What’s it like to give birth twice within 12 months? Mum Hayley McLean shares all.
‘Jon, there’s that smell again,’ I told my partner anxiously.
We were relaxing on the sofa, our tiny 10-week-old baby, Noah, in my arms. ‘No way, you must be imagining it,’ Jon said.
It was a strange, musky scent, and it had been the first sign I was pregnant with both of my sons.
Jon and I called it the ‘phantom smell’, and it had lingered for the early weeks during both pregnancies.
I was smelling it again, but how was that possible? Our son was barely through the newborn stage, my period hadn’t returned and, just to be safe, I’d started back on the pill.
To reassure myself I took a pregnancy test. It was positive.
Noah must have been just six weeks old when we’d conceived. Just how would we cope with a toddler and two babies less than a year old?
The GP and midwife calmed my fears. I’d had a c-section with Noah and the scar had only just healed following an infection, but they told me my body would cope with the strain.
I’d need another c-section, though, which suited me fine.
That first antenatal appointment was comical – I saw the same midwife as I had with my last pregnancy and we had a laugh about how soon I’d returned.
Once the shock had worn off, I went on to have the easiest pregnancy ever. It was as if my body was carrying on where it left off.
Instead of the sickness I experienced both times previously, I felt well and energised.
We waited until I was six months pregnant to tell friends, and lost count of the shocked comments we received.
Looking at the small baby in my arms, resting just above my growing bump, it was easy to understand why! But somehow, I knew we’d make this work.
It was only in the last month of pregnancy that I started to struggle.
Pelvic pain meant walking was hard, and I relied on crutches to get about.
At 38 weeks, when the date for my c-section was brought forward,
I was relieved. Jon and I arrived at the hospital maternity ward at 7am. We’d been told that although a slot for theatre may not become available that day, and that we might be sent home, we needed to be ready.
Once we’d changed into scrubs, I signed the papers agreeing to the c-section, and Jon and I spent the morning sitting on the bed, chatting.
The butterflies in my stomach didn’t disappear until I tried ‘square breathing’: I focused on the window, moving my eyes along the rectangular outline as I exhaled, and again as I inhaled.
At 11.40am a slot had suddenly become available. Jon and I followed a team of medics down the corridor. Worrying wasn’t an option – there wasn’t time. Walking into theatre felt reassuringly familiar. It was exactly the same room as last time, as if I’d never left.
Jon was ushered to the side of the room. The anaesthetist chatted to calm me. I felt the needle going in, but there was no pain. I moved onto my side as instructed and within just a few seconds a numbing warmth travelled up my legs. I lay back, feeling calm.
Jon stood by my side as a screen was placed in front of my chest. Classical music added to the chilled-out atmosphere. I hardly registered the start of the procedure. I’d expected to feel the familiar tugging ‘washing-up bowl’ sensation, but I didn’t feel a thing.
In just a few minutes I felt a ‘light’ feeling in my belly and our baby was held up over the screen.
‘It’s a boy!’ the doctor announced.
I beamed with pride. Our baby looked tiny and perfect. The doctors cut the cord, wrapped him in a blanket and lay him on my chest. Jon and I were ecstatic.
Like the pregnancy, my recovery went so smoothly. My scar soon healed and our new baby, Sailor, breastfed well.
His brothers Noah, then just 10½ months old, and Tyne, aged two, visited later that day. I lay on the bed, holding Sailor and watching with amusement as one sibling crawled over the bed and another toddled around the room. From now on it was going to be enjoyable mayhem.
Back home, there were plenty of tricky moments, especially at night when Noah was teething, Sailor was hungry and Tyne was woken up.
‘How do you do it?’ people gasp, but the truth is you just get on with it. And seeing Noah, now 14 months, help his baby brother – picking up his dummy and calling him ‘baba’ – melts my heart.
Those moments of cuteness have far outnumbered the tricky times.
Saying that, Jon and I have been extremely careful not to take any chances this time. We can survive three babies under three, but definitely not four.