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Our birth story – third time’s a charm

Of all our pregnancies, we’d never felt so prepared. This was to be our third (and final) baby, three and a half years since our last, and we’d been ready and waiting for weeks.

You see, Teddy (our first) had surprised us by arriving a month early, on the first day of my wife Rosie’s maternity leave. It was a big shock. We weren’t prepared; mentally or otherwise. And his hospital birth, while amazing, ended up nothing like our birth plan. So, for every pregnancy since, we’ve made it our mission to be 100% ready at least four weeks before our due date.

Our second son, Hugh, came just a few days early, arriving at home in the middle of the night while Teddy slept soundly upstairs, completely unaware. But with baby number three…well, let’s just say they were clearly in no rush.

When our due date came and went, we hunkered down, preparing for a long wait. I was already avoiding going into the office, working from home to help with the school and nursery drop offs and just generally be on high alert for D-Day.

After our last home birth for Hugh went so well, we were excited to do it again for one last time.

Over the last few months and weeks, we’d met all the community midwives from the Surrey Home Birth team, and all was well with Rosie and the baby. Our rented birth pool had arrived, with all the necessary attachments present and correct (I’d triple checked). I’d completed my birth pool dry run, inflating it, testing the hose worked properly and, crucially, checking it would connect to our kitchen taps (unlike last time!).

And we’d bought a load of tarpaulins to protect the sofa and carpets, and some old sheets, duvets, and towels from the charity shop to make our birthing space (the kids’ playroom) look less like a crime scene.

We had isotonic energy drinks chilling in the fridge, to keep Rosie’s energy levels up during the labour (when Teddy was born, I left them at home by mistake in our rush to get to hospital, which was a big mistake!).

Two Spotify playlists were ready to go, to keep Rosie as relaxed as possible throughout.

Snacks for the midwives had been hidden from the kids.

And the Grandparents were all set to jump in and look after the boys as soon as Rosie went into labour.

Having practised hypnobirthing for our first two, we’d had a refresher course at home with the brilliant Laura – a doula and hypnobirthing specialist – which had given Rosie the confidence boost she needed in the third trimester.

We’d even prearranged for Rosie’s placenta to be hand collected after the birth to be encapsulated (turned into pills) for Rosie to take later. We’d heard from lots of reliable sources that they help to reduce baby blues, aid milk production and support healing post birth. Plus, and most importantly for Rosie, she hoped they could help with the unbearable after pains she had experienced with Hugh. They were horrendous, so anything was worth a try!

We were ready.

It turns out, we didn’t have to wait long.

Two days after our due date, Rosie nudged me awake at around 5:30am. She’d been to the bathroom for her third pee of the night (standard at this stage of pregnancy), when she saw her ‘show’.

“Today’s the day! Shall we call the midwife”, she said. 

As excited as we were, we figured it was way too early (as her contractions hadn’t even started yet) so planned to go back to sleep / get as much rest as possible while we still could.

Needless to say, I nodded straight off, assuming Rosie would too. Unbeknownst to me, of course Rosie couldn’t sleep and ended up going downstairs to potter before the boys woke up and finish the ironing (her go-to activity during labour, it turns out). Meanwhile, there I was…snoring upstairs…none-the-wiser.

By the time it came to take the boys to school and nursery, Rosie’s contractions had started. They seemed manageable and she was coping really well (by which I mean she was still doing laundry!). So, with her blessing, I took the boys to drop-off with their overnight bags in tow.

We didn’t want to worry them, so told them they were going for a sleepover at Granny’s house – the same story we told their school and nursery teachers just in case it was a false alarm (and to avoid all the other parents getting overexcited). Dropping the boys off, I felt a strange mix of:

  • anxiety (keen to get back home ASAP to set up our birthing room);
  • excitement (that we’re finally going to meet our new arrival); and
  • guilt (knowing that our boys’ lives were never going to be the same again).

But time was of the essence so I gave them both a big hug, ran to the car and sped home as fast as my old banger would allow.

When I got back, Rosie hadn’t been taking it easy, as I’d hoped. Instead, she had emptied the entire playroom of toys (she couldn’t sit still) so I could set up the pool. Her contractions continued but were still irregular and manageable, so she finally went upstairs to relax whilst I got to work.

Like with Hugh, we planned on having this baby at home in the kids’ playroom, just off our kitchen. I lay down the tarpaulins and waterproof dust covers on the floor and sofa, before covering them in our second-hand sheets, towels and duvets to make as comfortable a birthing nest as possible for Rosie. Just as I practised, I then inflated the birth pool in record time, placing Rosie’s birthing ball in the corner of the room ready for when she’d come down later.

The next few hours were nothing like the last two pregnancies. Rather than worrying about what was to come, we both had the loveliest morning together; lying on our bed together looking through old photos and watching our much-loved wedding video (to give Rosie the oxytocin boost she needed to reach the next stage), chatting while tracking Rosie’s surges on our trusty contraction app. They slowly increased in regularity and intensity, but Rosie (somehow) was managing them like an absolute trooper.  She even had a chat with her sister and ate a bit of lunch.

It wasn’t until around 1:30pm that we next called the midwife. Rosie’s surges were stronger and around three minutes apart, so we knew she was progressing fast. At this stage, I hate leaving Rosie alone, but I had to get the pool filled and the water to the right temperature. So, I rushed downstairs to connect the hose to our kitchen tap and start the painfully slow process of filling up the pool. It took about 45 minutes, including a mild panic halfway through when our water tank ran out of hot water, meaning I needed to top it up with saucepans and kettles of boiling water! But we got there in the end, and I helped Rosie downstairs just before 2:30pm in between surges.

We called the midwife again with an update, and she said she had one more appointment to do locally, so would be with us in an hour or so. While the surges were intensifying, Rosie was happy with that timeframe (and therefore so was I). We put her calming Spotify playlist on our Google Home – two hours of yoga-style Indian melodies – and cranked the diffuser up to the max, with a mix of Clary Sage and lavender essential oils to create a calming atmosphere for her.

Rosie needed a pee, so I helped her to the bathroom and rushed back to check the water temperature in the pool.

Suddenly I heard a scream. Emptying her bladder had made space in her uterus for the baby to drop down and, suddenly, Rosie felt like the baby was coming…and fast! She was in too much pain to walk back into the playroom. So, she put all of her weight on me and I part-walked/part-dragged her onto the sofa. I called the midwife straight back and said, “You’d better come now!”

With our last home birth, Rosie had waited until the last possible moment to get into the birth pool, but she knew it was time. The water, I’m told, is an amazing anaesthetic – the most effective way of naturally relieving pain – creating buoyancy around the bump, soothing labour pains and instantly relaxing the mother. As I carefully lifted Rosie into the pool, I immediately saw on her face the difference that the water made. As Rosie breathed her way through each surge, I massaged her back, telling her she was doing so well and how it wouldn’t be long until she’d have our new baby in her arms.

Thankfully our midwife took note of the urgency in my voice when we last spoke and, by 3pm, she’d let herself in and was set up in our kitchen (like a knight in nurse’s uniform), checking Rosie over. With Rosie in the pool, she used her ultrasound under water to check the baby’s heart rate and all was well. Mostly, I was just relieved I wouldn’t have to deliver this baby myself.

I don’t know whether it was the relief of knowing that we finally had backup, or what, but at this point everything seemed to slow down. Rosie lay in the pool, with her head in her hands, telling us that nothing was happening. The surges continued like clockwork, but weren’t getting more powerful, and I could see Rosie was getting increasingly worried this was going to be a long, drawn-out labour.

The midwife and I reassured her that everything was progressing as it should, and it had only been a couple of hours since her surges had really intensified. Plus, she was further along at this stage than she had been with Teddy and Hugh (both very fast births themselves) so we had a hunch that the finish line was in sight.

And thankfully, we were right. Within half an hour, Rosie surges were getting faster, stronger, and more intense. Rosie was focussed and calm, using her hypnobirthing techniques, kneeling in the pool and rotating her hips in the water to help the baby come down. Such strength, you wouldn’t believe, with not even paracetamol to take the edge off. There’s a reason why women are the ones who have the babies – they’re so much stronger than us…

I remembered at this point that Rosie had wanted to film the birth to watch back later. Don’t ask me why, but she loves a bit of gore. And, as strange as it may sound to want to film such a personal thing, it is also a beautiful moment that is very hard to remember once it is over. So, in between surges, I frantically tried to balance our camera on a kitchen chair pointed in her general direction. But I couldn’t get the bloody thing working before having to rush back to Rosie’s side to comfort her during each surge, which were now coming thick and fast. Eventually I abandoned the whole idea entirely to be by Rosie’s side, as the midwife guided her through the final stages of active labour.

Suddenly Rosie felt the inescapable urge to push. The midwife put her hand under water and, to our surprise given Rosie’s earlier worries, said she could feel the top of our baby’s head! This was it.

This baby wasn’t hanging around. In less than a minute, the head appeared underwater and literally moments later, during the final surge, our water baby was born. Rosie carefully guided our new baby through her legs and lifted the little white bundle out of the water and onto her chest. Rosie really was nothing short of incredible. She did it!

The baby’s cries started quickly, to everyone’s relief, as Rosie lay back in the pool hugging this perfect little creature that she’d grown inside her for the last nine months. We hadn’t found out in advance whether we were having a boy or a girl. Rosie always says it’s the last real surprise you have in life, so never had the urge to find out, and we’d asked the midwife beforehand not to say the gender of the baby at birth, so we could see for ourselves when the time was right. After two boys, we were all set to have another, but we were both secretly hoping to have a daughter. In the moment though, we didn’t even think to check; just overjoyed to have brought this new life into the world.

It wasn’t until the midwife asked what we’d had that we snapped back to reality, lifting our little baby out of the water to see…

A girl! Rosie immediately burst into happy tears and I’m not ashamed to say I did too. We couldn’t believe it. Our family was complete. We’d been dreaming about her for so long and she’d finally arrived.

“Do you have a name?”

We hadn’t settled on a name before today, but I knew Rosie had a clear favourite. After the incredible strength, resilience, and bravery she’d shown over the past few hours (and past nine months), there was no way I wasn’t going to let Rosie have her choice of name…

“Bonnie Elizabeth”, we said.

10 fingers, 10 toes, weighing in at nine pounds, two ounces. Just perfect in every way.

And for more advice on pregnancy, birth and parenthood, my new book YOU THE DADDY: The Hands-on Dad’s Guide to Fatherhood, is OUT NOW to buy.

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