Meet mum Faye Steadman, who got a not-at-all-spooky treat on 31 October.
The night before Halloween, I was carving pumpkins and helping my husband, Alex, to put up spooky decorations.
I’ve always loved Halloween, but I’ve been an even bigger fan since visiting Boston in the US one October and seeing the over-the-top decorations. This year, despite being 37 weeks pregnant, I was inspired to do something similar.
‘You’re doing too much,’ Alex warned as I lugged pumpkins. My niece and nephew had asked me to carve Olaf from Frozen. As I sawed away, I felt a surge of energy. I must have looked like a pumpkin myself.
By 8pm, when our living room was decked with cobwebs and I’d put the finishing touches to my pumpkins, exhaustion overwhelmed me. I got into bed, realising I had overdone it.
I felt a tightening across my bump. Minutes later, it happened again. I’d had the odd practice contraction but this felt more intense. How could I be going into labour?
I was three weeks and two days off my due date, and hadn’t even started my maternity leave. Alex helped me downstairs to the living room and on to my birthing ball as the tightenings got stronger.
At about 11pm I asked Alex to run a bath. The warm water felt comforting. Alex sat by my side and we chatted to take my mind off the tightenings. I was surprised how quickly each contraction passed. I used the relaxation techniques I’d learned from my hypnobirthing CD, and focused on controlling my breathing and releasing any tension in my body.
Alex had been timing my contractions using an app on his phone. By 2am, I was having three every 10 minutes and we decided to call the hospital. We were told to come in. I’d been organised and already had my packed hospital bag and notes in the car boot.
A 15-minute car journey later, we walked slowly to the maternity ward, where the nurses’ station was strewn with Halloween decorations and sweets.
In the reception area, my waters broke with a huge gush. ‘Sorry!’ I said. I was shown to my room where Alex helped me out of my soggy clothes and into a nightie. A midwife examined me: I was 3cm dilated and my baby was in the ‘back to back’ position.
I was disappointed not to be further along, but pleased to be able to stay in hospital. I hoped my baby would turn, because I’d heard that this position could make labour longer. For the next couple of hours I concentrated on my breathing, rocking on a birthing ball and pacing the room. The contractions intensified.
The midwives asked if I wanted pain relief but I was coping OK. I’d decided on my birth plan only to have medication if necessary.
At 4am, my younger sister, Emma, rushed in – she was my other birth partner. I’d been there for the birth of both her children, so it was payback time. ‘You’re having a Halloween baby!’ she said.
Suddenly, I realised my baby’s birthday would be on one of my favourite days of the year. The thought of double celebrations in years to come was a boost.
Emma and Alex kept the mood high and we joked together. In case I’d need a c-section, I’d been asked not to eat much, so I told my birth partners off for snacking in front of me.
By 5am I was still just 4cm dilated, but I powered on through and by 7am I wondered if having another bath might speed things up. It worked a treat. Alex sat by my side and stroked my head while stronger contractions gripped me.
Out of the bath, I lay on the bed to be examined. ‘Wow, you’re almost fully dilated,’ the midwife said. I was relieved. Thankfully, the baby had moved position and I was ready to push.
The baby was considered premature, although only by a few hours, so the midwife wanted to keep an eye on the heart rate. A monitor was strapped to my bump and I lay back on the bed. I felt reassured. I didn’t get a strong urge to bear down, but I followed the midwife's instructions about when to push.
For the next 50 minutes I pushed with all my strength. Something didn’t feel right, though.
‘Push through your bottom,’ said the midwife. That’s when I remembered learning in my NCT antenatal class about directing my energy as low down as possible – I’d been tensing my bump when I should have been relaxing and bearing down into my bottom.
Just before the next contraction I placed my hands down and felt the baby’s head between my legs. It was so exciting.
As I began to bear down low, the sensations changed and I knew my pushes were now far more efficient. In just two more contractions I felt a huge pressure, then a release as the head came out. The midwife eased the head out further and I heard a cry and knew everything was OK.
With the next push I felt overwhelming relief as the body slid out. The midwife held our girl up for us to see.
To my relief, she was chunky, with gorgeous chubby cheeks. I burst into tears. Alex and Emma were crying too. Alex cut the cord and the midwife placed our baby girl, Pearl, on my chest. Feeling her skin against mine was incredible.
Pearl weighed a healthy 6lb 12oz, but stayed in hospital for five days as a precaution.
And while I missed the Halloween trick-or-treaters, our first night home more than made up for it. Emma and Mum had added to our already-festive front door, putting up a ‘haunted house’ sign and extra skeletons.
That evening, we had a belated mini Halloween party with friends and family. Arriving home with our newborn baby to celebrate my favourite day was such a treat. And I’m so excited about all of
Pearl’s birthdays to come.
This year, we’ll be celebrating at a special Halloween event at Disneyland Paris – I can’t wait.