2.40am 27th April 2022

I woke up feeling like I wet myself. Upon checking I noticed 2 small wet patches on my underwear, that had no smell to them. So I called Southmead assessment unit who asked me to come in. After arranging care for my 10 year old and calling my husband who was in London with work, I drove down to the hospital myself.

By 4am I could see the monitor picking up contractions even though at this point I was only feeling the irregular light period pains. So I called my husband and asked him to start making his way to me.

By 5.30am the assessment unit advised that they can confirm that what was on the pads were my waters and my waters had broken.I was offered an induction due to a risk of infection or I could wait 24 hours. I decided to let the labour progress naturally and at 7

.15am my husband was at the hospital ready to take me home.

I went home arranged overnight care for my eldest daughter. By 11am I found fresh blood on my pad and upon a call to the assessment unit I was asked to go back in. The mid wife completed an examination upon our consent and fully explaining the process.

She confirmed I was 3cm dilated and could again go home or be induced. At this point me and my husband decided to go for the induction since we were all prepared. I had an en-suite room with blinds closed, small fairy lights around the room and calm music playing.

The room had a maternity ball that I was able to bounce on. The midwife helped rupture a few membranes as all my waters had not fully broken. Respecting my wishes of a natural birth where possible the midwife advice that I should take 2 hours and get some lunch and walk around to see if the pregnancy naturally progresses. My birth plan was written in my yellow file.

At 1pm with no progression and after Dr consultation and our approval I was put on an oxytocin drip. I started feeling mild period like pains more frequently and found myself practicing my breath 4 in 8 out, I clenched to a comb to divert the pain.

By 4pm I was in active labour, my husband as planned switched on the fan while I tried to seek comfort on the mat ball. However, I soon found myself on the bed with gas & air.

My husband was besides me holding my hand helping with my gas & air intake. When the contractions were surging I squeezed my husbands hand twice to indicate that a construction was coming so he could put the gas & air back in my mouth. Through the gas & air I thought about the positive image’s that I viewed over the weeks leading up to my labour.

I remember being told I was 9cm dilated and then I was asked to push harder and was told if you feel like a poo then push!

By 5.03 my DD was in my arms crying for a feed. My husband waited for the cord to go white before he cut it and our daughter was latched onto my breast for her 1st feed.

Although I was exhausted I found myself feeling an adrenaline rush as if I have ran a marathon. The whole experience went smoothly, and I did not panic at all. In fact, I even took a call from the bank during labour!

Thanks to hypnobirthing, me and my husband were able to prepare, plan, make informed decisions and knew exactly what to expect. We learnt about tools like the mat ball that helped bring on labour as I used this leading up to my waters breaking. Every time we recall the whole experience we find ourselves feeling so happy and pleased it was definitely a positive experience.

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It was 7:08am on Friday the 29th of October 2021. I had been feeling light period like cramps every so often and decided to document each pain in my contraction app just in case. At this point I thought I was just being silly so I didn’t bother to wake my partner, Arron just yet.

By 7:40 I had 6 more light cramps all around my front and back. I then decided I should wake Arron. He was very excited and sprung out of bed. I had never seen him so awake and ready so early in the morning.

It soon became clear that I was in labour as the contractions continued and gradually got stronger and closer together. Arron helped me put on my tens machine and we sat down , relaxed, played some video games and watched a film with a Subway.

We stayed at home for most of the day. I felt very relaxed and in control and remembered my breathing techniques every time I felt a contraction beginning. At around 3:30pm the cramps became stronger so Arron ran me a warm bath. It was a relief to be in the water. Even though there was still pain the warm water helped take the edge off. I stayed in the bath until I felt that I needed to go to the hospital.

Arron sat next to me and called the midwife. On the first phone call they asked if I felt that I could stay home longer. I agreed and stayed in the bath. I reminded myself that I need to be more assertive. When I felt that the surges were too much we rang the midwife back and politely but more assertively said that I need to come in.

We grabbed all the bags, put on some clothes and jumped in the car and made our way to Singleton Hospital . The car ride was scary as my mind was racing. I tried to remember to stay in control and not to over think things.

We got to the Midwife led Unit at Singleton Hospital and taken to a private room by one of the midwives. The room had everything you could want or need for birth. There was fairy lights, a huge bath Tub, a big comfy bed , a giant bean bag and en suite bathroom. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first arrived but it was such a relief to be in such a nice private and quiet room. The midwife examined me and told me I was 4cm dilated. I was scared and in quite a bit of pain at this point but I felt that I was in good hands. The midwives handed me gas and air. I started feeling light headed. There was still pain but it was easing. The two midwives looking after us stepped out to give us some privacy and only came back every now and again to check on how we were doing. I was also eventually given a pethidine injection to relieve some of the pain.

I had cervical checks throughout labour and was surprised by how quickly things were progressing. I was 6cm dilated and soon after I was 10. Everything went so fast and before I knew it it was time to start pushing.

The next few hours are a little blurry. I didn’t know how much time had past but the next thing I remember was lying down on the bed being told to push. The surges were very strong at this point but I felt determined and ready to meet my baby. I knew the only way was forward so I put all my energy into pushing. I didn’t want to look or talk I just wanted to push. Eventually I felt a gush of fluid, my waters had finally broke.

My memory is a bit foggy and all I remember is the midwives saying “there’s his head” and Arron getting super excited and encouraging me to keep going. I was more determined than ever and gave each push everything I had. The midwife said she could see the baby looking back up at her. All of this was so surreal at the time. I could hardly process what was happening but I knew I had to just keep going.

I remember Arron trying to say words of encouragement and explain everything that was happening but all I wanted to do was concentrate. I remember the nurse laughing because I kept shushing him and telling him to stop talking.

I couldn’t remember how long I was pushing for but it didn’t seem long at all. I remember thinking that the pushing part wasn’t as intense as the contractions. Arron was holding only one leg and the midwife onto the other. Both midwives were very encouraging and helped guide me with the pushing. I remember this relief as I felt the baby being born.

I heard the baby cry and I looked down. The nurse brought him up and lay him on my chest. Seeing my baby for the first time was the most surreal moment of my life. I cuddled into him and he stopped crying and just looked around the room with his big eyes. He already has a head full of hair. I looked over at Arron and his reaction was much like mine. We couldn’t believe he was finally here and how perfect he was. Arron then cut the cord and we just sat and enjoyed the first moments with our new baby.

I remember being worried about birthing the placenta but the midwives assisted me and I didn’t feel any pain at that point. One of the midwives checked me over and told me that I would need some stitches. I was a little worried but I felt that I was in good hands. Arron looked after the baby while I was taken to have stitches. I had gas and air during the whole thing and thankfully there was hardly any pain.

I was taken back into the birthing room and held my baby and breastfed him for the first time. He instinctively latched on. I sat there holding him still not quite being able to process that this little baby was mine.

The midwife asked if I wanted some toast. (I was so tired and hungry that it tasted like the best toast I ever had). I sat with baby in one arm and toast in the other and noticed a black jelly like blob down my arm. The baby had his first meconium poop. This was the first of many times that I would be pooped over the coming weeks but he’s so worth it :)

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Surprise baby girl - 2nd September 2020 - 38 + 6 Planned home birth Second Time Mum 7lb 15oz Up Breathing

Triggers - birth before arrival, paramedics, use of ‘contractions’, bleed during pregnancy, quick labour! Shock after delivery.

A bit of background: This was my 4th pregnancy. I have had 2 miscarriages before (1 was a missed miscarriage). My previous pregnancy and birth was straightforward except morning sickness throughout. Although I had a natural labour and had excellent care at Neath Port Talbot MLU, I did feel traumatised afterwards. I think this was mostly due to the fact that I was not very prepared for labour and was in labour for 3 days.

During the start of this pregnancy I found myself anxious about giving birth and wanted to reduce this anxiety. As lockdown had begun, all of the antenatal classes in my area, Swansea and Neath, were cancelled and I turned to the free hypnobirthing session online (although I was very sceptical about hypnobirthing). During the session my attitude changed and I loved the science behind the hypnobirthing techniques. This pregnancy was mostly straightforward. I had sickness for around 20 weeks and growth scans due to my baby having short femurs and a consultant mis-recording fundal height. In addition, after 32 weeks I had episodes of painful contractions. At 35 weeks I had constant contractions for 2 days and a bleed which was very scary. I got admitted to hospital and both me and the baby were monitored and I had a scan. We were both found to be healthy with no known cause for the bleed. I stayed in hospital overnight but was sent home the next morning. The painful contractions still occurred (they woke me up at night and were every 5 minutes but only lasted 4hrs at a time before becoming less regular) but I noticed that they were worse when I had been active and so I decided to ask my mum to stay with us and help look after my son in the day so it would decrease the amount of contractions and hopefully allow me to continue the pregnancy passed 37 weeks. I also actively tried not to get my oxytocin flowing. I was concerned that I wouldn’t know when labour had begun as these contractions were exactly the same as the start of my last labour. Luckily the contractions did die down and I made it over 37 weeks which meant I was now able to have a birth at home or in a MLU. I also made it to September which is what I really selfishly wanted. After this, I didn’t mind when I went in to labour. My first child was born at 40+3 however, due to the painful contractions I had been having I was always expecting to go into labour before 40 weeks. Birth: On the evening of 1st September my husband, myself and my mum spent a lot of time watching videos of my son when he was a baby. We laughed a lot. When we went to bed we had lots of cuddles which got the oxytocin flowing. I woke up at 1:30am to go to the toilet (pretty standard) but as I woke up I suddenly felt wet and panicked slightly that I had had another bleed. I rushed to the toilet but leaked all of the way to the toilet which made me realise that my waters had broken. Some had leaked on the floor in the bathroom and it was clear and slightly sticky. I had to wake my husband up to get maternity pads from the hospital bag in the spare bedroom (where my mum was sleeping). I didn’t appear to be having any contractions so I decided to sit for half hour to see if they started before I rang the hospital. I sat up and started to read my book and within a short while my contractions started and were around 8 minutes apart. The contractions were very manageable and I was able to cope easily with the 'up-breathing' technique I had practised. With every surge, more of my waters came out and they had a pink tinge to them. At around 2am I rang the birth centre and spoke to the midwife. As I wanted a home birth the midwife advised me to stay at home and ring back when I was having 3 contractions in 10 minutes. She also advised me that there were a number of women in and they weren’t certain there would be enough staff for 2 midwives to attend a home birth. She said that the morning midwives would be in at 730am so if I made it until then, it would be more likely for a home birth. Although I wanted a home birth, I knew this was a possibility so was also happy for a birth in a MLU. At this point I told my husband to sleep. I was unable to but was happy reading and timing contractions. At around 3am I woke my husband up to hold my hand during contractions. I also had a shower (just because I wanted to be nice and fresh). Whilst in the shower I was having contractions every 2 mins but when I came out they were much less regular. I wanted to wait until my contractions were consistently 3 in 10 (occasionally contractions would be 7 mins apart). I got out of the shower I didn’t feel comfortable on the bed anymore and so knelt on the floor and leant over the bed. I also asked my husband to get the iPad so I could watch a feel good film, Friends with Benefits' as I was unable to read anymore. At 450am my contractions were consistently 3 in 10 (and some contractions were 2 mins long) so I rang the birth centre again.

As I was on the phone to the midwife I had a contraction, which was suddenly much more intense and I felt a lot of pressure. The midwife told me she would call the on call Midwives to come out to me which may take an hour. I got off the phone at around 5am and walked downstairs to my mother's room. I woke her up and told her I was in labour and asked if her partner could come and collect her and my son (when he woke up). I then proceeded to the living room and leant over the sofa as I had planned. I was intending for my husband to set up the room to encourage positivity however he didn’t actually manage to do this (we did manage to ask Alexa to play music by Natasha Bedingfield). At 510 I felt a sudden change in the surges. I felt a lot more pressure down low and felt like I could no longer do this anymore. I thought at the time this was like transition but surely it couldn’t be this quick. I needed my husband to count for me now as I was not able to do this for myself and also asked him to get me to green between contractions which were very close together. At 515 he rang the MLU again to check on progress of the midwives and they advised us to call an ambulance if we thought the baby was imminent. As he was on the phone I was struggling to cope myself. I now called my mum from the kitchen to ring an ambulance as I wanted my husband to concentrate on me. It was absolutely amazing how I was able to feel so in control for the limited time in between contractions. My mum called for an ambulance but gave the phone to my husband as soon as the controller came on the phone. At this point I felt another large gush of my waters with my next surge. These contractions were much more manageable and I felt completely in control between contractions. I had completely forgotten to change my breathing and my husband was busy on the phone but I suddenly started mooing!

The ambulance controller had asked how far apart contractions were but I told her that my body was now pushing. She advised that I lie on the floor and get a mat/towels on the floor. I asked my mum to get the shower curtains and towels underneath me but I refused to lie on the floor. I really wanted to be in a UFO position due to it being a better position to give birth but also as I have sciatica which is triggered by laying on my back. The controller was quite adamant that I changed position but I respectfully declined. Instead my mum made sure there were towels directly underneath me.

During my next surge I felt the baby’s head move down significantly. I received a phone call from the midwife saying she was a few minutes away. During the next contraction my baby’s head was born. There was no ‘ring of fire’ or pushing from me it was all my body doing the work. My husband told the controller this and she asked him to check if the umbilical cord was around the neck which it was not. As the contractions were quite far apart the controller advised that I push (in between contractions) to get the baby out quickly but I refused to do this. It seemed to me to be physically impossible to push between contractions but also, I felt that my body would do this itself in the next contraction. I really did trust what I had learnt and my instinct. At the next surge, around 5.25am my daughter was born. She wasn’t crying but was coughing slightly. The controller instructed my husband to hold the baby lower than my bum so they received all of the blood and to rub the baby with a clean towel to help with baby's blood flow. My husband announced that we had a baby girl. The baby started crying and I wanted skin-to-skin so I asked my husband and mum to pass the baby between my legs. We did this but the cord was too short and my husband had to keep hold of the baby. At about this point the midwife and ambulance arrived outside but needed to get PPE on.

The controller on the phone asked my husband to find a lace to tie around the cord but again I said we would not be doing this. From the front door the midwife also advised us not to do this but to wait for her.

At this point the midwife and two paramedics came into the house and suddenly I felt as though I was in shock and could no longer make any big decisions. The midwife and my husband cut the cord. We had had around 8 minutes of delayed cord clamping and I was happy with this. My husband wrapped the baby up and started to cuddle her.

I wanted skin-to-skin but didn’t feel like was actually able to do this at this point but asked my husband to give skin-to-skin instead. The midwife asked if I wanted the injection for the placenta. Originally I didn’t want this but decided that in this situation and at this time I did actually want the injection. I was now on the floor in my living room and very uncomfortable and so requested gas and air. The ambulance crew brought in gas and air but it didn’t seem to have any effect (I used it on my first birth which really worked for me then). I found the birth of the placenta much more difficult. I really felt in shock and couldn’t relax enough to open my legs. The midwife started to pull on the cord with no warning but I asked her to stop. Eventually the placenta was born and was whole. The second midwife arrived at 550 and started writing the notes. I now felt as though I was able to hold my daughter and she fed almost instantly from me which really started to make me feel better. The midwife noted that I had actually lost very little blood and on inspection had no tears, just some grazes. The ambulance crew now were able to leave and I was able to move onto the sofa. As my son was still sleeping upstairs my mum was able to make me tea and toast which was fantastic. The midwives now weighed the baby and cleaned up and I went to the toilet with no pain whatsoever.

My son woke up around 630 and had some breakfast before being introduced to his sister. This was my absolute dream, him waking up one morning to a new brother/sister. He gave her lots of kisses before being taken out by my mum for the day. The midwives left by 730 and me and my husband had the whole day having skin to skin and getting to know her. Although the birth was very quick I most certainly had all of the tools I needed to get through safely and positively. Without hypnobirthing I am certain I would’ve felt out of control. I felt so empowered throughout the entire birth and felt able to make decisions right for me and my family. My husband had joined in with hypnobirthing and was able to deliver the baby safely which I don’t think would’ve happened if he hadn’t. Being at home was such a fantastic experience that I wouldn’t hesitate to repeat. Being able to relax after the birth and have proper family time is completely invaluable.

I had not planned for my mum to be a birth partner but am so thankful she was there to assist where needed. She mostly let me and my husband alone unless we asked for support and couldn’t get over how calm and relaxed we both were in what could’ve been a very

stressful situation. It is particularly poignant now as my mother sadly and suddenly lost her life when our daughter was 4 months old. I feel so lucky to have these special memories to pass on to my daughter.

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