Ok so it turns out that having a tiny wriggly little velcro newborn makes it difficult to sit down and write up a piece that has reasonable depth and grammar… so in the words of Miranda, bear with…
Our labour story begins on Tuesday 15th August, a whole two days before Raven made her entrance. I went to bed feeling light sporadic contractions, but having had several other false alarms previously, I downplayed it to Dean and we just went to sleep like usual. Throughout the night I woke several times to tightenings and labourish feelings, but each time I felt certain that nothing would come of it. When you have already had one labour you imagine that the next time you will know exactly what to expect, but in reality I had already googled and called my local Pregnancy Assessment Unit several times over the previous week asking ‘Am I in labour?!’. With Winter my waters broke and my contractions began a few hours later, there was no denying labour had arrived. This time felt like a constant guessing game.
On the morning of Wednesday 16th August, I told Dean that throughout the night the contraction feelings had continued. By now I was feeling more confident that labour was not far away but still not certain if it was real. It was Deans day off, he was asking me all day ‘How do you feel, do you think it could be labour?’ and each time I would reply ‘Well I think so, but I don’t really know…’. I rolled and bounced on the ball, we took a stompy walk over the road around the retail park. By this point the contractions, although still very faint, were arriving every 45 minutes to half an hour apart. I made a little instastory of my feet walking with the caption ‘walking the baby out’ and it wasn’t until I posted it that I realised Dean was on the phone to his work in the background saying ‘Pea’s in slow labour’. I deleted the video, initially keen to keep my labour a surprise, but of course it was too late and I decided it just didn’t matter anyway, I was just pleased that something seemed to be finally happening.
Once we got back home Dean ran me a bath. It was around 7.30pm. The warm water must have worked some magic… BAM… in that moment my contractions jumped from every half an hour to every 4/5 minutes, and they quickly intensified. I shouted to Dean and he started to time them. Even at this point I wasn’t keen to go into hospital in case it was another false alarm, but they continued and I got out of the bath to lay on the sofa. Eventually we called the PAU and they agreed we should head in to at least be checked over. Dean called my Dad to pick us up and we arrived at hospital at around 10.20pm. Just as I got out of the car I felt my waters go, the timing could not have been better! And so off to Labour Ward we went instead of PAU.
When I went into hospital during my labour with Winter, I was only 2cm dilated after a full day labouring at home, so I wasn’t too hopeful during my first examination with Raven, and when the midwife said I was already 5cm dilated I nearly leapt off the bed in joy! For those not down with the labouring terms… your cervix has to be 10cm dilated before you can push out your baby, and so I felt as though I was already half way. I took the photograph of my belly and posted on Instagram ‘IN labour… see you on the other side!’.
Considering the tragedy that unfolded shortly after my first labour – my son Winter stopped breathing in the delivery room shortly after he arrived and subsequently died the next day – I had been feeling understandably anxious about the birth of our rainbow. Hours had been spent fretting, worrying, planning, preparing, I was certain I would lose control and panic and my baby would die so cruelly at the final hurdle. It’s pretty incredible though, this human body. The moment that labour arrived at my door, my natural senses kicked in and I realised, as everything continued smoothly, that I felt very in control and empowered. This time I was more determined than ever to get baby out quickly and have them safely in my arms.
I laboured mostly in the same 2 positions that I took with Winter, first kneeling and resting over the upright bed frame, then lay down to push in the later stages. I was continuously monitored and my midwife Siobhan was exactly the right balance of calm and on the ball. I had a little gas and air, but my experience of it with Winters labour – where I struggled to breathe in through a contraction and it made me feel quite sickly – meant I went for 2 deep breaths just before the contraction and then rode it out. Luckily for me, this labour felt much easier, the contractions were faster and more intense but it moved along with greater pace and therefore I managed to keep energy and spirits up. Throughout the labour I had a photograph of Winter in my eye line. Every time the pain washed over me and I felt myself struggle, I looked at his photograph and I was reminded of his strength and bravery and the reason why my body was working so hard in that moment – to meet the rainbow he had chosen for us. Thinking about my son really was the best mind over matter medicine. Dean was amazing as usual, he held my hand, he cheerleaded me and told me how proud he was. He already knew from my previous labour that I didn’t like being touched during contractions, so we had an understanding of how to support each other in those moments.
When the time came to push, I lay down. I know that textbooks suggest that isn’t the greatest position for pushing, but you really are at the mercy of your body during labour and that is the position mine requested. Then the most extraordinary thing happened… my waters burst! I hadn’t realised earlier that whilst my back waters had broken, my front had remained intact. It was quite something, like a little water balloon had popped! As I had pushed for 2 long hours with Winter and ended up with a ventous delivery, I was surprised when after a few pushes the midwife said she could see baby’s head. I remember I made a lot of noise this time… I was pretty much silent throughout with Winter, bar the odd grunt here and there, but this time as I pushed I know I was loud and I apologised inbetween contractions! I was working SO hard, pushing with all my strength to finally deliver our rainbow. The whole event was nowhere near as chaotic and medicalised as I had imagined, it remained intimate with just myself and Dean and one midwife predominatly, and two as I delivered.
And so, she was born. 1.57am Thursday 17th August 2017, 6lb 14oz.
She was pink and crying, Dean cut the cord. I rested her right onto my breast and she fed during those first minutes of life. I was an absolute crying pile of human, yesterdays mascara all down my face, eyebrows sliding off. Nothing can ever prepare you for that moment, when your womb baby is brought Earthside, and when the last time you held your newborn son was 22 months ago as he took his last breaths, that moment becomes even more intensified. I was sure I would explode, nothing about the moment seemed real, I was in disbelief and awe. A miracle on my chest. Literally, heaven sent.
We named her Raven Rain with a nod to her angel brother Winter Wolfe and her status as a rainbow baby.
Ravens have a special relationship with wolves both in folklore and real life. They are often called wolf-birds as they form social attachments with wolves and depend upon each other for hunting food. Wolf cubs often chase after playful Ravens, and there are many beautiful images of the animals together. We liked that it could be shortened to Ray, our very own little Ray of sunshine.
Rain is a popular rainbow baby name, and quite rightly so. It is not only ethereal but also poignant. I knew I wanted the name Rain for my rainbow not long after Winter had died when Coldplay released Hymn For The Weekend and the lyrics struck a magical cord.
‘Oh angel sent from up above, I feel you coursing through my blood, when I was a river dried up, you came to RAIN a flood.’.
Rain is the bringer of life, it waters the crops and fruit trees, it feeds the streams and oceans, it drenches those in drought and blooms the flowers. Without rain, we wouldn’t have rainbows.
We were able to call parents, this time with the news that our daughter had been born and she was healthy. Raven was checked over and given the immediate all clear. A detailed heart scan later showed that one of the valves in her heart had not yet closed – this usually happens upon birth or in some instances the next day – and so we stayed in overnight for another scan. The valve was still not closed upon her further scan, but our consultant reassured us it was not a life threatening occurrence and was confident to send us home with a further scan booked for November.
We had visitors arrive, I was exhausted but running on adrenaline. Dean had to leave the hospital to go home and I was tearful to see him go. It can feel suddenly very lonely when your partner leaves and you are left with your baby. Dean asked the midwives to check on me more than usual as I was nervous of something happening to Ray whilst I slept. I need not have worried, I barely managed any sleep on the ward, lots of other crying babies, mine included. Raven did not like being in her crib next to my bedside and eventually we fell asleep cuddling on the bed, which both terrified me with the risk of SIDs, but also felt like the only natural way to soothe and hold my baby that night. It was just the two of us, the beginning of many night times where we shared moments just us. I could feel myself relaxing and trusting that this baby was here to stay.
By the next morning Raven had already lived longer than her brother. It hurt then and it still does now. I felt her weight in my arms, the feeling I had been pining for ever since I last held her brother. I held her close and breathed her in, and I said out loud ‘Thankyou Winter for giving us your sister.’.