Birth Story Of The Week – Anna (aka Mother Pukka) and Mae

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Despite being a copywriter, I have never quite been able to put down in words our route to procreation. It wasn’t due to overwhelming emotions, simply a wish to do this incredible life process some kind of justice. So, I hope this doesn’t fall short of the mark.

We went through it all: miscarriages, early 28-week labour (which was luckily halted with lots of drugs) and the birth of my daughter Mae through non-elective C-section on 21 June 2013 at 8.37pm. Oh and this all happened in Amsterdam – where we lived for the past five years. We had the sex, we had the drugs (lots of them while giving birth) but the rock ‘n’ roll was fast replaced by the Cbeebies theme tune.

Here’s the good, the bad and the (not-so) ugly of what went down:

The good

After a number of miscarriages, ranging from early-on to 17-weeks, my husband and I mentally distanced ourselves from project procreation. As a close friend recommended, we ‘just started bonking with intent’ instead of ‘trying for a baby’.

It wasn’t about making a ‘bean’ or ‘peanut’, it was about being together as a family – even if it was just the two of us. So we just hung out and despite having a miscarriage only three weeks before, I somehow defied the odds and got pregnant with Mae on a holiday to Belves in the South of France. We considered calling Mae ‘Belves’ so delusionally happy we were.

And she hung in there – until 28 weeks.

The bad

I was throwing up in an IKEA disabled toilet with someone ramming on the door saying I wasn’t disabled and should get out of there. I had food poisoning from a hipster haunt in Amsterdam’s Red Light District and I was sobbing at the yellow and blue-hued nightmare I was in.

After a distressing journey home (still clutching that IKEA baby lamp that seemed so essential at the time), I started to get painful stomach cramps, which fast became contractions. I kept doing the maths – “she’s 28 weeks, she’s 28 weeks” running on loop through my mind – and Googled everything from ‘what are her chances of survival’ and ‘can food poisoning lead to early labour?’ to ‘what’s in a hospital bag?’.

The (not-so) ugly

After a tense 24 hours in hospital, being pumped full of drugs to slow the contractions, Mae luckily decided to stay-put for the rest of my pregnancy. I was house-bound and rested-up for the majority of it but that didn’t matter – every day she was inside was a bonus.

Because she was a breach baby, the midwife decided it was safest to deliver her by C-section. I remember coming in at 8am on the 21 of June to the OLVG (Onze Lieve Vrouwen Gaasthuis) hospital in the heart of Amsterdam and not knowing when we’d have our little girl – it was like booking in for a regular hospital/hair appointment. The nurses kept saying ‘someone will be with you shortly’. As in, someone will be with you to deliver your baby? Or someone will be with you to do a check-up? It was all rather surreal.

At about 7pm after no food or water for 11 hours, I remember saying to my husband, “I either want a sandwich or a baby” – I was literally on the edge and it looked like we were going to have to wait until the next day to have her – the suspense was killing me.

But at 8pm, as we were huddled up on a hospital bed watching Family Guy in a pre-parental daze, the nurse came in and said, “are you ready to have a baby?”  I really wasn’t, I had mentally switched off and couldn’t believe we’d have Mae with us in half an hour. But I was whisked off to theatre all the same, with the husband in hot pursuit, donning blue scrubs in a mad panic.

The C-section took literally three minutes and there was a genuine sense of calm in the room – it wasn’t the medical harsh environment I’d expected – they even turned the lights down when she came out. Mae emerged from behind the green curtain mewling like a cat, while my husband and I broke down with relief that our ‘bean’, our ‘peanut’ had finally come to fruition after so many painful false starts. The moment she latched on in the recovery room? There literally are no words. No words that would ever do it justice.

Check out what Mother Pukka thinks about parenting and all that jazz over at motherpukka.co.uk (it’s absolutely bloody hilarious) and follow her on twitter @mother_pukka

Birth Story Of The Week – Sarah and Quinn

OK, pregnancy number two. Baby number two. Birth number two. And I’m determined. Determined that second time around I will achieve the natural, drug-free water birth I so longed for.

My first son was breech, he got tangled up in his long long legs and just couldn’t flip himself around.  I tried an ECV turn procedure and every old wives tale in the book to try and turn him, but it was no good and he was born via “elective” c-section, a big baby at 9lbs.

I really didn’t want another c-section. I had found my experience to be quite cold, impersonal and clinical. Second time around I was incredibly lucky to have the wonderful Clemmie as my midwife. Together, at each stage of the pregnancy, we discussed how I would like my second birth to be and she helped me to fight for it. It turns out you need to fight quite hard to be allowed a waterbirth as a VBAC. The hospital wanted me to be continuously monitored in case of scar rupture, but I really wanted to use water as my pain relief, I know how much it relaxes me – even a bath at the end of a long day! But, everything was going smoothly with my pregnancy (after a cheeky low-lying placenta managed to move itself well out of the way of the exit!) so after a couple of different consultant appointments, and with huge support from my midwifery team, I was allowed to proceed with my wishes and aim for a natural water birth.

At my hospital, all women are given a third scan at 36 weeks. So, feeling heavy and hot I arrived with my husband with what should have been the final scan of the pregnancy, the last time we would see our baby on the inside before we finally got to meet them.

Everything seemed fine and the baby seemed healthy, but the sonographers started muttering to each other in that way that they do which makes your ears prick up and try to strain in to their conversation, was everything ok?! They asked a consultant sonographer to come and rescan me. They were concerned about baby’s size. Given my first son was 9lbs and both my husband and I are quite tall, we were never expecting a small baby, but at 36.5 weeks, this babe was already measuring at 8.5lbs. They told me I needed to return the next week for a follow up. Bad news. The next week’s scan showed even more dramatic growth and they expected a birth weight of over 10lbs. Now that’s a big baby. Too big unfortunately. Too big to deliver naturally when I had had a previous c-section. They were seriously worried about my scar rupturing and it didn’t help that I’d started getting shooting pains in the scar area. I was so disappointed as they signed me up for another c-section. I didn’t want that experience again. Firstly they suggested to book it in at 38 weeks but I was determined not to miss my best friend’s getting married which was happening that week, so I convinced them to book me in at 39 weeks. Obviously that meant I had a greater chance of going into labour naturally too which I was secretly glad about!

In the days that followed I spoke at length with Clemmie about how I might be able to improve my surgical experience this time around. We made a plan. My husband was tasked with making a playlist for surgery. First time around I had generic radio playing some awful songs and it was actually distracting. Rob compiled a CD for us of music that was both soothing and special to us. Clemmie was tasked with making sure I had proper skin-to-skin contact immediately post-birth, which I didn’t get first time and Rob wanted to cut the cord. She also put me in touch with Hollie from The Calm Birth School who bent over backwards to send me hypnobirthing books and MP3 affirmations. It had never even occurred to me that I could use these techniques to keep me calm, relaxed and focused even in a surgical environment.

So, I made it to 39 weeks, even raving it up on the dancefloor of our friend’s wedding until midnight 2 days before the c-section! I was feeling good and prepared, thanks to Clemmie and Hollie’s advice, to meet my baby at last!

I entered the hospital that day feeling calm and happy. We went through the motions of prepping for surgery and my midwife team and my husband did an amazing job of distracting me from any nerves.

The feeling of the surgery first time around had freaked me out, I’d expected to feel nothing, but although I was pain free, I could feel every detail of what was happening and I was scared. This time around, I used the hypnobirthing techniques to help me focus and keep calm. I knew I was doing the best thing for me and my baby and the most important thing was that he would arrive safely. Entering the theatre I was greeted by friendly, familiar faces and my music was playing. The first song was Cinematic Orchestra’s “Build a Home” which is our most special song. The clinical tools and machines in the room which had scared me first time around, just faded out as I just concentrated on my husband, the music and the excitement that we were about to meet our second child. I honestly forgot there was anyone else in the room.

Quinn was born moments later. He weighed in at 11lbs. Now THAT’s a big baby!

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The consultant had to wrestle him out of my pelvis as he had got well and truly wedged in. She immediately reassured me that I had made the right decision to have the c-section as he wouldn’t have delivered naturally. That was exactly the right thing to say to me. I felt relief and acceptance of the experience. Quinn was quickly taken away and Rob helped Clemmie cut the cord. He was bundled up and brought straight back to me for my first cuddle. The next 45 mins, the remainder of the operation, was spent in an intimate moment, just me, my husband and our boy. The room was still full of people, but Clemmie had helped to create an environment where we could just be together, happy tears, our music and skin-to-skin.

Sarah owns and runs Archie’s Boutique an online kids design and concept store. If you have little ones check it out but be warned you won’t leave with an empty basket.

Birth Story Of The Week – Melanie and George

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Aromatherapy, a calming soundtrack, some massage from my husband, yogic prana breath and a water birth were key points in the birth plan that I wrote in the space provided for it on my NHS pregnancy notes. Yet under the bright glaring lights of a Kings College operating theatre, George Forrester Shelley arrived after an emergency caesarian section, like myself and my mum before me.

A decade plus of yoga practice had me thinking I would breath my way through this labour, that I would naturally deliver my baby at home. The birthing pool was set up in the lounge room. I would have done hypnobirthing it if I had the spare money but instead I prepared by reading a friend’s book and downloading some very relaxing hypnobirthing tracks by Katharine Graves from iTunes that I listened to each night in bed.

The talk of the home birth had shocked my mother, and was the only one in my NCT group, though our elderly neighbor had three of her babies at home. The NCT antenatal course cemented my belief in home, natural birth against all else. I poo-pooed all the drugs, I wasn’t going to need them. Until I did.

There’s nothing like labour to make you realize you’re not always involved in the choices life makes for you. I have a very plan A, plan B and plan C brain, so I really did think that if it came to it, I’d actually be fine with any drugs or intervention if that’s the course things took. If I could have chosen, I would have had none.

I was in labour, but I didn’t know it, at 6pm on a Friday night one day after my “due” date. I messaged my homeward-bound husband read “fuck my back is killing me”. That, it turns out, was labour starting. I did managed to labour at home all weekend with the TENS machine, oms, breathing, bird song and clary sage and lavender oils. We finally drove in to Kings College Hsopital Denmark Hill at midnight on Sunday.

My amazing midwives from The Lanes had been to see me on the Sunday evening while I was in labour, but it wasn’t long after they left that we called them back and they arranged for me to go in to Kings a where I was taken to a one bed triage room. This transfer was something I dearly wanted to avoid during my labour, because I had heard how the transfer of locations can slow labour, but I could not bear the constant and overlapping contractions any longer.

The NCT classes had convinced me drugs were bad. Wrong. They were amazing. I first had pethedene, and while it may have made me a little sick in the mouth, it wasn’t any more than after seeing Jeremy Clarkson with his shirt off on Top Gear. I clearly remember telling Mark it was as good as clubbing days in the nineties. Plus, this stopped me screaming and let me have some sleep.

Then came the entonox, or gas and air. After hours of me lowing with each contraction, a night nurse walked into our room and said “We can hear you out there, so I thought you might like some gas and air.” This really annoyed me. I didn’t realize I could ask for this, or was out the point where I needed it. Again, it felt amazing and I tried to make Mark take some.

The next morning, the epidural. Another wow drug. All the pain and exhaustion from the last two and a half days instantly disappeared. My contractions had been steady and unrelenting since Sunday morning and there was no sign of the baby. This was arranged some unbelievably quickly by Erika, one of the midwives from The Lanes, and delivered by one of an anaesthetist who was one of a steady stream of amazing young female doctors to help me during my labour.

By Monday afternoon, despite the baby’s best efforts at twisting and turning, there was no dilation and baby was nowhere to be seen. The only option seemed to be to take the induction drug prostaglandin to push my labour along. I had, by this point, completely lost my sense of humour. I was still trying to breath and remain calm, trying to go with the options that life was presenting me and be at peace with them, but this was so far from my idea of a peaceful waterbirth at home.

I was able to get some rest at this stage, but when I woke, nothing had changed. The epidural wore off. The pain was immense. My waters were broken by Erika and they revealed meconium. The baby had had enough, and so had I. I had mentally made the decision I would have a caesarian. The consultant read my charts and came to the same conclusion, asking me very clearly if this is what I wanted and outlining the reasons he thought it necessary. I agreed.

By this point my regular midwife Mary had come on shift and so having brought me all the way through my pregnancy, was ultimately on hand to deliver George at 10:45pm on the Monday. It was such a joy to see her as I had known her since we conceived. And so my final and most amazing drug – the spinal anaesthesia. All the pain from the last three days disappeared and I felt huge relief that my baby was going to be with us soon. While I thought that consciously, the photos tell a different story. My eyes were glazed, I was full of drugs, and I was exhausted. Being me – a journalist with a huge interest in women’s careers – I was quizzing my anaesthetist on her career development while we waited for the operation to start.

Our beautiful and healthy little boy George Forrester was finally born and after time bonding skin-to-skin in the recovery room, we were moved to the 6-bed ward. I felt a huge surge of respect for all mothers everywhere, and I clearly remember thinking “this is the least millennial experience ever. I have real concerns that anyone will bother continuing the human race.”

We were kept in the hospital on antibiotics because my temperature had unsurprisingly crept up slightly over my 3 day labour. This really sucked. I had to listen to five other families in the shared ward when I really wanted to be at home with my baby, hearing them bliss out over their swift labours and wade through a lifetime of emotion. Fortunately Kings lets partners sleep on the floor next to you, so Mark was with George and I the whole time.

The best part of the stay was visits from Clemmie, Vanessa and other midwives from The Lanes who popped in to give me a hug. The caseloading system means I had known these angels for months and that means so much at such a vulnerable time. IMG_0042 IMG_0048 The surge of emotion that other mothers in the ward were experiencing was blocked my internal sea of drugs but five days later as I made my way out of the door of the hospital with our tiny baby for the first time I experienced every nameable emotion. I was terrified for him, I was elated, and I bawled the whole way home.

Check out Melanie’s amazing new project Mumspo a ‘resource for amazing Mums who flex their creative muscle either on maternity leave, or with growing kids.’ You may spot a familiar face on there too.

Birth Story Of The Week – Claire and Anna

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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 – Maria, Mickey and Georgie

My first pregnancy was not exactly what I had hoped for – hyperemesis, followed by whooping cough, followed by hip pain, in between two house moves! Despite all this, my husband Michael and I were ecstatic and could not wait for our 1st baby to be born. We took photos of the bump every few weeks, read weekly about its development in the pregnancy book and were delighted to see the little creature on the ultrasound scans.

We went to the NHS antenatal classes and our plan was a hospital water birth with gas and air. I am an A&E doctor and Michael is a nurse, so the hospital is not a scary place! My mum would come over from Greece to help us with the last house move (at 36 weeks!), the birth and the new baby.

The baby was due on the 11th of June and 4 days after that I had what I thought was contractions.  I remember watching the football on TV (Euro 2012) and thinking “this is not bad, I have had period pains worse than this”. I was however quite frustrated that by the next morning they had gone and nothing was happening.  Two days later, on the Sunday, just as I had finished the chicken roast my husband had cooked for us, I felt a sensation I had never felt before and said to Michael and mum: “oh, this does hurt…I think it is starting”. I spent a few hours in the bath with mum timing the contractions while Michael was getting everything ready. We ended up going to hospital, which is a half an hour drive away, 4-5 hours later, at around 11pm, as the contractions grew closer and became quite strong.

When I arrived, I kept dropping down on all fours on the way to the ward, and when the midwife saw me she was positive I would have a quick labour. Unfortunately, I was only 3cm dilated, so went on to get in the bathtub in my room (the pools were both being occupied), still aiming for the “gas and air water birth” I had planned for. I was very happy that my mum had been allowed to stay with me during labour, as well as my husband. They were both very good and supportive in the many hours that followed, as I was moaning in the bath…Eventually, I gave in. I needed more pain killers. I came out of the water and had an injection of Pethidine. After that, it is all a bit vague. I remember pain, pushing and I remember the music list that Michael had made playing in the background (though I only remember 2 songs of the 7+ hours of music that was playing!). At a point Michael was sent out to get a snack as he had not eaten for hours. My mum and Michael were talking to me, though I cannot remember much of what they were saying. I thought I was sleeping a lot, but they later said to me that I was only asleep a few seconds at a time between contractions. I was dreamy and happy despite the pain.

When the midwives changed shifts in the morning I was still pushing but not getting anywhere. They broke my waters in an attempt to help, but still baby would not come. They could touch the head and they were suspicious that the baby had extended the neck instead of flexing it. After 2 more internal examinations that felt worse than the contractions it was decided that baby’s neck was indeed extended and therefore he or she was stuck. In the meantime, I was attached to the monitoring belts,  the baby’s heart was slowing to almost zero with every push and I was losing my contractions as I was so tired…suddenly my room filled with doctors and it was decided I would be taken to theatre for instrumental delivery or C-section. Everybody hustled around me, I was given various drugs, signed various forms and watched my poor mum, with her basic English and therefore basic understanding of what was happening, panicking inside. Then, they whizzed me off to the theatres at around 10.30am.

The spinal anaesthetic was the best thing ever and my pain was gone. I was not scared. I had spent a year of my training anaesthetising people and I was comfortable in the theatre environment. Michael was allowed in. They had 3 attempts at instrumental delivery and at 11.21am my beautiful baby boy was born via C-section, weighing 3.060 kilos (6lbs 12oz). We named him Michael Constantine as planned and we call him Mickey. Though he refused to take to the breast, much to my dismay and despite hours and hours of trying, he has grown into a beautiful boy. He just turned 2 on the 18th of June and he is absolutely lovely.

We had decided from the beginning that we would have our babies close together, but my 2nd positive test took us a bit by surprise. It was only a week after my little boy (then 8 months old) had come out of hospital after having meningitis, and only one month after starting to try to get pregnant. My second pregnancy was not different like everyone assured me.  It was simply worse. This time I even got admitted to hospital for IV rehydration. And the hip was a killer! I had to stop work a week earlier than planned as I could no longer really do my job properly.

The big question of this pregnancy was – elective C-section or an attempt at vaginal delivery? We pondered for weeks. I felt that I should attempt to have the 2nd baby naturally. After all, I was so close to delivering Mickey vaginally before, surely I could do it this time. On the other hand, the info given to me by my midwife said there was a 25% risk of another emergency section if I tried to give birth naturally. That was too high for me. My professional experience did not help either. I had seen how complicated emergency operations and anaesthetics could get and I did not want to end up with a general anaesthetic in the middle of the night. Though my personal experience with the emergency C-section for Mickey was excellent (I had very little pain post-operatively and it all went well from start to finish), I had a fear that it might not be as good this time. Thinking about the whole thing made me so stressed that I decided it was not worth it. I was not going to spend the rest of my pregnancy stressing about the potential of another emergency section. So, elective section it was. I had various appointments with my consultant and her team who discussed the pros and cons with me and accepted my decision. In fact, my consultant said that because I got so close with Mickey and was unable to deliver I was at an increased risk of needing a section again. So, I was relieved that I made that choice.

Georgia Eileen (Georgie) arrived 6 days before her due date, on the 7th of November 2013 at 11.08am weighing 3.27 kilos (7lbs 3oz). That morning, we took my suitcase, got into the car and drove to the hospital. I was a bit more stressed than when I went to hospital in labour. I think that was because there was not much adrenaline going around in my body and I had no contractions to concentrate on. We waited for our turn to go to theatre and then…there she was. She had a perfect fringe when they took her out of my belly, as if she had just been to the hairdresser. She took to the breast immediately at Recovery and is a happy, gorgeous little girl.

I guess what I am trying to put across is that I went into this pregnancy/birth world with a plan – a water birth with minimal drugs. I like a plan. I usually stick to my plans. But it did not happen. Both my births were very medical. But, at the end of the day that did not matter. They were still magical. Two beautiful babies made it into this world in good health and have been developing well since. Sometimes I think that if Mickey had been born in a time before C-sections he might not have made it out at all. I might not have made it. So, I am thankful for modern medicine.

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Birth Story Of The Week – Lisa and Oscar

‘I’m not a closed book kind of person. Most of my friends would agree (I hope)  that I’m fairly open with them. I think I’m happy to share most things (although I sometimes find it hard, we know that!) However I have been overwhelmed with the ease at which I have been able to share my birth story. Oscars birth was a deeply personal and intimate experience in my life and yet I have been completely open about it, offering up information I would never have dreamt of sharing before I had him. And do you know why? It’s because everyone does it! We seem to wear our birth stories like badges of honour. And whats wrong with that?

So if you’ve heard this already I’m sorry – but here it comes again!

My pregnancy was pretty text book really. I didn’t have morning sickness, although I did spend a few weeks feels nauseous ALL BLOODY DAY! Morning my arse! Anyway that cleared up at 10 weeks, and everything else was pretty standard.

I was under a consultant from day one, partly due to my high BMI, partly due to my epilepsy, so was monitored fairly closely. I never had any problems and the gestational diabetes and larger than average baby everyone kept predicting, never materialised. Take that obstetric generalisations!

It was at a routine midwife appointment at 35 weeks, they noticed that my blood pressure, which had been falling throughout my pregnancy had suddenly shot up. This lead to a week in hospital and much worry about suspected pre-eclampsia and whether this baby would make full term. An NCT friend had been diagnosed with severe pre-eclampsia the week before and had to deliver her baby by C Section at 35 weeks, so I knew all too well how serious this situation could be.

I could write a whole post about this experience, but as this a birth story, I’ll leave that for another day. Suffice to say that after a week of trying, the hospital managed to stabilise my BP with drugs. I practically cheered as we left, with my tiny baby still safely tucked away.

I went home, I tided, I hoovered the ceilings, I slept on the sofa. I had a week of maternity leave and I loved it.

After another week or so I had a routine appointment with my consultant, the wonderful and no nonsense Lesley Roberts. She took one look at my BP and said, “I’m sorry Lisa you can’t go home today”. I burst into tears. I was taken back up to the same ward I’d just escaped, given more meds and resolved to try and get this sorted. When they checked me they said I was no where near ready to give birth, so wouldn’t attempt an induction. However, my BP would just not play ball and kept rising, spiking in the middle of the night, when I was asleep of all things!

I felt so frustrated. This baby was 38 weeks gestation, plenty cooked enough and here I was taking more and more drugs that seemed to do nothing. Eventually, a canny midwife saw just how frustrated I was and took me aside. Quietly, she told me that if an induction was really what I wanted, then the next time I saw the doctor I was to cry. Simple as that. So, I did as she said and do you know, it only bloody worked! It seemed getting emotional worked where being rational had failed. I was given a pessary to start things off.

I wont bore you with the next two days, as very little happened. I got some twinges, like very mild contractions, that then stopped. On day three they decided that if they could break my water I’d be able to start a proper Scyntocinon induction. Only, they didn’t tell me this is what they were doing. I thought it was odd that they gave me a gas and air pipe. Ahh then I knew why! It was the most painful thing I have ever experienced. They were right, he was still really high up and to reach him felt like I was being set on fire. I went into a zone, where I felt like I put myself on a shelf and could only hear every third word being said. It was awful and amazing all at the same time. Then I heard her say no she couldn’t do it, so I took myself of the shelf. Then she said oh hang on and finally I felt a whoosh as my waters broke. Finally we were getting this party started.

I was hooked up to the drip and given an epidural, as induced labour can come on very hard and very fast. Although not in my case. I was there for 24 hours and he moved a centimetere. Seriously! I knew it was looking dodgy when the midwife suggested at 3 in the morning that it was best not to eat anymore. I think we could all see the writing on the wall. The induction I’d cried for had failed. It would be a C section now. I was a tiny bit gutted as I really wanted to go through the whole process we’d talked about at such length in my NCT group, but actually I just wanted this baby with me and my BP to settle down.

At 9am on 2nd April ( yeah I know – I think Oscar hung on for fear of being born on April Fools Day!) it was declared that an emergency section was needed and I was in theatre within 20 minutes. I remember the table I was lying on was at an angle so I felt like I was going to fall off. I remember the anesthetist running ice down my shoulder to see if the spinal block had kicked in yet. I remember Adele and Otis Reading coming on the radio. I remember feeling like I was being jumped up and down on but feeling no pain (weird in the extreme). I remember hearing him cry before I felt them lift him fully clear of me. I remember crying and crying and crying with relief. That he was here, that he was strong and that I’d done it.

They weighed him and gave him to me, but I couldn’t see his face so had to give him to Ben, so I could take a proper look. He was just so beautiful.

Then they took him away for tests and I started to feel sick. I managed to shout out in time and the quick thinking anesthetist whacked some anti emetic in my line. I felt better, but my mouth was unbelievably dry. I was given ice to suck. And then I started to pass in and out of consciousness for about an hour (I think). I was told after I was in there for two hours. I thought I’d been in there less than half that.

Next thing I knew we were back in the delivery suit and beyond happy. All the worry was gone, he was here and he was really strong. Much smaller than I’d expected at 6lb 6oz, but perfect. Although I do recall thinking – blimey hasn’t he got enormous thumbs! He still has today, along with his huge feet!

And that’s my birth story. Obviously I could go on and on. About my time in hospital after the birth, about how my BP practically dropped over night, about the trouble we had with feeding. But I think I’ll leave it there. For now.’ 

mrssavageangel.wordpress.com 

Birth Story Of The Week – Christina and Henry

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“This time two years ago I was busy buying Christmas presents exclusively from  the high end  delis and delightful book shops on the Fulham road (not so lucky this year, *packs up pressie from weekly shop at Sainsbury’s*). We lived in London and I was due to have our first baby at the end of January at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. Having to make daily jaunts to hospital for a month gave me lots of chances to shop!

All was going to plan in my pregnancy until 28 weeks came around and I had a blood sugar test. I had the one where you need to do a long fast first, as I have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and am more likely to get Gestational Diabetes. The next day I had a message from the midwife saying I must come in to see the Consultant the next day as my blood sugars had been high and I did have Gestational Diabetes.

After the initial shock of no more cake (nope, not even a sneaky choccy biccie, I tried and I was TOTALLY busted the next time I checked my blood) I got used to the change and looked forward to the bonus extra scans every 4 weeks to check the baby wasn’t getting too big.

At 32 weeks we went along to the extra scan and lay there whilst the sonographer clicked her mouse and pressed the scanning thing on my tummy. She pressed and clicked and sighed and typed and clicked and sighed and pressed again. Then, after some results came up, she said ‘oh no, let me just type that in again’. There was silence, and then the sound of her fingers clattering on the keys was deafening. Then I was told: ‘the baby is very small, the placenta isn’t working well and there isn’t much fluid. You need to go up to labour triage right now.’

In a worried haze of words and tears my husband and I managed to find the right ward and I was set up on a CTG to monitor the baby’s heart rate. After a couple of hours they sent me home saying that everything seemed ok but that the baby was small. I must return daily for CTGs and be very aware of the baby’s movements. A few days later I saw the Consultant Gynecologist and he explained that they had concerns about Oligohydramnios (lack of fluid around the baby), as the placenta was not working correctly and was restricting the baby’s growth.

Everything like blood pressure was fine and he admitted he wasn’t really sure what was going on (!), so his plan was daily CTGs and weekly scans to check the baby was growing. He asked me to make sure I finished work that day, ‘as you might have a baby next week, which could be pretty small and in need of special care for a few weeks!’ I was terrified.

The days and weeks in December continued in weird little 24-hour  bubbles of ‘oh, ok we’re not having a baby today’, let’s go to the cinema/quickly book a hospital tour/get legs waxed,’ until the next CTG. Each day the baby seemed to be doing well and with each scan had grown a little more, right up to 37 weeks. However, at each scan it was pretty obvious that the baby was breach extended, with his legs right up over his head!

The plan was to try an ECV to move the baby the right way around and then induce me. If this didn’t’ work, a C-Sec was booked for the next day.  Three attempts to manually move the baby the right way round came and went – it was a really weird sensation pushing and pulling when there wasn’t much room to move! In the end, they realised that his little bottom was well an truly wedged, so we were scheduled for a C-Sec in the morning.

The next day came and I sat down for my in my zillionth CTG. ‘Goodness, you’re very relaxed’ said the midwife. I explained I’d had them A LOT.

9am on the 3rd of January: in I waddled to theatre with the surreal  constant questioning of one of the doctors, who was asking if I was related to one of the members of The Sex Pistols because of our surname, and with and the hum of Magic FM in the background.  The lovely Anaesthetist kept talking to me whilst they dug around getting the baby out, saying she had had her last baby in this very room! Then she peeked over and said the bottom was coming out and did we want to know the sex – a boy!  Henry George Frederick Lydon was born  at 09:18, weighing 5lb 10, to the dulcet tones of ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey. (This can be a bit unfortunate as I have been known to well up in the aisle at Asda when the cheesy, heady chords of the opening bars strike up!)

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He came out squawking and screaming and perfect, and his legs stayed up by his ears for weeks to come until he finally unfolded. After some problems feeding, as he was tiny and his blood sugars low, a couple of days later he finally latched on and we went home … just in time to see the Christmas decorations.

Yes, it was so far removed from the straightforward birth I had hoped for, but then mine wasn’t a straightforward pregnancy. I am so incredibly thankful for thankful for modern medicine and technology for keeping Henry and I safe. For some women around the world this may have been a very different story.”

It’s Been Emotional

To say the least. I feel drained, emotionally and physically. I haven’t felt like this in a while but it was bound to happen soon, it was my time to feel the smash, bang, wallop. My job, my role as a midwife pushed me pretty hard on Monday.

My woman, my couple finally had their baby on Monday evening after a gruelling 3 day stop-start labour. For her, for them as a couple it was as difficult as labours can go. They worked together like the A Team, supported each other every step of the way. It was amazing to watch.

The labour went on longer than expected, I missed putting my girls to bed that evening to see this baby be born. My husband (the silent hero) dealt with bath and bed time as he knew I couldn’t leave. Thank you Mr H for holding the fort and making sure the girls brushed their teeth and were tucked up warm and cosy in their little beds.

And finally when their baby arrived that evening, my heart which had been in my throat, exploded and my eyes filled with tears of relief and joy. He was pink, a little cross with his exit route but he was perfect. The emotion wasn’t helped by Adele’s Make You Feel My Love coming on the radio the moment he was passed to me by the surgeon. Handing them their little man was a very proud moment.

No birth is ever the same, and sometimes things aren’t ok at different points of the labour. Supporting couples when this happens is tough because you want to tell them everything is fine but you just don’t know. Reaching that end point on Monday and seeing my couple gazing at their brand new baby was the best feeling in the world. I left feeling exhausted but hugely satisfied.

And when I got home to a delicious meal cooked by Mr H, I tip toed into my girls bedrooms and sniffed their sweaty little heads and thanked them for being such angels and understanding why Mummy wasn’t there this evening.

Being a midwife is much more than just delivering babies but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Birth Story of The Week – Sarah and Her Tigers

It’s been a pretty full on weekend here as my little girl turned 6! I can barely believe that 6 years ago I was giving birth to my tiny little dark haired baby girl. Not that she felt that small coming out, OUCH! Watching her with her friends yesterday, her long skinny bruised legs dancing to One Direction (cringe) made me realised how fast she is growing up. Those babies years seem a life time ago and I kind of wished I treasured them more, rather than wished them away through the sleepless nights, teething and juggling the working Mum malarkey.

This weeks birth story comes from Sarah a fellow midwife and Mama to little twin girls Emily and Edith.

Blog: Running Mama 2013

Twitter: newmidwife0904

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I spent what felt like an eternity to get pregnant, two years of trying, fights for fertility referrals, a year on the IVF waiting list…… But boy, when I finally got pregnant, I did it in style, not with one, but two babies. Seeing those two little lines had never made me happier, but in the throws of hyperemesis I wondered how I was actually going to cope with a twin pregnancy, and two babies.

Twin pregnancies, while a complete blessing, come with a list of risks as long as your arm. In a nutshell you are pretty much at high risks of all those pregnancy complications that worry you when you are pregnant with one baby, but the risk that bothered me most was miscarriage and premature birth.

My worries were not dampened when I bled at 25 weeks pregnant. I had what is called a post coital bleed (basically a bleed after having sex). And the stupid thing was that we had actually avoided sex for the entire pregnancy leading up to that point, and needless to say, for the rest of the pregnancy after. I was admitted for three days and subsequently signed off sick for the rest of my pregnancy, ending my role as a case loading midwife (very sad!).

Not sure what to actually do with all this spare time I took up knitting and sewing, and did more of my favourite hobby, baking (and eating) cake.

At 30 weeks I developed a urine infection which made me contract strongly and yet again I ended up in hospital, this time for four days. Successful treatment and rest allowed me to continue my pregnancy until term.

The second twin was in an awkward position under my ribcage, and so I started making plans for birth with my midwives and consultants. We agreed that as there was a 50% risk of needing a caesarean for the second twin, even with successful vaginal delivery of the first, I would have an elective Caesarean section at 38 weeks unless I went into spontaneous labour and things looked good. But at 36 weeks my midwife visited me at home, and when asked how things were going I explained that I was tired as I had been up all night with my feet in ice buckets because they were so itchy. Obstetric cholestasis (yes both myself and Clemmie got it, high incidence for such a rare condition!) didn’t even cross my mind. I felt so stupid! Any way, it was diagnosed and that weekend (after an emergancy wax!) I was stuck In hospital again for the weekend. But at least this time I would be meeting my babies.

After a weekend of intensive monitoring  just to get me to 37 weeks for a caesarean, I went to the pub at the end of the road from the hospital and had an enormous dinner of steak and chips. I guessed the iron content would compensate for any blood loss, and carbohydrate would get me through until morning as I would be nil by mouth from midnight. Hubby and I toasted our last night as a couple all on our own and headed back to the ward to contemplate what lay ahead for the rest of our lives. Things would certainly be different, that’s for sure.

I laid in bed, getting up and down to the loo, and not really sleeping a wink. I enjoyed every kick, every squirm, every hiccup, felt from within. I felt sad that I would never feel my babies move in that way again, and mourned that I would probably never be pregnant again. I wondered who was inside, boys or girls? One of each? Did they have hair? How big would they be (I felt enormous!)? Despite all the complications, I fell in love with being pregnant, I relished every day, and thanked the heavens each day for the blessing that had been bestowed upon me.

I must have fallen asleep as my alarm went off and woke me at half six. The summer solstice, 21st June 2010 had arrived and would be my babies birthday. I got up, had a shower, moisturised, plucked my eyebrows, brushed my teeth and waited. And waited and waited.

We eventually got taken to labour ward and into theatre at around 11am. A straightforward spinal later and I was lying comfortably in the table, worried I was going to fall off, and ready to go.

I could see my consultant pacing the corridor, I had luckily had the privilege of choosing my consultant, a colleague I trusted and respected, and one that had looked after me so well. He scrubbed up, along with my two (yes two!) hand picked midwives. Matt and I were chatting away to our anaesthetist and all of a sudden I heard the familiar sound of amniotic fluid being cleaned up. I hadn’t even realise they had begun! I hadn’t prepared myself and suddenly I was presented with the most perfect little being I had ever seen. Twin 1 – now known as Edith – had been born at 1129 , and flung straight onto my chest. Warm, wet, tiny, and mine. My chest felt heavy with emotion, we had done it, my eyes blurred with tears, I couldn’t quite believe I had a baby in my arms, a beautiful baby girl. But hang on. There was another baby to come! 1 minute later, at 1130, her sister Emily (who we were convinced was a boy!) was also born. Not being able to see through the tears I had to ask whether we had a boy or girl. Another girl and my dreams had come true (I never admitted in pregnancy that this is the outcome I really wanted). Emily went skin to skin with daddy and our family was complete. From two to four, in the blink of an eye.

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The rest of the day was a blur of breastfeeding, phone calls, congratulations from colleagues, and sleeping. I have never been so tired in all of my life as I have been these last three years, but I would never change it for all the money in the world (and I could use it!). Three years and many bad hair days on, even on those hideously tough days, I think back to the times of fearing I would never be a mother and remember just how lucky I am. My world, however messy and exhausting, is perfect.