The canonical story of Imogen’s birth

Now we have visitors popping in, i notice the story of the eventful day is shifting a little with each telling. So, before we forget completely, here it is how it happened – from my point of view, obviously.


Sun 22 July
2.30 am
Claire wakes with the strongest braxton-hicks yet, and they seem to be in a rhythm. I come downstairs and time it. We hum and ha, but they don’t seem strong enough and start to fade so we go back to bed about 4.
6 am
They’re back, but stronger. We give it half an hour, call the hospital and they say we should get going. John and Anne kindly take Leo, and we are off. In the car, Claire worries it’s a false alarm.
and from here on in the timings are all ish
9 am
Hooked up to the monitors, histories taken and all that, the shift changes and we do it all again. But by 9.00 they suggest that it has started, she’s 3cm dilated and we should take a walk to relax and get them going stronger. So, off to Starbucks, a leafy walk and then Carluccio’s for lunch. All the time Claire is feeling that they may be fading, and that it’s a false alarm. Leo sounds fine when we check in, so we decide to stay. I’m trying to stay positive and so is Claire, but it doesn’t now feel any different from all the other days of strong morning contractions that then fade during the day.
2.30 pm
We go back into the hospital, to the ward for the ante-natal complication where we wait to be seen. Then wait some more. Then debate going home. Then wait. Then have a machine brought in to monitor that doesn’t work [jammed paper]. A daft goat of a nurse pokes it for ages saying ‘i don’t know what’s wrong with it’ until i get cross and tell her to go and get a different one. The second one gets a paper jam. It’s about 5pm now – and Claire has had enough. We’ve stayed in based on our fears, and their advice, that since it could be quick, we shouldn’t go anywhere. But Claire doesn’t describe anything different, nor look different, to me, than she did on previous days.
5pm
They won’t let us go before examining again; and the same daft goat does so and pronounces Claire 4-5 cm dilates. So we prepare to decamp to the birthing suite.
6.30pm
We arrive and get settled. It’s lovely, and the midwife is great – really calm. She’s encouraging, and Claire starts to feel positive again. But the contractions get no stronger, nor more frequent. At 7.45, we’re up for shift change and they raise breaking the waters to give it a ‘kick start’
8.30 pm
After a bit with the new midwife, we agree to break the waters. This is the slope towards ever-greater intervention but we don’t seem to have a choice at this point. If we can’t go home for fear that it progresses quickly, and we can’t continue like this because claire will be knackered when it finally happens, then this is the only option. They send me off to eat; i have the quickest pasta and espresso i think i’ve ever managed across the road.
10.00 pm
It is done, there are waters everywhere. Claire feels a bit more uncomfortable but no change in the contractions. And here a student midwife put the fear in her – saying the there were potential complications to do with the baby’s head not being cushioned by water as it was squeezed. She then told Claire to focus on the positive that this ‘probably won’t happen’. I told her to be quiet, and tried to reassure Claire. But the contractions slowed. When the midwife proper came back in, we mentioned it to her. She was dismissive with a ‘pah’ and a shake of the head. But i’m sure the student is in trouble.
I’m awed by how Claire calmed herself after this. I was hopping mad – Claire just spent 15 minutes doing nothing but breathing through her nose in soft steady rhythm.
11.30 pm
There’s no change in the contractions, and something will need to be done. The +2hr check will be at 12.00, but it seems more intervention will be needed. As we feared, we are now on the rocky path of steadily greater intervention. The midwife suggests oxytocin drip – not the crashing wave that kickstarts it at an induction but just a ‘top up’ to accelerate what Claire’s naturally got.
12.00
The midwife checks, and the goes to get to doctor for a second opinion. The obstetrician comes in, examines Claire and then tells us possibly the worst news. ‘This isn’t the cervix of a woman in true labour,’ she says. ‘This dilation and thickness is consistent with readiness for labour in a second pregnancy.’ In other words, we should have been sent home. The goat at 5pm, and then the two midwives since, took an over-positive view.
But of course, since we have started, we can’t go back. Oxytocin drip will be needed. So we start the walk to the main labour suites as they can’t do the drip here. I’m not sure why but i suspect it’s to do with proximity to the emergency surgery room…
12.40 am
We arrive and the midwives are setting the drip up. Claire goes for the most momentous wee of her life.
12.50 am
Claire comes back and gets hooked up the the monitor. The suddenly grabs the back of the bed and sort of scream…mooos. She demands gas and air, i dash into the corridor and call for some help. They are a little sceptical but then hear Claire’s next one come in and are in quick sharp. After about ten minutes she says she want to push. She’s still standing, giggling from the gas between the screaming. The midwife looks up and … here we go.
1.26 am
Imogen arrives, and is passed up to Claire via her belly. ‘My beautiful girl’, she says.
Then it’s a haze of gazing and cooing – she feeds a little after about half an hour.
I’d felt so worried about the second baby – would it feel as momentous, would the love surge up as with Leo? Yes. No doubts at all – i was smitten on the spot.
But my dominant feeling was for Claire. It was like she’d flicked a switch. At that moment when it started proper, nothing had changed except her determination not to have the drip. And she just hunkered down, screamed and did it. But she was present too – she was obeying all the instructions so she didn’t tear. I am amazed that she can do this – the mental strength let alone the physical. She is truly remarkable and I am very lucky.

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