many of them I was intentionally trying to ignore them). I went for a wee around 06:15 and as I stood up from the toilet, I felt a small gush of waters go. Because of the false start from the week before, I was now planning on ignoring every single sign until the last possible minute as there was not a hope I was going to end up on that antenatal ward again! So I told my husband that I think my waters had gone and we then carried on the morning as normal; my toddler came into bed when he woke up & I read him his favourite stories whilst he had his milk.
My husband then took my toddler downstairs for breakfast and I had a shower. I made sure it was one of those everything showers, you know when you wash your hair, put a hair masque on, exfoliate all over, shave your armpits etc as I thought if this is really it this time then I won’t get chance to do all this again for a while! I had a lovely playlist on when showering and was taking my time, I noticed that my contractions were beginning to get a bit stronger but I was still doing all I could to ignore them. At around 8:00 I had some peanut butter on toast & asked Dermot to put the TENS machine on my back for me. He then took our son to crèche and I took a picture of what I hoped would finally be the last one of me pregnant and finally started timing my contractions using the Freya app.
By 9:30 the app said I was in established labour so we slowly started making our way to hospital. In the car en route, the contractions really started to strengthen. We parked the car and walked into hospital and were directed to the admissions office. There were 3 women ahead of me in the que. Dermot stayed queing whilst I paced up & down the corridor managing each contraction as it came & went. During one that was particularly strong I was breathing heavily & clinging on to a sink, at this point someone who worked at the hospital came over to me & said she was going to get someone to take me straight up to labour ward. Thank goodness! We arrived onto labour ward & were shown to our room, funnily enough it was the same room I had been in last week when I’d had the false start, this baby was clearly meant to be born in this particular room!
We got comfy again, gave the midwife (MW) my birth plan/preferences and hooked up our playlist. The MW examined me at around 11:00 and this time told me “yep! You’re in labour!” During the examination the MW could feel there was still a bit of the amniotic sac with waters in between the baby's head and my cervix, the MW wanted to break this part of the waters but I declined. I was walking around the room for a bit and then kneeling up over the head of the bed whilst managing contractions and waiting for my cervix to fully open. I was offered the gas & air but didn’t actually use it at all, I just stuck to the TENS machine and breathing during each contraction.
They were now really ramping up, getting more intense, more frequent and lasting longer. I kept telling myself just get to the pushy sensation, as in my previous labour once the contractions turned pushy they didn’t feel at all painful anymore. At around 12:15 the final bit of my waters broke in true Hollywood style - a huge pop & gush all over the bed! The MW was concerned there was a bit of meconium in the waters (they were very lightly straw coloured so in hind sight she might have been being over cautious) so that meant the baby had to be monitored for the whole rest of labour - although I of course understood why they wanted to do it - this became incredibly annoying to me as it meant the student midwife was pushing/holding the ultrasound monitor on my abdomen constantly - it felt SO very sore and was a huge annoying distraction for me. Nonetheless, I stayed kneeling up for a while longer as the contractions then started to turn pushy - just at the end of each one at first and eventually turned into the whole contraction being pushy, at last! It was at this point I declared I couldn’t do it! With some reassurance from my husband we decided that I could and I then started pushing with the contractions, still upright but on my left hand side.
This is when I really had to battle in my head and dig deep mentally, I was pushing but it felt like NOTHING was happening. I had everyone’s expectations swirling round in my head ‘second borns are quicker’, ‘second borns come in just a few pushes’, 'it'll be so much easier than your first' etc. and I was wondering what I was doing wrong. This part was feeling SO much harder than my first labour and I was finding it hard at times to stay confident in my ability. The contractions had become a bit more spaced out which i was thankful for to get a little bit of rest in between each one. With encouragement from my husband and clinging on to his hand and shirt, I soon (eventually) began to feel the baby’s head bobbing up & down at the entrance. I really had to push with all my might to get him out and I was so confused as to why he was needing so much of my effort to get out given everything I had been told and come to expect with second borns. His head was finally born at 15:05 followed by the rest of him at15:07! The sense of relief was overwhelming.
As my body started to birth the placenta the contractions were feeling just like they were before they turned pushy and I now had not a single piece of distraction/pain relief as I had already asked Dermot to take the TENS machine off (rookie mistake!). There was no post partum haemorrhage this time which was great but there was a small superficial second degree tear. The senior midwife that had come in at this point advised me that it could be left to heal naturally as it was quite minor or she could stitch it for me, I chose to take the stitch. At the same time I was trying to get Aidan to latch on, which he thankfully did quite quickly. Once the placenta was out and I had been stitched and wiped down, we had a lovely hour or two just the three of us. We begun contacting family and checking that our first born was ok - he was still at crèche and would then be collected by his Aunty to go for another sleep over with his cousins so was doing great. When the MW came back in to do checks on me and the baby, we then learnt why it had felt so much harder and why I’d had a small tear this time round…… our baby weighed 10lb 9oz (4.8kg!!) everyone was so shocked.
I felt amazing and such a sense of achievement and pride in my body when Aidan was born but my advice to anyone going into a second birth is to really try not to compare it the whole time to the first! If I had gone in with a completely open mind and no expectations at all, I would have felt even more empowered and had to battle less mental demons during labour! Now the fun of the rehab begins whilst bringing up 2 young bo