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Belinda, mother of two (born 1989 and 1990), hometown Bicester

The birth of my first child took just under 24 hours from when my waters broke. My waters broke at approx midnight so my husband called the hospital and was told we should make our way in. We arrived at around 1am and I was examined and told that my contractions were coming fairly regularly. However, this didn't continue and they subsided and then stopped. Because my waters had broken I wasn’t allowed to return home so stayed the remainder of the night and because nothing had started up again by the morning I was encouraged to begin 'walking the corridors' in an attempt to restart the contractions. I was monitored regularly and because nothing had restarted by lunch time I was re-examined and told that baby was becoming a little distressed so I would have to be hooked up to a monitor which meant I was confined to bed. A close eye was kept on the monitor and the time came when they felt I needed some help to get my contractions started so was given a drug to restart them. This worked and following some very painful contractions, a dose of pethadine, to take the edge of the pain, and some severe straining my first beautiful little boy was born at 11.35(ish) almost 24 hours after my waters broke. His father very proudly accepted the task of cutting his son's cord and proceeded to ask if he too could inspect the placenta. Baby was fine for the first couple of days but then his bilirubin levels became very high (jaundiced) and he was hypoglycemic so was put in an incubator under lights and wired up to drips and all sorts and had his heels pricked to take blood to check his levels at regular intervals. He spent 8 days in intensive care and I was given a photo of him all wired up just in case he didn't make it. It was a very traumatic first experience of having a baby and for 8 days I did nothing but cry, sit and talk to my little one and pace my room, praying that my little boy would be ok and make it.

The birth of my second son began by my contractions starting whilst I was ironing. I had a notepad and pen to record the frequency and once they were about 5 minutes apart I called my husband and explained we needed to go to the hospital. I had made sandwiches and flasks of coffee and my bag was packed and ready by the door. On the way to the hospital I was completely relaxed although in pain from the contractions, which were coming faster and more strongly on the way. I remember joking that if they carried on the way they were he may have to pull over and deliver the baby himself. I think he turned gray and just put his foot down - I laughed. We arrived at the hospital and I was wheeled to the delivery suite having asked if I could use the birthing pool. It was on a first-come, first-served, whoever-was-dilated-enough-at-the-time basis so having been examined it was decided that at 6 centimeters dilated I could use it. The midwife broke my waters and I was allowed into the pool. I had aromatherapy and my brow mopped by my husband, who wouldn't get in the pool with me even though I packed his trunks. My contractions progressed quickly once my waters had been broken and after what seemed like quite soon after getting in the pool I had given birth to a second beautiful little boy who was determined to do a couple of back strokes before being lifted out of the warm water. This time his father asked if he could cut the cord, which he did. It was the most amazing experience with no pain relief except for the soothing warm water I was tummy high in. My baby was totally relaxed and so was I. A completely different experience to my first one and I would highly recommend a water birth to anyone who may have the opportunity to have one.