Birth story - Catherine and baby Laurie

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I bought the digital pack on the recommendation of a friend at about 35 weeks. It completely changed my view of labour and childbirth, and consequently I was determined to have a natural, unassisted birth as much as possible. The science section was invaluable.

With my first son, my waters broke at 38 weeks and I had to be induced as labour didn’t start spontaneously. I used pethidine as pain relief, and the whole experience was quite quick for a first birth, and despite induction, positive. But I didn’t have the knowledge to question what was happening, and just went along with what the hospital suggested. Pethidine also made me feel a bit removed from what was happening to my body (which does have an upside!) but I decided I’d try and avoid pain relief like that second time around as I wanted to remember everything more clearly.

Fast forward to week 40 of my second pregnancy (I was so surprised to still be pregnant, expecting another early baby!) and following my routine midwife antenatal check I was referred for extra monitoring due to a slightly raised BP. I’m convinced my BP issues were due to the clinic overrunning and me being late to meet friends (!!) as well as an element of ‘white coat’ syndrome - I really don’t like the hospital environment. I’d also become concerned about foetal movements for the first time in pregnancy the night before the monitoring appointment, so was given an extra scan when I came in. The scan was hugely reassuring and showed everything was as it should be, but my BP was still a bit erratic. Erring on the side of caution, the obstetrician recommended induction, given I was now 40+2 and there was ‘no longer any benefit in keeping the baby in’ he felt it safer to induce now as we could never be 100% sure that my erratic, albeit borderline-high BP was due to ‘environmental’ factors, and not something else. It wasn’t news I wanted to hear, but listening to him talk through the risks made me agree to come in the next day for induction. Overnight and the next morning I went through my maternity notes with my husband and saw that my recent BP measurements were only slightly raised compared to my normal measurements throughout pregnancy. I also re-watched Siobhan’s video on pregnancy lasting from 37-42 weeks and baby coming when baby’s ready, as well as her video on using your BRAIN. The next day we went in for the induction appointment as planned, but said to the midwife that if all the pre-induction tests came back positive (my BP and baby’s heartbeat trace) then we’d be declining induction (using BRAIN), as I really wanted things to start as naturally as possible. She listened to what we had to say and agreed it sounded sensible but that they would have to inform the obstetrician. It was the same doctor who’d referred us for induction the day before, but after listening to our reasoning commented that I was being very rational and was clearly well informed. I never thought I’d be someone to go against medical advice, but it was the digital pack that gave me confidence to do so!

I lost the first of my plug on Friday evening (28th Sept) but knew that didn’t mean labour would start immediately. In the end labour started spontaneously on Sunday evening (30th September, 41 weeks). I’d agreed to a sweep earlier that day at my 41 week appointment. The latent phase of labour was stop start a bit over Monday & Monday night (I even went to prenatal Pilates on Monday night when I was in early labour as a distraction - I did warn my teacher!!) think this helped jog things on as afterwards I had quite a bit of bloody show. On Tuesday things started to ramp up, but I wasn’t getting surges at regular intervals. I was starting to feel exhausted as I hadn’t slept properly for a few nights. I called the hospital a couple of times to see if it was ok to stay at home. They said as I sounded ok I should. I was doing Up breathing and using the tens machine by now. My parents were staying at ours at this point as they were on standby to look after our toddler, and mum kept on saying you need to go in, you’re in too much pain and your contractions are very close together! Slightly annoying as I knew I wasn’t ready and really didn’t want to go to hospital where I’d probably be admitted to a shared Labour ward, so was having to argue her down! In the end I disappeared off upstairs to rest as much as possible and get on with it by myself. Fast forward to midnight on Tuesday night/Wed morning. I’d managed to doze for an hour or so and when I woke I knew something had changed. I told my husband we were going in, so I called the ward as we drove over (literally only 2 mins away, but I was walking nowhere). The Birthing suite was closed due to overcrowding & staff issues (I knew this from earlier in the day but was still a bit gutted) so I had to be admitted to the labour ward. We got admitted to triage pretty quickly & I was already 5cm! I felt really proud of myself as I’d managed to get that far with up breathing & the tens machine at home by myself.

We made the best of our room, although it was very medical and harsh compared to the rooms on the birthing suite, by turning the lights down, playing music & spraying lavender pillow spray around.

Cue a long night of labouring & not making much progress (0.5 cm an hour on average), I was really tired so think that’s why it was slow. I couldn’t sit or lie down as it was too uncomfortable to do so and my surges were concentrated at one single point in my lower abdomen. There was nothing in my back or anywhere else. I used the tens machine just to distract me from the pain at the front, and it helped. Other than gas and air I didn’t have any pain relief, and actually I don’t remember the pain being the difficult bit, it was the fact I couldn’t sit or lie down and I was just so tired that was hard. But on the plus side I was using gravity to get him down into the birth canal, swaying my hips a lot and staying upright most of the night. In the early hours our midwife said she could break my waters to speed things up but it would be more painful, so I declined. I did need an in out catheter though as I had drunk 2 big bottles water and not peed for most of the night. The relief of having that catheter drain my bladder was amazing!

As we got close to the end of my midwife’s shift at 8am, I asked if the birthing suite was open, and if so could I go up there and get in the pool. It was! Music to my ears!!

By 9am they transferred me by wheelchair (up three floors) to the birthing suite. Getting into the warm pool was hands down the best feeling of my life! It was so relaxing and soothing, and gave me the energy boost I needed. I was so relived to finally be in the environment I so wanted. Not surprisingly I then delivered Laurie within an hour, at 10.07am. I let my body take the lead and push, I did have to push harder as well, and admittedly down breathing went out the window! I was able to scoop Laurie out of the pool myself, once they’d untangled his extra long cord from around his body. I got out on to dry land for delayed cord clamping and skin to skin and to deliver the placenta, and had already decided to accept the injection to help deliver that. We were left for about 2 hours to snuggle and feed, it was brilliant.

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My recorded labour was 9hours 35 mins and that’s from when I came in at 5cm at midnight!! With my first it was ‘only’ 3 hours 51 mins. They kept saying to me that second babies are meant to be early and fast. We decided to buck that trend!! Labour was a lot longer than I expected, probably because I was so tired, but then I also didn't expect to get to 41+3 second time round. I’m feeling proud I managed to get through it on gas & air and a tens machine. The staff also commented how calm I was and they couldn’t tell I was in labour. Again, that’s down to the digital pack.

I had 2nd degree tearing & had to be stitched by a consultant obstetrician - that was almost as bad as birthing his 98th percentile head!! But overall it was a brilliant, positive birthing experience and I’m so pleased I got to use the pool in the end and had the confidence (thanks to the digital pack) to decline induction the week before. Siobhan’s course was truly empowering, easily the best £35 I’ve ever spent, and should be prescribed by the NHS in my opinion.

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