Birth Story Of The Week – Alice and Etta

IMG_2854

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.

IMG_2853

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.

IMG_2855

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.

IMG_2852

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

Birth Story Of The Week – Siobhan and Arlo

Thursday

So my waters had gone, I’d managed to convinced myself it wasn’t wee, based on the fact I’d gone to the toilet mere moments before fridge-gate (so low was my trust in the stability of my bladder), and I’d just sat down to write my Christmas cards… You can read about that here.

It is about 1pm when I finish writing all my cards, and messaging friends and family for their addresses. This year (since I’m transitioning from young-mum-of-one to woman-with-two-kids), I have done the unprecedented and invested in an actual, physical, address book, so decide now is the perfect time to copy all the addresses I have into it. This leaves me feeling very organised and happy with myself (does this last-minute life admin count as nesting?!).

Because I’m not having any contractions and time is of the essence, I get to work on my nipple stimulation with an electric breast pump in an attempt to bring some on (upping the ante on the simple nipple twiddling of the day before). I am now listening to my Hypnobirthing affirmations, having decided the BBC’s ‘The Missing’, albeit totally gripping, is just a tad too tense and possibly having a detrimental effect on my uterus.

At about 2pm I call my midwife as I have not felt the baby move all day and she had said to keep an eye on baby’s movements. I tell her that I don’t need her to come out because I’m not having regular contractions but says she will pop by anyway to have a listen to baby… (Reflecting now, I clearly remember making this call. I would never in a million years have believed I would be holding my baby in a matter of hours!!).

Whilst waiting for my midwife to arrive I am having some contractions but not take-your-breath-away ones. They are however coming of their own accord since I have stopped pumping. I’m not convinced it’s the real deal though and feel I need a professional (i.e. my midwife) to tell me whether this is it or not.

We do crack open the birth bag at this point though, figuring we might as well make use of our nice things because whether or not this is it right now, since my waters have gone, I am going to be in labour in the next 24 hours or so. We light our lovely Diptyque Pomander scented candle that we chose for our birth (recommend doing this by the way!), pull down the blackout blinds in our bedroom and I start bouncing on my birth ball, whilst applying some make-up (obvs want to look good just in case it is happening!).

At this point I’m welcoming each contraction and when there’s a bit of a gap between one ending and the next one starting, I actually worry that it’s all died off and this isn’t it at all. So each time one comes I’m like YAY, GO BODY! I am doing my up breathing through each one but they aren’t in any way painful.

My midwife arrives at 2.30pm and has a listen to baby. All seems well. Around 3pm she says she’s going to make a move but to call her back when I need her. She tells me she thinks it will be soon. I ask how soon??!! She says she thinks that it will be tonight. I realise baby might actually arrive ON his/her due day (which is tomorrow) – how amazing would that be!

Just after 3pm James says it’s time for him to go and do the school pick-up. My midwife kindly offers to wait with me until he returns. At this point I’m thinking my son will come home, we will have dinner together later on and he will go to bed at his normal time.  Then hopefully (fingers crossed) my labour will kick off in the night. My midwife advises me to have a bath to ease the discomfort once she has left and to try and get some sleep to conserve my energy for later.

By the time James is back at 3.30pm, less than half an hour later, EVERYTHING has changed. I’m not having a bath or a sleep – it’s time to inflate the birth pool – and quick! My midwife has decided she is staying now and it’s not long until she is calling the second midwife.

At one point the contractions were irregular and pain-free, then very quickly they increased in frequency and then very suddenly they increased in intensity and I was not welcoming them any more.

I say hello to my little (soon to be big) boy when he gets back from school but am not able to say much else. I quickly feel like I need him out of the house because I need to focus all my energy and attention on each surge* so my friend is called to collect him.

*I will call them surges from now on because they are powerful and not just little contractions/tightenings.

At 4pm I ask my midwife to examine me. She warns me that it will not tell me how long my labour is going to be, but I need to know something is happening. The surges are intense. My midwife has a poke around and tells me I am approximately 5cm dilated. I am slightly disappointed to hear I am only half-way, especially since I was already 2cm on Monday. I this this means I have a loooong way to go (little do I know).

At 4.10pm my friend arrives and I say goodbye to my son. James is busy inflating and filling the pool and over the next half an hour or so I do feel quite alone as I deal with each surge standing at the dining room, gripping on to the edge. I just want the pool to be ready so I can get in, believing it will feel amazing. The surges are really intense and between each one I give myself an internal pep talk, reminding myself that I want a natural homebirth, that I can do this, that I am in control etc. Then the surge hits and I’m screaming silently in my own head very negative things like I can’t cope, I need pain relief. This internal battle goes back and forth like this for a while whilst I stand bent over the table, rocking backwards and forwards, channeling all my energy into my breathing. I’m not really aware of what is going on around me and am not making conversation with anyone. At this point I really have gone within myself. I do notice that a resuscitation area has been set up on the dining room table but try to put it out of my mind.

After a while I move into the living room, kneel on the sofa and hold James’ hand and tell him I need him to stay close to me now. I don’t care about the pool anymore, I just want him to help me. He crouches down next to me, holds my hand, applies pressure to my back, as I rock backward and forwards over the arm of the sofa, breathing in and out with all the strength I can muster. The surges now are relentless and totally consuming me with their power and I am just fighting to stay on top of them.

A visualization I was taught in pregnancy yoga really helped me at this point: I rocked forward on all fours as I breathed in through my nose and then rocked back onto my heels as I exhaled through my mouth, visualizing a long golden thread extending into the distance. To keep myself breathing out for a long time and not hyperventilating/losing control, I imagined that each long out breath was pushing this golden thread further and further.

At 5pm the pool is finally ready for action. (I only know this from reading my notes because by this point I was not aware of time). The long-awaited, much-anticipated, pool of dreams. I step in and in my memory step straight out, but apparently I was in there for a few minutes. I don’t like it and in any case I feel I need to go to the loo for a number two.

DSC_0735

My lovely midwife tries to convince me it is my baby but I am having none of it.  How could it be the baby, I think, when I still have so many hours to go?!

I hate the idea of poo’ing in the pool and think I know when I need the toilet. Turns out I don’t. As I sit on the toilet with nothing happening, James and my midwife stand outside the bathroom door telling me not to push too hard because I don’t want to give birth on the loo!

I am aware I have only been in labour for a very short while so cannot believe baby is almost ready to make his/her entrance. I ask my midwife to check that it really is the baby but at this point I can’t lie down on my back or even sit down(!). She kindly obliges and examines me standing up. She tells me I am fully dilated and the baby’s head is just centimeters from its exit! I have gone from 5cm to fully dilated in under 1 hour!!! This might go some way to explaining why it is so intense.

Only after being examined and being told me I am good to go, do I believe and give into the urge to push. And boy did I need to push.

At 5.15pm I start pushing, on all fours, on the sofa, completely naked (and not caring in the slightest), in front of the Christmas tree. This baby is not going to be a water baby after all! As I push I bite down hard on a pillow and roar. At one point I scream, “It’s not going to fit” but am reassured that it will. And, “It can’t stay there” when the baby’s head crowns just as the contraction ends, leaving me momentarily at full stretch (probably the most painful moment).

But after just four minutes of what feels like a surprisingly hard, brick-like object, descending down a tunnel that is far too small to accommodate it, at 5.19pm, my gorgeous, perfectly formed, beautiful, baby boy flies (literally flies) into this world and is caught (just) by Natalie, our midwife. James who has been crouched by my head, whispering encouraging and lovely things into my ear, calls “It’s a boy!”, tears flowing, as our baby flies out, little arms up by his head and legs open like a froglet, revealing what we’ve waited 40 weeks to know. He is then passed immediately through my legs and I bring him up to my chest, bloody and beautiful. James captures the moment on camera and it is without a doubt my favourite photo.

I am so happy. There are no words. I birthed our beautiful baby just as I dreamt (albeit not in the pool), at home, in front of the Christmas tree, with no pain relief necessary. This couldn’t have been more different to my previous experience.

DSC_0741 DSC_0744 DSC_0740

With my first I was almost two weeks overdue, my labour was induced and it lasted 2 long days. I was attached to a drip, pumped full of artificial hormones, strapped to a monitor and endured a number of invasive procedures. I couldn’t sleep and wasn’t allowed to eat. It was a very stressful experience. I ended up having an epidural so felt nothing and my poor son was finally born by forceps delivery in theatre, narrowly avoiding a c-section, under bright lights, surrounded by people I had never met. Arlo James, on the other hand, arrived the day before he was ‘due’, into a completely calm environment, in the comfort of our family home and my labour lasted just 2 hours and 19 minutes.

It was however the most intense 2 hours and 19 minutes of my life. The surges came on hard and fast and good God were they hard. I breathed for my life and could do little else but focus on that. The pushing was the most acutely painful part yet, ironically, the part for which I am most grateful I felt. To feel his head descend was so real and unlike anything else and I am so glad I got to fully feel and experience the miracle of giving birth. I have never felt more in the present in my whole life. It wasn’t calm or sensual, there wasn’t any incense or oms, (it progressed far too quickly for that!), there was no water baby but it was incredible and intense, powerful and primal (and quite bloody painful). My birth experience was, put quite simply, amazing.

Something I learnt in labour was that Hypnobirthing and all our practice didn’t make labour pain-free, but it helped me to feel in control and awesomely powerful and it gave James a real purpose. Also, I talk about ‘pain’ but at no point did I ask for pain relief, not even a paracetamol. And I would do it all again in a heartbeat, in fact, I wish I could(!).

Doing Hypnobirthing meant we were prepared and ready, excited even, for labour to begin! At no point was I truly scared or afraid: I knew I was capable and I trusted my body and baby completely. When it came to pushing I made these loud, primal, roaring/grunting noises. Although I had imagined quietly breathing my baby down as I’d seen in hypnobirthing videos, my body just took over and I could do nothing else but push. It was instinctive. It was powerful. And I went with it.

Had I not done Hypnobirthing I don’t think I would have gone with it. I would have been nervous of the pain. I would have doubted my ability to do it. I would have been worried about the baby. Instead I embraced it, I pushed, I roared like a lion, and then my baby arrived and immediately all the pain just stopped and pure elation flowed.

I had just experienced the most incredible moment of my life.

Things didn’t go quite so well afterwards. I lost 1.5 litres of blood and was transferred to hospital by ambulance. I had 3 tears unfortunately, which needed to be sutured and just when I thought we could go home, I had a huge allergic reaction to something in hospital and went into anaphylactic shock!

But why dwell on the negative?! I know what part I want to remember.

Friday

After a lot of waiting around in a very small and very hot and stuffy hospital room (shouldn’t complain, we did get a private room and James was able to stay with me overnight), we were finally allowed to go home.

And then I’m not sure what happened later that day, or the next, or the next. They all just sort of ran into one another.

We existed in this beautiful bubble for the next week or so and it was just gorgeous. It was like we had just opted out of real life with all its routine and demands. We slept when we wanted, we ate when we felt hungry (even if it was 4am) and we just allowed our home to fill with all of this love.

I miss it already. Those precious early days. I tried so hard to cherish every single moment, knowing it all goes far too fast. I will treasure my memories of that special time for the rest for the life. As James says, it is worth having another baby for (and we have had a LOT of sleepless nights!).

That, I think, says it all.

Birth Story Of The Week – Annalise and Beatrice

I had never known that a home birth was an option for us before an appointment with our midwife, to discuss the birth. The thought of being in hospital gave me the woollies; I have a phobia of both me and other people being sick, so a labour ward was the sort of place I wanted to give a wide berth (excuse the pun). The thought of taking that anxiety out of labour was the initial appeal, but quickly other pros mounted up, and all I kept thinking was that we could change our mind at any point and go into hospital if we wanted. Planning a home birth just gave us a choice.

When I first mentioned a home birth to my husband, Guy, he was against the idea. He was worried about the possibility of something going wrong. Both our fathers are retired doctors and were sceptical, which added to his hesitance. I kept reminding him that we could transfer to the hospital at any point – we weren’t ruling anything out. It took a few weeks of mulling it over, but eventually Guy came round to the idea, supporting my decision.

Guy and I spent a lot of time preparing for the birth; Guy looked after the logistics, working out how to set up the pool and find the right adaptor for our taps (at one point he tried the shower arm because he couldn’t fit the adaptors). I focused on getting myself in the right physical condition and mind-set. I was doing lots of exercise such as yoga, swimming, step and resistance training. I was also doing my pelvic floor exercises and perennial massage. I listened to a hypobirthing track as I went to sleep at night, and also found it really useful in helping me get back to sleep when I was struck with insomnia.

Sunday 12 October 2014

1:27am

I was five days past my due date when I felt my first contraction. I woke up at 1:27am to a strong tightening in my stomach that faded away. I lay still, wondering what would happen next, and shortly after felt the same sensation rising and falling.

I slipped out of bed, not wanting to wake up Guy, and went into our sitting room to lie down on the sofa. I put on my hypnobirthing track, taking the opportunity to nap between contractions, which at this point were around eight minutes apart. After two 40-minute loops of the track, the contractions were getting stronger so I put on a DVD of ‘Cold Feet’, one of my favourite TV series, to distract me and moved onto onto my birthing ball. As the contractions came, I rested my head on the arm of the sofa, rolled my hips on the ball and closed my eyes. I had set myself the target of 6:00am to wake Guy. When 6:00am arrived, I still felt pretty relaxed, so I decided to hold out for another hour. Just after 7:00am, I went into our bedroom, nudged Guy gently and whispered, “Guy, the baby’s coming”. His eyes burst open and he leapt up, “Really? Where? Now?”

Once Guy had properly woken up, I gave him an update on the past hours. Together we timed a couple of contractions, had some breakfast, got showered and dressed and at 9:00am paged our midwife to let her know that our baby was ready to make its journey.

The midwife on call, called us back soon afterwards. We chatted about my progress and how I was feeling, “That all sounds great”, she said reassuringly, “keep doing what you’re doing – lots of walking around and moving, and give me a call again when the contractions are three minutes apart, and really strong; so strong you can’t think or talk through them.” Before putting down the phone, she said, ‘Each time a contraction comes, say to yourself ‘bring it on’. The bigger and stronger; the more you’re progressing”. It was piece of advice that carried me through the labour.

annalise 1

We called our immediate families to let them know that we were on, and were brought to tears by a call with Guy’s mother who had explained that she’d secretly hoped that the baby would make an appearance today as it was the 12th anniversary of the death of her father, our baby’s great grandfather, a very special man.

9:30am

It was a beautiful, sunny, autumnal crisp Sunday morning, so Guy and I headed out to our local park, for a walk. We picked up coffees, and walked slowly around our favourite wildlife garden, talking about our baby, its names and our hopes and dreams for him or her. Guy was keeping track of the contractions and would say, “You should be having a contraction around n…”, and on cue I would feel one rising.

annalise 2

After about an hour of walking, the contractions had increased in intensity and we headed home. Along the way the contractions would stop me in my tracks and I would need to crouch down on the path or lean on a tree until it had passed. During one contraction, I remember a young family passing us, smiling and giving us the thumbs up.

Once home, we reattached the TENS machine. I returned to the birthing ball and Guy started setting up the birthing pool in the back room of our flat. We had a ‘regular’ sized pool, which is 2m x 2m – it was big. The contractions were coming every three minutes but I could still think and talk through them so knew I just needed to keep going – Guy and I would count together (he’d call from the back of the flat) so I knew how long until it would pass, I knew when we reached 20 seconds that it was going to ease again.

11:00am

Around 11:00am the contractions reached an intensity that I felt deemed a call to the midwife – they were very regular and quite strong (‘quite’ being a reference of hindsight). The midwife explained to Guy that she was up at the hospital with a new mother (her first delivery of the day) and that she’d be with us within the hour. When I opened the door to her, it was a huge relief and I burst into tears.

Our midwife was fantastic. Guy and I both warmed to her immediately. She walked in, sat me down and chatted to me about how I was feeling, watched a couple of contractions, checked the baby’s and my heart rates, and then examined me; “You’re 3cm dilated, I’m going to stay”. The golden words; I was so relieved.

From this point it was all about progress, ‘bringing on’ the contractions. I’d been sitting on my birthing ball, rotating my hips, using my TENS machine and breathing to relax through the contractions (pursing my lips and breathing out ‘golden spirals’), but to get things going, I needed to move around. I got to my feet and started pacing up and down our hallway, looking for places to lean as the contractions washed over me.

Guy had just served our midwife some lunch when her phone rang. I was on my way back down the corridor and my ears pricked when I heard her say, “I’ll be with you in five minutes, I’m just around the corner”. The midwife put down the phone and said to Guy, “There’s a lady round the corner pushing with her second child, I’m afraid I have to go. You’ll understand when you have a second child. I’ll be back as soon as my colleague [the other midwife on call] gets there.” And she fled out the door.

There was nothing else to do but carry on as we were going. I continued pacing while Guy started filling the pool. I remained calm for around 45 minutes before I started longing for her return. I sat myself at the front window and gazed out at the road, squinting at every car that passed, asking Guy, “Is that her?”

3:00pm

Within the hour, she was back. This time, when she walked in, she was wearing a smock and carrying lots of bags of medical paraphernalia. I thought to myself, “this is more like it!’ Our midwife had reached the other house five minutes before the baby had arrived – her second delivery of the day. The second midwife, had arrived shortly afterwards having had to hitch-hiked a lift in a police van (anther story in itself). It was an extraordinary day for our midwives.

The midwives carried out more checks and suggested I get in the shower for a change of scenery.  As my waters still hadn’t broken, I thought it might be because I was worried about the mess in our recently refurbished flat, so I stepped into the shower thinking it might help me relax. I got down on all fours, and what a relief it was. Initially, I thought that the shower was slowing down my progress as the contractions eased, but it was actually relief from the warm water. I remained there for what I thought was 30 minutes, but was actually two hours. Guy kept popping his head round but I just apologetically asked him to leave me. I felt very calm and just wanted to be alone and focus on the contractions. The midwife intermittently, quietly and discretely, came in and checked our heart rates. Hearing the little heart beat of my baby was amazing. It was a constant reminder to me that me this was a team effort, I was not alone. My little baby was going through something even bigger than me and remaining calm. I was so proud.

6:00pm

At around 6:00pm, I asked the midwives what my options were – I felt like I was having contractions that seemed to go on an on – running into each other. I was disappointed that my waters hadn’t broken and I was worried it was holding my progress back. The midwives suggested another examination and then to get into the pool. The examination confirmed I was progressing well and had reached 7cm. She described my waters as ‘bulging’. In my head I was thinking, “don’t push them too hard, I don’t want them bursting on our brand new mattress”.

7:00pm

I made my way down to our back room where Guy had created the most beautiful space around the pool with candles and music. As soon as I saw the water I virtually dived in. As I submerged, a contraction took over me, and at the same time I felt my waters pop. The midwife tucked herself discretely to my left and Guy to my right. The midwife left Guy to do the encouraging while she wrote up my notes and calmly answered questions and monitored everything. About an hour later I started feeling the urge to push. At first I didn’t really know what I was doing but after a few attempts the midwife suggested I keep my voice low and explained that I had strong but short contractions so to really try and drag them out. I begged for a time frame, to which my midwife simply reassured me that I was doing well.

Guy was incredible – encouraging me, filling up my water bottle and reminding me to drink, filling up the pool with warm water and keeping so calm. He went through waves of emotions; laughing, crying and quietly just absorbing the atmosphere. I remember it being dark and very calm – probably because I mostly had my eyes closed. I felt very safe, focused and supported.

9:00pm

After an hour of bearing down I was tired. I had only eaten a piece of toast and my energy stores were getting low. Guy knelt beside me and said, your next push is going to be for Poppy (my niece). As the contraction rose I thought of Poppy’s little face and I found a new strength. Next up was my grandmother, followed by Guy’s grandfather (who’s anniversary it was), and it carried on.

Shortly afterwards we were joined by our second midwife This arrival was another huge help, I knew I must be getting close if back-up was arriving. I remember feeling something, like a little nose budging, but one more push and the baby crowned. My immediate reaction was to leap out the water and jump up and down, but the midwives told me to breath and listen very carefully as I needed to do some very small pushes to avoid tearing. I followed their instruction and felt the head deliver.  I remember looking down between my legs and seeing a torch light flashing around. The midwife told Guy to join her and showed him our baby’s face in a hand mirror – its little eyes blinking and head looking around.

annalise 3

9:28pm

With the next and final contraction I pushed the rest of the body out. I reached down and lifted my baby up in front of me. The midwives spotted that the cord – which was all spiralled like an old telephone cord – had got tangled around the baby’s neck, so they both quickly jumped in and unwound it. I then lifted the baby out the water. As the tummy passed my eyes I saw that we had a daughter. “It’s a girl”, I announced, followed by, “and she looks like your dad, Guy”. In the background INXS’ ‘Beautiful Girl’ was coincidentally playing, it was a moment of my life that I will never forget.

I sat back into the water and the midwives placed my daughter in my arms and latched her on to feed – her body submerged in the pool to keep warm, with a little hat on her hat and towel over her shoulders. Once all the goodness had been pumped from the placenta, Guy stepped forward and cut the cord – separating my little baby and me for the first time. We sat for 20 minutes while the midwives filled out the paper work and made a round of tea. Guy took our daughter for some skin-to-skin and I stayed in the pool while we waited for signs that the placenta had detached. After 45 mins, the midwife stoked up an injection to speed up the process and as I stood up to have it administered, I spotted drops of blood in the water. With one final push (I really didn’t think I had it in me), I delivered it!

annalise 5 annalise 4

11:30pm

 By 11:30pm our wonderful midwives had weighed our daughter, administered a vitamin K injection into her little leg, completed the paper work, cleared up the placenta and were ready to go. Our daughter was the third baby they had delivered that day – they are superhumas. We thanked them for everything (how do you even start to thank people who have just done what they did), and I took our baby to our bed where we rested and fed. Guy emptied the birthing pool – with a whiskey – and when it was all cleared joined us in bed. Just the three of us, our new wonderful family.

annalise 6

Birth Story Of The Week – Vanessa and Luna

I had a very good pregnancy, apart from being off food, I loved it. I swam most days, did regular antenatal yoga, received Shiatsu on a regular basis (I am a shiatsu therapist) and planned for a home birth. When I went for my 33 weeks scan, my baby was still head up, by 36 weeks I went to check  again and I was told that she was still breech. Hmm that didn’t sound good for my home birth plan, especially when the woman in charge of the scan talked at me about c-section, the risk of natural birth, suffocation and that I needed to do an ECV, where they try and turn the baby manually. I didn’t have time to say anything or ask anything, I was sent out with an appointment for the ECV. I came out very upset!

Sudddenly I felt that the race against time had started. I didn’t want to have an ECV and I was going to do everything to try and turn my baby. I had received acupuncture whole through my pregnancy and my acupuncturist saw me every other days even Sunday, I went to a chiropractor, received more Shiatsu, did inverted positions, headstand in the swimming pool – yes the lifeguard did give me funny looks! Spend lots of money… but no budging…. Monday came, I was 37 weeks and 5 days and I went for that ECV. I was calm as I felt I did all I could. I put together my hospital bags, just in case things didn’t go to plan. Well, the doctor was nice, I breathed, she tried to turn but baby  didn’t turn!!!! They , then, wanted to sign me in for a c-section. My husband was my great advocate and told them that I didn’t want a c-section until I had a full assessment. It was agreed that I would meet the obstetrician on the Wednesday to discuss my case. I wanted a proper risk assessment that took into account the baby and I.

The next day, I felt a little emotional and bruised and continued  with my exercices to get my baby to turn. In the evening, I went swimming, more headstands. Then I remember , it was 9pm and I was lying down talking to my baby, telling her that she could come whenever she felt like it, that I was aware that which ever way she was, she would need to come out, that her crib was in storage but it was ok, we could get it…When I got up, I felt water trickling out and the next thing I knew was that my water had broken and I was running around the house on the phone to my husband panicking and finishing my hospital bag.

After calling my midwife, we headed to the labour ward,  my contractions only started a couple of hours after my water broke. Because of the breech presentation, we had to discuss the situation with the consultant who told us about the danger of a vaginal birth. We were told that we could have a C-section in the next hour. That prospect horrified us, we wanted our baby to know when she was coming to the world. I was scanned to check her position and to make sure it was her bottom presenting and not her feet because in the case of feet, you have no choice but a C-section as it would be very dangerous. The consultant left the room and Rory and I didn’t have to discuss it, we both knew that I would push her out. It was a difficult decision because we had been scared but we felt strongly about it. I trusted my body, I knew I could do it and I felt on good form.  There was no room free, so we were told to walk around the deserted corridors of the hospital. On our way to the cafeteria, I had to stop at each contraction and start humming as I was taught in my yoga class. My husband stood by me, un-phased by it all!

The labour progressed quickly,  and soon I was on all four on a bed. it started at 11pm and by 6.19 am our beautiful daughter Luna Clementine took her first breath. My 2 midwives from the home birth team were amazing, they were like two angels. My husband encouraged me all along and let me crush his arm, the obstetrician was very discreet and stayed in the background all along.

photo 2 (6)lunaluna and daddy

I had an immense control over my body, which stopped me pushing her out too soon. I was doing downward dog on the bed during intense contraction to be able to not push her out. My midwife was pretty impressed by that one! Off course I did go hysterical at times because I was so scared to push her out too early and that her head would get stuck. I used gas and air which helped me to concentrate. I pushed her body out nicely but her head was stuck. The senior obstetrician was called in and used the forceps for the head.  It was pretty traumatic for my husband to witness the breech birth of our daughter, watching her body unfold while her head was still inside and the use of forceps. I was eyes closed concentrating on getting her out and breathing. They gave her a little help and she was soon in my arms. I am very proud of my little Luna and my husband who stood by my decision. My midwives were amazing and helped me take the right decision for Luna and I.

Vanessa is a Shiatsu Therapist and she practices in South London Camberwell, her website is www.healthandwellbeing.org.uk .

Birth Story Of The Week – Kharmel and Minnie

I have total OCD…I write lists of lists and had an excel spreadsheet of everything I thought I needed for the birth of baby G (I can’t really remember where this moniker came from) I also Google everything…Pregnancy and birthing has taught me that regardless of how many colour coordinated excel docs you make, how many google searches, books you read, classes you attend etc – you are never truly prepared for what happens next. And by next I mean labour.
Our pregnancy was planned… I had tried to time it so that I would get preggo at Burning man because I naively thought it was as easy as that.  Mother nature thwarted me and I spent the whole week on my period, fat and bloated constantly freaking out about how a tampon was going to look with my outfit du jour (basically no clothes – goggle it!) So  back to London and back to business. Anyway long story short, I realised I was pregnant one night four months later whilst eating half a Spanish omelette in bed at 3am with ketchup. (I was about two days pregnant and googled pregnancy symptoms that night!  )
I had a pretty ‘okay’ pregnancy if you can call it that. I had hypermesis (I googled this, but didn’t think I had it until I was rushed to A & E and placed on an Iv drip for two days) but other than that was pretty smooth sailing – no cravings, no stretch marks : ) and no piles!
I knew pretty much from the beginning that I had wanted a home birth. I hate hospitals. I don’t really know why as I had never had any kind of surgery or had to spend a night in hospital until my Hyperemis and the food wasn’t all that bad! I went to a home birth class run by my local midwives which was really informative and not so hippy dippy as I thought it was going to be. There were lots of ‘normal’ reasons for wanting a home birth from women who had chosen to do so because they hadn’t had a great experience in hospitals with their first births, wanting more control over their births etc. I  was thinking how wonderful it would be to have a baby and then shut the door, shut the blinds and crawl into bed with our baby. Just the three of us. No hospital noise. No hospital lights. It was here that I first heard about Hypnobirthing and made a note to google it some more!!!
A few weeks later we met with an absolutely wonderful woman called Karen Mander who ran a two hour session that my and my boyf went to. He fell asleep. I thought it would be a crazy ‘alternative’ woman who had probably never had children herself, getting you to listen to whale music. Instead, we had an honest open discussion about how labour actually happens and the physical aspect of what is happening at each stage and what you can do to have a birth that is more calm by taking control of your body. This was the best money spent during my whole pregnancy (apart from a preggo massage at Space NK)
So I get to my due date and fancy sushi… I Google to see if sushi can really be that bad for you this late in pregnancy. Jury was out but I didn’t care at this point and drove to get California crab rolls and a beer. No sign of baby. I spend the next two days googling ‘how do I know if I’m in labour.’ Retrospective word of advice – when you are, you know. If you have to google it chances are you ain’t!! I google image what a mucus plug looks like (gross) google whether raspberry leaf tea/ acupuncture/ reflexology work. Google how accurate due dates are. Google how many women go into labour on their due date. Goggle is now my enemy. I’m bored.
Cut to two days later and I am definitely having contractions. They start on Sunday and hurt. But they don’t hurt hurt so I lounge about and think now is probably a good time to put on my hypnobirthing CD (damn why hadn’t I done this 4 months ago!). The midwife comes and attempts a sweep but I’m not having any of it. I go to bed and manage to get some sleep and eat a lot of shit – Nik Naks, Minstrels and some weird new Lucozade. My Dad comes over and I try to pretend that I’m not having contractions whilst trying to log them on my contraction timer app. It’s shit.
The next morning I’m definitely in labour, I’ve definitely seen my mucus plug (still gross) I text my midwife and curl up in bed, occasionally moving on to my birthing ball and then back into bed. Boyf starts filling the pool up at around 4pm and I get in without a midwife as I’ve decided I’ve had enough. The pool is amaaaaaaaaaazing. The hot water makes me feel relaxed and seems to take the pressure off. Then the gas and air arrives (with two more midwives and a student midwife) I have my diptique burning and fleetwood Mac on what seems to be repeat but maybe not. Anyway the gas and air is a dream and everything for the next three hours becomes a magical blur. I just remember floating around and generally feeling very euphoric. Oh and trying to eat a digestive biscuit at some point only to spit it back into my boyfriend’s face. Nice. I ask a few times how much longer, but not because the pain is unbearable… at this point I just want to meet my baby and see what he or she looks like.
Then I get to 9cms dilated and things change. I want to push. I tell the midwife and I think I start to try to push. Then I hear them all talking but can’t really work out what they’re saying. I didn’t know this at the time, but baby’s heartbeat keeps dropping with every contraction. They say that they are going to take me to hospital just to make sure everything’s okay. I was still high on gas and air so don’t really remember much of this part other than not wanting to get dressed to get in an ambulance. And not having a proper hospital bag packed as I was adamant I wasn’t ever going to have to go to hospital.
We get to the hospital and they quickly work out that the cord is firmly wrapped around the baby’s neck. I was going to need an emergency c section. Now, I’ve not had any surgery not even a tooth out but at this point I’m still super high on gas and air and don’t really care what they’re doing to me. I remember the radio playing and everyone being really nice and talking to me… I sign some papers and kind of remember talking about this bit in the NCT class. I’m awake but definitely too high to have any kind of freak out which I MOST DEFINITELY would have had, had I not been on gas and air.
Then she was out. Very quickly. There was a moment of silence and my boyfriend was definitely worried but I knew that all was going to be okay. And then a teeny tiny cry. We didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl and I remember Adam saying it was a girl and placing her on my chest. I was super spaced out of it but remember looking at her and thinking she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and fuck me she had a lot of hair!!
I would never have opted for a c section in a million years and it definitely wasn’t the greatest experience I’ve ever had but the hospital were amazing and I think that my home birth (while it lasted) was the most beautiful and magical thing I could wish for. As I write this 7 weeks later, and reflect, I now know that I would have always had to have a c section due to the cord tie,  but I would do it all again in exactly the same way. My midwives were the most wonderful women I could have asked for. It was their quick decision and knowledge that something wasn’t quite right,, that prevented things from going horribly wrong. Yes I now have a bumpy scar, and surgery and hospitals still scare me, but I’m happy that I attempted to give birth at home and got to enjoy 5 hours of labour at home.
IMG_0690
Minnie Rose Gravett was born at 10.21pm on Monday 29th September and weighed 6.6lbs. She’s a dream. And I still Google everything, although I have no time for Excel docs anymore!

Birth Story Of The Week – Imogen and Fin

I have always only thought positively about what my births would be. I am surrounded by a cascade of medical interventions and hospital births as part of my job as a neonatal nurse, this medical picture of birth is my everyday. However I knew that this was not how I wanted to birth my babies. I knew I wanted something else but wasn’t sure what that was. Don’t get me wrong, I did worry and was concerned enough that things might “go wrong” that I choose to have my birth in a hospital, but I was determined to labor my way, safely, with as little intervention as possible.

I heard about Hypnobirthing when I was first pregnant, the idea that we could put ourselves in control of our birth and that breathing, relaxation, visualisation and the power of positive thinking would enhance our delivery seemed right up our street. This was what I had been looking for, now I had a name for it. HYPNOBIRTHING. Having the support of my partner in the role of “gatekeeper” throughout, protecting my birthing space & advocating for us when I was otherwise engaged, really appealed to me. “We are in this together”, we can do this.

This was back in 2008 & hypnobirthing was not as visible as it is today. I looked into Hypnobirthing and discovered that we could go on a course, so Chris & I signed up to a weekend course. It was everything we had hoped & we left feeling more confident & relaxed about our labor & delivery. We discovered the power of breathing, positive imagery and relaxation & Chris became familiar with the process of birth & how he could advocate for the birth we wanted & protect our environment.

I was excited and tried to share this with my colleagues but a lot of them thought I was naive & that it was unrealistic to think that I could birth my baby without intervention and pain relief. I stubbornly ignored them & continued to share my views & quietly got on with being pregnant. We listened to the CD, practiced guided imagery, wrote our script & waited, not very patiently, for our baby to arrive.

Because of what I do I was nervous about going over my “due date” so had agreed with my midwife to have a sweep on my due date. I had this with no noticeable effect. So we booked another for 6 days later. On Monday 21 July 2008, we caught the tube to the hospital, with just my handbag.

We were expecting to just have a sweep & then go home…

I was examined by a Dr & told that I was 3cm dilated, really, did that mean I was in labor & didn’t know it? I was given another sweep, which was VERY uncomfortable, and told that I was going to be admitted when a bed became available. How exciting, today we were having our baby.

Chris went back home to get our things & I went for a walk along the South Bank. Some time between walking & getting a bed my contractions started, quietly. I was confident in my breathing & had been listening to my CD and practicing my relaxation but I really wanted Chris with me.

I walked into the hospital at 12ish, was introduced to my midwife and settled into my room. I turned off the lights moved all the unnecessary equipment out of the way, drew the curtain around the resucitaire & kept moving around the room. All the while my contractions were continuing, but they were nothing I couldn’t handle. When Chris arrived back with all our things I was in the bathroom, in the dark focusing on my breathing.

At some point it became necessary for me to have continual monitoring, my midwife was great, still letting me move around & position myself where I felt comfortable. She never interrupted me to “assess” me or tell me to get on the bed. This allowed me to focus on my breathing & use the hypnobirthing techniques to relax and stay calm. This gave me confidence & kept the atmosphere in the room relaxed and I felt safe & supported. In the end I was most comfortable kneeling on the bed, resting between contractions. The time between contractions didn’t seem long at all. And then 4 hours and 45 mins later after not much pushing, but a very memorable “Ring of Fire” Fin was born. I helped to pull him out (catch him as he fell out with the help of gravity) and then held him skin-to-skin, uninterrupted.

IMG_1247_1 IMG_1252 IMG_1261 IMG_1280

AMAZING. He was here! Weighing 3.4kgs. Love him.

I can honestly say I loved every second of his birth (I know, my labor was relatively quick). I was able to have him with no pain relief (not even a paracetemol), have skin to skin straight away, establish breastfeeding & go home 6 hours after he was born. At no stage was I scared of the pain (this was true throughout my pregnancy) I knew what that pain was and what it meant and that it was bringing my baby closer to me. I have no doubt that my amazing labor & delivery was directly related to the skills & confidence I had in my body’s abilities that I gained from hypnobirthing & I don’t hesitate to share this with anyone who will listen (and those that don’t).

Birth Story Of The Week – Claire and Anna

183

BabyMouse was scheduled to be born by caesarean section on 17th March, due to the fact that she was breech and because of her needing to be born a bit early because of the potential dangers of me having obstetric cholestasis. [That was a long sentence, sorry. This is a long post, and is a bit of a ‘mind splurge’ so may not be entirely coherent.] However, things did not go entirely to plan…

On 25th February, we went to our usual Tuesday appointment at the hospital in London, saw the midwives and the obstetricians, showed my parents around the hospital so they knew where to go when the time came for the birth, and went home, all without incident. When we got home, we had dinner and watched Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing (an excellent film) on DVD. At about 9.30 pm, I decided to go to bed early because I was (as usual) feeling rather tired. I got into bed. At about 10.00 pm, I turned over in bed and [apologies for too much information] thought I’d wet myself, although it didn’t really feel like that. I went to the toilet and realised that this was not the case – it was actually that my waters were breaking! I sat on the toilet for a while – every time I went to get up more ‘water’ came out and I didn’t want to make the floors wet – and called for Mr C to let him know what was happening. He rang the hospital who, in true traditional fashion,told us to stay at home, wait another hour and take a paracetamol! To be fair to the midwife who answered the phone, Mr C didn’t tell her my medical history, and I wasn’t in pain at that time, so she had no reason to tell us to come in, although at the time I was rather cross and decided this wasn’t on and rang the hospital again. I spoke to someone else and told them about all the complications, and that we were going to come in straightaway, to which she agreed.

We called a taxi, which, thankfully. arrived within about five minutes. Mr C packed up all the things we might need – he already had a bag ready and just had to add a few last minute things. I took a towel with me because I didn’t want to make the taxi seat wet! I explained to the taxi driver that I thought I was in labour, and he was totally nonplussed!

When we got to the maternity triage they monitored the baby to make sure she was OK. This took about 20 minutes, by which time the pain had got much worse and it was confirmed that I was definitely in labour. By the time the obstetrician examined me I was already 7-8 centimetres dilated. We rang the London hospital to let them know what was happening and they talked about possibly arranging a transfer to them from the local hospital, but in the event there was no time for that! We were going to have to deliver the baby at the local hospital – at this point it was still the plan to do a caesarean and I was taken to the delivery suite to be prepared for this. Needless to say, I was in a bit of a state by this point; mainly because of the pain of the contractions, but also because I was worried that the people in the local hospital wouldn’t be able to deal with all my complications – the plans we’d set in place had gone out of the window and we were entering (even more) unknown territory…

The anaesthetist came to talk to me about pain relief, and asked me lots of questions which I found difficult to answer because I couldn’t think or talk very well due to the increasing pain and frequency of contractions. The anaesthetist was lovely, and waited for me to answer her questions in the bits of time where I wasn’t in pain, and was very clear in what she said, as well as taking the time to listen to my concerns about things, Luckily we had the delivery plan from the London hospital in my notes, and I let someone know about this so they could see what drugs I was allowed (or not), and the different methods of monitoring that were required. (I have to be monitored more closely because of my heart condition).

We went to one of the maternity theatres, and I could see all the surgical instruments being laid out for (I still assumed) the caesarean. There were about eight medical people in the theatre, as well as Mr C, who was now decked out in green scrubs and a surgical mask. He tried to help me breathe through the contractions. I had got to the point where I didn’t think I could carry on because the pain was so bad, and was gulping in lots of gas and air. I’m not sure that this helped with the pain, but it was a distraction, and helped my regulate my breathing,

Because it was in the original plan drawn up with the people in London, the anaesthetists tried to put in an arterial line – this gives more accurate blood pressure readings and can also be used to measure oxygen levels in the blood. Having an arterial line inserted hurts – fortunately I was given local anaesthetic (which also hurt, but I assume not as much as if I’d been able to feel the line going in) every time they tried to put it in, because they tried to insert the line lots of times before finally giving up due to my arteries refusing to cooperate and at the request of Mr C who told them there was no point trying to continue.

Another factor in stopping the attempts at insert the arterial line was the fact that BabyMouse was now well and truly on her way out! A c-section was no longer an option, so we were going for a natural delivery for a breech baby, something that is rarely attempted nowadays. I was given a spinal block to numb everything that needed to be numbed – it was such a relief not to be able to feel anything! It was now about 2.00 am and I was put into position on my back, leaning on a wedge-shaped cushion with my legs in stirrups. Not very dignified. It was now about 2.00 am and time to bear down and help BabyMouse out! It was very odd trying to bear down when I couldn’t feel anything, and it was hard to take deep enough breaths and let them out slowly enough when I was pushing.

The doctor actually delivering BabyMouse was lovely (in fact all the staff were lovely) and calm and he talked me though each push, and everyone else in the room helped me to know how long to push for. One of the midwives had her hand on my tummy, feeling for each contraction and telling me when to be ready and breathe. At about 2.25 am, BabyMouse was born! She weighed about 5lb. I had a quick glimpse of her just after she arrived and then she went over to the nurses, as she needed a bit of help with her breathing. Mr C went over with her. A few seconds later we heard her cry, which was a big relief. Someone showed her to me again for a second or two, and then she went to the special care baby unit. I delivered the placenta and the obstetrician dealt with my bleeding – unfortunately this was quite heavy as my heart condition meant that couldn’t have the usual amount of the drug used to contract the womb.

Once the bleeding was under control, I was taken to a recovery room. As is my wont after anaesthetics and/or traumatic medical procedures I spent the next hour or so shaking quite violently. (I’m not actually sure what causes the shaking – maybe just adrenalin.) My oxygen was quite low so they gave me some more, and I also had some tea and toast. Mr C went to see BabyMouse in the special care unit. The nurses took a photo of her which he brought to show me. It was lovely to see her, if only in a picture.

After a while I was taken to  the high dependency unit overnight so I could be monitored closely. The next day I was moved to the maternity ward. BabyMouse stayed in an incubator in the special care unit for three days, as she had trouble maintaining her temperature. She was fed through a tube for the first week or so of her life, because she was so early she didn’t have enough energy to take milk herself. Once she was able to maintain her temperature at the right level she was moved to the special care nursery and taken out of the incubator and put into a cot, although she sometimes had to have an overhead heater on her when she got too cold. The nursery was nice – it had murals of trees and animals all over the walls. A few days after this she moved with me to the transitional care unit, where mums and babies stay together until they’re both well enough to go home. Dads can stay as well, but they have to sleep on chairs (or on the floor if there are no spare chairs). If you’re lucky enough to get a reclining chair they’re quite comfortable, otherwise not so much. Mr C spent a few days on various floors as we moved round the hospital, but also got his fair share of reclining chairs, for which he was most grateful.

BabyMouse and I stayed in hospital for two weeks, until the staff at the hospital were satisfied that she was able to feed properly and didn’t have to have her tube in anymore, and we eventually went home on 12th March.

Before I finish this post, I would like to say that the care we received in Medway Maritime Hospital was exemplary. We could not fault it. The staff were unfailingly competent, kind and thoughtful. Most importantly, the medical staff listened to me when I had concerns, and went out of their way to find answers, reassure me, and help BabyMouse and I as much as possible. I think my experiences at Medway over the last couple of weeks were probably the best experiences of hospital I’ve ever had, and I’ve had my fair share of hospital experiences! I can’t thank the staff enough for everything they did for us. All the people we spoke to said that they also experienced a high standard of care during their stay at Medway. It’s a shame people’s good experiences don’t get reported in the press, but then I suppose that wouldn’t sell papers.

Read more about Claire and Anna over at Bookmouse

Birth Story Of The Week – Lyndsay

IMG_8129

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

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

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

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

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

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

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

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

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

lyndsay b

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

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

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

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

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

Birth Story Of The Week – Nikki and Emmy

Todays birth story comes from Nikki who blogs all about life with her daughter over at quietcontentment.wordpress.com. Here she shares how her induction and medical intervention led to her dream water birth going out of the window.

nikki

”So where should I start? Perhaps at my 34 week appointment, where the Birth Centre agreed to take me as long as I kept trying to increase my iron levels. Iron levels had been a problem since the start of my pregnancy. I’d already resumed eating meat after a few years as a vegetarian, and at this point I started taking liquid supplements too. I hadn’t really enjoyed being pregnant, and arranging to give birth at a Midwife-Led Unit seemed like it would be a lovely end to it. We had a tour and we fell in love with it – especially the fact my husband could stay overnight with us in a comfy double bed. I hoped to have a water birth with as little intervention as possible – gas and air, with lots of moving around. This was encouraged by the midwives who ran the centre. Assuming the pregnancy was straightforward, the only definite thing that see you transferred from the MLU to the labour ward was induction. 

By the time I got to 41 weeks, I realised I wasn’t sure how much longer I could go for. My hips were causing me a lot of pain, I was barely sleeping and couldn’t move far. At my appointment on the Tuesday at 41+1, they attempted a stretch and sweep, but swiftly abandoned it because it to was too painful and my cervix was still completely closed. With a sinking feeling we discussed induction before the weekend. We asked for Friday, but they only had Thursday or Monday available, so rather than face several more days of discomfort and uncertainty, we chose the former. I left the hospital determined to bounce on my ball and move around as much as possible to get the baby moving. On Wednesday night I finally nested, cleaning the house and tackling the huge pile go ironing that needed doing. I kept hoping to feel something but nothing was happening. We went to bed early, apprehensive and excited about the next day.

The beginning of the induction was pretty straight forward. We went in for 8am, dragging all our bags with us. We’d been told to come in as if I was in labour, and led to believe we wouldn’t be leaving until we had a baby to go home with. I was put on the monitor for half an hour to get a base line, then after a quick internal, I had the pessary inserted (why do those things have so many sharp edges?!) and was left on the monitor for another half hour. The midwife came over and admonished me for not eating enough for breakfast and came back with biscuits for me to eat, before running over potential side effects with us. Then, to our surprise, they told us to go home and wait things out, returning when I got to the mythical 3 in 10 or at 6pm that evening, whichever came first. I was told we could hang about the hospital if we wanted, but that going home to bed would probably make more sense, so that’s what we did. We left with more biscuits and the elastic straps used for monitoring (they told us to hang on to them!).

I was knackered and decided to have a nap when we got home. I could already feel things twinging a bit, but there didn’t seem to be any real beginning or end to the contractions and they weren’t even hurting enough for me to class as contractions. I had something to eat, and then tried to nap some more, before realising that these were starting to feel more like the waves of contractions I was expecting, but that there was very little let down. I could still speak through them and they were painful, but nothing as bad as I had expected. At about 4pm I rang the hospital for advice and was told to come straight back in as it sounded like I had reacted badly to the Propess and was hyper-stimulating. They had warned us this might happen – it’s when you experience continual contractions that aren’t anywhere near the intensity needed to push the baby out.

When we got there, I was whisked off to an exam room, where I produced the elastic straps for the monitor, and was hooked up again. I was then given an internal which led to furrowed brows and a more senior midwife repeating it. I didn’t hear what was said, but my husband did – my cervix was now opening, but they thought they could feel the baby’s nose through it. I was sent up to the labour ward, where I was put back on the monitor. After a while the door opened and the consultant obstetrician and several other doctors came in with a portable monitor. I was told they suspected face presentation, in which case I would need an immediate c-section, but not to worry as face presentations were ‘as rare as hen’s teeth’. The scan showed it was not a nose, and indeed they couldn’t see anything. They guessed it might have been an ear, and all bustled out again leaving me on the monitor. I spent the rest of the evening hooked up, with the contractions getting more and more defined, and more painful. At about 11pm I was transferred down to the ward and my husband was sent home.

I managed fitful sleep for a few hours until about 4am when I woke needing the loo. I sat up and suddenly realised I didn’t need the loo – my waters went in a fairly big rush. I called the midwife who got me a clean gown and changed the bed then removed the Propess. Those sharp edges hurt more coming out then going in. Much more. My waters breaking led to a real ramping up of the contractions, and they became pretty unbearable, pretty fast. I asked for pain relief and was given some gas and air about half seven, but before that I was contracting alone, with no pain relief in a darkened ward, trying not to wake the other women up. This was probably the worst bit of my labour – I was scared, and alone, and desperately wanted some support.

Once I was allowed some gas and air it got a bit easier. I didn’t find it helped the pain, but the wooziness allowed me to concentrate on something else. About 9am I was moved up to the labour ward, and I started asking for an epidural. I was so tired and in so much pain, and I didn’t think I would be able to carry on for much longer. I was told that before I could have one, I needed to lie on the bed, on my back for 15 minutes for monitoring. I refused point blank to do this, knowing that that was the position my contractions were the worst in. They finally agreed to let me stand, leaning over the bed for monitoring, and called the anaesthetist. James was allowed in just as they were prepping me for the epidural, and him and the assistant anaesthetist held me still whilst it was sited. I felt awful for being so stroppy over it, but the idea of lying down for 15 minutes was utterly terrifying.

The relief was almost instantaneous. I was able to nap a bit and get some rest, which was sorely needed. Unfortunately, the epidural also slowed my contractions right down, so at midday I went on to the Syntocin drip. The afternoon passed in a haze of napping, eating Percy Pigs, topping up the epidural and a gradual ramping up of the drip. The contractions were coming regularly but weren’t increasing in intensity. A couple of internals were done, and I didn’t seem to be dilating much. Baby was doing fine but I was getting tired, and it was decided that we’d give it until 6pm, then a decision would be made as to next steps. 

The whole time this was going on we were listening to the heart monitor, which was reassuring, but if I moved around too much it slipped and we had to get someone to come back and re-site it, which was stressful – especially because the monitoring bands itched an unholy amount! Every 90 minutes to 2 hours the epidural was topped up just to keep the pain managed, but other than that there was nothing much anyone did.

At 4pm we got a new midwife. She did a quick internal showing I had dilated a bit more, but still not enough. She checked the Syntocin drip and suggested that the valve on it might have been set incorrectly, which would explain why the increasing doses weren’t causing more contractions, but no-one ever confirmed whether this had been the case. We chatted and she did some paperwork, and before long, the deadline of 6pm had arrived. The epidural was topped up in preparation for the internal, and I don’t think anyone was more surprised than her to find out I had finally got to full dilation! For reasons I don’t fully understand, she said we would give it an hour then start pushing. The epidural was tapered slightly to allow me a bit more feeling, and then we started. We kind of thought that the pushing bit would be fairly quick, so I was surprised when she said they’d review the situation after I’d been pushing for two hours. I was thinking I’d be holding my baby by 8pm at the latest!

We tried many different positions, using a stool, using the bed, squatting, lying down, on all fours…but nothing was happening. At 8pm we got another new midwife. She was pretty brusque, and seem determined to get the baby out, but it wasn’t happening. At 9pm a doctor was called in, and it was decided that I was going to need some help, but the monitoring was showing that despite her being pretty much wedged in the birth canal, she was doing fine, with the steadiest heart rate we could ask for. Because of this, they prioritised another mum whose baby was in a little distress, and promised to be back as soon as they could. The midwife decided that we were going to get this baby out in the meantime, and I tried my hardest, but by this point I was getting exhausted and was tearful, convinced I couldn’t do it. During this time, an incubator was brought in, and at half nine, the doors opened and quickly the room filled with people. It all started to get very hectic and I was put in to position on the bed, legs up in stirrups, and they explained they were going to use ventouse to get the baby out, along with an epistiostomy. The epidural was topped up, and there was a lot of pulling and prodding. I could feel the cup being attached, and then the monitors were watched, waiting for my next contraction.

I don’t remember how many pushes it took. I do remember being shocked at the violence of it. NCT classes had led me to believe it was a gentle procedure, using the suction to help the baby out. My husband described it as basically a tug of war. Suddenly I felt her come out and saw her briefly as the cord was cut. I didn’t hear her cry, and couldn’t see her, and I was so worried something was wrong. James could see her moving and knew she was okay, but in the commotion neither of us could communicate to each other, and it seemed like an age before she made a noise. Then she was brought over to me, this squinty little baby, frowning at everyone and all I could think was how perfect she looked.

The next few hours are blurry. Emmy was born at 9.45pm and I know I was stitched up, that we spoke to our parents, that I got the fabled tea and toast, that I cuddled her. Apparently I fed her, but I don’t remember this. The next thing I remember is about 2am, the midwife asking if I wanted a shower. She gave James the baby, then left so that I could go shower. I got up and went in to the bathroom, and promptly fell over. James called a midwife, who came in, hit the alarm, and once again the room filled up. I was helped in to a wheelchair, whilst my bed was remade, and I was put in a fresh gown, and out back to bed with more tea and toast, and told to get some sleep. Me passing out was out down to a combination of exhaustion, blood loss, and little food and sleep for 48 hours. James spent a couple of hours cuddling our baby girl whilst I slept. When I woke up, they said I’d soon be moved down to the ward so he was sent home. I changed her for the first time on the ward and, in the morning she was given a BCG injection (which is normal for West London). James came back in around midday and we left the hospital about 18 hours after her birth. She didn’t have much swelling from the ventouse cup, but there was a huge open sore and a big bruise from it, which looked so painful for her.

nikki and emmy 2nikki and emmy
Without being a C-section, Emmy’s birth was about as far from what I wanted as possible. I know people say that all that matters is that we are both here and both healthy, and to a point I agree, but I think it’s affected me a lot more than I realised at the time. We didn’t get to delay the cord clamping, I didn’t get to have immediate skin to skin, I didn’t get a water birth. I do have a wonderful, amazing daughter, and I am healthy, but if I think too much about her actual birth and the immediate moments after, I just remember how scared I was, which isn’t exactly the memory I wanted from my birth. Hopefully in time this will fade, and I’ll just remember how perfect she looked when she was handed to me.”

Alpha Papa

It takes a real man to raise 2 daughters

It takes a real man to raise 2 daughters

This weekend was Father’s Day. A day which has bitter sweet meaning for me. Firstly, when I was growing up we didn’t celebrate Father’s Day as my own father didn’t ‘believe’ in it so I was the only child who opted out of making a card at school. As my Father is no longer alive, I don’t feel sad on Father’s Day as I have a pretty awesome guy being a GREAT Dad in my house to our two little girls. But unfortunately (and a second year in a row) we seem to be at friend’s weddings the weekend Father’s day falls. So yesterday was spent hung over, eating pizza and watching re runs of Friends. He said it was his best Father’s Day ever so brownie points for me.

Today’s birth story comes another awesome chap I know, husband to a friend and father to a one year old little girl. I saw them at the wedding on Saturday and we agreed what better way to celebrate Father’s Day on the blog than no other than a birth story, but written by a father. So here is Shiraz’s email he sent us all when his wife Susan gave birth to their daughter Amelie in Botswana.

Shiraz and Amelie

Shiraz and Amelie

It’s late, I’m exhausted, but I’m home alone (Susan’s Mum is staying in the hospital with Susan and Amelie) so here are the key facts…
At 2 in the morning (Monday 17th June 2013) Susan wakes up saying her water’s broken.  After reading the NHS advice we decided to call the Doctor.  He says try and get some sleep and come into the clinic at 6.30am.  We do actually get a bit of sleep (in hindsight, not sure how), but Susan’s contractions started and by 5.30am in the morning they were pretty painful.
Working on auto pilot (i.e. no emotions at this point), I pack the final things for the hospital bags and get them, plus the car seat, into the Honda as Susan’s pain gets worse. Susan’s Mum (who arrived on Sunday) recognises that it’s going to happen today. She doesn’t realise how soon.
Get to clinic at 6.40. Incredibly, we have to wait 10 mins before Dr Jochen Eichler is ready. Susan goes for an internal exam (I’m left in the office) and is first told “I’m not going to be able to come to the hospital with you as I have appointments all day.” Susan cries  “WTF?!” The Eichler inspects and realises he’s got it all wrong. (Later he tells us that he was expecting Susan would be in the early stages of labour and it would still be a while for any serious action. This information was based on the calmness of Susan’s phone voice at 2am; calm or tired or classically apologetically English?)
He storms back into the office where I’m waiting and after shouting something about “8cm already”, he demands that I bring the car to the door and that we go straight to the hospital (about 20-30 mins drive away). It’s 6.55am and as Susan and I jump into our car and Dr Eichler gets into his, he shouts that if we have to deliver on the roadside we will: “I’ve got my [rubber] gloves” whilst waving the said gloves.
I’m no longer on auto pilot, passing-out feelings are rising, but our German doc makes as if he’s on the autobahn and so I’m forced to focus and keep up. Susan’s in the back and is letting out a combination of yelps and deep sighing grrrs as she tries to count through the contractions every minute or so. We get to the hospital in 20 mins, I drop Susan at the entrance shout for a wheelchair and she goes in with the Doctor. After parking and finding the delivery room (room 540 – the same room Susan, Amelie and Kay are sleeping in now), Susan is already being seen by two amazing midwives, is connected up to a drip and a couple of beepy machines and the Dr is talking her through the steps.  Basically the baby is likely to come soon.
It’s about 7.20 when I walk into room 540.  Only 1 hr 22 mins before Amelie is born.
We discover that it’s too far gone for any painkillers.  No epidural is possible.  Susan is suddenly frightened. It’s a heartbreaking thing to see, cos I can’t do anything about it.
For the first hour Susan is asked to breathe through the contractions (i.e. not push).  Susan moves into a zone: eyes closed, listening intently, but – she says later – only hearing key information, and answering very quietly. I massage her back and put a cold compress on her forehead between contractions and stay away or let her nails dig into my hand during the contractions. She seems to be doing well – even though there is obvious pain.
Things are happening so fast, I’m barely able to catch my breath.
About 8.20, the Doctor asks Monica (the reassuringly buxom midwife) to up the drip (which has a medicine in to make the contractions more powerful) and says to Susan “now we push.”
It takes about 7-8 contractions for Susan to make it happen.  Along the way a vacuum is used because the baby is the wrong way up (face up rather than down) and there is a chorus of “harder”, “stronger”, “longer” and even “we’re fighting for your baby”, which I’m not sure Susan heard, but made me suddenly understand everything (that same everything from the original email) clearly… for the first time.
There’s noise from Monica, Mary (another midwife) and Jochen.  Susan is pushing and suddenly I see a face.  Strange.  After just 1 or 2 seconds a purpley creature with a blue cable is pulled out and placed on Susan.
That is the moment. No words can explain it.  Certainly not words that I can string together. Beauty, responsibility, oddness combined into a ridiculously happy, yet perplexing moment.
Then: it’s a girl. Surprise!  Susan double, triple takes and then gets a remarkable glow.  No one expected this, least of all Susan.
The umbilical cord scissors are shunted into my hands. I recoil but am bullied by the six  foot aryan to do it: “it’s your baby”. I do, it’s fine, but it’s not the moment – that’s happened. 
After mum and baby skin-to-skin time, Amelie is taken for a rub down and to an incubator table.
I have Susan exhausted on one side and Amelie swaddled on the other.  We did it.
Susan has a few complications, but they are pretty much managed in about 30 mins and then she gets the baby.  Then I get a cuddle and we settle. Susan is exhausted and still in some pain.  She’s encouraged to go to the bathroom and goes in with the midwife but ends up fainting and about 5 nurses had to come to bring her back to the bed.  For about 20 mins she’s the palest I’ve ever seen her.  But that’s the worst of it, done.
Susan gets some sleep and I have 45 mins completely alone with Amelie. She in my arms, mostly sleeping, occasionally whimpering, a couple of mini-cries and a one 1 minute stare into my eyes.
Once Susan is up, I bring Susan’s mum to the hospital and we get a steady stream of midwives/nurses popping in to give advice, check up etc.  I feel like a spare part and long for those 45 mins alone with Amelie.
But that will happen again soon – everyday perhaps.”