Annabella Lillian Portway
Daughter of James Portway and Jessica Clark
Born on the 28th June 2011
At Croydon University Hospital
Weighing 6lb 14oz
ames and Jessica met when they were students at Reading University, and they’ve been together ever since. They got engaged, but decided to prioritise starting a family over getting married. “Organising the wedding was going to take another year, and having a baby seemed more important and exciting,” explains Jessica, “we felt that the time was right. We’ve been together for so long, and we own a house together, so the marriage bit was almost a formality. We’re going to get married next summer, and it’ll be lovely to have Annabella as a flower girl.”
Jessica and James were very excited when they discovered that Jessica was pregnant – and they were desperate to know whether they were having a boy or a girl. “We were so impatient, we didn’t even wait for the 20 week scan – we had a private 4D scan at 18 weeks. We thought it might be a boy, because that’s what everyone had been guessing, but we were really happy to find out that it was a girl.”
Discovering that she was carrying a daughter gave Jessica, who writes a blog about maternity fashion, mumzy-not.com, an excuse to get everything she needed well in advance. “I love shopping, so it was a great excuse. I went a bit crazy buying things, especially clothes. We were completely ready for the birth – perhaps even too ready!”
Jessica was keen to stay in shape during her pregnancy, and found the first couple of trimesters relatively easy-going. “I liked being pregnant. I was sensible – I ate really healthily and still tried to exercise, even if it was just walking, so that I didn’t put on too much weight.” However, in the last few weeks, she developed a back problem, which made even walking a struggle.
Because of her back pain, Jessica had a sweep at 40 weeks to help speed things up. Three days later, Jessica’s waters broke. She went into the hospital, but was sent home.
“I was told to come back when the pain was unbearable. But by about 1am I was in agony, so we decided to go in. Little did I know how bad it was going to get!” At this point Jessica was still only 2cm dilated, but the hospital staff decided to keep her on the ante-natal ward for the rest of the night. James had to go home. “It was horrible on the ward, they gave me some more co-codamol and told me to rest – ha! By the time James came back in the morning, things were much worse. At lunchtime, I was given gas and air – and it did absolutely nothing. Even James had a go, and was disappointed.”
By 4pm Jessica was 4cm dilated, and was moved to the labour ward. “I’d originally wanted a water birth, but because of my back I wasn’t allowed one. In the end, there was a bath in my room, but I didn’t want to go in it – I just wanted lie on my side. It goes to show that you can’t predict these things.”
One thing that Jessica had been determined about was that she didn’t want to have an epidural – though it took the persuasive powers of husband James to ensure that she stuck to her birth plan on this one. “James was really supportive – he knew that I really didn’t want an epidural, and he talked to me and reasoned with me. He was a great birthing partner, I couldn’t have done it without him.”
With James’ support, Jessica got through the rest of the birth on gas and air, and at 8.20pm, Annabella was born. “It was a textbook birth, according to the midwives. The active labour stage was really quick and I managed not to tear. I was just relieved that it was over, and then I had a rush of emotion – we both cried.”
Back home in Croydon, the new family are doing well. “We’ve really got into the swing of things. We now know exactly what’s wrong and what each cry means, so it’s much more relaxed. Annabella has started to interact and smile, which is lovely, especially for James because now he can bond a lot more with her. She’s also sleeping brilliantly, so we’re a lot more rested.”
“I’ve made a lovely group of girlfriends from our NCT class, and we meet up at least once a week – if not more. The best money I’ve ever spent was on that class!”