It was the New Year 2021, day 1 – January 1st.
We’d stayed up to a reasonable lateness to see in the New Year with friends from church on zoom, and so naturally, as a single couple, we’d slept in [together]. Starting the day late meant we ended the day late too, and we’re only getting ready for bed around 1:30am. As I waiting for my turn in the bathroom, all of a sudden I felt a small release of water. Soon I was in the bathroom and we had confirmation that my waters had indeed broken.
Though exciting, as we then knew that our little one was on their way, it was also stressful as we were not ready at all! First we called my brother to let him and my parents know. Then, over the next couple hours, I proceeded to make up the Moses basket and finish organising the nappy change station, before we decided to try and get some sleep… Even though I wasn’t able to due to the infrequent contractions that then happened over the next 3 hours.
The next day Saturday 2nd January, we watched and waited, expecting my contractions to progress to labour, and miraculously managed to find and hire a home water birthing pool after the one we intended to use was trapped behind lockdown tier lines. I also phoned our NCT course leader around advise and began communications with midwife friends of ours. The latter strongly encouraged us to call KGH – we had delayed calling KGH, as we knew that contractions would follow the waters breaking, and that they would tell us to stay at home anyway. So at about 10pm we called KGH, and they then sent out the on call community midwife to assess me.
When midwife Sarah arrived she checked me over, discovered that I was only 1cm dilated.
She then phoned up the Delivery Ward at Kettering General Hospital and had a conversation with them about what would be the next step. As it was almost 24 hours after my waters broke, those in the hospital wanted to check me over and monitor the baby, so we agreed to go in to KGH the next day. Midwife Sarah then left and we headed to bed.
Sunday 3rd January
That morning we had a leisurely woke up and we got our “hospital bags” ready – mine, David’s and baby’s – just in case God brought our little one along while we were there. We went via KFC and ordered a burger for lunch which we ate in the car on our way to the hospital.
In the hospital we were taken to a room on a maternity ward. There I was strapped up and baby and I were monitored. We were both found to be well and healthy, with good blood pressure and everything normal. We then had to wait to speak to the lead doctor on duty that weekend… as the hours ticked by, we realised that there really were many lockdown babies being born! Eventually – after enjoying the evening meal ordered by the previous room occupant – we had a visit from a lovely “Listen-to-Me Advocate”. This lovely lady came to hear what we were wanting to happen, and then seek to enable that to happen if at all possible. We explained that we wanted a natural induction and a home water birth. She explained all the different possibilities and options as well as the risks and precautions involved. The outcome was that the hospital were willing (not happy) to let us go home and wait, and we were happy to monitor how things were going – I agreed to take my temperature every 4 hours and be attentive to how my body and baby were acting. When we were eventually allowed to leave, they told us the doctor on duty really wanted to speak to us before we left. We went and met with her and we could tell that she was really very reticent to let us go home and wait. In the end I agreed to also take antibiotics as a precautionary measure, and that we would come back in in the morning for another monitoring. Then we could leave!!
Monday 4th January
We went into the hospital on Monday morning and had a lovely monitoring session as a friend midwife Clare was on duty. She looked after us and it was lovely to catch up with her after not seeing her for the past year. We also had another friend midwife Victoria come visit us and just catch up with us in some off time of hers. All was well with baby and me, and we were allowed to go home by mid-afternoon!
The rest of the day was very relaxed having time together and time getting a few gifts sorted.
Tuesday 5th January
This would’ve been my last day at school today before my maternity leave started, but with the school lockdown announced the night before, my stand-in Headteacher (normal Headteacher resigned at the end of December, very sadly) told me to do the hours working from home instead – which I was very thankful for.
I was woken up this morning with a call from the ‘Safe Sleep Consultants’. Ordinarily it would have been an in-person visit, but due to CV19, they were all being held on the phone. We also finally had our Home Birth Assessment today – after calling both teams up yesterday and leaving a voicemail explaining that our baby was imminently on their way, they both quickly got round to us. A community midwife came round (ours was on her annual leave as of New Years Day!) and brought the all important box of home-birth equipment. She checked us out and was all happy with what she saw – ticking us off and saying that we would be fine for that.
As we also didn’t have to go into hospital today, it was quite a relaxed day. I was however feeling really pressured and a bit down with various messages telling me that I should cave-in and get an induction. In the evening we had a lovely skype call with my parents and my brother [who lives with them], where we prayed together and they shared Scriptures with us that they felt were for us to encourage us in our faith that God would bring our baby out naturally. That was a really lovely, blessed time, and I felt really built up and strengthened in our approach and decision to wait.
Wednesday 6th January
We had another monitoring at the hospital this morning, and David wasn’t welcome to come in with me. This monitoring was on the Foetal Health ward and all went uneventfully, apart from not needing to have brought in all the bags I did. I was in and out in the quickest amount of time so far! Only one and a half hours!!
The rest of the day was filled with some relaxing on the couch as well as getting all the Christmas decorations all packed away and stored back up in the loft. I felt very satisfied having accomplished that.
It took some time to get comfy enough to sleep, but I managed to, and fell asleep.
Thursday 7th January
I was woken this morning at around 3:15 with contractions!! Even though they kept me awake for a while (can’t remember if I fell asleep again), I was so excited that they had started, as it meant that our baby was on their way and I wouldn’t need an induction!! They were ‘mild’ and quite spaced apart, so I just carried on with my day like normal.
I got out of bed after 8am and got ready for the day. Most of the day I spent resting in the lounge and reading more of my DK Pregnancy books that I’d bought. One thing I did do was finish making and then baking the cinnamon rolls that we had started last night. They turned out really well, and later that afternoon I made an “essential delivery” of them to a friend who needed a pick-me-up. I also made time to finish my ‘New Year’s Eve’ reflections on 2020 – taking time to remember with thanks, all the good things God brought into our lives that year, and looking forward in prayer to what might be on the cards for the new year 2021.
At about 5:30 I decided to start tracking my contractions as they were increasing in frequency and pressure. However, they stayed close to around 10minutes apart for the rest of the evening – though some were minimal while others were harder and longer (up to over a minute)
David and I then had dessert & dinner and a date night – cuddled up on the couch watching “Faith like Potatoes”. That film itself was another encouragement to me that this baby had been dedicated to Father God and prayed for before conception and all throughout our pregnancy. It reminded me that God is a good Father who gives good gifts, and that I had nothing to be worried or afraid of, because God was with us.
I continued tracking my contractions up until we “went to bed” close to 11:30. David thankfully fell asleep fairly soon after getting into bed, but I was kept awake by the contractions.
Friday 8th January
I got out of bed around half twelve to use the loo and have a drink, and again at 2am. I was pretty tired by this point, however, I am thankful for being a night time person, as I have gotten through 48 hours in the past without sleeping, due to university work or [more recently] preparing for teaching in school the next day.
At 3:15 I was up again, but by this point I was a bit fed up of being the only one awake and wanted company as things felt like they were moving along further. Thankfully for me, the squeaky bathroom door hinge roused David on my way back to the bedroom and so we had a chat in bed. We decided to call the delivery suite at Kettering General Hospital. We explained who we were and what was happening, but because I could still speak on the phone during the call despite having several contractions, she felt I should stay home further and call again at 6am to see where we were at, and then they would contact the Community Midwives if they felt I was progressing through labour by that point.
After hanging up, we worked out I’d had 4 contractions in that 9min phone call, and from what we had read, that meant it was time to fill up the birthing pool. Wonderful David got on with that, while I worked on staying comfortable, and I phoned my dad and updated my family on skype so they could be praying for us. At this point I also started recording how long my contractions were lasting for as well as how frequently they were coming.
I wasn’t feeling hungry so I didn’t have breakfast, despite last having eaten when I had a snack at 3:15am. I decided to have a shower close to 11am as those at KGH hadn’t recommended getting into the pool yet, and that was nice, though it didn’t cause the contractions to slow down. I felt like it was taking an age – I had really been hoping and praying for a super quick delivery, and by this point it was already 24hrs after my contractions started early Thursday morning. My contractions were still fluctuating and not coming the typical 3-4 contractions within 10minutes, even though they were between 30seconds and 2minutes long.
By 2pm I was really fed up of not being allowed to get into the pool, so after consulting a midwife friend of mine, I just got in and also had paracetamol to help. As it had been a while since the pool was filled, the water had cooled down a bit, so David then got the hose set up again in order to top it up with fresh hot water from the tap – which I enjoyed as it heated up the water.
After getting in, we again phoned up the delivery suite at KGH to inform them that I had gotten into the pool. That kind of rattled them awake, and they called the Community Midwife on call, H.
I don’t remember when H arrived, but she arrived within half an hour I reckon. After coming in and going through the initial questions, H asked me to go and lie down on the couch so she could check how far along I was. To her surprise I was already 8-9cm dilated, so she let me get straight back in the pool and she called for her second back-up midwife to come out straight away. H then got herself sorted as very fast as she could, including accessing the “home-birth box” for what she needed. It must’ve been sometime around quarter-past / half-past 3 when she managed to retrieve the gas and air from her car, but by this point I was not interested in it.
David was my lifeline. He was great at running and getting things that were needed and answering H’s questions, but from probably around 3:30 when the contractions started intensifying so much that I stopped taking note of when they came and how long they lasted, he stayed right next to me. He never let go of my hand, no matter how hard I squeezed it through a contraction. I held tight onto one of his fingers as I knew that by doing that I wouldn’t end up squeezing two fingers painfully together, and he also supported my arm with his other hand.
In amongst this time H followed protocol and regularly checked in on our baby to see how their heart beat was to make sure they were still happy. Unfortunately she didn’t have a waterproof sonar device, so that meant that when a contraction faded, I would have to stand up and she would do her best to identify and check the heartbeat before the next contraction came and I slid back into the water. Midwife M also arrived at some point, and that was a relief to me as I felt sorry for H who had been rushing around like crazy trying to get everything done and ready in time. That meant that H could come to the poolside and hold my other hand through the contractions.
I remember the contractions feeling like a huge amount of pressure, but there was also pain involved and not simple muscle contractions similar to other muscles. The pain was manageable though, thankfully.
- I remember H telling me how to breath through the contractions to try and slow them down.
- I remember getting to a point where all I could do during a contraction was just to pray in tongues out loud.
- I remember H telling me how to get into a better position for the baby to come.
- I remember H saying that the baby’s head was just there.
- I remember H pointing baby’s head out to David so he could see it.
- I remember the feeling of having baby’s head out and ‘stuck’ between my legs and knowing that probably in the next contraction I would give birth to my baby.
- I remember the slippery rush of delivering our precious little baby and all of a sudden being handed a red covered with white tiny little person – our baby! Born exactly at 4pm on Friday 8th January 2021.
- I remember one of the midwives asking if we had a boy or a girl, and lifting baby up and looking for a couple seconds before recognising what we had.
- I remember holding our precious baby girl saying hello Sarah Elizabeth!
- I remember gazing at her grumpy, white vernix covered little face and being utterly amazed that this complete and perfect little girl was ours!
- I remember trying to carefully hold this tiny little girls by her chest and tiny arms and keep her close to me as well as mostly submerged in the pool in order to keep her warm.
- I remember the odd sensation of the umbilical cord still connecting her and me together.
We stayed in the water for a good while, even though it only felt like a few moments. David was right behind / next to me on the other side of the pool wall, with one arm on the pool edge around me, and the other holding Sarah’s tiny little hand. One of the midwives offered to take a photo of us, and she took a fantastic on of us three, with me and David having the biggest smiles on our faces. David also took some close-up photos of Sarah and me as we sat in the water.
Some time later, one of the midwives took Sarah so that David could cut the cord. I remember them clamping Sarah’s end of the umbilical cord carefully, and then with another pair of fancy scissor clips, clamping my end of the umbilical cord. David was then given the scissors and he did the honours of separating Sarah from my body to become her own independent person! Sarah was then wrapped up in a blanket we had on hand and gave her to David for him to have some cuddles.
I meanwhile stayed in the water as I was hoping to deliver my placenta naturally, however – for whatever reason – I wasn’t feeling any contractions and nothing particular seemed to be happening. After about an hour I was feeling ready to come out; I felt similar to how I felt after running a long-distance race in high school – shaky and weak, like I needed to sit down on something solid and eat something filled with sugar & carbs. So the midwives gave me a shot of [oxytocin or whatever it is] to stimulate my placenta to detach. With lots of support from the two midwives, I made my way to our couch so that they could carefully work with my body to remove the placenta, which came away properly and whole.
I was then able to sit up, dry off, put some clothes on, and was given a drink and one of our cinnamon rolls to eat. The midwives were debating whether to stitch me up at home or not, and so called KGH to ask for an Ambulance transfer, and unexpectedly the first paramedic in a car arrived within about five minutes with a two-man crew actual ambulance crew arriving shortly after! They were lovely – the paramedic in the car headed off after a little while, and the other two stayed around – enjoying seeing such a tiny newborn baby and describing how much one of them in particular was still waiting to get her “delivered a baby from start to finish” badge.
Meanwhile Sarah had been taken by the midwives to do their initial measurements of her weight, head circumference and etc [including unfortunately having her vernix mostly rubbed off]. David was then given the honour of dressing Sarah in her first set of clothes – a little pale green sleepsuit with white hearts on it, loaned to us from a friend. David then put a cardigan on her (all of these much to big for her tiny 2.76kg frame) and put the tiny & probably exhausted little lady into the car seat.
I was then transferred onto the ambulance stretcher, with my cinnamon roll – half eaten as that was all I could manage – held in my hand.
Midwife H came with me and Sarah in the ambulance and we said goodbye to David, who had to travel by himself to the hospital.
When we arrived at KGH I was wheeled into the delivery suite and Sarah and I were deposited in our own water-birthing room – not that we needed it now! David arrived shortly afterwards with my extra bags and things, and we were given some time to be together the three of us. H came in after about half and hour and helped me and Sarah begin our breastfeeding journey. H then said goodbye and headed home after finishing off her paperwork, and another midwife attended us. She presented herself as an older, more experienced midwife, and I felt quite comfortable having my stitching left in her hands. She was very good and said that the tear I had was the best kind of tear it could have possibly been, if there was a tear. I was then invited to have a shower, which I did, even though I still was feeling quite weak from not really eating all day. We three were kindly given a good couple hours together in that room, before they called it at 10pm and we got ourselves all sorted and Sarah and I headed upstairs to the postnatal ward while David headed home.
I walked very gingerly up to the ward, holding my belly the whole way there as it just felt so wobbly and weird – like the muscles there weren’t holding any of the organs in place at all. I was shown to a bed on a mini ward of 4 beds, with only one other bed occupied. Sarah had been wheeled up in a hospital basinet and I then pottered around getting a few bits out and getting sorted, including plugging in my phone charger. After getting sorted I said hello to the lady opposite and then just rested in bed while Sarah rested in hers.
I woke up with a start at about 4:30 – I had a baby! Did she need feeding? What do I do now? My eyes went straight to where Sarah was lying in her basinet, all swaddled up. She was awake – looking around with big wide eyes, but not crying or complaining at all. So I got up, went to the loo, tried to get comfortable, read my devotions and sent probably a good 20-40 more texts.
I realised with confusion, that I wasn’t experiencing the overwhelming love and adoration of my newborn, as well as a deep desire to protect her, that I had heard happens to new mums. That surprised me, as I’d not really heard of anything other that the extremes – overwhelming love or baby blues / post-natal depression. I am so thankful that by this point I had built up a habit of taking my concerns to the Lord, so I started praying for Father God to fill my heart with agape love for Sarah – our precious little bundle of joy.
A bit later a nurse came to me and checked up on how I was doing and inquiring as to how I was finding nursing and how Sarah was. I had been watching Sarah and looking for her to display feeding ques, which is what I had understood to be what to do. However, Sarah – being a typical newborn – was tired from birth, too tired to even ask for food. When I then tried to feed her and found her not really interested in latching on, I started to get worried. Thankfully, Father God sent a lovely, experienced midwife along to help me deal with this burgeoning issue. She helped me express some colostrum into a syringe and when we had a decent amount by her judgement, I then held Sarah and the nurse carefully injected small amounts into Sarah’s mouth – effectively force feeding her. In their experience, if babies haven’t gotten into a nursing habit while they are hours old, then their body doesn’t really know that it needs to keep asking for food. However, if they are force fed a little bit of milk, then that starts triggering the baby’s hunger, and they can then learn to latch on, which did happen to Sarah. After that, every hour I would offer Sarah milk and try to get her to drink some, even if it was just a few sucks. The midwife explained to me about how newborns feed, which I don’t feel had been properly described to me before. By God’s grace Sarah did start breastfeeding from then on. I had been praying that Sarah would be able to suckle well, and by God’s grace – after a little while of trying different positions and enduring a bit of pain – Sarah and I were able to create a working breastfeeding partnership. We didn’t know at the time, but Sarah actually had a moderate tongue tie, which affected her as it took her longer to get all the milk she needed and meant that she’d aften fall asleep nursing as it took her so long to get enough milk to satisfy her hunger.
Later on that morning the audiologist and the paediatric doctor arrived to check all the babies that were due to leave today, and as we weren’t sure, they checked us over as well. Sarah did well on her doc assessment, but one of her ears was still a bit gunky from birth, so we were booked to come back in around 2 weeks’ time to check her ear again. (She passed that with flying colours.)
David arrived shortly after visiting times opened at 2pm. We weren’t sure if we would be allowed to leave today – as we were there being monitored to see if either of us had caught any infection, so we just relaxed, and David got cuddles with Sarah. We received very welcome news at around 4pm, that we were going to be allowed to leave today, however she knew the paperwork would take a while. At about half 5 – after my fellow ward-mate had already left – we inquired to find out if we would be able to leave before visiting hours closed at 6pm, and were told that she was still working through the paperwork. After that we just stayed in our ward, even after 6pm, and as not many people came in and out of there, David just stayed with me. We were ready to leave at about 6:30 – and double checked that we could go…however we were a little premature still, so we went back to the ward to wait for what turned out to be another mere half an hour. Then we got the all clear to go, so David pushed the shopping trolley filled with our hospital bags and Sarah in her car seat, while I focused on just walking with my weird post-birth body. A quick 10 minute drive later and we were back home!
Lots has happened since then.
David was furloughed all of January, so we were able to have a good month getting used to the new ways life was working. During that time, Sarah was a bit slow to get back to her birth weight, probably due to her tongue tie, but we succeeded. We were also very blessed to get to have check-ups by almost all the midwives who attended us at some point (pregnancy, after the waters broke, and during birth). Midwife H who delivered Sarah noticed her tongue tie closer to day 20, and started the referral process, which resulted in her having a very successful tongue tie operation at the end of March. That produced almost immediate results, and we are so thankful to Father God for enabling that to happen and cause such marked improvements. In February David started working part-time hours, and though that was really good as it indicates the company he works for is still staying afloat, it meant adjusting again. Thankfully he was working from home and so could still help out where he felt able.
My parents became our lockdown support bubble, and after a week or two, they started coming to visit us for the day most weekends, which was really lovely. After two months of that, it was our turn, and we went and visited them for the day, and then went and stayed over night with them so that we could join them for a Messianic Passover Seder. David’s parents also came and visited when they could. As they’re not our support bubble and have been more cautious regarding the lockdown, they’ve only seen Sarah through our big dining room window so far, but they’re looking forward to when they feel secure to have cuddles with her.