You'll never be fully prepared for what pregnancy or labour might bring. Whether it goes to plan or not, there are sure to be surprises along the way. Features writer, Samantha Wood tells us a hilarious story (sorry Sam) about when her waters broke just a few short months ago...
There are certain things in life that are likely to remain etched on your memory forever. Like your awkward first kiss (age 14, church graveyard) to where you were when you heard the news that Princess Diana had died (age 19, hungover in a dog bed after a heavy night). Well add to that the moment your waters break. I can remember every single toe-curling minute of the latter not just because it happened 8 months ago but because it happened much earlier than expected at 37 weeks. At work, in front of everyone.
Like most pregnant women I’d spent the last nine months agonising over every possible outcome of my impending labour. Birth plans had been drawn up, routes to the hospital practised, husband prepped to demand every single drug under the sun. I’d fantasised an unsuccessful journey resulting in a delivery on the hard shoulder, terrible contractions in the dead of night resulting in a delivery on the bathroom floor but pretty much resigned myself to a tedious two week wait in front of Loose Women before the delights of a cervical sweep. What I’d failed to imagine were my waters breaking and what that actually might be like. It just hadn’t appeared in any scenario I’d conjured up.
It was the Monday of my final week at work. My boss had told me to pack up for the day, joking that there were two words he never wanted to have to utter in the workplace and those were "it’s crowning!" Oh how we all laughed. But five minutes later as I started to walk across the building’s fancy reception, nothing but a cheesy baked potato on my mind, I felt a sudden rush of fluid in my pants. For a split second I assumed it was just a bit of discharge. It felt like the first flush of a period. But it kept coming - and coming and coming.
My initial reaction was to stop dead in my tracks, hoping that whatever was happening in my pants would for the love of God stop. But it didn’t. What felt like pints of warm, slightly viscous liquid just kept steadily seeping through my knickers, down my black leggings and into my Reebok Classics - soaking my socks - as oblivious work colleagues passed me in their droves, wishing me a goodnight. It’s rare that I just don’t know what to do. I pride myself on being a quick thinking problem solver, but it’s hard to think straight when water is pouring out of you and Terry the security guard is stood watching it happen.
Terry the security guard, as it goes, was my saviour. I’m not sure he knew exactly what was happening but he whipped out a key to the private downstairs toilets and I managed to shuffle in there and sit on the loo as more water (clear and odourless - don’t even pretend you wouldn’t get your nose in there and check) flooded out. I actually prayed for it to stop - at least long enough for me to stand up, walk outside and phone my husband - but it didn’t. So with a wodge of soggy paper towels rammed between my legs I waddled out, head down, avoiding eye contact with everyone and stood in the pouring rain (I’ve never been so thankful for terrible weather - at least everyone was soaked) and made the panic-stricken call to him (GRAB THE TENS MACHINE! IT’S SOMEWHERE NEAR THE FRIDGE!) and then one to my midwife. The general rule of thumb when your waters break with clear fluid and no contractions is to pop your feet up and just relax a bit before rushing to hospital as contractions generally start within 24 to 48 hours, but because I was a high risk patient (I’d tested positive for the Group B Step bacteria meaning a prolonged wait after my waters breaking could cause infection) and nearer to the hospital than home, she suggested I headed straight there to be checked out.
It was far quicker for me to take the tube, a decision that’s since been met with the reaction ‘you did WHAAAT?!’ so I John-Wayned it to the station and rode the seven stops, terrified and totally in denial that this could be it, I might actually be having a baby. I’d like to add that I did sit on a copy of London’s free rag The Evening Standard, but I may well have left the seat a bit moist. So if you happened to get a wet bum on the Hammersmith and City line one evening in early January, I’m awfully sorry.
If the rain had in any way managed to disguise my embarrassing situation my cover was blown when I reached the waiting room. When you rock up and say that your waters have broken they firstly ask for your notes (who carries these around three weeks before due date?) and then ask you to sit on a big, blue, plastic sheet. And if that didn’t draw enough attention, the large puddle I left on the floor most definitely did. A lot of monitoring happened followed by a night in the hospital and our daughter Daphne Dolores arrived the next evening. I’ll spare you those gory details.
Unfortunately there’s no way to tell if your waters are going to break in a public place, or even if they’re going to break at all, but if there’s any words of wisdom I could give you to prepare for the possibility it would be these: go and put a couple of those fetching maternity pads in your handbag right now! Whilst they might not go far in soaking up much of the tidal wave they’ll afford you a bit more protection than a few paper towels. Plus if you do head straight to hospital, the first thing any midwife will ask is to look at your pad. Next, don’t put off packing your hospital bag! I hadn’t done mine and my husband had to race around locating tens machines and pictures of the cat and battery operated tea lights. He arrived with enough stuff to service us for six months but with most of it useless, bless him. And finally, invest in some wet-look leggings and in the final weeks of pregnancy never take them off! These are what saved me. Occasionally now when I’m lying awake at night - a screaming baby by my side - my exhausted mind will tempt me to imagine the whole situation again but this time I’m just wearing a dress. Things could always be a whole lot worse!
Samantha Wood is a features writer who has had work published in ELLE, Stylist, Grazia, Heat and Psychologies - most recently working on teen title Oh My Vlog! She lives in East London with her husband David, new baby Daphne Dolores and beloved cat Fidget.