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I spent the whole pregnancy telling my DP and myself that the baby would be born on the 29th of January, 10 days after the due date I was given at my 12 week scan. Just like my three year old son. But I changed my tune in the last month or so, reasoning that second babies come earlier than first babies. We learned that they don't necessarily come earlier, but they do come a lot faster.

For the week or so leading up to my due date, I would have mild, but more than Braxton Hicks contractions if I was walking anywhere briskly. Nothing so serious I had to stop walking, and I was so thankful that this pregnancy hadn't been hampered by the pelvis pain I had in my first pregnancy. I could walk briskly if I felt so inclined. I gave up riding the bus as much as possible and walked everywhere I could.

I also had a handful of middle of the night/early morning bouts of contractions, which would wake me at 3 or 4 or 5 and keep my thinking about them for 30 minutes or an hour. But nothing that continued into the day.

On the 28th of January, I walked to my midwife appointment (not quite a mile and a half in 25 minutes or so), where I was greeted with, "In France, you'd only be two days late." My midwife was very relaxed about the baby being overdue, given that I was healthy and feeling well and the baby also doing great. She drew blood to check my platelet level for what would be the last time and decided against a stretch and sweep, me feeling inclined against irritating the baby out. We agreed that if I made it to the next Tuesday (when I would be 42 weeks), she would come see me at home to do one.

DP and I had lunch (gigantic burgers in a pub - the first meat we'd had in the two weeks my vegetarian sister had been staying with us!) and I walked to get my DS from preschool (almost three miles in about 50 minutes). Plenty of contractions on this walk, but nothing to indicate serious labor and certainly nothing that continued once I stopped walking.

Friday, the 29th, we had invited my parents to come from London (where they were patiently playing tourist while giving us some space and waiting for the baby to arrive) for lunch. That morning, my hematologist emailed to say my platelet count was 66, low but still above the minimum safe level of 50 we had agreed for a home birth. I took DS to school on the bus (but our walk to bus stop was conducted with him on my back for three quarters of the way) and walked home (not quite two miles and featuring a stop for pineapples). Stronger contractions on this walk, but again they stopped when I wasn't walking.

Around 11 or so that morning, I noticed a bit of bleeding/show. Relief. Those contractions were doing something! The baby would come! Eventually. It was 36 hours between show and serious labor with my DS, and then I was in labor for the better part of an entire day. I tried not to get too excited.

We walked to lunch with my parents, where I had the spiciest pizza on offer, and walked home again. This time the contractions continued. About as painful as period cramps, and located only in the lower third or so of my abdomen, so they didn't feel serious. They weren't serious enough to keep me from making tea and chatting with my family, but I did need to sit on my ball and rock a bit. We invited my parents to stay for dinner, and by about 5 o'clock I was having the same type of contraction every four or five minutes. I could talk through them, keep chopping vegetables through them, as long I was rocking on the ball or stretching against the counter in the kitchen.

I decided to call the midwives office, to let them know I was probably in early labor before they all went home for the night, so the midwife on overnight duty would know we might need her later. It was about 5 in the afternoon then, and by 'later' I was thinking midnight or 3 or 5 in the morning. The midwife who was coming on shift for home births at 9pm was Paula, one of the midwives who had attended my DS's birth. A nice coincidence, and a relief that the one midwife in the team who I absolutely did not want attending the birth was not on call.

By the time dinner was ready, the contractions, which were feeling like sharp cramps, were coming every three to four minutes, as timed by blanching greens. The same through dinner (with a big glass of pinot noir for me), putting DS to bed, saying goodbye to my parents. DS wanted me to lay down with him for a bit and I had to say no. I was coming around the idea that labor was going to get serious, mostly gauged by the fact that a big glass of wine hadn't slowed things down at all.

I ran a bath while DP and my sister tidied up the living room, where we would be setting up the birth pool. Contractions kept coming in the bath, and I could tell the baby was lower because of the uncomfortable pressure on my tailbone if I tried to lay down. Through contractions, which were still only feeling like period pains, I did a bit of breathing and a bit of singing, "It's your birthday soon, little baby!" I shaved my legs and thought about having my sister come sit with me so we could paint my fingernails between contractions while DP got the pool put together. Towards the end of my time in the bath, I had a strong contraction that had me rolled onto my left side, trying to immerse as much of myself in the water as possible without putting any pressure on my sacrum or tailbone. DP came in the bathroom in the midst of this, and I remember saying, "I'll be with you in a minute." I got out of the bath, asked him to bring my 'mum to be' cream and to start setting up the pool, creamed up, and got dressed again.

That last contraction in the bath had brought me around to the idea that the labor was very real. I had felt that the baby's head was only about two knuckles 'deep' but I had also felt plenty of cervix stretched out around the head - effaced but nowhere near fully dilated. I knew from my first labor and our hot water system that it would be another two or more hours before I could get in the pool. I think I thought I would spend the next few hours relaxing in bed. The contraction I had between the bathroom and bed was strong enough that I needed to kneel over the edge of the bed before I got in it to lay down.

Moments after settling myself on my left side with a pillow between my knees, I felt a bubble and a pop and a gush of warm water, followed by a massive contraction. I moaned and braced myself against the wall, arching my whole body away from the tightening in my uterus. But then it was gone and I was wet and needed to pee. I swear that's all I was going to the bathroom to do. I had my DP call the midwife to ask them to come.

I sat down on the toilet and peeled off my wet layers. I called for my sister to bring dry things and another contraction came. My body was starting to push the baby out. I was leaning my head on my arm on the sink (easily reachable in our tiny loo), making low, completely uncontrollable, moaning noises. My perineum was bulging. My body was trying to push the baby out into the toilet. Poor DP had no idea this was going on and was still trying to get the pool set up in the living room. I had my sister, who had brought dry clothes that never got put on, tell him to quit with the pool and call the midwives back, tell them this baby is coming NOW. It had been less than 10 minutes since he first called.

I tried to get up, but another contraction pinned me to the toilet. Baby's head was coming lower, with no effort from me at all, and certainly there was nothing I could do to stop it. I asked my sister to help me get somewhere more comfortable, thinking we'd hobble back to side-lying in bed at least. But another contraction, and I was on my hands and knees in the hallway outside the loo and the baby's head was half out.

DP was on the phone in the hallway and my sister was behind me in the loo in prime baby-catching position. I could feel something stringy at the border of where the head met my stretched perineum and panicked. I don't know what I thought it was, but I pulled at it and demanded, "What is this?!" My sister said, "It's your baby's hair," calm as could be. I remember saying, "It has hair, our baby has hair!" just as I heard DP say, "I need an ambulance."

The midwife had told DP to call the emergency services because an ambulance crew could probably get to us faster than she could. When you call 999, they ask you "Police, fire, or ambulance?" and then connect you to the service you need. But hearing DP say the words, "I need an ambulance" got me upset. I said something to the effect of, "I'm not going anywhere in an ambulance!" and leaned forward onto my elbows. I think I figured that less gravity could keep the baby inside long enough that the ambulance crew wouldn't be summoned after all. As soon as I leaned forward, the baby's head went entirely back inside my body. I could feel a thump under my ribcage. Panic-induced birth in reverse. But that didn't last long.

Another contraction and the head was all the way out. I asked my sister if it was facing her, and it was. I could hear DP explaining "We're planning a home birth, but the midwife said to call," and relaying common sense instructions like, "The baby will be slippery," and "Support the head and hips as they come out."

I felt just inside my vagina and found the cord looped around the baby, hooked it with a finger, and pulled it free. The ambulance dispatcher was telling DP to tell me that I should push the shoulders out, and that was the only conscious push I gave during the entire labor. But they shoulders didn't come. They were born seemingly of their own accord with the next contraction, followed in an instant by the rest of our baby and a flood of fluid.

And there she was, our brand new daughter, a dusky purple color all naked and wet on a fluffy dark green towel on the floor in our hallway. She was still as could be for a moment, but soon started sputtering and waving her arms. I gathered her up and she began to cry, turning a magic color of pink.

We had just a few minutes to be shell shocked before the doorbell rang. The paramedics had dutifully arrived, but with a crying baby, no hemorraging, and a midwife on her way, there wasn't much for them to do. They took a tiny blood sample to check Baby Girl's blood sugar, but mostly just watched.

DP started feeding me doses of secale, a homeopathic remedy that had been recommended to encourage the placenta to separate (it was retained after my first birth). A few more minutes, and the midwife rang the doorbell. I was still sitting in the middle of the floor, and she encouraged me to move over to lean against the wall. As I made a move towards half standing, some surprisingly large blood clots came out, which had me worried at first that my placenta was coming out in pieces.

My sister went to wake up my DS about this time, as he had repeatedly asked us to do so if the baby came while he was sleeping. But when it came to it, he was so asleep that I don't think he registered what was going on or why there were three strangers crowded around in our hallway. He asked to go back to bed.

Because my placenta had been retained when my DS was born, we had agreed that if this placenta hadn't separated within 10-15 minutes of the birth, and three doses of the homeopathic remedy, I would have an injection of syntometrine to get the stubborn thing out. Maybe 20 minutes after Baby was born, with still no placenta despite the secale and lots of skin-to-skin contact, my DP cut the cord and I had the injection. And the placenta plopped out less than 10 seconds later. The injection was almost certainly unnecessary.

We migrated to the sofa and I got Baby Girl latched on, and she nursed on one side or the other for more than an hour. The midwife had to go back to the hospital to get the injection of vitamin K we wanted (as the baby was at a small risk of bleeding due to my having made antibodies against my DP's platelets when I was pregnant with my DS). We opened champagne and called our families while she was gone.

When the midwife returned and had given Baby her injection, I got examined. A little labial graze - no tears and certainly no stitches needed. I was surprised, given that the birth had been so fast. We were both stable and in need of a bath and some sleep, so she left us.

That hour after the midwife left was perfect. A bath in my own tub (my baby let loose a huge amount of meconium all over both of us while she was nursing) and settling in for the night in my own bed. I couldn't have wished for a better end to an amazing day.

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Such a beautiful story. Congratulations!!! And welcome sweet girl!!
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