Birth story - Kaitlin and baby Jude

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Jude William made an early appearance at 32 weeks, 2 weeks after my waters broke early. His birth was nowhere near what I had imagined throughout my pregnancy and whilst it had the potential to be 'traumatic’ as he was so early, it was anything but, and I have the Positive Birth Company to thank for that. So thank you Siobhan for creating the digital pack and giving me the tools to cope with a potentially stressful labour!

As so many others have said before, I found reading other mums birth stories so helpful and inspiring so I hope that sharing my experience of premature delivery might help someone else facing the same thing. So here it goes...

I had a very straightforward pregnancy for the most part. I was practicing my relaxation daily and starting to feel really confident and excited about giving birth...something that when I first found out I was pregnant I didn't think was possible! I was hoping to go to a freestanding midwife led unit so at 30 weeks booked a tour of one nearby. It was everything I had envisaged. Birthing pools, dim lighting, a hands off approach, midwives trained in aromatherapy and massage etc. so I was excited to book myself in.

Two days later, just as I was getting ready for bed, I noticed a small amount of blood so I immediately called the midwife. They asked me to come in for a quick examination which revealed my waters had in fact ruptured and that there was a chance I would go into labour in the next 72 hours. At 30 weeks, I must admit I was absolutely terrified at this point and worried about how early he was but the doctors and midwives were very reassuring and calming. They got me settled into a room (I needed to stay in for monitoring until the 72 hour window was up) and although I wasn't showing any signs of labour starting, I used up breathing throughout that first night to try and keep myself calm and relaxed. Throughout the hospital stay, breathing and the daily relaxation track really helped me remain calm. Luckily the surges didn't start and I was discharged 4 days later and told I would be monitored closely as an outpatient for the rest of my pregnancy. The BRAIN framework massively helped here too as I had discussions with various consultants (all who were telling me slightly different things) about how I would now need to be induced by 34/37/40 weeks (depending on which consultant I spoke to). Using the 'N’ part, I was confident enough to know that I would decline setting an induction date too early and instead ask to keep reassessing week by week. I also made it my mission to conduct my own research on PPROM, infection risks and induction vs waiting for spontaneous delivery - my baby still had enough waters and was producing enough to keep himself topped up, and neither of us were showing any signs of infection so my intuition was telling me to try and keep him in for as long possible. That said, I did then rewatch the 'how to have a positive induction’ video which really helped settle my mind and accept that if it came to it, we could make an induction just as positive.

It turns out I didn't need to worry about the whole induction vs. natural debate as two weeks later (now at 32 and a half weeks) my waters broke again! It was just before 9am on Sunday 7th October, just as my husband and I were about to head out to an NCT class. This time they completely gushed so I knew it was different to when they first went where it was more of a constant trickle. I popped in a pad and called the midwife quickly but because I wasn't having any surges or cramps at this point, she said I didn't need to go in (as I was already being monitored for broken waters) and just to call back if I started to get any cramps but otherwise to carry on as normal and wait for my usual monitoring appointment the next day. At this point we actually toyed with the idea of still going to NCT, with hindsight I am pretty glad we didn't!

Less than 30 minutes later I started to feel period like cramps and my instinct told me that this was it, this was the day we were going to meet our baby. Having spent the last two weeks getting mentally and physically prepared for an early delivery, I was feeling pretty calm, relaxed and excited.

Once the cramps started, I called the midwife again who then asked if they felt like tightenings yet or not. They didn't, so she said just to call back when they did. So I settled myself lying down on my side on the sofa watching Sunday Brunch (my favorite way to spend a last Sunday morning) and left my husband batch cooking in the kitchen. Within minutes, I began to feel the cramps build and then release. I didn't believe it could be happening quite so quickly but I started to time the surges anyway and they were already lasting a minute and coming every 2-3 minutes. It was only about 9.30 by this point and I genuinely thought I would still have ages so I didn't say anything to my husband for a while and left him cooking away as I wanted a fully stocked freezer for when baby arrived! I moved myself onto the floor, kneeling over my birthing ball and rocking slowly through the surges. I started using up breathing at this point and found them really manageable.

I stayed like that until midday when I started getting a bit hungry. Knowing that I should keep my energy up, I asked my husband to pop a pizza in the oven. By the time it was done, I could only manage a couple of bites in-between surges, standing in the kitchen and swaying or walking through them. I couldn't bare to stand or sit still at this point. My husband then tried to keep me talking through a surge (the classic midwife trick) and we realised I couldn't. So at around 12.15pm, my husband called the midwife who then told us to come in. As we hadn't picked up our new car just yet, we had to call an Uber. Luckily we had the NICEST uber driver who told me his wife was also pregnant and he drove us so slowly and carefully to the hospital which was luckily only 10 minutes down the road. I kept my eyes closed the entire time, still using up breathing and picturing my 'happy place’ which was me, my husband and our baby taking a walk through the park. I started repeating some mantras in my head which also really helped - I found 'each surge brings me closer to my baby’ and 'my surges cannot be stronger than me because they are me’ particularly helpful.

We arrived at the labour ward and I was shown into a triage room. I already knew (and had accepted) that because he was preterm I had no choice but to birth on the labour ward. I embraced this and decided I would do my best to make it a positive experience. Whilst waiting in triage I remained standing, walking and swaying through the surges, except for when I had a quick examination which revealed I was 2cm dilated. Again, as a preterm delivery, I wasn't sent home but was shown straight to a delivery room and hooked up to some monitors to check on baby's heart rate. I knew we would need continuous monitoring but I also knew I didn't want to be on my back on a bed so I asked my midwife if we could try wireless monitors. She kind of nodded and said yes she would try and find some, but kept putting it off and kept saying I needed to stay on the bed for a few minutes longer. I knew at this point that we just weren't on the same page and I didn't feel very comfortable or relaxed in her presence. She soon left us for her break and in the meantime another midwife and a student (who I am so glad I said yes to, she was actually incredible) came in to keep an eye on us. I instantly felt more at ease with them and when I had the chance, asked my husband to see if we could swap. He took on his 'protector’ role and sorted it all out.

The two new midwives were much more up for using the wireless monitors and had me off the bed quickly and onto a birthing ball leaning over the bed. I switched between the birthing ball and just standing / swaying for a while. However, the monitors weren't playing game - using my BRAIN, I knew the best option for my baby was to go back to the first monitors as we needed to keep a close eye on him as he was so early. The midwives really tried their best to keep me upright as they knew how much I wanted to be UFO but it just wasn't working so I accepted this and got back onto the bed and laid on my side.

I had been very quiet and calm throughout all of this and the midwives asked me if I was using hypnobirthing. They said several times throughout my labour that they were so impressed and couldn't believe how calm, relaxed and in control I was. I tried popping my headphones in to listen to the relaxation tracks or my labour playlist that I had spent hours creating but I actually found it more of a distraction and so didn't bother after long. Instead I just closed my eyes, focussed on my breathing and repeated affirmations in my head - I don't think I said more than a couple of words the whole time I was in the delivery room.

As soon as I was back on the the bed (about 4pm) the surges ramped up a gear and I asked to try gas and air. I didn't think I would like it as I don't really like the feeling of being drunk and that's how everyone describes it, but surprisingly it actually helped me focus even more on my breathing and affirmations as I was able to block everything else out.

The surges kept building and were getting rather intense. By about 5pm, I had a bit of a wobble and started to lose faith in myself and my body and asked for an epidural, something I had explicitly put in my birth plan that I did not want and had spoken endlessly to my husband about how much I didn't want one. Although I had read countless times that asking for an epidural is a classic transition sign, at the time I genuinely believed there was no way I was fully dilated in such a short space of time (4 hours since being 2cm) and was adamant this was not transition and I simply needed an epidural. My midwife, on the other hand, knew exactly what was going on and stalled / distracted me for a few minutes until the doctor came and examined me and announced I was fully dilated and my baby was coming.

I instinctively rolled onto my back, the last position I thought I'd want to be in, but it just felt right for me. The surges had changed and I could feel my body starting to push. I tried down breathing but with the gas and air I couldn't quite get into the swing of it but I kept my eyes closed, blocked everything else out, focused on what my body was doing and kept repeating the birth affirmations in my head. It was hard work and really did feel like doing the biggest poo of my life (!) but I was excited that each surge was bringing me closer to meeting our little boy.

After about 30 minutes or so (according to my husband - I'd lost all sense of time by this point) I felt a burning sensation and the midwife announced she could see the head with a lot of hair! Three surges later, his head was fully out. He was wriggling about half in / half out which was the weirdest sensation and then another surge later he was born. The midwife passed him up to me and we had a two minutes skin to skin - the best two minutes of my life. My husband cut the cord which took me by complete surprise as we had talked about it before and he was adamant he didn't want to do it. The midwife then took a few pictures which I am so grateful for because I had really wanted these but in the moment I had forgotten to ask - thankfully she just offered there and then.

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After two minutes, he needed to be checked over by the neonatal team - two doctors and a nurse had wheeled in a big incubator whilst I was pushing and I hadn't even noticed. They were great and had stayed tucked away in the corner quietly for as long as they could. He was quickly assessed, popped in the incubator and then he needed to be taken up to intensive care. One of the doctors carried him back over to me briefly for one last quick kiss and cuddle before he was wheeled out - they told me he was doing ok and would be fine and that I could come up and see him as soon as I was ready.

As my waters had broken two weeks earlier we had already tried to prepare mentally for this as best we could. So my husband went with our little boy up to the ICU and my mum then came through to the delivery room to be with me whilst I recovered. Whilst it was hard to see him taken away from me so soon, I knew it was what was best for him.

The midwives checked me over and gave me an injection to deliver the placenta which then pretty much fell out a few minutes later - I remember thinking is that it?! They told me I had just a few grazes and needed two small internal stitches for mild tears but otherwise everything was intact. They used a bit of numbing cream and a local anesthetic and I couldn't feel a thing. After that, they brought me in the classic tea and toast which I also had with an entire bag of wine gums (the sharing size bag) which I'd packed in my labour snack bag but had gone entirely untouched. After half an hour, I got up, got dressed with help from my mum and headed upstairs to see our little boy.

His birth was not what I expected and couldn't have been further from my Plan A. I didn't get to use a birthing pool, I didn't listen to my labour playlist, I didn't eat any of my treats, the lights weren't dimmed, I was on my back on a bed on a labour ward surrounded by more midwives, doctors, nurses than I ideally wanted, some rather intimidating looking medical equipment, I didn't get that golden hour of skin to skin and my little boy was whisked away too quickly...but despite all that I can honestly look back and say it was a positive birth experience. I felt in control, confident, instinctive, empowered and strong.

It's two weeks later as I'm writing this and we're still in NICU whilst he grows and learns to feed but he is doing amazingly well, is out of the incubator already and we hope to get him home soon 💙

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