Birth Story Of The Week – Gemma and Leo

Today’s birth story comes from Gemma founder of the blog Bristol Foodie. Gemma emailed me after following my blog for a while she says – “Whilst pregnant I was bombarded with horror stories of birth – and as a result many women seem to see a traumatic birth is an inevitability. I hope that you can publish my story and share my experience to show your readers that birth doesn’t have to be horrific – in fact with a little self belief and confidence in your body, it can be an amazing experience which you can treasure!”

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“I was overjoyed to find out I was pregnant but very nervous about birth inparticular tearing and needing stitches. Just thinking about it made me shudder! I knew that fearing birth would only make the experience more traumatic so decided very early on to try hypnobirthing and pregnancy yoga with local company, Purely Pregnant.

I was amazed by how quickly my perceptions changed! I quickly learned to block out all of the horror stories about childbirth that (unhelpfully) people love to share and focussed on the birth I wanted rather than the one I feared. Hypnobirthing was really transformational, after a matter of weeks I was feeling so confident and excited about our upcoming birth that when my boyfriend suggested home birth, I decided to go for it!

I enter week 40 convinced I’m going to be late. Mum on the other hand was convinced that I would have the baby within the week and when I go to my local NCT cafe session, my NCT teacher says the same. At this point the birth pool is still in boxes and I’m due to have a new boiler delivered that week Eeek!

As luck would have it, that very night, I wake up with pelvic discomfort. I toss and turn as the discomfort comes and goes and at 3am wake my boyfriend, Sam. “It’s happening”.

3.00am I leave Sam asleep and go to watch TV, after all it will be hours before things really kick off. I put on David Attenborough’s Planet Earth, bounce on my birthing ball and do the “calm breathing” we learned in hypnobirthing.

4.00am I’m trying to not be too neurotic about timing contractions but at 4am curiosity gets the better of me. They’re closer than I thought, 5-6 minutes apart lasting a minute each. I wake Sam “I think we need to start putting the pool up”

For the next couple of hours Sam battles with the instruction manual for the birthing pool whilst I continue my relaxation techniques. The contractions are manageable at this point, a tightening sensation coming and going.

6.00am Surges are every 3-4 minutes and we ring Central Delivery Suite to let them know I’m in labour. I’m feeling okay so we agree for me to take a paracetamol and to ring back when I feel that I need more support.

8.00am Two hours later the surges are starting to feel more intense. No longer sitting on my birthing ball, I’m most comfortable on all fours. At 8.30ish we call CDS again and ask for a midwife.

At some point between 8am and the midwife arriving, British Gas arrived to drop off our boiler due to be installed the next day. I was in the living room and not really aware of what was going on but Sam tells me that the delivery men moved pretty quick when he told them I was labouring in the living room and that we were having a home birth!

9.30am The midwife has arrived and contractions, at 3 minutes apart are getting stronger and stronger. By now, I’m making a low “ooooh” sound as I exhale on each surge. My mooing might have sounded odd but at the time I found it was a really useful way of keeping my breathing calm and controlled.

I take two more paracetamol, put the hypnobirthing CD on and climb into the pool. As I lie back in the warm waters of the pool my whole body relaxes. For me, the water didn’t lessen the intensity of my contractions, but allowed me to relax and recover between contractions so I could rest and preserve energy for later stages.

11.30am Contractions start to slow and the midwife recommends I get out of the pool. We don’t know if my waters have broken. The midwife says I’m still in early stages of labour and I assume the pushing sensation I’ve started feeling for some contractions is the baby resting on my bowel as he moved down.

Sam is doing an amazing job helping me to breath calmly but I know that I’m struggling to cope. “I’m going to have to go to hospital.” I think to myself. “If this is early labour how much more intense will it get?!” I feel disappointed but know that I’ve done everything I can.

12.30pm We agree its time for the midwife to give me an examination. “Well” she says, “your waters haven’t broken, but your cervix is gone!” she looks and sounds surprised as am I! “I’m fully dilated?!” I can’t believe it, just a few more hours to go! I’d heard of people going through moments of “I can’t do this any more” and struggling to cope as they go through transition (7-10cm dilation) and in hindsight my moment’s of self doubt weren’t me giving up but must have been my transition from first to second stages of labour.

Full of relief and excitement as I enter into the second stage II get back in the pool, relaxing into the water. A second midwife arrives and my contractions get even stronger. I’m calling out to Sam and “mooing” with every contraction now, clinging on to him as I feel my muscles tighten. Its getting hard to stop myself tensing up with each surge but Sam’s continual coaching “breathe… breathe… slowly Gem… slowly” helps me to slowly exhale and stay in control. As I breathe out and relax everything feels so much better. In these moments I realised just how powerful my hypnobirthing techniques were things were certainly much more painful when I was tensed up. I’m so pleased I spent all that time practising how to relax myself, these skills came in really handy when I needed them most.

I feel the baby bearing down and start doing the “J breath” I learnt in hypnobirthing to try and breath him down. I focus on staying relaxed and working with each contraction, trying to stay relaxed enough to let my body take over and push as it needed to.

2.00pm My waters still haven’t broken. I stand in the pool and lean on Sam in the hope that gravity might break them and that our baby will follow soon after. I push hard with the next contraction but my waters stay in tact. The midwives break my waters as the next contraction builds. I push hard again, and let out a bit of a scream as I feel a searing, white hot pain and am swiftly guided back into the pool by the midwives as my waters and baby come out in one contraction.

2.05pm My baby is passed up through my legs and I lie back in the water with our son on my chest, Sam’s arms around the two of us. Tears of joy stream down my cheeks, the pain from minutes earlier already a distant memory. Weighing 6lb12oz, we call him Leo.image (1) (1)

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The next task was birthing the placenta which actually felt like more effort than the baby! I happily accepted gas and air for this part feeling just too exhausted to push without some help.

Leo had come out so quickly that I had a little tear and needed stitches (luckily these could be done at home). This was the thing I had been dreading most of all but in reality it was fine. I had gas and air, local anaesthetic and I didn’t feel a thing!

Sam confided in my afterwards that Leo came out so quickly that he was expecting me to have a much more serious tear and the midwives agreed. Perineal massage had seemed like a pretty arduous daily task during the last couple of months of pregnancy but I’m pretty sure that this was what made the difference between a second and fourth degree tear.

In the weeks that have passed I’ve loved seeing the look of disbelief on people’s faces when I describe my birth as “amazing” but it really was! Yes it was hard work, and the contractions got incredibly intense but I managed to stay in control throughout. I’m so pleased that I was able to give our beautiful baby Leo such a wonderful welcome into the world.

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I was terrified of birth at the start of my pregnancy but managed to really turn things around. I hope that sharing my experiences will help other women who may feel anxious about birth to have confidence that our bodies are designed to do this and that whilst complications can and do occur, childbirth isn’t always a traumatic experience it can be an amazing one!

Nicola with Elizabeth and Alexandra

In celebration of Mother’s Day over here in the UK, I bring you this amazingly empowering story from Nicola. Nicola who lives in Denmark got in touch only a few days after she birthed her second baby! Impressive stuff. Nicola was so traumatised from her first birth that she was left feeling like a failure as a woman and mother. But this only made her more determined to change a negative experience into a positive, and under two years later Nicola birthed her second baby her way, the right way. Here she shares her story.

Dear Clemmie,

I started reading your blog about 10 months ago while researching ‘gas and air’: I live in Denmark where I’ve now given birth twice, and as my local hospital had stopped offering gas and air for pain relief, I was doing some research… since then, I’ve been hooked & find the stories and posts incredibly inspiring.

The reason I’d like to share my birth story is to offer encouragement to women who have had traumatic experiences but want to have children again; needing to face a fear of childbirth. I had a horrendous time giving birth to my firstborn, but have just had a truly positive second childbirth experience at home which I hope would give these mothers something positive to ponder.

“After a previous early miscarriage I was overjoyed to be pregnant with a healthy baby 5 months later and when labour day arrived at 40+3 I was in excellent form (I am a marathon-runner, cross-fit fanatic & much more!). The pregnancy had been fine, although we saw 4 different midwives over our 5 appointments. Things started to go wrong when we arrived at the hospital that was too busy to admit me despite being 4cm. I was given drugs to stall the labour, reacted badly to the pills, was a day later given morphine without proper explanation and began throwing up with each contraction. This continued for 4 hours alone in a side room: I was dehydrated and still stuck at 4cm. This wasn’t the labour I’d envisaged, where I would be respected, informed and able to let my body do its job! Once a midwife was finally assigned to us she broke the waters and put in an epidural and IV. I was soon 8cm so she reduced the epidural as I laboured & vomited, waiting to push.

My husband helped me out of bed to stand for the pushing: for over 2 hours with a hormone drip before the baby finally came out. I was ill, exhausted, dehydrated, my throat burned from vomiting and I am sure I only got through naturally thanks to my high fitness level. Two days after regular contractions had started, my daughter was born.

Beyond relief that the ordeal was over, I felt like an absolute failure. It took me months before I could replay any part of the experience without breaking down, and even longer to stop blaming myself. I believed I had failed at becoming a mother; that I was weak not to question the drugs being given. However, I did receive written advice from the chief midwife that she would recommend not birthing there again… and this is where my story moves from despondency to hope!

9 months after my daughter was born I was pregnant again with a mixture of trepidation and joy! I went to get my papers and was asked by my doctor how things had been ‘last time’. The floodgates opened and she was a super-star: immediately changing me to a different hospital and signing me up for a special midwife dealing with women who’ve had difficult first births. This time, we saw the same midwife at each antenatal appointment and were given tasks to discuss between times, such as ‘for each thing that went wrong, what can you do this time to try to prevent a recurrence?’ Seeing the same midwife each time also meant that the antenatal appointments were more than just a physical health-check: we built a relationship and felt cared-for.

During the early months I realised my preferred option was a home birth. I would be in control, a midwife would be assigned to us for the whole labour, and above all – no drugs would be allowed! Not even gas and air at a home birth here. We also wouldn’t need to travel to hospital, and they couldn’t be ‘too busy’ because home births take priority. It was an all-round winner.

So, three days ago I gave birth! And wow: what a change of experience. I feel healed, whole and that I am indeed a capable mother after all. The baby was 8 days overdue and we were staring down the barrel of a medical inducement, ruining all our homebirth and drug-free plans. In a last-minute avoidance attempt we went to 3 hours of reflexology and rebozo (I have all my money on the rebozo being the golden answer!), came home and did more rebozo on the floor, went to bed, had sex and then I started nipple stimulation.

Within an hour I was having period pains, so ramped up the stimulation. Two contractions came & I tried to recall some hypno-birthing mantras, but they were lost on me. Third contraction made me roll onto all fours on the bed & my husband started timing them, even though I laughed that he thought anything could be happening given that last time took 2 days! I was convinced by my breathing that these were 20 second false alarms, but they were actually 50 seconds every 3 minutes from the word go, and hitting me deep down in the pelvis.

Half an hour later he called the labour ward to say ‘something’s happening but she thinks it’s a false alarm.’ … And one hour later he called to tell them to send someone right now. The interesting thing is that I still thought it was a false alarm, no one should do anything, and OH MY WORD how could another contraction have come so quickly?! Denial…

I was still on the bed, swaying in a pear shape for the contractions then resting forward. I was getting 6 sways in to start, but was now regularly making 10 or 12 circles to get through. Some contractions hit harder than others, sometimes I moaned like a cow into the pillow, but at no point did I think it was inescapable. I was desperate for the midwife NOT to arrive so she couldn’t tell me I was 4cm, devastate me & make me ask to go to hospital for pain relief.

Fortunately my husband was a little more aware of what was going on & had already filled the pool. The midwife arrived after 40 minutes to hear me moo-ing for over a minute. She looked like an angel dressed in white in my bedroom door & asked ‘why’ I wanted to go to hospital? I told her I didn’t feel well & if this is 4cm “what about the rest”? She smiled, told me to get straight in the pool or I wouldn’t be going anywhere because I was fully dilated and she needed to unpack her bag. Seriously!

I hopped into the pool with some kind of new energy, leaned forward & pushed a little at the top of the contractions. Twice. I called over to ask whether I was actually allowed to push and she replied ‘yes, if you want to’ in a very non-committal manner while continuing to unpack. Third push and I bit the wooden spoon like I’d break it, started screaming ‘HELP MEEEE!’ into my husband’s neck and was convinced I was about to die: I’d felt three separate things ‘pop’ between my legs during a good 2-minutes of contraction and had NO idea what they were – internal organs? Why wouldn’t anyone say what they were?! Why would neither of them help me?! And why was she still unpacking her bag on the other side of the room?!

As the wave subsided I heard them telling me to stop screaming, my husband whispering with relief that ‘we’ve got a baby! We’ve got a baby!’ and a massive, plaintive cry from the baby who was in the midwife’s calm, capable hands behind me. Those 3 things weren’t my internal organs busting out; it was the waters, the head and the body all in one fell swoop!

You can see from the photo: I could not stop smiling! I had done this amazing thing, all by myself! I had proven that our bodies, as women, are capable of labour and birth when allowed. I had proven that last time didn’t need to be like that, but that it didn’t need to overshadow what would come in the future. I had proven the stupid hospital wrong! I had shown that HOPE can be built from your worst dread.

I write this with my new baby asleep next to me, and my daughter snoozing in the other room. I feel well, I feel proud, I feel whole. I feel the absolute opposite of the failure of a mother from last time.

I want to tell women who’ve had bad experiences: next time doesn’t have to be like that. The single biggest thing you can do is identify 3 extremely specific things that went wrong, and what exactly you can do in your own control to prevent that next time. Perhaps you need more pain relief, perhaps less. Perhaps you need someone with you who will take control and ask questions; perhaps you need a note to take to the hospital with you to explain why you’re scared. But don’t let it stop you fulfilling your dream of another child: we have 9 months to positively challenge our thoughts to create a better experience. To believe it can be better and different. And whatever happens, remember that you are a full woman & a success just for giving birth, however it happened. No one can ever take that from you: you are wonderful!

Nic & Elizabeth after 2 days of labour Healing with Alexandra Happy family the morning after the birth

Suzanne and Thea

SH&RH pregnant

If at the start of my pregnancy, you’d asked me how I hoped I would give birth, I would have informed you that natural childbirth, not to mention a drug free, pain free one, was a myth!  And then I would have gone on to tell you that the only possible way our baby was coming to join us was via caesarean section.  Now, this isn’t a birth story where I turn a full 360 degrees, and tell you my daughter glided out into a pool at home with me smiling, and yogically breathing my way through labour.  Almost but no, not quite like that!  But my view of birth and my approach certainly changed as my pregnancy progressed, and my wonderful midwife Clemmie, was one of a number of people who played a part in that.

Throughout and since my teenage years I’d been told war stories of the pain of childbirth and more importantly, the aftermath and scars that are left, both physically and mentally on the female body.  I think women tell these stories partly to exorcise their own perhaps unhappy memories of difficult births, and also throughout history  we know that in small communities, women assisted younger women through pregnancy and childbirth, sharing experiences and aiding and teaching future generations of mothers.  So I think it’s mostly well intended, though it left me with such a fear of the butchering my body would undergo, that I spent my twenties telling people I didn’t want children!

But as is often the way, I entered my 30s with my biological clock ringing in my ears and after a long struggle, we were delighted when we got pregnant with our first child.

Around the time that Clemmie was assigned as my midwife, two other things happened that influenced my opinion of how I might give birth:

A friend recommended I read a book called Birth Skills by Juju Sundin, an Australian obstetric physiotherapist.  To say it blew my mind is an understatement.  It was the first time that I truly understood both the physiology and psychology of labour, and I began to believe that my body ‘knew’ what to do.  I learnt that labour pain is not the pain of illness or disease, but the healthy pain of the uterine muscle working.  It’s just a muscle that works hard, gets tired, and aches.  I accepted that though a part of me would be in pain during contractions, the rest of my body would be pain free!  And that it would only hurt for the duration of the contraction.  And I grew to accept that as I can’t control the pain of a contraction, why waste precious energy and time trying, why not put my energies into something else.  It also felt like the first time that someone was saying, you’re afraid of the pain of childbirth? You’re absolutely normal!

This message was also reinforced when I hired a doula named Milana Silva.  She believed that you could achieve a peaceful pain free birth though the power of the mind, but she also told me a doula was there to support the mother in anyway she needed, and if that meant assisting her though a c-section, or discussing an epidural, a doula is there for you.

And then there was the wonderful Clemmie, who listened to and answered my many questions, talked through my worries and concerns, and allowed me the time to work out my own birth plan.

The other truly important message of Birth Skills, (and that of my doula and midwife and mum) was that no matter what happens during your birth, the important part, the truly important thing to take away with you, is that you did your best for you and your baby, and it doesn’t matter how they arrived, what matters is they’re here.  You meet your baby!

So, how did my beautiful daughter Thea eventually join us?

I experienced Braxton Hicks from about the middle of my pregnancy, and I often wondered how I would know that I was having actual contractions.  But 3 days before my due date, I went to bed one Tuesday evening, and just as I was drifting off to sleep, I knew.  It suddenly felt different.  I glanced at my husband Rich who was sleeping beside me, and decided that until it was truly time, I wouldn’t wake him.  I then spent the next 9 hours making a note of how long each contraction lasted and how far apart they were.  When Rich woke up at 7am he said, “someone’s been wriggling around all night”, to which I replied, “someone’s been having contractions all night!”

I texted Clemmie and my doula to warn them, and attended a pre planned appointment with the consultant at Kings.  This appointment had originally been booked in to discuss their preference to not allow women aged 40 and over, to go beyond 40 weeks.  But on examination, I was told I was 2cm dilated and the lovely consultant,  said, “I’d be surprised if this baby wasn’t born within the next 48 hours!”

So off home I went to busy myself through the early stages of labour.  On the advice of Clemmie I baked a cake!  Two cakes actually!  I think secretly she likes to eat cake when she visits her ladies, but she says it’s a good way to take your mind off things!  I went for a walk to buy ingredients and had to stop quite often to breathe though the contractions, all the while thinking, OMG I’m in labour here, actual labour, but here I am walking along Lordship Lane buying cake ingredients!!

By the time we went to bed on the Wednesday evening, the intensity of the contractions was starting to increase.  Though Rich had been following me as I walked around the house, massaging my back with a wooden massage roller, I decided it was time to use the TENS machine I had hired, only the week before as a last minute decision.  Oh how glad I was that I hired it!  The TENS machine was perfect for me.  I paced the bedroom floor (as Birth Skills had taught me), focusing on my breaths and counting through the contraction or rhythmically repeating, healthy pain, healthy pain, with the TENS doing its thing on my lower back.  My little walks would take me to various baby girl dresses that Rich had hung up around the house, some of them with our 3D scan picture attached!  A sweet reminder of who we were about to meet.  In between contractions I sat in a comfortable chair in the corner of our bedroom, with the sound of waves playing quietly on the iPod.  I love being by the sea and had adored swimming throughout my pregnancy, so the wave sounds were hugely comforting to me.

On Thursday morning both Clemmie and my doula arrived and both commented on what a peaceful and serene scene they had entered into.  When I think back to my early fears I had not imagined any of this!  After examination Clemmie told me I could move to the pool if I wanted.  From a fearfully planned c-section to a birthing pool that was sitting in the dining room!  So you did do a full 360, and your baby did calmly glide out into water you ask?  Well no, not really, as two contractions in the pool later and I was yelling loudly to anyone who would listen that water alone does not cure pain! What was I thinking?!

But the next game changer then arrived in the shape of gas and air.  Oh it was Heaven!  For the next few hours I floated about in the warm water, with a fantastic chill out playlist playing in the background, and blissfully declared my love of entonox.  Really, this bit was just lovely.  I must have felt pretty ok throughout this stage of my labour, as I apparently offered pizza to anyone who was hungry and directed them to the freezer!

But as is often the way, things changed a little.  I became pretty worn out (by this time I hadn’t slept for two nights), and Thea became a bit stuck (holding a hand up by your ear will get in the way of your route through a birth canal y’know!).  Eventually, and happily, we transferred into hospital.  An epidural and some forceps later, and Thea was born on Thursday evening at 22:51, an hour and 9 minutes before her due date.  In the theatre a radio was playing Don’t Take Away the Music by Tavares.  Yes, baby was born to the sound of disco!

In the weeks after Thea arrived, a few people (on hearing my birth story) said, what a shame you ended up in Kings, rather than birthing naturally at home.  But honestly I look back and I don’t mind, nor care, that Thea was born in a theatre at Kings.  My birth choices were mine.  I’d educated and empowered myself and though of course was scared of the unknown, felt, if not confident, comfortable on the day I went into labour.  Not how I had originally imagined it at all.  From the early days of wanting a section, to deciding to buy a birth pool, and eventually to having the epidural, I was happy to make these choices for my baby and I, and they were all good choices at the time.  I learnt to be prepared to deviate from ‘the plan’ and trusted that it would all be ok, whatever happened.  The important thing is that I got to meet my daughter Thea.  How she arrived is really irrelevant.  She’s here and she’s amazing.

Thea 1st pic Thea feet

Birth Story Of The Week – Becca and Wilfred

daughter doctorToday’s birth story from Becca, Mum to two boys and writes the website The Doctor and Daughter’s Guide to Pregnancy.

website: doctoranddaughter.co.uk

twitter: @dranddaughter

“My latent labour started on the 14th of April at about 3am when I woke with mild contractions at home in bed.  I went back to sleep and woke intermittently for the next few hours until I got up.  I spent a relatively nice/strange/surreal/calm day at home with my husband just having what felt like bad period pains and Braxton Hicks together.  I ate and drank normally and had a 45 minute nap.  After lunch we strapped the TENS machine on and went for a 2 hour walk in the park, went to Sainsburys and was even approached in the street by a film crew asking me to talk to Camera about why I love living in Balham!  I told them I was in labour and they retreated pretty quickly!

The TENS machine was lovely, it felt really really nice and was a very welcome distraction. By about 3 or 4pm my contractions were becoming more painful and I had to breathe through them.  I was trying to remember to welcome each contraction (as my Ante Natal teacher had taught me) but by about 7.30pm the pain suddenly ramped up and became unmanageable and I didn’t want to be at home anymore.  I got into Hospital at about 8.30pm and was already 5cm dilated!

I tried Gas and Air and I thought I was going to be sick and I felt really disorientated and panicked, but I then tried it out when I wasn’t having a contraction and I felt a lot more in control and quickly got used to it- I would recommend persevering if the first attempt isn’t positive, although I don’t know how much it actually did for the pain.

They ran the water bath, which took ages, and I got in about 20 minutes later- this felt amazing and although it didn’t do anything for the pain really, it does give you an amazing feeling of warmth and comfort and weightlessness. I basically then closed my eyes and held my husband’s hand and the gas and air in the other hand and concentrated on breathing. Time went very quickly but at about 11 30pm decided I couldn’t take the pain anymore – so I decided I wanted to be examined to see how far dilated I was, as I was about to beg for an epidural (I was secretly hoping she would say I was only 6cm…and then I would get an epidural and end the pain!!!) but I was 9cm and in transition… so I jumped back in the bath and pretty soon after I started pushing!

This bit was hard, and painful but I was so encouraged by the thought that it would only last an hour or so maximum! After about half an hour I pushed his head out- and a little hand (he was coming out in a Superman pose) – the midwife explained that with a water birth she would not touch him as he came out and I would just push him, so there was a strange few minutes where I could look down and see his head out, not breathing yet- but I had to wait for another contraction so I could push his body out.  However I felt very calm and so relieved that the end was near!! One last push and he came out all on his own and the midwife grabbed him and helped him swim up to the surface!! He cried straight away for a few seconds and then chilled out as soon as the midwife put him on my chest.  He was born at 10 minutes past midnight on the 15th April, one day early, weighing 6lb 6oz. My labour was recorded as being 4 hours as this was the time from when I came into hospital.

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I had the injection for the Placenta delivery whilst still in the water- I got out of the water to deliver it, but as I stood up, it came out, so that was great. The injection made me contract for a few hours longer but they gave me some painkillers to deal with the pain of that.  As soon he was delivered I felt absolutely fine, my hideous indigestion had disappeared and I felt completely normal!
My son is absolutely amazing and worth every second of discomfort during pregnancy and labour, the memories of which have faded fast!

I don’t think I would have done anything differently.  I would have liked to have known more about Latent Labour as I was confused when people kept telling me I wasn’t in “proper labour”.

My advice to a first time mother would definitely be to have an open mind regarding pain relief and the way in which your baby will be born.  I am aware I had a very good and relatively quick labour but this is something that was down to luck and perhaps genetics rather than anything else.  I would also say DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE! It sounds so obvious, but I kept forgetting to breathe and my husband had to remind me!  I had made him read lots about labour and breathing and how he could help me, and this was a great help when the pain was unbearable”.

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Birth Story Of The Week – Julia and James

“Easter 2013 – 4 very excited children anticipating chocolate! In reality they had a stressed Mummy looking after 3 poorly ones and deep cleaning the house for about a week. Baby Pip`s `official EDD` was March 30th, Easter Saturday, while the girls were aware of this I also made it clear that Pip will choose when he is born and it may well be after the Easter break.My daughter`s 5th Birthday was April 10th, the days leading up to it were busy, the night before my parents stayed and I had a bath with Epsom salts and Clary Sage Oil (alone!!) and felt very relaxed, I had a few Braxton Hicks and niggles that evening but nothing significant and I slept quite well. Next day, April 10th, we had a small party for our daughter, I made sandwiches and a bit of party food and we had both sets of parents to celebrate. After, I had another bath, then started to nest – I should have known…the bathroom was thoroughly scrubbed, house hoovered throughout – washing and ironing done and away! I went to bed around 9, I couldn`t get comfortable and commented to my husband that I felt a lot of pressure, like I was being torn. I eventually slept and woke up at 23:49 … 2 minutes before one of my daughter`s was born, I lay in bed thinking `aww how fab I am awake as she turns 5…then 23:51 – the exact time she was born I had a contraction! I thought 

`Ohhh, what was that?!`

Shortly after my husband came to bed and I had another…every 10 minutes for a while and then 7, different to any contractions with the girls, these were spreading to my back too. I text Catherine, my midwife at 12:58am: 

`Putting you on alert. Contractions every 7ish mins I think. Will keep u updated.X` 

I lay in bed for a while longer, wondering whether to tempt fate or not and set up the room I planned to give birth in. Part of me didn`t believe `this is it, this is labour`. I went downstairs about 1.30am, only to be back up and down the loo, trickles of urine, Pips head was so low. 

Once downstairs the contractions were coming every 5 minutes and unbeknown to me my husband text Catherine again and she came out, while she was on her way about 2:15am, my husband went out for snacks and I paced the floor with each contraction watching Friends on Comedy Central `The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs` and `The One with All the Candy`. I was trying to distract myself! 

 
Catherine arrived and took my blood pressure, measured my bump and listened in to Pip`s heartbeat – all was well. Pips back was turned to my right side and he needed to rotate round, this would explain the intense back pain! Contractions by then were every 3 minutes but not lasting longer than 30 seconds…around 4am this changed again and they were back to every 5 minutes, much more intense and lasting about 60 seconds. I had a hot water bottle on my tummy at this point, with each contraction the intensity and pressure low down was growing worse, I found the pressure far more intense than the actual contractions and required all my attention. 
 
Contractions were ticking along nicely and it was decided Catherine would leave us to it for a while. Catherine left around 4:30am I think, my husband went to bed to get some sleep and I decided to stay on the sofa to sleep…that didn`t happen, as soon as everyone left and I was alone massive contractions every 5 minutes, I didn`t know where to put the hot water bottle, my back or my tummy!! I breathed through them, closing my eyes to focus while using the heat from the hot water bottle to reduce the intensity. My parents arrived at 5am. At 6:03am I text Catherine again: 

`Contractions every 3ish mins. I am coping okay. Will keep u updated. Hubby gone to bed.X`

I sat talking to Mum in between contractions, my husband has said earlier that he needed to pop into work to sort something out and I wasn`t sure whether to let him or not. He has lost his phone, so I was worried that if Pip decided to come when he was on his way to or from work he would miss the birth. By this point it was around 7am, labour had been 7 hours so far. In the end we decided he would go, he said he`d be an hour maximum. My parents sorted the girls around 7.30am and I decided to have a bath. My husband ran it and went off to work. I went to the loo and had a massive show, it wasn`t showing any signs of slowing so I text Catherine again: 

`Had Massive show. Having warm bath will update after x`

I got into the bath but couldn`t lie down, I found sitting forward eased the pressure, the pressure of Pips head was much more intense than any of the contractions. I planned to stay in the bath until my husband got home, however the warm water didn`t take the edge off the contractions, if anything it made them more intense and closer, I couldn`t concentrate to time them, eyes closed, breathing through them, telling myself Pip was on his way and that my desire to scream wouldn`t help anyone. My Dad (and Sasha, the dog) kept coming up to check I was okay, calling through the door. Sasha was desperate to get to me, sniffing round the door – my intuitive baby. After about 20 minutes in the bath I decided to get out, I thought the contractions may ease so I let the water out first. A contraction hit as the water ebbed away, perhaps the water was helping more than I had initially thought, there was no way I could get out of the bath, I started to panic a little, thinking I may end up giving birth alone in the bath, the contractions were on top of each other at this point. I tried to think calmly, determined to get out. I text Catherine again:

`Trying to get out of bath. Very intense now. Don`t know how often hard to time.X`

Catherine replied she was on her way so I thought I have to get out of the bath! More show, made it from the bathroom to my room, then downstairs. Dad had said my husband was on his way back so I sat waiting for him, growing more and more impatient as each minute passed. Just as Catherine arrived I said to Mum: 

`Where the hell is he?`

worried he would miss the baby being born…he arrived as I was cursing. It wasn`t long between him calling and arriving home, but to me it felt like hours. I wasn`t comfortable on the sofa, but couldn`t move to get comfortable.

 
 I had text our birth photographer about 8am and she was now on her way, this was around 9am…she arrived soon after. By this point I`d made if off the sofa, I was squatting on the floor leaning as far forward as possible to reduce the immense pressure, Entonox was offered but I refused until 9:37am, my waters broke, I felt a pop and looked down thinking
`ooh aren’t they clear!`At this point the contractions changed, I grabbed the Entonox and started to bear down, feeling woozy and spaced out thinking `he is coming`, I ended up half sat/half lay, feeling his head as it came…then nothing, I opened my eyes and expected him to be here..his head had been delivered but his body wasn`t coming, my contractions had stopped, one weak one later he slowly started to come, I had to literally push him out myself without contractions. He was like a parcel, the cord wrapped around his body several times. He was shocked, we tried skin-to-skin and rubbing him, but he needed some help. Longest. Two. Minutes. Ever. Hearing him cry was such a relief, holding his little warm body next to my skin while the cord stopped pulsating was the best long awaited feeling!! My waters broke at 9:37am and James Raymond Peter was born at 9:50am, weighing 8lbs 10oz at 41 weeks and 5 days.

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Hes been born with a tongue tie, but this isn`t affecting his feeding at all, he has a good strong latch and shows signs of hunger (chewing fingers etc). I am forever indebted to Catherine, she was amazing and just the Midwife I needed to give me the courage to have a homebirth, nothing is better than sharing such an intimate time with someone you know.”

Birth Story Of The Week – Bethie and Peter

Today’s birth story is a pretty fresh one, as this baby was only born 9 days ago! Very impressive Bethie! Bethie is an American living in London with her husband and little girl Charlotte and new baby Peter. Her first baby was born in Washington 3 years ago.

Blog: A Tree Grows In London

Instagram: bethielethie

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“After a few false starts in the days leading up to the big day, my contractions started for real around 3pm on Thursday 24 January (I was exactly 39 weeks). Things progressed quickly from there: by 4pm my husband was on his way home from work and I made arrangements for my three-year-old daughter to be picked up to stay at a friend’s house. By 6pm my waters had broken and we were ready to head to the hospital!

The cab ride to the hospital had been the source of much anxiety for me during my pregnancy. I kept imagining being stuck in traffic whilst in the throes of labour and permanently soiling our nice cab driver’s new car . . . Luckily the cab ride was fairly uneventful (aside from my moaning and groaning of course). Well, that’s not entirely true. It was uneventful until we were about two minutes from the hospital and my contractions got way more intense and felt like they were coming one after the other. The cab driver got worried and pulled straight into the emergency entrance where a wheelchair was immediately brought over to the car. My contractions were two minutes apart and already more painful than I ever remember them being with my daughter (I laboured naturally for 15 hours with her before eventually getting an epidural. You can read her birth story here). I was wheeled into Labour and Delivery and was promptly parked in the waiting room next to another woman in the throes of labour. That was the moment I started losing my visions of finally having the peaceful, midwife led water birth that I wasn’t allowed when I had my daughter (the area hospitals didn’t allow midwives). I started panicking: “I don’t want to be in the waiting room! I want to be in a birthing pool! I want to get out of this wheelchair! I want a midwife to come help me! Please! Somebody send a midwife to come help me!” Despite my pleas for help (and yet another labouring mother added to the mix) I was still in the waiting room. The pain was so intense and unbearable that I couldn’t fathom the horror of living through another contraction and yet they kept coming one after another after another.

I decided the only way I was going to make it through this delivery without being kicked out of the country for assault was to get an epidural. I told my husband that I wanted an epidural and knowing how adamant I had been about not wanting one, he responded, “we’ll see”. Not what I wanted to hear. By the time I was finally wheeled into a room I had made it my mission to request an epidural from very person I encountered. I continued to get more and more agitated about it and began to demand that someone, anyone, needed to get me an anaesthetist right away. The midwife explained that it was too late. My contractions were on top of each other and the baby was coming. I continued to panic. This wasn’t how I imagined things. There was no birthing pool or low lights or peaceful music. There was just me on a bed, the sound of my voice crying out in pain and yelling for everyone to be quiet and bright lights and lots of people hustling around the room. (Though my husband informed me after reading this part of my story that no one was “hustling “around the room and, in fact, I was the only one making any noise . . . )

Now, I’m not sure what changed, but at some point in the midst of the chaos, the anaesthetist arrived and gave me an epidural. Within ten minutes I was feeling human again. I was finally able to open my eyes and properly meet and apologise to my midwife. It was as if the storm clouds had opened up and the sun appeared. We were able to talk about the birth process and she went over my birth plan (uh . . . just ignore that bit about no epidural . . .) and then she brought Jason and me nice hot cups of tea. Jason and I chatted, snoozed and enjoyed the quiet, peaceful atmosphere until around midnight when the midwife said it was time to get ready to push.

When I gave birth to my daughter, it was a typical American scenario where the nurse gets everything ready and the doctor rushes in at the last minute to catch the baby as it comes out. As you can see our doctor even came equipped with a “splash mask” visor:image (15)

My experience with the midwife led birth was completely different to my experience in America. No additional people came into our room. It was just the midwife and my husband and me. There was nothing frantic about it. No commotion. No splash guards. Just the midwife calmly encouraging me through my pushes and my husband watching in amazement as our son came into the world — not to a screaming and swearing and a delirious mother — but to a rested, calm, peaceful, mother. Peter Thomas Hungerford was born at 00:45 on 25 Jan, 2014 and weighed exactly eight pounds.

Side note:
Now don’t get me wrong. Despite my son’s perfect entry into the world, I still regret that I was unable to have a medication-free birth. And if I am ever blessed with a third baby I will again plan a natural water birth. But given how things played out, I was overall thrilled with how amazing and beautiful my son’s birth was.

As soon as he arrived he was placed on my chest and remained there for at least an hour per my request. (The weighing, poking and prodding happened later). The baby and I were both in good shape so the midwife left the room leaving Jason and me to bond with our beautiful son. It was magical. He took beautifully to the breast and got skin-to-skin time with both Jason and me. The midwife eventually returned and brought us more tea (God save the queen!) and after another hour or so we were moved to the labour ward.

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Now here I could write about how annoying it was to have to share a recovery room with three strangers and their babies when all I wanted was to go home. I had heard so many stories of women giving birth in the hospital and arriving home within a few hours and had been hopeful I could follow suite. However, I was required to stay longer than normal because I tested positive for group b strep so the labour ward was unavoidable. And despite the labour ward horror stories I had heard (including being one bed over from a woman attempting to nurse a baby who was born with teeth!) it really wasn’t so bad and we were back home within 24 hours of arriving at the hospital.

In America we were required to spend three days at the hospital after the birth of our daughter (despite having had a completely normal birth) and were extremely anxious to bring her home. Jason and I were both thrilled to be home so soon this time around and we’ve been so impressed that a midwife comes to our house to check up on baby and me.

We are happily adjusting to being a family of four and big sister Charlotte couldn’t be more pleased with new new brother!”

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Birth Story Of The Week – Heather and her Twins Felicity and Caitlin

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“Having read Holly Shawyer’s (an old school friend) blog about her home birth with Mabel, I had a strong desire to share my very different birth story, which was somewhat traumatic but with a happy ending.
 
I knew early on that mine would be a very different story, because I was expecting twins. No home birth for me, not even the midwife led birthing unit and birthing pool. I was marked as high risk and was expected to deliver in the hospital delivery suite, where I would be hooked up to plenty of monitors to ensure both babies stayed well throughout labour. I had been to all the NCT classes and was hopeful that even though it might not be a text book labour, I would at least have some opportunity to follow a birth plan.
But my little girls had other ideas… at 30+6 weeks pregnant, with my husband away on business in Malaysia, they decided to put in an appearance. We knew that with twins there was a likelihood of premature labour, but we hadn’t realised how premature. With perhaps some sort of subconscious foresight, I chose to stay with my parents that night. With no sign that anything was wrong I went to bed, but was woken at 12.30am when my waters went with a gush. With my Dad muttering that he thought he was done and dusted with midnight dashes to the hospital, both parents rushed me to the hospital, whilst I rang James to tell him he needed a plane home!
At the hospital they were incredibly reassuring and even managed to get me to relax a bit. It didn’t seem like I was having contractions so they were hopeful that they might be able to get me to hold on until James got back. However, when they had a look they found a foot already on it’s way out! At 3cm dilated there wasn’t enough room for them to come out safely even though they were tiny. So a c-section it was and because my blood pressure was so high, it had to be under general anaesthetic. They pushed the button and suddenly the room filled with 20 people. My mum was whisked out, someone undressed me and gowned me and I was wheeled down the corridor, yelling that I couldn’t lie on my back due to pelvic girdle pain. Before I knew it I was asleep and then awake again. Two and a half hours from my waters breaking to the arrival of my girls.
An anxious time followed whilst a kindly midwife reassured me I would soon see my baby. I had to keep checking there were definitely still two babies, panic increasing each time she referred to “your baby”. But after what felt like forever, they wheeled me on my bed into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and pointed at two incubators, telling me they were mine. They reassured me that 1.3kg (3lb) was a good weight, that they were healthy and that they expected them to do well.
It was another 24 hours before I saw them again, as I lay recovering on the post-natal ward listening to everyone else’s babies scream. I had high blood pressure and low iron levels. But 24 hours after they arrived, my husband appeared by my bedside and we went to visit them together and were able to name them Felicity and Caitlin. Holding them for the first time, tucked against your skin inside your shirt, whilst they are connected to what feels like hundreds of tubes and monitors, is the most amazing experience. Panicking each time the monitors bleeped, whilst the nurses continued to reassure you all was well.
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They spent six weeks in special care and the nurses and doctors were amazing, never forgetting that although they were providing the twenty-four hour care, we were the parents.
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They came home at 6 weeks old, still 3 weeks before full-term and weighing 4lbs and we couldn’t be more grateful for the care they received there. Now 5 months old and weighing 11lbs our little miracles are thriving.”
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Birth Story Of The Week – Ellie and Ida

Phew, that was a quiet few days…… my last post The truth about maternity leave obviously hit home to so many of you out there, and not just here in the UK. All over the world, it went viral! In fact that post in total was viewed almost half a millions times. I’m completely and utterly blown away with that, I can’t even begin to contemplate what that even looks like in numbers. Apart from some negative comments left on the blog, many of you said it described exactly how you were feeling as new mothers. So to all of you who shared my blog on either Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or just by word of mouth I thank you. You’ve reached out to many many mothers, fathers and grandmothers out there. I hope we can all continue to be honest and support one another when the going gets tough.

So today is a lovely birth story for you all.

This is the birth story of me (Ellie) and my second born (Ida). 

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I was 38 weeks pregnant and the ladies at toddler group were starting to comment that there was no way I would make it to 40 weeks! I was huge! I had worn out two pairs of jeans over the month playing trains with Rufus my 2 year old, was spending most weekends as a ‘single mum’ as my husband travelled up and down the country to work, and was certainly ready to have the baby out rather than in!

We had spent weeks deliberating how we would manage if I went in to labour while Gav was in London working. Friends and family had offered to be on hand to drive me to hospital if necessary, hold the fort until Gav got back, and I had a rota of potential babysitters for Rufus. Nothing to worry about.

That weekend, we had a couple from America staying. They were new to England and we had offered to show them around Leeds and help them to find accommodation. It would be nice to have company while I was heavily pregnant.

I spoke to Gav that evening, him in London suburbia, me in Leeds. ‘If anything happens, keep me in the loop Ellie’. ‘Nothing is going to happen tonight Gav, I’m 38 weeks’ said unsuspecting me.

It was a strange night, I kept waking and having pain across the top of my tummy, not like contractions. I felt worried and started to push the poor baby around with my hands, desperate to feel some foetal movements. I slept on and off until 4am, when I felt a kick….no…a pop? Had my waters broken? I stood up and there was a trickle. When I made it to the toilet there was more of a gush. I decided to call the maternity assessment suite, who said it sounded like it could possibly be my waters and to give it an hour until I came in to be checked. Convinced my waters had broken, I called Gav, ‘Get the first train back from London’ (he could be back in 5 hours. Plenty surely? Especially after a 24 hour labour with Rufus). I called my mum (in the Lake District) ‘my waters have broken, please can you drive over?’ It is only a 2 hour journey for her, so decided I would wait for her to arrive before we head in to the maternity suite.

I tried to sleep a bit more but wasn’t really tired, the adrenaline kicked in. I got myself dressed and decided to get some toast and watch some telly. At 5am contractions started but I called the midwife who said there was no rush to go in unless I thought I was in established labour. From this point on, I think I was delirious! My toast lay uneaten, the tv was never turned on. Gav kept calling telling me to use my contractions app. It was telling me that my contractions were 2 minutes apart but I kept thinking that can’t be right and clearing the whole history to start timing again! He told me to wake our visitors, but I thought it was too early in the morning and I’d be labouring for ages. I straightened my hair(?!), then felt an urge to push and went to the toilet. At this point I called my mum. ‘I don’t think I can wait for you (she still had an hour to go), I think I’d better call a taxi’ to which she replied ‘I think you’d better call an ambulance’. I crouched over on the stairs on the way up to my bedroom, the pain taking over my body and called 999. ‘I’m bearing down’ I told the emergency services, ‘I think I’m going to have a baby’! (Whoever says I’m bearing down???) She replied ‘I’m going to talk you through how to deliver your baby!’ ‘I’m not having it here!’ I cried! She asked me if I could feel any part of the baby, I thought, hmmm can I feel the baby?…oh can I feel the actual baby!! She directed me to get sheets and towels out on the floor, which I did but all the while I was thinking this really is stupid….then woaaaaah….it’s coming. ‘Arrrrrrrggghhhh!’ I screamed. Yep, that woke our visitors up for sure and she rushed up the stairs half asleep only to be greeted with ‘I’m really sorry, it wasn’t supposed to happen like this, but is that a head?!’ ‘I think that’s a head’ she replied! She was amazing! She took the phone from me and (whilst struggling to understand all the Yorkshire twang) delivered Ida Rose Evelyn right there and then on my bedroom floor at 6am. And wow! She was safe, she was beautiful, she was healthy, it was so peaceful. I lay with her in my arms for 8 minutes until the paramedics showed up.

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I called Gav. ‘I’m so sorry, I’ve had her!’ Poor Gav, having paid £50 taxi fair to get to kings cross sat in the back of the taxi, gutted. The burly taxi driver comforting him.

The paramedics treated me like a queen, scurrying round my bedroom finding me bits and pieces (including the toblerone), I was in shock! They delivered the placenta and put it nicely in a  plastic bag and cut the umbilical cord. Rufus woke up, the timing could not have been more perfect. He saw the paramedics and immediately said ‘my baby sister? I go upstairs?’ To which I replied…’ummmm, I’ll be down in a minute!’

What a precious moment, walking down the stairs, Ida wrapped in a towel only to be greeted by her big brother munching his breakfast. What joy radiated from his face!

Off Ida and I went to hospital, she fed beautifully all the way there and I felt such a surge of love and such completeness. Our American visitor had warned my mum to go straight to the hospital, but omitted the finer detail that I had given birth! As the ambulance doors flung open, she thought I was nursing my bump, then ‘you’ve had her?!’

Gav burst into the hospital at 9am. ‘We have to have a third child now so I don’t miss the birth again’ he said whilst cradling Ida and musing at all her petite, dark features. ‘Lets not talk about that right now Gav!’

Birth Story Of The Week – Holly and Mabel

WARNING! YOU MAY FEEL EXTREME BIRTH ENVY AFTER READING THIS STORY

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I have to admit that I am one of the lucky ones. My first pregnancy had been about as text book as you could hope for. The birth of Florence was remarkably quick. In fact, it is safe to say that I was able to stick to my birth plan from start to finish. Florence was born at my chosen Birthing centre (the only woman there), in the pool listening to radio 2 after about 6 hours of labour. Perfect.

Of course the only problem with this is the more I spoke to my friends who had subsequently had their babies, I realised that I was just that – LUCKY. I know everyone tells you the horror stories, but I really started to feel ashamed of my ‘perfect’ birth. So when I became pregnant not long after (there is 19 months between my two) I was actually more worried than I was the first time round. Surely, I couldn’t be that lucky twice…

Well, turns out you can! Aside from some pretty horrific varicose veins (I came home in tears when my midwife was so shocked at seeing my swollen and purple veins that she actually told me they were the worst she had ever seen – yeah thanks!!), my pregnancy was uncomfortable but otherwise uneventful.

My plan had always been to have this baby in the same Birthing centre, in the same pool. What I didn’t know was that funding had been cut so the centre was only open in the day and the pool was out of action with no plans to fix it before my due date. Another trip home in tears. I was point blank refusing to go to the local ‘monster’ of a hospital unless I had to, so when I asked my midwife about options for a home birth , expecting her to give me a big thumbs up, she remained indifferent and gave me little information about where I could buy/hire a pool (I was told to ‘goggle it’) or even how this thing would work. Again, panic set in.

I quickly emailed the lovely Clemmie, who I know through school friends. Thankfully, she gave me all the information and reassurance that I needed, so much so that my husband wanted her number on speed dial ‘just in case!’ With this I found my ‘birth pool in a box’ on gumtree and told my midwife I wanted a home birth. Decision made!

I finished work on the Wednesday with exactly a week to go before my due date. On the Saturday I was walking around Sainsbury’s with my toddler thinking, hmmmmm, this hurts a tad. I put Florence to bed as normal, with a few intervals during the bedtime story as the ‘waves’ came and went. I still hadn’t mentioned anything to my husband – God knows why. He was cooking me a nice dinner and I didn’t want to ruin it, so again I ate my tea, getting up a couple of times to make myself a drink (not normal behaviour). We had had a particularly tiring night with Florence the night before, so when I got up off the sofa halfway through ‘Take me Out’, the hubby asked if I was off to bed? I told him no, but it’s time to call your mum. I have never seen him looked so shocked!!

I’m not sure what made me leave it so long to get the ball rolling. I guess I was sort of in denial, but things soon got moving. Darrell put up the pool and started filling it after my mother in law came to collect Florence, all the while I was hugging the walls with my TENS machine electrocuting me. The midwife arrived (after a very tense conversation with the coordinator who told me there were staffing issues and she wasn’t sure if anyone could come to me – another tearful moment in this story). She took one look at me and called for the 2nd midwife to come right away. She hadn’t even examined me – I guess I had that ‘fully dilated’ look about me!

I got in the pool,  which was just as amazing as I remember, with my favourite Yankee candle burning and the ipod playing, all the while hubby made everyone tea and toast. Very civilised. That was until the midwife piped up to say that there was no mouth piece for the gas and air, and could I do this without it? At first I felt brave and said yes. However, 10 minutes later the husband was looking around the house for something that could be used instead of the mouth piece. Another 10 minutes into the story, I was so desperate that I was sucking on the tube direct from the tank!! Who needs a sterile mouthpiece when you are minutes away from giving birth??

And after a remarkably short time, I caught our second daughter, Mabel. A beautifully purple Winston Churchill lookalike. What an amazing feeling to get out of the pool in your living room, feed your new born daughter while the midwives drink tea and tell you how amazing you are.

I guess I know how lucky I am to have such straight forward births – but to anyone who is considering a home birth, if you can, “please do it”. I promise it’s not as scary or as messy as you think it is going to be.

holly and florence holly and florence 2 holly and mabelIf you would like to share your birth story, any birth story is welcome then please email it to me and some photos at gasandairblog@gmail.com

 

Birth Story Of The Week – Quin and Ari

Hello 2014! How exciting is the beginning of a new year? I’m embracing this month by banishing those January blues and looking forward all the amazing birth stories that I have to share with you every week. And kicking off this week is a fabulous story by Quin.

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‘It was 2.30pm on Monday 3 October 2011 and I was just walking from the kitchen into the hallway, wondering when my friends and their son would be arriving for tea and cake. Then it happened – and it was just like it is in the films. Water gushed and I thought for a split second that I’d wet myself, until I remembered I hadn’t needed the loo 2 seconds earlier. And then the doorbell rang.

My first thought? SHIIIIIIT. I grabbed my phone and rang my husband, breathlessly conveying that not only had my waters gone and it was ‘happening’ but I had three lovely people waiting on the doorstep. We agreed he’d leave work pronto and I waddled to the door. Being on the top floor and the owner of a broken entry system, I hobbled down 4 flights of stairs and greeted my friends with a ‘my waters have gone’ and they came rushing in. ‘Don’t panic’ came from the gent. My girl friend, in all her calm, experienced glory was a very welcome sight. After calm was restored and I realised I wasn’t going to give birth imminently, we sat down to tea and cake – but as you can imagine, conversation wasn’t relaxed. We called the hospital and they told me to come in for a check. They asked if the baby was moving normally but to be honest, I couldn’t tell – it was probably snoozing and I was hardly feeling normal about things.

A friend at work had told me to ignore all the books and to not pack my hospital bag until I was in labour. ‘You’ll need something to do’ is what she said. So, with no hospital bag to grab, my friend dutifully packed it whilst I paced around, and off I hopped into a taxi, wearing my slippers (which I’d forgotten to swap for shoes) and sitting on a towel. I’m sure the driver thought something was up – but I certainly wasn’t going to tell him.

I met my husband at the station and we drove to the hospital.

I waited at St Thomas’s for a while, experiencing extremely mild period-pain like twinges, and thinking ‘this is so easy. I can totally handle this labour thing’. I was assessed and told I was not in labour and was booked in for an induction 24 hours later. ‘Go home, relax and put your feet up’ was the advice given. So that it what we did.

Home at about 6pm, we settled into an evening of lists. Lists and times. Timing and listing every single twinge and pain. By about 11pm I was well into labour with contractions and throwing up galore. I couldn’t sit, stand or do anything except for throw up everything I’d eaten that day and wish to God that it would be over soon. I was determined to stay at home for as long as I could so at about 1am, we went back into St Thomas’s for another check. I was sure I was in proper labour. The contractions were like nothing I’d even dreamed off and the ‘surges’ of pain were more like deep waves that penetrated every fibre of my body. Even my finger nails ached.

I was greeted at Tommy’s by a really unsympathetic woman. She curtly told me (as I threw up again) that I was not in labour and this was ‘nothing like established labour would be’.

I honestly didn’t know what to think. How could I cope with any more pain? The advice she gave me ‘to go home, get some sleep, have a long lazy breakfast and come back in 12 hours for the induction’ stuck in my throat, along with the useless paracetamol. We went home. I felt lost, dark, lonely and a little despairing. As my husband tried to sleep, I lay on the bed unable to think straight, my body felt like it was being torn in two each time I contracted, and at one point I remember thinking throwing myself out of the window was a better option than this dark and lonely place I was inhabiting.

At about 5am, I really could take it no more and was beginning to lose my mind. My husband called the hospital again and told them we were coming back in as I was in need of serious drugs. We were then told that labour ward was closed as it was full and they’d call back in a few minutes with an alternative. I didn’t care at this point. In my mind my husband was about to deliver our child, and any alternative was a blessing. Ten minutes later we were told to go to Kings and we hobbled off one last time. I remember not being able to sit in the car as each contraction propelled me out of my seat. We got to Kings and I was assessed on camera first whilst I waited (they do this sometimes to see how often you’re contracting apparently!) and when assessed by the midwife was told I was now 3cm and not in established labour. I nearly lost it at this point but, finally being in a safe environment, I did calm down and managed to persuade them to let me stay. Hurrah for the midwife as she was within her rights to send me off again as I hadn’t reached 4cm. As a birthing room was free, they welcomed me in – and much to me delight, began to fill the birthing pool so I could hop in and relax.

I got in the pool at 7am and was only there for about half an hour when I felt the strangest sensation – I needed to push and had no control over it. I told the midwife who said I needed to try and chill as much as possible – if I pushed too early, I would certainly tear. I tried to relax as much as I could and got chatting to the really lovely trainee doctor who was sitting in on my labour – his first. But there it was again, that urge to push. Under instruction I got out of the pool and was assessed.

When she said ‘ok, the baby is in the birth canal, you need to get back in the water and push’ we couldn’t believe what we were hearing. I thought I’d be there for ages yet (and was told I would be) and was just waiting for 4cm so I could have some serious painkillers – I had been dreaming of an epidural since about 1am. I remember saying ‘is it too late for any drugs’ and she said ‘yes, you’re baby is almost here! Get back in and push.’

After what seemed like an eternity pushing (it was about 2 hours), my beautiful little frizzy-haired bundle of loveliness came swimming out and straight into my arms. She was clean, plump, had huge blue eyes and pouty red lips. We were so grateful to the amazing team at Kings for having faith in my assertion I needed to stay. We were told if they had told me to go home, they are sure my husband would have delivered her – and that we are all grateful for! 3cm-10 in an hour is scary – especially when your body, as only you know really know, is clearly doing a lot of the hard work in the pre-stage.

Roll on 3.5 weeks, a nightmare with feeding, a saint in the form of a Lambeth breastfeeding counsellor, and a now happy, plump-once-more baby, I’m sitting on the sofa one evening when I get the strangest feeling, as if my waters have broken. I think it strange, that surely my waters broke nearly a month ago… I run to the loo to find I’m having a major haemorrhage. Losing what seems like pints of blood, with hormones raging, a newborn in the next room and what seems like my entire body ebbing away, I fly into a major panic. My husband rings 999 and an ambulance team arrives and whisks me – blue lights and driving on the wrong side of the road – all the way to Kings. A Code Blue is what they called me, catastrophic haemorrhage.

They stem the bleed and get me back onto post-natal, and keep me in for a few days. I have an operation to remove any ‘retained goods’ leftover from the birth – and have so many drugs pumped into me – including a spinal for the operation – that I think how ironic it is that I manage birth on no drugs and this on every drug going.

I can’t help thinking that 100 years ago I may not have made it to see my daughter’s first month – and for that I am more than eternally grateful. I’ve since discovered many friends and acquaintances who’ve had similar experiences, whether they be pre- or post-birth complications – all of whom may not be here today if it wasn’t for advances in medicine, and the incredibly hardworking NHS teams across the country.’