Surprise baby boy – Otis Robert
Preston Birth Centre (MLU) – Grasmere Suite
Hypnobirthing, TENS machine, gas and air, pool (water birth)
When I first found out I was pregnant back in February, it was a bit of a shock, having only come off the pill just over a month before, we just weren’t expecting it to happen so quickly. Alongside planning for a (now what would be sober) trip to Amsterdam, I started looking into all the pregnancy activities I wanted to do such as aqua aerobics, yoga, pregnancy massage and hypnobirthing. We booked an early scan for the week after our trip so that we could announce the news to our families. I’m so glad we did, as the week after, the whole country went into lockdown due to Covid.
I found it all really hard at the start as I had been looking forward to everything I had planned for my pregnancy; and having to go in for my 12 week scan alone was difficult. I did a couple of online, non-interactive courses and added myself to way too many Facebook support groups, but as a first time mum I was really missing being able to talk face to face to people who had been through pregnancy and birth already.
Once the restrictions started to lift slightly, I saw that Empowered Bumps were starting up face to face hypnobirthing classes again and got us booked on it straight away! I also signed up for as many of the pregnancy relaxation sessions with Jenie and pregnancy yoga with Sharron that I could.
The hypnobirthing course was so helpful for us. I had already done a lot of research on my options in labour and birth but it gave me the opportunity to speak to my partner Colin about his role and how important it was for him to be an advocate for me to ensure my birth preferences were followed. Being able to go to the additional classes weekly afterwards was good to keep everything fresh in my mind.
I had a couple of not very positive experiences with midwives/consultants due to having a slightly high BMI and baby measuring big, but the hypnobirthing and mindset classes meant I was aware of my options and able to question what I was being told so that I felt fully informed. I felt confident in continuing with my plan for a MLU water birth despite being told my BMI would mean this wouldn’t be possible due to risk of baby getting stuck.
Towards the end of my pregnancy, I carried on with the classes at The Hart Space as I was sure I would go over my due date and wanted to make sure I had things booked in to keep me busy! I had been open water swimming through the summer but as it got colder, I moved back into the pool and swam up until 4 days before he was born! I had my positive affirmations board ready; typed up my birth preferences; and tried my best to relax in the bath with my essential oils listening to the MP3s from the course. I made sure I had all my beauty appointments sorted and booked myself in for a pregnancy massage and a reflexology treatment. We also stopped watching the crime dramas that had kept us occupied during lockdown, and I spent most evenings trying to remember to bounce on my yoga ball whilst watching every episode of Benidorm from the start to help get the oxytocin flowing.
As expected, my due date came and went, with a hot curry to celebrate! I was offered a sweep at my 40 week appointment but decided to decline this as wanted to give baby time to come out on their own. I agreed to a sweep at my next appointment the following week, and we booked my induction in for 40+12. I still wasn’t sure if I would go through with it or have daily monitoring instead but wanted to have it ready as an option as I was starting to get tired with the SPD pain I had been getting for months.
I had been having the odd cramp and had been losing my mucus plug on and off for weeks so knew that things were progressing. As I went past my due date, I finally decided to take some bump pictures with outfits I had bought as baby’s first outfits. I filled the photo album we were given on the course with pictures of my niece and more positive affirmations so that I could take this to the hospital when the time came, and sorted out my labour box with my things like twinkly lights, eye mask and fluffy socks. I realised that we were getting close to the 20th and that if baby came on that date they would have an awesome birthday – 20/10/20 – so I set up the pin board I had bought to announce his/her birthday with that date on to encourage baby to stick to the plan!
A week after my due date I decided I couldn’t cope being sat around in the house anymore, so despite it taking me ages to waddle anywhere, we went to a little local farmers market for a walk around. We bought loads of yummy treats and some pies for tea! After tea I planned to watch The Greatest Showman for some more oxytocin. I went to the toilet before the film and saw that I had my bloody show. Panicking slightly, I rang triage as I wasn’t sure if I needed to go in to be checked but they told me to just monitor and call back if it got worse. I didn’t really concentrate on the film after that!
The next morning was my 41 week midwife appointment where I had arranged to get my first sweep, after declining 2 previously. I debated whether to just leave it and see if I went into labour naturally but I was intrigued to see how dilated I was so decided to go ahead with it. The midwife said that my cervix was 3cm dilated but still quite long. The baby’s head was as low as it could be, but they were still slightly back to back.
That evening we chilled out and I took a lovely long bath with my essential oils. Around 11pm I was sat on the couch when I felt a stronger period pain type ache than I had previously had. I only had a couple of these quite far apart before we took ourselves off to bed and luckily I slept all the way through until about 6am.
When I woke up I knew that this was definitely it! All the sensations were in my front, like really bad period pains, or like I said in a text to my mum “I feel like I need a big poo”! I was only getting them about every 10 minutes so I knew that I would need to stay at home a little longer. My labour box, yoga ball and everything I had ready was downstairs but I just wanted to stay in the bed. My partner went to the spare room and logged on for work and I could hear him on conference calls excitedly telling people he might have to finish work early.
For a couple of hours, the only way I felt comfortable was in child’s pose on the bed. I only moved to go to the toilet and to stand in the shower with the water focused on my back. After my shower, Colin attached the TENs machine to my back which helped, even though the pressure was still all in my front – I think more as something to focus on. He brought me a cup of coffee and a couple of crumpets which went cold as I couldn’t face eating or drinking. I had the positive affirmations playing on my phone and was timing my surges which felt stronger but were still around 8 minutes apart.
Just after midday, I went to the toilet and had a big gush of blood. I decided I needed to get in the bath as I just wanted to be in the water. Colin rang the hospital (I just asked him and he said he rang 14 times trying to get through!) and they said I could come into triage alone to be checked out but it was perfectly normal. I made the decision to wait at home a little longer as if I went to the birth centre unit rather than triage, Colin could be with me the whole time. I spent the next couple of hours labouring in the bath. He had abandoned work by this point as I had started to lose a bit of control and was making quite a lot of noise! I was trying to focus on my breathing (4 in, 8 out) but I felt like there was too much to think about. At some point, Colin disappeared. I later found out he was tidying up downstairs, and starting putting away the pool in the garden that I had bought in lockdown! Whatever helps you cope, eh!
He came back in to check on me around 2pm, and I asked him to time my surges again. They still weren’t the magic 3 in 10 minutes that they wanted them to be, but he was adamant he needed to call the hospital (again, another 14 calls to get through!). As I guessed, they advised to stay at home until they were closer, but as we were on the phone I had a surge and they must have heard how strong it was from the noise I made so they said they were happy for us to make our way in.
As Colin went into organising mode, getting the bags into the car and collecting up the few last bits, I tried desperately to get out of the bath but every time I tried I was hit with another surge. At one point he was pleading with me to hurry up as he was worried I would be giving birth in the bathroom! I feel like, despite the noise I was making, I felt in control, and the thought of a potential free birth didn’t worry me. In my head I kept repeating “your body was made for this” and “you can do anything for one minute”. I eventually made it back to the bedroom and as I was trying to get dressed, Colin told me he could see the purple line on my lower back to indicate I was dilated. As I stood up to pull my knickers up, there was a whoosh of fluid which I thought might have been my waters, and meant I had to get redressed!
With the TENs machine back on, I managed to make it to the car, with just one surge leaving me thinking I might need to start pushing on the driveway as school kids were walking past! I don’t remember much of the 20 minute journey to the hospital except that Children by Robert Miles was on the radio at one point, as Colin pointed out the irony! Getting out of the car, I was already dreading trying to walk to the lift and up to the birth centre. Luckily a porter saw me bent over the car and gave us a wheelchair to use, so we put our masks on and went in.
Getting to the birth centre at around 4pm, Colin passed me onto the midwives so he could move the car. They took me to my room, the Grasmere Suite, where the birthing pool water was already running, the lights were dimmed and there was plinky plonky music playing. They asked me to do a urine sample but I couldn’t go so they asked if I could get on the bed whilst the midwife checked baby’s heartbeat etc. Colin came back in and passed my birth preferences to the midwives as I hadn’t even thought to do so. The second midwife asked the one who had done my checks to do a VE, which I had decided that I wanted to accept when first arriving and this was in my preferences. It was only at that point that I realised that she was a student as she had read that I didn’t want students to be “hands on”. I told her that I didn’t mind as she had made me feel so comfortable up until that point. She did the examination and told me I was 6cm, which I was happy with as I didn’t want to be sent home!
Colin got my twinkly lights out and put everything away in the cupboards whilst I just continued to use the TENS machine. We had brought essential oils and everything else in my labour box but I just didn’t feel like I needed them. The plinky plonky music had been turned off at some point but I didn’t feel as if I needed to put my own on as I just had my eyes closed and was in the zone.
Annoyingly, the qualified midwife chose that moment, reading my notes, to ask the question “you do know the policy behind you using the birth centre don’t you?”. Knowing what she was getting at I said, “you mean with regards to my BMI?”. She then said that if they struggled to find baby’s heartbeat due to my excess fat, they would have to transfer me to the delivery suite. I think I screamed in frustration at this point, why was she bringing it up now when we were settled?! She also brought up what the consultant had said, that maybe I could labour in the pool but would probably need to get out to give birth due to the risks of shoulder dystocia. I’m so glad I felt empowered enough to not just accept anything they said as a given and to make my own choices!
I had put in my preferences that the only pain relief I wanted to be offered was gas and air, so I chose to start this whilst they got the pool ready. Again they asked if I could provide a urine sample but I still couldn’t, so I asked Colin to make sure he kept passing me water to drink when I got in the pool. Getting into the pool was amazing, it really helped to calm me down. Colin had to do his main role now – pass me cold flannels for my head! I remember saying at one point “urgh this labour business doesn’t half drag” but I had only been in the pool maybe an hour!
The qualified midwife was asking me if I had been tested for gestational diabetes and all I could think was “why does this matter right now, I’m about to give birth”. I was also given a Covid test in between surges, which I can barely remember. I had been labouring on my knees in the pool, to try and stay more upright, however the student midwife had to ask me every 15 minutes to turn over so that she could use the doppler. I was happy to do this as I knew the alternative was continuous monitoring and a move to the delivery suite.
I had been trying to drink lots of water as advised and the midwives had some concerns that my bladder being full would hinder baby’s journey down the birth canal. They asked if I could get out of the pool to empty my bladder but I just couldn’t get out. There was discussion of having an in-out catheter put in but I really didn’t want this. With every surge I tried to focus on breathing with the gas and air but I continued having the urge to push. The midwives told me it was getting close to 8pm, the end of their shift, and as I had been there for nearly 4 hours I would need to get out to have another VE. I just kept saying “I can’t, I can’t” so I knew that I was close, then the student midwife asked if I wanted to try pushing to see what happened.
It was so good to be able to push rather than try to fight it, and with the first push they could see baby was right there! We weren’t sure if my waters had broken so they didn’t know if it was baby or the sac that they could see. The student midwife said she was really sorry but she would have to check for baby’s heartbeat every 5 minutes now. After a couple of times of me having to turn over for this she asked if I wanted to stay sat laid back to make monitoring easier which I agreed to. They took my temperature and it was slightly high so I was given some paracetamol.
The student midwife was brilliant, and helped to keep me calm as I started to lose some control. I felt as if my surges weren’t getting closer together but I just tried to think of some of the positive affirmations and push when they came. She asked if I wanted to put my hand down and feel baby to see if it was the head or the sac which I did but I couldn’t tell which. I asked them to take some pictures which I am so happy to have done, and in hindsight wish I had more taken.
The qualified midwife said she was sorry to say they would be missing the actual birth as it was time for shift handover and she went to do the handover and bring in the midwife taking over for me to meet. Once she had left the room, the student midwife asked if it would help if she held one of my feet and Colin held the other. I agreed to this, and with the very next surge I pushed my feet into their hands and felt baby crowning! I thought the head was totally out and thought I heard the midwife ask me to just give one more little push so I did and baby shot out! I later found out that the head was only slightly out, still in the sac before the second push, and my waters only broke as the baby came out, doing his first poo in the process!
The feeling when the baby was passed to me for immediate skin to skin was amazing! I was in total shock how quick the last bit had gone and we were both crying. The student midwife asked Colin to pull the call cord as the qualified midwife was still doing the handover out of the room. In all the chaos I stupidly missed Colin saying “it’s a Keith” which is what we agreed he would say if we had a boy (we hadn’t found out the gender but were certain it was a boy, hence the nickname). The qualified midwife came in with the new midwife and was shocked that he had already been born! I wasn’t even sure what time it was, and was over the moon when they said he was born at 20:02… on 20/10/20 just as I predicted!
Whilst I had been in the pool in labour, Colin had been merrily eating his way through the snack bag! I hadn’t eaten anything since my half a cold crumpet at home earlier so once the baby was out safely I realised I was absolutely starving. As I was hoping for a physiological delivery of the placenta, I was still in the pool having skin to skin when I asked Colin if he could get me the mini chicken satay sticks that he had brought. Finally getting to eat something, I must have inhaled part of the satay stick and started having a coughing fit. Colin and the midwife are flapping that I might drop the baby, and getting me some water and I was like “urgh, some crap just fell out of me”! The midwife was like, “what out of your vagina?” and looked in the pool and said “that’s not crap, that was your placenta!”. I’m not sure there’s many people can say they coughed out their placenta! I was so glad as it was that stage I was more worried about than anything.
We stayed in the pool a little longer then Colin got to cut the cord. We had brought a little fox cord tie to use instead of the clamp. The student midwife had used these on her own children but never put it on herself, but was happy to do so. Unfortunately it was cut quite short, and bled a bit so the tie ended up getting in the water and getting a bit messy! I had asked to look at my placenta so they put it in the bathroom for me to see later on. Getting out of the pool, the baby was passed to Colin so that he could have skin to skin. It was only when they drained the water that I realised how much meconium he had passed when being born! We had now been passed over to the midwife on the night shift, however the student midwife was lovely and stayed behind an extra hour to make sure all his paperwork was filled in and that we were both ok.
After being told he was measuring big, when he was weighed he was a lovely 9lb 1oz. I was checked internally and told I may need to go to theatre as they couldn’t decide if I had a 2nd or 3rd degree tear. Up until them checking I didn’t feel sore at all. We were left in the room whilst we waited for a doctor to be free to check the damage his speedy exit caused!
He was passed back to me so that I could try and establish breastfeeding, and we realised it was probably time to decide on a name! We had brought the pin board with us, and I had put a mixture of girls and boys names on there. After deliberating for a good 10 minutes, we eventually decided on the first name I had put down – Otis Robert. Colin set to putting the board together with his birth details now we knew the time and weight – the date was already done from when I had set it up a few days before!
The midwife came back to take me to the triage room to be checked over by the doctor. She said it was the room I would have been taken to for my VE when I arrived, which is the first time I realised I had bypassed being checked for admission, as I had gone straight to my delivery suite – clearly they could tell I was already in established labour without it! I left Otis with Colin so that he could put his nappy on him and his first outfit.
In the triage room, they had my legs in stirrups whilst the doctor examined me. I hated every bit of this, as it felt so removed from the perfect birth I had just had. Luckily it was decided I only had a 2nd degree tear so they were able to stitch me up there. I had gas and air, but it was making me dizzy so had to keep stopping, and the anaesthetic kept wearing off, so I was practically in tears whilst they were doing this.
Once I had been sorted, it was around midnight, and the midwife took me to a new private room where we were to be staying the night. I was surprised to see that Colin had dressed Otis and one of the 0-3 month outfits I had packed but he explained his legs were way too long to fit in any of the newborn sleep suits! All the newborn clothes were put straight in the loft once we got home! We took a picture of him with the pin board to announce his birth, and decided to just send it to close family to postpone the inevitable flurry of messages until the day after. I had already had 2 messages checking up on me from my work colleagues who must have guessed because of my social media silence for the day!
I had been looking forward to my toast all day, so we were brought a coffee each and 2 rounds of lovely toast! Otis managed to get a good feed off me before we settled him in his crib. I had a shower and tried to get some sleep, easier said than done.
We ended up been allowed to stay in the room all the next day waiting on his checks so that we could be discharged, eventually leaving around 6pm. Getting home, our next door neighbour came out to check how we were. She said she hadn’t heard me the day before which I was paranoid about, but she had guessed when she saw the car was missing. Colin went off to the chip shop for tea which we had with a lovely glass of red wine each!
Jenie would say in classes that she was jealous of women who were due to be giving birth soon as she loved doing it so much, and I thought she was mad! Now, I can honestly say that I found giving birth to be such an amazing and empowering experience, and didn’t feel as if I could describe what I felt as painful. I turned to Colin about 5 minutes after Otis was born and said “well that was ok, I’d do that again”, and I can’t wait for the next time! I’m so grateful to Jenie and Sharron for helping me to have such a positive experience.