I was woken by the sudden gush of fluid as my waters broke. It was 2:46am – the time that Jessica had died. It felt significant that they had broken at this time; a reminder that Jessica was still with us somehow. Sophie was asleep at the bottom end of our bed but hubby’s side was empty. He was still at work. I phoned him to tell him he needed to come home straight away.
I wasn’t yet contracting. Had Peanut been head down, I would have felt comfortable to wait for labour to start or until a sensible time in the morning to call Andy, my midwife. However, I had no experience of what to expect with baby being breech. I decided it would be best to call her. We agreed that she would come over and assess.
By the time Andy arrived, Sophie had woken up and come downstairs to join us. She quite enjoyed helping Andy to listen to Peanut’s heartbeat and check me over. Andy confirmed what I already knew – Peanut was still breech. We discussed what was likely to happen during birth and Andy showed me some photos of breech birth. She told me that the latent stage of labour could be a little longer with a breech baby but that active labour was often a little quicker. I was starting to have infrequent contractions. It was still early days. We agreed that Andy would go home. I would call when the contractions became more regular or if I had any concerns.
I spent most of the day pottering around the house, trying to rest when I could. My mum and twin sister came up at lunchtime and shortly after their arrival the contractions started to get a little more regular. Still mild and about 6-7 minutes apart. I called Andy again to update her. I knew it was still early on, but I was aware that she was an hour away.
Andy came back and had another listen to Peanut’s heart and checked my obs. We had agreed that I wouldn’t have any internal examinations unless absolutely necessary due to potential risk of infection with the waters having gone. Based on the contractions though this was still the latent phase of labour. Andy went off for a sleep in my spare room so she would be on hand when needed.
In the meantime, we had a phone call from the coroner’s office to let us know that the results from Jessica’s post-mortem were in. Of all the days to finally get them! Unfortunately for us they still didn’t really explain why Jessica died so suddenly. Her cause of death has been given as a congenital heart defect, with viral infections and liver changes being contributing factors. Getting the results made me very emotional. I had one of my moments of wondering once again if I’d asked the right questions, if I could have done more, whether I’d failed Jessica. Now that we had the results, we could register Jessica’s death. We would also be registering Peanut’s birth although if all stayed well for our home birth, we would need to register the two in different places.
Once I felt calmer again, hubby went out to get a hose for filling the birth pool and a van from work so he could clear out the dining room and set the pool up.
My contractions went off again with hubby gone. I felt like my body was waiting for everyone I needed to be ready before things got going. Hubby returned with the van and started emptying the dining room and setting up the pool.
Kathryn, the second midwife arrived a short time later and Andy woke up. The contractions were still infrequent so they headed into the village to have dinner and give me some space so I wasn’t feeling like a watched pot.
By the time hubby had finished filling the pool the contractions were getting stronger. They were still quite spaced out. I was keen to get in the pool though, remembering the relief that the warm water had brought during my labour with Sophie.
It was starting to get dark when Andy and Kathryn returned. The contractions were definitely getting stronger now. My mum had given Sophie her dinner and got her ready for bed. Sophie came over to the pool for a cuddle. She suddenly got very upset and started sobbing that she missed Jessica. I knew she needed my attention. I had to stop and focus on the contractions when they came but did my best to comfort Sophie in between, as did hubby.
Once Sophie was calmer, Mum was able to persuade her to go to bed with the promise that she could take the iPad and have five minutes playing a game before it was time to sleep.
With Sophie upstairs, the contractions started to become much stronger and more frequent. I was managing to breathe through them but wanted gas and air on hand. I wasn’t sure I would have the mental strength to get through without it for much longer.
Things were starting to get overwhelming. I was starting to feel a bit scared about having to birth Peanut. I wanted the gas and air now; wanted that feeling of being slightly drunk and disconnected from the contractions.
I could feel the pressure start to build in my bottom and thought I’d better get out of the pool after the next contraction. Then the next contraction hit and I was suddenly overwhelmed with its intensity. I was breathing on the gas and air, drifting off into a dreamlike state, feeling baby move down, unable to stop the urge to push. It felt like it went on forever. A brief moment of relief – I thought I must have pushed baby out into the water. Then I heard one of the midwives telling me that baby was coming; that I had to get out the pool. I was dimly aware of being helped out as the next contraction hit and the urge to push overwhelmed me once more.
The midwives tried to get me to move into the lounge where there was more space. I couldn’t move anywhere, I just had to get down on my hands and knees right there and keep pushing. I could feel baby moving down, could feel that baby was partway out. The midwives were encouraging me to keep pushing. I heard Andy say that she needed to help his arms out, could feel her moving him to do so. I immediately registered the “he”.
“It’s a boy. I knew it would be a bloody boy!” I muttered.
The first part of the baby’s body that everyone else had seen appear as I pushed the baby out had made it quite clear that he was a boy! My sister took some amazing photos which I found fascinating to look at afterwards.
I heard Andy saying something about helping baby’s head to flex and felt her prodding, manouvering the baby.
“Just get this baby out of me!” I heard myself say.
A huge push and then relief as the baby was finally born.
As soon as the baby was born and that relief hit me that he was here, the grief that Jessica wasn’t hit hard too. I was aware that the midwives were using a bag and mask to help get baby breathing but in that moment all I could think of was Jessica. I couldn’t stop crying and I could hear hubby crying too. I knew that his tears weren’t the same as the tears he shed as Jessica and Sophie arrived; that there was heartbreak in those tears too.
I could hear the midwives telling me to talk to my baby.
“Hello baby. Hello Thomas. Oh please be okay Thomas. Hello Thomas.” I kept repeating over and over.
I could hear little gurgles and new baby noises as baby Thomas started to respond. I think the midwives were trying to see if I was able to move and look at him, but another contraction hit and I was too focused on trying to push the placenta out.
The placenta came quickly much to my relief. Hubby held Thomas while the midwives helped me to the sofa and I was finally able to hold my son for the first time. He was beautiful. Tiny just like Jessica had been and he looked so much like her too. The rush of love that I feared wouldn’t come was there. I kept kissing his little head, looking at his beautiful little face.
Hubby brought Sophie downstairs but she was quite sleepy. She did have a look at her brother and say “baby!” before she then fell asleep next to me on the sofa.
The tea and toast that the midwives brought me tasted amazing as they always do! The afterpains were brutal though – so much stronger than they had been after Sophie’s birth. Paracetamol didn’t seem to help much but the TENS machine brought some relief.
Thomas was weighed – 5lb 13oz – 3oz heavier than Jessica’s birth weight. Andy checked me over and I was relieved that I didn’t need any stitches. I tried to latch Thomas to the breast but he wasn’t interested. As he was small and had needed a bit of help to start breathing, I agreed to express colostrum to make sure he had some as soon as possible. My mum and twin sister enjoyed their cuddles with Thomas while I expressed colostrum into a syringe for him. It brought back memories of all the time I spent expressing when Jessica was a newborn on PICU.
Hubby had emptied and deflated the pool by this time. I had a shower and got into bed to enjoy some snuggles with Thomas and Sophie before we all managed to settle down and get a little bit of sleep after a very long and eventful day.
I was so pleased that I’d had the home birth I’d wanted. I couldn’t quite believe that I’d managed to have a breech birth at home but was so glad that I had done so. Knowing that I had experienced midwives had given me that confidence to go for it. I knew I was in safe hands. As with Sophie’s birth, they were completely unobtrusive. They were there supporting and assisting when I needed them and completely in the background when I didn’t. It was just how I wanted it to be – with one big exception of course. My beautiful big girl wasn’t there and although Thomas’s arrival brought such joy, it was very much mixed with the heartbreak of missing Jessica. We had crossed the bridge into a new phase of family life that took us another step further from our life with Jessica.
One thing I was sure of now though. This little man of mine was every bit as much my child as his big sister and my heart was full of love for him. His arrival took nothing from my love for Jessica or her place in our family. We were a family of five. Jessica was still a part of us all and I would make sure that Thomas would know both his big sisters even though he wouldn’t physically meet his biggest one. He was the brother than she had wanted and she would have absolutely adored him.