After months of anticipation, Rebecca Adlington gave birth to daughter Summer on 8 June.
Becky, 26, has been sharing her journey to motherhood in M&B since early pregnancy, so we couldn’t wait to catch up and find out how she and husband Harry got on. Becky was hoping for a water birth, as befits a swimmer who won two gold medals in the pool at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, followed by two bronzes in London 2012. But Summer had other ideas…
Congratulations! How was the birth?
It was the most weird and incredible experience. When the midwife put Summer on my chest for the first time, it was surreal. The relief that came over me was incredible: relief that she was finally here, that she was fine, and that I didn’t have to push any more! Harry looked at me with tears in his eyes, and I was like, ‘It’s OK. We’ve done it.’
How did your labour start?
I woke up at six o’clock on Sunday morning and thought, ‘I just don’t feel right.’ I had a constant period-like pain, then on-and-off cramps that got progressively worse. I phoned my sister, who’s got a little boy, and she was like, ‘That’s how my labour started!’
At nine o’clock that night, Harry and I went to the hospital. The midwife told us I was only 2cm dilated, so we went home and I had a bath, which really helped. But then I couldn’t stop shaking. Harry was like, ‘Babe, are you meant to be shaking?’ I didn’t know! He phoned the midwife and she told us to come in, as shaking can be a sign that things have progressed. We got to the midwife-led unit at 1.30am, and I was 4cm dilated.
Did you use a birthing pool as planned?
Yes, I got in the pool and had gas-and-air. But by half past four, I was in so much pain, I wasn’t even talking. In my head, I was like, ‘This is taking hours!’ The midwife said, ‘Beck, what do you want to do about pain relief?’ Harry knew exactly what I was thinking and said, ‘Can you check her and if she’s only 6cm, let’s give her pethidine.’ We knew that if I had pethidine I wouldn’t be able to stay in the pool, which I really wanted, but I was just so tired.
I got out of the pool to be checked and the midwife said, ‘I’ve got some good news – you’re 9.5cm dilated!’ And then my waters broke all over the bed. So I didn’t have the pethidine after all – by five o’clock I was back in the pool and ready to push. But trust me, if I had only been 6cm dilated, I would have had that pethidine.
Did the pool help ease the pain?
The difference in pain levels in and out of the pool was unbelievable. Out, the pressure was insane. I don’t know why anyone would want to not labour in a pool. It made the pain manageable.
Were you relieved to be finally pushing?
I just wanted it to be over and pushed as hard as I could. I had my eyes closed, I didn’t say anything. Harry says I was almost turning blue, I was pushing so hard. You know when you’re driving and you have those little black-out moments and think, ‘Oh, I just forgot what I was doing then’? I kept having those. I pushed for 1½ hours, and the baby’s head kept coming out, but popping back in. Then the midwife said, ‘You need some help – you need to get out of the pool.’ I just burst into tears.
What happened next?
I got on the bed and had an episiotomy [cut]. I’d not done any of the screaming thing the whole way through, but then, all the dogs in the surrounding area must have gone, ‘What was that?’ But two pushes later and she was out. What we didn’t realise until she came out was that the umbilical cord was wrapped around her leg three times, so it was acting like a bungee. Every time I pushed, the cord pulled her leg back – she was never going to come out on her own. I would have really loved to have had a water birth, but I was in the pool for nearly five hours and enough was enough. Harry cut the cord as we’d planned, but it squirted all over his face, which I don’t think he quite expected!
How long did you stay in hospital?
Summer was born at seven in the morning, and we were home by five in the afternoon. Summer’s checks were fine and, nice as the birth centre is, we wanted to be home in our own space.
Summer is a great name…
We didn’t choose her name until two days after she’d been born. We really liked ‘Thea’ and ‘Indy’, but when she came out Harry said, ‘She’s not Thea, and she’s not Indy.’ Everyone kept telling us which name they liked – even the midwife said they’d had lots of Indy’s born lately. When Harry and I finally had some time to ourselves, I said, ‘Babe, what do you like?’ and we had a chat, just the two of us. ‘Summer’ wasn’t even in the running at the start!
How have you been getting on?
We’ve been finding our feet. To start with, Summer screamed for hours and wouldn’t be put down. Then she lost a bit too much weight, and although she was feeding, she wasn’t really peeing. My nipples were bleeding and cracked. So the health visitor suggested topping her up with formula – but then Summer kept being sick. So I tried expressing. And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. Before that, I was nearly crying when I put her on my boob. Now it’s manageable. We’ve just had to play it by ear and find our own way.
So life as a new mum is manageable?
I’m constantly anxious and feel that I need reassurance, so I keep googling stuff and texting the health visitor. Everyone keeps saying to me ‘you know best’ and I keep saying, ‘I don’t know. I’ve been a mum for all of a few weeks, how am I supposed to know?’ At the start, I was only getting two hours’ sleep a night. But last night, Summer woke up every three hours
for a feed, then went back to sleep, so Harry and me did too. I’m very happy with that.