Birth Story of the Week – Helen and Soren

This is Helen’s second appearance on the blog she also wrote her first birth story which is featured in my book ‘How To Grow A Baby And Push It Out’. Helen writes and publishes the magazine Lionheart, lives with her partner and 2 children in Bristol.

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I’m sitting here now with baby Soren right next to me, my rounded tummy still making for a good laptop perch, a yearning for chocolate digestives and a cup of Yorkshire tea. I’ll get up soon. I’m drinking in the various newborn faces and positions; milk drunk, yoga baby, pout squash cheeks, waving when asleep and dreaming arms.

There’s so much that’s the same as with my daughter, but he’s very much his own person with his own manner, energy and blossoming self. He frowns when he feeds, is utterly obsessed with the trees and the birds and is mesmerised by what’s happening around him – watching, learning. It’s amazing to see the difference in our home since he has arrived. Quite subtle I thought, but now I realise not at all. He has bought with him something that feels very centred, grounding and calming. A big wallop of spirit, that has floored me like his sister did before him. A boy of the earth and sweet like the kindness found in a homemade cherry pie (hungry), freshly delivered to tired newborn parents. He’s of that ilk – good folk.

This birth story was one that was highly anticipated. Giving birth once before did not make me feel more relaxed. The unknown had been a benefit to me in summer 2013. Lolling about in the park by my house with ice lollies, I said I didn’t have a plan, but of course, I did. And more importantly, so did my daughter. I very quickly realised that my labour and birth experience was more about remaining zen and the care of health professionals, who are all amazing, than having the right scented candles. Anyway, after having a tiny bit of a dramatic time, I found myself pacing the birth centre waiting room five days overdue with my second baby, palms clammy, feeling hot like a kettle left on a stove too long, whistling. And about to bubble over.

Having had a bit of a miserable first trimester, where I felt that I had no control and I couldn’t rationalise, or go without a packet of salt and vinegar crisps, I had a more jolly second and third trimester filled with yoga and contentedness. However, as the thought of induction put on its white jacket, I clammed up. And clamming up is probably not a good idea for birth, right? I felt reduced movements at 40+5. Nothing to worry about, nothing to worry about. “Go to the hospital,” said the midwife. Waiting for hours, enormous chocolate bar, hooked up and soon the baby was galloping about in there. That tug and pull of a baby having a party inside of you, so utterly not bizarre. But wild all the same.

The midwife had us in the following day and we had a scan that showed (the baby!!!) the baby’s stomach was a very tiny amount not as big as it perhaps should be. My partner questioned the graphs, the curve of the line, but this was no spreadsheet – this was our kid. I had a little anxiety creep up through me as I lay with jelly on my tummy, right from the tips of my toes, to the top of my head. Gahhhh. My heart beat hard, I could see it pounding under my top. The baby was snoozing. The news was induction. I had a wave of relief. The end was in sight.

Then that evening, in a complete turnaround filled with some unknown source of energy, I had an enormous surge of motivation and determination. NO! I wanted to try everything I could to flow (?) this baby right out. Stop clamming up, open up, think positive and calm thoughts, do some yoga, focus, eat some more chocolate. C’mon baby! I was like a wilde woman that night. And it felt great. I was given about 18 hours by the midwife that evening and I was going to do this. I WAS!

I have no idea if what I did caused the baby to start their great descent, or it was just time, OR the moon, but in the morning at around 9am, I had twinges. Then a show, then more twinges and more show. I called the induction ward who said they didn’t have any room for me anyway and were very happy for me that I was on the way to baby land. They were less happy about the show, which I thought may have some meconium in. So at 11am, we trotted off to the hospital. The twinges were much stronger, but nothing too crazy. I was dropped off at the hospital, while our daughter was delivered to friends. My partner found some parking he deemed acceptable, purchased a hefty amount of snacks and at length… he arrived.

By then my contractions were pretty regular and getting more intense. I was on the checking ward with the same midwife as I’d had the previous couple of days. Determined to create a spa (ahem) like zone for labour, I filled the curtained space with a large and very soft, deep blue blanket, excessively spritzed the air with Lush Breath of Fresh Air spray, breathed into a muslin with Bohobo aromatherapy oils soaked in (including clary sage) and opened a large bag – or two – of Maltesers. As I sat on the bed, the tightenings pushing harder and harder, I was in a mini trance. I was going places, ya know? Deeeep careeeervous plaaaaces. I was. I WAS. Please. However, I was still not quite moving anywhere fast enough according to the hospital, who told me I had until 2pm before I would have to really think about the drip.

“Can we go for a walk? To the hospital Costa?” I said.

“To Costa… well, OK. But you must NOT spend too long over there. Second babies do come quickly, you know. Hmmm. OK. Go now, then.”

Loved her.

My mantra, my mantra, my mantra: “I’m not having the drip, I’m not having the drip, I’m not having the drip.” Repeated continuously, all around the car park, in the Costa queue, looking at even more sandwiches for Charlie, chicken, chicken, not chicken, up the little hill. round the roundabout, in the little garden. I knew something was happening, it definitely was, but I wasn’t sure if this was it. Was it enough? Everything felt different to my daughter’s labour. The contractions were like surges, the pain more of a pull, the pressure felt like it was in a different place. Strange!

2pm. “Come on then! Ooh, I love that spray. What was that again? Lush, ooh I’ll have to get some.” We were on our way to the delivery suite. Noted to myself to get the midwife some spray. Loved her and how she got us a salad lunch when we’d been waiting ages the other day, and how she let us go to Costa and how she is excited for us, and – ahhhh, there it was again. Kind midwife: “Are you scared? Don’t be. It’s OK.” I wasn’t scared, but it was a really big contraction that stopped me. Head in the big blue blanket. OOOPH. We walked on and met our new midwife, while lovely midwife told us that her shift finished at 8pm, so hopefully she will get to meet our baby.

Our baby.

Lots of discussion over the drip. Pacing, wondering, powering, singing, humming. I asked the midwife to examine me, as I felt like I needed to know if I was moving at all. She is surprised and in a good way. YES! I was at 6cm. MASSIVE jubilation! But not too much. Breathe, breathe, breathe. She said they wouldn’t put me on the drip now anyway, as I was really contracting. Things were moving and though pretty catchy, my million repetitions of “not having the drip” were able to be replaced with something else now. Hooray!

The midwife left us to it and I took out YesMum Hollie De Cruz’s relaxation MP3. I had listened to this quite a few times in the last couple of months and it helped me to focus. I went into myself. I can still smell the clay sage and I think I heard: “Hello, my name is Hollie de Cruz,” about ten times. I kept hearing it again and again. My mind and body doing something together. I saw Charlie sitting on a chair, faffing around, eating a sandwich, reading the news. Eating another sandwich. Spinning, spinning, focus, focus – I was in this one place and it was cushioned and cosy and powerful. A central, nourishing and vibrant home, a heart beating and echoing out, my head in a pillow, my body some kind of buttttttttterflyyyyyyy.

“Toilet!” I went to the toilet aided by Charlie and then everything stepped up. It sped up, quicker and quicker. “Hello, my name is Hollie de Cruz,” breathe the air, iiiin and out. Gas. Gas. Gas. On all fours. Breathe. “The baby’s coming!” It was coming. How long had it been? A moment, a breath, the clock. An hour. An hour! An hour?

“Ahh, lovely,” she said. “I’ll get what we need, one minute!’

No time for minutes, or seconds, or “PRESS THE ALARRRRM!” I could feel the pressure really strongly, this baby was coming now, now, now! Suddenly she was there and with someone else and the pressure was so immense. I could feel the baby move down in a really big motion. And it was amazing – so low, so low, so lowwwww.

On the bed. I was. Gas. No more Hollie. Just me and – I remember shouting, “Make it stop!” Then some howls, the intensity of the WHOLE SITUATION.

A BABY WAS COMING OUT OF ME!

No more gas. Stop.

Breathe

My baby was coming.

I was instructed to push with all my might. I did this and then again, and again. Then I was asked to stop when I was told: “Keep going, keep going, keep going and stop, pause,” the midwife said slowly. The pause, the moment, the moment when birth and life become so intertwined, it’s at once incredible and humbling and for me, a point of utter clarity. Maybe that’s what it was, but. For that moment the room became bright white, clear and still. Time stopped and there was nothing but the brightest white, soft light and total and complete peace.

Then in an instant, one massive push and before I could even take a second breath he was on my chest screaming, red, plump and beautiful. I couldn’t believe it. So fast, so startling, so gentle, such an avalanche, a flurry of emotions, a numbness, a shock. I stared at him, I looked into his eyes, he fed, he screamed, he slept.

I think I had expected him to be exactly like my daughter. She was all I had known afterall, but of course he was him. Calm and wanted to be close, to be able to look into the eyes of another, to hear my voice. That night on the ward, I stared at him, picked him up, popped him down, fell in and out of sleep, watched him, fed him, fretted over his lack of needing to feed, changed him, cuddled him. Then just stopped. I lay with him beside me and slowly the feeling I had expected to immediately arrive as it had with Alba, trickled and then flooded over me. It breathed life into my weary body and doubled my heart. A bag of Maltesers lay melting underneath me.

He came on a full moon in spring and his smile is a balm, a pure joy. Soren is a rocketful of energy, calm and love and we are honoured to have him in our family.

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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Kirsti and Sonny

photo by Philippa James

photo by Philippa James

The second birth story in the ‘positive elective c-section’ series is from Kirsti, who despite her plan to have a natural birth had no choice but to opt for a c-section due to a potentially serious complication with her placenta.

“So – I should start by telling you that I am quite late into motherhood, I was 37 when I fell pregnant, 38 when Sonny-Jay was actually born.

A lot of our friends had had some sort of difficulty conceiving so we were totally prepared for the same to happen to us….it didn’t – I fell pregnant within 2 months of trying (insert strong arm emoji for dad here!)

I remember it vividly, we had just moved into a one bed flat in Hackney in between Kingsland Road and London Fields….we had a ladybird problem so Jamie was in the bedroom sorting that whilst I was peeing on a stick in the bathroom.

That minute when you find out you’re preggo for the first time is magic I think….I felt elated, lucky, scared, apprehensive but most of all completely alive.

There aren’t many times in life when you know for a fact that your life as you know it is about to change FOREVER and this is one of them.

We made the calls to family and then got our own heads around the fact that we were going to be parents now.

Fully mental.

I was working full time and had a million projects on the go so didn’t stop for breath, I was totally focused on carrying on as normal – I felt that pregnancy was not going to affect my work ethic or the way that I lived my life.

I wasn’t sick ffs – just preggo!

Then the tiredness came, OMG massive waves of tiredness that lead to me calling the doctor to say that “this is definitely not normal” and “I think there is something REALLY wrong with me”

NOPE – this was normal and there was nothing wrong with me – so I took to working from 9am-4pm napping for 2 hours and then working again from 6pm-9pm.

I remember thinking how the hell do women that have to work certain hours manage, but of course we all manage with whatever we have to manage with.

Tiredness aside I felt pretty great, life was good and we were really excited.

We had the sexing scan in Dec at Homerton hospital and found out that we were having a boy – left the hospital and it started to snow – magic everywhere!!!

At that scan they did tell me that I have a low lying placenta but that they usually move and that it wasn’t anything to worry about.

I was monitored but this placenta was stubborn and it did not move – then I had a very – very faint bleed and so we thought we had better go get that checked out, I think I was about 30 weeks at that point….I was admitted to hospital immediately and prepped for labour….just in case….steroid injections were administered to help the babies lungs develop – all very scary and not what we were expecting at all.

It was about now that it dawned on me that this placenta was not going to move at all.

I had not felt my baby kicking the entire way through the pregnancy but I knew that he was ok because I could physically see him moving around my belly….the weirdest thing though….all my pregnant mates were complaining of being kicked to high heaven and I couldn’t feel a thing.

I hadn’t thought about it much before that moment but suddenly it all clicked into place.

So now I just wanted to know what was going to happen to my birth……..i’m a massive control freak so for me this really was the hardest bit of my pregnancy, I cried, I shouted, I argued with consultants but ultimately I had to wait until the last minute – which was the 37 week scan to be delivered the news I had been preparing myself for.

I had a grade 4 placenta previa – a potentially life threatening condition – it means in lay-mans terms that the placenta is covering all viable exits for the baby…..the natural route – the cervix and the  operative route – the belly.

I was told there and then that I was being booked in for a c section in 5 days time…..because I could not under any circumstances be allowed to go into a natural labour – I was relived but totally shocked and I absolutely felt robbed of the chance to give birth naturally – so I mourned that with some tears and then picked myself up and got on with it.

I had zero time to prep myself for what was about to happen so my mother in law to be (Susan Jessett – she’s very active on social media, you might already know her!) took over.

She researched everything and came to meet my consultant with me armed with folders full of print outs from the Royal College of Midwives – all with flouro post its marking the pages she wanted to discuss with the surgeon.

She managed to conduct that meeting without giving me the slightest idea of the seriousness of the situation. My ears only pricked up when she asked if a blood transfusion would be on stand by – “just precautionary” she said.

In theatre they were going to have to cut through my placenta to reach my baby.

This means that they had exactly one minute to deliver him safely.

THANK GOD I did not know this was the case going into theatre……all I knew was that Sonny was to be born within minutes and I was going to remain in theatre for approx an hour afterwards to be sorted out.

So the day before the operation came, I – oblivious to everything went and got my hair and nails done – worked right up until the hilt and then got up at 5am the day of the op and popped off to Homerton Hospital with Jamie, his mum and his dad and our suitcase in a cab – it was like going on some sort of weird holiday where you come home with a little human instead of a tan.

Thankfully the op went without a hitch – if you don’t count the fact that they wacked a hair net on my do and whipped my nail polish straight off)

All I wanted to hear was the cry of my newborn and the news that he was ok and then I could focus on having to lay there for another 60 minutes instead of holding my newborn. I didn’t cry, I wasn’t emotional at all…..Jamie said he was worried I didn’t actually care that we had just had a baby but I was just trying to get through it all the only way I know how…

When I was finally ready to go through with my baby the nurses in recovery exclaimed that “most women come in here looking like death but you look as though you’ve just been to a party”

Obviously all those years at Glastonbury skipping around the fields full of ahem “wild abandon” came in useful here but I’d definitely say the fact that I didn’t actually have a bloody clue how serious the op was played a big part in my being so relaxed.

SO THANK YOU SU

Its fair to say that I was off my face later that day in hospital – on about a million drugs…….IT WAS SO WEIRD.

I was pretty battered and bruised around my nether regions after that op…..you could see where the elbows had been when they were pulling that baby out in the 60 seconds they had.

My midwife was visibly shocked when she saw me for the first time “GIRL – You’re black & blue!”

The first few months were hard for me….I wasn’t prepared for what was to come and I found it difficult to bond with my baby immediately – there was no baby bubble of love round our house I can tell you…….BUT…..we got there in our own time and now I LOVE Being a mum more than anything in the world and my god am I grateful to the team I had in that theatre with me.”

GOD BLESS THE NHS

IF LOOKS COULD KILL 6 WEEK OLD SONNY

@kirstihadley is the co-founder madlife.co.uk the parenting network for mums and dads

Birth Story Of The Week – Charlotte and Xander

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In a new series on the blog of breaking the ‘taboo’ about elective c-sections, and embracing the positivity that can surround them, I was fascinated to hear from Charlotte Philby from Motherland on her experience of her 3rd but 1st ‘natural’ c-section earlier last month.

“You’re having a c-section with NO ANAESTHETIC?!” The response of my dear (clearly demented) friend Jess to news that I am to receive a ‘natural cesarean’ at one of London’s leading NHS hospitals is testimony to why consultant midwife Belinda Green, who is pioneering the procedure, has decided to take its other name – the ‘skin-to-skin cesarean’ – for the purpose of a new study which launches next year.

After all, the description is misleading. As Green explains, there is nothing natural about a c-section of any kind. But for some women cesarean it is the safest option; and the purpose of the trial for which I have been asked to be guinea pig – a trial which will launch at University College London Hospital (UCLH) next year with the film of my baby’s birth shown to women participating in the study to demonstrate what is involved – is to replicate as closely as possible the experience of vaginal birth for women for whom natural delivery is not a viable option.

Not currently offered on the NHS in Britain, Belinda Green and her team hope to prove through their forthcoming Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) the positive outcomes for both mother and baby this kind of ‘slowed-down section’ can offer. Outcomes including improved bonding between mother and child, more easily established breastfeeding, and calmer newborns.

When I was first approached by Green, who previously ran the birthing centre at UCLH and now works in antenatal with a clinical and research interest in Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC), if I’d like to be the model for the trial, I was immediately intrigued.

Having been born at this very hospital myself, some 32 years ago, and having had my first two children here by c-section – the first the result of a failed induction, the second as a result of not going into labour at 42-plus weeks, and showing no signs of – I had often wondered what it would be like to actually hold your baby before it is whisked off to be weighed. To experience more of my child’s birth than a quick glimpse over the paper partition that masks women from the somewhat severe clinical procedure being performed inches from their face during a standard section.

While I was eternally grateful for two healthy children who may well never have made it into this world without the grace of medical advances, I still wondered…

Dr Ruwan Wimalasundera, a Consultant Obstetrician and Fetal Medicine Specialist at UCLH, has been performing so-called natural cesareans to his private patients for the past 10 years. More common in the US, the procedure is much slower than a standard cesarean, he explains when we meet prior to my elective surgery.

Once the incision is made to the abdomen as per the standard method, he says, and the baby’s head emerges, rather than whisking the baby out as quickly as possible and taking it straight off to be cleaned and weighed under the lights – at which point both of my previous babies had screamed uncontrollably while I looked on helplessly, hoping for a glimpse and longing to soothe them myself – the newborn, I’m told, will be allowed to push and squeeze its way out into the world, as long as there are no obvious complications.

This will enable the baby to clear its own lungs, as it would during natural birth; and once it is free the surgeon will lift the baby out – with cord still attached, if it’s long enough – and pass it to the midwife who will hand it straight over to me, where it will rest for several minutes while I’m being stitched back together.

On the day, I arrive at surgery armed with a newborn hat (the greatest concern about immediate skin-to-skin is that baby will get cold in a theatre environment). Belinda Green is armed with a roll of tin foil, to lay over the towel that will rather glamorously enshrine me and the baby.

The atmosphere in theatre is one of eager anticipation, and despite the familiar array of catheters, scalpels et al (and needle to administer the spinal epidural) I find myself grinning with excitement. All goes according to plan, and watching my son’s body slowly emerge, once the screen between us has been lowered, is a moment I can still hardly believe was real. While my other children had screamed for minutes on end after first emerging, the moment my youngest son’s head is placed on my chest, still covered in mucus, he immediately calms.

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For the first time I’m able to marvel at the perfection of my bloodied, puffy-eyed newborn before anyone else. A sense of quiet elation enfolds us both as the buzz of the surgery melts away. All that remains is me, him, his father, a sense of total contentment, and the nagging joy of being one step closer to the sandwich in my hospital bag, after 16 hours nil by mouth…

A week or so later it’s impossible to say for certain quite what the impact of this delivery was, but I can honestly say that of all my three children (all equally delightful, of course) this baby has been by a long shot the most calm and content, latching onto the breast with ease and hardly ever grizzling or crying. And despite juggling three kids, and all the rest of it, I’ve never felt calmer as a new mother.

Of course this might have something to do with the reassurance of having done it all twice before, but I also believe that sense of ease is in no small way buoyed by the security provided by the memory of watching my child emerge, triumphantly, into the theatre like a small, warm and very hairy statue of liberty. Not to mention the sense of fulfilment at being the first one to welcome him, soothe and protect him from the throbbing noise and bright lights of the outside world.

Birth Story Of The Week – Alice and Etta

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I have absolutely loved telling my birth story to just about anyone and everyone who would listen but have never actually put it down on paper (or screen) before. Greg and I weren’t exactly ‘trying’ for a baby, I had been told that for a variety of reasons I would find it difficult to conceive and although we were only recently engaged, we thought we might just stop not trying to have a baby and see what happened.

We were living in Singapore at the time and had possibly the best doctor I have ever met, I had one ‘chemical pregnancy’ (I lost the baby before the first full month) and, despite us thinking we were set to have a few low moments to come, the next month Etta arrived.

The first 3 months were hell, Singapore is a very hot and humid country and that coupled with smells of street food that I used to adore made for one very very unwell lady. Because of my history, I spent the first 3 months petrified, in tears and only able to keep chocolate Magnums down. Luckily everything after that went swimmingly (if you call moving country at 34 weeks swimmingly – but that’s another story).

At 11:30am on the 9th I went to Tooting medical centre for a midwife check up (I was due on the 10th) and was told that Etta’s head, which was previously engaged, was completely free and that it was unlikely she would be making an appearance any time soon. I was going to say that I was a little disappointed but that would be the understatement of the century – I was hot, I was swollen, I had leg pains, back pains, and reflux and I was so ready to meet my little girl. I stomped all the way home to Wimbledon hoping to encourage her down with the walk.

That evening at 5:00pm my contractions started – at the time I was in the park talking to a fellow dog walker. I suddenly said ‘I have to go my baby is coming’ and ran off, he probably thought I was crazy. Luckily Greg had just got off the train, so we both started up our ‘count my contraction’ apps and tracked my progress.

At 10:00pm I was pretty sure labour had started (I thought I was in pain) and I wanted to get checked to make sure things were progressing well. Unfortunately the midwife had to tell me that my cervix hadn’t even opened or softened enough for her to do a sweep and technically I still wasn’t in labour. I was told to head home and expect a long night.

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I called my mum and dad and told them what was going on, at which point my mum insisted that ‘her baby needed her’ and came to ours to ‘help’ us watch TV, chat, try to eat and pass the time.

At 1:00am the pain changed, this was the type of pain that meant I couldn’t chat and 8 Out of 10 Cats does Count Down was really really starting to piss me off. At 2:00am we headed back to St. George’s. I was examined again and told that I was now 2cm dilated – things were only just starting. I was shocked, how could I be in that much pain if nothing was really happening?? I begged the midwife for drugs – at this stage I think I should mention that I had planned a beautiful serine all natural water birth, but that had 100% gone out the window –she told me that if I had the drugs I would have to stay but Greg would have to go home.

We went home had some painkillers (which killed no pain) and tried desperately to sleep in between the contractions (every 2-3 minutes).

At 4:00am the pain changed again. Now I knew I was in pain, I was in serious serious pain.

My mum drove us into the hospital and all three of us headed up to the labour ward (me desperately praying I was more than 2cms dilated). This is where I got quite (ok, very very) ugly – there were 3 other couples in the waiting room and we ended up waiting an hour and 40 minutes to be seen, for this hour and 40 minutes I was rude, I was angry, I swore, I stamped my feet, I cried, I actually dug my nails so deeply into Greg I drew blood and I decided (adamantly) that despite everything I had said and everything I had hoped for for our birth, I was taking all the drugs they could possibly pump into me.

After an hour and 40 minutes I felt something and thought my waters had broken, I went to the toilet and there was blood – quite a lot of blood. The midwives decided to examine me and we were told that I was just 4cms dilated. I was heaving on the gas and air in between screaming at Greg, my mum, and anyone else that would listen for an epidural.

All of a sudden I had this extreme urge to push I told my midwives and they looked at me very skeptically. I insisted and they checked again and were amazed to find that I had gone from 4-10cms in just under 1 hour. I started pushing at 7:30 and at 8:26 Etta was born happy and healthy and plonked on my chest for a rub down and a cuddle.

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Despite giving up on it completely, I had had the natural birth I had hoped for and Etta and I were discharged a record-breaking 5 hours after arrival (which I was very happy with until we got home and realised that we were all totally on our own to figure things out). We did work (most) things out and having Etta was the most indescribably happy moment of my entire life, one year on, I still relive that moment every morning I walk into her bedroom.

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Alice is a freelance writer and editor and publishes the online magazine Avocado Magazine

Birth Story of The Week – Lizzie and William

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Since I was younger I’ve always loved babies and been fascinated by the wonder that is pregnancy and labour. If anyone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d always said a midwife and now i feel so so lucky to have experienced for myself such a wonderful pregnancy and to have our own beautiful baby boy.

William is a bit of a miracle baby.  I’ve never had regular periods (make that 2 in 2 years prior to getting pregnant) and had been diagnosed with Polycycstic Ovary Syndrome many years ago, so i was always apprehensive about how easy it would be to conceive naturally. Despite only just starting to “try”, I had conversations with the GP to explore options for help with natural conception, expecting it to take a while. However, Matt and I were so lucky to fall pregnant with William within about 3 months, and feel truly blessed!   Anyway, this isn’t a conception story but a birth, so ill get on with that….

My due date came and went without too much activity.  My Mum had me 3 weeks early, so in the back of my mind I was hoping that my final few weeks of back ache and what i then thought were sleepless nights of pregnancy (little did i know about real sleepless nights!!) would have been cut short.  However, my first twinges of real labour started when i was just over 41 weeks.  I’d had period type pains all week but then after my second sweep, where the midwife confirmed I was 2cm dilated, we had a little family drama which I think kick started my contractions. My sister was stuck without her car at the last minute, so called me to ask me if I could pick up her little girls from nursery. I was out at the time, so had to do my best attempt at running home (at 9+ months pregnant this is a challenge!) to pick up the car and then I drove like a racing car driver to the nursery, over what felt like endless roads of speed bumps! By the time i picked up my nieces and got home, surges were coming every 10 minutes.

This was on the Thursday.  I waited a couple of hours before believing that anything was really happened but then called my husband Matt to come home from work later that afternoon.  The surges continued and i paced the house with my hypnobirthing affirmations playing to help me keep as relaxed as possible. I tried my best to suppress the feelings on adrenalin that I knew would slow things down, but deep down I was so blooming excited that we were on the journey to meet our baby. I continued to pace up and down the length of the house, waiting for the surges to get more frequent and more painful, but it never happened.  I text my lovely midwife Mary before we went to bed that night and she was on standby ready to jump at my telephone call. We went to bed that night with everything ready, expecting that we’d be awoken in the night by me in established labour. Frustratingly, it just didn’t happen.

On Friday i already had a third sweep booked, so went ahead with that, hoping it would again kick everything into action. I knew I should be patient and let the baby arrive in its natural time, but was beginning to lose my patience. Mary confirmed i was 3 cm dilated and really helped to bring me back to reality and suggested Matt and i forget about the very erratic contractions and go out for lunch to take our minds off what was happening. This was the such good advice. In my head I’d been going a bit mad worrying I was faking the surges and getting frustrated by not knowing if they were the ‘real thing’ or not.  Matt and I walked to East Dulwich to get some lunch and the contractions started again, this time even stronger.  Still completely irregular though and by the time we got home  they had petered out completely.  So again, we went to bed on that Friday night expecting a middle of the night trip to Kings.   Again, it didn’t happen! Throughout Thursday and Friday I’d been listening to my hypnobirthing tracks which really helped to get me through the duration. Although I knew I should be patient and wait for my body and the baby to be ready for labour, after almost 48hrs of surges my body was tiring and I was getting impatient about meeting our baby.

By Saturday morning i was 41+3 and really ready to get some reassurance by delivering a healthy baby.  At this point in pregnancy, not only was I tired and frustrated at not knowing when or how labour would get started but also worrying that something could happen to the baby before I was able to deliver it safely. I’m sure it’s normal for all Mummy’s to be to have the same worries, but because I’d never really believed my body would be able to get pregnant naturally, I always had concerns in the back of my mind that it wouldn’t work out.

After talking to Mary on the Saturday morning, we agreed that I would go into King’s hospital to get my waters broken, in the hope of it getting the labour going. A big part of my decision making was that I knew my lovely midwife Mary was working that weekend, so if I waited any longer she’d potentially not be around to deliver my baby. Having had Mary visit throughout my pregnancy, Matt and I trusted her implicitly so we really wanted her there to support us through the main event.  On the way to King’s, Matt and I stopped at the supermarket and stocked up on a picnic we planned to have at the hospital whilst we waited for what we thought would be a long drawn out labour to begin.  Little did we know what was going to happen in the few hours ahead.

We were taken into a triage room in the Labour ward and an Agency midwife introduced herself and started some checks on me. The usual, blood pressure, pulse and the baby’s heart beat. Being an Agency midwife, the poor lady wasn’t used to the machines at King’s and she couldn’t find our baby’s heart beat, despite two attempts on different machines. Obviously this is the last thing you need as parents to be, however, thankfully she got it, third time lucky.

The doctor came to break my waters at 11:45 and suggested Matt and I go for a walk in the corridors and walk the stairs sideways, in an attempt to get labour moving. I began to get dressed, with Matt and I deliberating on my outfit of a nightie and big furry Ugg boots. We needn’t have worried. By midday, 15 minutes later, surges were coming every 3.5 minutes. And they were strong! Who knows if the ones at home were real, but these were very different and I knew that this was really it.

The midwife could see things were progressing quickly, so we put on the TENS machine and I was given gas and air to use whilst taking deep slow brwaths. We also made sure the hypnobirthing tracks were playing loud and clear. At this stage I wasn’t really listening to the words in the hypnobirthing, but having listened so intently throughout my pregnancy, the music was so recognisable as relaxing that I didn’t even need to hear what was being said, to experience the calming result.

After 2 hours in the labour ward I was getting nervous that Mary hadn’t arrived yet and that we hadn’t made it to the Midwifery led unit.  I know you’re always told in pregnancy to keep an open mind about your birth plan, and although I thought I had, but at this point I knew that the birthing pool was what i wanted, and I was adamant that it would be the best place for me and our baby to get through the afternoon.

Just after 2pm Mary arrived and I waddled around to the Midwifery led unit, panicking about whether I’d get there in time before the next contraction, and in time to get on the gas and air.   We made it to the Woodland suit, wallpapered with a lavender field, and the midwives immediately started filling the pool. I tried kneeling and using the beanbags during contractions, but couldn’t get comfortable. Finally, I was allowed in the pool and it immediately felt amazing to have the weight taken off me and have the support and comfort of the warm water.

In the water I had a good set up, with a flannel on the side to rest my head, hypnobirthing affirmations playing and Matt to hold my hand. I didn’t go through one contraction after that point without holding Matt’s hand and really needed that support through every one, knowing he was there for us both.

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Contractions didn’t really get painful as the afternoon progressed but occasionally my body convulsed and it automatically started pushing.  I had no idea that this would happen in labour. It was like a gagging reflex and completely took over my body (without causing pain) and I really enjoyed that feeling of my body being in control and working for me to get the baby on its way out. This felt like real progress! I could feel the pressure getting lower and lower and Mary examined me in the pool and I was 7-8cm. When Mary told me this I was proud of getting this far but knew the dreaded ‘transition’ was still to come. Luckily I don’t think I was effected by transition. I remember sobbing a little and thinking in my head ‘maybe I should have got an epidural’ but I didn’t ever say it out loud and knew deep down that what was happening was totally manageable and I could deliver the baby myself.

What felt like very soon after that examination the reflex pushing feelings got stronger and I said I could feel something much lower. Mary and Erica (the student midwife) used a mirror in the pool every time I had a contraction to check on progress and it was amazing when they started to see the baby crowning. At first Erica said she could see ‘something’ floating in the pool and it took her a while to realise this was our baby’s thick head of hair starting to appear! According to my notes, the second phase of labour was 36 minutes and this flew by. Although it’s a bit uncomfortable and I was nervous of any damage, I didn’t find this bit as painful as is expected. I’m sure the water helps but the fact that I knew it was productive pain and that the baby was so close, made it so much more manageable. I remember feeling the baby’s head deliver and Mary and Erica guiding me through little pushes to get its chin out. The head was now free and I just had one more push to meet our baby. At this point I couldn’t really feel contractions (that may have been the amount of gas and air I’d taken!!) but just pushed when I was ready to fully deliver our baby at 4:16pm.

I’d watched One born every minute repeatedly throughout pregnancy and cried at every scene when a Mummy was first given their baby to hold. Needless to say, I burst into tears as soon as I had our little baby in our arms. It might sound ridiculous given I’d had 9 months to get ready for it, but I was in shock that I’d actually created and delivered a healthy baby and completely overwhelmed. I kissed and cuddled the blue and slippery baby in the pool, whilst Matt reached over to stroke and kiss us both too. We were both in shock and in love! After over a minute Mary said ‘aren’t you going to check the sex?’.  It hadn’t even crossed my mind, despite months and months of guessing girl or boy throughout pregnancy. As soon as the baby was born all I cared about was that it was healthy. Unbelievably when I did check, we couldn’t believe it to find out it was a boy? Throughout my pregnancy, everyone had guessed my bump as a ‘girl bump’ and having 5 nieces we were pretty sure we were having a girl, so to have a boy in my arms doubled the surprise factor and was even more special.

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After 7 minutes of delayed cord clamping, Matt cut the cord and took our baby boy for skin on skin with him whilst I delivered the placenta. Luckily it came away easily and was a doddle to deliver, in comparison!

I was completely shaky  and overwhelmed at this point as was helped out of the bath and onto the bed, where Matt lay with our baby. We immediately lay him on my chest and let our baby naturally root for his first feed. The midwives were amazing at helping me to feed and checking me over and I was in a really good place thankfully. They suggested we could go home that evening and when they first said it, I was still in a state of shock and overwhelmed by the previous 4 hours, so asked to hold off making a decision at that point. On reflection however, I am so happy we did go home.  We’d already decided on our final baby boy and baby girl names, so didn’t need to deliberate when we named him William Matthew Hunter Hammond. We made some phone calls to our parents in the bed in hospital and the midwives and Matt tried to force me to eat something, having not eaten since breakfast. It was the last thing I wanted but I managed to stomach something as knew I wouldn’t be allowed home if I didn’t.

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By 7:30pm we were discharged from hospital and I was wheeled down to the exit with our baby boy in my arms. I felt like royalty, with everyone smiling and congratulating me in the corridors. We sat William in the car seat and I sat in the back of the car with him for our journey home. It was unbelievable that only 8hrs before, we’d been walking up to the entrance of the hospital with our picnic expecting a long afternoon ahead. And now we were driving away as a family of 3.

When we got home Matt and I looked at each other and at our baby in disbelief. How could something so amazing have been growing in my tummy? We were in love immediately and if it’s possible, are in even more love with him today. In the first few days at home Matt and I were so overwhelmed with how adorable William is and occasionally caught each other cuddling him and crying of happiness whilst we looked into little face. The feeling of love as a Mummy is so incredible. I didn’t realise how intense and immediate the feelings would be, but William is the most precious and amazing thing in my life and I really do have an overwhelming maternal instinct to look after him and keep him safe and loved forever and ever. I just hope I have the same feeling as he grows into his terrible twos and teenage years!

Lizzie is a Hypnobirthing teacher based in London, check out her website here 

You can read about Lizzie’s adventures with William over at Maternity Leave Life.

Birth Story Of The Week – Jo and Betsy

In light of the Guardian’s story on hypnobirthing and it’s ever increasing popularity, today’s birth story from Jo describes how learning the techniques taught on her hypnobirthing course helped her overcome her fears from her previous traumatic birth, Tissues at the ready!

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My first daughter’s birth in 2012 didn’t exactly go to plan. I read all the books, did NCT, talked to friends and wrote my birth plan. Not once did I prepare for not being in control or for an emergency caesarean. I was left pretty shell shocked and it took me a while to get my shit together. I felt a bit like I had failed at the most important thing in my life. But I focused on the fact my beautiful daughter was fine and healthy. And I vowed never to do it again. Birth that is.

When I discovered I was pregnant again in May 2014 all the fears I’d stuffed to the back of my mind came back to life. I felt terrified and hated the thought of going through it all again. I spoke to my friend and midwife Clemmie at length about my worries. She knew how traumatic it had been first time round but right from our first conversation about it she said it would be different this time. I trusted her – she’s a wonder woman birth warrior, and my friend after all.
 
I knew I wanted to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). I had felt like I’d failed first time round, even though I’d gone through a long and hard labour resulting in caesarean, it somehow didn’t count as giving birth. Just because I didn’t push the baby out the usual way, I hadn’t done it ‘properly’. What does that say about the pressure on women surrounding birth?!
 
Clemmie suggested hypnobirthing and put us in contact with the lovely Hollie at London Hypnobirthing. We booked on to a course in October (my EDD was early January). I thought we’d probably be experiencing a few ‘and you’re back in the room’ moments but I was willing to give anything a shot. I spent the time busying myself with my stressful job and looking after a 2 and a half year old. I also fretted furiously about how the baby would fit into our family, and our house, and would I love it as much as my daughter? Was that possible? And all the other hormonal things that go round a pregnant woman’s head.
 
So October came and we started a loft conversion (wtf were we thinking?) and our hypnobirthing course. Right from the first session I felt differently. We learnt relaxation techniques and did breathing activities. We discussed birth in a safe and calm environment. There were only four couples and it felt very relaxed and intimate. My husband Tom was sold straight away, he took to it immediately. There was no hippy dippy stuff, just normal people looking to learn ways to relax and welcome their babies in a calm way without fear. We watched videos of births that were so calm the babies were born asleep! We did some work on releasing fear which helped the two of us talk honestly about the things we were worried about to do with the birth. Turned out our fears were identical. One of the fundamental things I took from the course was the belief that I had every right for my voice to be heard and that I could birth this baby the way I wanted.
 
Over the next few weeks I began to feel really quite excited about the birth and looked forward to meeting our baby. Something I never thought I’d do. One thing I wasn’t excited about was the endless builders coming and going from our house. Don’t do a loft conversion while you’re pregnant!
 
I was determined that our little girl had Christmas without the new baby stealing the show, plus Clemmie was going away for a couple of days so I told the baby to stay put and went about enjoying Christmas. I got quite emotional towards the end of my pregnancy and every day with my daughter felt significant. Our last days as a three. I’m ridiculously sentimental at the best of times but this was off the scale! It got to the point where Tom banned me from looking at baby pictures and videos of my daughter because I kept making myself cry…
 
I’d bought a soft doll to leave for my daughter if she woke up one morning and I wasn’t there (as in gone to have the baby…). I left it until the Saturday on the last weekend of the school holidays to wrap it up and wrote her an extremely soppy card (for someone to read to her). Tom said gloomily, “looks like I’m going back to work on Monday then” and we went to bed. I knew I was ready so the baby could come when it wanted.
 
At 4am I woke with mild period pain. This time round I completely and utterly trusted my instincts, I knew this was it. I put my relaxation mp3 on and closed my eyes. I must have gone back to sleep because at 6 I woke and realised the surges (hypnobirthing speak for contractions) had started. I woke Tom and told him to call his parents to come and get our daughter. Considering they were on high alert and live ten minutes away it seemed like it took them forever to get to us! My daughter woke up and I got her dressed, gave her a million hugs, packed her a bag and ended up opening her present with her. My hormones got the better of me and I was holding back some serious tears. When she left the house at 8 the surges instantly got a whole lot stronger.

I had a bath and Tom texted Clemmie. I think she got to us about 10am and at that point the surges were quite strong but I was breathing through them and feeling fine. I could feel adrenaline running through me and I was trying to stay relaxed. During Hypnobirthing we learnt about how adrenaline can slow labour or stop it altogether. I really didn’t want that to happen. Our second midwife arrived and was instantly warm and supportive.

When Clemmie examined me at 11am she said I was fully dilated! I couldn’t believe that I’d got to 10 without any difficulty. It gave me a massive massive boost. Tom and both midwives started gathering towels and bin bags and began to prep our bedroom for a birth. There was a bin bag underneath me and Tom was getting ready to catch our baby! Obviously not in the bin bag… I couldn’t believe I might even have a home birth! This would have exceeded our wildest expectations. As the surges intensified I started to push. All the while we were eating a lot of jelly babies (a good birth bag addition).
 
After a little while of pushing time seemed to stop, as did the contractions. So I was off the bed and walking around the house. Some of the things you can try if contractions stop are, walking, nipple tweaking, relaxing, laughing but nothing would get them going. And the longer they stopped the more anxious I became. Not because this had happened during my first birth, it hadn’t, but because I could feel myself getting more and more tense and frightened that things might not go to plan.
 
Eventually Clemmie and our other midwife said that it might be a good idea to go into hospital to be assessed to see if we could get some help getting contractions going again. FYI if you have had a previous caesarean a doctor will want to assess you before giving you Syntocinon due to risk of scar rupture.
 
So off we went in an ambulance (that I didn’t even know was outside), no blue lights but I felt pretty disheartened. Tom and our second midwife were trying to keep my spirits up but I tried to concentrate on the relaxation mp3 on my phone and drown out all the distractions. We got to hospital about 1.30pm I think. The room was ready and Clemmie was there and she did everything she could to carry on the vibe from home. I had to have a scan so the doctors could assess whether the baby was in a good enough position for a realistic chance at VBAC. To my delight the baby was perfectly positioned and we were given the go ahead for the drip. So, with feet in stirrups, foetal monitor on and a mouth full of jelly babies we waited for the drip to kick in. Not the most dignified time of my life but I was buzzing with the thought I’d meet my baby soon and I think the scan really helped to reassure me that all was ok. 
 
I began to get pretty tired and hungry and I think adrenaline was pumping. I got the shakes but then the contractions started coming pretty quickly. For some reason which we still don’t know, I couldn’t feel a single one. I’d had no pain relief but I had to be told when a contraction was coming by Clemmie looking at the monitor and saying ‘right, go for it!’ and I would push my heart out. At one point she had a stern word with me and told me to use my voice and any swear words I could think of to help push the baby out.  I felt like we were an amazing team, working together to help and guide me and birth this baby.

Because it was taking a while the doctor (in consultation with the midwives) decided that it might be a good idea to use a kiwi (kind of suction cup) on the babies head to help it down the last bit. Attaching this was possibly the most painful part of the whole labour but was over in minutes.

With two big pushes the baby’s head finally came out and that is when I knew we’d done it. The little body followed soon after and Clemmie very quickly instructed the doctor to stand back and let Tom discover the sex and then tell me it was a little girl! Then Tom got to cut the cord. I couldn’t believe it. We’d actually done it!!!!! And it was a girl too! I remember not quite believing what had happened. 
 
Our second amazing midwife had to swap with another amazing midwife and while paperwork was done and handover completed there was a little period of time I’ll never forget. This little person had come from me, I felt instantly connected, instantly knowing of her. She was mine! That is what I’d missed with my first birth. I’d felt so separate from the final event and the baby and Tom were taken out the room straight after the caesarean. Tom was so relieved everything was fine. He couldn’t quite believe it either!

Some wise woman found me a lasagne. It was honest to god the best thing I have ever eaten. Hospital lasagne.


I couldn’t thank Clemmie enough for her support. She and her colleagues had helped me achieve something I never thought I would. She said she’d come to me the next day and kissed me and my girl goodbye. 
 
The wonderful women got me ready to go to the ward. I was cleaned up and put in to my pjs and helped to the loo for my first wee. I just couldn’t stop smiling. I spoke to my mum on the phone and told her the beautiful baby girl snoozing on me had come out my vagina. My dad arrived with my sister, I told them this beautiful girl had come out my vagina. As I was wheeled to the ward, I told all the people in the lift that I’d just pushed this baby out my amazing vagina!! There was a lot of vagina praising going on. And then it was just the three of us in a cubicle, knowing that this little baby had always had a place in our family. We couldn’t wait for her to meet her amazing big sister. So Betsy Clementine met her big sister the following morning, and it was love at first sight.
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Birth Story Of The Week- Clemmie and Woody

There’s always a special connection between people with the same name and this amazing Mama of two is certainly one to hang on to. I first met Clemmie through the powers of Instagram but she was on my radar for a long time after Hollie from London Hypnobirthing told me about this awesome ‘other’ Clemmie she had met and taught. Another Clemmie! Surely not but this Clemmie was as great as I had hoped. She lives in Peckham with her brood of boys (1 husband and dog included) and writes a brilliant blog Mother of All Lists. Here she shares her second sons birth story.

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My first labour was so terrible that I honestly thought my son, Bertie, would be an only child. Induction. Hyper-stimulation. Lots of blood-loss. Followed by an hour of panic attacks. Not ideal.

Cut to 13 months later and I’m pregnant again. The initial thrill of seeing that line appear soon gives way to a feeling of ‘shit’ I’ve got to give birth again.

I was determined to do things differently. After some obsessive googling I came across hypnobirthing. What a stroke of luck. A total game changer.

Our course at London Hypnobirthing was just brilliant. It forced me and my husband to discuss our fears, as well confirming home-birth was the way forward for us. After months doing breathing, visualizing and general prep, I felt ready, even a bit excited about my baby’s impending arrival.

That was until my due date came and went.

With every passing day the anxiety levels crept up. Flashbacks to being induced with my first were haunting me. I was convinced I was headed down the same road. Plus I’d had contractions on and off for days; it felt like my body was tricking me and it was driving me potty.

At 40+5 I sent Hollie, my hybnobirthing guru, a rambling email having a bit of a breakdown – even questioning my ability to go into labour naturally. She replied telling me to let go of the anxiety, to trust my body. IT WOULD HAPPEN.

She was right. The next day I had a sweep. Only in pregnancy are you so pleased to have someone stick their hand up you. Turns out I was already 3 cm dilated – woo hoo!

My midwife wished me fairwell. Deep down I think we both know we would be seeing each other soon. And that night I went to bed with a sneaky suspicion it was ‘game on’. But given the false starts and with the help of hypno I decided to get some sleep.

At 3.30 AM I was woken by a surge. It was definitely happening. No panic, No fuss. Just a real sense of knowing what needed to be done. With son number one safely dispatched to my sisters I got in the groove of labour. Which mainly meant being naked and eating Jaffa cakes. Oh and the midwife arrived.

There was a palaver with the birth pool. My husband had done a dry run, but crucially not a wet run – turns out the fitting couldn’t connect to our tap (funny in retrospect, not very zen at the time).

Eventually it was sorted. Once in the water I was able to breath through my surges. Don’t get me wrong it was hardcore. Exhausting. At the time I desperately wanted it to stop. But at no point did I feel worried or out of control. Instead I just focused on getting to the peak of the surge then down the other-side. “breathe in calm, breath out tension.”

Candles, chilled music (and yet more jaffa cakes), pool. All very lovely. But I was getting into a bit of a mental downward spiral, transition maybe, and found the darkness oppressive rather than safe.

My Midwife suggested that I might benefit from a change of scene.

Once upstairs the bright coolness of the bathroom felt like a new chapter.  No sooner had I taken a seat on the loo than I was hit by one almighty surge. Properly a case of ‘my body taking control’: I leapt-up, grabbed my husband in a strangle-hold for support, and out came baby’s head.

Then with the next surge Woodrow Victor Telford made his entrance into the world. He was born calmly and quietly with his waters in tact or ‘en caul’. Swiftly followed by my placenta, which convenient went into the toilet.

The relief was immense. I hadn’t been induced. I hadn’t used a scrap of pain relief. I hadn’t bled. Just a tiny tear that heeled naturally. And I wasn’t pregnant anymore!! I felt like the luckiest person alive.

Me and my new dude headed to bed. And that’s where we stayed for the rest of the day.

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When people ask me about my labour. I say it was everything I wanted it to be. A wonderful empowered experience that made me feel like super-woman, plus it got rid of all the demons from Bertie’s birth.

Even writing this now I want to do it all again. There really is no greater feeling than lying in your own bed at home, eating pizza, with your 4 hour old baby snoozing beside you.

Birth Story Of The Week – Jo and Alfred

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I was 23 when I found out I was pregnant, 24 when I had him, and though my boyfriend (now husband) and I had talked about it and both wanted a baby I always felt that I was viewed as too young, one midwife even called me a baby, and so I avoided ante-natal classes until quite late on. At 8 months pregnant having not thought about a birth plan I went to a couple of yoga and hypnobirth classes.

I loved them but once it came to B-Day everything I had learnt went out the window. I was terrified, totally unsure what actual labour was and found it all overwhelming.

At 3am on 26th March after an evening of mild but regular cramping I went to the loo and found I was bleeding. In hind sight it wasn’t much at all but I panicked and made my boyfriend call the hospital and tell them we were coming. I was unsurprisingly sent home. Then at 9am whilst in the shower I felt my waters go. It wasn’t very much at all and my contractions were still nothing to write home about but again we went in. By the time we got there I was in more pain but was only 2cm dilated and sent to walk around a bit. At this point I growled (husband says it was more of a moo) to take me home as I didn’t want anyone to see me. I now think that this is the point that my maternal instinct had kicked in and I knew I needed to be alone with my contractions. We stayed at home, in the bath until my contractions were almost on top of each other. At home was the calmest and most in control I felt in my whole labour. We left for the hospital and I barely remember the drive there. When we arrived at 2pm I was only 4 cm and gutted. It turned out baby was back to back and when I heard this, having never heard it before I was totally freaked out and immediately doubted my ability. I had gas and air for a bit whilst begging for an epidural between breaths. My husband gently reminded me that I desperately didn’t want an epidural but I ignored him and past me. To this day it is still a regret.

Despite the fact that the epidural allowed me to rest and calm down I spent the rest of the labour feeling nothing. Nothing at all. I pushed numb and painlessly, feeling totally useless and just listening to the midwives’ (who were all lovely) instructions. When they told me he was crowning I didn’t know what to think. I wasn’t ready for him. It wasn’t the experience I had wanted and it felt like a total blur.

When he arrived at 11.36pm on 26th March I felt a bizarre mixture of sheer joy and total confusion. Who did this? Where did he come from?!

We stayed at hospital for another 12 hours which I hated. All I wanted to do was go home and be with my family. I hated my husband having to leave, nobody checked to see if he latched on properly once I was on the ward (lucky he was a star but I didn’t know that till my home visit!) I even got up to go to the loo and blood and waters went everywhere, something I had no idea would happen. Again it all felt totally alien and scary and I just wanted to go home and be with my husband.

I know so many labours can be a lot worse than mine physically and I feel so lucky we were both well and healthy but I felt and still feel so emotionally disconnected from it. Sometimes I wonder (despite the back to back thing) if I had just stayed at home would I have felt more empowered? More in control in my body?

Despite my husbands concerns I am looking very seriously into a hypnobirth home birth as an option this time. I want more than anything to be in control and comfortable with my surroundings. I also don’t want to be scared like last time.

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I just read my email back and wanted to add that despite sounding positively NOT positive, for me it was positive in the sense that it made me realise how important it is to understand how your body works and to really trust your instincts. I think if I had done that it would have been very different for me and I wouldn’t have been so scared and disconnected.

Also, look at the little 9lb 6oz star I got to take home with me! Worth all the pain and more!

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Follow Jo on Instagram @joannakays and over at her blog mamajolene.wordpress.com

Birth Story Of The Week – Katie and William

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As my youngest son turned 1 at the weekend, I remembered that high on endorphins and sleep deprivation, I promised Clemmie my birth story.  A whole year ago.  So, as I wait for this mythical ‘it gets easier when the  youngest is one’ thing to take hold, I thought I should probably get round to it now.  Here goes….

My delivery with my eldest son almost 3 years prior to William’s arrival had been a long and protracted affair.  Ineffective pessary, waters broken, then sent away for the ritualistic march up and down the stairs.  12 hours later, no action, so a lovely epidural and swift twist of the forceps and there he was.  Not traumatic or awful, but pretty exhausting and far from what you hope for, once you’ve gotten all of that ‘I just want a healthy baby’ business out of the way.

I was determined that it wouldn’t be that way for my second.  This would be a relaxed home birth.  I borrowed a pool, collected more old towels and bedding than I knew what to do with, and readied an army of babysitters to look after Albert.  Except William had other plans.  Due date came and went, no sign.  Daily sweeps told me that I was 3cm dilated with a ‘favourable’ cervix,  but it seemed that no amount of bouncing on a ball, long walks or vacuuming the stairs was going to move him along.  I was due to be booked in for an induction on 4th Feb, but decided, after a good chat with my midwives to leave him for a few more days to see if he fancied vacating of his own accord.  Still nothing, and with that, the chances of my homebirth disappeared.  I trudged into Kings on 7th Feb, only to be told that yes, I was still 3-4cm dilated, yes, my waters should just be broken so that we can get on with it, but sadly, they were extremely busy and had no staff or space.  I obviously reacted in the way that any massively overdue, hormonal woman  would do and cried, huffed and puffed at my husband, and then settled down to watch Homes under the Hammer on the ipad.

I hadn’t, however, banked on the appearance of my midwife at 10.30pm on a Friday night.  She breezed in to the ward, rolled up her sleeves, and very kindly instructed me that we were ‘going to meet this baby.  Tonight.’ I’m a big fan of the gung-ho approach, so completely went with it.  She found a delivery suite, settled us in, and promptly broke my waters.  She found a mat and a blanket for my husband and instructed him to have a nap because he ‘wasn’t going to be much use yet’ and left me to get on with it.  Brilliant.

The room was lovely and calm, and the lighting was pleasant – not hospital like at all.  There was a docking station, so I bravely left my iPod on shuffle and out of reach.  The fear that the next song could be Wham kept me going to be honest….  My contractions started pretty immediately after my waters went and became regular quickly.  I was on my feet and moving around the room, stopping to lean on furniture and hum when the contractions came.  After around 90 minutes, and still on my feet, the contractions were getting much stronger, and had moved downwards into my lower back.  Humming had turned more into growling and I wasn’t so much leaning on the furniture as clinging to it at this point.  My midwife asked how I was doing, and the words that came out of her mouth surprised me as much as her – ‘I think I need to push’.  ‘Hmm, you’d better take your pants off then’ came the reply.  By this time I was scorching hot, so thought it a good opportunity to strip off every last stitch.  Amazing what those hormones do to you.  My husband made himself useful with cool flannels and encouraging words, and I was examined – I was 8.5 centimetres, but still had work to do before I could push.  To be honest I thought I was heading for a repeat of my last labour and was starting to feel disheartened – I didn’t want a ‘medical’ delivery this time, and had felt like it was all going well up to now.

My midwife advised me to try lying on my side on a mat on the floor.  I was dubious at first – grasvity didn’t seem to be on my side here, but that shows what I know.  Contractions started coming along thick and fast, and I had some gas and air to take the edge off.  I’m not entirely sure that the gas had much effect, but the mouthpiece and regularity of using it was a useful distraction from pain and focusing on breathing.  What felt like two minutes later (but was actually about 40) the urge to push returned.  This time I got the green light to push and a delighted voice from the other end told me ‘I can see the head!’  This is where Vanessa really came into her own (as if she hadn’t already!) – we had already ascertained that he was a big baby, so hurrying this part could have been disastrous.  I followed her every instructions about pushing, stopping, puffing – to be honest, if she’d told me to stand up and do the Macarena I would have – and a few minutes later Williams head emerged.    A couple more pushed and the rest of him followed, all 9lbs 5oz of him, with not a single tear, graze or stitch.  There was a calm sense of amazement in the room afterwards – I was staggered that my body had done what it needed to so efficiently after a slow start, and we were all a bit dazzled by this enormous (and beautiful!) baby.

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I was the last person who was ever going to describe childbirth as ‘amazing’ or ‘relaxed’ or even ‘calm’.  However, my delivery with William was all of those things.  Although I was in a busy hospital, it felt like there was only me, my husband and Vanessa in the world, and then William too!  It was calm, I was calm, and William’s welcome into the world was calm and overwhelmingly happy.  The whole process took 3 hours from start to finish, and I was home and introducing William to his big brother 2 hours later.  If you find yourself having an induction or hospital delivery that you didn’t hope for, don’t despair!