Now probably isn’t the best time to reminisce about my pregnancy with Maggie as it has just taken over an hour to settle her and quite frankly, I’d put her back where she came from if I could tonight (blame the teeth, always the teeth), but now that I have started this blog I feel pressure to keep it up. Deep breath, fire lit, glass of wine and here we go.
As it turns out, I basically had the gestation period of an elephant with Maggie. Yes, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but during those last 2 weeks of pregnancy, I honestly thought I was going to be preggo forever. After experiencing an early miscarriage in my previous pregnancy (see earlier post), I was approaching this one with apprehension and wanted to make sure I was as prepared as a Girl Guide (entirely inappropriate synonym to use in this context, but I can’t think of another one) for the birth of our child. Once we had our 12 week scan and our sticky Bean was all present and correct, it was all systems go.
Luckily, I had a relatively stress-free pregnancy in the most part, and didn’t have any morning sickness so was able to get on with work and growing this baby. The only wobble I had was when I fainted on the tube and it took 4 grown men to lift me off the floor. We booked some holidays and even managed a babymoon/honeymoon to Tulum (which I highly recommend and is perhaps worthy of a blog post at a later date).
We decided to tell only close friends and family that we were expecting and at 21 weeks when I could no longer hide my growing bump under a giant moo moo, we announced that we were expecting our daughter. We had our 20 week scan on my birthday and I have to admit, finding out we were having a girl was the best present ever. I remember going to TK Maxx the day after we found out for some coat hangers and coming back with an entire set of baby pink Sophie Conran crockery, which I blamed on my hormones and not my unhealthy obsession with pink – pink is now a permanent feature in every room of our house – poor Chris!
At the time I fell pregnant, we were living in Peckham so I was given my very own community midwife, Michelle, who visited me at home for our booking appointment. Community Midwives are like something from Call the Midwife/bygone days, whereby you get assigned your own midwife who will visit you at home throughout your pregnancy and will attend your birth unless something drastic happened. It was like we had won the lottery of midwifery care and I thanked our lucky stars that we had bought our apartment in SE15 some 2 years previous. It was at our booking that Michelle put forward the option of having a homebirth and by the end of her two-hour visit, we had made the decision that as long as everything was going well, we would have our daughter in an inflatable birthing pool, in the middle of our living room.
Telling our friends and family that we were planning a homebirth left them wondering if we had been smoking the herb and taken leave of all our senses, but after explaining our rationale and demonstrating that we were sound of mind, we had the support of our nearest and dearest. I remember reading a blog post by my uni pal Clemmie Telford, author of Mother of All Lists, about her homebirth and was completely won over by the prospect of having a pizza in bed after the event. I also recalled Clemmie’s birth story and how hypnobirthing had really helped her, so after exchanging some messages about how we needed Hollie de Cruz aka @theyesmummum in our lives, we were booked onto one of Hollie’s courses. Hollie has a unique ability to exude an air of calm and serenity when you are in her presence, and that, teamed with her expertise in hypnobirthing and an armory of information that the baby books don’t tell you, made attending her course one of the single best decisions we made in our pregnancy journey. Little did I know that her advice for going past your due date and the need to have an informed and calm birth partner would be the most invaluable learnings we would take from the course.
A month before our ‘due date’ and we were packing up our apartment in London for a move away from my beloved midwife towards the green and pleasant lands of Royal Tunbridge Wells. We needed a family home and couldn’t imagine ourselves lugging a buggy up and down 2 flights of stairs in the early years of motherhood. We signed up to an NCT group in our new town so that we would have 14 other ready-made parents-to-be friends when the time arrived. Transferring my maternity care to Pembury Hospital wasn’t so easy, and required a stern letter from Michelle (who happened to be a Supervisor of Midwives) to ensure my ongoing care. Thankfully, a homebirth was still on the cards, all being well, all we needed to do was wait and try not to stress out. I am a natural worrier and have an anxious disposition at the best of times, but had I known that Maggie had no immediate plans for eviction from her accommodation, I wouldn’t have panicked so much.
I threw myself into nesting with full force. Amazon Prime was my best friend and there wasn’t a home shop in town who didn’t know me by name. We met our gorgeous neighbours over the garden fence, and realised that Chris had attended the same uni course as James and that Charlie, his wife, was also expecting their second baby just a few weeks after me. Charlie had a homebirth with her first son and was preparing for a second homebirth so it felt like fate that we had such great and supportive friends just next door! Our due date was the first out of 8 couples on our NCT course and one by one, everyone else began to have their babies. 6 out of the 8 babies were born in the time we were waiting for our bundle of joy to make some sign that she was ready to come Earthside. At 38 weeks, Chris tested the birthing pool (bought unused from ebay), hung up fairy lights in our living room, put out all of our wedding pictures and set about making a birthing room bursting at the walls with Oxytocin vibes.
39 weeks passed and there was no sign of the little lady making an appearance, no Braxton Hicks, nada. I walked the soles off my shoes, bounced my way through 2 x birthing balls, inhaled countless vindaloos and tried every other ‘old wives tale’ at east once to try to bring on labour. I ate hundreds of pineapples and dates, a potent mixture, which did nothing but give me a dicky tummy. Our due date came and went, and I felt my hopes for a natural homebirth start to slip away. I had 4 x appointments with a local acupuncturist as my sister had one appointment in her preganancy and my nephew was born the next day. The practitioner talked at me non stop and told me she was concerned I was developing pre-eclampsia, proclaiming in a thick irish accent that ‘there was barely any definition between my calves and my feet’ despite me assuring her that I had always been a sufferer of cankles and thanks very much for making me feel even more rubbish about my body image. I was desperate to try anything at least once and had to keep reminding myself that full term is anything between 38 and 42 weeks. In hindsight, I should have taken Hollie’s advice and just said our due date was sometime in June as it was hard to avoid the daily messages from well-meaning friends asking if there was any sign of baby yet. I was starting to feel defeated when Charlie told me about an amazing Facebook page called ’10 month mamas’ – an incredible support group for mothers who carry their babies that little bit longer. I booked in for a reflexology session with an amazing lady called Olivia, who left me feeling like I was walking on air with no mention of my swollen legs or water retention. We decided to relax, listen to our Hypnobirthing relaxation MP3s turn off our phones, only look at positive birth stories and videos on YouTube and try and enjoy the time we had left as just Chris, the dog and I before our lives would change forever.
At 41 weeks, my new midwife popped off on holiday and whilst she was living la Vida loca on the Costa del Sol, the inevitable time came where we had to pay a visit to hospital to discuss my never-ending pregnancy with a consultant. It was a horrendous appointment and I was left feeling like I was risking my child being still-born for refusing to be induced. We made a compromise to go in for daily monitoring the next day and booked an induction date for 43 weeks (which I had no intention of attending). Maggie wasn’t even engaged yet so I knew she just wasn’t ready and would come in her own time. I was told that the likelihood of having a homebirth was zero to none, even though all of my monitoring was showing positive signs that all was well with the baby. I returned to the safety of my 10 month mama page and decided only to speak to people who had experienced going overdue themselves…
In the early hours of 21st June 2016 at 42 weeks plus 3 days, 17 days past my due date and under a full moon my Summer Solstice baby decided she was ready to get the show on the road, and the fun began! Turns out no one is pregnant forever after all – birth story in all its glory to follow…