The Birth Story of Ottilie and Delilah

It’s difficult to know how to start this birth story. I still can’t believe I only gave birth to the twins just over 2 weeks ago. If you’ve followed this blog you’ll know this was no easy pregnancy, there were so many uncertainties; the horrendous morning sickness, the scary bleeds in the first trimester,nthe reality of going from 2 children to 4, both babies being breech for what seemed like ages and the fear of Obstetric Cholestatis returning.  Well it did with a vengeance. In brief I had bloods taken at around 28 weeks into the pregnancy to have a look at what my bile acids and liver function tests were doing (I hadn’t started itching at this point) and they were already abnormal. After an initial wobble my amazing midwives and Consultant calmed me down and a plan was made to repeat the bloods in 2 weeks. By the time those 2 weeks came I was already itching on my hands and feet so I was started on lots of medication, creams to sooth my skin and Piriton to help the irritation. When people ask what it’s like to have OC, the only way I can describe it, is like ants biting under your hands and feet and no scratching will ever ease the itch. And the itching isn’t just on your hands and feet it’s everywhere. Legs, arms, bump, boobs. My skin was so damaged I was covered in bruises and scratch marks I looked like I’d been in a fight. It’s worse at night and some nights I wrapped cold wet flannels around my hands and feet to relive the burning sensation. The one thing that kept me sane was the amazing online support charity ICP which had a Facebook page where sufferers can post questions and receive help and advice. At 5am when I hadn’t slept this was a life saver.

By 34 weeks I was at breaking point, I was hardly sleeping and nothing was helping with the itching. I took myself off to see my Consultant full of tears and worry and begged her for an elective section. I could see no way of carrying on until 37 weeks feeling so tired, so I figured it was best to deliver the babies early to put me out of my misery, plus they were still breech and transverse so a vaginal birth was not recommended. Again my amazing Consultant calmed me down, talked me through the options but did a quick scan just to check their presentation. And guess what, they were both head down and twin 1 was engaged! I was shocked, I hadn’t even felt them turn. So it was decided to induce me at 36 weeks, have some steroid injections to help mature the babies lungs and she prescribed me some amazing sleeping tablets (which are safe in pregnancy) to ease the nights. I went away feeling calm, confident and for the first time excited to birth my babies.

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We had a date for the induction so over the next 2 weeks I listened to my Hypnobirth relaxation MP3  every night, stuck my YESMUM to be cards all over the house and had weekly massages from my wonderful doula. I could do this and everything was going to be fine. A few days before my induction date I had lots of early labour symptoms, a bloody show, loads of period pains, cramps and back ache but no babies. I felt confident that my body was getting ready for Friday and carried on practising my breathing techniques with my husband.

The day came to meet our little squirrels and we headed to the hospital at 7:30 am to meet my midwife and consultant. I was sneaked into a birthing room (I didn’t want all my colleagues to know or see I was on labour ward) and the plan was to have my waters broken and hopefully get things going. By 8:30 my waters were broken (I was already 4cm dilated) and I went off with my husband and doula to walk up and down 4 flights of stairs. My doula had my squatting, walking sideways you name it we did it. I felt like I’d done a Zumba class. My doula brought a wet flannel with her which had lavender and clary sage oil on it and I sniffed it like mad woman, I actually felt quite high. After 2 hours nothing was happening and we went back to the birthing room to talk through my options. My midwife head came into play and I knew the next stage was having the hormone drip. I wasn’t scared or worried about what this would mean but I knew time was ticking on and I wanted to get on with the labour, I even said ‘I want to feel these contractions now’. I was aware I was clock watching so my husband suggested taking the clock down from the wall.

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So we started the drip on a low dose which meant I had to be continuously monitored on the CTG machine. This wasn’t a problem as I sat on the ball leaning over the bed (still with my Hypnobirthing MP3 in my headphones) so I didn’t feel restricted or confined to the bed and could still be upright. I managed to totally switch off from everything around me, it felt like it was just me and my husband in the room and the calm voice in my ears from Hollie de Cruz.  After about half an hour the contractions were very mild and didn’t seem to be building into much so my midwife slowly increased the dose and I carried on rocking on the ball. I breathed through every contraction imagining a wave breaking gently on the shore ‘inhale peace, exhale tension’. *Just to say at this point, this was the first time I’d practised hypnobirthing techniques during my own labour so by no means was I an expert but I just kept the breathing techniques as simple as possible.*

After another half an hour the contractions had picked up and felt I needed to work harder to focus on my breath and not tense my shoulders or jaw, this is when the breathing really helped to keep everything soft. I took my husbands hand during every one of these contractions and held the wet flannel to my nose to inhale the lavender and clary sage, still keeping my eyes closed throughout. After a pretty intense contraction I walked to the bathroom to try and have a wee (my doula had been giving me sips of coconut water after every contraction which was just brilliant). I couldn’t manage a wee and stood up and had a really strong contraction which was horribly fierce and took me by surprise, I leaned onto my husband  trying to get back into my breathing and said ‘I can’t do another contraction standing up ‘. We walked back to the ball and it was clear the drip was definitely working as the contractions were really regular at this point, maybe every 2 minutes. I picked up the gas and air and rested the mouth piece in my mouth, not inhaling it just having it there as a comfort. The next contraction came and I instinctively knew I wanted to get on the bed (I’ve never birthed on the bed in my other labours) I turned onto my right side and felt a change in my body, a sensation I knew yet still couldn’t believe I was at that stage. Pressure. It was in my lower back right on my sacrum and there was no ignoring the different sounds I began to make.

My midwife head popped back on as I heard the paper of delivery packs being unwrapped and opened my eyes to see my midwife had changed out of her own clothes into scrubs and my consultant standing there smiling and looking pleased. ‘I’m not at that stage yet it’s way too soon’ I declared and they all reassured me that twin 1 was on her way. I suddenly felt scared and told my husband who calmed me down and told me l was going to be fine and brought me back in the zone ‘inhale peace exhale tension’. I still insisted on keeping one of the ear pieces from my headphones in one ear as I couldn’t bear not to have those sounds keeping me calm.

My body then took over and I began to feel twin 1 moving down in my pelvis at quite some speed because before I could even think ‘I can’t do this’ her head was crowning and my midwife asked me to slowly breathe. I don’t recall waiting for another contraction because a few seconds later she was on my chest skin to skin and screaming. I couldn’t really believe how quick it had been but was well aware there was another baby to birth.

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My midwives kept the hormone drip running so that my uterus continued to contract and within 5 minutes I felt the next wave of contractions building and asked for her cord to be cut and clamped and my doula took her for a cuddle so I could concentrate on the next bit. Another moment of me being a midwife crept in as I recall looking at my midwife as my consultant quickly scanned the second twin to make sure she was still head down. ‘I’m not having a forceps!’ I declared as I heard the sound of the metal instruments being tided away from a delivery pack. ‘No you’re not having a forceps you’re having a baby’ my consultant said to me. The contractions were strong very quickly again and my midwife broke the sac of water of twin 2 and I felt her begin to follow the same journey her sister had only made a few moments before. I was still on the bed but had rolled onto my back, one midwife encouraged me to rest my leg onto her to ‘make more room for baby’ a phrase us midwives say a lot! ‘God I hate it when midwives say that’ I announced to my midwives, they all laughed. And before I even had time to think about the ‘what ifs’ I felt that same sensation of her head emerging, followed by her body. I had done it.

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The placentas came out fused together one significantly bigger than the other but both looked healthy. My blood loss was minimal and I didn’t have any tears or grazes! (good old perineal massage). We spent the next hour munching on delicious goodies from the snack bag (thanks Jo) drinking tea and trying to master the skill of tandem feeding. After a quick shower (best feeling ever) and freshen up we were transferred to the postnatal ward where I was lucky enough to have a private room. My husband and I stared at our new baby daughters, both completely elated and exhausted at the same time.

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We named them Ottilie Pearl and Delilah Iris just in time for their big sisters to meet them the following day.

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28 Weeks – Warts and All

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*Warning, this blog post may contain a bit of TMI but it’s all true and sometimes you’ve just got to share this stuff because lets face it, sharing it caring (or so I try to teach my children when I want some of their chips).*

 

I often get asked how this pregnancy compares to my previous singleton pregnancies, so far it’s been kind of the same minus the extra scans and the same repetitive questions from people (are they identical, do you know the sex, are there twins in your family etc etc) but OH MY GOD something has seriously shifted in the Hooper uterus because in the past week I have noticed some seriously weird goings on in there!

  • Firstly the movements, they still feel like a bag of dancing squirrels but both babies are breech at the moment and the kicks down onto my cervix and vagina are UNREAL! I swear the other night if I had examined myself internally I would have discovered 2 sets of wriggling feet in there (I know logically this is impossible but still) #fanydaggers
  • And whilst we’re on the subject of ‘down there’ let’s a just say it’s a good thing I can’t actually see it any more because by the end of the day I feel like I’m smuggling plums in my pants. I did in fact get my poor husband to have a check to make sure nothing more sinister is going on, he reassured me there wasn’t but did ask if I was ever going to wax again……
  • Which leads me onto the ‘to wax/or not wax question’. I’m not sure I want to expose that area unnecessarily and lets face it I’m not getting my bikini on ANY TIME soon maybe I’ll leave it au naturale, I always tell my women anyway that midwives don’t bat an eyelid
  • The feeling of two hard heads under my ribs is so uncomfortable. I’m no longer able to wear underwired bras, I’m living in this one at the moment and in all honestly I’m most likely to be found braless by 6pm by my husband when he gets home from work
  • I’m moisturising  my bump like a crazy lady with Bio Oil but my skin this week feels like it’s really being stretched to its maximum capacity, if I get to the end of this pregnancy without one single stretch mark it will be nothing short of a miracle
  • My back is an absolute killer especially when driving. I’m spending lots of time in the deepest, hottest bath I can tolerate but I’m also seeing my Doula Beccy ‘magic’ Hands for regular massages. She’s seriously the best in the biz check her out here  and yes Hands is her actual surname, amazing
  • My boobs resemble a road map with the veins that have sprung up in the past few weeks and I’m already noticing a few drops of colostrum on my pyjama top when I wake up in the morning. All good stuff for the bubbas I guess
  • My husband made me laugh so hard the other night I wet myself. Yup. First I thought my waters had broken but luckily it was just a sign that my pelvic floor has given up entirely on it’s main function, Tenna Lady anyone?
  • Iron is not my friend or my bowels friend for that matter. I’m taking Pregnacare and extra iron (a recommendation for twin pregnancies) but I’m seriously bunged up. Flax seeds are being sprinkled on just about anything I eat but nothing is really helping. And anyone who has experienced constipation when pregnant knows how awful it is. There’s nothing worse, and straining on the loo ain’t pretty, nuff said
  • I did do the unthinkable at the weekend and weighed myself which surprisingly wasn’t as horrifying as I imagined –  just short of a stone heavier than my usual weight which I guess is ok considering there’s 2 of everything in there (but I doubt I’ll weigh myself again, not even for lolz)

BUT on a positive note to end with, we had our first Hypnobirthing session last week with the incredible Hollie de Cruz. She is literally something else. I know I’ve banged on about the amazing tools hypnobirthing teaches women but SERIOUSLY after one session we both felt so calm and connected and learnt all about breathing. Yes breathing, the simple thing we do totally subconsciously but it’s so important for labour and birth.  And my slightly sceptical husband has totally taken it on board, he’s put my positive affirmations around the house and has been doing the breathing exercises with me before I go to sleep. We are hooked!

Disclaimer: Whilst I am a registered midwife, I do not endorse or promote any specific brand or product in a professional capacity. My opinions are my own and are based on my personal experiences as a woman and a mother.

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Birth Story Of The Week – Jo and Betsy

In light of the Guardian’s story on hypnobirthing and it’s ever increasing popularity, today’s birth story from Jo describes how learning the techniques taught on her hypnobirthing course helped her overcome her fears from her previous traumatic birth, Tissues at the ready!

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My first daughter’s birth in 2012 didn’t exactly go to plan. I read all the books, did NCT, talked to friends and wrote my birth plan. Not once did I prepare for not being in control or for an emergency caesarean. I was left pretty shell shocked and it took me a while to get my shit together. I felt a bit like I had failed at the most important thing in my life. But I focused on the fact my beautiful daughter was fine and healthy. And I vowed never to do it again. Birth that is.

When I discovered I was pregnant again in May 2014 all the fears I’d stuffed to the back of my mind came back to life. I felt terrified and hated the thought of going through it all again. I spoke to my friend and midwife Clemmie at length about my worries. She knew how traumatic it had been first time round but right from our first conversation about it she said it would be different this time. I trusted her – she’s a wonder woman birth warrior, and my friend after all.
 
I knew I wanted to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). I had felt like I’d failed first time round, even though I’d gone through a long and hard labour resulting in caesarean, it somehow didn’t count as giving birth. Just because I didn’t push the baby out the usual way, I hadn’t done it ‘properly’. What does that say about the pressure on women surrounding birth?!
 
Clemmie suggested hypnobirthing and put us in contact with the lovely Hollie at London Hypnobirthing. We booked on to a course in October (my EDD was early January). I thought we’d probably be experiencing a few ‘and you’re back in the room’ moments but I was willing to give anything a shot. I spent the time busying myself with my stressful job and looking after a 2 and a half year old. I also fretted furiously about how the baby would fit into our family, and our house, and would I love it as much as my daughter? Was that possible? And all the other hormonal things that go round a pregnant woman’s head.
 
So October came and we started a loft conversion (wtf were we thinking?) and our hypnobirthing course. Right from the first session I felt differently. We learnt relaxation techniques and did breathing activities. We discussed birth in a safe and calm environment. There were only four couples and it felt very relaxed and intimate. My husband Tom was sold straight away, he took to it immediately. There was no hippy dippy stuff, just normal people looking to learn ways to relax and welcome their babies in a calm way without fear. We watched videos of births that were so calm the babies were born asleep! We did some work on releasing fear which helped the two of us talk honestly about the things we were worried about to do with the birth. Turned out our fears were identical. One of the fundamental things I took from the course was the belief that I had every right for my voice to be heard and that I could birth this baby the way I wanted.
 
Over the next few weeks I began to feel really quite excited about the birth and looked forward to meeting our baby. Something I never thought I’d do. One thing I wasn’t excited about was the endless builders coming and going from our house. Don’t do a loft conversion while you’re pregnant!
 
I was determined that our little girl had Christmas without the new baby stealing the show, plus Clemmie was going away for a couple of days so I told the baby to stay put and went about enjoying Christmas. I got quite emotional towards the end of my pregnancy and every day with my daughter felt significant. Our last days as a three. I’m ridiculously sentimental at the best of times but this was off the scale! It got to the point where Tom banned me from looking at baby pictures and videos of my daughter because I kept making myself cry…
 
I’d bought a soft doll to leave for my daughter if she woke up one morning and I wasn’t there (as in gone to have the baby…). I left it until the Saturday on the last weekend of the school holidays to wrap it up and wrote her an extremely soppy card (for someone to read to her). Tom said gloomily, “looks like I’m going back to work on Monday then” and we went to bed. I knew I was ready so the baby could come when it wanted.
 
At 4am I woke with mild period pain. This time round I completely and utterly trusted my instincts, I knew this was it. I put my relaxation mp3 on and closed my eyes. I must have gone back to sleep because at 6 I woke and realised the surges (hypnobirthing speak for contractions) had started. I woke Tom and told him to call his parents to come and get our daughter. Considering they were on high alert and live ten minutes away it seemed like it took them forever to get to us! My daughter woke up and I got her dressed, gave her a million hugs, packed her a bag and ended up opening her present with her. My hormones got the better of me and I was holding back some serious tears. When she left the house at 8 the surges instantly got a whole lot stronger.

I had a bath and Tom texted Clemmie. I think she got to us about 10am and at that point the surges were quite strong but I was breathing through them and feeling fine. I could feel adrenaline running through me and I was trying to stay relaxed. During Hypnobirthing we learnt about how adrenaline can slow labour or stop it altogether. I really didn’t want that to happen. Our second midwife arrived and was instantly warm and supportive.

When Clemmie examined me at 11am she said I was fully dilated! I couldn’t believe that I’d got to 10 without any difficulty. It gave me a massive massive boost. Tom and both midwives started gathering towels and bin bags and began to prep our bedroom for a birth. There was a bin bag underneath me and Tom was getting ready to catch our baby! Obviously not in the bin bag… I couldn’t believe I might even have a home birth! This would have exceeded our wildest expectations. As the surges intensified I started to push. All the while we were eating a lot of jelly babies (a good birth bag addition).
 
After a little while of pushing time seemed to stop, as did the contractions. So I was off the bed and walking around the house. Some of the things you can try if contractions stop are, walking, nipple tweaking, relaxing, laughing but nothing would get them going. And the longer they stopped the more anxious I became. Not because this had happened during my first birth, it hadn’t, but because I could feel myself getting more and more tense and frightened that things might not go to plan.
 
Eventually Clemmie and our other midwife said that it might be a good idea to go into hospital to be assessed to see if we could get some help getting contractions going again. FYI if you have had a previous caesarean a doctor will want to assess you before giving you Syntocinon due to risk of scar rupture.
 
So off we went in an ambulance (that I didn’t even know was outside), no blue lights but I felt pretty disheartened. Tom and our second midwife were trying to keep my spirits up but I tried to concentrate on the relaxation mp3 on my phone and drown out all the distractions. We got to hospital about 1.30pm I think. The room was ready and Clemmie was there and she did everything she could to carry on the vibe from home. I had to have a scan so the doctors could assess whether the baby was in a good enough position for a realistic chance at VBAC. To my delight the baby was perfectly positioned and we were given the go ahead for the drip. So, with feet in stirrups, foetal monitor on and a mouth full of jelly babies we waited for the drip to kick in. Not the most dignified time of my life but I was buzzing with the thought I’d meet my baby soon and I think the scan really helped to reassure me that all was ok. 
 
I began to get pretty tired and hungry and I think adrenaline was pumping. I got the shakes but then the contractions started coming pretty quickly. For some reason which we still don’t know, I couldn’t feel a single one. I’d had no pain relief but I had to be told when a contraction was coming by Clemmie looking at the monitor and saying ‘right, go for it!’ and I would push my heart out. At one point she had a stern word with me and told me to use my voice and any swear words I could think of to help push the baby out.  I felt like we were an amazing team, working together to help and guide me and birth this baby.

Because it was taking a while the doctor (in consultation with the midwives) decided that it might be a good idea to use a kiwi (kind of suction cup) on the babies head to help it down the last bit. Attaching this was possibly the most painful part of the whole labour but was over in minutes.

With two big pushes the baby’s head finally came out and that is when I knew we’d done it. The little body followed soon after and Clemmie very quickly instructed the doctor to stand back and let Tom discover the sex and then tell me it was a little girl! Then Tom got to cut the cord. I couldn’t believe it. We’d actually done it!!!!! And it was a girl too! I remember not quite believing what had happened. 
 
Our second amazing midwife had to swap with another amazing midwife and while paperwork was done and handover completed there was a little period of time I’ll never forget. This little person had come from me, I felt instantly connected, instantly knowing of her. She was mine! That is what I’d missed with my first birth. I’d felt so separate from the final event and the baby and Tom were taken out the room straight after the caesarean. Tom was so relieved everything was fine. He couldn’t quite believe it either!

Some wise woman found me a lasagne. It was honest to god the best thing I have ever eaten. Hospital lasagne.


I couldn’t thank Clemmie enough for her support. She and her colleagues had helped me achieve something I never thought I would. She said she’d come to me the next day and kissed me and my girl goodbye. 
 
The wonderful women got me ready to go to the ward. I was cleaned up and put in to my pjs and helped to the loo for my first wee. I just couldn’t stop smiling. I spoke to my mum on the phone and told her the beautiful baby girl snoozing on me had come out my vagina. My dad arrived with my sister, I told them this beautiful girl had come out my vagina. As I was wheeled to the ward, I told all the people in the lift that I’d just pushed this baby out my amazing vagina!! There was a lot of vagina praising going on. And then it was just the three of us in a cubicle, knowing that this little baby had always had a place in our family. We couldn’t wait for her to meet her amazing big sister. So Betsy Clementine met her big sister the following morning, and it was love at first sight.
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Birth Story Of The Week- Clemmie and Woody

There’s always a special connection between people with the same name and this amazing Mama of two is certainly one to hang on to. I first met Clemmie through the powers of Instagram but she was on my radar for a long time after Hollie from London Hypnobirthing told me about this awesome ‘other’ Clemmie she had met and taught. Another Clemmie! Surely not but this Clemmie was as great as I had hoped. She lives in Peckham with her brood of boys (1 husband and dog included) and writes a brilliant blog Mother of All Lists. Here she shares her second sons birth story.

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My first labour was so terrible that I honestly thought my son, Bertie, would be an only child. Induction. Hyper-stimulation. Lots of blood-loss. Followed by an hour of panic attacks. Not ideal.

Cut to 13 months later and I’m pregnant again. The initial thrill of seeing that line appear soon gives way to a feeling of ‘shit’ I’ve got to give birth again.

I was determined to do things differently. After some obsessive googling I came across hypnobirthing. What a stroke of luck. A total game changer.

Our course at London Hypnobirthing was just brilliant. It forced me and my husband to discuss our fears, as well confirming home-birth was the way forward for us. After months doing breathing, visualizing and general prep, I felt ready, even a bit excited about my baby’s impending arrival.

That was until my due date came and went.

With every passing day the anxiety levels crept up. Flashbacks to being induced with my first were haunting me. I was convinced I was headed down the same road. Plus I’d had contractions on and off for days; it felt like my body was tricking me and it was driving me potty.

At 40+5 I sent Hollie, my hybnobirthing guru, a rambling email having a bit of a breakdown – even questioning my ability to go into labour naturally. She replied telling me to let go of the anxiety, to trust my body. IT WOULD HAPPEN.

She was right. The next day I had a sweep. Only in pregnancy are you so pleased to have someone stick their hand up you. Turns out I was already 3 cm dilated – woo hoo!

My midwife wished me fairwell. Deep down I think we both know we would be seeing each other soon. And that night I went to bed with a sneaky suspicion it was ‘game on’. But given the false starts and with the help of hypno I decided to get some sleep.

At 3.30 AM I was woken by a surge. It was definitely happening. No panic, No fuss. Just a real sense of knowing what needed to be done. With son number one safely dispatched to my sisters I got in the groove of labour. Which mainly meant being naked and eating Jaffa cakes. Oh and the midwife arrived.

There was a palaver with the birth pool. My husband had done a dry run, but crucially not a wet run – turns out the fitting couldn’t connect to our tap (funny in retrospect, not very zen at the time).

Eventually it was sorted. Once in the water I was able to breath through my surges. Don’t get me wrong it was hardcore. Exhausting. At the time I desperately wanted it to stop. But at no point did I feel worried or out of control. Instead I just focused on getting to the peak of the surge then down the other-side. “breathe in calm, breath out tension.”

Candles, chilled music (and yet more jaffa cakes), pool. All very lovely. But I was getting into a bit of a mental downward spiral, transition maybe, and found the darkness oppressive rather than safe.

My Midwife suggested that I might benefit from a change of scene.

Once upstairs the bright coolness of the bathroom felt like a new chapter.  No sooner had I taken a seat on the loo than I was hit by one almighty surge. Properly a case of ‘my body taking control’: I leapt-up, grabbed my husband in a strangle-hold for support, and out came baby’s head.

Then with the next surge Woodrow Victor Telford made his entrance into the world. He was born calmly and quietly with his waters in tact or ‘en caul’. Swiftly followed by my placenta, which convenient went into the toilet.

The relief was immense. I hadn’t been induced. I hadn’t used a scrap of pain relief. I hadn’t bled. Just a tiny tear that heeled naturally. And I wasn’t pregnant anymore!! I felt like the luckiest person alive.

Me and my new dude headed to bed. And that’s where we stayed for the rest of the day.

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When people ask me about my labour. I say it was everything I wanted it to be. A wonderful empowered experience that made me feel like super-woman, plus it got rid of all the demons from Bertie’s birth.

Even writing this now I want to do it all again. There really is no greater feeling than lying in your own bed at home, eating pizza, with your 4 hour old baby snoozing beside you.

Twinning is Winning

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At around 5 weeks pregnant I felt sick, really sick and really tired. We were in France at a friend’s wedding and I did my best impression of someone trying to pretend to be drunk. Which by the way is very difficult. (Oh and a drunk sweaty husband when you’re stone cold sober is soooo unattractive, you’d rather he slept on the sofa)

And there was so much gooey soft smelly cheese going around and an oyster bar at the wedding and endless champagne. But nausea and a hangover have very similar characteristics so I fooled the friends we were with for 4 days.

“It’s probably twins” a colleague said to me while I gagged at the smell of the coffee she was drinking. “Ha ha very funny” I thought, but somehow I couldn’t shake off this feeling that maybe it was. Maybe.

A few weeks later I had some heavy bleeding so went to the Early Pregnancy Unit for a quick reassurance scan. I had already convinced myself that I was probably having a miscarriage so prepared myself for missing my brothers 40th birthday the next day and felt remarkably calm about the whole thing.

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“You have two in there, and both have healthy strong heartbeats”. I was beyond shocked. I was naked from the waist down with my legs in those stirrup things and a long probe with a condom on it up my foof. Not the most dignified of positions to be in. There was swear words, and utter disbelief and then the tears came. I left clutching the scan photo dreading how I was going to tell my husband.

But now 5 weeks later and a lovely normal reassuring Nuchal scan yesterday, we are in a much better place. Me, both physically and mentally and my husband, well he keeps weeping at the thought of selling the Audi and looking at 7 seater cars.

What nightmares are made of

What nightmares are made of

So now I’m almost 13 weeks pregnant and the all day constant nausea and all evening vomiting has *almost* gone. I have to say weeks 6-9 were unbearable and I began to question if I could really get through this pregnancy at all. (I was once sick 17 times in one day). I had some amazing people around me, supporting me and making me realise that everything was indeed going to be ok.

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Things that really helped when I could barely lift my head off the toilet seat

  • Tropicana (smooth) don’t ask but the combination of the sweet and sour taste meant I was getting some Vitamin C into my system
  • Peanut butter (again smooth) on a buttered bagel
  • Salt and Vinegar crisps BY THE TONNE
  • Nutrimum Bars – these were great in between meal times and  I just kept a stash in my car
  • Hypnobirthing – well technically relaxation MP3s. As you know I’m a massive fan of everything Hollie does and some evenings when my mind was racing with worry and fear I’d pop on her track and within minutes I’d find myself drifting off into a calm sleep
  • Acupuncture – I popped my cherry around week 6 and MY GOD it really did make the most difference to my nausea. Maisie Hill is like some kind of magical mystical Goddess who really understood my body and what was going on. I hardly had to say anything (mainly because I felt so rough) and she just popped needles into certain points on my body. I left feeling floaty and vomit free. She’s also a Doula and an amazing one at that. Check out her website for a wealth of information on all things fertility, pregnancy and birth
  • I treated myself around week 10 to a pregnancy massage as my lower back and pelvis was really beginning to ache. And there’s only woman who I’ll happily strip down to my oldest granny pants for…. Beccy Hands (yes her real name) is also a kick ass Doula and specialises in pregnancy and labour massage. She’s so good she can tell me which shoulder I carry my heavy rucksack on and how I stand/lean when attending births
  • And finally SLEEP. Like mega naps, any time any place. During my lunch break I’d find myself having a quick doze before starting a clinic, around kids tea time (there was a lot of eating in front of the tv whilst I snoozed) and then heading off to bed as soon as my husband was home and sleeping all night. Sleep really did help with the nausea.

So there you have it, the secret is out (I even managed to fool my white witch of a mother at my brother’s 40th by pouring my wine into my sisters glass). I’m already embracing the maternity clothes (Topshop dungarees are amazing) and our house is buzzing with who can come up with the most ridiculous baby names. As if I didn’t have enough to do with writing my book, I’ll be blogging about this pregnancy at regular intervals, so please join me on this exciting journey.

xx

 

Birth Story Of The Week – Siobhan and Arlo

Thursday

So my waters had gone, I’d managed to convinced myself it wasn’t wee, based on the fact I’d gone to the toilet mere moments before fridge-gate (so low was my trust in the stability of my bladder), and I’d just sat down to write my Christmas cards… You can read about that here.

It is about 1pm when I finish writing all my cards, and messaging friends and family for their addresses. This year (since I’m transitioning from young-mum-of-one to woman-with-two-kids), I have done the unprecedented and invested in an actual, physical, address book, so decide now is the perfect time to copy all the addresses I have into it. This leaves me feeling very organised and happy with myself (does this last-minute life admin count as nesting?!).

Because I’m not having any contractions and time is of the essence, I get to work on my nipple stimulation with an electric breast pump in an attempt to bring some on (upping the ante on the simple nipple twiddling of the day before). I am now listening to my Hypnobirthing affirmations, having decided the BBC’s ‘The Missing’, albeit totally gripping, is just a tad too tense and possibly having a detrimental effect on my uterus.

At about 2pm I call my midwife as I have not felt the baby move all day and she had said to keep an eye on baby’s movements. I tell her that I don’t need her to come out because I’m not having regular contractions but says she will pop by anyway to have a listen to baby… (Reflecting now, I clearly remember making this call. I would never in a million years have believed I would be holding my baby in a matter of hours!!).

Whilst waiting for my midwife to arrive I am having some contractions but not take-your-breath-away ones. They are however coming of their own accord since I have stopped pumping. I’m not convinced it’s the real deal though and feel I need a professional (i.e. my midwife) to tell me whether this is it or not.

We do crack open the birth bag at this point though, figuring we might as well make use of our nice things because whether or not this is it right now, since my waters have gone, I am going to be in labour in the next 24 hours or so. We light our lovely Diptyque Pomander scented candle that we chose for our birth (recommend doing this by the way!), pull down the blackout blinds in our bedroom and I start bouncing on my birth ball, whilst applying some make-up (obvs want to look good just in case it is happening!).

At this point I’m welcoming each contraction and when there’s a bit of a gap between one ending and the next one starting, I actually worry that it’s all died off and this isn’t it at all. So each time one comes I’m like YAY, GO BODY! I am doing my up breathing through each one but they aren’t in any way painful.

My midwife arrives at 2.30pm and has a listen to baby. All seems well. Around 3pm she says she’s going to make a move but to call her back when I need her. She tells me she thinks it will be soon. I ask how soon??!! She says she thinks that it will be tonight. I realise baby might actually arrive ON his/her due day (which is tomorrow) – how amazing would that be!

Just after 3pm James says it’s time for him to go and do the school pick-up. My midwife kindly offers to wait with me until he returns. At this point I’m thinking my son will come home, we will have dinner together later on and he will go to bed at his normal time.  Then hopefully (fingers crossed) my labour will kick off in the night. My midwife advises me to have a bath to ease the discomfort once she has left and to try and get some sleep to conserve my energy for later.

By the time James is back at 3.30pm, less than half an hour later, EVERYTHING has changed. I’m not having a bath or a sleep – it’s time to inflate the birth pool – and quick! My midwife has decided she is staying now and it’s not long until she is calling the second midwife.

At one point the contractions were irregular and pain-free, then very quickly they increased in frequency and then very suddenly they increased in intensity and I was not welcoming them any more.

I say hello to my little (soon to be big) boy when he gets back from school but am not able to say much else. I quickly feel like I need him out of the house because I need to focus all my energy and attention on each surge* so my friend is called to collect him.

*I will call them surges from now on because they are powerful and not just little contractions/tightenings.

At 4pm I ask my midwife to examine me. She warns me that it will not tell me how long my labour is going to be, but I need to know something is happening. The surges are intense. My midwife has a poke around and tells me I am approximately 5cm dilated. I am slightly disappointed to hear I am only half-way, especially since I was already 2cm on Monday. I this this means I have a loooong way to go (little do I know).

At 4.10pm my friend arrives and I say goodbye to my son. James is busy inflating and filling the pool and over the next half an hour or so I do feel quite alone as I deal with each surge standing at the dining room, gripping on to the edge. I just want the pool to be ready so I can get in, believing it will feel amazing. The surges are really intense and between each one I give myself an internal pep talk, reminding myself that I want a natural homebirth, that I can do this, that I am in control etc. Then the surge hits and I’m screaming silently in my own head very negative things like I can’t cope, I need pain relief. This internal battle goes back and forth like this for a while whilst I stand bent over the table, rocking backwards and forwards, channeling all my energy into my breathing. I’m not really aware of what is going on around me and am not making conversation with anyone. At this point I really have gone within myself. I do notice that a resuscitation area has been set up on the dining room table but try to put it out of my mind.

After a while I move into the living room, kneel on the sofa and hold James’ hand and tell him I need him to stay close to me now. I don’t care about the pool anymore, I just want him to help me. He crouches down next to me, holds my hand, applies pressure to my back, as I rock backward and forwards over the arm of the sofa, breathing in and out with all the strength I can muster. The surges now are relentless and totally consuming me with their power and I am just fighting to stay on top of them.

A visualization I was taught in pregnancy yoga really helped me at this point: I rocked forward on all fours as I breathed in through my nose and then rocked back onto my heels as I exhaled through my mouth, visualizing a long golden thread extending into the distance. To keep myself breathing out for a long time and not hyperventilating/losing control, I imagined that each long out breath was pushing this golden thread further and further.

At 5pm the pool is finally ready for action. (I only know this from reading my notes because by this point I was not aware of time). The long-awaited, much-anticipated, pool of dreams. I step in and in my memory step straight out, but apparently I was in there for a few minutes. I don’t like it and in any case I feel I need to go to the loo for a number two.

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My lovely midwife tries to convince me it is my baby but I am having none of it.  How could it be the baby, I think, when I still have so many hours to go?!

I hate the idea of poo’ing in the pool and think I know when I need the toilet. Turns out I don’t. As I sit on the toilet with nothing happening, James and my midwife stand outside the bathroom door telling me not to push too hard because I don’t want to give birth on the loo!

I am aware I have only been in labour for a very short while so cannot believe baby is almost ready to make his/her entrance. I ask my midwife to check that it really is the baby but at this point I can’t lie down on my back or even sit down(!). She kindly obliges and examines me standing up. She tells me I am fully dilated and the baby’s head is just centimeters from its exit! I have gone from 5cm to fully dilated in under 1 hour!!! This might go some way to explaining why it is so intense.

Only after being examined and being told me I am good to go, do I believe and give into the urge to push. And boy did I need to push.

At 5.15pm I start pushing, on all fours, on the sofa, completely naked (and not caring in the slightest), in front of the Christmas tree. This baby is not going to be a water baby after all! As I push I bite down hard on a pillow and roar. At one point I scream, “It’s not going to fit” but am reassured that it will. And, “It can’t stay there” when the baby’s head crowns just as the contraction ends, leaving me momentarily at full stretch (probably the most painful moment).

But after just four minutes of what feels like a surprisingly hard, brick-like object, descending down a tunnel that is far too small to accommodate it, at 5.19pm, my gorgeous, perfectly formed, beautiful, baby boy flies (literally flies) into this world and is caught (just) by Natalie, our midwife. James who has been crouched by my head, whispering encouraging and lovely things into my ear, calls “It’s a boy!”, tears flowing, as our baby flies out, little arms up by his head and legs open like a froglet, revealing what we’ve waited 40 weeks to know. He is then passed immediately through my legs and I bring him up to my chest, bloody and beautiful. James captures the moment on camera and it is without a doubt my favourite photo.

I am so happy. There are no words. I birthed our beautiful baby just as I dreamt (albeit not in the pool), at home, in front of the Christmas tree, with no pain relief necessary. This couldn’t have been more different to my previous experience.

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With my first I was almost two weeks overdue, my labour was induced and it lasted 2 long days. I was attached to a drip, pumped full of artificial hormones, strapped to a monitor and endured a number of invasive procedures. I couldn’t sleep and wasn’t allowed to eat. It was a very stressful experience. I ended up having an epidural so felt nothing and my poor son was finally born by forceps delivery in theatre, narrowly avoiding a c-section, under bright lights, surrounded by people I had never met. Arlo James, on the other hand, arrived the day before he was ‘due’, into a completely calm environment, in the comfort of our family home and my labour lasted just 2 hours and 19 minutes.

It was however the most intense 2 hours and 19 minutes of my life. The surges came on hard and fast and good God were they hard. I breathed for my life and could do little else but focus on that. The pushing was the most acutely painful part yet, ironically, the part for which I am most grateful I felt. To feel his head descend was so real and unlike anything else and I am so glad I got to fully feel and experience the miracle of giving birth. I have never felt more in the present in my whole life. It wasn’t calm or sensual, there wasn’t any incense or oms, (it progressed far too quickly for that!), there was no water baby but it was incredible and intense, powerful and primal (and quite bloody painful). My birth experience was, put quite simply, amazing.

Something I learnt in labour was that Hypnobirthing and all our practice didn’t make labour pain-free, but it helped me to feel in control and awesomely powerful and it gave James a real purpose. Also, I talk about ‘pain’ but at no point did I ask for pain relief, not even a paracetamol. And I would do it all again in a heartbeat, in fact, I wish I could(!).

Doing Hypnobirthing meant we were prepared and ready, excited even, for labour to begin! At no point was I truly scared or afraid: I knew I was capable and I trusted my body and baby completely. When it came to pushing I made these loud, primal, roaring/grunting noises. Although I had imagined quietly breathing my baby down as I’d seen in hypnobirthing videos, my body just took over and I could do nothing else but push. It was instinctive. It was powerful. And I went with it.

Had I not done Hypnobirthing I don’t think I would have gone with it. I would have been nervous of the pain. I would have doubted my ability to do it. I would have been worried about the baby. Instead I embraced it, I pushed, I roared like a lion, and then my baby arrived and immediately all the pain just stopped and pure elation flowed.

I had just experienced the most incredible moment of my life.

Things didn’t go quite so well afterwards. I lost 1.5 litres of blood and was transferred to hospital by ambulance. I had 3 tears unfortunately, which needed to be sutured and just when I thought we could go home, I had a huge allergic reaction to something in hospital and went into anaphylactic shock!

But why dwell on the negative?! I know what part I want to remember.

Friday

After a lot of waiting around in a very small and very hot and stuffy hospital room (shouldn’t complain, we did get a private room and James was able to stay with me overnight), we were finally allowed to go home.

And then I’m not sure what happened later that day, or the next, or the next. They all just sort of ran into one another.

We existed in this beautiful bubble for the next week or so and it was just gorgeous. It was like we had just opted out of real life with all its routine and demands. We slept when we wanted, we ate when we felt hungry (even if it was 4am) and we just allowed our home to fill with all of this love.

I miss it already. Those precious early days. I tried so hard to cherish every single moment, knowing it all goes far too fast. I will treasure my memories of that special time for the rest for the life. As James says, it is worth having another baby for (and we have had a LOT of sleepless nights!).

That, I think, says it all.

Birth Story Of The Week – Annalise and Beatrice

I had never known that a home birth was an option for us before an appointment with our midwife, to discuss the birth. The thought of being in hospital gave me the woollies; I have a phobia of both me and other people being sick, so a labour ward was the sort of place I wanted to give a wide berth (excuse the pun). The thought of taking that anxiety out of labour was the initial appeal, but quickly other pros mounted up, and all I kept thinking was that we could change our mind at any point and go into hospital if we wanted. Planning a home birth just gave us a choice.

When I first mentioned a home birth to my husband, Guy, he was against the idea. He was worried about the possibility of something going wrong. Both our fathers are retired doctors and were sceptical, which added to his hesitance. I kept reminding him that we could transfer to the hospital at any point – we weren’t ruling anything out. It took a few weeks of mulling it over, but eventually Guy came round to the idea, supporting my decision.

Guy and I spent a lot of time preparing for the birth; Guy looked after the logistics, working out how to set up the pool and find the right adaptor for our taps (at one point he tried the shower arm because he couldn’t fit the adaptors). I focused on getting myself in the right physical condition and mind-set. I was doing lots of exercise such as yoga, swimming, step and resistance training. I was also doing my pelvic floor exercises and perennial massage. I listened to a hypobirthing track as I went to sleep at night, and also found it really useful in helping me get back to sleep when I was struck with insomnia.

Sunday 12 October 2014

1:27am

I was five days past my due date when I felt my first contraction. I woke up at 1:27am to a strong tightening in my stomach that faded away. I lay still, wondering what would happen next, and shortly after felt the same sensation rising and falling.

I slipped out of bed, not wanting to wake up Guy, and went into our sitting room to lie down on the sofa. I put on my hypnobirthing track, taking the opportunity to nap between contractions, which at this point were around eight minutes apart. After two 40-minute loops of the track, the contractions were getting stronger so I put on a DVD of ‘Cold Feet’, one of my favourite TV series, to distract me and moved onto onto my birthing ball. As the contractions came, I rested my head on the arm of the sofa, rolled my hips on the ball and closed my eyes. I had set myself the target of 6:00am to wake Guy. When 6:00am arrived, I still felt pretty relaxed, so I decided to hold out for another hour. Just after 7:00am, I went into our bedroom, nudged Guy gently and whispered, “Guy, the baby’s coming”. His eyes burst open and he leapt up, “Really? Where? Now?”

Once Guy had properly woken up, I gave him an update on the past hours. Together we timed a couple of contractions, had some breakfast, got showered and dressed and at 9:00am paged our midwife to let her know that our baby was ready to make its journey.

The midwife on call, called us back soon afterwards. We chatted about my progress and how I was feeling, “That all sounds great”, she said reassuringly, “keep doing what you’re doing – lots of walking around and moving, and give me a call again when the contractions are three minutes apart, and really strong; so strong you can’t think or talk through them.” Before putting down the phone, she said, ‘Each time a contraction comes, say to yourself ‘bring it on’. The bigger and stronger; the more you’re progressing”. It was piece of advice that carried me through the labour.

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We called our immediate families to let them know that we were on, and were brought to tears by a call with Guy’s mother who had explained that she’d secretly hoped that the baby would make an appearance today as it was the 12th anniversary of the death of her father, our baby’s great grandfather, a very special man.

9:30am

It was a beautiful, sunny, autumnal crisp Sunday morning, so Guy and I headed out to our local park, for a walk. We picked up coffees, and walked slowly around our favourite wildlife garden, talking about our baby, its names and our hopes and dreams for him or her. Guy was keeping track of the contractions and would say, “You should be having a contraction around n…”, and on cue I would feel one rising.

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After about an hour of walking, the contractions had increased in intensity and we headed home. Along the way the contractions would stop me in my tracks and I would need to crouch down on the path or lean on a tree until it had passed. During one contraction, I remember a young family passing us, smiling and giving us the thumbs up.

Once home, we reattached the TENS machine. I returned to the birthing ball and Guy started setting up the birthing pool in the back room of our flat. We had a ‘regular’ sized pool, which is 2m x 2m – it was big. The contractions were coming every three minutes but I could still think and talk through them so knew I just needed to keep going – Guy and I would count together (he’d call from the back of the flat) so I knew how long until it would pass, I knew when we reached 20 seconds that it was going to ease again.

11:00am

Around 11:00am the contractions reached an intensity that I felt deemed a call to the midwife – they were very regular and quite strong (‘quite’ being a reference of hindsight). The midwife explained to Guy that she was up at the hospital with a new mother (her first delivery of the day) and that she’d be with us within the hour. When I opened the door to her, it was a huge relief and I burst into tears.

Our midwife was fantastic. Guy and I both warmed to her immediately. She walked in, sat me down and chatted to me about how I was feeling, watched a couple of contractions, checked the baby’s and my heart rates, and then examined me; “You’re 3cm dilated, I’m going to stay”. The golden words; I was so relieved.

From this point it was all about progress, ‘bringing on’ the contractions. I’d been sitting on my birthing ball, rotating my hips, using my TENS machine and breathing to relax through the contractions (pursing my lips and breathing out ‘golden spirals’), but to get things going, I needed to move around. I got to my feet and started pacing up and down our hallway, looking for places to lean as the contractions washed over me.

Guy had just served our midwife some lunch when her phone rang. I was on my way back down the corridor and my ears pricked when I heard her say, “I’ll be with you in five minutes, I’m just around the corner”. The midwife put down the phone and said to Guy, “There’s a lady round the corner pushing with her second child, I’m afraid I have to go. You’ll understand when you have a second child. I’ll be back as soon as my colleague [the other midwife on call] gets there.” And she fled out the door.

There was nothing else to do but carry on as we were going. I continued pacing while Guy started filling the pool. I remained calm for around 45 minutes before I started longing for her return. I sat myself at the front window and gazed out at the road, squinting at every car that passed, asking Guy, “Is that her?”

3:00pm

Within the hour, she was back. This time, when she walked in, she was wearing a smock and carrying lots of bags of medical paraphernalia. I thought to myself, “this is more like it!’ Our midwife had reached the other house five minutes before the baby had arrived – her second delivery of the day. The second midwife, had arrived shortly afterwards having had to hitch-hiked a lift in a police van (anther story in itself). It was an extraordinary day for our midwives.

The midwives carried out more checks and suggested I get in the shower for a change of scenery.  As my waters still hadn’t broken, I thought it might be because I was worried about the mess in our recently refurbished flat, so I stepped into the shower thinking it might help me relax. I got down on all fours, and what a relief it was. Initially, I thought that the shower was slowing down my progress as the contractions eased, but it was actually relief from the warm water. I remained there for what I thought was 30 minutes, but was actually two hours. Guy kept popping his head round but I just apologetically asked him to leave me. I felt very calm and just wanted to be alone and focus on the contractions. The midwife intermittently, quietly and discretely, came in and checked our heart rates. Hearing the little heart beat of my baby was amazing. It was a constant reminder to me that me this was a team effort, I was not alone. My little baby was going through something even bigger than me and remaining calm. I was so proud.

6:00pm

At around 6:00pm, I asked the midwives what my options were – I felt like I was having contractions that seemed to go on an on – running into each other. I was disappointed that my waters hadn’t broken and I was worried it was holding my progress back. The midwives suggested another examination and then to get into the pool. The examination confirmed I was progressing well and had reached 7cm. She described my waters as ‘bulging’. In my head I was thinking, “don’t push them too hard, I don’t want them bursting on our brand new mattress”.

7:00pm

I made my way down to our back room where Guy had created the most beautiful space around the pool with candles and music. As soon as I saw the water I virtually dived in. As I submerged, a contraction took over me, and at the same time I felt my waters pop. The midwife tucked herself discretely to my left and Guy to my right. The midwife left Guy to do the encouraging while she wrote up my notes and calmly answered questions and monitored everything. About an hour later I started feeling the urge to push. At first I didn’t really know what I was doing but after a few attempts the midwife suggested I keep my voice low and explained that I had strong but short contractions so to really try and drag them out. I begged for a time frame, to which my midwife simply reassured me that I was doing well.

Guy was incredible – encouraging me, filling up my water bottle and reminding me to drink, filling up the pool with warm water and keeping so calm. He went through waves of emotions; laughing, crying and quietly just absorbing the atmosphere. I remember it being dark and very calm – probably because I mostly had my eyes closed. I felt very safe, focused and supported.

9:00pm

After an hour of bearing down I was tired. I had only eaten a piece of toast and my energy stores were getting low. Guy knelt beside me and said, your next push is going to be for Poppy (my niece). As the contraction rose I thought of Poppy’s little face and I found a new strength. Next up was my grandmother, followed by Guy’s grandfather (who’s anniversary it was), and it carried on.

Shortly afterwards we were joined by our second midwife This arrival was another huge help, I knew I must be getting close if back-up was arriving. I remember feeling something, like a little nose budging, but one more push and the baby crowned. My immediate reaction was to leap out the water and jump up and down, but the midwives told me to breath and listen very carefully as I needed to do some very small pushes to avoid tearing. I followed their instruction and felt the head deliver.  I remember looking down between my legs and seeing a torch light flashing around. The midwife told Guy to join her and showed him our baby’s face in a hand mirror – its little eyes blinking and head looking around.

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9:28pm

With the next and final contraction I pushed the rest of the body out. I reached down and lifted my baby up in front of me. The midwives spotted that the cord – which was all spiralled like an old telephone cord – had got tangled around the baby’s neck, so they both quickly jumped in and unwound it. I then lifted the baby out the water. As the tummy passed my eyes I saw that we had a daughter. “It’s a girl”, I announced, followed by, “and she looks like your dad, Guy”. In the background INXS’ ‘Beautiful Girl’ was coincidentally playing, it was a moment of my life that I will never forget.

I sat back into the water and the midwives placed my daughter in my arms and latched her on to feed – her body submerged in the pool to keep warm, with a little hat on her hat and towel over her shoulders. Once all the goodness had been pumped from the placenta, Guy stepped forward and cut the cord – separating my little baby and me for the first time. We sat for 20 minutes while the midwives filled out the paper work and made a round of tea. Guy took our daughter for some skin-to-skin and I stayed in the pool while we waited for signs that the placenta had detached. After 45 mins, the midwife stoked up an injection to speed up the process and as I stood up to have it administered, I spotted drops of blood in the water. With one final push (I really didn’t think I had it in me), I delivered it!

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11:30pm

 By 11:30pm our wonderful midwives had weighed our daughter, administered a vitamin K injection into her little leg, completed the paper work, cleared up the placenta and were ready to go. Our daughter was the third baby they had delivered that day – they are superhumas. We thanked them for everything (how do you even start to thank people who have just done what they did), and I took our baby to our bed where we rested and fed. Guy emptied the birthing pool – with a whiskey – and when it was all cleared joined us in bed. Just the three of us, our new wonderful family.

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Birth Story Of The Week – Jade and Aoife

My baby girl turned one yesterday, so felt it a good time to share my birth story.

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When I got pregnant I was terrified. As a midwife, I had seen so many women in pain, begging for an epidural and thinking they were dying. How the hell would I cope with labour?! My colleague and friend had set up her business teaching HypnoBirthing a few years before. She suggested I come along to a course as she knew how anxious I was. I had no idea what to expect and my partner (who is very scientifically minded) was dubious to say the least. After the first session I was hooked. We were shown a video of a woman birthing in the pool, fist pumping and sobbing with joy when her baby was born. If she could do it, so could I surely? From then on, I worked my socks off on my days off and when I got home from work. I listened to positive affirmations; practised breathing techniques; read any positive birth stories I could get my hands on (many of which featured on your blog) and performed perineal massage. I also read some really influential texts, such as Grantly Dick-Read’s ‘Childbirth without Fear’ and all of Ina May Gaskin’s books. I was exhausted but determined to have a good birth. There is a lot of pressure on a pregnant midwife I feel. I didn’t want to be the one who was gossiped about in the tearoom as ‘not coping’ in labour.
One day after my due date at 3am, my waters broke. I went into midwife mode. Calmly got out of bed, checked the loss was clear and popped a pad on. I didn’t tell a soul, not even my partner until 8am. I phoned the midwife led unit where I was planning to birth and told them that my waters broke but I wasn’t contracting. I declined to go into the unit for a speculum examination (a look inside the vagina to check the waters have definitely broken) and told the lovely midwife I would like to wait to see if any contractions started. As a trained professional, I knew what I was doing and was desperate for my labour to start. I felt this was more likely if I stayed in my own environment. Ha! After hours of bouncing on the birth ball, watching films and pacing round the lounge, I was still only having mild tightenings every 10 mins. At 4pm, my mobile rang. It was the sister of the midwife led unit. She wanted me to go in and get checked out. Reluctantly I agreed as I knew time was ticking on. One of my closest midwifery pals was the lucky lady who got to perform the examination which was so bizarre. She informed me that my waters had in fact broken but my os (cervix) was closed. I was booked in to be induced the following morning. I felt so deflated.
We drove home and I made my chap stop en route to grab us some dinner. We got home and I ran a bath with my essential oils and put my HypnoBirthing relaxation CD on. As I got into the bath and started practising my breathing techniques, I felt something start to happen. A really powerful (not painful) tightening sensation across my tummy. They started happening every three minutes from then on. My chap came in with dinner for me (the fresh filled pasta with sauce – student grub!) and preceded to feed me over the side of the bath. I felt so relaxed and in control. My body, now fully fuelled, really began to work, with the sensations getting more intense. I must be contracting, I thought, though it really didn’t hurt. At about 11pm, I climbed out of the bath and preceded to pace our bedroom. All of a sudden, I felt the need to be at the unit. I phoned at 1am and informed them I was coming in. The five minute journey was no picnic. On all fours, on the back seat, I mooed like a cow all the way there. Once at the hospital, I stood nervously at the lift, which is directly outside the Delivery Suite. I was so anxious I would be seen by a colleague. I didn’t want to added pressure of being upstairs on the midwife led unit and colleagues on the wards and CDS knowing I was labouring! The midwife who cared for me was amazing, a previous mentor of mine when I was a student midwife! She didn’t want to examine me until 24hours after my waters had broken just in case I wasn’t in fact labouring. I was very calm so I’m not sure she was convinced! 3am (24hours) came and went. I wasn’t examined as she could tell after two hours of observing me that I was labouring. I wasn’t asking for any pain relief either, which would be another indication for a vaginal examination. At 4am, I felt my baby drop down into my pelvis further and rotate. This was accompanied by an overwhelming need to push (like an urge to vommit!) I had no control over this feeling which I hated as I had felt so in control up until this point. I couldn’t possibly be fully dilated though, surely? I had only started contracting properly at 7pm and still didn’t feel pain. I was in the pool at this point and expressed my confusion to my fab midwife who suggested I had a feel myself. So, in the pool, in front of my mum and fiancée, I preceded to examine myself!! OMG, I was fully dilated and could feel the head! I was doing it! The next two hours were hard work. I did everything I could to get my baby out. I squatted, sat on the loo, got in and out of the pool and pushed like mad. At times, It felt like my baby was just not going to fit through my bones. I remembered one of the affirmations which talks about your baby being perfect for your size though and that kept me calm and focused. At 6:23am my perfect girl floated into the world into the warm water of the pool and was bought up to the surface by her daddy. I had done it. Less than 12 hours of active labour, no pain relief at all and an intact perineum! Amazing! I felt like I could conquer the world, it was such an awesome feeling – the hugest high ever.
HypnoBirthing totally helped me stay calm throughout my pregnancy and in the immediate postnatal period as well as the labour. I was so inspired by this amazing movement that I decided to train as a Practitioner. I have now taught one group of parents in my mat leave and will continue throughout this year. I will be returning to work next week as a Community Midwife and I can’t wait to try and help more women feel better about birth. If I can do it, so can anyone.
Baby Aoife, a week old.  jade 2 jade 3 jade

Pregnancy Diary – 40 weeks!

Preparing to meet our water baby

Firstly apologies this is so delayed. As you can probably guess I had my baby! The last five weeks I have mainly spent breastfeeding, watching him sleep, falling in love and trying to squeeze in the occasional shower.

But let me rewind to my 40th week of pregnancy…

Monday

Today is my first day of maternity leave – whoop! It is also the week I am due to give birth. Everybody thinks I’m crazy to have worked so late into my pregnancy but I’m pretty sure I will be 2 weeks overdue like I was with my first… and 2 weeks is quite long enough to be at home waiting, especially since I am so impatient.

I am hoping to spend the week watching Netflix in bed (between school drop offs and pick ups) and possibly squeezing in a mani-pedi and the obligatory wax so that I am fully ready to meet our water baby.

Things don’t go quite as planned as my mother has decided to come and stay and so I find myself doing jobs around the house, having to plan what to do for lunch/dinner and generally being more social than I had hoped.

But this afternoon I have my appointment with the consultant at West Middlesex hospital. I have this because my bump has measured small throughout the pregnancy (just as with my first) and a few weeks ago I was referred for a growth scan, so this is just a routine follow up. I am hoping he might be able to give me an examination and see if my cervix is doing something because I have had lots of cramping over the weekend and episodes where my tummy goes tight and hard (not contractions but enough to keep me from sleeping and enough to get me excited… and then disappointed).

As I lay on the bed in the consultants room with my legs spread (oh the indignity!), I say to him; “I’m just hoping you’ll tell me I’m 2cm dilated already” being very overly optimistic. Realistically I’d be happy just knowing my cervix is no longer posterior. A second or so later he says to his student “and the lady’s right, she’s 2cm dilated”. I LOL for real.

But he’s being sincere – My cervix is fully effaced and 2cm dilated. I’m filled with joy. I could hug him. Jeez, I could kiss him! How happy I am! I clearly recall being 41+ weeks pregnant with my first and the midwife telling me that my cervix was like that of a non-pregnant person and that labour was quite a way off. I was preparing myself for the same news but this is beyond all my hopes. All the uncomfortable cramping of the last few days has been totally worthwhile – what a journey my cervix has undertaken already!

The consultant gives me a sweep and tells me I will likely be having a baby this week. He assures me that even if I needed inducing today, he would probably only need to break my waters, that I wouldn’t need to be put on the drip like last time. I skip out of the surgery, call my partner and tell him I’m 2cm dilated and that we are having a baby imminently!! He asks if he needs to leave work (I have the sense to say no, luckily). I am way overexcited.

I Google how long it takes for labour to start after a sweep, the results are very mixed. I have no pain or contractions, not even cramping. But I am still hopeful things will be kicking off soon…

Tuesday

Nothing happened last night, nothing happens today, nothing happens tonight. I got over excited and now I am feeling disappointed. My mother is still here and I have not yet been able to begin my Netflix marathon. I consider going out to beautify myself in order to be looking my best to meet the new arrival (if that’s even possible in my swollen whale state) but can’t be bothered. I have got a bad case of negativity after yesterday’s high.

Wednesday

My mother leaves today and I go to the day assessment unit at the hospital to have the baby monitored as the consultant advised on Monday. I feel this is unnecessary but since the baby has been quieter than usual yesterday and today I go along thinking the reassurance will be good. It also gives me something to do.

The midwife who sees me tells me that in her experience babies are often quiet before you go into labour. I don’t allow myself to get excited. I sit strapped to the machine for a while and everything seems fine with baby’s heartbeat. I tell the midwife I have been having cramping and tightenings and that I had a sweep on Monday. She tells me the best thing I can do is go home and do some nipple stimulation and have intercourse to get things going. I was thinking I might cook a curry but looks like the menu might have changed…

I go home and start twiddling my nipples (yes, really) whilst watching ‘The Missing’ which is pretty gripping…

And BOOM! There are contractions! Definite ‘waves’, (as everyone describes), increasing in squeezing intensity, before relief. After a while I decide to start using my app to time them (yes, there’s an app for that).

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For 3 solid hours I twiddle my nipples, watch multiple episodes of ‘The Missing’ and time my contractions. I notice that if I stop with the nipple stimulation they die off but if I keep that up, then they just keep coming. I am having one every 3 or so minutes and they’re lasting about 45 seconds. I am thinking THIS MUST BE IT!!!

My partner gets home from work and after a bit we decide to go out for a walk. My son is at a sleepover so we are relatively free to do as we please. I am initially reluctant preferring just to stay put as I am worried about doing anything that will make the contractions stop/lose regularity but then I remind myself that if this is true labour, a walk won’t stop it. And if it’s not true labour then it will stop eventually anyway. Either way a walk won’t do any harm and there’s possibly a Winter Pimms in it for me if I go, so… we head off!

As I feared it all dies off on the walk, but at least I get to go the pub and it feels a bit like a date night… of course I’m also feeling disappointed, frustrated and impatient!! I post on The Calm Birth School’s Facebook page asking for advice and am told by a lot of lovely people to be patient – baby comes when baby is ready.

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I go home to bed, feeling grumpy.

Thursday

Today is a mega day. A mega, magical day. So mammoth that I cannot fit everything that happens into this diary entry, so I’m not going to try! I am going to have to save all the in-depth details of my labour for my birth story post, which I promise to write very soon!

But to begin, the morning started disappointingly like any other. Me still pregnant. My partner off to work. However minutes after saying his goodbyes and leaving to catch the bus, he returns having decided it might be best to work from home. (Did the skeptic that he is experience some sort of premonition?!).

I wasn’t overly happy with this decision because I was certain nothing was going to happen and I didn’t want him distracting me from season two of Orange is the New Black, which I intended to work my way through uninterrupted.

However by 11am I was thinking perhaps he was right to stay because I found myself standing at the fridge with water running down my legs. At first I was unsure whether my waters had gone or if I had actually just wet myself! I put a pad in and waited.

Once I was convinced my waters had gone, I felt excited that there was now a deadline – I knew for sure I would either go into labour naturally or be induced within the next 48 hours (due to risk of infection). But I also felt the pressure of this deadline and worried that our happy homebirth might not happen…

At this point I decided the best thing I could do would be to write my Christmas cards, so that’s what I did.

And that’s where I’m going to leave things…! Call it a cliff-hanger

NB: I promise to follow up very soon with my full, no holds barred, birth story!

Birth Story Of The Week – Sarah and Quinn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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