Birth story - Susan and baby Sam

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It didn’t go how I had planned and ended up as far removed from that plan as it was possible to be. I’m still processing what happened and grieving for the birth I didn’t have, but I’m unearthing all the positives I can from my experience and making peace with myself every day. If I hadn’t used the tools from this course, I think I would be feeling very different and dwelling on the negatives.

I woke on Monday 16th July at 1:30am to use the toilet and felt some trickles on the way to the bathroom. I wasn’t sure if my waters were breaking or it was just pee (you know how it is!) so I went back to bed and off to sleep again. I woke again at 4:30am to a feeling of intense pressure and then my waters going, this time there was no mistaking it. I woke my husband and told him and then rang the birth centre to tell them. My plan was for a home birth and we had a pool ready in the house on loan from the birth centre. A midwife was sent out to assess me and she arrived at 6:00am. I had started having mild surges every 20-25 minutes or so by this point. The midwife did the usual checks, all was good, baby’s head was ‘deep in my pelvis’ and I was told to call again when things got going properly and I was 5-10 minutes between surges. I was left with the warning that if I didn’t go into established labour by 1:30 the next morning I would ‘have’ to be induced and that I couldn’t have my baby at home. I knew from doing the course that this was nonsense and just a guideline but nonetheless this remark immediately put me in a difficult mindset.

I spent the rest of the morning and afternoon trying to get things going (bouncing on the ball, nipple stimulation, relaxing with my husband watching happy stuff) but I was also aware of the clock ticking and felt under pressure. I was trying to relax but I felt anxious all day and as a result my surges died down to every 45 minutes to an hour. Midnight came around and things started picking up again. Back to 20 minutes, then increasing to every 15 minutes by 1:30am. I decided not to call the midwife at 1:30am as she had instructed and decided to wait until 4:30am as I believe this was 24 hours from when my waters truly broke. I wanted to see how far I could get as I believed labour was going to start ramping up and I wanted the next call to be to tell her I was in established labour. Sure enough it got to 4:30am and now the surges were every 8 minutes or so and getting stronger.

A different midwife came out at 6:00am and assessed me. Again all was good but she was concerned about the 24 hour rule. She was lovely though and put me at ease saying that it was absolutely my choice and I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do. I said there is another trust 30 minutes away that has a 48 hour policy for induction after waters breaking and that just because I’m in a different postcode I shouldn’t be made to feel pressured into induction, especially as all the obs so far were fine; baby’s heartbeat, my BP and temp were all normal and I was going in the right direction as far as labour was concerned. The midwife agreed and said she would call the birth centre to let them know what was happening with me so far. My husband and I went for a small walk around the block while she made the call. When we returned, she asked if I would agree to go in to the hospital to monitor baby for 30 minutes just to check he was happy and the doctors could document that I would be going off protocol and going 48 hours after waters breaking before induction. I was happy with this, I felt like I had been listened to and knowing I had another 24 hours helped me to relax.

We arrived at the hospital at 7:00am and by now the surges had got to 6-7 minutes apart and I needed to really focus on my up-breathing to get through them. But I was starting to feel excited for the first time as I knew I could go home and continue labouring after being monitored for half an hour. The monitor was put on and there were a couple of dips in baby’s heart rate but the midwife wasn’t sure whether it was just baby’s body losing contact with the belt. So I stayed a little longer. The monitor was recording stronger tightenings too and the midwife asked if she could check how dilated I was. I agreed as I was keen to know if I had finally gone into established labour. I was 5-6cm dilated and my forewaters could be felt. It was my hindwaters that had gone before. She was concerned about baby’s positioning though and went to speak to the obstetrician. The obstetrician came back and said baby was suspected to be breech and could they do a scan. I agreed, thinking that there was no way he would be breech; at every appointment I’d had, the midwives had all said the head was engaged and even in the last 24 hours I’d been told his head was deep in my pelvis. The scan was difficult, much more uncomfortable than the surges as the doctor pressed and prodded to show me how my baby was lying. Baby was breech. All my home water birth dreams vanished before me and I knew what was coming next. The doctor recommended a c-section. I asked about the possibility of a vaginal delivery and also more information on c-sections. I was given leaflets and told that while I could have a vaginal delivery if I wanted to, my baby’s size would increase the risks. I knew he was going to be a large baby, my first was 8lb 10oz and this one was measuring large (I know that’s not always accurate but I just KNEW myself that I was carrying a big boy). The doctor left us to think about what we were going to do.

As soon as he left the room, my husband and I wept. My husband said ‘I’m so sorry, I know it was your dream to have our baby at home. I’m so proud of you and you’re doing amazing.’ I knew that a section would be the safest way to bring our baby into the world. I knew that to try and deliver vaginally would be risky and that not many midwives were experienced in breech births, and that since it was now 29 hours since my waters had gone my risk of infection was increasing. So using BRAIN, I told the doctor that I would have a c-section. I asked that he look at my birth preferences. I am so grateful for the course at this point more than any other. I would not have written a plan such as I had without it, and certainly wouldn’t have thought about what I would want if I needed to have a caesarean. The team looked over my plan and said that delayed clamping, skin-to-skin etc were standard. The doctor knew how heartbroken I was to not have the home birth I had dreamed of and he said he was sorry. He said however, we have read your plan and it’s lovely and you will be meeting your baby very soon.

Surges were coming thick and fast by the time I got into theatre, and I was struggling to cope. I think the events of the morning had made it difficult to get back into the zone and at this point I was exhausted. The spinal block was given and at 10:50am on Tuesday 17th July, my baby boy was born weighing 9lb 12oz. They lowered the drapes and I saw him as he entered the world. The doctor afterwards said the cord was wrapped around baby’s neck and body and had I had a vaginal birth, he would’ve literally been hung by his own cord as his head was being birthed. I had made the right decision.

At my first visit at home after the birth, the midwife asked me how I was feeling. She could tell it is still very raw, as I type this I am crying. I haven’t gone into detail about the birth with family as I can’t talk about it without getting emotional. She suggested I get involved with the ‘Strawberry Trial’ currently being carried out by the local hospital trust. It’s basically a type of counselling that takes place further down the line after a birth trauma, when you’re in a place where you can look back at the whole experience objectively and process it without the rawness of emotion and the whirlwind of having a newborn. I thought ‘trauma’ might be a bit of an extreme word to use but the midwife said it can mean a range of things; in my case it would be the loss of control over how the birth went and dealing with any guilt about decisions I had made.

In the end though, I have a beautiful, healthy baby boy. He delights me every day, I love him so much. And this course made all the difference in the world, from the breathing techniques to the importance of being informed and of how to make informed choices. From the knowledge of different types of birth to the role of birth partner (my husband was truly amazing and my absolute rock). Because of this course I can look back and remember all the positive things I did to bring my baby into this world safely. Even though I am still processing my emotions I have the tools I need to keep a positive mindset and a happy heart.

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