Ok so it was 3:30pm on Monday May 13th. I'd just got back from my walk and my contractions had just started to ramp up a notch....ok, a good few notches. I'd gone from wondering if it was the real thing to suddenly panicking that I couldn't get my mum on the phone and trying to hide my pain from the kids who were still running around the lounge playing. I could see the look of knowledge on Steve's face who, having seen this twice before knew exactly what was happening, and knew it was for real this time. A glance at Emily, who had just instructed Adam to come back, showed a mixture of panic, excitement and nerves. My Mum arrived in record time and her face showed both relief and concern. The kids were brilliant and although I could tell they knew something was going on, they were taking it all in their stride as usual. I finally got through to the hospital at 4:30pm and by this time contractions were coming thick and fast at only 3 minutes apart! We were told to come straight in.
After waiting what seemed like an age in the Labour ward triage waiting room (and feeling somewhat like a goldfish with people watching me breathing through each contraction) we were called through to the birthing pool suite for examination at 5:20pm.
5cm!!!!! Hurrah!!!! We were half way there. Although I had a feeling things were closer than everybody was expecting things to be.
Adam arrived at 5:45pm and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Both Mummy and Daddy would see their little girl come into the world.
The birthing pool was filled and in the mean time Steve helped me get undressed and in to my tankini top. I was literally having to pause for breath every minute or two as the contractions just didn't seem to stop at times. The TENS, although still very effective, just wasn't quite cutting it and it had to come off for me to get in the water anyway so I opted for some gas and air to be ready for me. I made it in to the pool before needing my first gasp which offered some welcome relief and I instantly felt better prepared to manage what was to come. I got in at 6:10pm and Steve had already joked that he was setting the timer for half an hour as this is how long I was in the pool before my daughter made a speedy unexpected appearance (I was 5cm on this occasion too), so after the next contraction when I informed the midwife I was feeling a lot of pressure I think both he and I knew that it wasn't going to be long, although she wasn't as sure.
On the next contraction as expected the uncontrollable and fully spontaneous urge to push arrived.
When I had my first child, I remember getting a mild pushing urge but after examination was told I wasn't ready and to resist it. When I said I wasn't sure I'd be able to her reply was 'if you are truly ready to push then nothing I say or you can do will stop you'. I never truly understood that until the birth of my second when that urge truly arrived, very unexpectedly and I did try and stop it. Three pushes later I had my daughter in my arms.
So here it was again, that spontaneous urge that for me brings a welcome relief. This is my favourite part of labour (yes I know i'm nuts) as it signifies the beginning of the end and I cope with this far better than I do any amount of contractions. I could feel LMHH getting closer to the world and fully trusted my body to do what it needed to. The midwife still wasn't convinced and mid contraction announced a changeover. The new midwife left the room and I heard somebody say 'she can't be ready to push yet' and somebody else reply 'she could be, it is her third baby'.
From here things are a bit of a blur as there was very little break between each contraction. Little Miss Hitchhiker was ready, and no amount of doubting midwives were going to stop her from meeting her parents. I frantically signalled for Emily to get properly into the pool and carried on pushing. I later found out that Steve had gone out to tell the midwife he could see baby's head crowning (he later found out she hadn't believed him) and on the next push baby's head was out. The pushing was pretty continuous but I heard the midwife reassuring Emily that baby was still in her waters and it was the membranes she could see around her head, On the last push I felt the waters go and LMHH arrived at 6:32pm, just 22 minutes after getting in to the pool and recorded second stage/pushing time being 4 minutes!!
It never ceases to amaze me how all the pain just stops when a baby is born. The relief flooded in and I opened my eyes to a teeny purpley bundle being handed to her Mummy. A 'how did that happen' moment washed over me and I allowed myself a few moments just to look around and take everything in. Emily's face came first and the pure emotion in her expression, that look I'd been focusing on for all this time, through the whole journey was finally in front of me. Adam's next, equally emotional and lost for words with a smile that beamed at me. Then Steve, my rock throughout the whole journey (and I have to add, a pro at the whole birth partner thing). His face was a proud one, and the look he gave me still chokes me up to think of it now.
We opted for a physiological third stage and so Mummy, baby and I huddled together in the water while we waited for the cord to stop pulsating. It all felt very surreal. We'd been waiting so long for this moment, yet with the week we'd all had it was hard to believe it wasn't all a dream. I had my first cuddles in the water and it was soon time to cut the cord, which could only be a job for Daddy.
This was an unexpected emotional bit for me and the tears poured out watching the final physical tie connecting me to LMHH be cut. It was still a happy emotion and one, if I'm honest, I find really hard to explain. I had another cuddle and said a little goodbye and officially handed baby back to her proud parents for good. The beaming grins that didn't leave their faces all evening (and possibly never will), the love in their eyes for the little girl they thought they might never have. and the ecstatic squeals of excitement down the phone from the family who were all awaiting news will forever make this journey worthwhile.
Was it emotional? Of course! I bawled by eyes out for a whole evening after Em, Adam and LMHH left our house. Cue a worried Steve and my Mum. Part of getting past that was telling myself it's blooming normal to be emotional, birth is a pretty huge deal, hormones are flying everywhere and the little wriggle bum that had been keeping me up with all night parties and heartburn for the last few months had just left the building and of course I was going to miss her. The previous days events seemed like a total blur and I'd had around 3 hours sleep in nearly 48 hours. The one thing that held me together though was knowing that two of my best friends had just gone home to properly start their journey into parenthood, and I helped them get there.
I spent the evening reflecting on everything with Steve, going over Monday out loud, hearing bits from him I'd missed (being slightly preoccupied and all that). By the next morning after a good nights sleep and a gorgeous early morning cuddles photograph from Em I was back to myself and feeling on cloud nine about it all and each day has got better and better.
I'm recovering well and quickly, things are slowly getting back to normal at home with the kids and each time I get a picture through from Em my heart melts for them all a tiny bit more.
I was hugely overwhelmed by the messages of not only thanks but support I got over the few days following the birth. Also by how much our journey has touched everyone who has known about it, some of whom are complete strangers. I've spent the whole journey being surprised by how much of a big deal everybody has found surrogacy to be and it is only now I've realised just how much people are affected by it.
It's only really hit me in the last day or so how far we've really come since those first few 'getting to know you' months and early Teamie trips and I think I can now tell myself I'm allowed to be proud.
I did a good thing.