Being on the other side of Labour

I don’t know if many of us get to experience being on the other side of child birth. Watching someone you love go through something you have also gone through really is quite an experience, a moment, a memory that changes your life forever. I’m lucky to say that I witnessed the birth of my best friends baby boy and it’s something that will always stay with me.

I wake up to a whatsapp from my bestie that she sent at 0530 saying that she’s been in pain since 1am and hasn’t slept at all. ‘It’s like strong period pains belly and lower back.’ I got super excited and was like OH MY GOD yes it’s going to happen, today!!! I told her to get her boyfriend on stopwatch duty straight away to track each contraction.

She is also Portuguese, and we used to work in Lisbon together. We weren’t really friends in Lisbon but then she moved to London a few months after I did and we pretty much became besties straight away. Her family are all in Lisbon and although she has her boyfriends family, she was pretty much adopted by mine. She calls my dad Baba just like I call him too and he loves his additional daughter very much. All of my brothers and sisters have at least one friend that is treated like an ‘adopted’ extra sibling to us.

Her due date was Sunday 8th of April and just a week before I’d been with her and joked saying ‘MJ’s due date was also on a Sunday, but she was born on a Thursday. How funny would it be if your baby was born on a Thursday instead of a Sunday too?!’ And it looked like my joke was becoming a reality. They way she was describing her contractions, I was confident it would be on the Thursday.

We had once mentioned about me being her second birthing partner when she was around six months pregnant or so and she seemed to like the idea, but she would then always change her mind to be honest. So for me it was kind of a if it happens it happens, if it doesn’t then it just doesn’t and I was fine with that.

I have always found labour to be a pretty fascinating thing and well I mean that’s because it is. So to be able to part of something like that for me, would be incredible. I’m one of those people that loves to watch ‘One Born Every Minute.’ I watched it all during pregnancy and even now with the bubba and each episodes amazes me. My boyfriend finds it weird as to how much I love watching it.

I had gone to Rhythm and Rhyme in the morning and then went to a pub nearby that had a gorgeous garden to soak in the sun with some other mums. I kept telling them how my best friend was about to have her baby and that I was just patiently waiting for a message from her telling me she wanted me to come. I wasn’t actually patiently waiting, as I kept looking at my phone every minute.

She got to the hospital at around 1430ish and sent me a voicenote saying that she was doing good and that I didn’t need to come. She’d let me know once her bubba would be out and then I would go and visit her. So I automatically relaxed. I was back home when she sent me the message and so I knew I didn’t have to worry about expressing any milk or get anything ready for MJ if I’d leave. But my relaxation mode lasted for about five minutes.

Five minutes later her boyfriend sends me a voicenote and said ‘Yeah, hi Naimah, urm yeah she wants you here kind of like now please.’ I was like what? Now? Omg! Where do I start? So I let him know ‘Ok no worries, let me get things organised and I’ll be as soon as possible.’

I called my sister straight away and told her she needed to come over asap to look after MJ. She had just sat down in a beer garden with her fresh pint. ‘You better just down it and hurry on over because I need to get to the hospital!’

I’d got MJ’s food ready for dinner, fed her so she wouldn’t be so hungry and was expressing from the other boob whilst feeding her. I was ready to go, and my sister was taking her sweet time.

Once she finally turned up, I knew I would have to leave without MJ realising I was going as I had no idea how long I was going to be away for. I ran to the train station to get the next train which I thankfully made but my god did I get out of breath too easily. Hate that I’m this unfit, it’s crazy, but anyway. It was a direct train to Waterloo and I was at the hospital by 1630.

I went to the delivery suite her boyfriend had told me but she wasn’t there. She had already been moved in to a room with a pool, as she wanted a water birth.

She was in the corner of the room leaning against the bean bag, holding on tightly to gas and air.

‘Hi babe, I’m here.’ She put her hand in the air to signal a hello, but I understood that she couldn’t really talk. It was so hot in London that day and so my gosh the hospital seemed like a sauna. Their a/c wasn’t working very well, so you can imagine how we all were, in a small room with a tub filled with hot water, a woman in labour and three people staring at her.

When she had got to the hospital she was 4cm dilated. During her time against the bean bag, any time either myself or her boyfriend would talk she would put her hand up signalling us to shut up. Looking back at it and any time I tell the story, I can’t stop laughing, because it’s so typical of her, but also having been in that position I completely get her. Any time anyone apart from your midwife speaks your just like ‘hush your mouth please, you are not permitted to talk whilst I am in pain.’

She got into the pool around 1715. Before she got in I had asked the midwife if she thought the temperature of the water wasn’t too hot. She put the thermometer in and had told me it was at the temperature it should be. During my labour, when I had attempted going into the pool, I had to come out after a short while because the water was too hot and it wasn’t settling me. As soon as she got in, she said the water was too hot and we turned on the cold tap to cool it down a bit. I could see the midwife was like oh, you were right, but I only said it because it was a boiling hot day, the room had basically no working a/c and also because I just know my bestie.

As soon as she got in to the pool, I basically took on midwifery duties in regards to telling her what to do. I made myself take control of the gas and air and only let her have it when she was having a contraction and not between them.

When she was still on the bean bag, she kept telling the midwife she couldn’t do it anymore, she just wanted the baby to come out and that she wanted an epidural. I kept telling her how amazing she was doing and that she wouldn’t need it. The midwife was also telling her that it would be a long process to get an epidural at that point as they would need to find a room, find an anesthetist and that getting it wouldn’t help the baby come out any faster. Once in the pool she kept saying how tired she was, asked for an epidural, for a c-section, anything to just get the baby out. I know we all know how she felt.

I kept telling her when to breath and to take deep natural breaths in between contractions. I let her squeeze my arm as hard as she wanted to each time a contraction would come. At one point though, she squeezed it so hard I thought the contraceptive implant I have in my arm was going to burst out, but it was ok because it was all for a good cause. Her boyfriend was holding her up from outside of the pool and she would sometimes lean back to have her head laying on him. Her eyes were closed for most of the time, and she would glare them open when a contraction was about to come, which was my queue to give her gas and air.

At around 1730 or so I’d asked the midwife and what time would she be checking to see how far along she is, just to see how she was doing. ‘Only at 8pm.’ All of our eyes popped out and we were like what? why? why only at 8pm? She couldn’t handle hearing that and you could see how exhausted she was. I knew I just had to keep her motivated by telling her how amazing she was doing. Which was no lie at all. I kept telling her how I was screaming the place down in pain and she was going through the contractions like a proper trooper.

I would signal to her boyfriend that she would need to drink some water or need some water on her lips as they were so dry. We made a pretty good tag team to be fair.

The controlling of her breathing, of the gas and air and the keeping her motivated just by saying positive things to her and letting her know how well she was doing seemed to sort of come quite naturally to me. I think once you have been through a pretty ‘straight forward’ labour, you sort of know the ins and outs. I think it just made me confident in being able to guide and support her. Of course the midwife is there for that but having someone you know, who is close to you and that has been through it, makes the world of a difference.

The midwife not long after says that she can see some bubbles and was like ‘Yep, I can see a head about to come through.’ Oh my god what?? Not long ago was she saying that she was only going to be examined again at 8pm and now the baby is coming??

I kept telling her again when to push and then I just saw the babies head already out. Tears came to me straight away but I needed to concentrate. ‘You can do this, your baby is here, he’s here already! Just one more push and we get to meet him.’ It took a while for next contraction to come for her to push and I got a bit worried that his head was just there under water for what seemed like an eternity, but the midwives were not reacting to it so I knew it was all good. And then, just like that, she belted out a huge scream and her bubba was out. We were all in tears and he was put straight on her for skin on skin, whilst he was still trying to catch his breath as he’d swallowed some water. He was covered with a towel to keep him warm whilst he was on his mama. I sent a voicenote to everyone straight away and it’s literally me in tears saying ‘He’s here, he’s gorgeous, he was born at 1830’.

Can you believe it 1830?! She got to the hospital at 1430 at 4cm and four hours later her baby was born. It was the most beautiful and smoothest birth I’ve ever seen. Taking into account all the ones I’ve seen on One Born Every Minute. I kept telling her and I do tell everyone, her birth as a first time mum was so amazing. I was envious of how beautiful it was and if she would go on OBEM I’m sure many others would be too.

She wanted to be out the pool to give birth to her placenta, so her boyfriend helped her out the pool whilst I held her little bubba, my nephew. I couldn’t believe I was holding a baby that was only a few minutes old. Oh my god all the memories it brought back to me. The newborn smell is like a drug to get high on honestly! I was like please can I have another baby like, right now.

I stayed with her to continue my support to her when needing to push out the placenta. Little bubba was with daddy now. The midwife checked her for any tears after she was done and can you believe, she didn’t tear. I mean it’s what I was saying earlier, everyone would be envious of this woman: first time mum has gorgeous water birth, only had four hours in the hospital til her healthy baby came and did not tear at all, I mean come on!

We went to her room where she had a gorgeous view overlooking the Houses of Parliament and I walked baby over as her boyfriend pushed her in the wheelchair back to the room.

I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I had just witnessed child birth from a completely different perspective. Not only that, but my first experience like this was with my best friend. I was so proud of her, of how well she’d done, when she kept doubting herself. She was also so thankful I was there. She does say that she couldn’t have done it without me, which even though I know she could’ve, it’s still lovely to hear.

I stayed until around 9pm and then rushed home to my little munchkin who had not had a fun time with her aunties and grandmother. My mum and other sister went round to look after her too, but there was a strong crying attack at one point and it killed me to get home, see her asleep but still sniffing. Poor munchkin, but it was for a good thing, so I didn’t like myself get upset about it.

The entire experience just made me realise how much I loved being a part of child birth. I think it made me realise I had a passion for something I had never contemplated before.

Midwives are absolutely extraordinary and I genuinely respect their work so much. Dealing with women shouting at you is not easy. But it really made me think about if I could ever turn this passion into a reality. The world doula came straight into my head.

I have researched about how to become a doula and really think I will go ahead with it. At the moment I don’t feel like this is the right time for it, but it’s something I don’t want to give up on achieving on day.

If anyone has any tips or advice on how to become a doula, please dm me!

Baby Noah was born on 5.4.18 weighing 3.03kg.

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