Birth Story of the Week – Helen and Soren

This is Helen’s second appearance on the blog she also wrote her first birth story which is featured in my book ‘How To Grow A Baby And Push It Out’. Helen writes and publishes the magazine Lionheart, lives with her partner and 2 children in Bristol.

photo-on-28-05-2016-at-17-35img_2253

I’m sitting here now with baby Soren right next to me, my rounded tummy still making for a good laptop perch, a yearning for chocolate digestives and a cup of Yorkshire tea. I’ll get up soon. I’m drinking in the various newborn faces and positions; milk drunk, yoga baby, pout squash cheeks, waving when asleep and dreaming arms.

There’s so much that’s the same as with my daughter, but he’s very much his own person with his own manner, energy and blossoming self. He frowns when he feeds, is utterly obsessed with the trees and the birds and is mesmerised by what’s happening around him – watching, learning. It’s amazing to see the difference in our home since he has arrived. Quite subtle I thought, but now I realise not at all. He has bought with him something that feels very centred, grounding and calming. A big wallop of spirit, that has floored me like his sister did before him. A boy of the earth and sweet like the kindness found in a homemade cherry pie (hungry), freshly delivered to tired newborn parents. He’s of that ilk – good folk.

This birth story was one that was highly anticipated. Giving birth once before did not make me feel more relaxed. The unknown had been a benefit to me in summer 2013. Lolling about in the park by my house with ice lollies, I said I didn’t have a plan, but of course, I did. And more importantly, so did my daughter. I very quickly realised that my labour and birth experience was more about remaining zen and the care of health professionals, who are all amazing, than having the right scented candles. Anyway, after having a tiny bit of a dramatic time, I found myself pacing the birth centre waiting room five days overdue with my second baby, palms clammy, feeling hot like a kettle left on a stove too long, whistling. And about to bubble over.

Having had a bit of a miserable first trimester, where I felt that I had no control and I couldn’t rationalise, or go without a packet of salt and vinegar crisps, I had a more jolly second and third trimester filled with yoga and contentedness. However, as the thought of induction put on its white jacket, I clammed up. And clamming up is probably not a good idea for birth, right? I felt reduced movements at 40+5. Nothing to worry about, nothing to worry about. “Go to the hospital,” said the midwife. Waiting for hours, enormous chocolate bar, hooked up and soon the baby was galloping about in there. That tug and pull of a baby having a party inside of you, so utterly not bizarre. But wild all the same.

The midwife had us in the following day and we had a scan that showed (the baby!!!) the baby’s stomach was a very tiny amount not as big as it perhaps should be. My partner questioned the graphs, the curve of the line, but this was no spreadsheet – this was our kid. I had a little anxiety creep up through me as I lay with jelly on my tummy, right from the tips of my toes, to the top of my head. Gahhhh. My heart beat hard, I could see it pounding under my top. The baby was snoozing. The news was induction. I had a wave of relief. The end was in sight.

Then that evening, in a complete turnaround filled with some unknown source of energy, I had an enormous surge of motivation and determination. NO! I wanted to try everything I could to flow (?) this baby right out. Stop clamming up, open up, think positive and calm thoughts, do some yoga, focus, eat some more chocolate. C’mon baby! I was like a wilde woman that night. And it felt great. I was given about 18 hours by the midwife that evening and I was going to do this. I WAS!

I have no idea if what I did caused the baby to start their great descent, or it was just time, OR the moon, but in the morning at around 9am, I had twinges. Then a show, then more twinges and more show. I called the induction ward who said they didn’t have any room for me anyway and were very happy for me that I was on the way to baby land. They were less happy about the show, which I thought may have some meconium in. So at 11am, we trotted off to the hospital. The twinges were much stronger, but nothing too crazy. I was dropped off at the hospital, while our daughter was delivered to friends. My partner found some parking he deemed acceptable, purchased a hefty amount of snacks and at length… he arrived.

By then my contractions were pretty regular and getting more intense. I was on the checking ward with the same midwife as I’d had the previous couple of days. Determined to create a spa (ahem) like zone for labour, I filled the curtained space with a large and very soft, deep blue blanket, excessively spritzed the air with Lush Breath of Fresh Air spray, breathed into a muslin with Bohobo aromatherapy oils soaked in (including clary sage) and opened a large bag – or two – of Maltesers. As I sat on the bed, the tightenings pushing harder and harder, I was in a mini trance. I was going places, ya know? Deeeep careeeervous plaaaaces. I was. I WAS. Please. However, I was still not quite moving anywhere fast enough according to the hospital, who told me I had until 2pm before I would have to really think about the drip.

“Can we go for a walk? To the hospital Costa?” I said.

“To Costa… well, OK. But you must NOT spend too long over there. Second babies do come quickly, you know. Hmmm. OK. Go now, then.”

Loved her.

My mantra, my mantra, my mantra: “I’m not having the drip, I’m not having the drip, I’m not having the drip.” Repeated continuously, all around the car park, in the Costa queue, looking at even more sandwiches for Charlie, chicken, chicken, not chicken, up the little hill. round the roundabout, in the little garden. I knew something was happening, it definitely was, but I wasn’t sure if this was it. Was it enough? Everything felt different to my daughter’s labour. The contractions were like surges, the pain more of a pull, the pressure felt like it was in a different place. Strange!

2pm. “Come on then! Ooh, I love that spray. What was that again? Lush, ooh I’ll have to get some.” We were on our way to the delivery suite. Noted to myself to get the midwife some spray. Loved her and how she got us a salad lunch when we’d been waiting ages the other day, and how she let us go to Costa and how she is excited for us, and – ahhhh, there it was again. Kind midwife: “Are you scared? Don’t be. It’s OK.” I wasn’t scared, but it was a really big contraction that stopped me. Head in the big blue blanket. OOOPH. We walked on and met our new midwife, while lovely midwife told us that her shift finished at 8pm, so hopefully she will get to meet our baby.

Our baby.

Lots of discussion over the drip. Pacing, wondering, powering, singing, humming. I asked the midwife to examine me, as I felt like I needed to know if I was moving at all. She is surprised and in a good way. YES! I was at 6cm. MASSIVE jubilation! But not too much. Breathe, breathe, breathe. She said they wouldn’t put me on the drip now anyway, as I was really contracting. Things were moving and though pretty catchy, my million repetitions of “not having the drip” were able to be replaced with something else now. Hooray!

The midwife left us to it and I took out YesMum Hollie De Cruz’s relaxation MP3. I had listened to this quite a few times in the last couple of months and it helped me to focus. I went into myself. I can still smell the clay sage and I think I heard: “Hello, my name is Hollie de Cruz,” about ten times. I kept hearing it again and again. My mind and body doing something together. I saw Charlie sitting on a chair, faffing around, eating a sandwich, reading the news. Eating another sandwich. Spinning, spinning, focus, focus – I was in this one place and it was cushioned and cosy and powerful. A central, nourishing and vibrant home, a heart beating and echoing out, my head in a pillow, my body some kind of buttttttttterflyyyyyyy.

“Toilet!” I went to the toilet aided by Charlie and then everything stepped up. It sped up, quicker and quicker. “Hello, my name is Hollie de Cruz,” breathe the air, iiiin and out. Gas. Gas. Gas. On all fours. Breathe. “The baby’s coming!” It was coming. How long had it been? A moment, a breath, the clock. An hour. An hour! An hour?

“Ahh, lovely,” she said. “I’ll get what we need, one minute!’

No time for minutes, or seconds, or “PRESS THE ALARRRRM!” I could feel the pressure really strongly, this baby was coming now, now, now! Suddenly she was there and with someone else and the pressure was so immense. I could feel the baby move down in a really big motion. And it was amazing – so low, so low, so lowwwww.

On the bed. I was. Gas. No more Hollie. Just me and – I remember shouting, “Make it stop!” Then some howls, the intensity of the WHOLE SITUATION.

A BABY WAS COMING OUT OF ME!

No more gas. Stop.

Breathe

My baby was coming.

I was instructed to push with all my might. I did this and then again, and again. Then I was asked to stop when I was told: “Keep going, keep going, keep going and stop, pause,” the midwife said slowly. The pause, the moment, the moment when birth and life become so intertwined, it’s at once incredible and humbling and for me, a point of utter clarity. Maybe that’s what it was, but. For that moment the room became bright white, clear and still. Time stopped and there was nothing but the brightest white, soft light and total and complete peace.

Then in an instant, one massive push and before I could even take a second breath he was on my chest screaming, red, plump and beautiful. I couldn’t believe it. So fast, so startling, so gentle, such an avalanche, a flurry of emotions, a numbness, a shock. I stared at him, I looked into his eyes, he fed, he screamed, he slept.

I think I had expected him to be exactly like my daughter. She was all I had known afterall, but of course he was him. Calm and wanted to be close, to be able to look into the eyes of another, to hear my voice. That night on the ward, I stared at him, picked him up, popped him down, fell in and out of sleep, watched him, fed him, fretted over his lack of needing to feed, changed him, cuddled him. Then just stopped. I lay with him beside me and slowly the feeling I had expected to immediately arrive as it had with Alba, trickled and then flooded over me. It breathed life into my weary body and doubled my heart. A bag of Maltesers lay melting underneath me.

He came on a full moon in spring and his smile is a balm, a pure joy. Soren is a rocketful of energy, calm and love and we are honoured to have him in our family.

Birth Story Of The Week – Alice and Etta

IMG_2854

I have absolutely loved telling my birth story to just about anyone and everyone who would listen but have never actually put it down on paper (or screen) before. Greg and I weren’t exactly ‘trying’ for a baby, I had been told that for a variety of reasons I would find it difficult to conceive and although we were only recently engaged, we thought we might just stop not trying to have a baby and see what happened.

We were living in Singapore at the time and had possibly the best doctor I have ever met, I had one ‘chemical pregnancy’ (I lost the baby before the first full month) and, despite us thinking we were set to have a few low moments to come, the next month Etta arrived.

The first 3 months were hell, Singapore is a very hot and humid country and that coupled with smells of street food that I used to adore made for one very very unwell lady. Because of my history, I spent the first 3 months petrified, in tears and only able to keep chocolate Magnums down. Luckily everything after that went swimmingly (if you call moving country at 34 weeks swimmingly – but that’s another story).

At 11:30am on the 9th I went to Tooting medical centre for a midwife check up (I was due on the 10th) and was told that Etta’s head, which was previously engaged, was completely free and that it was unlikely she would be making an appearance any time soon. I was going to say that I was a little disappointed but that would be the understatement of the century – I was hot, I was swollen, I had leg pains, back pains, and reflux and I was so ready to meet my little girl. I stomped all the way home to Wimbledon hoping to encourage her down with the walk.

That evening at 5:00pm my contractions started – at the time I was in the park talking to a fellow dog walker. I suddenly said ‘I have to go my baby is coming’ and ran off, he probably thought I was crazy. Luckily Greg had just got off the train, so we both started up our ‘count my contraction’ apps and tracked my progress.

At 10:00pm I was pretty sure labour had started (I thought I was in pain) and I wanted to get checked to make sure things were progressing well. Unfortunately the midwife had to tell me that my cervix hadn’t even opened or softened enough for her to do a sweep and technically I still wasn’t in labour. I was told to head home and expect a long night.

IMG_2853

I called my mum and dad and told them what was going on, at which point my mum insisted that ‘her baby needed her’ and came to ours to ‘help’ us watch TV, chat, try to eat and pass the time.

At 1:00am the pain changed, this was the type of pain that meant I couldn’t chat and 8 Out of 10 Cats does Count Down was really really starting to piss me off. At 2:00am we headed back to St. George’s. I was examined again and told that I was now 2cm dilated – things were only just starting. I was shocked, how could I be in that much pain if nothing was really happening?? I begged the midwife for drugs – at this stage I think I should mention that I had planned a beautiful serine all natural water birth, but that had 100% gone out the window –she told me that if I had the drugs I would have to stay but Greg would have to go home.

We went home had some painkillers (which killed no pain) and tried desperately to sleep in between the contractions (every 2-3 minutes).

At 4:00am the pain changed again. Now I knew I was in pain, I was in serious serious pain.

My mum drove us into the hospital and all three of us headed up to the labour ward (me desperately praying I was more than 2cms dilated). This is where I got quite (ok, very very) ugly – there were 3 other couples in the waiting room and we ended up waiting an hour and 40 minutes to be seen, for this hour and 40 minutes I was rude, I was angry, I swore, I stamped my feet, I cried, I actually dug my nails so deeply into Greg I drew blood and I decided (adamantly) that despite everything I had said and everything I had hoped for for our birth, I was taking all the drugs they could possibly pump into me.

After an hour and 40 minutes I felt something and thought my waters had broken, I went to the toilet and there was blood – quite a lot of blood. The midwives decided to examine me and we were told that I was just 4cms dilated. I was heaving on the gas and air in between screaming at Greg, my mum, and anyone else that would listen for an epidural.

All of a sudden I had this extreme urge to push I told my midwives and they looked at me very skeptically. I insisted and they checked again and were amazed to find that I had gone from 4-10cms in just under 1 hour. I started pushing at 7:30 and at 8:26 Etta was born happy and healthy and plonked on my chest for a rub down and a cuddle.

IMG_2855

Despite giving up on it completely, I had had the natural birth I had hoped for and Etta and I were discharged a record-breaking 5 hours after arrival (which I was very happy with until we got home and realised that we were all totally on our own to figure things out). We did work (most) things out and having Etta was the most indescribably happy moment of my entire life, one year on, I still relive that moment every morning I walk into her bedroom.

IMG_2852

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

Birth Story Of The Week – Jo and Alfred

FullSizeRender

I was 23 when I found out I was pregnant, 24 when I had him, and though my boyfriend (now husband) and I had talked about it and both wanted a baby I always felt that I was viewed as too young, one midwife even called me a baby, and so I avoided ante-natal classes until quite late on. At 8 months pregnant having not thought about a birth plan I went to a couple of yoga and hypnobirth classes.

I loved them but once it came to B-Day everything I had learnt went out the window. I was terrified, totally unsure what actual labour was and found it all overwhelming.

At 3am on 26th March after an evening of mild but regular cramping I went to the loo and found I was bleeding. In hind sight it wasn’t much at all but I panicked and made my boyfriend call the hospital and tell them we were coming. I was unsurprisingly sent home. Then at 9am whilst in the shower I felt my waters go. It wasn’t very much at all and my contractions were still nothing to write home about but again we went in. By the time we got there I was in more pain but was only 2cm dilated and sent to walk around a bit. At this point I growled (husband says it was more of a moo) to take me home as I didn’t want anyone to see me. I now think that this is the point that my maternal instinct had kicked in and I knew I needed to be alone with my contractions. We stayed at home, in the bath until my contractions were almost on top of each other. At home was the calmest and most in control I felt in my whole labour. We left for the hospital and I barely remember the drive there. When we arrived at 2pm I was only 4 cm and gutted. It turned out baby was back to back and when I heard this, having never heard it before I was totally freaked out and immediately doubted my ability. I had gas and air for a bit whilst begging for an epidural between breaths. My husband gently reminded me that I desperately didn’t want an epidural but I ignored him and past me. To this day it is still a regret.

Despite the fact that the epidural allowed me to rest and calm down I spent the rest of the labour feeling nothing. Nothing at all. I pushed numb and painlessly, feeling totally useless and just listening to the midwives’ (who were all lovely) instructions. When they told me he was crowning I didn’t know what to think. I wasn’t ready for him. It wasn’t the experience I had wanted and it felt like a total blur.

When he arrived at 11.36pm on 26th March I felt a bizarre mixture of sheer joy and total confusion. Who did this? Where did he come from?!

We stayed at hospital for another 12 hours which I hated. All I wanted to do was go home and be with my family. I hated my husband having to leave, nobody checked to see if he latched on properly once I was on the ward (lucky he was a star but I didn’t know that till my home visit!) I even got up to go to the loo and blood and waters went everywhere, something I had no idea would happen. Again it all felt totally alien and scary and I just wanted to go home and be with my husband.

I know so many labours can be a lot worse than mine physically and I feel so lucky we were both well and healthy but I felt and still feel so emotionally disconnected from it. Sometimes I wonder (despite the back to back thing) if I had just stayed at home would I have felt more empowered? More in control in my body?

Despite my husbands concerns I am looking very seriously into a hypnobirth home birth as an option this time. I want more than anything to be in control and comfortable with my surroundings. I also don’t want to be scared like last time.

p.s

I just read my email back and wanted to add that despite sounding positively NOT positive, for me it was positive in the sense that it made me realise how important it is to understand how your body works and to really trust your instincts. I think if I had done that it would have been very different for me and I wouldn’t have been so scared and disconnected.

Also, look at the little 9lb 6oz star I got to take home with me! Worth all the pain and more!

image (21)

Follow Jo on Instagram @joannakays and over at her blog mamajolene.wordpress.com

Homebirth – a Dad’s perspective

JR1184-33B

‘We should, though, get accustomed to homebirth being ever more the norm. To go forward, we should go back to my Grandmother’s world.’

The past is, famously, a foreign country, where they do things differently. When I learned, as a child, that my grandmother was born at home, this felt decidedly the practice of another country. It seemed something that used to feature but, like spam meat, ration books or outside toilets, had so long ceased to that it was the preserve of aliens, never mind foreigners.

When we were expecting our first child, Stanley, in 2011, a work colleague told me that his wife had had a homebirth. This seemed to me alien speak, as my views on homebirth had lain mentally dormant, un-scrutinised since my youth. My co-worker even insisted that homebirth was much superior to hospital birth. This was so otherworldly that I couldn’t compute. I could only explain it in terms of the eccentricities, invariably much in evidence, of the guy who was speaking to me. Crazy man, crazy talk, I concluded.

I thought no more of homebirth till my wife, Monica, suggested it for our second child, Brenna, born on 2 January this year. Monica is not someone whose views I can dismiss as quickly as the person I worked with. And she rapidly won me over. Others that we spoke to during Monica’s pregnancy were, however, befuddled.

“You are,” they’d stammer, “having the baby at home?” “Well, that’s the plan. But the midwife will take you into hospital if there is any need. Planning for a homebirth doesn’t mean you’ll definitely have one. It just gives you the option and you can always revert to the hospital, if that is necessary or what you come to prefer.”

Regurgitating these points, picked up from a ‘meet the midwifes’ session, often brought a close to this conversational line. Presumably, those who moved the conversation on were content to see homebirth as a vehicle for maximising your options. To those who showed more interest, I’d explain how it might help, particularly with the first stage of labour, where being as relaxed as possible assists. The hospital being an unfamiliar environment not tending toward relaxation, while the home, in contrast, is wholly familiar and thus, more relaxing.

This generally persuaded even the most doubtful. One chap, though, insisted that we have the birthing pool on the ground floor, otherwise we risked a ceiling collapsing. This had been heartily dismissed as a possibility at the ‘meet the midwifes’ event, so, I replied, “has that ever really happened?” “Oh, yes,” he maintained, ensuring I had a tiny twinge of concern for our ceiling when I inflated the birthing pool in our first floor bathroom. But, as I did so, fully two weeks before Brenna was born, I pushed aside this misgiving, reassuring myself that the midwifes must know what they are talking about.

‘Be prepared’ is the Scouts motto and, we thought, we were acting in that spirit by getting the pool inflated, and keeping it so, at an early stage. At this time, action stations always appeared on the horizon. I’d go to sleep thinking, “this is the night that our daughter will arrive”. Then wake up the next morning to find that she hadn’t. The action stations were so regularly mirages that I stopped believing in them. There was a part of me that believed Monica would always be pregnant and the birthing pool would forever dominate the bathroom, without ever being used.

A few year days before Brenna’s birth, rather tactlessly when speaking to a German friend, I compared our wait with the Blitz, in the sense that initially it felt like it must end soon. But our wait went on a few weeks, as the Blitz went on for years, after a while, it just seemed normal that Monica was on the verge of giving birth, as grim acceptance marked London’s fortitude in the face of the Blitz. There are no conditions to which a person cannot grow accustomed, as Tolstoy said.

He had, of course, never given birth. That appears to me not a condition to which we accustom. No matter how excellent our midwives are, or how relaxing our homes, it can only be endured. Brenna arrived at 4.45pm, little over an hour after the midwives did. Thankfully, my colleague was right: homebirth was a quicker and smoother experience than Monica experienced with Stanley. But still not, pace Tolstoy, an experience she could be said to have become accustomed to.

We should, though, get accustomed to homebirth being ever more the norm. To go forward, we should go back to my Grandmother’s world. As challenging as birth inevitably is, Brenna’s homebirth was preferable to Stanley’s hospital birth, incurring less cost for the taxpayer, as no hospital bed or treatments needed to be paid for. Homebirth can help families meet the challenge of birth and the NHS the cost of remaining affordable in an ageing society.

follow Jonathan on twitter @Jonathan_Todd

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

Birth Story Of The Week – Bethie and Peter

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

Blog: A Tree Grows In London

Instagram: bethielethie

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

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

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

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

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

Birth Story Of The Week – Helen and Alba

This weeks birth story comes from Helen founder of Lionheart magazine and new Mama to Alba born in September.

image (6)

“It started with a gentle jolt at 5am. It was the tightening combined with twinges that I had been waiting 13 days for. 13 days is a long time when you know something life changing is going to happen, maybe-possibly-imminently. Of course like many expectant mothers, I didn’t know exactly how the process would go, but I was ready. I’d done the classes, eaten the cake, said goodbye to the colleagues and stretched like a pregnant yoga cat. Gosh, you and everyone you know are so darn excited for you when you hit that golden due date. So ready, ready, ready to meet this little baby. A day is fine, so is a week, but the golden due days start to shine less when 13 of them pass and nothing happens. That ‘imminence’ you felt at your fingertips you realise, wasn’t there at all. It’s actually over yonder up that mountain, laughing on a cloud.

Needles stuck in me. ‘Acupuncture has triggered labour that evening for some ladies’. Raspberry leaf tea with pineapple chasers, fire curry for starters and sad movies for dessert. Chocolate baths and marathon walks. The entire first season of Orange is the New Black. Surrounding myself with newborns due after my own. Baby being monitored. Stretch and sweep times three. ‘They do tend to come when they’re ready,’ on repeat. Our induction was booked for day 14 and the poppet; oh treasure my love, made her first gentle movements to leave her haven on this, day 13.

I wasn’t scared of birth, just intrigued and thrilled at the prospect of meeting our baby. I’d also heard and read some amazing, positive birth stories. That’s why I had opted for a home birth. We had everything ready for our glorious birth at home; the pool, lots of white towels, snickers bars, tea and biscuits for the midwives, candles ready for the light and flowers on the mantelpiece. All the taps were also shiny clean thanks to my incessant cleaning – a necessity – and the cats groomed. However time continued to pass on day 13. During the slow but exciting passing of the hours, we went for coffee, ate good food and wandered around. All the while, my contractions were every nine to 10 minutes apart.

By the evening, I felt they had really intensified and were every five minutes apart, so I rang the hospital to see if a community midwife might be able to pop in. Maybe we would meet our baby tonight? Nope. Not strong enough or regular enough. ‘Go and get some rest,’ said the voice at the end of the phone. I sort of knew this would be the case, but didn’t want to settle down for a kip. I wanted to be moving forward. It was tricky. I was convinced every minute of shuteye pulled the contractions further apart. So I had a bath and draped myself over surfaces as each contraction hit. Put on an old film and hummed a little as I paced the lounge. I told Charlie to go to bed for a bit. He slept like a giant panda until the morning sun rose and he found me walking the stairs and chatting to the cats, like they were my whiskered little birthing partners. It was Charlie’s birthday, so today had added oomph. ‘Wahhh, happy birthday, my love,’ I softly wailed.

The midwife popped in at 11am. ‘You’re 3cm’. Disastrous. How could this be? She continued: ‘I think something is stopping your progress. You should all go to the hospital, just to check everything’s OK, as baby’s now 14 days late. Then you can come home again if you’d like.’ The bag packed for this scenario, it was flung into the car and we drove down the road to the hospital. I knew I wouldn’t be leaving this destination as soon as the community midwife had said she wanted us to pop in. This was going to be where I met my baby. I think it was because of the 14 days, the 30 hours of little progress and just because something felt right and I wanted to trust my unbroken waters housing the cherub. I don’t know. I just couldn’t leave.

Rather than the monitoring, we were able to go to the midwife led unit, a luxurious hotel of birthing, complete with enormous pools, beds, floor pillows, birth balls, private bathrooms and fairy lights. An industrious blonde permed midwife met us at the reception and we waited in the lounge with Kirstie and Phil on the TV circa 1999, so they could clean the room we were aiming for. As I stared out the window complete with those cosy window spikes, to the city and hills beyond, I heard a baby cry as a lady walked past with her newborn in a car seat. Done and dusted, she was on her way home. Well done her! I thought. Now, what on earth was before me? An hour or two passed in the lounge, with Kirstie and Phil on a back-to-back extravaganza.

I needed to hear the pool filling! I needed the pool, please!

Eventually, after a true eternity of house searches, we were beckoned into our room. Calm, tranquil music and low lights greeted us. I was told that the pool is a source of pain relief, as was the gas and air, so it was best to hold out as long as possible to utilise both of them. After an initial gasp of horror, I stripped off and bounced on the birth ball while clinging on to Charlie’s belt, very quickly an imprint of the buckle soon formed on my forehead – nice. I became very attached to that buckle. Time melted and the world became deep and wide (interesting in retrospect!), focus hit me and carried me on its meditative chariot.

God, I didn’t have a care. Just this baby, just this intense, empowering experience. My entire body was being taken over with its own innate superpowers. Women are amazing. The human body is a wonder. I have a vague recollection of a junior doctor coming in with the midwife ‘to see what a normal, happy labour was like,’ as she put it. I remember agreeing for him to see our baby born, when the time came. I really was off and away, smiling from under a canopy of hormones and focus. The midwife could have told me that Wispa Golds were raining down outside and Ryan Gosling was in my birth pool and I would have simply smiled, nodded, closed my eyes and furrowed my brow. She said she thought we had completed a hypnobirth class, as I was so in the zone. I remember drinking in all the praise along with the awful Lucozade. I think it was the pregnancy yoga that zoned me. Who knows – maybe some fairy godmother made a trip to see me. Anyway, I was finally allowed in the pool – hurrah! – at 5cm.

Dear Pool, I think I forgot to tell you that I thought you were just marvelous that day. You’re so clever, comforting and…well… fluid. Such a shame it ended the way it did. However, I still talk about you with great fondness and have recommended your services to many others.

The pool. Heavenly, floating, gorgeous, brilliant pool. I loved the pool. Can you tell? However, after an hour or so, my baby did not like it in there and the squirrel’s heart rate zoomed up. So much so that I had to get out of the watery haven and lie on the bed to have my waters broken. The breaking signified change. A door opening to a hard, fierce place, it was raw and cold, Post break my hands tingled, I felt dehydrated, exhausted and actual pain really hit me for the first time. What’s more, the worst bit, I hadn’t dilated any further – the midwife said in actual fact, I’d gone down to 4cm. Added to this, the baby was stargazing, hence why everything was taking so long… and it might hurt more.

I went heavy on the gas and air. My smug little Zen space had officially exploded and I was standing in the chilly, industrial middle ground. No more fairy godmother whizzing around. The belt buckle sadly, was also now redundant. I wondered how and when I would meet this baby of ours, right at the same time I said hello to the anxiety that had quietly tip toed in. I told the new midwife how I felt, after the talked of one – the lovely one who had previously given me at A+ – went home, her shift complete. ‘You’ll have this baby tonight, don’t worry!’ she said brightly before she left to return to her warm home, roast potatoes and Sunday night telly. I smiled… but I was weak. The Drama Queen was awaking in me and with a baby labelled ‘Diva’ by all the sonographers and midwives since week five; I was worried about our combined drama potential.

The new midwife was very nice indeed. She understood my concerns. It felt like nothing phased her. After our introductions for some reason, I went on to tell her I wanted to push. She said, go on then. I pushed. It was clearly pointless, I knew it was, but I wanted movement, no idea what I expected to happen. She left, popping back every now and then. Time floated before me, like I was in the Labyrinth film’s limbo, which incidentally is a movie I find equally terrifying and excellent. It was all just… melty. I demanded Van Morrison on repeat, as I thought it would bring back my old mate Zen, but the scallywag was gone. Charlie demanded I eat. I couldn’t think of anything worse. The only thing that appealed to me was gas.

After four hours or so of new midwife time, new midwife told me that I had not progressed at all. I have no words to express how this felt. It had been 40 plus hours since that first contraction. And yes, I know I wasn’t in established labour and that only started 10 hours before or something, but… I just wanted to meet our baby. Ya know! The midwife suggested that we move things forward and go downstairs to The Drip. Or we could continue to wait, but she was concerned I was shattered, which I was. So the decision was made to pop along downstairs to the delivery suite, all jolly and bright. Previously I had in my mind that downstairs symbolised all that I didn’t desire for my baby’s birth, but instead at this point I guess it became exactly what I needed. So, as we wheeled down to the suite, knowing we had to now make this new, clinical space our sanctuary I was aware I needed to relax. I could do this before, but now I just felt so tired. So the words tumbled out of my mouth: ‘Please can I have an epidural?’’ Bleugh. Out. Better. The midwife replied that with the drip speeding up contractions, it would be wise and I would need my energy for pushing. Gosh.

The lights dimmed, just an angle poised lamp on the midwife’s notes. Bill Callahan playing softly, a view of the city’s lights. Charlie snoozing on the floor and the sweet, regular sound of our baby’s heartbeat. This was a different place, one of calm and a gathering of thoughts. This was the epidural I thought I would never have. And frankly, in some (many) ways it saved my experience of the birth of our baby, as it pulled me back to where I needed to be. It gave me rest, peace and that wonderful focus back again. I guess, a drug induced path to Zen. I told the midwife I was so sad it had come to this, I had wanted everything to be natural and she said that in no way should I feel bad about my circumstances or decisions – there were many factors involved and soon we would meet our baby and that’s what mattered. Emotion.

After a few hours of dozing and chatting (her husband works in magazines, she met him in London as a student in the 90s, they have two kids – I was interviewing) I was 10cm and ready to push. I made sure to stop the epidural switch earlier than this to hopefully feel as much as I could. I was soon instructed to puuuush with all my might, taking short breaks to take in more air. Again and again, I pushed and imagined holding my baby in my arms. I could feel the baby coming. I absolutely loved this very active part.

It took just 10 minutes for this beautiful, crying, wriggling, eyes wide-awake baby to emerge. The midwife unwrapped the cord around the baby’s neck and handed our baby to me, whereupon my body absolutely flooded me with hormones and love. I didn’t know if it would come straight away, but I was utterly devoted and loved poured from me immediately. It was incredible, like nothing I have ever experienced before. I also quickly noted that this ‘boy’ (I was sure the baby was a boy, as was pretty much 99% of people we knew), looked very pretty. ‘She’s pink!’ said the midwife. Oh my goodness.

IMG_0459IMG_0451

 This was our little, gorgeous Alba Elise. A bundle of pure love, joy and inspiration from the very moment her heart started beating. She smelt amazing, her skin felt so soft and her cheeks were so plump. We had skin on skin and cuddled as a family, chatting to her, telling her how brilliant she is and that we love her ‘soooo much’. Slightly annoyingly, I had quite a lot of blood loss and a couple of other complications post-birth, but the medical staff were fantastic, as was Charlie, who after voicing how much he despised the birth partner chair, lay on the floor and napped with Alba. Then had a few rounds of tea and biscuits, Alba had some more colostrum, I had a blood transfusion, Charlie gave us an inflatable tiger balloon and everything felt rosy. We were floating on a cloud.

We love our little Alba so much, she has taught us an endless amount about loving and our capacity for love. Everyday, I feel like the luckiest person in the world. Our baby girl is a joy to know and has the sweetest, kindest eyes and the most glorious, wholehearted smile I’ve ever seen. We are truly blessed to have this little addition to our family. Our love, love, LOVE – grows with each precious day that passes.  My sweet, wonderful, determined, happy, beautiful tiger”.

IMG_0949 (1)

Hels is the founding editor of Lionheart Magazine – a lifestyle magazine full of interviews, fashion, illustration, stories, photography, craft, recipes and way more – an independent publication that’ll make you feel peachy good! Buy issues one to four, right here: http://www.lionheart-mag.com/shop

24 hours On Call

What a little flurry of excitement it has been since Monday morning! Having had a child free weekend recovering from my horrible mouth infection (which I spent mainly snoozing on the sofa and watching re runs of Friends episodes), I was all geared up for a full day back at work on being on call by myself. Not quite as full on as I had expected!

Monday 9am: Up, dressed, 2 kids dressed, 2 breakfasts gobbled, 2 pack lunches made, 2 drop offs and full of beans ready for what the day might bring. I spoke to one of my women who had been niggling (a midwife term meaning irregular contractions but not yet establishing) all weekend but no sign of baby. My other 2 colleagues were at the hospital handing over from a birth they had over night so I did a few antenatal visits then popped over to see my woman in early labour. After a cup of tea and a full midwives assessment, I found her to be 9cm dilated! A little surprising for us all but thrilling for her and her husband so plans were made to go to the local hospital and we bagged a room with a pool. 5 hours later there was no sign of baby and with my energy levels flagging my lovely colleague arrived to take over so I could go home to rest.

Monday 5pm: Kids home from holiday club and nursery, husband with a bad back, tea being made whilst my mind was thinking about my poor woman at hospital. Gobbled down a bowl of pasta pesto (essential carbs) and off I went back to the hospital to take over from my colleague for the night

Monday 7pm: Arrived back at the hospital to be met with the news that we were going to theatre for a ‘trial’, A trial means the doctors need to perform an assisted delivery (ventouse or forceps) but in theatre in case it doesn’t work they are in the right place to perform a caesarean section.

Monday 7:30pm: Baby Martha weighing a whopping 9lbs was born with a little assistance but not a caesarean thank goodness! Mum and Dad thrilled! Midwife thrilled but the night was still young.

photo (20)

Monday 11:30pm: Pager goes off to notify me that one of our women is in labour. I finish my notes take my lady to the postnatal ward and gear up my energy for another labour. Glad I have carbs in my system! The labour in surprisingly quick but lots of ‘you can do its’ and ‘one more push and your baby will be here’. Phew I was wacked but looked forward to getting home and hitting my pillow. Sleep is most definitely not for the weak. When I’m on call I try to forget that my pager can alarm me at any moment and I put it on the other side of the room. Out of sight out of mind.

Tuesday 1:30am: I’m finally in bed, fast asleep.

Tuesday 4:09am: Pager goes off. I jolt up in bed. Takes me a few second to realise what this means. The pager message tells me one our women is in labour at home and needs me. Luckily it’s just around the corner, so I’m up dressed and in her bathroom by 4:20. She is in strong labour and this is her second baby so the birth is imminent. Her amazing husband finds towels, an old rug and plastic sheeting to protect the carpet. A second midwife arrives and by 5:30am a beautiful baby girl is born in the family bedroom. The morning light fills the room and tears of joy wept by all us soak our grinning cheeks as the woman cries ‘I did it’. Tea and Jaffa cakes are shared as we all embrace what an incredible job she has done and how lucky us midwives are to be have been part of it all. Granny and Grandpa arrive and the big brother awakes to great his new baby sister. It was really a perfect setting.

Tuesday 6:30am: My adrenaline starts to fade and the sheer exhaustion of the last 21 hours kicks in. With the family safely tucked up in bed, my colleague arrives on her bike to take the placenta away with her (yes really!) and I leave with my half empty delivery kit.

photo (22)

Tuesday 07:30am: I’m back in my bed again and the girls are up and bouncing with excitement eager to hear all about my night. They love hearing about the baby catching Mummy has been doing. Eventually my husband (the unsung hero of this all) took them off to nursery and holiday club and with my eye patch and ear plugs firmly in place, I could finally go to sleep. But not without thinking of this moto brilliantly printed on a bag given to me as a present from one of my women.

photo (21)