22 Apr

Andy’s Birth Story

It was that strange time of year between Christmas and New Years, my Wife Amanda had just hit 38 weeks so we decided it was time to get absolutely everything organised for our pending arrival, putting away the christmas decorations and getting all the clobber out we had bought for the baby. After relaxing in front the TV my wife called out my name from the downstairs toilet. Subconsciously thinking about the spider I had seen by the front door a few days prior, thinking I was going to rescue her from an Arachnid, I was met by a worried looking wife saying ‘I think my waters have just broken.’ My first thought was our baby had taken us getting organised as a hint we were ready for him/her to come out already! You could have had given me 100 guesses at that point and I would have not guessed that’s why she had called my name.

A quick call and trip to the Maternity block confirmed everything was starting to happen, then knowing we would be parents within the next 24 hours or so was very surreal indeed, I always knew it was going to happen at some stage but not right now! To this stage Mandy hadn’t really had major pains, just light period type of cramps; being a Brit I thought a cup of Tea would make things more comfortable, but by the time I got up to the bedroom contractions had already started. We tracked contractions via a mobile phone app and after 2 hours of contractions (1 less severe hour and 1 10/10 pain score hour), following directions from labor ward to stay at home until we’ve had 2 hours of severe contractions, I remembered a warm bath could be of comfort. As soon as my wife’s ass touched the water she said she felt like she needed to push. Trying to control the nervous wobble in my voice speaking to the triage midwife, remembering being told previously if my wife needs to push at home to call an ambulance, I was asked if I felt my wife could get up there in time, now the thought of a home birth scared the crap out of me tbh so I agreed to get up there sharpish! Walking back in the bathroom to tell Mand the plan, saw what I thought a leg hanging out which fortunately turned out to be a bit of blood and mucus I guess.

After a rapid 3am drive in –3° conditions perhaps ignoring the odd red light or 5, with Mandy hanging off the headrest and interior handle, really really wanting to push, we arrived outside maternity. Mand was wearing my dressing gown and her favorite K Swiss which she had always said she didn’t want to arrive looking like a scruff bag, I also smacked my head on the tailgate due to cold gas struts not fully opening the boot as quickly, I will admit to shouting a few choice phases, glad nobody else was outside as we looked a right pair turning up!

A quick assessment back in the same room as we were in 6 hours previously showed that Mand was 6 cms at this stage, and we were moved to a labor room where we discussed pain relief. Due to Mand having a phobia of vomiting and being concerned Entonox might cause Nausea we discussed all options and agreed to try gas and air with a few contractions to see how it felt. Well after a rather large contraction and Mandy nearly sucking the thing off the wall, she found out it wasn’t so bad but the urge to push was too great. After another ‘inspection’ she had gone from 6 to 10cm in about 30 minutes, although Mandy would admit to having a few cheeky pushes when being told not to! So around 03:30 she was told she could start pushing. Our Midwife, Katy was fantastic and once she had found a position Mand could push in comfortably, forgetting the Entonox and really really concentrating on breathing and relaxation techniques we had learnt about in our NCT classes, made for a very focused and controlled experience. Mand had her head buried in my chest for most of the contractions completely in a zone of breathing and pushing, meaning Katy would tell me what she needed to do and I would in turn communicate with Mand. Keeping breathing slow and controlled, and taking huge breaths to push with seemed to work extremely well and in between visualising walking the dogs, our wedding on the beach or other happy or memorable moments. I remember the guy coming in to visit us in session 5 of NCT saying you might feel like a spare part with doctors, Nurses etc coming in and out but that couldn’t have been further from the truth for us!

After a very quick 40 minutes, our beautiful, perfectly formed healthy Baby Boy was born, the emotion is unrivalled, unexplainable and certainly won’t fade with memory. Seeing my wife holding our son was simply the most emotional, surreal, beautiful thing I have ever experienced. Cutting the cord I was a little nervous as didn’t want to miss and cut his leg off. After having cuddles for a while, he was checked over and weighed, we dressed him together in absolute awe of how tiny our little guy was! On leaving the labour ward it seemed a little strange just to walk out, I will admit to being the type of person that puts the towels straight and leave the room/bed tidy in hotels but it looked like a scene out of the Saw movies, thanks you RBH cleaning staff! We spent a while on Marsh Ward which allowed a few visitors before heading home early evening to start our new lives together, which the first night pretty much went, check on the baby when he made a noise and check on the baby when he didn’t make a noise!

18 Oct

Maggie’s Birth Story

Maggie’s daughter turns 13 next week; here’s the story of her birth:

I had quite a traumatic birth experience with my son, so when I found out that I was expecting my second baby I was pleased, but partly worried that we would have to go through a similar experience again. My son’s birth had been a planned home water birth, but my blood pressure had become high in the last month of pregnancy and at the onset of labour he had become distressed, leading to an augmented labour, followed by a failed ventouse and then forceps delivery. I had the same community midwife with this second pregnancy, and at my booking-in appointment, she told me that I would have to be checked by the consultant, and strongly advised against having a home birth, given what had happened previously.

This second pregnancy went very well, until six weeks before my due date when my blood pressure went up to 130/90. At this point I started to worry about history repeating itself. Over the next six weeks, however, it stayed more or less constant at 130/90, which although high, was what it had been at my booking-in appointment, so the midwife and consultant weren’t unduly worried.

On the day after my due date I went to bed at 10pm and fell asleep very quickly. Two hours later I woke up as I realised that my waters had broken. My first labour had started the same way, but this time the fluid was clear – so far so good. An hour later we arrived at the Royal Berks Hospital. In the car, the contractions had been pretty mild, but coming about every 5 minutes. The midwife on duty gave me all the routine checks, told me I was about 1cm dilated and that everything seemed to be going normally. She just had to check on my contractions and the baby’s heartbeat and then I could go home and wait for the contractions to start in earnest.

On went the monitoring belts for the obligatory 20 minutes. At the end of this time the midwife looked worried, and told me that she wanted to leave the belts on for a bit longer and get the registrar to look at the trace. The baby’s heartbeat was apparently too steady – not enough variability, which meant that the baby was either asleep or distressed. At the end of 50 minutes the trace hadn’t changed much and the registrar was also worried. She told me that it was very likely that I would have to have a caesarean if the baby was distressed this early in labour, and even if not, they would have to speed things up with a drip. When we were asked what our feelings were about this my husband said angrily “I’m just afraid of the whole bloody thing going balls-up like it did last time”

In the meantime we were moved to a delivery room in order that they could attach a scalp electrode to the baby’s head to give a better indication of the heart rate. By now it was about 2.30am and my contractions were slowly gaining in strength and still coming regularly. Once the readings started coming through the scalp electrode the output from the monitor was faxed through to the on-duty consultant to determine whether the caesarean was required or not. The trace had improved somewhat, but was still considered suspicious. In the meantime my midwife took some blood samples from me as there was some concern regarding my blood pressure and the anaesthetic for the caesarean.

The reply from the consultant came back – no need to do a caesarean yet, but certainly augment the labour with a drip. When I was told this, I asked for an epidural to coincide with the drip going up, as I knew from my first labour that I didn’t want to have to deal with the more painful contractions that would result. However, it wasn’t possible to have either the drip or the epidural until the blood test results came back. By this time the contractions were beginning to get stronger and I was using the breathing technique to get through them, standing next to the bed and leaning on the monitoring machine. They were lasting about 45 seconds and coming every three minutes. I was beginning to think that I should have put my TENS machine on, but under the circumstances I hadn’t bothered as I’d thought I’d probably be on the operating table by now! I debated whether to use gas and air, but somehow I didn’t think I wanted it just yet as the breathing on its own was making a difference.

Eventually the blood test results came back just after 6am, they were fine, and by that time everything was set up ready for the drip to go in and the anaesthetist to do his work. Just before though, I asked for an internal examination to see how things were progressing on their own. I was 3cm dilated by this time, and having been up all night was glad to lie down on the bed for a while.

I had the epidural and up went the drip. Down went my blood pressure to about 70/40 as I reacted to the anaesthetic, felt extremely light headed and debated whether or not to be sick. This reaction passed fairly quickly, and I was pleased to discover that the anaesthetist had got the dose on the epidural spot on. It dulled the pain of the contractions, but I was able to stand up next to the bed and move around to a limited extent. My real fear was that I would end up having to lie still on the bed and give birth in that position. The midwife who had been with me all night went off duty shortly afterwards at 7.30 and another midwife took over.

After another hour and a half the registrar returned and at the same time I realised that the epidural was beginning to wear off, so I asked for a top-up. This was administered just before the registrar announced that they wanted to take blood samples from the baby’s scalp to gauge how distressed it might be. So, back on the bed I went and the registrar started to try and take the blood samples. In passing she told me that I was now 4cm dilated. In the end she had to take three samples as there wasn’t enough in the first two samples to do an accurate blood test. Once she had taken the third she told me I was now dilated to 7cm. At this point I was beginning to suspect that the top-up epidural wasn’t working as not only was I feeling uncomfortable from the internal examinations, but the contractions were getting more painful rather than less. Whilst waiting for the blood results to come back (normal again) the registrar performed a stretch and sweep and told me I was 9cm dilated – quarter of an hour after I’d been 4cm!

The registrar then left my husband and I alone with the midwife. By this time the initial epidural had completely worn off and the top-up hadn’t done anything so I could turn round on the bed so I was kneeling and leaning against the head of the bed, and very shortly I started getting the urge to push. My new midwife was great at this point, she stood back and told me to go with my body, and do whatever felt right.

As the urge to push got stronger I went with it and started pushing. Four minutes and four contractions later at 9.30am the baby’s head appeared, followed at the next contraction by the rest of her body – a little girl! After an eleven minute third stage and some oxygen for the baby she was put to the breast to feed and stayed there for half an hour! After everything that had gone before it was an extremely positive birth experience in the end.

Three and a half hours after the birth we left hospital and brought our daughter home to meet her brother. My mum, who had been babysitting, was amazed to see us – the last update she’d had from my husband had been when we were preparing to have a c-section!

30 Jun

Holly’s birth story

I started losing plug Wed morning and then getting cramps late afternoon and evening. I felt really agitated and hyper all day so I just knew it was starting. We set up the birthing pool and went to bed at 1am. The pains were much worse when I lay down so I left hubby to sleep and paced around the spare room.
At 3am I eventually tried to lay down again to get some rest but just as I drifted off my pelvis audibly popped and my waters broke. I went to the toilet expecting a cascade but it stopped only for me to sit back on the bed and loads pour out. I woke OH who started filing the pool whilst I contacted my doula. My waters were very green in colour so I knew baby had pooed at some point but not recently as there were no meconium chunks. I called triage and they said the homebirth MW was out at another birth but would come over soon. I had a bath and OH poured water over my belly to soothe me.

My contractions got very intense very quickly and soon no amount of pacing or swaying helped. I kept spilling out more waters as I moved about much to my amusement/horror. I was so desperate to get into my pool but it wasn’t hot enough for ages it was like torture sitting looking at the full pool, having serious contractions and not able to get in. My doula was amazing and helped me through each contraction.

1st MW turned up at 5ish and was very worried about meconium and wanted me straight into hospital. My doula and husband talked through the risks and it was agreed I could continue to labour at home and they’d keep monitoring baby. I knew she was a big strong girl so I wasn’t too worried.

I got into the pool finally at around 6 and the contractions went mad, at times overlapping into one another and so intense they were making me convulse. New MW took over at 7 and I agreed to my first VE and I was 9cm! She was pleased but also a bit shocked and so an ambulance was called to take me the whole 2 min ride to hospital as I had agreed that for baby’s sake I would birth her there. By this time I was delirious; I could hardly take a step without contracting and I was at the animal noise stage by now. What a sight for my neighbours haha!

In the ambulance it was like having an out of body experience, I felt like I was asleep and watching myself as I lay there making these insane noises. We arrived at roughly 8:30/9.

The next 2 hrs are a blur with random periods of lucidity between contractions. I tried so many positions: squatting, standing, on toilet, kneeling over back of bed, holding legs open….. But in hindsight I was allowing too much of the power to go into the noises I was making and not into the pushing. So we got her to the point where her head was visible but it keep slipping back inside. Although she had constant monitoring via the little pin on her head she didn’t get distressed but the meconium was still a concern so they didn’t want her stuck down there for too long. Around 10:30 the doctor said she would need to use a suction cup to stop baby sliding back and asked if she could cut me rather than allow me to tear. She was calm and explained all my options and I felt sure that she was only doing what was best for me and baby so I agreed. So after little local anaesthetic and a cut and some serous suctioning, my baby came into the world at 11:05.

I am so pleased with the actions of the hospital. I was tired and getting a little worried and couldn’t have pushed this little chunk out on my own. In the end, her meconium has caused her no problems but we have stayed in overnight for 4 hr obs.

I have vaginal stitches but they are to the side so no damage to perineum. So far no pain from them either.

I have had a brilliant experience and only truly now appreciate how a plan is only a plan and that the medics really do know their stuff. I would definitely labour at home again but would probably birth in hospital or midwife led clinic in the future.

I have a cuddly little lady in my life now, she was worth the wait and we are learning from each other already. She’s latching well but not taking very much each time, she is sleeping a good 3hrs straight each time too so I’m a happy and contented for the moment.

31 Mar

Dean’s birth story

Dean and Claire were on my first NCT Essentials course. Instead of coming along to session 4 of 5, they did this…

Firstly a little recap. Claire’s liver had been playing up so she was on medication and under consultant care. This involved blood tests that were taken on a Monday and the results given on a Wednesday. Last Wednesday we went in at 9am to find out how she was doing and where we were going from there, the options being full term or induced early. The results came in and everything was looking better as Claire was responding to the medication. Due to her age and the problems, Claire was booked in for an induction on her due date and I left to work in Scotland with 4 weeks in hand. I was going to have a nice lay-in at the hotel on Monday, grab a bike ride on the way back and be at NCT for 7.30pm. Read More

14 Jan

Firstborn by Katherine Gallagher

For years I dreamt you
my lost child, a face unpromised.
I gather you in, gambling,
making maps over your head.
You were the beginning of wish
and when I finally held you,
like some mother-cat I looked you over –
my dozy lone-traveller set down at last.

So much for maps,
I tried to etch you in, little stranger
wrapped like a Japanese doll.

You opened your fish-eyes and stared,
slowly bunching your fists bracing on air.

With kind permission from Katherine Gallagher

30 Nov

Twins: Leo & Isla’s Birth Story

Sharon is a mother of three and an NCT Breastfeeding Counsellor

Imagine our surprise when the sonographer pointed out, ‘Here is the heartbeat, oh, and here is the other heartbeat!’ and there began our very different birth experience. We were already parents to Rosa, now 6 years old, and were looking forward to being parents again. However, this was to be an altogether more complicated event!

We were very keen to have a home delivery with Rosa, and carefully researched the best birth pools on the market. I wanted as natural a delivery as possible. I laboured for the most part at home, but delivered in hospital due to her heartbeat going too high at the last minute. Back home the next day, no complications.

I naively thought we might be able to gun for a similar scenario this time round, but to my surprise, twins were considered ‘high risk’ and I would be strongly advised to deliver in hospital, probably by induction by 37 weeks, and in any case, in theatre. Not what I was hoping for at all. I knew all the risks associated with inductions and managed deliveries (continuous monitoring, more risk of interventions and C-sections) and wanted to do my best to avoid them!

Luckily, I am quite an assertive person so at the many of my antenatal appointments at Royal Berkshire Hospital (monthly scans from 20 weeks for twins!) I clearly set out my concerns to the various consultants and managed to agree to a compromise. Intermittent monitoring and stretch and sweeps to start off with instead of going straight to a routine induction.

Unbelievably, I got to 39 weeks (albeit sporting a giant tummy and unable to move much beyond a slow shuffle) before I finally agreed to be induced. The stretch and sweep hadn’t worked, and the risk of placenta failure after 38 weeks in twin births goes up drastically, so on Monday 15th October I began the induction process at 3pm. My mother was at home looking after my daughter and my husband Jon stayed with me as we waited for the progesterone pessary to take effect.

Nothing much happened initially, so Jon went home that evening and I stayed overnight, contractions not really getting going until later that evening. By the morning, they were much stronger and more regular, and very painful. Unfortunately, despite all this, I remained at 2 cms dilated, so by Tuesday afternoon, it was agreed that my waters would be broken. This really got things underway, and contractions came hard and fast. They were much more painful than I remember with Rosa, but I coped well with gas and air and good old fashioned breathing techniques.

The hospital were careful to remember my wishes and I was able to labour in private with one midwife and my husband, and only have intermittent monitoring of the babies heartbeats. That way, I was able to remain more mobile and hopefully speed labour up a bit.

The last shift change of staff meant that by some strange coincidence, the midwife who delivered our first daughter was with me for the second stage of labour. I reached 10cms and was swiftly taken into theatre for delivery. They tried to put in a spinal block in case I needed forceps assistance or a C-Section to deliver the second twin, but as they tried to put one in, our first twin decided he could wait no longer, and popped his head out!

All I remember at this point was chaos as staff ran around waiting for him to come and decisions were made about what to do if there was a problem with our second twin. Leo Jacob was born at precisely midnight Wednesday 17th October weighing a whopping 7lb 3oz. All was well and he was promptly placed on my chest for some skin-to-skin, before being handed to a very proud Daddy.

Now for twin two! She had been breech during the last few months of my pregnancy, and showed no sign of shifting her position, despite the extra room Leo left for her after his birth, so I ended up delivering her bottom first, much to the surprise of the theatre staff, still only using gas and air! Strangely enough, I felt very much in control at this point which helped me push her out in a rather rapid manner! Isla Estelle was born at 12:15, 6lb 3oz and a little traumatised by her delivery. She was whisked off for some oxygen and got suctioned as she had swallowed a lot of blood. However, she was fine within 5 minutes and went for cuddles with Daddy whilst I was stitched up. I got off rather lightly, I think,with a minor second degree tear.

We were elated by their arrival and were able to stay in a single room to begin to enjoy our babies. Isla took to breastfeeding immediately but Leo wasn’t so interested, and by the middle of the next day, I realised he had quite a pronounced tongue-tie. This meant that he had trouble latching on, and as a result, I had to express my colostrum (a major feat that took an hour for just 1ml!) in order for him to get some sustinence. He was getting dehydrated so the hospital staff were worried enough to keep us in longer, until they were satisfied that he was taking enough.

We finally left hospital in Friday 19th October, with a referral to get Leo’s tongue-tie snipped at a later date.

Looking back, I feel proud that I managed to stand firm and get as close to the birth experience that I wanted. All too often, twins seem to equal unnecessary complications. I am convinced that my positive experience has been beneficial in helping me bond with them, and also succeed in getting breastfeeding established under difficult circumstances. As it stands, it transpired that Isla also had a tongue-tie so both babies had them snipped by an independent lactation consultant at two weeks old and are now doing well. In fact, both are looking very bonny and the frequent feeds have done wonders for my waistline!

Despite the constant feeding, changing what feels like hundreds of nappies and lack of sleep, they really are the most precious gift and memories of painful contractions and hospital drama are fast fading as we look forward to our first Christmas as a family of five!

09 Jul

The Birth Story of LDH

written by his father

We went to bed on Friday 27th April with a full weekend of preparations planned. With a due date of 15th of May, we were adamant that L would, at the very least, be born in May. Shortly after midnight, C awoke to discover her waters had broken.

We called the hospital, and were told that we could go in immediately, or wait until 6.30 in the morning. We’d always thought we’d want to rush to the hospital as soon as they would admit us, but we surprised ourselves by taking their advice to try and get some sleep. At least, I did. C spent most of the night repacking the hospital bag and planning for whatever lay ahead. I’m not sure whether she’d slept at all when we got up at 5am. In keeping with a long held plan, C made herself a large bowl of pasta and pesto, which she ate while I loaded up the car.

At around 7am we arrived on Southmead hospital’s assessment ward. We’d been there previously when it had been full to capacity, but on this occasion we were the only ones . In fact, our arrival seemed like a major event at the end of what had been a dull night shift for the midwives on duty. C was strapped into the trace machine and it was established that everything was fine with L, but that contractions had not yet commenced. We were told to go home and return to be induced at midnight if labour didn’t start in the mean time. Again, we were advised to get as much sleep as possible, because as one midwife put it, “that’s it for the next five years.” So naturally, we went shopping.

Laden with energy foods we returned home and again I went to sleep. I suspect C slept a little too, but not much. The day passed extremely quickly, and although she did experience a few mild contractions, C still did not go into labour. At 11pm on Saturday we called the hospital again, and were told to come in at 1am for induction.

Very early on Sunday 29th April, around 24 hours after C’s waters had broken, we returned to Southmead. We were seen by a student midwife called Abigail, and at 2.30, C was given a Propess pessary to start the induction. The process was very painful, and not helped by the fact that Abigail had particularly stubby fingers, ill-suited to inserting pessaries next to the cervix. Propess slowly releases dinoprostone, a drug which causes the cervix to relax and dilate, thus initiating labour. We were moved to the Quantock ward in order to await this effect.

C had always imagined L being born on a beautiful summer day; a day which couldn’t seem further away as the rain hammered on the glass roof of the Quantock ward and a fierce gale raged outside. I was given a folding bed and again we were advised to sleep a few hours. In-keeping with our established pattern, I slept, but C didn’t. By 5 in the morning, she was finally starting to have painful contractions. Despite hardly having slept for 2 days, she found that she was unable to sit down. We tried the TENS machine, which helped a little, and later we convinced her to try gas and air, which she thought was amazing. By 9am she was having fairly frequent contractions and biting hard on the entonox inhaler. “Has anyone ever broken the mouthpiece?” C asked the midwife. “Oh no,” she replied, “although I’ve seen a few broken teeth.” It was around this time that we were told we’d soon be moved to the Central Delivery Suite.

This did not happen for another 3 or 4 hours, by which time C was in quite a desperate state and thinking about an epidural. She was sobbing with pain when we arrived on the delivery ward, where the howls of birthing mothers rang out from all sides. An examination by our new midwife, Tracy, established that C was open 4cm.

Most of the NCT-endorsed pain management products and techniques went unused. The electric tea lights stayed in their box, unopened. The carefully selected playlist of calming tunes remained in the suitcase. The birthball was deflated and stuffed in a bag full of cereal bars because we were sick of carrying the thing from ward to ward. All C wanted was an epidural. Unfortunately, the two anaesthetists on duty were both in theatre dealing with emergencies, so we had to wait long after the point where C had been saying she could bear it no more. She did bear it, however, through many cycles of exhaustion and agony. Finally, around 3pm, the anaesthetist arrived and a curious thing happened. C had a period of lucidity, and despite having been climbing the walls minutes before, stopped contracting and chatted to the anaesthetist quite rationally. I think a couple did occur, but she rode through them with a strange tai chi technique she’d invented somewhere along the way; a sort of zen howling punctuated by the rasp of entoxin. Explanations done, decision made, soon after the epidural was administered. The effect was immediate and a relief for everyone.

C was quite disappointed she’d had to have an epidural, but I think it’s a wonderful invention. The transformation was extraordinary. We even cracked open the CD wallet and listened to some Bill Evans. The catch; another examination established that she was still only 4cm open, and the contractions were coming more infrequently. It was decided she would need a Syntocinon drip, a synthetic form of oxytocin that encourages contractions. We were beginning to doubt that L would be born the same day.

8pm, and the shift change brought us a fresh midwife, Helen, a brisk, tell-it-like-it-is Yorkshire woman with 40 years of midwifery under her belt. “I’ll ‘ave this baby out by end of my shift” she promised, which meant by 8am the following morning. In fact, he was out just before midnight. Around 10.30, C was ready to start pushing and after one last hour of hard work, L was born, with a little help from a miniature sink plunger. L was placed on his mummy’s chest for the skin-to-skin, whereupon she broke into song, a Hungarian children’s melody that encapsulated her and child in a bubble whilst the team busied themselves delivering the placenta, which seemed to follow in seconds, and stitching up, which took somewhat longer.

At 11.34pm on April 29th, LDH was born, weighing 3.085kg.

We had had a long weekend, entirely consumed by the process of giving birth. Difficult though some of it was, we look back on it as a positive experience. C lost a litre of blood during the birth, and over the next three days she had to have 2 blood transfusions. The cannulae in her hands made feeding difficult in those first few days in the hospital, and by Wednesday we were desperate to go home. Looking back to the first 24 hours from induction through to birth, we feel happy about what we endured, but more than anything else, there is the indescribable delight at finally meeting our son after what has been an incredibly long and tiring journey.

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.