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 – Helen and Alba

This weeks birth story comes from Helen founder of Lionheart magazine and new Mama to Alba born in September.

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“It started with a gentle jolt at 5am. It was the tightening combined with twinges that I had been waiting 13 days for. 13 days is a long time when you know something life changing is going to happen, maybe-possibly-imminently. Of course like many expectant mothers, I didn’t know exactly how the process would go, but I was ready. I’d done the classes, eaten the cake, said goodbye to the colleagues and stretched like a pregnant yoga cat. Gosh, you and everyone you know are so darn excited for you when you hit that golden due date. So ready, ready, ready to meet this little baby. A day is fine, so is a week, but the golden due days start to shine less when 13 of them pass and nothing happens. That ‘imminence’ you felt at your fingertips you realise, wasn’t there at all. It’s actually over yonder up that mountain, laughing on a cloud.

Needles stuck in me. ‘Acupuncture has triggered labour that evening for some ladies’. Raspberry leaf tea with pineapple chasers, fire curry for starters and sad movies for dessert. Chocolate baths and marathon walks. The entire first season of Orange is the New Black. Surrounding myself with newborns due after my own. Baby being monitored. Stretch and sweep times three. ‘They do tend to come when they’re ready,’ on repeat. Our induction was booked for day 14 and the poppet; oh treasure my love, made her first gentle movements to leave her haven on this, day 13.

I wasn’t scared of birth, just intrigued and thrilled at the prospect of meeting our baby. I’d also heard and read some amazing, positive birth stories. That’s why I had opted for a home birth. We had everything ready for our glorious birth at home; the pool, lots of white towels, snickers bars, tea and biscuits for the midwives, candles ready for the light and flowers on the mantelpiece. All the taps were also shiny clean thanks to my incessant cleaning – a necessity – and the cats groomed. However time continued to pass on day 13. During the slow but exciting passing of the hours, we went for coffee, ate good food and wandered around. All the while, my contractions were every nine to 10 minutes apart.

By the evening, I felt they had really intensified and were every five minutes apart, so I rang the hospital to see if a community midwife might be able to pop in. Maybe we would meet our baby tonight? Nope. Not strong enough or regular enough. ‘Go and get some rest,’ said the voice at the end of the phone. I sort of knew this would be the case, but didn’t want to settle down for a kip. I wanted to be moving forward. It was tricky. I was convinced every minute of shuteye pulled the contractions further apart. So I had a bath and draped myself over surfaces as each contraction hit. Put on an old film and hummed a little as I paced the lounge. I told Charlie to go to bed for a bit. He slept like a giant panda until the morning sun rose and he found me walking the stairs and chatting to the cats, like they were my whiskered little birthing partners. It was Charlie’s birthday, so today had added oomph. ‘Wahhh, happy birthday, my love,’ I softly wailed.

The midwife popped in at 11am. ‘You’re 3cm’. Disastrous. How could this be? She continued: ‘I think something is stopping your progress. You should all go to the hospital, just to check everything’s OK, as baby’s now 14 days late. Then you can come home again if you’d like.’ The bag packed for this scenario, it was flung into the car and we drove down the road to the hospital. I knew I wouldn’t be leaving this destination as soon as the community midwife had said she wanted us to pop in. This was going to be where I met my baby. I think it was because of the 14 days, the 30 hours of little progress and just because something felt right and I wanted to trust my unbroken waters housing the cherub. I don’t know. I just couldn’t leave.

Rather than the monitoring, we were able to go to the midwife led unit, a luxurious hotel of birthing, complete with enormous pools, beds, floor pillows, birth balls, private bathrooms and fairy lights. An industrious blonde permed midwife met us at the reception and we waited in the lounge with Kirstie and Phil on the TV circa 1999, so they could clean the room we were aiming for. As I stared out the window complete with those cosy window spikes, to the city and hills beyond, I heard a baby cry as a lady walked past with her newborn in a car seat. Done and dusted, she was on her way home. Well done her! I thought. Now, what on earth was before me? An hour or two passed in the lounge, with Kirstie and Phil on a back-to-back extravaganza.

I needed to hear the pool filling! I needed the pool, please!

Eventually, after a true eternity of house searches, we were beckoned into our room. Calm, tranquil music and low lights greeted us. I was told that the pool is a source of pain relief, as was the gas and air, so it was best to hold out as long as possible to utilise both of them. After an initial gasp of horror, I stripped off and bounced on the birth ball while clinging on to Charlie’s belt, very quickly an imprint of the buckle soon formed on my forehead – nice. I became very attached to that buckle. Time melted and the world became deep and wide (interesting in retrospect!), focus hit me and carried me on its meditative chariot.

God, I didn’t have a care. Just this baby, just this intense, empowering experience. My entire body was being taken over with its own innate superpowers. Women are amazing. The human body is a wonder. I have a vague recollection of a junior doctor coming in with the midwife ‘to see what a normal, happy labour was like,’ as she put it. I remember agreeing for him to see our baby born, when the time came. I really was off and away, smiling from under a canopy of hormones and focus. The midwife could have told me that Wispa Golds were raining down outside and Ryan Gosling was in my birth pool and I would have simply smiled, nodded, closed my eyes and furrowed my brow. She said she thought we had completed a hypnobirth class, as I was so in the zone. I remember drinking in all the praise along with the awful Lucozade. I think it was the pregnancy yoga that zoned me. Who knows – maybe some fairy godmother made a trip to see me. Anyway, I was finally allowed in the pool – hurrah! – at 5cm.

Dear Pool, I think I forgot to tell you that I thought you were just marvelous that day. You’re so clever, comforting and…well… fluid. Such a shame it ended the way it did. However, I still talk about you with great fondness and have recommended your services to many others.

The pool. Heavenly, floating, gorgeous, brilliant pool. I loved the pool. Can you tell? However, after an hour or so, my baby did not like it in there and the squirrel’s heart rate zoomed up. So much so that I had to get out of the watery haven and lie on the bed to have my waters broken. The breaking signified change. A door opening to a hard, fierce place, it was raw and cold, Post break my hands tingled, I felt dehydrated, exhausted and actual pain really hit me for the first time. What’s more, the worst bit, I hadn’t dilated any further – the midwife said in actual fact, I’d gone down to 4cm. Added to this, the baby was stargazing, hence why everything was taking so long… and it might hurt more.

I went heavy on the gas and air. My smug little Zen space had officially exploded and I was standing in the chilly, industrial middle ground. No more fairy godmother whizzing around. The belt buckle sadly, was also now redundant. I wondered how and when I would meet this baby of ours, right at the same time I said hello to the anxiety that had quietly tip toed in. I told the new midwife how I felt, after the talked of one – the lovely one who had previously given me at A+ – went home, her shift complete. ‘You’ll have this baby tonight, don’t worry!’ she said brightly before she left to return to her warm home, roast potatoes and Sunday night telly. I smiled… but I was weak. The Drama Queen was awaking in me and with a baby labelled ‘Diva’ by all the sonographers and midwives since week five; I was worried about our combined drama potential.

The new midwife was very nice indeed. She understood my concerns. It felt like nothing phased her. After our introductions for some reason, I went on to tell her I wanted to push. She said, go on then. I pushed. It was clearly pointless, I knew it was, but I wanted movement, no idea what I expected to happen. She left, popping back every now and then. Time floated before me, like I was in the Labyrinth film’s limbo, which incidentally is a movie I find equally terrifying and excellent. It was all just… melty. I demanded Van Morrison on repeat, as I thought it would bring back my old mate Zen, but the scallywag was gone. Charlie demanded I eat. I couldn’t think of anything worse. The only thing that appealed to me was gas.

After four hours or so of new midwife time, new midwife told me that I had not progressed at all. I have no words to express how this felt. It had been 40 plus hours since that first contraction. And yes, I know I wasn’t in established labour and that only started 10 hours before or something, but… I just wanted to meet our baby. Ya know! The midwife suggested that we move things forward and go downstairs to The Drip. Or we could continue to wait, but she was concerned I was shattered, which I was. So the decision was made to pop along downstairs to the delivery suite, all jolly and bright. Previously I had in my mind that downstairs symbolised all that I didn’t desire for my baby’s birth, but instead at this point I guess it became exactly what I needed. So, as we wheeled down to the suite, knowing we had to now make this new, clinical space our sanctuary I was aware I needed to relax. I could do this before, but now I just felt so tired. So the words tumbled out of my mouth: ‘Please can I have an epidural?’’ Bleugh. Out. Better. The midwife replied that with the drip speeding up contractions, it would be wise and I would need my energy for pushing. Gosh.

The lights dimmed, just an angle poised lamp on the midwife’s notes. Bill Callahan playing softly, a view of the city’s lights. Charlie snoozing on the floor and the sweet, regular sound of our baby’s heartbeat. This was a different place, one of calm and a gathering of thoughts. This was the epidural I thought I would never have. And frankly, in some (many) ways it saved my experience of the birth of our baby, as it pulled me back to where I needed to be. It gave me rest, peace and that wonderful focus back again. I guess, a drug induced path to Zen. I told the midwife I was so sad it had come to this, I had wanted everything to be natural and she said that in no way should I feel bad about my circumstances or decisions – there were many factors involved and soon we would meet our baby and that’s what mattered. Emotion.

After a few hours of dozing and chatting (her husband works in magazines, she met him in London as a student in the 90s, they have two kids – I was interviewing) I was 10cm and ready to push. I made sure to stop the epidural switch earlier than this to hopefully feel as much as I could. I was soon instructed to puuuush with all my might, taking short breaks to take in more air. Again and again, I pushed and imagined holding my baby in my arms. I could feel the baby coming. I absolutely loved this very active part.

It took just 10 minutes for this beautiful, crying, wriggling, eyes wide-awake baby to emerge. The midwife unwrapped the cord around the baby’s neck and handed our baby to me, whereupon my body absolutely flooded me with hormones and love. I didn’t know if it would come straight away, but I was utterly devoted and loved poured from me immediately. It was incredible, like nothing I have ever experienced before. I also quickly noted that this ‘boy’ (I was sure the baby was a boy, as was pretty much 99% of people we knew), looked very pretty. ‘She’s pink!’ said the midwife. Oh my goodness.

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 This was our little, gorgeous Alba Elise. A bundle of pure love, joy and inspiration from the very moment her heart started beating. She smelt amazing, her skin felt so soft and her cheeks were so plump. We had skin on skin and cuddled as a family, chatting to her, telling her how brilliant she is and that we love her ‘soooo much’. Slightly annoyingly, I had quite a lot of blood loss and a couple of other complications post-birth, but the medical staff were fantastic, as was Charlie, who after voicing how much he despised the birth partner chair, lay on the floor and napped with Alba. Then had a few rounds of tea and biscuits, Alba had some more colostrum, I had a blood transfusion, Charlie gave us an inflatable tiger balloon and everything felt rosy. We were floating on a cloud.

We love our little Alba so much, she has taught us an endless amount about loving and our capacity for love. Everyday, I feel like the luckiest person in the world. Our baby girl is a joy to know and has the sweetest, kindest eyes and the most glorious, wholehearted smile I’ve ever seen. We are truly blessed to have this little addition to our family. Our love, love, LOVE – grows with each precious day that passes.  My sweet, wonderful, determined, happy, beautiful tiger”.

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Hels is the founding editor of Lionheart Magazine – a lifestyle magazine full of interviews, fashion, illustration, stories, photography, craft, recipes and way more – an independent publication that’ll make you feel peachy good! Buy issues one to four, right here: http://www.lionheart-mag.com/shop