21 Oct

Book review: Milk, by Emma Rosen

Emma Rosen knew she had a book in her, and motherhood gave her the material. Milk is, as subtitled, a story of breastfeeding in a society that’s forgotten how. The thing that will stay with me long after reading this, is how strongly I identified with her experience of feeding her first baby; and (although I never experienced this, having stopped at one), how healing I found it to read about her second birth, along with the feeding and mothering experience that I will always wonder if I could have had. I hope this book gets out to pregnant women, in that place where it is hard to grasp the reality of life with a baby, and prepares them just a little bit more to navigate those early months.

Emma’s book alternates between telling her own story, and telling the story of breastfeeding; and in doing so, places her own experience within the wider context of breastfeeding in 21st Century Britain, and in the world, and all of history. There is so much useful information here, and it is thoroughly referenced, too.

For anyone looking for insights into pregnancy, birth, and the world of a new mother, this is a really lovely read, and one that doesn’t shy away form the gritty reality of the physical and emotional changes of this momentous time. This might be the first time I’ve read a book that really succeeds in conveying that reality without either hyperbole or sugar coating. A properly good book.

[Disclaimer: I was sent a preview copy by the author. You can buy it from all the usual places.]

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!

21 Mar

Book Review: The Positive Birth Book, by Milli Hill

This is an interesting and extremely thorough manual for birth, written by Positive Birth Movement founder Milli Hill, whose passion for improving childbirth shines out of every page.

The obvious comparison is with ‘How to Grow a Baby and Push It Out,’ being published around the same time and for a similar audience. But The Positive Birth Book is much less yummy mummy guidebook and more thinking woman’s handbook, with comprehensive chapters looking in depth at the decisions to make during pregnancy, the experience of labour, different kinds of support, ways of working with pain, and a lot less shopping.

Hill takes a strong evidence-based position, referring extensively to NICE guidelines, and with contributions from other very respectable authorities including Birthrights’ Rebecca Schiller and ABM Chair Emma Pickett. Usually I skip through the personal anecdotes, but they have been used really effectively in this book, breaking up an otherwise non-stop march of densely factual information.

A particular strength of The Positive Birth Book is the chapter describing what labour is “really like.” A tricky subject to cover, given all the possible individual experiences, and inevitably it’s a long chapter with some idiosyncratic but accurate descriptions. Hill goes on to argue the case for writing a birth plan, and she’s right that the process involves some engagement with the subject rather than washing one’s hands of any involvement in what might unfold. This is a difficult case to make, knowing that so many women struggle to come to terms with disappointment and grief when birth doesn’t meet their expectations. There is a good case for providing information and some decision-making strategies, which this book also does. A cute ‘visual birth plan’ tool is also offered.

A final chapter provides a taster of post-birth existence, touching on the fourth trimester concept, some basic but happily accurate information about breastfeeding, and postnatal feelings and changes. Here Hill signposts rather than going into much detail, since this would go beyond the remit of this already very detailed book.

I know that much inspiration and information for The Positive Birth Book was crowd-sourced, and the results have been articulately curated by Milli Hill into a really wonderful resource for pregnant women who are keen to do their research and take ownership of their birth experience.

[Disclaimer: I was sent a free review copy of The Positive Birth Book. You can get it from Pinter & Martin, with a 10% discount if you use the code SPROGCAST at the checkout.]

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

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’.

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.