‘It was an amazing moment when I held him in my arms’

The birth of Edward Michael (7 lbs 15 oz) – by Maddy

On Monday evening, Dave and I did FaceTime with his parents. Jan said I looked like I was in the fed up stage of pregnancy, and she was right. I was 15 days past the due date and had been waiting for something to happen for a fortnight. I had been doing everything on the list to bring on labour, and even some things which weren’t on the list. That day I’d eaten chillies, bounced a lot on the birthing ball, and even ran a few steps during my walk. I went to bed with a heavy heart, as the next day I had an appointment at the hospital to be induced, and I had wanted to keep the birth as natural as possible.

11.45pm – Dave and I were about to turn the lights off when we heard a popping noise. I rushed to the loo and my waters broke. I went to phone the hospital and felt contractions starting. They were intense right from the start, and Dave and I rushed round finishing packing the hospital bag. I had thought contractions would start gradually and we’d have plenty of time to do this, but it was a mad dash.

We started timing contractions and they were very regular and continued this way throughout the labour. They were every two minutes and lasted a minute.

At the hospital we went to the maternity assessment unit. The midwife there examined me, but this wasn’t easy as the contractions were intense and close together and during them I wanted to stand and hold on to Dave.

The midwife transferred us to delivery suite. We had hoped to go to the Spires midwifery-led unit, but because I was past 42 weeks, that wasn’t permitted. We went to one of the delivery suite rooms. The midwife put monitors on me to hear the baby’s heart, and they were wireless so I could still move around easily. Most of the time I was leant over the birthing ball. For a couple of hours I used the TENS machine, and I found it very effective as a distraction. Then I started using gas and air as well as the TENS machine, as the intensity of the contractions increased. The gas and air was useful as it lifted the pain a little, but it also helped my breathing as I could hear it, like you hear your breathing when scuba diving. The sound was relaxing.

During this time Dave was making sure I drank water, giving me a cold flannel to press against my forehead, and giving me encouragement and praise. I was in my ‘zone’ and I only wanted to communicate with Dave about essential things. I was leaning over the ball and didn’t want to look at anyone or even really be touched or massaged. However I did want to know that Dave was right there and I disliked it when he left the room to go to the loo.

On my birth plan I had put that I would like to use the birthing pool and this was something I felt strongly about. When we arrived the pool was in use. Dave kept asking the midwife about it and put pressure on them to get it cleaned and ready for me. I am so grateful to him for this as having that to look forward to really helped me.

At about 3am I was able to get into the birthing pool. Dave said I immediately looked more relaxed when I got in. I continued with the gas and air and by this stage I was pushing. The midwife was able to feel the baby’s head and give me an idea of how dilated I was. She said it wasn’t too far to go and this helped. The pushing stage was quite intense, and by this stage I was moaning loudly with each contraction, which felt like a natural thing to do.

At 4.24am our son Edward was born. The midwife caught him in the water, and handed him to me. She didn’t tell us he was a boy, but let us see ourselves. It was an amazing moment when I held him in my arms. Dave was also in the pool by this stage and held him.

The next stage was to give birth to the placenta. I did this naturally, whilst feeding the baby, as this helps the process. It felt like having mild contractions and the placenta was soon out.

The midwife examined me and noticed I was losing a lot of blood and called in a doctor. The doctor said that I needed a few stitches, and they also put me on a drip with saline solution and syntometrine, which makes the uterus shrink and stops blood flow. Another doctor came in to do the stitches. In a way this the most painful part of the birth, probably because I wasn’t mentally prepared and was exhausted from the labour. They used a local anaesthetic but I could still feel a lot, and used the gas and air. I had to hold back tears and it was a big relief when it was over.

All in all it was an amazing experience and the birth went exactly as I’d hoped. I believe the hypnobirthing gave me the confidence to manage the contractions and avoid drugs for pain relief. What a way to welcome Edward into the world!


Dave’s recollections of the birth

We were lying in bed having watched an episode of Parenthood. We could not understand why labour hadn’t started naturally, but were resigned to having an induction anyway. Then, at around 2330, there was a small clicking noise and the bed shook slightly. Maddy jumped up and went to the bathroom without saying a word. I shouted after her, and she replied that yes it might be waters breaking, but there was blood present, so should we ring the hospital. Though I had a reasonable recollection of having heard this was fairly normal, I googled bloody water breakage and the advice was still to ring the hospital. I felt it odd that I was checking the internet in such a rush; the pressure of the situation was clear, but contrasted by the previously relaxed setting. Maddy rang as I got dressed and started getting more things together. We were advised that since Maddy was 2 weeks + overdue we should go in to get checked over. This sounded like a classic case of going in 24 hours early only to be sent home. Maddy grabbed a few more things to add to the suitcase while I packed the food bags. Maddy had promised I could boil some eggs to go with the sausage and tomato sandwiches, pepperami, plums, oranges, crisps, nuts and chocolate. Now she seemed reluctant and looked a bit pained as she lent over to get something from the underbed drawers. So I asked if there was any sign of a contraction. That’s when she said they’d started as soon as the waters broke. I swiftly opened the contraction timer app and gave it to Maddy. Within a few minutes it was clear the contractions were over 40 secs long and only 2 mins apart, and that Maddy was seriously underplaying the discomfort she was in.

We loaded up the car and left the house at 0020, Maddy sitting on a shower curtain. I focused on driving as smoothly as I could and remembering the route. Maddy had control of the contraction app.

We arrived and parked in our usual spot. The outer automatic doors opened, but the inner ones didn’t. I slid them open manually – not easy, but not so hard it felt like breaking and entering. Maddy knew where to find the maternity assessment unit, which is on the floor you enter the building on. At 0040 we were in the waiting area, contractions were becoming more intense and Maddy was assuming the position we assumed we’d never use.

We got taken into an assessment room, where the midwife examined Maddy and explained that the blood was due to the baby being so well engaged that waters had to seep a long way past something or other. The midwife seemed surprised Maddy was over 4cm dilated and that something or other had thinned a good amount.

I asked about moving us up to Spires, but we were not allowed because we were over 2 weeks late. Don’t think we knew this would be the case, not that we could have changed much if we had known. I stated how keen we were to use the pool, and that this was our priority, whichever floor we ended up on.

The assessment midwife led us through to a birthing room, where we met our midwife Ruth. Generally, everything was on slightly higher alert as a result of being 16 days overdue. This meant they wanted to put a monitor on and would require doctor signoff on things like getting in the pool. The monitor is good in that it is wireless, but bad in that it has awkward straps. The monitor instrument showed foetal heart rate and a number that represented a rough guide to whether a contraction was occurring. As described by others, it was hard not to become obsessed/ concerned by the intermittent bleeping of the monitor, nearly always giving false alarms due to poor alignment/ contact of the sensors.

Once it was clear we were settled in the room for a while, I rushed to car to get suitcase, mood board and food. I had to go for a wee behind a tree. The rushed wee seemed fitting for the situation. When I returned to the room, I really noticed how ridiculously warm it was in the hospital. Must have been 25 deg C plus.

Ruth encouraged Maddy to try the gas and air. I was hoping it would be effective, since I’d heard the extra oxygen helps the baby, plus I wanted the chance to have a go myself.

Maddy got down to having contractions whilst kneeling on the floor and resting her arms on a gym ball. I provided sips of water, kept the cold flannel cold and started and stopped the contraction timer app. Everything that wasn’t related to a contraction, had to be completed within the one minute between contractions. Mainly this was either Maddy and me, or me rushing to the loo (I’d had a pint of orange squash just before bed).

As the contractions intensified, Maddy asked for the TENS machine. The electrode pads have an adhesive gel side that is so sticky that it is maddeningly difficult to remove from the release liner and then get them off your hands. I had to control my breathing to focus on positioning the pads between/under the monitor straps while Maddy writhed and groaned through contractions. Once on, Maddy quickly turned up the power to halfway – 5 times more than she’d tried in the lounge. The switching of the TENS machine boost mode on and off became the marker for the contraction length.

I asked again about the pool. The patient was out of the pool, but still in the room. I asked Ruth to check again and requested that the room be prepared and pool filled as soon as it became vacant rather than waiting for the message to get back to us that it was available.

While Ruth was out of the room, I took about 5 consecutive lungfuls of gas and air, span out a bit, and, giggling, encouraged Maddy to do the same. The gas and air made a distinctive sound as it flowed through the pipe. This became the confirmation/ feedback that Maddy was breathing through contractions. Maddy tried using the iPod with the hypnobirth track, but there were too many distractions.

Ruth reported that there was still some concern about the baby’s heart rate during contractions. Apparently around 130bpm = good, <115 bpm = bad. This became a renewed focus for me, though I wasn’t too concerned. I had a look at the monitor print out for patterns; it was clear where contractions occurred by the decrease in heartrate, but other than times of poor signal, the drop looked repeatable and rarely lower than 115bpm.

The contractions were getting longer (sometimes over a minute) and at peak intensity Maddy really struggled not to tense up completely, hold her breath and actively push. I had to shout “breathe through the contraction!” and “focus on the sound of the air!”. It was hard to tell if this was ridiculously inappropriate at this stage and therefore just really annoying for Maddy. But she did manage to force some breathing, which meant a little more oxygen if nothing else. Sometimes I counted down the last 10 to 20 seconds of a contraction, I didn’t attempt the 50 second mirror counting as I knew I wouldn’t get the numbers right. Ruth asked Maddy if she was “feeling any pressure” during contractions. I wasn’t sure what this meant, as it was clear Maddy had been feeling surges of pressure from the moment her waters broke. So I asked “Do you mean is she feeling the urge to push?” Ruth confirmed and encouraged Maddy to push if she wanted to. From the two birth videos I’d watched, I thought it was advisable to hold off the active pushing for a bit to give things a bit of time to stretch. I queried, but Ruth just said push if you feel you want to. I was also keen not to rush things while we were yet to confirm pool availability.

I was now pretty hungry and sensed that opportunities to eat the food I’d brought would become increasingly limited. Only an egg would be up to the task. I grabbed it from the food bag during a 45 second lull, and asked Ruth if it was ok to eat it. Then I cracked the shell against the floor and peeled it beside Maddy. It was tasty.

Asking again about the pool, the response was that a doctor had to ok it. We were advised that monitoring could only be every 15 minutes in the pool, which increased the risk of still birth. I asked for clarification that actually there were no risk signs from the monitoring so far, meaning the only reason to continue monitoring was being 16 days overdue. So we opted for the pool with limited monitoring. I wanted to get us into the pool as quickly as possible, so when Ruth said the TENS pads needed to be removed, I got to work taking everything off.

In the pool room, the water did not look as deep as it could be, so I asked for a top up. Saying Maddy would be a bit “half in, half out” was a useful keyword, knowing that this can be an issue for the baby in terms of making it ambiguous when the first breath should be taken. More water was dutifully added.

As soon as Maddy got into the water she looked way more comfortable. Just the position facing and leaning up against the side looked more natural, let alone the ability to stretch out behind and move her legs.

Ruth now checked Maddy from behind using a knackered old torch and a shiny spatula as a mirror. After about 10 mins, Ruth could feel the head and called another midwife as part of policy when birth is imminent. I asked for a 5 min warning so that I could get in the water too (Maddy had managed to keep it surprisingly clean). In the meantime I rushed off to the first room and changed into my swimming shorts and red t-shirt.

I got in the water as soon as I got back and 5 mins later, Eddie was born and passed to Maddy. He immediately gasped for air and opened his eyes as he came out of the water. Cried a bit and looked stunned, but was very alert. Not really covered in any goo. The pool water was also basically clear apart from a couple of blobs resting on the base. After resting in the pool for 5 mins or so, the midwife brought some scissors for me to cut the cord. I checked out the quality of the scissors, seeing how well the blades could be made to shear against each other. They weren’t too bad, so I applied a pre-tension and though offered a central portion of the cord between two clips, I cut as close to the baby clip as possible to minimise the stub left to rot.

I hopped out and the midwives helped Maddy and Eddie out. Maddy lay on the bed with the back raised so Eddie could lie on her chest and feed, which brought on the cramps of the third stage. When Maddy delivered the placenta, Eddie was given to me for some skin to skin, made possible by my front opening shirt. The room was so warm and Eddie and his face in particular was very red. Eddie did not like being weighed – performing what I’ve since learned is a succession of Moro reflexes. I refused the chance to look closely at the placenta. If I was asked now, maybe I would, but at the time there was such a strong preference for looking at Eddie instead.

At 0815, once Eddie was wrapped up and given back to Maddy, we both tried to call our parents. Maddy struggled to get through, but I got hold of my Dad and got him to put Mum on the line. As I described to my Mum how well Maddy had done and how much had happened in so little time, I turned to see Maddy had started to cry, which is when the emotion of it all hit me too. I finished up the call as quickly as possible and went back to Maddy. The midwives offered tea and toast, which was delicious. I peeled an orange and fed it to Maddy as she fed Eddie again.

At 0850 I headed outside to send Hangout and Whatsapp messages. Soon after, we were moved to the observation ward at the other end of the floor. Very little space for luggage, but it was nice to be beside the window. The central heating remained ridiculously hot; the radiators were on full blast below the window, so I opened the widow.

After we’d settled in, I went back out to the car for some fresh air and to send messages. I sat in the car to put my phone on charge and stared straight ahead. The tail end of a hurricane had swept through during the night and trees were swaying and loads of leaves blew about.

When I got back to the ward, we tried to get Eddie to feed again, but it was proving difficult. A midwife offered to help, and in the end hand expressed 1 ml into a syringe and gave that to Eddie. She commented that it was like Jersey milk. I explained that Maddy was from Guernsey, where they consider Jersey milk to be relatively thin.

Later I helped Maddy to shower. It was very strange leaving Eddie, now asleep, in the midwife station.

At around 5pm, I changed Eddie’s nappy (the first huge meconium one) and then left to go home to lie down for a bit. Unfortunately, this meant I hit rush hour, so sat in traffic for 30 mins just to get out of hospital, making it hard to stay awake in the car. Once back at the flat I ate a large bowl of French onion soup, had a shower and then slept way too deeply; the countdown alarm noise was horribly confusing. When I eventually dragged myself out of bed, it was hard to focus on what I needed to take back with me. I couldn’t stand the thought of taking more hot onion soup back for Maddy as agreed.

I got back to the ward around 8, ready to change another mec nappy, using the windowsill for nappy change items. I stayed quite a long time past the end of visiting hours. I didn’t envy Maddy having to stay the night – the place could not be described as cosy, particularly the only nightlight option, which was above the bed and shone straight into Eddie’s eyes. I went home and got a 8 hrs solid deep sleep, which felt like quite an indulgence, but did mean I was more useful the next day. On Wednesday morning I arrived to find all the car parks full, so had to queue to get in. Maddy was at a Baby Cafe, after which we stayed in the cubicle having various tests until Maddy was discharged around 5pm. The car seat straps were checked and off we went. It was great to get home.