The bit before the baby…

At exactly one week past my estimated delivery date (and approximately 3 weeks past the point at which I I went into labour at 8pm whilst watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Phil had gone to bed at 3pm that same day with a migraine, which we really should have taken as a sign that things were going to get started. Sod’s Law.

I had been in ‘practise labour’ for 3 weeks and whilst every set of regular contractions was accompanied by feverish googling (with Phil sat beside me uttering a variation of ‘if you don’t know if you’re in labour, how the EFF is EFFING Google meant to know?’) and studious clock-watching…I was starting to come to terms with the fact that I was in fact going to be pregnant forever. But then! 8pm, Monday 4th February 2013. The moment I realised that the term ‘practise labour’ is, in fact, a crock of bullshit. No Braxton Hicks or practise contraction had ever come close to the feeling that gripped me that evening. Hands up, full disclosure, for me, there was pain. IT HURT.

I pondered the regular waves of pressure for a few hours with my *science face* (you know the one – the studious, self-important, know-it-all face). I had practised Hypnobirthing during my pregnancy and found it emminently useful for helping to remove fear and anxiety from labour by understanding the biology of what was happening to your body. I did not find it useful from the self-hypnosis/super deep relaxation point of view. You have to be a specific kind of person for that to work on you and I am not that kind of person. Not that I minded, I was incredibly excited to experience labour and give birth, pain or no pain. (But, PAIN.) I discovered very quickly that sitting down was not my friend. Nor was lying. Which sucked, as I am as yet unable to sleep standing up. By 4am, my *science face* and I were feeling very smug. We knew which tightening was the width of my uterus contracting and which was the length. We knew when the peak of the contractions would hit and that leaning against the fireplace and swaying was the way to get through them. Unfortunately, at around 4.05am, *science face* deserted me and I really, reeeaally needed a cuddle. I decided that labour trumped a migraine and I went to tell Phil that I was actually, definitely, Google-approved in labour. He pulled on his big-boy pants and I got my cuddle. We then spent the next 6 hours in the living room, watching the rest of the Harry Potters, me swaying and now loud-comedy-breathing my way through the contractions and Phil gently rubbing my back whilst trying not to migraine-vomit.

I’d had exactly no sleep, so decided to see if I could nap on the sofa. I slept for a whole hour, woke up and promptly burst into hysterical snotty tears because ‘ohmigodddddd if I’ve been ASLEEP and the contractions didn’t WAKE ME UP then they MUST HAVE ST-’ Nope. Ow. They hadn’t stopped. I’m still none the wiser as to how I managed to sleep through them. Maybe someone can explain it to me so I can pull my *science face* again. It was lunchtime by now, I’d been regularly contracting for 16 hours and as far as I was concerned coping very well indeed. We had an appointment with our midwife at 2pm where I was due to be ‘stretched and swept’ for the second time and I was adamant that we would go to the appointment and see what the lovely Sarah said before we phoned the labour ward being all first-time-parenty. Also, I really wanted our last appointment with her to be an amazing ‘I’m in labour!’ type appointment. Totally rational.

We arrived at the doctors for our appointment, at this point the contractions were a consistent 5 minutes apart but I was still able to hold a semi-sensible conversation throughout them. Sarah took one look at me and exclaimed, ‘you’re in labour!’ which just about made my day. We went ahead with the stretch and sweep (summary – not that painful, totally undignified, utterly fascinating) and when Sarah looked up at Phil and I and said, casual as can be given her hand was inside me, ‘ok, so that’s your baby’s hair…‘, we looked  at each other in complete shock. Never mind the fact we’d tried to conceive for 3 years, been pregnant for 9 months and in labour for 18 hours – it was at this point we fully accepted that there was a BABY coming and she had HAIR. I was 2cm dilated and well on my way. Sarah said she’d put money on Stella having arrived by breakfast time the next day and we bounced out of her office on cloud nine. She’d said that as long as the contractions stayed more than 3 minutes apart and I felt comfortable, we were grand to stay at home as long as we liked. (But not for too long, Phil was very quick to remind me. I was hoping he’d have forgotten his homebirth veto what with all the excitement…no such luck. Bah.) Off we went home to continue huffing and puffing and swaying and putting the firpelace under considerable strain as it supported all 13st of me with alarming regularity.

We carried on watching good old HP and eating All The Carbohydrates to try and make up for the fact that neither of us were what you’d call ‘well-rested’. Energy from pasta and potatoes…if it’s good enough for Jess Ennis! By 8pm, 24 hours after that first contraction, I was really beginning to feel ’ready’. Not to physically push, but definitely mentally. I was 100% sure that when the time came, I’d be all over it. The fireplace was given a well-deserved break, I could only get through the extreme gripping sensation on all fours with my face buried in my arms. I couldn’t speak through the contractions and occasionally I would burst into tears as they ebbed away. Not from the pain, but from relief that it was over and guilt that I felt relief because these moments were bringing our baby to us. The sheer emotion of the experience was overwhelming and as each wave of pressure and pain built to it’s peak, Phil would whisper in my ear ‘you’re amazing, you can do this, you’re so amazing’, and I would cry all over again because he had such faith in me and it was so inspiring. Aside from the minutes where I was pushing to birth Stella, this period was my favourite part of my labour. It was just the two of us, lots of squishy pillows, tea in my favourite mug and the incredible, unspoken fact that the next time we were in that room, there would be three of us.

9pm. I knew that if we left it any longer, there would be no way on God’s green earth that Phil would be able to get me in the car. The thought of sitting down for the 15 minute drive to the hospital was making me anxious and upset and although I wanted to stay at home even longer because I had this and I was doing it and I AM AWESOME, I just wanted to get the journey over and done with. We phoned the ward and Phil explained the situation to a sweet student midwife who told us to come on in. Simple as that. Come on in….

Who knew the story of a birth would be so long? I’ll be back next week with Part 2, but you all know how it ends. I have a baby. A Stella to be precise. A little star. And so that this post is not all words and boringness, here is a picture. A picture that I wasn’t sure I’d share but do you know what? F*ck it. I’m incredibly proud of this picture and I love you all enough to share it with you.


Categories: Becoming a Mother, Written By Aisling
49 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Vivienne
    Posted March 18, 2013 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Oh you are just a goddess – love you Mama A xxx

  2. Posted March 18, 2013 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    So have just planned our labour box set viewing, West Wing, whilst reading this. Thank you for writing this, as someone who has three months to go it’s fascinating. Love to you three x

    • Posted March 18, 2013 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

      I would definitely recommend having an ‘early labour plan’ if you’re planning on staying at home for any period of time – the West Wing sounds ideal!

  3. Becca
    Posted March 18, 2013 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    I assume you had hair and make up come in before this was taken because NO ONE should look that radiant after what is at least an 18 hour labour.

    Part II is coming this afternoon, yes?

    • Becca
      Posted March 18, 2013 at 7:22 am | Permalink

      P.S Don’t suppose Stella’s middle name is Hermoine and you just haven’t told us yet?

    • Posted March 18, 2013 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

      Part 2 next week my dear, and THANK YOU!

  4. Posted March 18, 2013 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    1. You are amazing
    2. I am totally shitting myself now
    3. You are amazing


    • Posted March 18, 2013 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

      P, definitely do NOT be shitting yourself. You’ll be ready and you’ll be amazing, whatever happens.

  5. Posted March 18, 2013 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Oh Aisling! You are a little bit brilliant. Echoing V’s “goddess” comment above!

    Love this, adore it. Please please don’t keep me waiting too long for part 2, I’m in need of it ASAP!!!!!! No, really.
    Big hugs to you three and I hope you are framing that picture- what a beautiful moment captured forever.


    • Posted March 18, 2013 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

      *insert random squealy excited noises here*

      (Also, I’ve said this to Emma but it’s worth saying again – I am SO jealous of all you ladies who get to go through labour soon. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.)

  6. Posted March 18, 2013 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Ahh, I love these posts – so honest but so lovely at the same time! Can Part 2 be now please?

    Also, how gorgeous is that photo?! xx

    • Posted March 18, 2013 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Frances, we love the pic even in all it’s grainy-middle-of-the-night-forgot-the-flash poor quality!

  7. Posted March 18, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Aisling, it’s official – you are my inspiration.

  8. Chirsty
    Posted March 18, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Oh my God, When or if the time comes for me anywhere in the distant future, I would be delighted with just the teeny tiniest bit of your amazingness. Inspiring is right. And radiance too. Oh the radiance.
    You are a marvel :) X

  9. Liz
    Posted March 18, 2013 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    how can you look that good straight after having a baby?! I just look like an anaemic drowned rat in my pictures!! So agree that the time to get to hospital is when you know that any longer and you wouldn’t be able to sit in the car. That journey in the dead of night to go meet my baby will stay with me forever. I am loving this beautiful birth story, part 2 please! X

    • Posted March 18, 2013 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

      Fear not Liz, when I came out of the shower room a couple of hours later (on my hands and knees because I could.not.stand.up) Phil took one look at me and nearly called the midwives back in. I looked like Caspar the Friendly Ghost on drugs apparently. Nice.

  10. Posted March 18, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    I am seconding Esme, Aisling you are my inspiration, for so so many reasons.
    You are awesome. Totally awesome. I used to be afraid of the pain (menstrual cramps have taught me), but reading your story (and some others) has helped me fully believe that we can totally do it and it’s fascinating. So THANKS FOR SHARING.
    That photo is absolutely beautiful.
    I love that you were watching Harry Potter and drinking tea while in labor. That’s exactly how I would want it.
    And your little star…. so precious. (I also have a name that means star in a Mexican dialect).

    • Posted March 18, 2013 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

      Amanda, I think of you often and hope that your journey is nearing an end or at the very least, going as smoothly as possible. I would never presume to know what another is going through – we all deal with things so differently after all, but as the cold, hard facts go, if you ever want to talk, you are so welcome to email me.
      Much love xx

  11. Posted March 18, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Oh this is so beautiful and can’t wait for Pt 2!

    You are amazing Aisling, and a gorgeous mama to boot


  12. Sharon
    Posted March 18, 2013 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Love this post, cannot wait for part 2 already….plus, ditto what everyone else said, the photo is gorgeousness and you look stunning, all glowy and radiant x

    • Posted March 18, 2013 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

      God, you lot are SO lovely. Thank you, Sharon!

  13. Posted March 18, 2013 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Oh, you. You’re just unbelievable, you’re like Earth Mother and Wonder Woman rolled into a radiant package of awesome and glowing skin. Amazing.

    As ever, so delighted for you, you so fully deserve all the joy which jumps from every word you write at the moment, and which shines out of that photo. Love, love, love!

    K x

    • Posted March 18, 2013 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

      Genuinely bemused as to how I’m allowed to be actual friends with someone as kind and wonderful as you, KL. Thank you x

  14. Sarah
    Posted March 18, 2013 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Please tell me you have tatooed make up on and don’t just look that amazing!!
    Also, I would like this to happen to me in 6 – 7 weeks’ time. It sounds so under control!
    Well done to you and your little family xx

    • Posted March 18, 2013 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

      Sarah, I wish you ALL THE LUCK AND LOVE for the arrival of your little one – I hope they don’t keep you waiting too long!

  15. Alex
    Posted March 18, 2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    What a gorgeous photo and love the honesty of the birth story, you must have the pain threshold of an ox to have been at home and in labour all that time! Well done!

    I am waiting avidly for part two!! Congratulations again to you both and little Stella, what an amazing time. xx

    • Posted March 18, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

      It’s funny, I never would have said I had a high pain threshold…in fact I cried this morning when I stubbed my toe. Funny what we can do when we have to…! Thank you for being so bloody nice, Alex!

  16. Posted March 18, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Just amazing!!

  17. Posted March 18, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Lovely words, nearly made me cry! What a beautiful photo too, you look amazing!

    • Posted March 18, 2013 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Lauren, I felt amazing too and I’m so in love with how this photo captures the moment exactly as I remember it.

  18. Hannah
    Posted March 18, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    Having just had our 20 week scan at the weekend, the realities of what we’ve got coming are really starting to set in and so this was perfectly timed!

    Thank you for being so honest and candid – it’s very reassuing to be able to have a realistic expectation

    Sounds like you did an absolutely amazing job – hope you are feeling suitably proud of yourself


    ps – that’s what I am going to look like immediately after the birth too (…ahem!)

    • Posted March 18, 2013 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

      Oh Hannah, how exciting! I hope the next 20 weeks sail by peacefully for you and I’m sure you’ll have an amazing birth – to be one of those annoying positive eejits – it’s what you make it, so make it wonderful and it will be. And thank you!

  19. Katie
    Posted March 18, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I can’t believe you got till 4am without waking Phil. I had my fist contraction at 3.30am and woke Andy at 3.31am. Aisling, you are wonderful.

    I can’t wait till Part Two.

    • Posted March 18, 2013 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      Oh Katie, believe me if he hadn’t been unwell I’d have been making all the noise and fuss! As it was I figured I had enough on my plate without him acting like a wet weekend so it was in my interests to let him get some sleep!

      Hope you, Andy and Ava are doing well, lots of love x

  20. Leni
    Posted March 18, 2013 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Aisling – you look amazingly beautiful in that picture. How did you do that? Utterly stunning.This was a fab post and I am very much looking forward to part 2 as I think I would like a water birth (in 6 months time) but don’t know anyone who has had one – will be good to read your lovely commentary.

    • Posted March 18, 2013 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

      Leni! You’re having a baby! Congratulations! ALL THE EXCLAMATION MARKS! I would recommend a water birth to the moon and back, for me it was the most amazing experience. I hope you enjoy reading about it next week and if you want to know anything at all just email me. x

  21. Posted March 18, 2013 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    You nailed it, Becci. I adore this photo because it’s so real. I look at it and I remember every millisecond of the moment, every emotion and glance and whisper comes flooding back. No staged poses or clever lighting, just us.

    Also – spoiler from pt 2, when we got to the maternity unit it was after 10pm so the doors were locked and we had to buzz in. No-one answered for FIFTEEN MINUTES and I became very familiar with the car-park ticket machine as I used it to support myself during my contractions. Classy.

    • Liz
      Posted March 19, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      Snap! 2am standing in the car park, holding onto the crash barrier next to the emergency maternity door, buzzing and buzzing and buzzing!

  22. Posted March 18, 2013 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    I’m so happy to read this. I heard so many horror stories before my labour and I’m now getting the strangest looks as I tell people how much I enjoyed my labour – there needs to be more positive birth stories out there. I too would do it again in an instant. I was induced early so had to do all my labouring at the hospital. Thanks to the best midwives ever it still felt like a very personal experience.

    Looking forward to part 2.

  23. Lizzie
    Posted March 18, 2013 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    I love your whole birth story! I can only hope then when the time comes and I have to give birth, I will be as calm and able to drink tea and definitely watch Harry Potter!!! (A staple for all labours!) In all honesty I am fulling expecting to be the freaking out screaming women…

    Oh, and I love that picture, happiness is radiating out of both of you!


  24. Posted March 19, 2013 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Oh well that just made me a hot mess of tears! First of all you’re frigging amazing. Second of all you’re frigging gorgeous. I can confirm I DID NOT look like that after giving birth!! Such a beautiful photo of all three of you – I hope it’s in a frame somewhere so that you can look at it and remember those feelings forever. Not that you can ever forget them when they’re so permanently etched onto your heart.

    To all you mummies to be out there (and boy there seems to be a lot – an AOW boom is going on!) I’m totally and utterly with Aisling I’d give birth again in a heartbeat. It’s not scary it’s just bloody amazing – if more than a tad painful… But good painful. I promise.


    • Vivienne
      Posted March 19, 2013 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      Me too – I’m dying to do it all again and I had a ‘hard’ time of it on paper….it was wonderful!

  25. Posted March 21, 2013 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Only just seen this – love it. You look radiant as only a brand new mama can be in that photo :)

  26. Rach M
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    Stunning piece, stunning photo. I am so happy for you and your family, you gorgeous lot! Xx

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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