Born beneath the Christmas tree: a birth story



This photo was taken about 10 days before my due date which was December 18th. At this time we weren’t sure if she would come before Christmas, at Christmas or after Christmas.

Jess & bump

The calm before the storm

It’s 4am on Saturday the 21st December 2013. I am now three days overdue. I awake to some mild discomfort, and, thinking it was probably due to something I ate, I get up and go downstairs to get a glass of water and ‘sit it out’ without disturbing Jim.

After about an hour I start to think perhaps the ‘mild discomfort’ is becoming slightly more regular, so I roughly time the pains. Right, yes, they do seem to be quite regular, I say to myself.

At about 6am I go back upstairs and wake Jim to tell him “we’re probably going to have a baby today”. He asks “what shall I do?” I instruct him to download a contraction timing app for his phone whilst I go and take a shower. I was due to wash my hair that day anyway so I went ahead and did that as planned.

I get dressed and go down for breakfast – toast with peanut butter and jam – I am pretty sure I only ate a small corner as the pain had begun to actually feel painful. I had my ‘show’ so decided it would be a good time to call the midwife at RBH. She was lovely and explained calmly about first time labours being long and drawn out, and advised me to take a couple of paracetamol for the pain and have a warm bath.

It’s about 9am now, and Jim dutifully runs me a bath, but as soon as I get in my contractions go off the scale. Panicked, Jim rings the midwife back who tells us to get in the car and come to the hospital right away. Bear in mind, the RBH is at least a 30 minute drive away, and it’s in the centre of Reading on a busy Saturday before Christmas…

Well, after quite a struggle I manage to get my clothes back on, but am beginning to go into an altered state of consciousness, and have an incredible pressure between my legs, causing me to panic about how exactly I am going to sit in a car…

An unexpected home birth

Jim is desperately trying to bundle me out of the front door when  my waters break on the living room floor and from then I just have to push. Poor Jim, who is nervous and indecisive at the best of times, rings the midwife back, again, who instructs him to phone an ambulance.

The ambulance crew have him running all over the house locating things (we never found out what the safety pins were for…) whilst I am lying on my aerobic mat on the living room floor, with a backdrop of fairy lights and Christmas presents, pushing our baby out!

The ambulance crew arrive pretty swiftly at about 9:50am, just in time to deliver baby girl Eliot who arrived at 10:12am. Unfortunately the cord snapped, decorating me and the surrounding area. Luckily I wasn’t the one who did the cleaning up!

Not very glamorous, but this is me with Rosalie about 4 minutes after she was born.

Jess & Rosalie

The midwife arrived in time to deliver the placenta and stitch me up – which was loads worse than the actual birth. Everything is a little hazy as I had some gas and air for this bit and it made me feel quite light headed.

Our Baby Girl

The midwife didn’t seem particularly prepared for an emergency home birth, so somehow we have two birth weights recorded for Rosalie – we think she was born weighing 6lb14oz.

Daddy was a complete star, doing her first few nappies, locating her clothes and cuddling her whilst I was being ‘seen to’.

Jim & Rosalie

Unfortunately, I didn’t get an opportunity to try and feed her until 1pm. It didn’t go very well. When the midwife returned at about 5pm to check on us she said baby girl was too cold and we had to take her to A&E. I cried, and cried and begged the midwife to let us stay at home; having had baby girl at home the last thing I wanted to do was sit in a car (or anywhere… sitting down was… uncomfortable, to put it mildly).

An uncomfortable evening

So, at 7pm on a cold, wet, dark December evening, just nine hours after giving birth, we are wrapping Rosalie in layers, strapping her into her car seat for the first time, and heading to the hospital. An uncomfortable 30 minutes later we pull up to A&E.

When we arrive they take her temperature and listen to her heartbeat. She looks so tiny laying on the big A&E bed. The staff keep asking me if I want to sit down. I haven’t eaten anything since the corner of toast at breakfast so the nurse fetches me a sandwich and some fruit. I try to feed Rosalie again, but I can’t seem to get myself into a comfortable sitting position or her in the correct position, no matter how many times people say “nose to nipple”.

After about four hours of waiting in A&E I get wheeled on a bed up to the pediatrics ward (not the post-natal ward) where I am given a side room. Jim can’t stay so he leaves us with the promise of his early return in the morning.

Honestly, I feel awful; I am in so much pain, I don’t know what I’m doing, I can’t sleep for fear of something happening to my baby girl, so I just lie there on my side, staring into her cot, listening to her every breath.

Various people come in during the night, nurses taking her temperature, the breast feeding support lady with her knitted boob. The morning comes, we have made it through the night, and, having slept in the world’s hottest room, baby girl is now a little too warm! So on with the fans.

We both get checked over, and after a ‘successful’ breastfeed, a shower and a surprisingly ok hospital Sunday lunch, we are free to go home and be a family.

Rosalie at 6 hours old

And now the real fun begins!

{Our camera was packed in the hospital bag, which was in the car, hence the terrible quality of these photos – something I shall always be a little bit sad about}