Birth Story of The Week – Anna and Ivor

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My son has just turned two and as I contemplate the birth of my second child in May 2017, I’ve found myself reflecting on labour number one and just how life changing it was…

Long before my husband and I even considered having children, labour to me was a dirty word; a horrific form of torture that could only feasibly be dealt with by a swift elective caesarean. I was well and truly birth phobic, due largely to that fact that all the women in my family have experienced terrible labours and only ever speak of them with looks of ashen fear. With gynaecological genetics like this, how could I possibly be any different?

Fast forward a couple of years and with a beautiful swelling belly, something switched in my brain. When you’re faced with the reality of actually growing your own wee babby and pushing it out, something primal and natural and hopeful genuinely does take over. Add to the mix my number one saviour and

Hypnobirthing Hero, Hollie de Cruz aka @theyesmummum, she miraculously helped to transport me from a place of fear to a place of positivity.

About a month before Ivor was born my midwife told that me that he was posterior, which would most likely cause a longer, more painful labour. She also asked if big heads run in my family? Nice; just what every expectant mother wants to hear. I’m not going lie, having to do a myriad of special exercises, sit bolt upright on the sofa / on a pilates ball when all I wanted to go was vegetate and have acupuncture session after session was a right royal pain. But unlike the old me, I didn’t panic and freak out. I used my newly learnt hypno tools to breathe through the spiking anxiety.

The midwife wasn’t wrong. My birth was long – 48 hours from waters breaking, spine shatteringly challenging and yes, to this day, Ivor has a massive head. But what I still can’t quite believe, over two years later, is that I managed it and still feel positive about the whole experience.

My waters broke at 2am and due to some discolouration we had to go to the hospital to get checked out. Fortunately all was fine and a couple hours later we were sent home again but with the explicit warning that if we weren’t in active labour within 24 hours I’d have to be induced. The next day was spent mostly relaxing at home, walking, resting, eating donuts and embracing my ‘surges’ (or contractions to non-hypnobirthers) in a surprisingly (to me) calm way. We shipped off to hospital again, now 24 hours after my waters had broken, because of reduced foetal movements and what we thought were 3:10 surges.

Disappointingly I was only 4cm dilated and the doctors were pushing me to be induced given the time that had already passed. I was adamant that I didn’t want this to happen and luckily a kind midwife took pity on me and explained that the impatient doctor wouldn’t be back for at least two hours and to see how I got on in that time. Luckily I had dilated another 2cm and the army of doctors let me continue to progress naturally. This part is all a real blur of sickness, pain that I increasingly felt I couldn’t cope with, delirium and exhaustion – at this point I’d been in labour for almost two days and was utterly exhausted. On a cheery note, and I’ve no memory of this, apparently I ate some fish and chips in the middle of it all (you can take the girl out of Glasgow…).

In the end, I was given some kind of induction. Was it a hormone drip? I have genuinely no idea. I was just too zoned out. I relented and agreed to any help possible to get this baby moving and thankfully within a couple of hours the drip had worked and I was pushing. No-one warns you quite how vigorous this part is! I thought I would breath Ivor out like I’d seen in all those wonderful hypnobirthing videos but no, this stage was something akin to running a never ending marathon. But bloody hell do you feel like a hero at the end of it!

And so bang on his due date and after almost 3 hours of pushing (during which time I was continually told that if it didn’t happen soon I’d be having a caesarean) my beautiful wee Ivor was born. My husband delivered him, put him on my chest and eventually cut the chord. Nothing, absolutely nothing, prepares you for that moment of complete and utter emotional euphoria. So consuming is it that I was only vaguely aware that at this point I was haemorrhaging quite badly and needed an injection to stop the bleeding. Oh and the stiches – what joy!

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Recounting all these details initially filled me with utter fear about doing it all again in May. I was in hospital for a good 5 days in total and it really does take every fibre of your being to grow, deliver and nurture a baby. I may not have had a dreamy home water birth on half a paracetamol and a couple of oms but I did break the pattern of birth trauma in my family and coped with all the challenges in a calm and controlled way. I have reminded myself of just how incredible the female form is and once I have shrouded myself in hypnobirthing confidence, I know that delivering number two will be just as positive and empowering an experience.

And now to life beyond birth… There are a million ways in which having a baby transforms your life. For me, beyond the joy, chaos and exhaustion, it gave me the confidence to leave my demanding commercial fashion producing job – a highly stressful, round the clock environment – and set up the business I’d been dreaming of and was only able to dabble in part time for many years. Dress Yourself Well is a styling service for individuals in need of a confidence boost, particularly following periods of life change, ill health and body transformation. Before having Ivor I had no idea how many wonderful mums I would work with, all adjusting to their new lives and bodies at varying stages of motherhood. Having gone through that journey myself I completely understand how challenging it can be.

Every week I meet mothers who are impatient with their post-partum bodies, struggling to feel themselves again or grappling with how to transition their wardrobe from the playground to the work place. My advice is always to be very, very kind to yourself, embrace your new body and learn how to dress efficiently and for your new shape. Lusting after old clothes that make you feel rubbish is the worst thing you can do and investing in some mood and confidence boosting alternatives is a great step towards reclaiming your sense of self. Mums, just as our birth stories shape and inform our lives, so too does taking the time to look after ourselves and feel the best we possibly can at such an unquestionably tender time.

 

 

 

 

Birth Story Of The Week – Lucy and Jude

Lucy sent me her birth story last month during baby loss awareness week, she said 
‘I emailed you about 6 months ago about sending you my birth story for our son, who was stillborn. It’s taken me this long to finish writing it but after pregnancy and infant loss awareness week, I wanted to send it on to you. I hope it’s ok.’ Here is her story of Jude’s birth.
Women in my family like to cook their babies as long as possible, so with number 3 I didn’t expect it to be any different. Having had my first at 42 weeks +1 day, my second 41 weeks +2 days, when number 3 would arrive was anyone’s guess. To compensate I’ve always had very easy pregnancies apart from the usual complaints and like the others, this one had gone pretty smoothly.

10th May 2014

Several sweeps later I was 10 days over my due-date and no sign of baby coming. On Saturday I went in for a routine post-date scan, 11 days over, and was told that everything was looking normal, baby was happy, fluid levels were good and was sent home to return either in labour or for induction in 3 days time (as per hospital policy).

11th May 11.30pm

We went to bed on Sunday night, having sent my mum home thinking we wouldn’t need her back until I was to be induced, and about 2 hours later my waters broke – in flood like fashion. Having never had my waters go before labour started I called the hospital and they told me to come in as soon as possible. I had hoped I’d be able to labour at home as I had the last time and was feeling a bit disappointed that I might have to spend it all at the hospital. We arrived into the hospital maybe an hour later and were set up for a trace – the midwife wasn’t managing to pick up a heartbeat and she got the scanning machine and although she wasn’t saying much when she went to fetch another midwife I began to worry. When 2 midwives were unsuccessful I realised something was terribly wrong. It was the middle of the night and we had to wait for a registrar to come out of an emergency section before we could find anything else out. Those 20 minutes wait were perhaps the longest of my life. My husband kept reassuring me but I knew deep down that this wasn’t normal and was preparing myself for the worst. When the midwives returned and asked us to come to a private room, that’s when I knew we’d lost our baby.

12th May 3.30am

The Dr scanned me and then we heard those words that no expectant parents ever want to hear, ‘I’m very sorry there’s no heartbeat’. It’s impossible to describe how I felt in that moment. I remember my husband, Ross, asking lots of questions and I don’t think I spoke for quite some time. The hours that followed are somewhat of a blur because in the dead of night none of it feels real. There were tears, questions, kind reassurances from the night staff and mostly just being held by my husband. We had to wait until after 8.00am to have an official scan in the fetal medicine unit, to confirm what we already knew. At this point I was having contractions maybe every 20 minutes, in that moment you don’t really believe that the baby you’ve carried for nearly 10 months, felt kick and move and squirm is actually dead and then you are faced with the realisation that you still have labour to go through.

8.15am

After a sleepless night we were brought down to the fetal medicine unit for another scan. I remember staring at the screen willing it to not be true, for it to all have been a huge mistake. The sonographer was a gentle and kind woman, who fought back tears as she told us, again, that our baby’s heart had stopped beating and we returned to our room to see the midwife.

I was part of the community midwives scheme and when Kate, our midwife, entered the room that morning, I couldn’t have been more relieved to see her face. Kate had delivered our eldest daughter and the familiarity was something we really needed. Kate really was a gift sent from above, not just for the labour ahead but the days that followed. There aren’t enough words to express the gratitude we feel towards Kate and how she cared for us, but more on that later.

At this point our options were discussed. Kate explained to us that often in situations like these the body will try and resist labour and so it could be at least 24 hours before I would deliver the baby and that often delivering a stillborn can be difficult. They asked if I’d like to go home and wait to see what would happen or if I stayed in the hospital, after a few hours if things hadn’t progressed I could opt for an oxytocin drip to move things along. There was a lot of information to process and part of me wanted the decision to be taken out of my hands. Being asked what you want to do and I just wanted to shout I don’t know, I don’t want to do any of this. I felt an enormous burden to try and work out what to do in the midst of feeling so utterly devastated. Kate was incredibly helpful at taking time to sit with us, listen to us and give us space to work it all out.

I knew the last place I wanted to go was home, to my 2 little girls eagerly awaiting the arrival of a new sibling, to all the reminders of the baby we had prepared for, for the past few months so I decided to stay at the hospital and see what happened.

At this time Kate also spoke to us about considering taking the baby home with us after he or she was born. Our initial reaction was that this sounded like a crazy idea but in time we discovered that it was the most natural thing in the world to do.

My contractions were still only about 15 minutes apart and not lasting very long, at this point you are totally torn because you just want to get it over with but equally you know that once it’s over you have to face the reality that you don’t have your baby anymore. The idea of delaying labour and keeping him or her inside me for a little bit longer meant we had a little bit more time before I had to say goodbye. I decided to have a shower and then we planned to go for a walk and try and get labour going. After a chat with my aunt, who is also a midwife, I decided I wanted to try and labour naturally if I could. Although part of me just wanted to say give me an epidural as soon as possible I knew from previous experience that this would affect my recovery time and as frightened as I was I also knew I wanted to have the chance to deliver this baby in the way I had planned.

11.00am

Before I got into the shower I said to Ross, just pray that this labour happens quickly and easily. I got out of the shower and after getting dressed suddenly my contractions were 5 minutes apart and growing in intensity. This was starting to happen. After having had no sleep the night before and I hadn’t eaten anything since dinner the previous night I suddenly became completely overwhelmed at what was ahead of me – I looked at Ross, broke down and said I don’t think I can do this. If someone had at that moment offered me a c -section I would have taken it. After Kate had examined me  (I was only 1 cm) she suggested I take some pethadine, which might help me relax and get some rest and might also help bring on contractions – I was able to have a good dose of it as it wouldn’t affect the baby!

And it did just that. We played the music we’d planned on playing in labour, I lay on the bed and Ross held my hand as I breathed through the contractions, they were strong but not unbearable. Kate remained in the background, ready with heat packs, sips of water and when Ross needed a loo break she took his place, held my hand and encouraged me. It’s amazing how nature kicks in, despite the devastating outcome, my body knew it had one job to do, to deliver a baby and even though I knew that this wasn’t one of those – ‘the pain will be worth it moments’ – I wanted my baby’s entry into the world to be one that was calm and peaceful, perhaps because this was the last thing I would be able to do for him as his mum.

2.00pm

To the surprise of all the midwives within 2 hours I was ready to push – I’ve never had an easy time pushing out my babies but this time round we got to the delivery suite, I instinctively climbed onto the bed and after a few puffs of gas and air and what only seemed like a couple of minutes of pushing at 2.15pm, our beautiful, perfect little boy was born. He weighed 8pds 3ozs.

Kate had warned us about the strange silence that would follow delivery and as she placed his little body beside me – he looked so peaceful, as though he were just asleep and in that moment our hearts were both overwhelmed with love and completely and utterly broken.  We named him Jude – which means praise/thanksgiving – because despite our loss we are so thankful for our little boy.

I’m so grateful for our incredible midwife, Kate, who went over and above in her care for us and without her support I don’t think I could have done it. We got to dress and hold our son and have him with us until the next day when we could take him home so his two big sisters (and the rest of our family) could meet him and say goodbye to him.

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Having now delivered 4 babies I can say in all honestly this was by far my easiest birth, physically speaking – it doesn’t really make any sense but I think of it as my gift to him and his gift to me. Grief is an exhausting thing, emotionally and physically, and I’m so grateful that I had such an uncomplicated delivery, no stitches etc. allowing me to give myself to grieving our little boy and being available to our two little girls.

Although my memories from that time are still extremely difficult I genuinely cherish my memory of Jude’s birth. I still look back and often ask how did I do it and truthfully I don’t know – yet I found a strength and a grace to face the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do.

6 weeks later we got the results of Jude’s post-mortem – where we were told that Jude had an acute group B strep infection and my placenta had a condition called DVM of the placenta (which only occurs in 3rd trimester). I hadn’t been screened for group B strep (it isn’t routinely screened for here in Ireland as in the UK). We were told at that appointment that it isn’t considered ‘cost effective’ to screen mothers but since losing Jude I really believe that information and awareness on Group B strep is totally lacking in maternity services – women should be given the choice to screen for something that is so easily treated and could prevent such devastating outcomes.

We miss Jude every single day, I don’t think I’ll ever understand why it happened, but this is Jude’s story and I’ve realised that telling it is part of our healing. As I write this, almost 2 1/2 years to the day, I sit with my gorgeous 11 month old daughter on my knee – but that’s a story for another day.

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For more information and support on any of the issues raised in Lucy’s birth story follow the links below

Group B Strep Support

Tommys Charity

Sands

 

 

 

What I’ve Learnt… so far

Happy 10 months old twins! We celebrated by going to a twin play group in a church hall, you know the type instant coffee in a polystyrene cup and a packet of custard creams. Lots of lovely smiling faces from fellow twin mums, who fetched my over enthusiastic daughter from an almost near fatal accident involving a much bigger toddler and a dolls pram. The kind of fellow twin mums who didn’t judge me for breaking mid conversation to retrieve my other twin from licking the biscuit crumbs from under the table after snack time. They just get it and what a breath of fresh air it was to be in the company of such great women.

After a rather tricky and exhausting time I’ve been having with it ‘all’ I decided today that actually I’ve come a long way, and learnt quite a fair bit about myself, the kids and my abilities to juggle a baby on each hip whilst being able to sign for a package; god knows what my postman must think of me.

So this is a list, and by no means is it finished because well let’s face it being a mother never really is over is it?

  • a cream cheese sandwich and a Petit Filou is perfectly acceptable to give the twins for lunch every day
  • I still hate baking, glitter and playdough
  • and Mr Tumble
  • and soft play
  • but nothing says ‘you’re almost there’ than the Cbeebies bedtime theme tune
  • there’s no such thing as a quick trip to the shops/park/cafe – its a full on military operation
  • I can fold the double buggy into the boot of the car quicker than the woman in the demo video on YouTube
  • an emotional 9 year old vs crying twins? Still not sure which is harder to deal with
  • pooing alone is now considered a luxury
  • and showering for that matter
  • buying the Sunday papers and reading them the following Friday is an achievement
  • the dishwasher is never empty
  • and I can never seem to get to the end of the washing pile
  • despite being identical by genetics, the twins personalities are as different from each other as their older sisters
  • the fascination with twins where ever we go never ceases to amaze me
  • no matter how many children you have, those first milestones like finding the sharp corner of one of the twins 1st tooth today still fills me with immense pride and joy
  • going out for a family lunch is a waste of time and money and at least 4/6 of us end up in tears
  • some days I really haven’t ‘got this mama’ shit together at all (despite reading it on my favourite mug in the morning) and that’s ok
  • and some days I’m bored, tired, unfulfilled and that’s ok too
  • and then there’s days were we have a GREAT day doing absolutely nothing but just hanging out and those are the days to remember
  • despite my concerns my lap is big enough to fit 4 daughters on it for a massive cuddle
  • I’m not necessarily the mother I thought I’d be, but I’m pretty happy with the mother I’ve turned out to be
  • and EVERYONE at some point is struggling with motherhood one way or another (even the woman who who looks like she’s got her shit together at rhyme time)

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Birth Story Of The Week – Sadie and Katy

Tom and I were so excited about our first baby.  She was due on 7 December, the anniversary of Pearl Harbour – “a date that will live in infamy”.  So we were ready then – and every day after that….. Now that I am a midwife, I suggest to people that they lie about their due dates, as we’d been idiots and broadcast the EDD far and wide – and were than annoyed when people started ringing to ask why we hadn’t had that baby yet….

I’d left work at 38 weeks, so nearly 4 weeks later, I was getting a bit bored. I’d nested like mad, done loads of painting, and on a Friday morning, (after a sweep the day before) I woke up early and felt compelled to get out my blowtorch and start stripping the front door. Insane behaviour – it was 18th December, freezing and dark. And I was beginning to feel tightenings….. Anyway, quite enjoying myself when I got a call from work – would I come and help with a commentary record for a documentary we were just finishing  – if I had nothing better to do. Didn’t really think the half-stripped door was a good enough excuse so I went in to Soho and got involved with the recording. All day I could feel more tightenings, and was sort of racing to get to the end of the programme, and then gloriously announced that I was in labour! Woo hoo. Came home in a rush in a taxi – beloved Tom extremely alarmed but I was calm.

Must say at this point that we were the sort of first-time parents that I now find quite annoying. We hadn’t done any antenatal classes – actually ran away from the NCT in terror after one session (and we’d PAID for the whole course!) – knew no one with a baby, nothing about what looking after babies does to you or indeed anything really about how they are born – but we did have a sort of blithe faith that everything would be OK.

So we pitched up at St Thomas’ about 8pm Friday night and I was in established labour. Good o, I thought, I can have my epidural now. At the time I was spending a lot of time with doctors, and my dad’s a doctor, so I thought that state-of-the-art pain relief was the thing to have. I hadn’t known that I’d need a cannula, and a catheter, and I’d be tied to a bed – and I did find that a bit off-putting, but was too polite to say no…. so before long I was tied up, but having Nancy Mitford read to me…. A very sweet midwife was with us all night (I’d never met her before) and she said it would now be like a long flight – we didn’t really know if there would be delays or turbulence along the way, but we’d be at our destination the following day. I was really excited but I think I slept. Tom went for a midnight walk along the South Bank, running into the dregs of people’s Christmas parties and wondering how much his life was going to change…

Morning was coming and I think the epidural wore off a lot (by design, I guess?) and I felt a real change – and then was encouraged to push my baby out. It really hurt. I thought my eyes would pop out. I was terribly shocked by that and thought I must surely die of this – but I didn’t, and actually I think the pushing was only 45 minutes (seemed like eternity to me though) and she was here! I felt magnificent.

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The sun came up over the Houses of Parliament. It was 0730 on December 19th 1998. We sat about all day and went home about 6 that evening. We were so pleased with ourselves!

Now I am a midwife, and a caseloading midwife, looking after a group of women and their families before, during and after their babies’ births – I wonder about my experiences around Katy’s birth.

We didn’t know our midwife – and it was never suggested to me that I might try to do labour without major pain relief – or even have a home birth. Coming from my background and experience, I think I would have resisted that, but I wish I had been encouraged to consider it.

I think cheerful – if ill-informed – belief that everything was going to be OK was actually quite protective – I hadn’t heard loads of horror stories – I thought my body was pretty good at the things it was supposed to do – and I also thought that even if I had a grim day, I would have the baby for ever and that was what mattered. So I was very blinkered, but I think now that that confidence was fine. I felt the same way about breastfeeding – just assumed that I would be able to feed the baby we had made. I seem to remember thinking that it didn’t matter whether I fed her in the first three days, but I must have done…. (and she is now nearly 6 feet tall….)

When I talk to women about early labour, I suggest that they do a bit of gentle cooking, or walking around, but that they try not to get tired out and too excited. So my blowtorching at dawn followed by a long day at work was not ideal, but I have to say it did keep my mind off the contractions, and by the evening, I really was in labour. I think our lack of preparation meant that Tom and I hadn’t talked about how we might work together in the labour, and I think he felt powerless and afraid (he was in hospital as a child and was very fearful…). I remember being quite worried about him  – and I think now that that was rather inhibiting for me. We’d have been better with a bit more preparation, or indeed another supporter with us to look after Tom….

I see in the pictures that Katy was wrapped immediately and given to me. I didn’t know about the benefits of skin-to-skin contact – although in fact my dad had done research in the early 70s about its importance, but funnily enough we’d never talked about it. So now that I help women to be really close to their babies, I’m a bit sad that I didn’t have that with Katy on that first day. Ho hum. We made  up for it when we got home, by instinct though, rather than through any knowledge.

So overall, I wish I’d known my midwife – I think it would have made a great difference to have someone along with us who could have influenced us to be a bit more in tune with birth and what it could mean. On the other hand, I think the epidural was fine, and having a bit of sleep before the pushing probably made more difference than anything else to our eventual success. In those days, you didn’t stay overnight after an epidural and I was so glad to be able to go straight home. I remember the three of us in our enormous bed that first night, none of us asleep, full of excitement and joy that our Katy was here.

I finished stripping the front door about a year later.

Sadie is a Case Loading midwife and works in South East London.

Birth Story Of The Week – Emma and Violet

Monday mornings are about to become even brighter with the return of Birth Story of The Week, so make sure you sign up to the blog and your inbox will never look so dull again. To kick off this week we have Emma aka Finlay Fox who writes a fab blog so check it out here.

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So after going 9 days over my due date I was starting to lose it slightly, it felt like the longest pregnancy ever! An induction was booked in for a few days time so I had the weekend to pray that it all kicked off naturally. I had been trying all the classic old wives tips and advice from friends to help bring on labour – eating pineapple, prunes, positive affirmation mum to be cards, curry (even though my indigestion throughout pregnancy was shocking and this was the last thing I fancied), reflexology, massage (great but bloody expensive), stomping, a lot of walking (good excuse to go shopping), clara sage oil and had even considered… shock horror…sex (nope didn’t get round to that in the end!). I had a sweep but this didn’t seem to do anything apart from make my husband feel queasy. My parents were fed up of waiting around and went up to Norfolk for the weekend – maybe this would help bring it on?! Maybe she was determined to be a February baby?

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On the evening of 29th January I finally started feeling different, Finn was back from nursery and I couldn’t do his bedtime as I felt sick with some period pains. I said to Liam I think we should eat early, just in case, to make sure we had energy for what was potentially a long night ahead if I went into labour, and yes dinner was in the form of a curry! I went to bed early and woke at 11.30pm (weirdly the same time as when contractions started with Finn) – to a massive kick in my tummy and I heard a ‘pop’ as my waters broke in bed. The contractions were on and off for the next hour, strong but not regular enough to head to the hospital. UCLH – my chosen hospital in Euston where we also had Finn – was up to a half hour drive away so getting the timing right was key. Liam helped me through each contraction as I held him in a strong grip! As things ramped up I told Liam to get his parents (who luckily only live 5 minutes away) over to look after Finn who was asleep upstairs and to call the taxi. As soon as his parents arrived the contractions were coming thick & fast as I was ushered into the taxi. As soon as I sat down I was in agony, as we drove down our road every speed bump was intense and unbearable and all I could think was how many speed bumps we still had to go over before we got there! At the end of our road I shouted that we had to stop and I had to get out. A strange claustrophobic feeling filled with a change in the pain and the sudden need to push meant I had to get out. Standing in the pouring rain, pretty much outside our local pub, with people coming home from their Friday night out, Liam held me and I told him we had to go home. There was no way in hell we were going to make it to the hospital! I couldn’t move for the pain, plus the fresh air and rain felt so refreshing, all I could hear was the cab driver calling an ambulance as I refused to let go of his car. Liam called his dad to come and pick us up in his car and I somehow climbed in and he took us all 500 metres back to the house.

Back at the house things were kicking off – a duvet was placed on the sitting room floor for me and I took up position on all fours (adamant I wasn’t going to be in a bad birthing position as I had been with Finn). Liam was nervously talking to the paramedics on the phone, now delayed as they had been called to a cardiac arrest. Told to ‘get down the business end and check for crowning’ he did what most men dread! I was well and truly in my birthing zone and could now only concentrate on my breathing and what was about to happen. Luckily for Liam another ambulance turned up and 2 paramedics – a guy and a gal -set up next to me and bought some much needed gas and air (although again having learnt from Finns birth not to have too much as it makes me high as a kite and very distracted!). They were incredibly calming and although I couldn’t make eye contact with them (as I was so much in the birthing zone) I knew I liked them and they created a relaxed atmosphere. They told stories and chatted away at ease, I think they were happy to not be dealing with a drunken call out on a Friday night (well Saturday morning by this point). I was adament they were going to tell me we had to go to the hospital and things weren’t happening as I thought they were. Liams parents were in the kitchen at this point, wisely staying out of it!

Over the next half hour I pushed with each contraction and the female paramedic delivered Violet at 2.38am on 30th January. It was a 3 hour birth in total. She weighed a healthy 9lb 6oz – 4 oz heavier than her bigger brother when he was born! Finn slept through the whole thing. The midwife then turned up! She delivered the placenta and then we all took the ambulance to Homerton hospital to go get me stitched up as I had suffered a second degree tear, ouch. I was desperate to do skin on skin with Violet but the shakes took over my body all the way to the hospital and it wasn’t so easy being strapped in on a stretcher! At the hospital (we were lucky enough to have a private room right up until we were discharged that afternoon) it suddenly dawned on me what had actually just happened! Elated and exhausted, high on adrenaline, our beautiful daughter was finally here and she certainly made a memorable entrance into the world born in our sitting room! Cuddles, boob and skin to skin contact were then made up for in abundance as we stared at our new bundle of joy in the hospital!

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I have to say the whole experience was positive for me, I would highly recommend a home birth, especially if it’s your second baby, you live in London and have to experience an abundance of speed bumps on your journey to the hospital! We would have been able to stay at home after she arrived if we had been registered at Homerton Hospital which would have been perfect but actually being in hospital for the stitches and baby checks did make me feel a bit safer.

I’m Back!

It’s been 8 whole months since my last blog post which is so weird because it feels like yesterday that I wrote that – I was so sleep deprived in a cycle of questioning my ability to parent the twins and giving the older girls enough time and attention and be a good wife And then there was tiny task of finishing my book. Well I can safely say we made it, and by we I mean us – my husband for supporting me through every tear, emotional breakdown, reassuring hugs when I woke up at 4am asking him if he thought anyone would even buy my book? I actually lost count of how many cups of tea (both hot and reheated) I drank and that’s not to mention the copious amount of chocolate I consumed.

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But I did it, I wrote a bloody book and it’s even got a fancy cover and everything. It feels totally surreal that with really young babies I managed to put all the jumble in my head down on paper (well keyboard) and my editors promised me it didn’t read like a massive brain dump! I honestly don’t know how I did it; there were days where I would have one baby in a sling and my foot firmly on the bouncer so I could just finish a paragraph. Dark nights where I would stay up not knowing when the twins would wake for the next feed, I got really good at expressing and typing albeit with the odd bit of boob milk spray going everywhere.

I can’t even believe I’m 10 months into my maternity leave because just like that I’m now watching the twins pull themselves up, eat toast for breakfast in their highchairs, laugh hysterically at their big sisters and I’m having to plan childcare for when I return back to work in January. I’m not sure I can honestly say I’ve learnt anything new but all the cliche things people say to you when your maternity leave are 100% true;

  • it goes so fast
  • everything is just a phase
  • it doesn’t get easier, you just get better at it
  • try and enjoy it before it’s over
  • and sleep, sleep makes everything better

Anyway I digress, what I really want to say is THANK YOU to all the amazing women who contributed to my book and to my followers on here and Instagram who continued to support me through this crazy time.

You can pre order my book by clicking this link here it’s not out until February the 2nd so get in there early. Also (as I’ve been asked this a few times already) this book is for any pregnant woman, 1st or 4th baby, and not just for women how are having a ‘natural birth’ it’s got a whole chapter on c-sections. Also the weekly birth stories will be BACK as of Monday, send yours in if you would like to share it.

Big love and a massive thanks xxx

Oh How You Forget

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You know those lovely little Facebook memories that crop up on your feed, the ones where it says ‘on this day 4 years ago’ and some photo or status of how you felt/looked/did gives you a pang of nostalgic realisation that life is going really fast? I saw one the other day as I trawled through Facebook during the 3am feed that made me feel a bit sad. It said ‘shitty nights, shitty teething, shitty half term weather, shitty nappies, shitty bank balance, shitty 3 year old tantrums’. I felt sad because I thought how lonely I must have felt to voice all of that so publicly on my wall for all to see but more significantly, that I had no recollection of even doing it. And why is that? Why do we forget the dark times as a mother? Is there some kindness Mother Nature installed in us like forgetting the pain of labour so we reproduce again? There are a millions things I’ve forgotten when it comes to having a newborn baby, despite feeling like I should be an old hat at this mothering role by now, here a some of them;

  • that babies don’t eat, sleep, poo, repeat on a 3 hourly Gina Ford esque schedule
  • that babies cry for absolutely no reason even when you’ve fed them, winded them and changed them
  • that for those first few weeks of life they don’t give you anything back in the form of love or recognition for all your god dam hard work of nourishing them with your breast milk, a simple smile would be hugely appreciated during those darks hours at night
  • and that you will without a doubt question your ability to breastfeed them and always ask yourself ‘how do I know they’re getting enough?’
  • that waking up freezing cold in a pool of your own sweat is possibly the most unpleasant side to breastfeeding
  • and breast pads will always end up rolled up in a sticky ball at the bottom of your bra
  • that tea is only ever drunk tepid
  • that breakfast is eaten at noon and lunch at 4pm
  • that the washing machine is on constantly
  • and the dishwasher for that matter
  • that you never finish a conversation, emails are sat in your draft folder and attempting to make that new recipe you’ve been lusting over in the Hemsley and Hemsley cook book will never happen
  • that mum guilt no matter in what from, raises it’s ugly head when you’re at your most tired and makes you question EVERYTHING
  • that Googling ‘when do babies sleep through the night’ is not going to give you the answer you were hoping for
  • that you’ll find yourself reading every parenting forum (usually during the 3am feed) on the topic but end up getting distracted by a thread on the breast vs bottle feeding debate and wished you hadn’t
  • that it’s incredible how a cup of tea and a chocolate brownie can make everything seem ok again
  • that everything is a phase (dispite HATING this term) and things will get better

The Birth Story of Ottilie and Delilah

It’s difficult to know how to start this birth story. I still can’t believe I only gave birth to the twins just over 2 weeks ago. If you’ve followed this blog you’ll know this was no easy pregnancy, there were so many uncertainties; the horrendous morning sickness, the scary bleeds in the first trimester,nthe reality of going from 2 children to 4, both babies being breech for what seemed like ages and the fear of Obstetric Cholestatis returning.  Well it did with a vengeance. In brief I had bloods taken at around 28 weeks into the pregnancy to have a look at what my bile acids and liver function tests were doing (I hadn’t started itching at this point) and they were already abnormal. After an initial wobble my amazing midwives and Consultant calmed me down and a plan was made to repeat the bloods in 2 weeks. By the time those 2 weeks came I was already itching on my hands and feet so I was started on lots of medication, creams to sooth my skin and Piriton to help the irritation. When people ask what it’s like to have OC, the only way I can describe it, is like ants biting under your hands and feet and no scratching will ever ease the itch. And the itching isn’t just on your hands and feet it’s everywhere. Legs, arms, bump, boobs. My skin was so damaged I was covered in bruises and scratch marks I looked like I’d been in a fight. It’s worse at night and some nights I wrapped cold wet flannels around my hands and feet to relive the burning sensation. The one thing that kept me sane was the amazing online support charity ICP which had a Facebook page where sufferers can post questions and receive help and advice. At 5am when I hadn’t slept this was a life saver.

By 34 weeks I was at breaking point, I was hardly sleeping and nothing was helping with the itching. I took myself off to see my Consultant full of tears and worry and begged her for an elective section. I could see no way of carrying on until 37 weeks feeling so tired, so I figured it was best to deliver the babies early to put me out of my misery, plus they were still breech and transverse so a vaginal birth was not recommended. Again my amazing Consultant calmed me down, talked me through the options but did a quick scan just to check their presentation. And guess what, they were both head down and twin 1 was engaged! I was shocked, I hadn’t even felt them turn. So it was decided to induce me at 36 weeks, have some steroid injections to help mature the babies lungs and she prescribed me some amazing sleeping tablets (which are safe in pregnancy) to ease the nights. I went away feeling calm, confident and for the first time excited to birth my babies.

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We had a date for the induction so over the next 2 weeks I listened to my Hypnobirth relaxation MP3  every night, stuck my YESMUM to be cards all over the house and had weekly massages from my wonderful doula. I could do this and everything was going to be fine. A few days before my induction date I had lots of early labour symptoms, a bloody show, loads of period pains, cramps and back ache but no babies. I felt confident that my body was getting ready for Friday and carried on practising my breathing techniques with my husband.

The day came to meet our little squirrels and we headed to the hospital at 7:30 am to meet my midwife and consultant. I was sneaked into a birthing room (I didn’t want all my colleagues to know or see I was on labour ward) and the plan was to have my waters broken and hopefully get things going. By 8:30 my waters were broken (I was already 4cm dilated) and I went off with my husband and doula to walk up and down 4 flights of stairs. My doula had my squatting, walking sideways you name it we did it. I felt like I’d done a Zumba class. My doula brought a wet flannel with her which had lavender and clary sage oil on it and I sniffed it like mad woman, I actually felt quite high. After 2 hours nothing was happening and we went back to the birthing room to talk through my options. My midwife head came into play and I knew the next stage was having the hormone drip. I wasn’t scared or worried about what this would mean but I knew time was ticking on and I wanted to get on with the labour, I even said ‘I want to feel these contractions now’. I was aware I was clock watching so my husband suggested taking the clock down from the wall.

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So we started the drip on a low dose which meant I had to be continuously monitored on the CTG machine. This wasn’t a problem as I sat on the ball leaning over the bed (still with my Hypnobirthing MP3 in my headphones) so I didn’t feel restricted or confined to the bed and could still be upright. I managed to totally switch off from everything around me, it felt like it was just me and my husband in the room and the calm voice in my ears from Hollie de Cruz.  After about half an hour the contractions were very mild and didn’t seem to be building into much so my midwife slowly increased the dose and I carried on rocking on the ball. I breathed through every contraction imagining a wave breaking gently on the shore ‘inhale peace, exhale tension’. *Just to say at this point, this was the first time I’d practised hypnobirthing techniques during my own labour so by no means was I an expert but I just kept the breathing techniques as simple as possible.*

After another half an hour the contractions had picked up and felt I needed to work harder to focus on my breath and not tense my shoulders or jaw, this is when the breathing really helped to keep everything soft. I took my husbands hand during every one of these contractions and held the wet flannel to my nose to inhale the lavender and clary sage, still keeping my eyes closed throughout. After a pretty intense contraction I walked to the bathroom to try and have a wee (my doula had been giving me sips of coconut water after every contraction which was just brilliant). I couldn’t manage a wee and stood up and had a really strong contraction which was horribly fierce and took me by surprise, I leaned onto my husband  trying to get back into my breathing and said ‘I can’t do another contraction standing up ‘. We walked back to the ball and it was clear the drip was definitely working as the contractions were really regular at this point, maybe every 2 minutes. I picked up the gas and air and rested the mouth piece in my mouth, not inhaling it just having it there as a comfort. The next contraction came and I instinctively knew I wanted to get on the bed (I’ve never birthed on the bed in my other labours) I turned onto my right side and felt a change in my body, a sensation I knew yet still couldn’t believe I was at that stage. Pressure. It was in my lower back right on my sacrum and there was no ignoring the different sounds I began to make.

My midwife head popped back on as I heard the paper of delivery packs being unwrapped and opened my eyes to see my midwife had changed out of her own clothes into scrubs and my consultant standing there smiling and looking pleased. ‘I’m not at that stage yet it’s way too soon’ I declared and they all reassured me that twin 1 was on her way. I suddenly felt scared and told my husband who calmed me down and told me l was going to be fine and brought me back in the zone ‘inhale peace exhale tension’. I still insisted on keeping one of the ear pieces from my headphones in one ear as I couldn’t bear not to have those sounds keeping me calm.

My body then took over and I began to feel twin 1 moving down in my pelvis at quite some speed because before I could even think ‘I can’t do this’ her head was crowning and my midwife asked me to slowly breathe. I don’t recall waiting for another contraction because a few seconds later she was on my chest skin to skin and screaming. I couldn’t really believe how quick it had been but was well aware there was another baby to birth.

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My midwives kept the hormone drip running so that my uterus continued to contract and within 5 minutes I felt the next wave of contractions building and asked for her cord to be cut and clamped and my doula took her for a cuddle so I could concentrate on the next bit. Another moment of me being a midwife crept in as I recall looking at my midwife as my consultant quickly scanned the second twin to make sure she was still head down. ‘I’m not having a forceps!’ I declared as I heard the sound of the metal instruments being tided away from a delivery pack. ‘No you’re not having a forceps you’re having a baby’ my consultant said to me. The contractions were strong very quickly again and my midwife broke the sac of water of twin 2 and I felt her begin to follow the same journey her sister had only made a few moments before. I was still on the bed but had rolled onto my back, one midwife encouraged me to rest my leg onto her to ‘make more room for baby’ a phrase us midwives say a lot! ‘God I hate it when midwives say that’ I announced to my midwives, they all laughed. And before I even had time to think about the ‘what ifs’ I felt that same sensation of her head emerging, followed by her body. I had done it.

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The placentas came out fused together one significantly bigger than the other but both looked healthy. My blood loss was minimal and I didn’t have any tears or grazes! (good old perineal massage). We spent the next hour munching on delicious goodies from the snack bag (thanks Jo) drinking tea and trying to master the skill of tandem feeding. After a quick shower (best feeling ever) and freshen up we were transferred to the postnatal ward where I was lucky enough to have a private room. My husband and I stared at our new baby daughters, both completely elated and exhausted at the same time.

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We named them Ottilie Pearl and Delilah Iris just in time for their big sisters to meet them the following day.

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Mental Things You Do During The 3am Feed

  

  
Almost 2 weeks earth side and the babes are beginning to form some sort of feeding routine, which includes the much welcomed (!) 3am feed. Oh that delightful hour how I’ve missed thee. Once the babies are successfully on the boob I find myself reaching for my trusty friend, my phone to read anything to keep me awake for the next hour. So far these are the things I’ve found myself doing and thinking. Often mental but totally rational.

  • I usually mutter some swear words at my husband who despite the light being on and one or both babies yelling he manages to sleep through it all, always snoring
  • Going onto expensive beauty websites and buying excessively priced tinted moisturisers because all the 125 reviews say it the best tinted moisturiser they’ve ever used
  • Whilst on said website which charges an arm and a leg for p&p I find myself popping more products in the basket so I qualify for the free p&p (you have to spend over £100!)
  • I calculate that we don’t own enough white bed linen especially with the increased amount of milk, sweat and tears being absorbed in our bed so I order more bedding from a very well trusted department store. But read every single review first (hence needing a full hour) before finally opting for a 1000 thread count range, all in white of course
  • Next is bulk buying nappies and baby wipes and because we only have 58 nappies left in the house I sign up to the membership which means it will be delivered the next day. I order 4 boxes (200 nappies) and 20 packs of wet wipes. (I think this is when I’m getting really tired)
  • I read the entire section of UK Showbiz on DM online before realising that I have no idea who half the people are in this years Celebrity Big Brother
  • I Google ‘average temperature for the South of France in August’ because we booked a holiday back in December and on these grey January days I need something to look forward to
  • And then research how much a personal trainer would cost to get me into some acceptable shape to wear swimwear again
  • Other Google searches include; how long does it take for it all go back to normal down there, how does Courtney Adamo do it, and how much is does it cost to have fresh flowers delivered every week?
  • I attempt to write the last few chapters of my book (on my phone one handed) then give up and come up with a million blog posts I want to write but worry I’ll never have time
  • I try and do my pelvic floor exercises properly before realising the slumped in bed position probably isn’t great for achieving this
  • I read at least 3 different Making A Murderer theories and I’m still undecided, what about the vile of blood for gods sake!
  • I then download the Serial podcast again and start listening to episode one, before realising I’ve fallen asleep sitting up, neither baby is on the boob and it’s 4:30

Even Though I Know…..

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I still have these nagging, doubting, negative thoughts about the rest of this pregnancy and in fact the next phase of our lives from a family of 4 to a family of 6.

Even though I know…..

  • that these Braxton Hicks I get all the time is just my irritable uterus responding to the endless kicks and punches from 2 babies, I still wonder ‘is this the start of labour?’
  • that I won’t go into labour this week because the mind and body is so powerful I’m still working out how quickly my husband who is flying to Chicago tomorrow for 4 days can get back in time and who would be my birth partner?
  • that if they were born now at 30 weeks they will be fine but the thought of them being in an incubator in SCBU makes me feel sick
  • that if my Biles Acids are a bit high and my feet are itching at night I can’t change anything, yet I still feel a sense of feeling ‘let down’ by my liver if it does develop into OC again
  • that letting go of the things I can’t control is the best thing I can do for my state of mind, I still lie in bed at night going through ALL the possible birth scenarios
  • that Hypnobirthing does work and will help me remain calm and focussed no mater what birth I have, what if I forget everything we’ve learnt and practised and I end up screaming and losing the plot like some possessed woman?
  • that if I do need a c-section I will be well cared for by the best possible team of people, but the thought of lying there on a theatre table whilst someone cuts me open to deliver my babies feels so unnatural to what I’ve experienced before – it makes me want to weep
  • that there will be 2 brand new tiny humans joining our family, I still feel anxious how it will affect and change our current dynamics
  • that of course I will be able to expand my mothering love to the twins, but what if I have a favourite or bond with one and not the other?
  • that my older two girls will love their new sibling and adapt because that’s what children do but what if they feel so left out and jealous they blame us for the rest of their lives and end up in therapy?
  • that it doesn’t matter how I manage to feed them because they’ll thrive either way, but I know the guilt every new mother feels when breastfeeding doesn’t work and what if I get postnatal depression?
  • that the first few weeks/months will be exhausting but I’ll get through it but the memories of functioning on broken sleep and obsessing over routines makes me feel overwhelmed with fear and I wonder if I’ll ever leave the house again with clean hair?
  • that I have the most wonderful support network around me including my husband, my mum, my doula and amazing friends I still worry about feeling isolated and lonely and the thought of going to baby groups fills me with dread

Even though I know that all these thoughts sound irrational, perhaps even mental I have to trust my YESMUM card that everything will be ok. (goes to wash and fold tiny white babygrows and has a little weep)