Angharad and Sam's birth story

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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