After months of reading other women's birth stories online (and giving myself serious scares)... here is mine... warning - TMI.
The contractions started about 5 days before the due date. And continued for two days, with me timing each one on a Talk Timer app DH installed on my cellphone. We did the classic thing of going into hospital when the contractions seemed to be at the magic number of 5 min apart and 1 min long. But the midwives examined me and said I was only 1 cm dilated. They sent us home. A pity, I'd gotten a much nicer, bigger labour room and friendlier midwife that first visit. Two sleepless days and nights of me on all fours rocking side to side (as recommended in our antenatal classes) followed. Both DH and Mom (who was staying with us for the birth) took to napping fully dressed with socks on.
Now I realise I made a mistake by not eating very much (I was terrified of pooping on the delivery bed). So I was nibbling fruits and drinking juice. But that probably deprived the baby of the last surge of nutrients she'd get from her mom. And me of the huge store of energy I would need. Though I did pretty well, keeping on going through severe pain on no sleep.
I was convinced the second stage labour would start at an unearthly hour or when poor DH would decide to go into work and would have to rush headlong across London to get back... I needn't have worried. Our baby had done everything by the book so far. Being in the perfect position, perfect size all through the pregnancy. Her head "engaging" perfectly too. So obviously, she was going to be born at a perfectly convenient time for her parents as well. Around 8AM on a Friday the contractions became severe and the timing very close together. Along with the impending sense of it being about to happen, I woke DH and yelled for Mom to take me to hospital. I'd packed my hospital bag weeks ago and (of course) prepared in advance the matching nursing bra and nightdress and cardigan to wear through labour. Little did I know......
Off we drove to hospital again, me wincing and groaning at every bump in the road. As you'd expect, it would be a particularly busy morning and the labour ward's low-risk delivery suites were all busy. We waited in reception for a bit, me leaning on the walls. Finally we got a smaller room, hastily cleaned for us. I was 2cm dilated, confirmed the trainee widwife who stayed with us all through. For about 6 hours I was on the floor with my head in DH's lap still rocking side to side, yelling "Rub! Rub!" at him and Mom. Because the only thing helping with the intense pain was being massaged on my lower back. They handed me the Gas and Air contraption which I gulped and chewed on but which did not take the pain away. Or make me high, as it did DH when they asked him to "test" it. In the end, poor DH was as exhausted as I, having rubbed my back all through those hours.
I managed to gasp out a request for an Epidural, which they said I could have at 4cm or so. As it happened (or as always happens) things progressed too fast. You never stay at 4cm, do you? patiently waiting for them to find and wheel in the epidural, page the anesthetist etc? No, my baby was seriously making her way out and I went from 4 to 7 in no time. And, wouldn't you know it, the midwives all went for their lunch break when I felt the overwhelming urge to push. The trainee ran back in saying she could tell from the change in timbre of my screams that I was ready to push. But I was not 10cm yet, so they kept saying "don't push". I was quickly moved to the bed, sitting up, legs hanging down as they'd removed the bottom section of it.
The problem was my waters hadn't broken - later we realised my very full bladder was in the way. This probably made the final stage of labour much harder. So a specialist midwife had to be brought in to do a "sweep" i.e. rupture the membrane to break the waters. If not, the baby would have been born in the amniotic sac (which is known as being "born in a Caul" supposed to be good fortune). Things happened very fast after that. Both Mom and DH got excited when they could see the baby's head "crowning". It took three pushes, she kept emerging and then going back in. I was exhausted and dazed but the urgency in Mom's voice when she said I had got to get the baby out sunk in. So I made one massive effort, seemed I stopped breathing for ages (we push with our diaphragm much like babies do)... and she was out!
I have a very hazy recollection of the last few minutes after labour and pushing, what with a lot of people yelling and all the excitement. I was quite zonked, after the shock and effort. So I don't know if I asked or if they told me "It's a girl". I could just see them lifting up a tiny purple bundle of arms and legs. So tiny. I felt a sudden fear, why is she purple, is she alright, oh god was she stuck for too long etc.
Until they weighed and examined her and all said she was lovely. Later I saw her APGAR scores were very high.