Birth Story Of The Week – Katie and William

photo 2 (8)

As my youngest son turned 1 at the weekend, I remembered that high on endorphins and sleep deprivation, I promised Clemmie my birth story.  A whole year ago.  So, as I wait for this mythical ‘it gets easier when the  youngest is one’ thing to take hold, I thought I should probably get round to it now.  Here goes….

My delivery with my eldest son almost 3 years prior to William’s arrival had been a long and protracted affair.  Ineffective pessary, waters broken, then sent away for the ritualistic march up and down the stairs.  12 hours later, no action, so a lovely epidural and swift twist of the forceps and there he was.  Not traumatic or awful, but pretty exhausting and far from what you hope for, once you’ve gotten all of that ‘I just want a healthy baby’ business out of the way.

I was determined that it wouldn’t be that way for my second.  This would be a relaxed home birth.  I borrowed a pool, collected more old towels and bedding than I knew what to do with, and readied an army of babysitters to look after Albert.  Except William had other plans.  Due date came and went, no sign.  Daily sweeps told me that I was 3cm dilated with a ‘favourable’ cervix,  but it seemed that no amount of bouncing on a ball, long walks or vacuuming the stairs was going to move him along.  I was due to be booked in for an induction on 4th Feb, but decided, after a good chat with my midwives to leave him for a few more days to see if he fancied vacating of his own accord.  Still nothing, and with that, the chances of my homebirth disappeared.  I trudged into Kings on 7th Feb, only to be told that yes, I was still 3-4cm dilated, yes, my waters should just be broken so that we can get on with it, but sadly, they were extremely busy and had no staff or space.  I obviously reacted in the way that any massively overdue, hormonal woman  would do and cried, huffed and puffed at my husband, and then settled down to watch Homes under the Hammer on the ipad.

I hadn’t, however, banked on the appearance of my midwife at 10.30pm on a Friday night.  She breezed in to the ward, rolled up her sleeves, and very kindly instructed me that we were ‘going to meet this baby.  Tonight.’ I’m a big fan of the gung-ho approach, so completely went with it.  She found a delivery suite, settled us in, and promptly broke my waters.  She found a mat and a blanket for my husband and instructed him to have a nap because he ‘wasn’t going to be much use yet’ and left me to get on with it.  Brilliant.

The room was lovely and calm, and the lighting was pleasant – not hospital like at all.  There was a docking station, so I bravely left my iPod on shuffle and out of reach.  The fear that the next song could be Wham kept me going to be honest….  My contractions started pretty immediately after my waters went and became regular quickly.  I was on my feet and moving around the room, stopping to lean on furniture and hum when the contractions came.  After around 90 minutes, and still on my feet, the contractions were getting much stronger, and had moved downwards into my lower back.  Humming had turned more into growling and I wasn’t so much leaning on the furniture as clinging to it at this point.  My midwife asked how I was doing, and the words that came out of her mouth surprised me as much as her – ‘I think I need to push’.  ‘Hmm, you’d better take your pants off then’ came the reply.  By this time I was scorching hot, so thought it a good opportunity to strip off every last stitch.  Amazing what those hormones do to you.  My husband made himself useful with cool flannels and encouraging words, and I was examined – I was 8.5 centimetres, but still had work to do before I could push.  To be honest I thought I was heading for a repeat of my last labour and was starting to feel disheartened – I didn’t want a ‘medical’ delivery this time, and had felt like it was all going well up to now.

My midwife advised me to try lying on my side on a mat on the floor.  I was dubious at first – grasvity didn’t seem to be on my side here, but that shows what I know.  Contractions started coming along thick and fast, and I had some gas and air to take the edge off.  I’m not entirely sure that the gas had much effect, but the mouthpiece and regularity of using it was a useful distraction from pain and focusing on breathing.  What felt like two minutes later (but was actually about 40) the urge to push returned.  This time I got the green light to push and a delighted voice from the other end told me ‘I can see the head!’  This is where Vanessa really came into her own (as if she hadn’t already!) – we had already ascertained that he was a big baby, so hurrying this part could have been disastrous.  I followed her every instructions about pushing, stopping, puffing – to be honest, if she’d told me to stand up and do the Macarena I would have – and a few minutes later Williams head emerged.    A couple more pushed and the rest of him followed, all 9lbs 5oz of him, with not a single tear, graze or stitch.  There was a calm sense of amazement in the room afterwards – I was staggered that my body had done what it needed to so efficiently after a slow start, and we were all a bit dazzled by this enormous (and beautiful!) baby.

photo 1 (7)

I was the last person who was ever going to describe childbirth as ‘amazing’ or ‘relaxed’ or even ‘calm’.  However, my delivery with William was all of those things.  Although I was in a busy hospital, it felt like there was only me, my husband and Vanessa in the world, and then William too!  It was calm, I was calm, and William’s welcome into the world was calm and overwhelmingly happy.  The whole process took 3 hours from start to finish, and I was home and introducing William to his big brother 2 hours later.  If you find yourself having an induction or hospital delivery that you didn’t hope for, don’t despair!

Suzanne and Thea

SH&RH pregnant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thea 1st pic Thea feet

Birth Story Of The Week – Becca and Wilfred

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

website: doctoranddaughter.co.uk

twitter: @dranddaughter

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

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

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

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

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

daughter doctor 2

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

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

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

daughter doctor 3

The Unscratchable itch (part 2)

Pre induction CTG

We arrived on labour ward at around 9:30 to find a very busy labour ward; it was one of those shifts, the board was full and red.  No room at the inn for me!  I had pre-arranged for Lesley (a fellow midwife) to perform my sweep and give me the Propess (well if you’re going to have a sweep you might as well have one of Lesley’s sweeps!) so I called her and said we were waiting for a bed.

Luckily a bed was found for me in the induction bay and Lesley arrived grinning at me with an entonox mouth piece ‘You’ll need some of this’.  I don’t know who was more horrified me or my husband.  And she was right I did need some entonox!  After a lot of giggles the Propess was firmly inserted and the pain kicked in pretty much straight away.  So much so I didn’t even make it passed the doors to the reception area (we had planned to go for a walk and get some lunch).  My husband put my TENS machine on and I spent the next few hours bouncing on a birthing ball, texting family to keep them up to date and a lot of ‘I can’t do this’.  The thing with Propess is the pain never goes away, there is a horrible constant aching pain in your groin that no amount of walking, squatting, hot compresses can help.  I was getting pretty desperate, and it was only the beginning.

By 2pm it had all got too much and I begged the midwife in charge to find me a free room, it’s really hard being in early labour in the induction bay, no space to move around or privacy.  Room 10 was free and I did the walk I’d seen so many other women doing in labour from the induction bay, TENS machine in one hand and my pillow in the other (I’m pretty sure I was bare foot I didn’t care about anything at that point).  I really wanted to use the birthing pool but as I was being induced for OC I knew that once I was in established labour, I should have continuous monitoring.  I started the entonox again, but I wasn’t laughing anymore and my husband called my original home birth midwife Kate, to see if she could come in and look after me.  Thankfully she was free and arrived to find me in tears, taking off my make-up and begging for an epidural.  After a lot of reassurance she decided to examine me so I knew how I was progressing.  But unfortunately I was only 2cm dilated.

Propess is kicking in

Gas and Air is my best friend

So I continued to mobilise for a few more hours desperate for some form of change and progress.  At 6pm I was re examined and was found to be 5cm dilated and my Propess was finally taken out and my waters were broken (an ARM), which were clear!  Within 2 minutes the contractions felt completely different, like really strong but manageable waves.  We agreed that if I have a 20 minute trace on the CTG and it was reassuring I could use the pool.  Horary!  At last the one thing I had been focussing on was ready and I got into the warm water feeling completely relaxed.  It felt amaaazing.  Like the best bath you have ever go into post Glastonbury festival (but less mud) or after the longest day at work.

After an hour of really strong contractions and A LOT of gas and air I began to really lose control and begged for an epidural again!  In hind sight I was probably in transition but my midwife left the room to talk to Zoe (a good friend and fellow midwife) who was on shift to see if she could put me off and encourage me to keep going a bit longer.  But for some reason (and only my body knows why) at that moment when my midwife left the room, I suddenly had a huge contraction and felt the baby’s head beginning to crown and screamed at my poor husband ‘it’s coming!’ so he did what he thought was best, he pulled the emergency bell.  My calm, quiet birth suddenly turned into a bit of a drama and lots of people came running in only to see my beautiful baby girl being born in the pool at 20:35.  I decided to have a physiological 3rd stage, and delivered the placenta myself in the poll, 15 minutes later.  Total blood loss 150 mls, and a tiny graze.

Hello new person

  And we were all home 3 hours later having tea and peanut butter on toast in bed.

The sisters meet at last