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.

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.

11 May

Melanie’s birth story

Melanie is the happy mum of Lucas, dinosaurs hunter

I was lucky enough to have been judged low-risk and consequently referred to an out-of-hospital midwives practice.
The care I received there was perfect, and I became very comfortable with the 2 midwives who were taking care of me. This was really important to me, as I’m a very shy person and need time to feel totally at ease with new people.

But you know this thing about births never going according to plans? Well, about 3 months before my due date, my midwives informed me that their practice was in danger of being closed down by the hospital they were linked to.
And indeed, 3 weeks before my due date, the practice was closed and what I had hoped for the birth of my son was not on the cards anymore.

Other than that, I had a textbook, hassle free pregnancy. Everybody was telling me that first babies are always late, which wasn’t making me happy. My son’s due date was on the 17th of December, and I really wasn’t fancying a Christmas or a New Year’s Eve birth!

But he had other plans. On the 9th of December, I had the show. My husband decided to take the rest of the week off work to stay with me. Nothing happened for another day.
On Friday, my midwife, with whom I was still in contact, advised me to go to the hospital to be checked.

There, they took a swab and I was sent back home being told to come back on Monday (this was a Friday).
On the bus home, I had my first ever contraction. It wasn’t too painful, so I wasn’t sure if it was really it. It was about 1pm.
Then as we got home, the contractions started again and very quickly, they became more regular, and a lot more painful. By 3pm, I was having contractions every 5 minutes.

My husband called a mini cab and I was at the hospital again, this time at the delivery ward, by 4pm.
The receptionist asked me if my waters had broken and I said no. She then disappeared, leaving me and my husband there for a very long time.
My waters broke as she was gone. The contractions had eased up as we were coming to the hospital, but were starting again in full force as we were left standing in the reception area.

We were left there until 5.30pm, completely ignored by the reception staff.
Finally, a student midwife who was coming in for her shift, or something saw us. And within minutes, I was in a delivery room.

I was checked at that time and was told that I was already 8cm dilated.
I didn’t want any drugs. My plan was to have the most natural birth possible. I also wanted to refuse the injection to help with the placenta delivery, as well as the vitamin K for the baby.

I was offered Gas and Air, which I tried and hated. It made me feel dizzy and nauseous, which I found worse than the now 1min long, 3 min apart contractions. At some point, I noticed that the midwife wasn’t the same as the one I started with. I don’t know when the change happened. It put me off kilter a bit.

At 7.45pm, I was told that I could start pushing. And I pushed. For what seems forever with little to no progress. At 10pm, I hadn’t progressed much. The midwife could see the top of the baby’s head, but she had been able to see that for the last hour or so.

She told us that at this point it would probably be best if we got some help in. She asked me if I could still go on, and I didn’t feel I had it in me to keep pushing.

The next thing I know, the room is suddenly crowded with people. Two obstetricians are there. They are very nice. After checking me out, they decided that the ventouse would be best for us.
It went very fast after that. The only thing I remember is the pain when they attached the ventouse onto the baby’s head. And then the immense relief as I pushed my son out. It was 10.20pm.
He was quickly given to the pediatrician who had appeared out of nowhere, to be checked over. He was fine.
It took them a good 5-10 min to give me my son. I had to ask for it!

He was the most beautiful baby in the whole world. He looked like his dad so much, down the hair, that it was a bit spooky! Funny, though!

The obstetricians recommended that I got the injection the help the placenta along, which I agreed to. At this point I wanted to be done and left with my baby.

And we waited, and waited and waited. After 45 min, I was given another injection, in the cord this time. Another half hour later, they called in the phlebotomist to set up an IV.

Still no placenta.

They drained my bladder, in case it was too full and blocking the way.

Still no placenta.

They were starting to talk about retained placenta and that I might need to go to the theatre.
After all of this, that was really not what I wanted.

They called in the senior midwife. A no-nonsense kind of woman. Very scary, too!
She told me I would not go to the theatre and that I would push this placenta out. I told her I was too tired to push anymore. She told me that I would. And I did. Well, she made me push, and pressed very hard on my belly with her hand while tugging on the cord.
Next thing I know, my placenta was on the table, being checked by the other midwife.
The senior midwife left the room, telling me “See, I told you you would push this placenta out!”.

One of the obstetricians came back in to stitch up my tears.
I was so relieved it was all done, with my son in my arms, that I chit chatted with her. We joked a bit.
The beautiful thing about a mostly drug free birth is that you feel absolutely wonderful after it. At least, this is how I felt, despite all the kerfuffle, and someone stitching up my private parts.

By 4.30am, I was rolled to my bed in the post-delivery ward.
I had almost no sleep whatsoever. When I finally started to snooze, it was the time for the nurse to come check on me.

By 5pm this day, we were back home with our newborn.

I would (and I will) do it all over again in a heartbeat. This was the best day of my life.