Our second daughter entered the world very differently to the way that her older sister did, but it was every bit just as wonderful to welcome her into our lives. Due to the difference between my two birth stories, I decided to share my experience with you - to show you there is no such thing as, 'normal'.
I had literally less than a full days notice that I would be going in to hospital for an induction. Although I wasn't surprised, the lack of notice was not great.
Luckily my friend was able to book the day off work on the day of my induction to look after R, and I was able to book her into nursery for a full instead of half session for the following day. Once the child care was sorted, it was simply a matter of going in and having my baby. Or so I thought, anyway.
The pessary was put in at 10:40am and by 11am I was showing signs of the labour advancing. I was in agony, I was contracting hard and as time went on, it got worse. Despite all signs pointing towards things progressing, however, I remained only 3cm dilated.
Eventually, a couple of hours after putting it in, they took the pessary out. Things had moved along too quickly, yet I wasn't dilating. They hoped that the contractions would continue and things would naturally progress.
That night, everything kicked up a notch. The pains were getting worse, and closer together. They encouraged me to have a bath, and put on the special lights (which made me feel like I was at a disco!) to help create a calm atmosphere.
After getting out of the bath, I began to pace the corridor, and was able to time the contractions by one round up and back again. Then I felt like I needed to push. When they checked however, I was still only 3cm dilated. They told me to ignore the urges I was having, and insisted I return to the bed.
The midwife decided the best course of action was to break my waters, something that she told me would be painful and difficult to do because of where my cervix was currently sitting. She tried anyway - twice. It was highly unpleasant, and the worst thing was that she couldn't do it. She disappeared off to find a doctor to try instead but by the time she returned with him, my waters (ironically) went on their own!
The pains worsened after that. The paracetamol they had been giving me was no longer even vaguely taking the edge off, so they gave me codeine, then oramorph, and later, I had pethidine to boot.
Things continued to progress, and they moved me to a delivery room. Here I had one on one care from a midwife and a student midwife; and John came to spend the night - in the hopes that something was about to happen.
It was a long night for both of us. However I didn't have the luxury of falling asleep like my husband did.
I spent the entire night moving around, bouncing on the gym ball, doing squats (which weirdly was the most comfortable I had been since the whole experience began!) and walking around the room.
Eventually, as nothing was happening, they decided to put me on the drip. They asked if I wanted the anaesthetist to come and administer an epidural, as most women cannot cope with the intensity of labour pains caused by the drip, but I refused. Once the drip began, they gave me six hours to get into established labour before they would have to intervene.
It was not pleasant. In fact, it was the worst experience of my life. Especially as nothing seemed to be happening. John had to go home and sort our daughter out for nursery, so he left to do so and promised to return once she was safely dropped off.
Four and a half hours after the drip had started, I could no longer cope with the pain. It was excruciating. I asked for another pethidine dose, but due to the amount of morpheme products I had already had at this point, they couldn't. So I did the thing I had always said I wouldn't - I asked for an epidural. They had already spoken to the anaesthetist and had her on standby (for over four hours!) because they were sure I wouldn't last as long as I had. I was in tears; a mixture of the pain and feeling as though I had failed because I had asked for one. I was surprised that every person who entered the room remarked on how amazing it was that I had lasted as long as I had without asking for one. Everyone thought I was some kind of hero (or sadist I'm not sure which!)
Being told to sit still when you are suffering from PGP and hip issues, and you have someone grabbing your hips and shoving them about while poking your back, and you have intense contractions to boot, is certainly not an easy instruction to abide by.
Somehow I managed; and the epidural was inserted, and shortly after, a wave of relief took over my body. I was exhausted and was slipping in and out of consciousness; barely realising that John had come back or that midwives and staff were coming and going.
A little while later, I could feel the urge to push. Surprised that I could feel it with the epidural, the midwives checked, and I was indeed ready.
Holding on to John's hand, I pushed with every urge, and eventually I was handed my tiny baby.
She was beautiful. Covered in vernix, and complete with a head full of hair, she was absolutely perfect.
John captured this raw, real moment - and I am so happy he did. Usually I wouldn't be one to share photos like this. Yet here it is. That first photo. I finally had my baby in my arms - I was exhausted, and sweating but I was happy, and she was safely in my arms.
There is nothing more special than that moment when you hold your baby for the first time. However for me, I think it was closely matched by seeing my husband hold our daughter for the first time. I was so glad that this time, he was there to share in the whole experience.
Unlike with R, they were happy with everything. As soon as my legs were back in action post-epidural, I'd had a decent long pee, a shower, and shown that I was confident with breastfeeding and changing my baby they said I could go home.
Knowing that we were going to be able to go home the same day was so exciting - so the first outfit our little girl wore was her 'going home' outfit.
My next favourite moment of that day - after holding my new baby for the first time and sharing my birth experience with my husband - was seeing R's reaction to her new baby sister.
She absolutely dotes on her baby sister, even now! She has been amazing, joining in everything and constantly wanting cuddles!
I may have felt rough around the edges - and I'm pretty sure I didn't look anywhere near perfect - but we of course had to have obligatory photos with our girls. The first of many!
This birth story could not have been any different to my first, from the length of time, to the level of pain relief that I had.
I wouldn't change a thing, however! This birth story is another that I will never forget, and one that - although hard - was worth it, because it brought our beautiful rainbow baby into the world!