Birth Story Of The Week – Lyndsay

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This is a tale of two birth stories, both very different. I’ve rewritten this numerous times. I’m not very good at showing my emotions, but believe me, this was difficult to write.

On November 17th 2012, our little boy, Dylan Alexander Hicks arrived – he was stillborn.

Our journey to hell and back started five days earlier when my boyfriend, Nick, and I went to a routine scan appointment. Instead of finding out the sex of our baby, we found out that there was something very wrong. We were told that there was no fluid around the baby, it was instantly clear from the sonographers face that this wasn’t good. It was confirmed the next day that the baby’s kidneys were either not functioning properly, or hadn’t developed at all. He had no chance of survival outside the womb. I don’t really know how to explain how it felt to be told this. Thinking back to that moment, I can see it as though I am an onlooker, I can see myself lying on the bed, crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. I think I kind of shut down after that.

Later that day we were taken in to a small room and joined by two women, I think one a consultant and one a midwife. They told us what was going to happen next, I didn’t hear anything they said. One of the women disappeared and came back a few minutes later with a plastic cup of water and a small paper cup with two pills. “You need to take these pills, we can wait a while if you prefer” she said, “I’ll have them now” I responded, and swallowed them in one gulp as if I were taking a couple of paracetamol. It didn’t dawn on me until the next day what the pills were for, “I feel different”, I told Nick, “I can suck my belly in”. Those pills were to end my baby’s life, how did I not realise that’s what they were for? I was angry at myself for being so stupid.

Two days later we were back in the hospital, I was going to be induced. As if I wasn’t hurting enough, I now had to give birth to my baby. It took 9 hours between the start of my induction and delivering the baby. I had a lot of blood taken for testing, this made me weak and woozy, I was given pain medication that made me violently sick, I was in a state of semi-consciousness, the only thing keeping me awake was the searing pain coming from my stomach. My head was lolling from side to side, I could see Nick and my mum looking at me worried, there was nothing they could do to help me, we just had to wait it out. Dylan was born just after 6pm, he was there, I could see him, his tiny lifeless body. “He’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!” I said to Nick, suddenly I was fully conscious. I was so happy to see him, which seems crazy, but the sadness had taken a backseat for a while. The midwife wrapped him in a blanket, put a tiny hat on his head and lay him in a basket, I only got to hold him properly once because he was so fragile. We got to see him a few more times, but because of his fragile state, he had to be taken back to, I presume, the morgue. The next morning we left the hospital with nothing but photographs and prints of his tiny hands and feet. As we walked to the car, we passed a couple leaving with their newborn baby, the first thing the new mother decided to do with her freedom was light up her cigarette, baby in the other arm. If I was a violent person I would have punched her right in the face. Sometimes life just isn’t fair.

A month later, after the post-mortem was complete, we had a small funeral. It was very short, a few words were said before I carried Dylan’s tiny coffin to his plot. It was December, the grass was frozen underfoot, I couldn’t help but think how cold he was going to be. Time passed slowly after that, people told me it would get easier – I didn’t believe them. How could you possibly get through something like this? Well the thing is, you do – and I did.

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290 days later, on 3rd September 2013, in the same hospital, in the same maternity ward, Hamish Dylan Hicks was born.

Pregnancy hadn’t been a fun experience, I was terrified something was going to go wrong. I had a scan every two weeks to make sure everything was okay, sitting waiting for my appointment was always a stressful time, but everything was going smoothly. I was admitted to hospital with pre-eclampsia at 34 weeks + 5 days. I was told that I would be stay in hospital until I was 37 weeks, then I would be induced. But at 35 weeks + 2 days, the morning after I’d had my last steroid injection, there was concerns about Hamish’s heartbeat on my CTG scan, he had to come out straight away. Nick wasn’t at the hospital, we were having carpet fitted in our hallway that morning, I rang him 5 times before he answered the phone. I was carted in to theatre and told that we couldn’t wait for Nick to arrive, I got my epidural and lay down on the table. Just as I was numb enough to be sliced open, Nick careered through the door with his scrubs half on. Hamish arrived with a shrill scream a couple of minutes later, I hadn’t realised they’d even started the procedure, Nick and I were just having a chat. I got to hold Hamish for about 30 seconds before he started having difficulty breathing. I didn’t see him again for 3 days. He had a few health complications that couldn’t be taken care of at our hospital, so he was taken to an Intensive Care Neonatal Unit at a hospital 40 miles away, Nick went with him but I had to wait until a bed was free to transfer me to. This was a stressful time, more so for Nick as I was off my face on pain medication, but I knew he was going to be okay, I didn’t got a second thing anything bad would happen to him. It’s strange to think about how laid back I was that Hamish got taken away, I would put up one hell of a fight if someone tried to do that now – I’m going to blame it on the morphine.

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After receiving some amazing care, Hamish left hospital a week (almost to the minute) after he was born, and he has been a healthy, happy boy ever since.

I don’t really know how to put in to words what it’s like to give birth to a stillborn, it takes you to a dark place, it feels like you will never be happy again. But I am happy again, I am happier than I have ever been, I feel so lucky that after going through such a traumatic experience, I ended up with such an amazing baby boy. We don’t talk about Dylan very often, but I think about him a lot. Sometimes I feel guilty that we are having fun without him, or sad that he didn’t have the same luck as Hamish. It’s a difficult thing to think about – if Dylan had survived, Hamish wouldn’t be here. That causes such a mix of emotions inside me that I couldn’t begin to explain it out loud – as I don’t understand it myself.

One of the gravestones near Dylan’s reads ‘A moment in our arms, a lifetime in our hearts’ – pretty cheesy, but very true.

You can find out more about us through my Instagram; http://instagram.com/lyndsay_buchanan

If anyone has/is struggling with the aftermath of stillbirth, or just wants a chat, my ears are open. Alternatively, I know that Sands (https://www.uk-sands.org/) are excellent.

‘Mummy, Where Do Babies Come From?’

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‘How do bees make babies Mummy?’

Picture the scene. It’s Friday, I’ve just got home from work and my 7 year old daughter is telling me about a boy she knows who’s Mummy has 9 children and is pregnant again. I am shocked. Not by the number of children this woman has but my daughter’s comment. ‘It’s not her fault Mummy she has so many babies it’s not like she decides to have another one every year they just keep growing inside her’.

What I found so tricky about this conversation is that maybe I should have left it at that and changed the subject, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t let my intelligent 7 year old think that’s how women get pregnant. She knows a lot about pregnancy and birth, being the daughter of a midwife and often hears me giving early labour advice on the phone or speaking to my colleagues ‘She’s how many centimetres dilated? Ok tell her to start filling the pool I’ll be there in half an hour’.

So I poured myself a glass of wine for Dutch courage and told her how a woman gets pregnant. I explained why men have willies that go hard, why fannies aren’t actually where we we wee from (diagrams helped with this bit) and I think she was pretty amazed. She liked the fact that she came from the mixing of an egg and sperm and was impressed at how clever the creation of life is. All was going well, I was giving myself a pat on the back for my diagrams and explanations. Brownie points for me. My motto is always be honest with my children and answer anything they ask me honestly.

Later that evening when I was tucking her into bed she brought up the subject again.

‘Mummy, you know that thing adults do to make a baby?’

‘Sex you mean Anya, remember it’s called sex’ I replied

‘Yeah sex, well have you and Daddy just done it twice you know to make me and Marnie?’

‘Of course sweetie, just those two times.’

Has anyone else had this conversation with their children yet? And at what age did you or them bring up the conversation?

Birth Story Of The Week – Helen and Matilda

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Hello! I’m Helen, mother to two fabulous and very loud children – Matilda, aged five, and Hugo, three. I am one-half of the comedy duo Scummy Mummies. We produce a number one podcast and comedy show taking a funny, honest look at the scummier side of parenting.

But my entrance into motherhood was quite the opposite – in fact my first labour was your full-on, all-natural, candle-burning, classical music-playing, yoga-chanting-in-the-lounge type of home birth. It was so calm, so lovely, and not very scummy at all. How my life has changed since then…

It all began when my waters broke at 9.45pm. I remember this very clearly as I was watching a show about John Prescott and laughed so hard that I thought I had wet my pants. There was a big whoosh of water and it just kept dribbling everywhere. I still think it’s hilarious that it was John Prescott who sent me into Labour…

My husband’s reaction was to run around in circles while looking panic-stricken. Obviously this was very helpful for me. I do recommend other birthing partners do the same. The contractions started at 11.30pm. At first they were about half an hour apart, but then they sped up fairly quickly. I tried to breathe through them and keep positive through the pain. Despite six months of yoga and breathing training, that first proper contraction was a huge shock, but I was determined to stay focused.

I was doing lots of Omming, Owwing and Oooohing – the neighbours must have been thrilled! I know my husband was. It might sound ridiculous, but it worked like magic and I felt really able to manage the pain. I rang the hospital and at about 3am a midwife came to the house. I had dilated to nearly 2cm and was getting strong contractions every 10 minutes. The midwife told me to take a Panadol and lie down, adding that she would come back later. I had been hoping for some lovely drugs and a massage, but apparently I was coping so well I didn’t need them – bummer! So my husband and I were left to do our 10 minute moaning sessions by ourselves.

But the midwife did give me an amazing piece of very simple advice: “Always lower your shoulders when the contractions come, and slow down your breathing.” Funnily enough, this got me through! I had a lovely bath (cue the candles and classical music) which helped me to relax and get into the rhythm of the contractions. Will, my husband, made himself useful by reminding me to only do “out breaths” and stay calm. He massaged my back and hands as I lay on my side in the bath and concentrated on my breathing. When I stopped focusing I started thinking about the pain too much, which made my breath get short and then I would throw up. That bit wasn’t so great!

At one point, which I now think was transition, I screamed, “I want to go to hospital and have an epidural” – followed by lots of swearwords I now forget. But Will kept me positive and helped me to keep breathing and relaxing.

By around 7am, I knew things were really happening so we rang the hospital again. By this time I was sitting in the lounge on a fit ball while Will set up the pool. I tried using the Tens machine but this seemed to make the contractions worse, so I decided it wasn’t right for me (i.e. I through it across the room in a rage.)

I should also mention that this was when my husband turned to me and said, “I’m really tired, you know – I did a full day’s work yesterday.” This was not his best moment and let’s just say I didn’t have a lot of sympathy for his predicament.

The midwife arrived at 8am, by which time I had dilated to 7cm. I was doing my contractions over the ball, swaying a lot, doing my “golden thread breath” and making the “ssshhhhh” sound. About half an hour later I got into the lovely warm pool and started using more sounds to get through the pain – lots of Ooooos, Ohhhhhs and Aaaaawwws. Again, this sounds funny now I think about it, but it was a really good way of communicating my pain levels to the midwife. Will said it was like listening to a car being tuned! (He watches a lot of Top Gear.)

My midwife, Claire, who had been visiting us at home in the run-up to the birth, had just started her shift and we got a call to say she could come straight away to deliver my baby. I nearly cried. It was so lovely to have the midwife I adored and trusted with me.

Claire arrived just as the second stage really kicked-off. We had more candles, more classical music and everyone spoke very softly and calmly. The pushing part was intense, but I got through it with all those sounds while holding tightly to Will’s hands. I ended up on all fours which was great, as I could look at him and feel supported by the water. (It was also good as there were a couple of incidents in the pool that required a sieve and I was pleased not to see that – I did regret eating lamb shanks the night before.)

When Matilda’s head crowned, the midwife told me to put my hands down and catch her. With one big push, a twist and a turn, I pulled her out of the water and held her in my arms. She came out screaming and was big, purple and amazing. She yelled for about 15 minutes, so she was definitely alive and well! We decided to name her Matilda Claire – this means “strong and mighty” as she was then and remains today! She also shares her middle name with my sister and, of course, my midwife.

We left the cord attached while I sat in the pool for an hour. It was so calm and relaxing. Matilda and I shared some lovely skin to skin contact as she kicked about in the water. The midwives gave me a huge spoonful of honey and made themselves a cuppa.

Then it was time for stage three – Will cut the cord, I hopped out of the pool and the midwives popped a carrier bag on the floor. The placenta flopped out with one big push! I have never felt so glamorous in my life. The midwife checked my downstairs for war wounds and to my relief, no stitches were required! What a vagina!

And what a baby! Matilda was born on her due date, Tuesday 28 October, at 11.45am. She weighed 8lbs 3oz and was gorgeous.

The midwives left around 2pm. Will, Matilda and I hung out on the coach staring at each other for a few hours. Then my mum and dad arrived to make us cheese on toast. Job done!

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My daughter is nearly six now and I have since had a second hippy-dippy, drug-free, moan-filled water birth. It was just as wonderful and I highly recommend it! I feel extremely lucky to have had a supportive husband and brilliant midwives helping to make both my births truly beautiful experiences.

Anyway, that’s enough lovely gushing. I must get back to writing about feeding my kids Haribo and fish fingers for dinner.

The Scummy Mummies Podcast is available for free via iTunes or ScummyMummies.com. Check out episode 14, ‘Midwife Crisis’, featuring the fabulous Clemmie Hooper! The Scummy Mummies stage show is performed monthly at The Hob in Forest Hill – visit their website for details. Twitter: @scummymummies