31 May

Elly’s Birth Story

Elly is a 30 something mum of one who is still very much learning on the job.

I was ready for baby to arrive, I’d attended NCT classes, read as many book as humanly possible, washed & put away all the baby clothes, stocked up on essentials such as nappies, filled the freezer
full of meals, written my birth plan and packed & unpacked my hospital bag umpteen times.

I started my maternity leave 4 weeks before my due date as I was convinced the baby would be 2 weeks early and I wanted to ensure I had some time at home to prepare for its arrival. So it was typical then that my due date came and went with no sign of baby making an appearance anytime soon.

The birth plan:I had originally intended to give birth at the midwife-led unit at Heatherwood Hospital however I changed my mind when I realised that should I require any medical intervention that this would mean a trip in the back of the ambulance to Slough. The thought of a transfer while mid labour was not a risk I was willing to take.

In short my birth plan was to try to give birth with no or minimal pain relief, to remain as mobile as possible, minimal monitoring and to use the birthing pool if possible.

3 days after my due date I had a sweep to try and get things moving, nothing happened that day and nothing seemed to be happening the following day either until about 6pm. I felt a twinge and wasn’t
sure if it was a contraction or not, having never done this before. So I decided to get the weekly food shop out of the way, just in case this was the start of labour. I waddled round the supermarket with hubby with the occasional twinge. The twinges continued throughout the evening and were getting progressively stronger, it was now clear I was in labour. I knew from my NCT classes and all the reading that this stage could go on for hours, so I wanted to try and remain at home for as long as possible. The pain was increasing so I had a bath and then got out the TENS machine I’d hired, this seemed to help at first but then made me feel and be sick. My contractions were coming quicker, so hubby called the hospital, they advised getting in the bath (again) and taking a couple of parcetamol!! We searched for parcetamol and unbelievably had none in the house, back to the supermarket for hubby. I ran the bath while hubby was out but waited until he returned to get in. In hindsight this was one of the best decisions I have ever made. On his return I took the paracetomal and got in the bath. POP! My waters broke, I threw up the paracetomol and the contractions were now coming thick and fast. We were off to the hospital now, as a bath and 2 paracetomol were not going to do it. Trying to get dried and dressed while having contractions is not the easiest thing in the world, I will never forget hubby telling me that I really did need to get dressed and to basically hurry up.

The drive to the hospital was traffic free but eventful, I was sick twice en route, at which point hubby asked if I wanted him to stop the car? The thought ‘on what planet would I want you to stop and make this journey even longer’ crossed my mind but I simply mumbled no. We arrived at the hospital shortly after midnight, abandoned the car while I made my way through A&E to the Maternity Ward.

We were swiftly shown to a room, I was asked to give a sample, while hubby moved the abandoned car. At this stage I was unsure whether I’d be able to provide a sample as my contractions seemed to be coming so fast. As predicted I couldn’t. The midwife then examined me and declared I was fully dilated and the baby was well and truly on its way. No time for that water birth then!

I started to push and things were progressing really well. Things suddenly took a turn, every time I had a contraction and started to push the babies heart rate dropped. The midwife was concerned
and called a doctor in. It turned out that the cord was around the babies neck and every time I pushed the cord tightened. The call was made to try and assist delivery via a vacuum cup. This meant a episiotomy was required. The cup was attached, throughout this whole process I didn’t utter a word. Hubby kept asking if I was ok and all I could do was nod. I concentrated on breathing and trying to stay calm while more and more people were entering the room. I ended up pushing my baby out naturally, despite the cup being attached it wasn’t used. My beautiful son James was born at 01.25am, I had been at the hospital just over an hour. I cannot even begin to describe the overwhelming sense of relief when I heard him cry for the first time and the feeling of him being placed on my chest.

We eventually made it to the maternity ward at about 5.30 am after being stiched up and taking a much needed bath. Hubby had gone home to catch a few hours sleep and I was alone with James for the first time. I could not sleep as all I wanted to do was stare at this beautiful baby we had brought into the world. I still catch myself looking at him and thinking ‘Wow, we did that’.

29 May

Emma’s birth stories

Emma is a mum of two girls and juggles motherhood with running two small businesses with her husband.

The way you give birth to your baby has a profound influence on your experience of being a Mum. It shapes your relationship with your baby, your feelings towards him or her and your ability to physically do the things required to meet the baby’s needs. The events surrounding labour and delivery stay with you. In time the memories fade and are replaced by newer worries and experiences but they are always there in the distant recesses.

I have two beautiful daughters. My eldest, Alys is 4 and my youngest, Nansi is 10 months. I had two very different experiences during their deliveries. My feelings about Alys’s delivery were mainly negative and painful to recall for a long time afterwards. The negativity faded but I didn’t really put it behind me until the birth of Nansi. Nansi’s delivery was entirely positive and a very empowering experience. The only negative aspect was my sadness that this hadn’t been the case first time around. I felt that Alys had been cheated from a calm, positive start to life and that I’d let her down. I wondered if her clingyness and temperament as a baby was in part down to her first experience of the world and I felt angry that she had to endure this.

So, what went ‘wrong’ first time around? My first pregnancy at age 31, was normal. I enjoyed being pregnant and for the most part wasn’t in too much discomfort or pain apart from the usual kinds of moans and groans most pregnant women experience. We’d opted to have the baby in the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant an ‘out of area’ hospital slightly nearer our house as opposed to the Midwifery led unit the other side of the county. The nearerst hospital or birthing centre was at least a 25 minute drive away, if not more at rush hour. We had heard a couple of horror stories about women in labour being moved by ambulance from the MLU across Cardiff to the consultant unit in the University of Wales Hospital. Having no access to a consultant was a concern for my husband. We thought we’d be able to get the kind of delivery we wanted at the Royal Glamorgan in any case. As we were ‘out of area’, the hospital midwives were a different team to the community midwives. I saw my named community midwife once and seemed to see a different midwife every time I had an appointment. There was no continuity and no-one spoke to me about a birth plan or what I wanted the birth to be like. It was a good job we had signed up for private antenatal classes! After attending NCT classes, I diligently wrote a birth plan.

I had a stretch and sweep 7 days after my due date and the midwife had said I’d already started effacing so I was expecting things to move along fairly speedily afterwards. The following day I started feeling contractions in the middle of the night and the first stage started. I got up about 6.30am so I could move around and by about 8am I put my TENS machine on. I kept mobile, used the birthing ball and had a hot shower. By about 9.30am the contractions were 5 minutes apart, I’d had a ‘show’ and quite painful, so we phoned the hospital. They told me to take paracetemol and phone again when they were 2-3minutes apart. I packed my bag and walked around a lot and about 40mins to an hour later they were 2-3 minutes apart, so Mark phoned again. As we lived a good 35 min drive away they told us to come in. By the time we got to hospital, things had slowed down a bit but on examination I was 4cm dilated (not classed as established labour). Rather than send us home, we were sent for a walk and to find some lunch.

Needless to say, this brought on contractions again and we went back to the delivery room we’d been assigned. I was 6-7cm by this point so I asked to go in the birthing pool. I was convinced it would help with the pain I was getting in my back. I’m not really sure what happened after I got in the pool but I started feeling horrible. Perhaps the heat did something to my blood pressure but rather than relaxed and soothed as I’d hoped, I suddenly felt out of control and in a lot of pain. I’d been doing so well beforehand with the TENs and using positions and movement. We only had a student midwife in the room with us and I couldn’t seem to get the hang of the gas and air. I said I wanted to go home, retreated into my head and asked for something for the pain. Beforehand I had said (and in my birth plan) that I didn’t want pethidine or an epidural, so looking back, I would have expected the midwife to get in my head at this point and reason with me. Instead, she took me back to the delivery room (there was only one pool in the delivery unit) and spoke to the senior midwife.

Things are really hazy from here. I had pethidine although I think I was quite far along and as it kept being pointed out ‘I wasn’t following the normal pathway’ (I was quicker), goodness knows why I wasn’t discouraged more. Everything slowed down so I was given syntocinon in a drip to speed things back up again. I had to be monitored and somehow ended up lying on a bed on my back despite protestations. I then pushed for 2 hours but just couldn’t get the baby out. The baby’s heart rate dropped and the room seemed to get fuller. Eventually the senior midwife let me kneel on all fours on the bed and give it one last go. Nothing. It was decided that I needed an assisted delivery. The consultant favoured a Ventouse. He gave me a large episiotomy (a third degree cut right through my perenium) and the first attempt failed. On the second attempt, thankfully, Alys Rose was born, weighing a perfect 7lb 8oz. I was exhausted but we had a beautiful little girl. Alys came straight to my chest for cuddles but then spent a long time with a bare chested Mark as they sorted out the mess that was my bottom end. He describes it as harrowing as witnessing a car crash. He was holding his new baby daughter in his arms whilst his wife was bleeding profusely and being stitched, legs in stirrups before his eyes.

Finally I got to breastfeed Alys and after a bit of difficulty, we just about managed it. After not much time to be together and recover, I was moved to a ward. Mark was told to go home and I was along with our baby. I hadn’t even had a shower. I felt pretty lonely. Alys was quite sleepy thanks to the pethidine so feeding was a little tricky. I was really sore and woozy but was basically on my own. There was no-one to watch the baby when I had to go to toilet (at the end of the ward) and I had to wait until Mark came in for visiting the following day before I could clean myself up.

We were discharged after 2 days in hospital and we came home. I couldn’t walk properly for 2 weeks and my stitches didn’t heal properly – I had a little hole that took a while to heal and I got an infection. I found breastfeeding difficult. Alys had a very sore head and would only sleep on Mark or me. We were both traumatised and very, very tired. I blamed myself for losing mental control in the pool and cried a lot. Midwives visited and one in particular was lovely to me. She talked about how different it would have been in the MLU and how they would have let me labour differently.

28 days after Alys’s birth I was discharged by my ‘named’ midwife (only the second time I’d met her). I was deemed physically well enough it seems but at the point she actually walked out of my house to let herself out, I was breastfeeding Alys and was in tears, having just broken down about my experience of her delivery. Unbelievable. I didn’t have diagnosed PND but I really could have done with someone sitting down and talking through things – preferably one of the midwives who attended the birth. Instead, I was left to deal with my ‘grief’ and didn’t properly get over it until just before our second baby was born.

Fast forward three years. Strangely, pregnancy second time around was much more stressful than the first time. I had experienced an early miscarriage the previous year and the experience of giving birth the first time was imprinted on my memory. I also now work for myself, running two businesses with Mark. We can’t just leave work at the door and come home. I also had a very active toddler to care for. Around 20 weeks, I started getting SPD quite badly. Luckily it eased slightly as the baby grew inside me. I still kept active and did antenatal yoga classes and attending a yoga birthing workshop with Mark – highly recommended!

This time around we decided to deliver in the MLU at the University Hospital. Despite it being a 40 minute drive, it seemed to be the best place for us to have the kind of delivery we wanted, with little or no intervention (all being well this time). I saw the same two community midwives at every appointment and talked a lot with them about my experience with Alys and what I wanted this time.

The due date came and went again. I did lots of walking and yoga but still no movement. A stretch and sweep after 7 days wasn’t really possible as my cervix was so high. The midwife also had concerns that the baby seemed small as I’d started measuring small for dates. I got stressed. I didn’t want a consultant led birth and was determined to deliver in the MLU.

The following day, like her sister, the baby decided to come. I started getting pains in the early hours and got up to move around and try and bring things on a bit more. I laboured all day. I went for a walk to the shops with Alys and my Mum who’d come to help out. I did three loads of washing. I tidied up. I even did some work correspondence. All the while, I was standing up, being active. I put the TENS machine on after I’d put Alys to bed at 7pm and starting using the ball again.Things started to speed up and get quite painful so we phoned ahead to the hospital and they told us to come in.

Once again, things slowed down again on the journey and on examination in the hospital at about 9pm, I was gutted to find out I was only 2cm dilated! The midwife had a feeling things might move quickly though and didn’t want to send us home so sent us off round the hospital for a walk. It was dusk and we went outside for fresh air. Within half an hour I couldn’t walk with the pain and we were back again. Mark made a brew and I was kneeling on the floor using the ball as he just popped to the car to get our bag. The room was dark with just a lamp on and all was quiet and calm. My waters went. I called out to Mark as I heard him come back.

‘You need to come, my waters have gone. Get the midwife.’ He ran in.
‘I need the toilet!’ I said. He started to help me off the floor as he midwives came in.
‘No I need to push!’ I changed my mind.
‘OK’ said the senior midwife.
‘What?!’ said Mark.

They got me on the bed and lay me on my side. I started to push and Mark asked if they could fill the birth pool so I could deliver in water.

‘Hmmmn, we’ll try but I don’t think we’ll have time as it takes 20 mins’ they said.
‘What?!’ said Mark.

A few big pushes and about 10-15 minutes later at 10.50pm, along came Nansi May, weighing a teeny 6lb 2oz. She came to me for a little feed, then as I was sewn up (I’d tore along my old scar), Mark cuddled her on his bare chest. Then she came back for a lovely feed.

Shell shocked a the speed of things, we stayed in the delivery suite for a couple of hours talking and cuddling Nansi. The two lovely midwives made us tea and toast (we didn’t have time to drink the first brew Mark had made!) and popped in to check on us. After a while, I had a shower in the ensuite bathroom and we moved to another room. It had a double bed so Mark could stay, a cot for Nansi and an ensuite bathroom. We were too stoked to sleep much but we all had a nice rest together. After more tea and toast that Mark was able to make in the little kitchen and the necessary checks were performed on Nansi, we were discharged just after 9am.

It wasn’t quite the home birth I had thought about but it was a wonderful second experience. The midwives were amazing and despite the worry that Nansi was looking on the small side, they did everything they could to support us in our decision to delivery in the MLU. In the days following we had lots of support from my named midwife and the breastfeeding support counsellor. I couldn’t speak more highly about the post natal care I received. I was up and about and even managed the Mums race at Alys’s sports day 6 days after (I walked it!). Nansi and I have had a few difficulties breastfeeding mostly due to oversupply but she’s doing brilliantly.

Two very different experiences but the same outcome of a beautiful girl each time. I’ve been able to put behind me what happened with Alys and accept that was just what happened. What I did both times was no better or worse than the other. Just different. The important thing was that my children were born safely, and are happy and healthy. I now have two special little girls and what I do everyday as a Mother to them, really makes the most impact.

27 May

Helen’s (Second) Birth Story

Helen’s first labour was long and drawn out with some complications and she felt this was her opportunity to ‘do it right’.

Tue 21st Feb
Ten days overdue, fed up and bored. As my first baby had been
eleven days late I was expecting to go overdue with this one too,
but had hoped she would have arrived by now. My lovely Doula
came over to give me reflexology in the afternoon, which
was really relaxing, and must have had some effect because my
contractions started around 7pm. I sent my husband Simon to bed
at 11pm but knew I wouldn’t sleep. Contractions continued all
night – between 5 and 8 minutes apart.

Wed 22nd Feb
By 5am I was tired and fed up so called Linda and asked her
to come and keep me company (I wanted Simon to get a good
night’s sleep as it might be his last one for a while!). She came
over and kept me going with tea and calming chat, Woke Simon
up about 7.30 so he could get up and take our 3 year old to
nursery. When he came back at 8.30 the contractions had slowed
about 10 minutes apart, so frustrating! Linda went off to do some
shopping and Simon and I went for a walk (we kept bumping into
friends and trying to pretend nothing was happening…) When
we got home I had more reflexology and acupressure from Linda,
which really helped and the contractions started ramping up.
By 3pm I’d been having 3 contractions in 10 minutes (of about
1.5 minutes each) for over an hour so we decided to go to the
hospital – only to be sent home as I was only 2cm. Gah.

So, back home and more acupressure and walking. A friend
picked Holly up from nursery and I hid in another room as I didn’t
really want her to see me in labour. Said goodnight to her though
and as she went to bed we decided to go to hospital again (at
about 7pm).

This time they declared me 4cm dilated, hurrah. And the birth
pool was free, double hurrah! We were put in a delivery room
while the pool was cleaned, and I spent an hour or so bouncing
on a ball and waiting to be called to the pool room.

Finally got in the pool about 8.30pm. Bliss! Contractions were
strong and about every 2 mins but the water really helped, as did
my hypnobirthing breathing, and I felt really calm and in control.
Felt like I needed to push pretty soon but just went with it, even
though it felt way too quick. Decided I could do with some gas

& air about 9pm as I was getting tired and wasn’t sure how much
longer it would take. About 9.15pm there was a midwife shift
change, and the new midwife insisted I get out of the pool for a
wee. I wasn’t sure this was a good idea but did as I was told. Sat
on the loo and felt the baby moving down very fast. The midwife
yelled ‘get the gloves’ and the baby shot out in one push. The
midwife just managed to catch her! Rosa was born with LOTS of
hair and weighed in at 7lb 7oz. We stayed in hospital overnight
but were discharged the next morning.

She’s now almost three months old, and a very chilled out baby.
Her older sister dotes on her and life as a family of four is going
really well.

25 May

Emma’s (Second) Birth Story

Emma is Mum to Lara and Holly. By day she writes software, by night she blogs at Mellow Mummy.

My contractions started at 5pm approximately 5 minutes apart but very erratic and mild. By 7pm they began to get stronger – I consider this to be when labour was established.

At this point I was still pootling around the house. Mr. B fitted the TENS machine (which definitely helped) and tried to insist that I went to bed but I kinda knew that things were starting to move more quickly and sleep wasn’t on the cards. I asked him to ring his parents who came around to look after Lara. By the time they arrived, the contractions were strong enough to stop me in my tracks and I rang the hospital. I’m sure they deliberately put the most miserable member of staff on the phone at the labour ward to try and put you off going in – she nearly managed to persuade me not to go. During the half-hour drive to Frimley Park Hospital I only experienced 2 contractions (they had previously been coming as frequently as every 2 minutes) and I really began to panic that I’d made the same mistake as last time by coming to hospital too early and letting everything slow down.

We arrived in the delivery ward just after 9pm at the point when the midwife shift was about to change. A stern-looking midwife asked me a load of questions and obviously thought I was fussing about nothing. She didn’t believe me when I said I’d had a urine infection earlier in the week, and she didn’t believe my waters had broken. I think she thought that when the next midwife examined me, I would be going straight home. My contractions were gaining frequency again but still mild enough for me to almost continue my conversation.

The new midwife was a lot friendlier and by the time she examined me at about 10.15pm, the contractions had come back much more frequently and continually growing in strength. I was VERY relieved to find that I had made it to 6/7cm dilated with just the TENS machine to get me through. We asked her to fill the birthing pool with water (which takes about 20 minutes) but both myself and Mr. B were wary of getting into the pool too soon because we didn’t want it to slow down labour too much. As we waited, I was in a lot of pain and the TENS machine was no longer helping me get through the contractions – a lot of concentration was needed to breathe through each of them.

I got into the pool just before 11pm and the relief was instant. As suspected, things did slow down a little but it felt good to be in the warm water. The midwife left us alone for a little bit and told us to ring if I felt the urge to push – we both thought she was joking. At about 11.30 there was a lull in contractions and we stopped to joke with one another about whether we would have a May 1st or May 2nd baby and both of us felt pretty sure it would be the next day before we saw our baby. I realise now that this lull was probably the point of transition into the second stage of labour. From the very next contraction I felt the urge to push and tried to ignore it.

Thankfully the midwife arrived again before we needed to pull the emergency cord. She told me to ignore the urge as long as possible. I ignored it for one more contraction and then my own body took over. It only took 3 contractions and 6 minutes for the second stage of labour. Holly was born in one push and took both midwives by surprise because there was no pause between head and body. She literally plopped into the water and they had to drop their tools to grab her.

Holly and I chilled out in the water together for about 10 minutes before getting out to lie down for the third stage – delivery of the placenta. In that time, she naturally rooted for my breast by snuggling up my chest towards me. I felt so relaxed it was unreal.

We had to wait for me to dry out before I could have my stitches (by far the most painful experience of the night and the only point at which I tried the Entonox gas). We had a cuppa, some toast and a bit of a chill out while the painkillers for the stitches kicked in. I grabbed a quick bath, got dressed and then we were discharged. We arrived home with baby Holly at 5am and when Lara woke at 7 we had a lovely family reunion.

I am so happy that my second birth went entirely to plan. It certainly has helped me get through the last couple of days with more energy and less pain. The stitches are healing and we are both generally well.

23 May

Fiona’s (Second) Birth Story

Fiona is a thirty-something mother of 2 from Oxford; she was a teacher pre-children, but had to stop work due to post-natal depression after the birth of her first child 5 years ago. She is now a full-time, baby-wearing, breastfeeding mum, attempting to juggle the demands of parenthood with interests in music, writing and sewing, and also squeezing in time to make jewellery (www.morganandpink.co.uk).

My second pregnancy was a pain, frankly, with SPD discomfort, and lots of small indignities, anaemia, iron tablets (and their side effects) and so on. It was also marked by me doing lots of planning and thinking about the birth, and the days immediately afterwards, in a desperate attempt to avoid the miserable car-crash-type experience of my first child’s birth (I’ll try to get round to writing that story too…) So from fairly early on, I had planned to give birth in a midwife led unit where I would feel relatively safe, with a doula or birthing partner (so that someone was there just for me as a person, rather than me feeling like a body on a slab) and we planned all sorts of contingencies, right down to the kind of food my husband would bring to the hospital for me. I also watched “One Born Every Minute” every week, usually reduced to tears by the end, and I felt that this boosted my confidence in my ability, as a woman, to do this crazy thing (this is important, as I was in complete denial during my first pregnancy, and I’m sure it contributed to some of the difficulties I encountered first time round in labour). We eventually decided against a birth doula (too expensive, sadly), but one of my best friends offered to be my birthing partner – it felt wonderful to know I’d have her there. And we did hire a post-natal doula for the few months after the birth.

Despite all these preparations, or perhaps because of them, I was impatient, and spent most of the last trimester hoping my baby would be early, mostly to end the discomfort of pregnancy, but also because
I was keen to meet the little one. I didn’t know if it would be boy or a girl, as the cord was between the baby’s legs during the 20wk scan, so there was no way of telling what it might have been hiding! My first child was born at 38wks and 3 days, so I was quite confident I wouldn’t have to wait until full term. At 36 weeks and 4 days, I started having a slightly funny tummy, which I remembered being one of the signs in the last few days before my first child’s birth. I told myself it couldn’t be that, as I was only 36 weeks
etc. On Wednesday 9th February (36wks, 7days) I began to get a lot more Braxton Hicks, enough to make me feel like I was really waddling up the road to fetch my older one from nursery in the afternoon, and by suppertime enough to make me catch my breath a little. But, as I wrote in an email to my sister that evening, “I’m not 37 weeks yet, so I’m sure it’s nothing.”

By 9pm, when my husband got home, I wasn’t so sure, and told him I thought there was a chance I might be in labour. He naturally thought this was unlikely, and suggested I went to bed to get some rest. By 9.30 I had had two pretty painful contractions, couldn’t sleep, and was sure. We had a cup of tea, and tried to phone my sister, who lived across town, and had agreed to come and baby-sit our 3 year-old when I went into hospital. She didn’t answer – but why would she? She wasn’t expecting the call for another three weeks! After half an hour or so, I was having contractions every 10 minutes, so I rang the hospital. The midwife there said, yes, it did sound as if I was in labour, and that I should wait until I’d had
contractions about 5 minutes apart for an hour or so, and then come into the unit. I rang my birthing partner, but she was on her way home from performing in London, and her partner said to ring again
when we went in to hospital. My husband rang my sister again, and eventually she answered, and he set off to fetch her. They got back at about 11.15ish (I think), by which time I had begun having contractions every 5 minutes or so, but only perhaps for 20 minutes or so – I’d been trying to write them down, but it was all a bit fuzzy! I had a swiss ball in the living room, which I leant over and moaned; the rocking movement helped the pain, and my sister rubbed my back which was lovely.

After a few more of these contractions, I said to my husband that we ought to get going, as it was a 20 minute drive to the hospital. My bags were packed, so all we had to do was hunt for change for the car-park. Even though I said we should go, I had a gut feeling that I didn’t want to go anywhere. I needed to go to the loo before we left; while I was sat there, I had another contraction and my waters
broke with an audible pop. I felt the most overwhelming urge to push really hard, and suddenly felt that burning feeling. I reached down, and felt the baby’s head and hair. I screamed at my husband to
phone an ambulance –he said “Are you sure?” He came to look, and went visibly pale. The ambulance telephone operator told him to get me lying down on the floor, so I staggered into the living room and
lay down on a waterproof bed mat (I’d bought them without really believing anyone ever used them!).
They told him that if I had another contraction, he should push back – I’m still not sure how that would have worked exactly, but in any case the ambulance arrived in less than 4 minutes. The first paramedic came in and said “I’ll just pop back to the van for some entonox, shall I?” and I said, “No – I’m having another contraction”. He came and knelt down, I felt another massive push and stretching feeling, and another sort of “pop”, and that was the head. My sister was sent upstairs to fetch towels, three more
ambulance crew arrived (in a back-up vehicle), and with the next contraction, I delivered the rest, and the ambulance man caught her. He afterwards said that in 25 years of being an ambulance paramedic,
he’d never had to catch a baby before! The time of birth was recorded as 11.57pm. The baby was placed on my stomach, and they told me it was a girl. I remember saying , several times, “Oh my gosh, I just had a baby!” I was able to give her a first feed, which was wonderful, and I’m pretty sure we all cried. I have no idea what my sister thought – she is in her early 20s, and thought she had just come to babysit a sleeping child, instead of which she had a ring-side seat at the business end, as it were, for the birth

I then went into shock, and don’t remember much of the next hour or so, except that I was freezing cold, shivering uncontrollably, and feeling utterly drained. My husband and sister took care of the baby,
and I just lay there feeling miserable. Apparently this is not uncommon after such a quick labour. I didn’t feel I could push anymore, and it took a long time (maybe 45 minutes?) for the placenta to deliver as the ambulance crew didn’t have any drugs with them to speed it up. I remember one of the paramedics becoming a bit anxious about that, and the on-call midwife didn’t arrive for more than an hour so she could do no more than check it when she arrived to make sure it was all there. Eventually I was able to sit up and have some sweet tea, which really helped, and then the midwife helped to clean me up, check that I didn’t need any stitches, and help me change my clothes and get onto the sofa, rather than
lying on the floor. I was able to feed my baby again, and began to get vicious after-pains, so I took some paracetomol, and then threw up. I felt better after that, and had some more tea. After a good feed, I handed the baby over to my husband, and went up to have a bath, which was utterly wonderful. I think it was about this point the happy hormones kicked in, and I remained on a complete high for weeks! It was so glorious to be at home, to be able to have a bath, and then curl up and sleep in my own house.
The midwife was wonderful too, staying with us for several hours to make sure everything was ok. She then went to the hospital to register the birth on their systems, before coming back to see us again at

about 7am. She said she was happy for us to remain at home, unless we wanted to go into hospital to be checked – we said no thanks, we’re very happy here! In every way (apart from the shock) it was a
fantastic experience, and so much better than my first labour.

21 May

Anna’s Birth Story

Anna is currently learning how to manage a small curious baby and a horrific stinking cold.

I had decided some point midway through pregnancy that my baby was going to arrive 6 days before my due date, on December the 29th 2011. It seemed like the kind of date a baby of mine would like to arrive, and seemed like something I could look forward to, hold on to, and have some control over. I liked the idea that if I picked a date, and aimed for it hard enough, that’s when my baby would arrive.

I was, of course, wrong.

Not only had my baby decided not to turn up on December 29th, he’d also decided against turning up on my due date of January 4th, even though we tried to tempt fate by arranging to go to the theatre that night. And the days ticked by, with frequent phone calls from family and IMs from friends online. Nothing. So in the afternoon of January 9th, we went for my 40-week midwife appointment. She’d performed an exam, declared me to be 1cm dilated, done a sweep, and given me a sheaf of photocopied leaflets about the induction that I’d be needing to book in for unless things got moving by themselves within a few days. Having planned a home birth, and having everything in place and set up for it, we wanted to avoid that as much as possible. Not that I have anything against hospitals – as with any home birth, I knew there was a fair chance we’d end up there – but given that we live in a health authority where home births are relatively common and extremely well supported, there seemed no reason not to try for one – I’d be more relaxed at home, I’d feel less intimidated about moving around and making noise, and, most importantly, no one would separate my partner and I after the birth; no one would send him home and leave me lying in a hospital bed with no idea what to do with this new baby.

We’d walked home, briskly, carried on with some work.

My waters broke on Monday evening, at 7pm. My partner Bobbie had just, ten minutes before, phoned for a curry. I’d been sitting on the birthing ball (well, exercise ball) in my living room, gently bouncing up and down watching television when suddenly, something popped. B fetched towels, and I stood there, in the middle of the floor, not knowing what to do. Stand up? Sit down? Clench? Still have the curry?

I knew I was supposed to phone the labour ward when my waters broke, but also knew the 36-hour-to-induction clock was ticking from whenever I did. So we decided to wait until later in the evening. Boj walked to the curry place to pick it up. I stood there, stunned and excited and scared and aware that this was it. Our baby, Doozer (as we’d been calling him) would be arriving. And soon. I grabbed some towels that B had thrown to me on his way out. Tried sitting down. Standing up. Sitting down. I phoned my mum, my sister. I phoned our doula, just to keep her informed. I tried to remember everything I’d been taught in birth classes, and everything I’d read. I couldn’t remember a thing. But here we were. This was it.

But, of course, this wasn’t it, though. In my NCT class we’d been warned that, unlike in the movies, waters often didn’t break until way after labour was established – but hadn’t really thought through the information that waters can break way, way before labour starts. so while there was a gush of water, and my stomach felt flatter and emptier than in months, there were no contractions. Nothing. So we ate the curry, phoned the labour ward, went to bed, and slept for 8 hours. This was not what I was expecting from labour.

At 8am on the Tuesday, the community midwife came round. She asked about the waters breaking, and checked the pad I was wearing to see if there was any discolouration to the waters. Then she booked me in at the hospital for an induction the next morning at 11. The clock was ticking.

The rest of the day was spent in the spare room, the room we’d already started setting up for labour. Lights dim, curtains drawn, a candle lit and a floor mostly covered in tarpaulin, I spent my time sending emails that I didn’t know when I’d next get the opportunity to send, napping, nippling, bouncing on the birth ball, mainlining raspberry leaf tea and listening to labour-inducing music. As night fell, we went for a march down to the silent seafront, one man and his very large companion from the ministry of silly walks, raising her knees high and stepping hard, feet outturned with each downstep, trying to encourage Doozer downward.

I started feeling Braxton HIcks type twinges regularly at about 11pm on Tuesday. Or rather, soft cramps, like gentle period pains – not painful, but noticeable. By midnight we realised they were coming in a pattern, every 12 minutes or so. We went to bed, and slept, lightly, too excited to sleep much, but knowing that, if this was it, we’d be able to stay at home rather than attend our booked 11am induction. And, whatever happened, Doozer was on his way.

By 4.30 I couldn’t sleep in our bed any more – the contractions, if that’s what they were (I was never convinced, although the eventual arrival of a baby should have tipped me off) though not painful or much more frequent, were noticeable enough to raise my excitement and deny me any more sleep. We moved into the spare room, put music on, and lay on the bed, waterproof covers crinkling under the old sheets. At 6 or thereabouts we called the labour ward, to ask for a community midwife to come and check that we didn’t need to turn up for the induction.

At 7.30am or so, she arrived, first visit of the day. She did an exam, declared me to be 4cm dilated – did a painful sweep (“And now you’re 5cm!” “Ow. Thanks.”) dropped the useful tip of using a breast-pump rather than fingers for nipple stimulation in order to help labour along (“Quicker, and FAR less boring.”), then she phoned the labour ward to let them know we wouldn’t be coming in for induction, and left again.

The contractions, still milder than I ever expected, kept coming, every 10 minutes, then every nine. We broke out the breast pump. It noticeably increased the intensity of the contractions, but still not to anything I thought “real”. I kept thinking a midwife would turn up and say “Oh no, you’re just making it up, these aren’t proper contractions at all”. I don’t know what I was expecting, but rather than being painful, per se, they were like waves – the main indication that was one was arrving was that I’d feel the need to move. And I just kept moving: swaying from side to side, rocking back and forth on the ball, crouching on all fours rotating my pelvis. Having been informed by the midwife that Doozer was still lying with his back on the right rather than the left, I spent time between contractions trying to swing him – crab-walking up and down the stairs, doing handstands on the stairs while B held me steady, leaning on the ball and bouncing gently, getting B to use a scarf to lift the weight of the bump and try and shuggle Doozer round (I forget what this is called, but it’s bloody lovely and very, very comfortable).

At lunchtime, when the contractions were closer to 7 minutes apart, and both of us were feeling a bit tired, having been at it a while, we called Agnes, our doula, and told her we were ready for her to come now. We’d met Agnes through our NCT classes – she was our teacher for the birth class – and feeling that she was the right mix of sensible, rational, funny and supportive, we engaged her as our birth doula.

Though she’d been in hospital for two nights with another client (whose due date had been a safe distance from mine, but apparently our babies had not been informed of this), the other baby was literally just arriving as I rang. Half an hour later, Agnes arrived and sat with me while Bobbie slept a while, then went through the birthplan with Bobbie while I catnapped between contractions.

That was one of the surprises, to me. The fact that I wanted time on my own, and that that was ok. I had imagined labour as being a time surrounded by people very closely all DOING things and being very engaged with me ALL THE TIME (which isn’t something I like at all) – but I was able to say “I want some time alone, just to concentrate.” – and everyone would disappear down to the kitchen to have a cup of tea. Of course, there were also a couple of times when Agnes, having presented at some other point the theory that the natural chemicals found in semen might help to open the cervix even more effectively if swallowed, tried to leave us alone for some ‘private time’, although stopped after being assured, very firmly, that, frankly, no one was in the mood for a blow job.

Labour seemed to be progressing, in that the contractions were getting closer together, but they weren’t getting noticably more intense. They made me want to move around, to squat, shift around, walk the stairs. but not hurt. I realise now – as I realised then – but it seemed to me as if something wasn’t correct. It was so far from what I’d been told, and what I’d been expecting, I thought that somehow, this must be wrong.

Still, the frequency of the contractions continued to increase. When it got to 5 minutes, we called the labour ward, and they said the community midwife would be with us shortly. She arrived around 3.30, I believe. After asking a few questions, observing a couple of contractions and excusing herself to read my notes and birth plan, I asked Agnes if she could take the community midwife downstairs and give her some tea. We carried on labouring upstairs, B and I, just taking contractions one at a time, walking the stairs often, and relaxing inbetween curled up on the bed. At some point in here Agnes brought me a wholewheat pancake with maple syrup – the only food I’d seen since breakfast – which I initially refused, then inhaled as soon as I’d taken a first bite.

Some time between 4.30 and 5, the pain started. That pain that I’d been complaining about lacking earlier, plus some extra, just for good measure, arrived. It was like someone was firing a laser directly at the small of my back, and it was burning through the skin, and the flesh, and searing through the bone. It wasn’t very nice. I didn’t like it. I wanted the other, less hurty contractions back. Suddenly I realised what people had meant about using the downtime between contractions to pause, and collect, and ready yourself for the next one.

My memories from this bit are jaggedy. I was suddenly ravenous, and demanded food. A jar of peanut butter, to be precise, which was brought with a spoon. There was a fruit bowl in the spare room, and I remember peeling a banana, sticking it straight into the jar, and eating the whole thing in a small number of bites, while gearing up for the next laser attack.

While I was collecting myself between contractions, bobbie went and got Agnes and the community midwife from the kitchen. They came up and checked out the new developments – Agnes helping me find new positions and getting out the tens machine, the community midwife … frankly I have no idea. I can’t remember. I know it said in my birth plan that I wished for midwives to leave me to get on with things as much as possible, and talk to Bobbie first about medical developments, so it could be she was doing that, and heart rate, BP checks etc.

She was soon to go off shift, however. There’s a shift change around 6pm in Brighton, when the community midwives of the day are replaced by hospital midwives sent straight from the labour ward.

Before this happened, the community midwife did an internal exam. I’d wanted to know the results of it, as finding out I was 4/5cm dilated at 7.30am had been a great encouragement. But she didn’t tell me. She left the room, went to make her notes and, as the hospital midwife arrived, to hand over.

(I found out later I was still 4/5cm dilated during the exam at 5.45pm. Nine hours of labouring, and my labour was apparently no further along than it had been when I woke up. As far as I was concerned, that was how it worked. You went from 0-10cm dilated slowly but gradually, and then, BAM, a baby! Apparently not. I was angry at the time that no one was telling me the results of the internal, but I can see why they weren’t. As encouraged I’d been by going from 1cm-4cm dilated apparently without knowing, it seemed likely, especially as the intense pain was wearing me out fast, that I might be as discouraged by the fact it hadn’t advanced any more. I think I knew this was the case from the fact no one was telling me, but still wished I’d known something – anything – at that point. I had nothing firm to hold on to – I wanted information about ANYTHING at that point)

The tens machine helped, but not as much as it might have done if I’d started earlier and ramped it up more gradually. But the onset of the painful contractions was so sudden, the tens machine could barely keep up. Once the hospital midwife, Katrina, had spent an apparent eternity reading through my notes and having her handover, she offered me some gas and air – probably around 6.15pm – but though I had it for a couple of contractions, I didn’t like it. It was like being drunk – which was great, obviously, but meant I couldn’t concentrate on the contractions, and that was all I wanted to do, focus on them completely from the second they began till the moment they faded away.

Every contraction was piercing at this point. Fire burning in the base of my spine, it was hard to imagine how I’d get through each one, let alone the next one. Around this time, I started viewing Katrina, the hospital midwife, as some kind of angel of medical intervention. “Katrina: How long will this last? What’s happening to me, Katrina? When will it end?” I begged her, making sure I inserted her name as frequently as possible, to make my argument seem more reasonable, more rational, and ingratiate myself to her more quickly. “How can you let this happen to me, Katrina?”. “Please, Katrina,” I said at some point “isn’t it time for me to go to hospital, perhaps? Wouldn’t that seem like a good idea? Katrina. Please: Take me away from these fucking hippies”. (I’m not sure who I meant by that. My partner, my doula, the community midwife – even myself. Whoever, basically, had decided that this crazy homebirth thing had been a good idea. I wanted removing from them all, being attached to an epidural needle with greatest haste, and all of this business taken out of my hands. Luckily, Katrina didn’t listen).

It appears that, without anyone realising – perhaps due to shift change, perhaps because I wasn’t being as clear as I might have hoped – I was in transition. The baby was turning, and heading down.

I think some time around 7, I announced that I needed to go to the toilet. I needed to poo, I said, and took myself off to the toilet, closing the door behind me. After the next contraction shocked me – it felt weird, and different, I called Bobbie in.

Agnes came in to the bathroom, after asking permission. “Ok.” she said. “Katrina and I have been talking, and perhaps, you know, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to maybe go into hospital, you’re getting very tired, and you need to have enough energy for the journey ahead…” etc, or something like.

“Oh NOW you say that” I said, foul in temper and short of gratitude. “NOW it’s too late, I think. NOW I have to push. I want to push. I have to push.”


Katrina was called and, after doing a quick exam, and confirming that yes, pushing wasn’t out of the question, started to try to persuade me to leave the toilet. Agnes ran and fetched some warm water with honey dissolved in it, I remember that. I downed it, and that, I think, gave me the energy to get up and move. Well, that and not wanting my son to be born on the bog.

There are four steps between the bathroom and the spare room. I stopped halfway up them to have a contraction. One person behind me, one person in front, I was guided back into the room, where the lights were still low and my wall of photos and maps and drawings looked down on the bed that I’d covered in waterproof bedding, the quilt I’d laid out the day before as a contraction mat in the bay window, and the tarpaulin that covered the floorboards between the two.

I made it just through the door. A spot I hadn’t thought to cover in tarpaulin. I heard the midwife asking someone to phone the labour ward – how it works in Brighton is that you have one midwife with you from the point of established labour, one to help with the birth – and, as I went into another push, I heard her say “Oh, tell them not to bother, he’s coming now, they’ll never get here in time.”

And then another push, standing by the door, leaning on the bed, and with a whoosh, he arrived. At 7.21pm. Swept up straight into my arms as I moved onto the bed. As requested, the umbilical cord was left until it had stopped pulsing, allowing Doozer to get the last bit of lifegivingness from the amazing placenta that had kept him alive for nine months. When it stopped pulsing, Bobbie cut the cord. And there we were. Lying on the bed, a tiny, long-limbed creature on my chest, breathing, wet, staring up at me. The official notes we got sent a few days later had the pushing stage at 6 minutes, but I think it was more like 11. Or 13. Not very long, anyway.

25 minutes later, Katrina got me to stand up again and deliver the placenta just as I’d delivered Doozer – except instead of being caught by waiting arms, it fell, into a waiting metal tray.

This was the point at which I was really pleased for having Agnes. In the relatively painfree bit, having a doula had seemed more luxury than necessity. But now with the midwife running in and out doing the important medical checks on the placenta etc and filling in paperwork, and no second midwife on the scene to help, it was good to have someone supporting as we lay there, skin on skin, trying to encourage Doozer to latch on. More importantly, when Katrina came in saying that she couldn’t piece together the whole of the placenta and that there seemed to be a bit missing – which would have meant a trip into hospital and a series of internal exams to find it – Agnes got her to check again, and then again, and all the time asserted that she was sure she’d seen another piece as well, and eventually Katrina agreed that I should just monitor for any extra pain or blood loss and didn’t have to go into hospital then and there. If we’d been on our own, I know we wouldn’t have had the energy to argue this.

By 9.30pm, everyone had left. Well, Katrina and Agnes – Bobbie and Doozer and I stayed. The house was still and quiet, and we were ringing round family, doing facetime on mobile phones with those who could, and introducing Doozer to his new extended family.

We tried feeding again, we moved from the spare room into our bedroom and, amazingly, by about 11pm, both father and son were fast asleep, one in bed and one in the bedside crib (for the last time in 12 weeks, but that’s another story). And I was wide awake, hormones pulsing through me, no one to expend them on for another couple of hours. So I went online. I was looking back through archives the other day, alarmed to see myself chatting away on twitter five hours after giving birth, nowhere else to put my energy. Even the next morning, when the community midwife arrived to do her check and finally weigh Doozer (he was 7lb1oz the morning after his birth, and by the next day, when he was alarmingly orange and jaundicey, we had decided on a name, and he was called Linus Benedict) I bounced down the stairs with baby in arms to let her in. There were some rough weeks ahead – but the birth itself was a good start.

It was good. My experience of giving birth. It was really good. We were lucky, and I’m very grateful. I’d go as far as to say I enjoyed it. Though of course that may be something to do with those hormones. If anyone knows where I can get some of those hormones on a recreational basis, that would be brilliant.

19 May

Paul’s birth story

Paul is a web designer and a dad.

Crowborough Birthing Centre is a relaxed, midwife-run ward which is ideal for natural deliveries without medical intervention, and it’s also where we’d decided that Relly would give birth. We planned a relatively easy labour, using hypnobirthing to control the pain caused by the contractions. Or the “discomfort” caused by the “surges”, as hypnobirthing would have it.

Relly knew the baby was on its way when it shifted to an uncomfortable position and the surges started for real (there had been a few days of ‘practice’ surges beforehand). We headed to the birthing centre at about midnight on June 25th, over 24 hours before Toby was born. By the time we got there Relly was suffering with severe back pain caused by Toby’s unusual angle, so the plan became to try various things to get him to move to a more normal position. Unfortunately, hypnobirthing only takes care of the usual pain associated with labour, and not the type caused by this kind of complication, so this was agonising for Relly.

We put some relaxing music on and ran a huge warm bath, and the mother-to-be spent the next few hours manouvering into various positions to try to get Toby to take his weight off her spine. By the morning there was little progress, and we both tried to get some rest before trying a walk around the car park and nearby streets as this can also help Toby align himself properly. I dare say the “getting some rest” was easier for me than for Relly.

The hours were ticking by and there was still no sign of Toby having corrected himself. Early afternoon came, and Relly was still in a lot of pain from her back. None of the midwives could offer any further help. It was looking more and more like some kind of intervention would be needed, such as breaking the waters that protect the baby to speed up the labour and hopefully move him into the right position for birth. The downside to this is with no comfortable internal water-bed to ease the baby’s movements it could get even more painful for the mother.

Whatever we chose to do at this stage, Crowborough was no longer the best place for us as there was a good chance we’d need facilities they don’t offer. At 4pm Relly transferred to Eastbourne DGH in an ambulance with its lights flashing, which she describes as both exciting and incredibly uncomfortable for somebody in labour!

The transfer also meant a change of caring staff, and after an hour at Eastbourne the new midwife transferred us to our delivery room and examined Relly. Shortly before 7pm Relly’s waters broke (its a common misconception that this is always the first sign of labour, though if you’re “lucky” enough to have it happen in M&S you’ll apparently be treated to £250 of vouchers for your trouble!), and there was a considerable increase in pain as Toby virtually landed on Relly’s spine.

Relly was doing so well with no pain relief, and the hypnobirthing was working better that we’d expected on easing the labour pains, but the complications had become so painful that Relly opted to have an epidural – anaesthetic injected into the spine which causes complete numbness.

In preperation, the midwife rigged up a drip and inserted a canula into Relly’s wrist, unfortunately missing the vein and pumping fluid into the flesh of her arm! I was first to notice this and, not being great with needles, first to need a seat to avoid passing out. The midwife hastily removed the drip and moved it to her other wrist, where the same thing happened again!! Having run out of wrists to try, she just gave it another go in the same one. Relly’s poor wrists were bruised for days.

By 8pm, the anaesthetist had been and gone, pleased that Relly had waited until after the football finished before requesting an epidural. He had to apply the anaesthetic after a contraction, but like all the medical staff was amazed that Relly was showing no signs of contractions thanks to the Hypnobirthing, and he needed her to tell him when to inject it.

At 9pm the night team came on shift – Hooray! More examinations for Relly! But the epidural had kicked in and things seemed to be getting easier. The hours still ticked by, and after 10pm a by-now-exhausted Relly was given syntocin to speed up the contractions and force Toby into a birthing position.

An hour later, 11.15pm, and Toby was in position but lifting his head to avoid coming out! Unfortunately, all this time the only way the midwives could tell Toby’s position was to do their James Herriot impression, and by now everybody had wanted a go. Between them they couldn’t decide what else to do so they called in a consultant who arrived at 12.15am.

The consultant had a go too, and with all the bedside manner of a doctor with a phobia of bodily fluids, suggested a cesarian section. Relly had been awake and in labour of some form or other for the past 40 hours, and was too exhausted to be giving birth. But without the luxury of a choice, we agreed to the c-section.

As I followed Relly’s bed being wheeled into theatre at 1.30am, it dawned on me that the complications were resulting in a serious and unplanned emergency operation, and that if things continued to go wrong from here it could be tragic. The morbid thought hit me that I could be going home alone.

At 1.45am Relly’s drip failed because the drugs were making her shake uncontrollably, and theatre assistants rushed around to attach a new one.

Ten minutes later, what they term “knife to skin”. I hadn’t realised how violent this would be. I was sitting next to Relly’s head as she was strapped to a bed, and behind a curtain the surgeons were slicing her tummy open with less care than you’d use to carve the turkey at Christmas. There was lots of yanking and pulling, and although Relly could feel no pain she described the sensation as if somebody had put their hands in to do the washing up.

At 2.10am, Toby was born. He was cleaned up internally and externally (he had swallowed some fluid) and passed to me to show Relly, who was still semi-conscious and strapped to the bed. She managed a smile and a “Hello Toby” with a tear in her eye, and then I was whisked off to a ward while they took an hour stitching Relly up.

So there I was, on my own for the first time with my son. My Son. What do I do now? This was a completely unfamiliar situation. I was tired, but I’d been through nothing compared to him and his mum, who still hadn’t really seen him properly. I sat with him on my bare chest for a while, hoping to see Relly soon. The midwife came and weighed him and took some measurements.

Newborn Toby meets mummy and daddy When Relly was finally wheeled round on her bed, she was so exhausted that she just wanted to be asleep. I knew how important it was for both her and the baby to have immediate contact, so I put him in her arms for a few minutes and she took a bit more time to say hello. There would be plenty of time in the coming days and weeks to get to know this little stranger who had come into our lives, but at that time both mummy and baby needed to sleep, and we were all relieved that the ordeal was over.

And from that moment on we’d always an “all” rather than a “both”.

Originally posted at @niceopaul

17 May

Sarah’s Birth Story

Sarah is now a busy childminder and this is the story of her son’s dramatic entrance into the world 4 years ago

I had had a fairly stressful beginning to my pregnancy, bleeding at 7 and 14 weeks, but knew I wanted a home birth and was very excited, read all the books had my relaxation CDs at the ready and was about to book my birthing pool when I was told I had low lying placenta at my 21 week scan and was devastated that my plans had been for nothing, but from then on my pregnancy was fairly smooth.

I developed a bad cough at about 30 weeks, the kind that leaves you fighting for breath and I could feel it putting a strain on my whole body, I worried about that placenta with my baby right on it!

The doctor told me there was nothing they could give me, as they could detect no infection. At 36 weeks, a day after my last scan to check if the placenta had moved (it hadn’t and was completely across the cervix), at 8pm 14th December, just about to order a takeaway, it all happened. I popped to the loo, had a terrible coughing fit at and thought my waters had broken, but when I looked down I was haemorrhaging heavily. I called my husband and told him to call an ambulance, too scared to let him too near just in case he fainted, and told him to get my bag (thankfully already packed) and a towel (but not a white one!). I was then rushed to hospital, sirens blazing and the senior consultant was called to deliver my little boy. I was monitored and his heartbeat was steady, but I was still bleeding heavily and skipped the emergency queue. He was delivered safely by emergency c-section, about as far from a homebirth as you can possibly get, with me unconscious and my husband shut outside to wait. Jamie was taken to NICU as he had some breathing issues, but was otherwise fine and I was taken still unconscious to the recovery ward without seeing him.

A little over half an hour later I suddenly had severe breathing difficulties and my memory from here is sketchy and has been filled in by my husband and from my hospital notes. Both my lungs collapsed and I was haemorrhaging again, writhing in pain and screaming my head off in a normal recovery ward, I still really feel for the poor other new mums!

They took me back into theatre, ventilated me and inserted a balloon into my uterus to try and stop the bleeding I was given a lot of blood to replace what I was rapidly losing, and they gave me a CAT scan to check for clots.

They tried every medication they could to stop the bleeding and re-inflate my lungs… but nothing worked. In a last ditch attempt they put me on life support in the hope that my body would recover and fix itself, all other management of my condition was stopped and my husband was told to call relatives, as they didn’t believe I’d make it.

Two days later I woke in ICU, they tested me and everything seemed stable. I have no lasting effects apart from migraines when I get over tired or stressed and some short term memory problems..but then all mothers have that!. Jamie and I were very lucky, if he had still been inside when the AFE struck he would have suffered with me, many ladies who have survived have lost their babies during childbirth or the children have serious disabilities due to oxygen deprivation, I was very lucky to avoid a hysterectomy at the very least. My husband suffered the worst as he had to go through it all alone and face the possibility of life with a newborn and 10 year old daughter with no mother and the loss of his wife, I can’t even imagine how that must have felt but he still doesn’t like to talk about it, too many bad memories. I get frustrated that I can remember barely anything from when I collapsed, but then again perhaps I am best off not knowing.

I was diagnosed, after the fact, with an Amniotic Fluid Embolism which is when some amniotic fluid gets into the blood stream. This can occur before, during and after delivery, and has also been known to happen during miscarriage and abortion. Although this isn’t unusual sometimes for no particular reason, some women have what is akin to an allergic reaction to the minute hairs in the fluid, which stop the blood clotting and cause an embolism in various parts of the body, mine went to the lungs. Many of the fatalities have them go to brain or heart, just the luck of the draw. It is normally only diagnosed in post-mortem as so few of us survive and is only done so on the living by exclusion, all my symptoms were text book so AFE was added to my hospital records.

Jamie is now a 4 year old little monkey , going to start school in September and I am happy and healthy, love a story with a happy ending J

15 May

Helen’s Birth Story

Helen has really benefited from all the support from Karen and would like to share her story with readers to prove that difficult starts don’t mean difficult babies

Every story has a background so here is ours. Lynn and I met in 2001 and had a shotgun wedding in December 2011 when I was 30 weeks pregnant. Marriage had always been in the plan but on finding out just how important it was to the future of our unborn child that we were married, we quickly planned a small wedding with immediate family and very close friends, which meant that Lynn would be named as a parent on the birth certificate rather than having to adopt the baby. Lynn hates it when I say we got married for the legal reasons, of course we didn’t, we are very much in love but other things had always been a priority, however, once we were made aware of this important factor marriage somewhat became the priority.

So you have probably realised that our baby was not conceived in a traditional man + woman + good times = baby, kind of way! Our baby too has been born out of love but with the additional help of an amazing selfless anonymous donor. We chose home insemination, and you can imagine the happiness, excitement and shock when it worked in the second month of trying when we had been told it was so much harder to conceive a child in this way.

So the baby was growing, and the due date was set, 24th February 2012.
Except our baby had no intention of making it to the due date!

On the 30th January 2012, I was just finishing getting ready for bed, pregnancy had been uncomfortable now for a couple of weeks and although I loved every moment of being pregnant, bed and night times weren’t my favourite times of the day, no longer able to turn over in my sleep, throughout every night I also endured the discomfort of having to wake to a fully conscious state to turn over and regular bouts of night cramps in my legs which were excruciating (these were however the only pregnancy symptoms I suffered so I am not really in a position to complain). So in reality I had not slept well at night for a couple of weeks and was getting used to napping in the day to catch up on those missed z’s. However this Monday, I had spent with my parents and had not had the regular nap that I was used to so I was exhausted.

I finished brushing my teeth and in my nightie stood by the bed ready to take on the challenge of removing my socks, I leant over and I heard a pop, my mind suddenly flashed back to our 34 week appointment with the midwife who had said ‘sometimes you hear a pop and then you have a few seconds to get to somewhere that you are comfortable with you waters breaking’! I rushed to the bathroom, made it on to the loo and then they went! My mind then flashed back to an NCT class, ‘most women’s waters don’t gush, many just trickle or seep and some don’t go at all’ Well mine certainly went, with a whoosh, I was blown away by the amount of water I was losing, in fact a little concerned, I checked the toilet for blood, but it was clear. Relieved, I called to a sleepy Lynn, ‘babe, my waters have definitely broken, you better call the hospital and your parents’.

Oh, I forgot to mention, I did have one other complication in pregnancy, gestational diabetes, we had been warned that this would have some consequences on labour, I couldn’t use the birthing pool and would be constantly monitored throughout labour as my blood sugars would be unpredictable so we were going to write our birth plan around this. I also had been informed I was likely to have a large baby possibly over 10lbs and that they would recommend an induction on the due date if the baby hadn’t come due to the risk of being oversized.

Yes, you read correctly, we hadn’t written a birth plan, we had an appointment to do this with the specialist midwife on the 1st February 2012.
So here I was, pretty unprepared, sat on the toilet, wondering what was going to happen over the next few hours and when I would get to hold the baby we had both longed for so many years. We had chosen at our 20 week scan to not find out the sex, so that too was on my mind, would we be meeting our son or daughter? I was excited, terrified, happy, sad, concerned, anxious, and overwhelmed all at the same time, thank goodness I had Lynn there to support me through the next 30 hours!

Lynn’s parents arrived to look after the dog and I was bundled in to the car sat on several towels as I was still leaking lots of waters and we had been told that the smell of the waters is hard to get rid of. A ten minute ride that I barely remember got us to the hospital and I was taken into an assessment room.

Still leaking waters I stood ashamed in the middle of this baron room while my waters dripped all over the floor, however this was met by some very friendly faces, who clearly were used to this kind of behaviour on a daily basis and reassured me it was ok and sat me on the bed.

I was strapped to a machine which quickly gauged the babies heart beat, had my blood pressure, pulse, and temperature taken and was told they thought I had some kind of infection which meant that although I wasn’t in established labour they wanted to keep me in. Then I was scanned which they struggled to get a decent picture from as I had lost so much of the fluids from the baby. I was experiencing very mild period like pains, which the Doctor informed me were moderate contractions so I felt confident that I would be able to cope with labour with little pain relief.

Lynn and I had discussed the labour on many occasions, I was adamant that I did not want an epidural, diamorphine or pethadine, I was going to do this naturally with gas and air and maybe a Tens machine. I had downloaded and had been practising hypo-birthing for a few days and was confident that this would get me through the worst, whilst Lynn supported me emotionally. We had learnt massage and breathing techniques at our NCT classes as well as some tips on good birthing positions and I was an astute birthing ball user. This was all going to help me, and the baby would be out in no time I reassured myself.

Sat there excitedly waiting for the Doctor to come back and give me an examination, I imagined being told I was three or four centimetres and that things were progressing nicely, however I couldn’t have been more wrong. After the most painful horrendous experience of my life so far the Doctor looked at me and said, ‘your cervix is still high, hard and not open at all’ to say I was disappointed was an understatement, I had assumed that as the baby had broken the waters my body would have naturally responded to this by getting ready to have this baby.

By 4am I turned to a shattered Lynn and told her to go home and get some sleep, things weren’t moving quickly and she looked exhausted, the midwife agreed that it would be best for Lynn to go get some sleep so she trundled off into the cold night.

Although I tried hard to also get some sleep this was very difficult, not least because the nurses were in and out every hour checking me and the baby because of the infection. I was also far too excited to sleep, we were finally going to meet the little person that had been growing inside me for 36 weeks, who I had felt wiggle and squirm, experienced every single hiccup with them and already loved them more than anything else in the world. Although I was worried that they were coming early the midwives were not and reassured me that at 36 weeks everything would be developed and that the baby would be fine.

At 8am a familiar face appeared back at the door, I had missed Lynn so much over the last 4 hours, not being able to share every thought I was having was hard, but she was back, and she wouldn’t now leave me again until the evening after the babies birth (38 hours away!)

Nothing much happened over the next 5 hours, I had a wash, sat on my bed, bounced on my ball, Lynn and I talked excitedly of all the dreams we had for our baby. By 1pm the midwives and consultants decided to induce the labour as it was not progressing in the way that it needed to considering the infection and lack of waters. A pessary containing inducing hormones was inserted and I was told to sit tight for 24 hours as that is how long it is likely to take.

Well 30 minutes later I was experiencing ‘proper’ contractions, to say they are painful is an understatement but they are a special kind of pain, knowing that each one is bringing your baby closer to being born makes them somehow more tolerable.

Over the next 8 hours I had many many examinations, Dr’s came and went with and without teams of students, I cant tell you how many different professionals had a look, a squeeze and a feel of me inside and out! By my 3rd examination I was an experienced user of gas and air which made them slightly more comfortable.

At 4pm the pain had become unbearable and I found myself taking the advice of the midwife and having a shot of diamorphine the first thing on my list of ‘nevers!’
Diamorphine actually turned out to be a very good decision, they gave it with anti sickness medication so I didn’t feel sick at all, it gave me a chance to relax and even have a few minutes sleep, the only negative side effect to me was that it made my skin super sensitive and I couldn’t bear being touched by anyone which was upsetting for Lynn and my sister Lauren who had by this point turned up with some lifesaving pants and nighties for me.

Lauren stayed for the duration of my labour, offering the emotional support to Lynn that I couldn’t give and allowing Lynn to take time away from me just to grab food and drinks etc. Although Lynn and I had decided that the birth was going to be something that we would experience alone, Lauren was fantastic and like many pre-birth decisions that change when you are actually in the middle of labour we are both eternally grateful for her support throughout the birth of the baby.

The monitoring of the baby was pretty much constant throughout the labour, and twice during my labour I was prepped for surgery to have a c-section as the babies heartbeat was dropping throughout my contractions, however just as I was about to be wheeled down, an ‘emergency ‘ took priority over me the first time and the baby suddenly showed signs of recovery the second time making the consultant change his mind.

Finally at 1am on Wednesday 1st February 2012 I was 10cm dilated, to say I was elated was an understatement, I was exhausted by now but so excited knowing that the baby was very nearly here. Oh did I mention that I also had an epidural at 5cm dilation, another one of my ‘nevers!’

Epidural actually was no where near as bad as I thought it was going to be and actually when you are experiencing such a drawn out labour it was a god send, I wouldn’t recommend it if things are moving along swiftly but as pain relief goes I went from agonising contractions to total calmness through a mild tightening. I had always assumed that epidurals numb you from your neck down but the one they gave me only numbed me around the tummy and I could still walk about with it in. The biggest downside was the catheter that I had to have put in due to the epidural.

At 2am I started pushing, I had received a top up on the epidural so it was hard for me to feel the contractions and I was relying on the midwife telling me when to push as she was feeling my tummy. After 2 hours and many more visits from consultants the baby had decided that they actually didn’t want to come out after all and yet again I was prepped for theatre, they were going to try forceps but if these didn’t work after 3 attempts then they would give me a c-section to get the baby out.

Leaving Lauren in the delivery suite Lynn got all dressed up for theatre (again) and I was wheeled a short distance down the corridor, I was transferred onto a theatre bed which was agony as the epidural had worn off and I was mid contraction as they moved me. They then topped up the epidural and this time numbed me from the boobs down in case they had to perform a c-section.

Before I knew it my legs had been strapped behind my ears and I was surrounded by a huge team of medics. I looked down to see the Doctor who had completed my first examination back on shift and about to deliver our baby.
I remember being told to push as the midwife was feeling a contraction and then our baby was born, so quickly and with only minimal force from the forceps, the baby was lifted over and a member of the team said to Lynn ‘tell her what it is then’ all Lynn at this time could reply was ‘it’s a baby!’ she was so overcome by emotion it hadn’t registered that it was a little boy. ‘It’s a boy’ she exclaimed several moments later, tears flowing down her face.

A side effect of full epidural is full body shakes and it was as a result of these that I didn’t feel comfortable holding our son straight away, this was probably my biggest regret as what happened next will haunt me for ever.
Lynn was cuddling our son, we named him Sebastian later on, but he was nameless at this point. I was delivering the placenta and being sewn up as I had to be cut due to the forceps. The paediatrician came over and said she needed to check him over as he was ‘grunting’. Not thinking anything of it I agreed to be wheeled to recovery while Lynn waited with Sebastian.

I was lying in recovery when suddenly this little bundle came my way, he was placed on my chest and I took in the biggest breath and smelt him for the first time, he smelt amazing, the NCT class leader had said that your baby would smell amazing but until you experience it you will never understand. As soon as I had taken this first breath and placed a gentle kiss on his forehead the Dr whipped him away saying he needed to receive some oxygen in special care, and just like that he was gone!

Lynn and Lauren went up to special care and took some photos for me but nothing was filling the hole in my heart that needed to hold my baby boy, I was sobbing uncontrollably that I just wanted my baby but no-one would bring him back to me.

I was transferred to the ward and immediately requested that I was wheeled up to the special care unit. Lynn grabbed a wheel chair and we wet up to Buscot ward. I had been told that Sebastian just needed some oxygen so imagine how I felt when we got up there to find him covered in tubes and monitors with tubes going in his mouth and nose.

I burst into tears and a Dr came over who told us that Sebastian was actually quite poorly, he had respiratory distress syndrome and they were giving him antibiotics because of the infection that I had. He was struggling to maintain his blood sugars and wasn’t able at this point to maintain his own body temperature due to everything else going on for him. They thought that they may have to ventilate him later on as he was struggling to breathe so much, but they were monitoring this.

We couldn’t cuddle our son at this point, just place our hands in his incubator which was upsetting as he flinched every time we touched him. We were taught to do a ‘containment cuddle’ where you cup his head and bottom in each of your hands and gently push in, this mimics the womb and he didn’t flinch away from this kind of touch.

After around an hour we went back up to the ward, feelings of concern, despair, worry and fear filled what should be the best time of our lives. We were on a ward with another lady who had a baby in special care which was nice for me as it was hard to see other ladies with their babies when ours was in special care, it also gave us someone to talk to who was going through exactly the same thing and feelings.

We went back up a couple of hours later dreading the worst, but we were delighted to find that he had not been ventilated and infact they had reduced the levels of oxygen he was receiving as he was doing so well, although we were still unable to have a proper cuddle we left that visit feeling much happier.

The midwives in the special care unit had suggested that I hand express my colostrum for him as he would really benefit from this as he was only on a glucose drip in the incubator.
Hand expressing is an interesting task, and with all the will in the world I just couldn’t do it, even allowing a midwife to ‘milk me’ at one stage in an attempt to get some nourishing goodness for our son. Lynn pooped home and brought back our electric pump which worked a treat. It was still hard work and the stuff is so sticky its hard to actually collect but I did well and was regularly expressing about 0.4ml which I eagerly ran up to Sebastian and left it on his incubator for them to feed through his nose later.
This continued for a couple of days and my milk came in on day 3.

Sebastian was getting better and better each day, day two came our first cuddles which were amazing and my first few attempts at breast feeding. Something I knew I wasn’t going to give up on (and did succeed with a little help from a special breast feeding counsellor a few days later, a different story!)

And by day 4, I was lying on my bed, expressing milk preparing to go and see Sebastian when he was delivered down to me. The best moment of my life so far! Although again overwhelmed as I just stared at him for about an hour in total silence wondering how on earth I was going to look after something so little (he weighed around 5lb 9oz) I knew that the baby shaped gap in my heart had just been filled and it was time to be a proper mummy.

Sebastian is now a healthy 9lb, 12 week old baby who is thriving in everything he does, he brings joy to everyone that meets him and has a smile that could melt an ice cap.

13 May

Mia’s Birth Story

Mia is a midwife, which did not put her off trying the whole labour thing for herself in the slightest…

I am a midwife – originally from and trained in Britain, but now living and working in Canada – and as such I have been attending women in labour since 2000. I work as a caseload midwife, so look after women from the moment they find out they’re pregnant through to six weeks postnatal, and I’m on call 24/7 for their births. I’ve seen every kind of birther, from the screamer to the joker, and always wondered what I’d be like when it was my turn. As a self-confessed talker, I never expected I’d be rendered speechless!

My pregnancy had been great and despite my age (37) we’d chosen not to have any antenatal testing or ultrasounds – if an indication had arose we would have been happy to change our minds on this, but we both felt confident and happy with our decision. There was something really lovely about the thought that the first time anyone saw our baby would be at the birth. My boyfriend was convinced we were having a boy and was excited to be able to have a small companion to go off-roading with! I was secretly hoping it would be a girl, because I knew that, despite his reservations, in the event he’d go all gooey over her. Well, we’d see.

One week and a day before my due date – which I’d deliberately kept secret from everyone but my boyfriend Isaac and my midwife Megan (who was also my work partner and best friend) – we were sat watching telly on the sofa in the evening. I had been having frequent, painless Braxton Hicks for weeks and noticed that they were feeling a little more crampy than usual. I didn’t mention anything to Isaac, as I didn’t want him to be worried unnecessarily, but went to bed that night half expecting something to happen. That said, as a first-time mum, I was anticipating a long slow build up and planned to try to rest as much as possible. Within an hour or so of going to bed, Isaac snoring in happy ignorance next to me, it became clear that they were actually getting stronger fairly quickly, though still fairly spaced out; I decided to take a trip downstairs to get a drink and see if moving around helped. Almost as soon as I got downstairs I realised that they were speeding up and getting even stronger. I tried to time them but I couldn’t seem to focus on the clock. My head was still telling me that it had to be early on in proceedings, but I downloaded a contraction timing app for my iPhone so I could get an idea of where I was. Within a short period of timing them I was shocked to realise that they were already 2-3 minutes apart and they were taking everything I had to breathe through them.

I had planned to labour by myself for as long as I could before calling Megan but suddenly decided that I needed to call her asap. I made the call and was unable to talk due to a strong contraction – as I breathed heavily into the phone I heard Megan say ‘Oh my God Mia, are you having this baby now?’ I finished the contraction before replying ‘It would certainly seem so!’ That was when Megan told me that she as actually at another birth – another first-time mum, so unlikely to be finished any time soon – and so she told me that she would call Noreen, the back up midwife, to come to me straight away. My head registered the disappointment that my best friend wouldn’t be at my birth, but was hit by another contraction straight away and just had to get my head down and deal with the steam train of a labour that was hitting me. I later found out she had burst into tears at the thought of missing my birth as soon as she had hung up the phone.

Next move was to wake Isaac up; easier said than done. I tried once gently: ‘Isaac, can you wake up please, I’m in labour.’ Nothing. ‘Isaac’ I said a little more sharply. This time I got an opening eye as a response. ‘I’m in labour.’ ‘Seriously?’ ‘Seriously.’ A moment later I realised he’d passed back out. ‘Isaac! I need you to wake up!’ ‘Yes!’ he said, passing back out seconds later. So this time I turned all the lights and managed to say ‘Get up – I need you now’ before another contraction hit. Hearing and seeing me breathing through a contraction seemed to give him the kick up the arse he needed and he leapt out of bed. I shouted a few instructions for him: put the dishes away, get me a drink and start getting the pool ready, and he began doing everything in a state of apparent panic. After a few minutes he ran up to me, in tears, and gave me a big hug, holding on to me as though his life depended on it. I reassured him I was okay – I was after all very familiar with labour, but this was his first time witnessing it first hand, and he was quietly freaking out. He then went back to his tasks, which gave him some focus. I called our former student from our midwifery practice – now finished her training but not yet registered as a midwife here – who is also confusingly called Megan, and asked her to come. I also apparently asked her to call Hailey, our office assistant and birth photographer, though I don’t remember doing so! I carried on breathing through the contractions, each one getting stronger and taking more out of me to manage. It suddenly occurred to me that if I wasn’t at home, wasn’t able to walk around, squat and lean on my kitchen counters when they hit, if I was instead at a hospital being made to lie on a bed, tied to a monitor, I would be asking for an epidural by now. My admiration for any woman who manages a ‘traditional’ hospital birth without pain relief increased in that moment, along with relief at being able to labour and birth in my own home.

By now I was approaching a deeply non-communicative place. I closed my eyes, knelt on the sofa, made low noises and went into myself. People arrived, the pool was being filled, I was largely unaware of what was going on outside my own head. Occasionally I heard phrases or words – it was funny to hear the usual labour conversations between midwives from the ‘other’ perspective. I would estimate around 5-10% of my head remained a midwife, it is impossible to switch that off entirely, but the rest was completely a labouring woman who could do nothing but deal with the rise and fall of the waves of contractions.

At some point, the pool was ready and I threw off my nightgown and settled into the water. It felt great, and I quickly found my head welded into a towel on the side of the pool. I hadn’t opened my eyes for more than a few seconds for some time by then, and continued not to do so until after the baby was born. I was totally unaware of the passage of time. Suddenly I felt a pushy feeling, and heard myself make the grunty noise that any midwife associates with the onset of second stage. Thank goodness for that, I found myself thinking. I let the pushy feeling build and after a little while I decided to do an examination on myself – possibly prompted by Noreen or Megan but my recollection is a little hazy. I felt a tiny bit of cervix at the front (an ‘anterior lip’ of cervix) and tried to push it away, though found it hard from that angle. Megan also tried at my behest, before I yelled at her to stop! The lip went away fairly quickly however and I began pushing in earnest.

Many women over the years have told me that the pushing stage is, in many respects, a relief for them. Women have even told me it feels good – it feels as if the body takes over and you are able to use the contraction, rather than just trying to get through it. Sadly, and to my surprise, this was NOT my experience. Every push felt like my pelvis was splitting open, it hurt, it really really hurt, and it took everything I had to put aside the pain and push anyway. I could hear, though my closed-eye fug, the usual midwives’ expressions of ‘Oh good push, lots of progress that time, good for you’ etc., but because I knew my midwives so well having worked with them, I could tell from their tone every time there really was progress, and when it was just their patter! Isaac was being amazing – he was physically and emotionally supporting me as I squatted, knelt, side lay – constantly changing position to try to bring the head down that little bit more – constantly whispering in my ear, telling me I could do it and allowing me to wrench his thumbs with every push! In between contractions I swore continually: ‘f*ck, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck’, trying to build up the courage to push again.

I wanted to say ‘I can’t do this’ so many times, but having heard so many women before me say the same thing, and knowing they could, I tried to bite my tongue. I felt I had to find the strength from somewhere. I had a ‘birth altar’ right next to the pool with gifts, beads, cards and pictures given to me by friends, that I had planned to use as a focus during the labour – since my eyes were to all intents and purposes welded shut, I did not use it. However, in amongst them was a framed picture of my mother, who had died just over two months before. At one point my eyes opened briefly and I saw my mother’s face; I said to myself that if she could do this for me, I could do this for my own child. It gave me that little bit more energy for the task that I needed.

The head came down and began to stretch everything, but my perineum is apparently made of titanium, and just wouldn’t budge out of the way. I found myself saying the immortal words ‘I’m about THIS close to asking you for an episiotomy!’ I heard Megan and Noreen reluctantly discussing it – we are all VERY non-interventionist! – but in the meantime I just tried to find that extra 10% any way I could. Eventually after 3 hours of pushing, and with a bit of encouragement from my team, I got out of the pool, ostensibly to go and sit on the toilet but couldn’t get more than a step or two so lay down next to the pool on my right side and gave it my all. I started yelling with the contractions – not because I was losing control, but just because I wanted to see if it would help. Slowly, slowly the head advanced but not as quickly as I wanted it to, or felt was warranted by my extreme efforts. I suddenly noticed that Isaac was in tears again and realised I was scaring him with my loudly vocalising effort, so in between the contractions I found myself reassured him I was in fact okay, though I really didn’t feel it at the time! Suddenly I heard the front door open and in came the other Megan, my best friend. She had finished up at the other birth and raced across town to be with me. As she knelt down in front of me, my eyes flickered open briefly enough to lock gaze with her, she took my hand, and I felt a rush of relief that she’d made it in time. I redoubled my efforts and gave it all I’d got. Twenty minutes later however I suddenly had a moment of clarity and realised that the only thing holding this birth back was my damn stupid titanium perineum. ‘Give me the f*cking episiotomy!’ I found myself yelling. This time I heard people leaping to it and I heard, but did not feel, a tiny cut being made. It was no more than a tiny knick in the skin – nothing like the whacking great episiotomies I’ve seen doctors do – but it did the trick and the head came out with the next push. The relief was overwhelming. My midwifery head kicked in again at this point and told me that a slow second stage can sometimes pre-empt a shoulder dystocia. I could almost hear this thought ticking through the brains of the three other midwives in the room, so we all held our breaths while waiting for the next contraction, running through what we’d need to do if she appeared stuck. I felt the baby squirming and trying to breathe, with the body still inside me; a very strange sensation. Happily, when the next contraction came, the baby slithered out with no problems and Megan and Megan both passed it up to me for immediate skin-to-skin. I lay there in shock and relief and grabbed on tight to this wriggling screaming thing on my chest, while getting my breath back. Isaac was by now a blubbering mess, as were most of the people in the room! After a few minutes I said to Isaac ‘Right, you have to tell me if we have a boy or a girl’, at which I moved the blanket over us and opened up the baby’s legs without looking. ‘We have a girl!’ he proclaimed, prompting a fresh flood of tears. Gooey already, I thought to myself smugly.

Eventually the cord had stopped pulsating so I cut it – Isaac politely declined – and he gently took our daughter while I knelt up and pushed out the placenta with a lot more ease than the baby; but then as I always say, there are no bones in a placenta! I was helped to the sofa to lie down and heard my daughter smacking her lips – I took her in my arms again and she latched on immediately to my breast, which was the start of an almost professional ability to breastfeed. A while later we headed upstairs, I had a tiny repair for my tiny episiotomy and snuggled up in bed with our gorgeous daughter.

I’ve since been asked if my experience will change the way I care for my women. Absolutely not! I still believe 100% that homebirth is a fabulous and empowering experience for the women that want it, and when the circumstances mean that it’s safe to stay there. I’m not, and never have been, about homebirth at all costs. But I know that the only reason I found my quick and intense 4 hour first stage, and my difficult and exhausting 3 ½ hour second stage, manageable, was because I was in my own home and able to cope with it in a way that my body was telling me I needed to. I know that if I’d been in the hospital (and not been a midwife who was able to assert herself) I’d probably have ended up with an epidural, with a ventouse or forceps birth to boot. Although it was hard and painful, I am over the moon that things worked out the way they did. Even the episiotomy! It is funny to me that a midwife who had done one episiotomy in her whole 12 year career (and that was an African woman who had had a circumcision) would beg for one at her own birth, but I felt like I was totally in control of that decision and I knew the pros and cons; this is always the cornerstone of informed choice and feeling good about your birth experience, rather than what ends up happening per se. Plus one of the first things you learn as a midwife is that you need to be open-minded and respond to individual circumstances! So if a 3 ½ pushing stage was the price I paid for my beautiful daughter, I’m very happy with that. She really is the apple of my eye – and her daddy is still totally gooey over her.