Birth Story Of The Week – Alexis and Coco

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At 35 weeks pregnant I was starting to get excited about my first baby, I was convinced the baby would be late. My due date was 16th December and the pessimist in me was fully expecting to be in hospital on Christmas day. But at 35 weeks I got sick – I thought it was the Noro virus that was going around so I didn’t think too much of it, but when I was still having cramping pains a few days later I took myself off to visit the GP. He assured me that I was ok – nothing to worry about… so I carried on having hot baths in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep due to the pain on top of my bump. During the next week I went to my first NCT class, had my ‘baby shower’ afternoon in the pub with my friends and started training up my maternity leave replacement at work. So after what felt like a very long week we went to the hospital for our 36 week check. Hugh was hungover* and I was trying to feel positive after my exhausting week, I remember leaving work and meeting Hugh to get the tube – he suggested we walk to the hospital as it would ‘good for me’… little did he know how ill I was!
The midwife checked my urine and my blood pressure, not giving too much away she said she’d get the doctor to check me over – suddenly I was being found a bed “better stay in for monitoring” was the gist. I remember feeling surprisingly calm about it all, I think as I had been feeling so ill there was a little relief that the pain wasn’t ‘normal’, I had been dreading another 4-5 weeks of it.
The next morning my consultant came to see me. I remembered being told who my consultant was at my very first appointment: “If things go well, you’ll probably never meet your consultant” I was told. Well, here she was at 8am on a Tuesday morning telling me “if you’ve got any plans for the rest of this week I suggest you cancel them…you’ve got to have this baby soon”
Now in my mind, it’s Tuesday, this week – so Saturday… I might have the baby on Saturday… or even next Monday? does that count as this week as it’s Tuesday now? Well that wasn’t quite how things panned out. Hugh left to go home and get some stuff but 5 minutes later the consultant was back at my bedside asking where my husband was and telling me to get him back here. By the time Hugh had got back to the hospital, I was already being wheeled up to the labour ward. At 11am I was in a high dependency suite with a doctor about to break my waters with what looked suspiciously like a crochet hook.
I don’t know at what point the words ‘pre-eclampsia’ or more specifically HELLP syndrome were used, but throughout the whole process I was kept well informed, my questions were answered, I had truly amazing care and I felt very calm and surprisingly in control. We hadn’t written a birth plan – I didn’t have too many expectations of labour, to be honest I’d probably tried not to think about it – I’m the very opposite of my friend who was also pregnant at the time and was arming herself with every bit of information she could: ‘you wouldn’t run a marathon without doing training’ was her stance… well not for me.
Once my waters had been broken I was hooked up to the drugs to start my contractions – a hefty dose of syntocinon and I was in having regular contractions by 1pm. My body was ready to be rid of this baby!
As things started well the consultant was happy to give me a chance to have a vaginal delivery. Because the levels of platelets in my blood had dropped to a dangerously low level if a c-section was necessary I would be having it under general anaesthetic. I really really didn’t want a c-section, however bad the pain was I wanted to be conscious when my baby was born and I wanted Hugh to be able to be there too. However because the chances of having to have a Caesarian were high I had to stay nil-by-mouth. Also my body was basically leaking fluid into my organs so I wasn’t allowed to drink anything either. I had a catheter attached and all fluid going into my body (in drug form) and coming out was being closely monitored, as was my blood pressure which was seriously high…
Between 1pm and 6pm things progressed quite well, I knew being hooked up to so many machines wasn’t ideal but I just concentrated on the contractions which were regular as clockwork. Hugh worked with me and we really felt like a team – we had this strange little routine going where he would put his arm above my head as a contraction started so I could reach up and hold it while I breathed through it… but at some point in the afternoon I also started on the Pethidine. Ah, I know it’s not right… but it was soooo good! I was quite enjoying the drowsy effect.
We also had a visitor in the form of my brother in law who came by having been dispatched off to buy some essentials – we had nothing, no hospital bag, no baby clothes. Nada. Poor single twenty something having to locate maternity pads in Tesco. Meanwhile my Mum went late-night shopping in Mothercare instructing some poor assistant to pick out everything required to clothe and care for an early baby, sex unknown.
Sometime around 6pm after 5hrs of contractions it was decided that the fluid monitoring wasn’t really working, so it was I had to go to theatre to have a central line put in. This is basically a pipe inserted into your neck so that drugs can go straight into your main artery and blood can more easily be taken out. Hugh got to have a little break (and eat some food without making me super-jealous) while I was taken off to theatre. The midwife stayed with me and helped me to stay as still as possible through the contractions while I had a local anaesthetic and the tube inserted into my neck. I just remember looking at the clock and thinking “I should be at my NCT class now… not here in labour”.
Out of theatre things continued to progress well and I was finally allowed a few shards of ice… I was begging Hugh to give me more but the midwife who was with us was pretty strict with him! By midnight I was 5cm dilated and thinking that I only had a couple of hours to go, but at 2am I was only 6cm dilated. I was getting tired and the c-section threat was hanging over me. I felt like I’d come such a long way and I really didn’t want to have a general anaesthetic.
We were having constant monitoring and there was a midwife permanently at the end of the bed – often writing notes; I kept wondering what an earth she could be writing – eventually at about 5am in the morning after 14 hrs of regular contractions I’d got to 10cm dilated. It was time to push. I really cannot remember much – I was quite spaced out and so thirsty… I’d stared fantasising about a cold coke. Suddenly Marcia the midwife wasn’t writing any more and the room that had up to then been dimly lit and quiet was bright and buzzing with people. As my blood pressure rose they weren’t taking any risks so the stirrups came out and were fitted on to the bed.
Coco was born on the dot of 6am by forceps. I didn’t hold her straight away – I remember thinking she looked like a big blue slug! (I blame the drugs.) Hugh suddenly had to jump to it and find clothes, he got a telling off for not having a long-sleeved vest. Meanwhile of course I still wasn’t entirely finished… but the placenta was delivered pretty swiftly and suddenly I was holding this tiny tiny creature in my arms.
I remember feeling quite giggly, in that way you sometimes do in a crisis (or is that just me)? I couldn’t believe I was a Mummy, that this perfectly formed little baby was ours. Over the next few days I realised more and more how ill I’d been, I had more tests and a blood transfusion, I felt ridiculously weak but despite it all I think Coco’s early arrival was the best thing to happen to us. We took it in our stride, because we had no choice and that kind of set the tone, parenthood began.
* He’d had a Dad baby shower thing… is that normal!?… the morning afterwards my urine was looking a bit dark and I asked him to take a look – hungover Hugh couldn’t take it; I think it nearly made him throw up!

Everything You Need to Know About Assisted Deliveries

This blog post is to help you prepare for the ‘what if’ scenario if you need an assisted delivery for the birth of your baby.

An assisted delivery means when a doctor uses an instrument such as forceps or ventouse cup (sometimes called a Kiwi cup) to deliver your baby’s head. Around one in eight women deliver their baby in this way in the UK. This can be because

  • there are concerns about the baby’s heart rate
  • your baby is in an awkward position
  • you’re too exhausted and have been pushing for a long time

A forceps consists of two smooth metal long ‘salad spoon’ type instruments which are curved to shape around the sides of your baby’s head.

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These are fitted carefully by the doctor and the handles of the forceps are then locked together securely. As you get a contraction the doctor will gently pull down onto the forceps as you push to guide your baby’s head to entrance of your vagina. When your baby’s head begins to crown and stretch your perineum the doctor may make a cut called an episiotomy to make the space in your vagina and perineum to allow for the baby’s head to be born. Once to the head is delivered the doctor will remove the forceps from around your baby’s head and wait for another contraction to deliver the shoulders and rest of your baby.

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN HAVING A FORCEPS DELIVERY:

  • you are more likely to have an episiotomy which will require stitches which are done by the doctor (these are disolveable.)
  • if you don’t have an epidural, local anaesthetic will be injected into the area before the doctor makes the cut so you not feel it
  • you are more likely to bleed from the ‘cut’ (episiotomy) therefore your overall blood loss will be more
  • if after 3 pulls the baby cannot be delivered in this way the delivery should be abandoned and a caesarean section should be considered
  • therefore most forceps deliveries happen in theatre for this reason
  • you should still be able to have skin to skin with your baby
  • your can still have delayed cord clamping
  • your birth partner can cut the cord
  • you will require a catheter to be inserted into your urethra to empty your bladder of urine which usually stays in for 12 hours following the birth of your baby
  • you have an increase chance of having short term incontinence problems such as not be able to control your wind or bowel movements
  • you may feel more internal and external bruising from the forceps delivery than a ‘natural’ delivery
  • you may therefore need stronger pain relief after the delivery to make you more comfortable especially when sitting to feed your baby or going to the toilet
  • your baby is likely to be born with some markings on its face such as bruising on the side of the forehead and circular red marks around the cheeks. These should go after 24-48 hours
  • due to bruising around your baby’ jaw and mouth they can find breastfeeding more difficult and you both may require extra support. Some women choose to use a Cranial Osteopath once discharged from hospital

A ventouse delivery (or kiwi cup) is when a doctor applies a small silicone cup to the top of your baby’s head inside your vagina. Once the cup is in place, the air is sucked out of it using a foot-controlled vacuum pump, or a hand-held pump.

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It can be noisy if a machine is used, so be prepared. When it is securely fixed, the doctor will ask you to push with your next contraction. The doctor will pull on the cup to help your baby out. Sometimes the cup comes off the baby’s head, which even if it sounds alarming, won’t cause any harm to your baby. After 3 pulls the baby’s head should begin to crown and stretch the perineum. Unlike a forceps birth where more space is require, with a ventouse delivery you are less likely to need an episiotomy. As the head is delivered the cup is removed so the doctor can deliver the rest of your baby.

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN HAVING A VENTOUSE DELIVERY:

  • it can often be performed in the delivery room rather than theatre
  • it is more likely to leave your baby with a temporary swelling on her head (cephalhaematoma).
  • and more likely to cause bleeding inside your baby’s eye (retinal haemorrhage) which look like blood shot in the whites of your baby’s eyes
  • you may not always need an episiotomy as less space is required of the instrument being used by the doctor
  • you may still need a catheter inserted for up to 12 hours following the birth
  • you should still be able to have skin to skin with your baby
  • your should still be able to have delayed cord clamping
  • your birth partner can still cut the cord

It is important to remember that if a doctor recommends an instrumental delivery you still have the choice to question their decision and where possible take time with your midwife and birth partner to discuss what is best for you and your baby. A good acronym to remember and to use at any point of your pregnancy or labour is BRAIN.

B – what are the benefits of doing what you recommend?
R – what are the risks?
A – what are the alternatives?
I – what does my intuition tell me?
N – what happens if we do nothing?

Sometimes it’s not always possible to avoid an assisted birth but good planning and preparation during your pregnancy can help you and your partner understand the options available to you. For example having an epidural increases your chance of having as assisted delivery because:

  • It may slow your labour down, especially the second stage of labour when you have to start pushing, because it can be very difficult to know if you’re pushing correctly as you are numb in the area you need to focus on
  • It increases the risk of your baby moving into the wrong position and therefore forceps or ventouse may be required to help turn the baby into a better position

But it’s equally important to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages. No one is going to think you’ve given up or couldn’t do it if you require an instrumental delivery. And the same goes for an epidural. Your birth is about it being positive for you and I have been at many many births where women had an epidural and a ventouse delivery and it’s been wonderful, beautiful and empowering. Milli Hill founder of The Positive Birth Movement says ” A good birth doesn’t have to be a hippy dippy ‘natural’ birth, all candles, knitting midwives and placenta smoothies. Many women who have hospital births that don’t go the way they planned and end in interventions such as an instrumental delivery, report feeling positive about what happened. Milli goes on to explain why, “This is because how a woman is spoken to and treated as she has her baby is much much more important than the actual mode of delivery. Women need to feel that they have been consulted, respected and given the information they need to make free choices in the best interest of themselves and their child. This allows them to begin motherhood feeling strong, capable and mentally healthy.”

And also please be reassured that eight out of 10 women who have an assisted birth have a normal birth next time around.

Has anyone else had an assisted delivery and would like to share their experience? Any tips on coping afterwards?

For more information about assisted deliveries please see:

NHS Choices

NCT Assisted Vaginal Birth

 

Birth Story Of The Week – Josephine and Milo and Elliot

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Blog: Twins In London

Twitter: @TwinsInLondon

“Throughout my pregnancy I had been warned to be ready for my MCDA twin boys from 32 weeks, it had gone fairly smoothly bar sickness throughout the pregnancy, in hindsight I was suffering from depression in the form of anhedonia throughout the pregnancy which is an inability to experience pleasure from usually enjoyable activities, I didn’t feel happy or sad and having such a low range of emotions is really unlike me, other than this I was  fit and had lots of energy though .  I had made the decision to have a C-section quite early on as I’d been scared by stories such as there being a 50% chance of having a c section to get the second twin out.  My consultant had told me that if the second baby wasn’t born after 5 minutes they would give me a c-section which was the nail in the coffin for me.  This is of course not what happened.  At 32+6 I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia on a routine visit to the midwife.  I think it is important to note that throughout my pregnancy I did not see midwives, I was only given doctors appointments and in hindesite I missed some really valuable advice and care as I was seen as a medical risk rather than a mother to be, the practicalities of the safe delivery of my babies went over everything and I was totally unprepared for the natural delivery that I ended up having.

Two days before my pre-eclampsia diagnosis I had gone to antenatal classes something I had had to insist on being invited to early as within my local hospital they were only offered from 35 weeks.  The session I had attended was on natural delivery, I remember mumbling to my partner that there really was no point in us being there.  The midwife leading the class made an important point that I have never forgotten “when you come to hospital bring your bag and an open mind”.

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Having received my diagnosis of pre-eclampsia I was in complete shock, as it had been a midwives appointment I had thought it was a mistaken appointment and told my partner not to bother coming.  The consultant informed me that I should prepare myself to have my babies the next day.  I had come to the appointment on my lunch break, I had not noticed that anything was different, my legs had swollen at the ankles but I had not really noticed and thought that this was normal.  So having gotten home I was on bed rest and went back into hospital the next day and was told that whatever I was doing I should keep it up and they informed me that the babies might not need to come until the Wednesday.  I had felt some leaking sensations and went for investigations, which proved to be a false alarm.  In the waiting room I had been entertained by a woman who was getting a firm but polite bollocking from the receptionist for using an ambulance to get to the hospital, she kicked off and her entourage joined in to give the receptionist abuse who managed it all remarkably well and told her she should have used a taxi and not wasted public money on an ambulance that is needed for more urgent calls.

Anyway. Less than 12 hours after coming home from the hospital at 4:30am my waters broke and I went to hospital by taxi.  Sensibly grabbing a towel to sit on to not mess up the taxi seat.  I was taken to a room and my belly was monitored, from about 5:30am and I was around 2cm dialated.  The midwives came and spoke to me and hoped that my contractions would subside and I would be moved to a bed for a few days before the babies were born.  I made it clear I was having a c-section which was noted.  2 hours and 15 minutes later I had the urge to push, like needing a poo from my vagina.  I had not read anything about it but my body knew want to do.  I asked my husband to go and get somebody to come and help, they ran in saying ‘no no no’ looked between my legs and the dr mouthed ‘F**k’.  I was fully diallated and rushed to a theatre, commenting ‘but I’m having a c-section’ ‘No you aren’t, we don’t push them back up to take them out’.  When I arrived there were 15 people waiting for me.  The anaesthetist were lovely.  I remember the nurse shouting at some of the team for chatting as I was in the middle of a contraction and they were trying to do a spinal block ‘can I have some quiet please for my lady’.  I must have gone in to shock as my body was violently shaking.  When it finally worked I just felt a wave of relief rush over me and I had to visualise pushing as I couldn’t feel anything.  Twin 1 was born fairly quickly as he was already in the birth canal, it took a further 26 minutes for twin 2 to make an appearance, forceps had to be used and he was rresuscitated  I don’t really remember this as I was off my face on whatever had been given to me for the pain.  I didn’t get to see either of them for another 12 hours as I’d lost a lot of blood and couldn’t walk.  I remember being impressed that the beds were heated only to be informed that this was the spinal block wearing off.  That woman who had kicked off at the reception was in the same area of the ward as me amongst the women who needed more support from the nurses.  She was shouting about needing foot massages….

When I eventually got to see my babies they were in different rooms, one with more beeps than the other but both in NICU.  Twin 1 laid back stretched out looking pleased to have more space where twin 2 was curled in a ball with a furrowed brow looking like he was not ready.  Twin one was just over 2kg and twin 2 was just under.  It was so sad to be on the maternity unit without my babies, I got to work on expressing milk, I did it with all my might, it took 2 hours to express 2mls of cholostrum 1ml per syringe.  I took it to NICU and was asked for 6mls every 3 hours.  I was devastated at the impossibility of this task.  I couldn’t take care of my babies and I couldn’t feed them.  Of course my body was able to meet the demands which was such a relief.

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The boys were discharged just under 2 weeks later.  They’ll be 3 next week and are hulking beasts.  I am so grateful I was able to have a vaginal delivery, I was running for the bus 5 days after they were born to get to the hospital, not something I’d have managed with a c-section.  I am still amazed at my body.

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If I was to have another baby and it was a singleton I would definitely opt for a home birth….. we’ll see….. 10% risk of twins again!”

Visitors

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A while back I was seeing one of my women on day 3 postnatal.  She had a forceps delivery after a long old labour and was feeling rather shattered. Feeding wasn’t going well; her baby was very irritable due to the delivery and he wasn’t latching on and her nipples were cracked and bleeding. And to top it all off her perineum was incredibly sore and could barely sit down, lie down, manoeuvre herself to the bathroom. You get it she was in a bad way. But one thing really struck me about the scene I was witnessing. The people in her home.

Her parents were there. Her Mum, trying to be helpful getting extra cushions to support her when trying to feed her screaming baby. Her father hiding in the kitchen not really wanting to hear his daughter discuss her sore bottom and bleeding. Her sister, sister’s husband and 2 young nieces hovering in the living room ‘just wanting one photo of the girls with their new cousin to send to Granny’. And her brother who had driven all the way from Newcastle but won’t stay long, just wants a little peek at his new nephew. All in all there were waaaaay too many people in her small terraced house. It got me thinking. Who is really benefiting from all these family members being there? The 3 day old irritable hungry baby certainly didn’t need those extra hands touching his sore little head. Her husband was feeling undermined by his wife’s slightly overbearing Mother making annoying comments like ‘What he needs is a good walk in his pram’. And what about the woman, the centre of all of this bravado! She was a hormonal mess unable to express how she really felt, not wanting to push people away so she let all her family members bombard her. *

So what is the right thing to do when hundreds of friends and family are desperate to come over and see you and your new baby? How can you manage the endless texts and phone calls?  Rachel from When The Baby Sleeps  shares her experiences and tips when visiting new parents.

Visiting new parents is a minefield, and if you’re not careful you can really mess it up. You can leave traumatised by a gory birth story, riddled with guilt because you took totally the wrong things or, worst of all, blissfully unaware of the havoc you have wreaked. Becoming a parent for me meant apologising to my friends-with-kids. Primarily because on that first visit to meet their firstborns I had no idea. I mean I didn’t rock up with wine breath or anything crazy like that.. but you know, I just didn’t quite know how to behave. But I do now. Here’s how:

Take food.
Take food.
Take food. Yes, it’s that important that it gets three mentions. Take a staple, take a luxury, take something that can be stuffed in your gob while your friend does three things at once. Don’t text asking what they need and expect an honest answer. Just turn up with some stuff. It will be cherished. Seriously, you remember the bread & milk gifts as clearly as the cool gifts for baby. I learned quite quickly that if you take food, essentially, you rock.
Don’t stay too long. Now one person’s too long is another person’s warm up, right? But when it comes to new parent visits, limit yourself to 45 minutes to one hour absolute maximum. Unless you’re throwing in a bit of cleaning/putting out the rubbish/taking the baby out type activity as a bonus (see next point), which earns you an extra 15 minutes. Energy is limited and there’s a hit-by-a-bus vibe in the air for a good couple of months so be mindful and vigilant. Even if you catch parents on a good afternoon it is highly likely they will wave you goodbye and then quite literally want to lie down on the floor with exhaustion. Most parents will generally be too polite to say ‘please fuck off I’ve started to hallucinate again.’ Pay heed.
Be Helpful. Depending on the closeness of the friendship ‘helpful’ can range from rinsing out your own tea cups to doing a full clean of the kitchen or putting out the rubbish. Make it your mission to do something and do your utmost to ensure it gets done and not rebuffed in a brilliant show of English awkwardness. Offer specific tasks and embrace them with aplomb and beaming. You may have to literally shoo your visitees back to their seats and kidnap the washing up until its ass is wiped, but it will be worth any awkwardness. Definitely offer to take the baby out for a walk if they’re passed the ‘DON’T LET THE BABY OUT OF MY SIGHT!’ phase. 
Listen, but not too hard. If you visit in the first month then you’ll probably hit the ‘birth story’ phase. There will be details extraneous, things you don’t understand and the couple will almost certainly disagree or argue over some aspect of what happened and in what order. We couldn’t agree on specifically which swears I’d invoked at one key moment (I swear it was ‘ow, ow, fucky fucky ow ow’ but apparently I wasn’t this coherent.) Nod, pay attention but do feel free to drift off a little if anyone mentions something a bit too gross, particularly if you’re planning on procreating yourself. A well placed ‘hmmm’, ‘ouch’, ‘oh wow’ should cover you. And remember, it’s all part of the fun. 
Don’t take flowers. Yes, flowers are lovely to look at, but remembering to tend to them and throw them away before they die isn’t easy. When you’re prostrate, low on energy and riddled with hormones then the changing of the flower water just doesn’t happen. Said flowers become rank quite quickly, and soon your living room resembles a flower mortuary. The flowers’ rapidly decaying visage becomes a direct representation of your utter failure as a mother and member of the human race and circa 3am they haunt and disturb you as you navigate your new life feeling as vulnerable and weak as the shadows they cast. Don’t put anyone through that, alright?
Don’t take alcohol. Again, booze is all fine and dandy but it’s just not on the agenda for new parents. That bottle of plonk, while a lovely way to celebrate what is essentially the happiest event in your life, will instead come to resemble either your past, carefree life of grog and gayness, or the future that you know lies ahead of you but just seems so far away. There will be a time in the not-so-distant future when you will wear clothes, go about your business at normal hours of the day and then sit down, like a grownup, and have an alcoholic drink, but in the early days such activities seem baffling and unlikely. So give it a rest would you?
Be careful what you talk about. I met a brilliant mum of twins who told a harrowing story about some guests who spent 10 minutes decrying the difficulty of tracking down a particular size of Brabantia bin liner and their epic quest to get hold of said bin liner on a particularly hectic Saturday morning shopping trip. Six years down the line she remembered this event in excruciating detail, so painful and galling had it been. Poor, brave soul. Another friend spits bile whenever she recounts how a colleague turned up with a ton of office ‘news’ when she was still on Day 7 confusion. Don’t rock up with a load of office gossip or woeful tale about sourcing Brabantia products and expect anyone to give a shit, is essentially my advice here. 
Don’t panic. You may be freaked out by the state of your friend, now he or she has crossed the divide and become one of them. Please don’t panic. Your friend will return, even if in a slightly different, stranger format. 

On that first visit you may see and hear strange things. You may catch glance of your first nipple shield, pumping device or god forbid a maternity pad. For this we can only apologise. Your friend may say things that are utterly unforgivable  totally batshit crazy and she or he may not even pretend to listen to a word you say. They may tell you to wash your hands every five minutes or even ‘shush’ you particularly harshly if you have a barking kind of laugh… all of these things are normal, I’m afraid. And they too shall pass.

And that, dear reader, is it. Easy. You can thank me later.

Trouble is that now I have to take a toddler with me when I go visit new parents and that’s a whole other minefield. All advice welcome before I make a total hash of it…

*This is a fictitious story of a senario and was used as an example to describe an event. No persons mentioned are real.*

Birth Story Of The Week – Judith and Simon

This birth story is really something special. I first met Judith during a meal back in 2005. She had prepared a Sunday roast dinner for her husband and 3 children and I was guest of honour. There was some element of pressure during this meal. I was on my best behaviour. Ensuring I used my cutlery correctly I tried to maintain my up most to impress her with my knowledge of the war in the Middle East whilst coming across as the sort of 20 year old young woman she may want to one day welcome into her family. The meal was a success, her cooking was delicious and I must have made an OK impression as I can now call her my Mother-in-law. She is an avid reader of my blog and very sweetly asked me if she could share her birth story when she had my husband 31 years ago this Friday! In honour of his birthday here is the story of how he made his entrance into the world. I like to think of this as a vintage birth story.

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Always the protective Mother

 

And the doting Granny

And the doting Granny

“I’d had a straightforward pregnancy – if you didn’t count the 16 weeks of non stop vomiting that is. You can really get fed up with mashed potato and fizzy water as sustenance, but otherwise, all was good. I’d been to a few NHS antenatal classes, after which all I could recall was the advice not to cross my ankles as they’d swell….

Right, bag’s packed, husband’s sandwiches are in the freezer – it’s September 18th 1982 – D day – so where’s the baby?

Being blissfully ignorant, we took as gospel the date we’d been given for our baby’s arrival. The day passed and I’d virtually given up hope of the baby arriving, and was sitting on the stairs watching my husband putting a new letterbox in our front door, when I became aware that I was sitting in a puddle – waters had broken!

No sign of contractions but after about half an hour, gentle waves started to break across my stomach and I became fascinated by looking like a beach ball being pumped up as each contraction hit. As per instructions from the hospital, we went in when the contractions were 5 minutes apart. As we drove into Cambridge, we were both nervous but excited. Blissful ignorance had kicked in again, but our rosy picture of peace and serenity was ruptured by a) the football sized crowd of other ‘parents in labour’, and b) the business-like ‘seen it all before’ attitude of the staff. Did they not know that we were having a baby??!!

We went into what looked and felt like a holding pen, where having been examined (3cm dilated), I refused to be shaved, but was badgered into having an enema – emerged feeling like c**p. Eventually, we were taken to the delivery room – to this day my husband and I think it was a stationery cupboard, not a delivery room (see photo), but hey ho…

The contractions were getting much stronger, and I was struggling to work with them. 2 cylinders of gas and air later, I was given pethidine and nodded off for an hour or so. Stuck on the bed with a monitor strapped round me, I felt like a beached whale, and very little was happening – except the baby was getting distressed – as was I as he had a foetal scalp monitor screwed into his head (or that’s what I imagined).

We’d arrived at the hospital at about 10pm, and it was now about 7am the following morning. Clive had been sitting with me, but we hadn’t brought any music (did anyone do that in those days?), no massage oils, no cushions, no anything really. A midwife had popped in from time to time to check on me – I didn’t have an assigned midwife, so it was whoever was passing, it seemed to me.

Another hour or so, and no further progress. I was in significant pain and started asking for an epidural (our birth plan had gone out of the window at the point I had pethidine). After a discussion between the midwives and the doctor who had turned up, it was agreed I should have an epidural and the anaesthetist arrived a few minutes later.

Blessed relief as the pain disappeared, but then the calm was broken by the doctor saying that the baby was passing meconium and needed to be born soon. Up to this point, we had been accompanied by a midwife, a trainee, and a doctor who called in from time to time. Suddenly the room filled up – and I do mean filled up. I counted 9 people in the room, some of whom looked as though they were on their way home from a party – a string of coloured beads round her neck in one case. I think they were hoping for something interesting (emergency C section?) to happen.

Clive moved to the head of the bed and gave me lots of encouragement, as at this point I felt I couldn’t go on any more. The anaesthetic was stopped (reduced? – can’t remember), and I was told to push after the next contraction. The baby wasn’t keen on emerging and I had an episiotomy – mention of forceps being made at this point! Eventually, after 14 hours of labour, and just about every chemical and medical intervention we could have had, Simon James arrived in the world at 10.10am on 19th September weighing 6lbs 13oz. The crowds melted away, and we were left to come to terms with our new world.

As I was stitched up, Clive and I sat with our new son, feeling shell shocked – the happiness would kick in later. All either of us wanted at that point was a cup of tea and a good sleep. When I was eventually wheeled to the ward, I was given Simon to hold, but for all the emotional attachment I felt at that moment, he could have been a bag of potatoes! Because of the epidural (?), he was very sleepy and didn’t really come round until much later in the day – when he did, he more than made up for it!

Final thoughts:  

Simon was the first baby I had had any involvement with – I’d looked after babies as a babysitter, but the youngest had been 4 months, so a newborn was really scary.

The antenatal classes I went to were pretty well useless in terms of giving me real practical advice – we went to NCT classes for number 2.

At this point, we were still in the era of mothers (patients) being told what to do, and ‘active’ birth was considered faddy.

I was in considerable discomfort after the birth and finding it difficult to breastfeed, but had no help from the ward staff, who just told me to keep trying. Two weeks later, I gave up breastfeeding and Simon went onto a bottle.

Would I consider my first experience of childbirth a ‘good’ experience – no. But on the positive side, by the time number 2 came along, I was more confident about what I wanted, and didn’t want, and it was altogether a better experience.

 photo (26)

So Did Kate Do It Her Way?

kate and will

Unless you’ve been living under a large rock for the last 24 hours or have no access to the media, Twitter, Facebook or any human contact, then you will know that Kate delivered a baby boy yesterday afternoon. My (invisible) midwife hat has been firmly on my head since the news broke that she was in early labour. I could not help speculating what has going on inside The Lindo wing and neither could my colleagues either. Heading over to Twitter this evening proved I wasn’t the only one with my spies out and here’s why.

The wonderful Rebecca Schiller aka The Hackney Doula has written a fantastic piece on her thoughts (and mine) on what we hope and believe Kate achieved to birth her baby boy.

rebecca

‘I’ll admit this is entirely speculation. I have no idea what has been going on inside the Lindo Wing for the last 36 hours and it’s good that I don’t know. Very few people, with the exception of Romola Garai , want the world’s media to have knowledge of the state of their post-partum perineum.

However on careful viewing of the footage of Kate emerging 27 odd hours after birth, I’m putting myself on the record saying that I think she had a spontaneous vaginal birth without instruments and without an epidural. Why? Well, as @midwifeyhooper, @beverleyturner and I have been saying on twitter she is walking and carrying her baby with ease. There’s no hesitation or grimacing when going down steps or into the car; all of which would be pretty impossible so quickly after a caesarean.

The baby has no tell-tale lumps from a ventouse cup or forceps marks on his face. Kate herself has no bruises on the back of her hands or wrists suggesting no epidural or synthetic hormones.

head and hand

Of course, anything is possible, but her apparent lack of discomfort, her energy and her short stay in hospital and seemingly quite speedy timeline all point to a straightforward birth.

In many ways I feel guilty for speculating, for grubbily pouring over the photos searching for evidence. She’s just a woman adjusting to one of the most momentous changes in her life and I’m sure she doesn’t need us all wondering about ‘mode of delivery’ (hateful phrase). It’s her business and as long as she feels happy, well-supported and that it was a good and safe experience who cares if she had an elective caesarean or a water birth?

Yet, I can’t help feeling it does matter. If Kate was really keen to have a natural, vaginal birth and had really spent time practising antenatal yoga, Natal Hypnotherapy and the like I feel delighted for her that she had the birth she wanted and prepared for. In many ways the odds were stacked against her. Like over 90% of UK women she gave birth in a consultant-led unit (in her case with two dedicated consultants) when the evidence clearly shows that midwife-led care is the most appropriate, safest and cost-effective for low-risk women. She also gave birth at a private hospital with, reportedly, a 100% epidural rate, a high caesarean rate and no birth pool. (Though I wonder if an inflatable pool is being deflated as I type).

Sadly many UK women aren’t so lucky. Shunted in to consultant-led care through lack of available options they have a 45% chance of having an operative birth. Shocking when you think that the birth centre down the road would have dropped that chance by nearly 30%, while costing the NHS less and giving identical outcomes for the baby.

While medical intervention is life-saving, much-needed and also for some a positive choice there are too many women wanting to have Kate’s birth who end up feeling that the decisions have been snatched out of their hands.

So, perhaps I’m justifying my tabloid curiosity as I guiltily examine the backs of Kate’s hands, but the fact that the most high-profile birth of our time seems to have been a natural one, in a sea of rising interventions and rising dissatisfaction amongst women, seems important.

The headline “Woman has birth experience that she wanted and planned for” wouldn’t probably go down too well at The Sun’s news desk, but sadly it is becoming almost deserving of the front page.’

Follow Rebecca here @HackneyDoula

7 days in Sunny April…..

Last week I returned back to work having had a week off. Ahhh a week off, time spent with my kids, getting through those pesky jobs which linger in the corners of my home, an essential mani/pedi and the joys of no on calls!  Having a week off means you essentially have a weeks worth of births to catch up on, emails and lots of texts from women who often want to change appointments due to work commitments.

heavs Saturday: I discharged my super star woman who had a beautiful home birth on the day of the Grand National, despite being adamant throughout her pregnancy that she would be in hospital with all the drugs available for her. Fortunately for her, her labour was quick and perfect in every way and her little baby girl was born on the living room floor 3 minutes after the race ended. (more on that in next weeks post). I then received not one but TWO presents, totally spoilt but totally amazing!  

photo (3)Sunday: I was on labour ward on a beautiful warm Spring day with an induction. The woman and her partner were fab and we kept each other going  with the Times crossword, Haribo Starmix and talked baby names. It was so hot on labour ward I rocked out the no socks and Converse look, luckily I had remembered to shave my legs!

photo (4)Monday: I immersed my watch in a birthing pool last month, it steamed up and eventually died so decided to treat myself this snazzy Swatch watch, added bonus that its waterproof!  Time is of the essence when you’re a midwife, I just wish I had more of it to share about.

photo (5)Tuesday: Hello sunshine, hello happy midwife! Nothing quite like a bit of great weather to get you smiling when you wake up! Had a busy day of weighing and checking a new born, helping a couple prepare for the birth of their first baby with their birth plan and booking my newly pregnant women due in November. November feels like so far away on a warm Spring day. Lunch was eaten outside on the garden of the GP surgery where I’m based, alfresco style.

photo (6)Wednesday: I was on call and back on labour ward with a woman having a long old labour, poor girl was knackered and despite all the our best efforts she was just too tired to push her baby out. I had to get the doctors in to give her a hand and she ended up having a forceps delivery. I felt knackered by 2am so god knows how she felt. I say boo to forceps but she and her baby boy were both doing really well by the morning. Congratulations!

photo (7)Thursday: The beautiful sunshine continued to warm my skin and having caught up on some sleep, I oiled and tweaked (read my husband) my battered old bike and rode off to do my visits. I use to have a really nice bike but it got nicked so when I finally replaced it I decided the more rusty and old looking the less likely it would be nicked again, so far so good! The perfect day was blessed with a perfect home water birth, and as I rode off home to see my girls I thought ‘I have the best job in the world’.

photo (8)Friday: Day off! Which is such a blessing, caught up with a friend whilst our little ones threw themselves about at the soft play and had an evening out with my husband and friends in a great  local pub. My mind was totally switched off from work until I walked home and spotted the full moon. A full moon to midwives means only one thing, lots of births! I had a peak at my emails when I got home and lets just say the moon is often right!

photo (9)Saturday: I spent the day with my wonderful little family at the South Bank, eating yummy noodles, watching the boats pass by and getting soaked in a freak shower. Oh and I couldn’t help but check my emails again, 2 more births, that pesky full moon kept my colleagues busy!

I hope you all enjoyed the beautiful weather, what did everyone else get up to?