Michelle McVey, 31, a civil servant, lives in Liverpool with fiance Michael and daughters Rosie, 12, and Wynter, who will turn one on New Year’s Eve. She is pregnant with her third baby, due on 8thJanuary.
As I waddled round the shop, sausage rolls in hand, I felt a jolt of excitement. It was New Year’s Eve and my fiance Michael and I were buying party food to take to hospital that afternoon.
“Imagine we’re preparing for a hotel mini break,” Michael joked. Looking down at my huge bump and the grab bag of crisps in the trolley, I had to laugh. I love New Year, and I’d always hoped my baby would arrive in time for celebrations. This wasn’t exactly the way I’d planned it though.
I’d had my heart set on a home birth, but when doctors warned the baby was measuring small on scans, an induction around 37 weeks was advised. It took some persuading, but over Christmas I had time to think. Finally, I accepted a hospital birth was the best option for me and the baby.
The consultant let me pick a date, which gave me a boost. Given the time of year, there was only one option in my mind – 31st December. New Year’s Eve is my parent’s wedding anniversary, and we’ve always loved getting together as the clock strikes midnight. The thought we’d have yet another reason to celebrate – my baby’s birthday – felt exciting.
This year was going to be very different, but I was determined to celebrate in our own way. After Michael dropped our daughter Rosie with my family, who were getting ready for a house party, we drove to hospital, armed with my hospital bag and our supplies of food treats.
We walked past the Christmas tree in reception, towards the maternity ward. Everything seemed upbeat and festive. I remembered my Positive Birth Company hypnobirthing course. Listening to the affirmations on my app – that my body was strong and capable of birthing my baby – had made me feel me confident.
Although I wasn’t having my longed-for home birth, I felt empowered. I’d written a detailed birth plan, setting out my wishes and boundaries – like how I wanted to stay mobile, and that I didn’t want to be offered pain relief.
Michael and I were shown to the induction suite. When the midwife explained the first baby born in the new year gets a story in the local paper, I laughed. “There’s no way this baby’s coming before midnight,” I smiled, feeling strangely competitive.
We were asked to choose from a dinner menu, and Michael’s comment about the hotel started to feel almost serious! I was soon brought back down to earth when the midwife asked me to lie back. It was time for the prostaglandin pessary to be inserted, which would hopefully help my cervix to dilate, and stimulate contractions.
She examined me at the same time. My cervix was 1cm dilated, and I was a long way from established labour. If nothing happened after 24 hours I’d need to have a syntocinon drip to speed things up.
The atmosphere in that room was relaxed, and I never felt under pressure. We munched on our snacks, and soon the hospital’s three course meal arrived. “It’s like silver service!” I joked to Michael. We clinked our glasses of orange juice and toasted the new year and our new baby.
After we’d finished eating, I noticed a twinge in my abdomen. It repeated, so I watched the clock and realised it came every three minutes. Knowing these were real, regular contractions made me excited and emotional. When I fetched the midwife and explained what was happening, she was sceptical. I think I was handling things a little too well!
Once I explained how powerful each tightening was, she agreed to monitor me. I sat on a birthing ball, breathing steadily and rotating my hips, while a belt was wrapped around my bump, and a reading taken. After an hour the midwife returned and, sure enough, confirmed my contractions were frequent.
It was enough for her to examine me again. I’d reached 4cm dilated, so my waters could be broken. The midwife pierced the amniotic sac, and I felt a big gush as fluid escaped. It was all quick and painless.
Now we could be moved to a delivery suite. We were shown to a room that was a bit more clinical looking than the last one. Keen to get back ‘in the zone’, I asked for the lights to be dimmed, and for Michael to put on relaxing music. Although I was calm enough for labour to progress, by 10pm the midwife said the drip would help keep things moving.
A cannula was inserted into my hand and the hormone got to work. The tubes were placed strategically so I could move around on the ball, which helped to ease the pressure. Soon, the contractions ramped up to another level, becoming really strong and relentless. They took my breath away.
An ongoing joke from the midwife helped to lighten the mood - she said she had a bet with her colleagues on me delivering the first baby after midnight! Between contractions, I had to laugh. But then, as it approached 11.30pm my confidence about making that local newspaper shattered.
With no break in contractions, I started doubting my strength. I begged the midwife for another examination, but instead she helped me onto the bed for a look. “The baby’s coming,” she smiled. “I’m going to lose my bet!”
By now, that New Year challenge couldn’t have been further from my mind! Reassured I could start pushing, I began to bear down and my body led the way. I felt an urgent, low pressure, followed by relief, as the baby’s head came out. Then, seconds later, another urge to push took over and with the help of the midwife, I placed my hands down and guided the body out.
Our baby girl was placed on my chest for skin to skin, and relief flooded my body. Baby Wynter was beautiful, and at 5lb 13oz, perfectly healthy. Michael and I couldn’t stop smiling. With ten minutes until the clocks struck midnight, it was the best New Year’s Eve of our lives.
As we shared precious cuddles, we noticed the sound of fireworks outside. My phone started ringing, and when I answered that video call from my family they got a wonderful surprise. “Happy New Year!” Michael and I beamed, putting baby Wynter on screen. Their reaction was priceless. There were gasps, tears, and lots of raised champagne flutes.
I may not have had my planned home birth, and I never did make newspaper headlines, but Wynter’s birth couldn’t have gone better. I felt supported by the midwives, empowered by my choices, and thrilled to have another reason to celebrate every 31st December. This year we’re planning a festive family meal, although we’ll have to play things by ear. I’m pregnant again - due 8th January - so there’s the real possibility of another New Year baby!