It all began on my due date, oddly enough. After having Bill so late – 13 days late to be exact – I never really expected anything to happen. I was really busy actually. I’d finished maternity leave and I had thrown myself into finishing off bits of the house, and doing final bits of work.
I remember my due date clearly. I went out and enjoyed my day. I took Bill for a haircut, for lunch in the sunshine, and to the library. And then we went to my midwife appointment, where I had a sweep. My mum came with me, to help mind Bill. And I remember lying there while it was happening and thinking: “What if this actually works?”
I remember saying to my mum, straight away, that I felt more achy and sore than usual. But I brushed it off as a natural thing when someone has just given your cervix a battering. We took Bill to his swimming lesson together, and chatted away while we watched my little fish swim. I remember a few parents commenting on my bump and doing shocked faces when I said it was my due date. It was nice. I remember feeling really content and happy and extremely pregnant, as I heaved my body back to the car.
That night came and went really, I lost a bit more of my plug, but I had been losing that for weeks. I filmed my 40 week pregnancy update and I remember saying that I didn’t actually want to go into labour that night, because we were going to be sleeping on a mattress on the floor, as our bedroom carpet was due to be fitted the next day. I said that it would be great if we could get the bedroom sorted and then go into labour that night – that would be perfect.
And it actually happened.
I went to bed on the night of the 20th April, and as I did, I stopped in my hallway and stared at my reflection in the old mirror. I felt compelled to for some reason. I don’t know why. And I thought I would take a photo. Just to document my baby girl bump. Just in case.
I went to bed. And I remember checking on Bill, and tearing up, like I had been every night for the past week or so. I was so nervous about our relationship changing. I didn’t want to lose what we had. I needn’t of worried. But you don’t quite believe what people say when your love multiplies, not halves.
I fell asleep quickly. Mark beside me. And I slept well. Deeply even. Until I woke slowly to aches. I felt like my stomach was churning. And I felt the urge to go to the toilet. I was sure it was something I had eaten at first. Silly me. And I went to the toilet but nothing happened. The pains kept coming though. I considered labour. But I tried to get back in bed and go back to sleep. But it was too much. I woke Mark, and explained that I was going to take a bath, but not to get up, that I’d wake him if I needed him. I was fully expecting to laugh it off come the morning and have him say I was winding him up.
I got to the bathroom, and everything felt…slow? I felt slow. I felt like time was going slowly. And everything seemed to be dripping through time. I turned on the taps, and I don’t really remember getting in the bath, or lighting a candle. But I did. It was a White Company one. Pomegranate scented. Deep and woody. And it was flickering away in the left hand corner of the bath, by my swollen feet. It lit a flamed reflection on the water and I could see my belly. And I remember just wondering what was happening. As I heard the water ripple as I moved. Another pain.
And another. I decided to reach for my phone and time them. I wanted to see what was happening. If there was any rhythm or rhyme to it. Or simply just a big, pregnant lady, having had too much to eat.
They kept coming. And then I realised that time was actually going much faster than I thought. They didn’t have much of a gap between them. They were erratic, but strong, and long. And I remember marvelling at my body. Was this it? Did I really do it? Go into labour on my own? At that point it felt a bit like I was witnessing a play unfold. I didn’t feel like the lead in it. And I just watched it happen to me.
I snapped to my senses, when the pain went up a gear, and my phone told me that they were becoming closer together. I remember hearing the midwife’s voice in my ear. The one who delivered Bill. She told me: “Next time, get to the hospital right away.” As I held my mewling son in my arms. I never really gave it much thought at the time. But in that moment, it was loud in my mind and so I called the unit.
The midwife on my phone knew I wasn’t messing around. She urged me to get here as soon as possible. To stop the car if things go too much. And call an ambulance immediately. I wonder if she got my notes up. It felt like she was expecting me.
I heaved myself from the bath. I felt like a sunken ship, being pulled from the bottom of the ocean. Water dripped down my body, and bath water splashed around me, filling my place. I leant on the towel radiator, and tugged a towel over me, and took tiny steps to our bedroom, wet feet marking the carpet.
“It’s happening. She’s coming. I’m in labour.”
He didn’t quite understand at first. It’s like he wasn’t quite awake. And I had the joy of watching his face turn from sleepy and confused, into tense excitement.
He got up. He pulled clothes on. He was ready. This father was ready.
He went to wake my baby boy. Warm and snug in his bed.
And I sat on the toilet in pain. And cried. I cried in that moment for the life I was leaving behind. Some parts I knew I would not get back. I cried in pain. Quietly. Gently moaning as the pain became stronger and ebbed away again.
I could hear Mark and Bill talking. I could hear my son excitedly say that it was like getting up early to go on holiday. And could he perhaps pack a few animals.
I panicked in that moment because I needed to get dressed too. But I didn’t feel like I could. I didn’t want to put anything over my lower half. I felt like I need to stay naked, legs slightly apart. Now, I realise why. But at the time, I started to wonder if I could do this.
My little boy walked into the dark bathroom. Lit by the landing light so that his fluffy, newly cut hair, was like a halo around his head. He wore a pale blue dressing gown with white stars. And he came to me and said: “It’s okay Mama. Just breathe.” And I held him to me. And I breathed.
I breathed in his little boy smell. I breathed in that moment. The last time, just him and me, when it was still just him and me in the sense of motherhood. “I love you. I love you so much.”
Somehow, I don’t know how, I made it down the stairs. I managed to remember the last few bits I needed to pack. And Mark piled it into the car and I gritted my teeth as I had to lower myself into a seated position in the front seat. I hated sitting down in labour. Both times. I had to hold my weight up slightly on my arms, just to ease the pain.
We drove to my parents’ house. I remember looking up at the sky at the time and remarking on the full moon. Women are said to be more likely to go into labour on the night of a full moon. And I muttered deliriously to Mark that it was a sign. We arrived, and my mum and dad stood in the doorway, waiting for their little person delivery. They looked like grandparents. In the loveliest way. Sweet and cuddly in their towelling dressing gowns. My little boy left me and I cried. I cried so much. My mum came to me and kissed my cheek and hugged me tight and said: “You can do this. You will have her soon.”
And she gave me a little bit of fight in that moment. I won’t forget it.
We pulled away and I cried. Mark squeezed my thigh. “You’re doing brilliantly, babe. Keep going.”
It was only afterwards that he confessed that he thought he was going to either pass out or be sick on that journey. But he didn’t. He got me there. We pulled up outside A&E. 3:15am. And he piled bags onto his frame. Heaving them to my side. And I stopped and leaned against the wing mirror. “Are you ready?”
I shook my head. Not yet.
That last wave ended and I began the walk to the labour ward. We entered through A&E. Quiet. The only ones there on a quiet, early Thursday morning. I was asked if I’d like a wheelchair and I declined. The thought was torture to me.
I walked myself there. We rose a floor in the lift. I could see myself looking back at me. A swollen reflection. The last time I’d ever see myself pregnant.
I walked to the buzzer. Mark leading me, gently. We were let in and I slowly walked the wide blue corridor to the ward. Gently. Small little steps. And I panicked as the midwives came to meet me, sensing that this was really happening. I didn’t have my notes. I’d forgotten and I profusely apologised. My midwife laughed at that the whole way through. She said she’d never met a more polite woman in labour in her whole life.
I was able to get to a bed and I was examined and put on trace. It was about 3:30am by this point. And, as I expected, I was only 3cm. But fully effaced. Waters gone. When I don’t know. But still – I was not in active labour. She told me we needed to get to the “magic four” and I nodded, calmly, because I just knew it wouldn’t be long. As with Bill – I knew. It would be soon.
She went to run the pool. And told me to sit tight as it took a while. And it can only have been about half an hour, if that, and I told Mark that I felt I needed to go to a room. I felt like it was time. But I never said.
Mark went to find the midwife and she said I could go into the room, but that the pool wasn’t quite ready yet. I was happy just for some privacy. I wanted to find my space. Like an animal. I wanted to find somewhere safe and warm and quiet.
The room was lovely. Dimly lit. The sound of water running. Calm. Quiet. It was lovely. I think I was the only one labouring at the time and it was so quiet. Hypnobirthing taught me that women labour better when they feel safe and relaxed and it really was true for me.
I went straight to the toilet and tried to find the light, but couldn’t. So I left the door ajar, ever so slightly, just so I could see and focus. But I had these urges to push. To clear myself and to prepare myself. And I remember being horrified that I couldn’t close the door and have my privacy. Mark kept wanting to check on me and I remember being so firm that he mustn’t come in.
Eventually, I felt like I needed to get in position. I felt sure it was happening. And so I got into the pool. And I laboured, just with Mark, for about ten or fifteen minutes. It was amazing. I felt so safe. Like we might be the only people in the world. The midwife had left us, not expecting a baby so soon. And it was actually what I needed, I only wanted Mark. And he crouched beside me. Stroked my hair. Spoke to me, his lovely voice and the swirl of the water, was all I could hear.
I felt myself writhe gently every time a contraction came. And in the end I felt suddenly that this was it. Mark got the midwife and she said I clearly knew what I was doing and to listen to my body and push if I wanted to. So I did. I pushed. And I pushed.
And then I realised she was there.
I reached down and felt her head, hair, warm, there. Through the water. “I can feel her head.” The midwife sparked into action. An apron. The monitor to check my baby daughter. She was there. I had done it, with no pain relief at all. It was time.
A quick check of my baby’s heart rate and I kept pushing, and pushing, and began to birth the head. But after another check, I was asked to leave the water, as my baby’s heart rate was dipping. I didn’t panic. I wasn’t scared. Her brother was the same. And I’ve been told both times it’s because it happens so fast.
Leaving the water was a challenge. I almost wanted to laugh in that moment. They are right when they say that the contractions are worse than the actual birthing. I was more awake. More engaged now. I knew what I had to do and I waddled my way out, supported by Mark and collapsed onto the bed, before my wobbly legs gave way.
It wasn’t long. And after a few strong pushes, I birthed her head. I was quiet throughout the whole thing, apart from that one moment, where I actually laughed and said: “Oh that burning ring of fire.” And everyone else laughed. An extra midwife had joined us by that point. The atmosphere was so relaxed.
I felt so proud. And so excited. The pain had already left me. And I just knew it was one push and she’d be here. My midwife worked with me. Telling me to pant. Not push. Pant. Pant. Pant. I thought of my parents’ dogs in the sun and smiled to myself. I’ve never admitted that aloud before. But it’s what I thought of. Then my mind went from dogs, to parents, Bill. Bill. My boy. What are you doing now? Did you sleep? Do you know you are about to become a brother?”
“One gentle push now Charlotte.”
And she was here.
21st April 2016. 4:46am. 8lb 11oz.
Daisy Nelle Taylor.
My little girl.
I remember being overjoyed. Absolutely proud. Excited. Giddy. In love. I held her. That warm, creamy skin of a newborn. Clammy, but not at all strange in your arms. Just wonderful. She blinked. Trying to adjust to the light above me. Mark kissed me. And I felt like a memory was being bottled then. Like my mind had taken a snapshot and captured with it all the love and the pride we had for each other. And for our daughter.
My labour was something around an hour or so. From active to birth. Though early labour began a couple of hours before that, making the experience around three and a half hours long. It was everything I could have hoped for. Hypnobirthing techniques, breathing, a little faith, and a calm atmosphere, along with the water – it was all I needed. And I was very proud to have that. Especially after everything that followed.
Of course, everyone probably knows by now, what happened after that.
I remember asking excitedly when we could go home. Daisy hadn’t been checked by then, so the midwife laughed: “I knew you’d ask me that!” 11:00am. Just the perfect amount of time to have some coffee and toast. And get to know our baby girl. Establish that first feed. Tell family and friends.
In the end we had a couple of hours where we had our perfect bubble. We had our time and we didn’t think anything was wrong. And while that all changed, I can say only this.
Daisy, my sweet, sweet girl. You were not what we expected. That lovely April day. You were better. You may not have come home with us. Tucked into your mother’s arms, meeting your brother on our squishy sofa like we had planned. And we may have spent six long weeks, and one day, let’s not forget that one day, in hospital. And we were broken hearted. Scared. And worried for you.
But my goodness we loved you. We love you. We were and are still proud of you. We always will be. You were perfect and you continue to be everything we could ever want in a daughter.
We got to bring you home. You sleep amongst us every night. We kiss you every day. Hold you. Comfort you. Make you smile. And your birth will always be magical.
Thank you for letting us be the ones that get to hold your hand. Raise you. Love you.
21st April 2016. A day forever marked in the story of our lives.