Another fast birth story

As I didn’t have a blog when Andrew was born, I didn’t write his birth story online. I did, however, write it in his baby journal, but that was in pen and paper (that’ll be a rare thing for him to look back on in years to come!) so I can’t just publish it quickly here. When he was a year old, I wrote a blog post comparing the day of his birthday that year and the day of his birth. In a nutshell (wow that’s restrained of me), here’s how Andrew was born…. My first contraction was around 2pm, and I had mild, not very painful, irregular contractions until about 7.30pm when suddenly my waters broke. We rang the midwife-led Birth Centre and were told to come in for an assessment due to my waters breaking. Suddenly whilst we were in the car the contractions got much stronger and much faster. Once we were at the Birth Centre and they’d established that I was in active labour, they filled the birth pool and I got in some time after 9pm. Not long after I had the urge to push and did that in the pool for a while until the midwife suggested that I wasn’t pushing efficiently in water because it was relaxing me too much and that if I got out baby would come faster – she was right, within minutes of being back on land Andrew arrived, just 3 hours after I felt I was actually in labour.

This time I knew there was a possibility that baby would come even quicker, so we prepared for the eventuality of a home birth just in case, though my preference was to make it to the brand new Birth Centre and hopefully have an actual water birth. Of course there was no guarantee, but I was hoping that this second labour would go as quickly and smoothly as before. At my 38-week midwife appointment, baby was in back-to-back position, so I’d been a little worried that this would mean a longer labour and I’d been doing everything I’d heard of to try and turn baby into a better position. It turns out that either these things worked, or it didn’t matter anyway!

A few hours after birth, just where he wanted to be - snuggled up to Mummy!

Baby’s due date rather handily fell in the middle of half-term; as Tom’s mum is a teacher, she was happy to come and stay for the week, and we hoped that the arrival would happen some time that week, so that she could take care of Andrew; of course we knew that it might not happen then and we’d need a plan B. The weekend at the start of half term came, and there were no signs of an imminent arrival. We carried on as usual, and showed Grandma the ropes for looking after Andrew, like where to find nappies, what the bathtime and bedtime routine is, and how he likes to be entertained these days. On the Monday morning, we all went together to our usual playgroup, and then Andrew napped, followed by lots of reading with Grandma in the afternoon.

I took advantage of our babysitter and went for a swim. I did 60 lengths of breaststroke – this was one of several natural methods of labour induction (aka old wives’ tales) that I was trying by this point; others include eating copious amounts of pineapple, drinking raspberry leaf tea, eating hot curries and walking lots (which I do anyway). Still no signs though…. until just as I was doing bedtime with Andrew at around 7.15pm. During his usual breastfeed, I felt a few very mild contractions. I mentioned this to Tom just as we were reading a story after Andrew’s milk-time, but I didn’t want to say anything to Grandma yet, just in case it was a false alarm, or if it wasn’t then at least she could go back to her B&B and get some sleep before we might need to ring her to come round during the night.

So Grandma left at about 8.15pm, and I settled down in what had come to be my favourite position over the past two weeks of trying to get baby to turn – kneeling on a bean bag and leaning forward onto the sofa with some cushions to support me under the arms. The contractions continued, so we started to time them; they were already quite regular at about 5-7 minutes apart, but were only about 30-40 seconds long and not very painful, completely copable with just by breathing deeply. At about 9pm (our usual bedtime these days) I said to Tom that he could go to bed if he wanted, to try and get some sleep before anything more dramatic happened. I didn’t want to lie down, but was happy to stay up watching a DVD on my own in the living room. Tom decided he wouldn’t be able to sleep, so we carried on chatting and timing contractions together.

By about 11.30pm, things seemed to be slowing down, as the contractions were coming further apart (about 5-10 minutes). Tom decided to go to bed, and I stayed up. By 12.30am, I was getting a bit fed up, as the contractions didn’t seem to be getting closer together, if anything further apart as there were more 10 minute gaps creeping in, and they still wren’t really that painful, just annoying! I said to myself that I’d give it til 1am, and if things were still the same, I’d also go to bed, to try and rest as much as possible, thinking that this could go on for a while.

Just as I was about to give up and go to bed, I had a stronger contraction and with it my waters broke at 1am. If past experience was anything to go by, I knew that the contractions would now ramp up and things would really get going. So I woke Tom and he rang the Birth Centre, because when your waters break, they automatically want to see and assess you. Tom explained that my contractions had been regular but not too close or painful, and also that my previous labour had been fast after the point of waters breaking. They told us to come in, so Tom rang his mum who was 10 minutes away. Within the time that Tom was on the phone, my contractions did suddenly get much more intense, and I did contemplate whether I wanted to get in the car or stay at home for the birth. But knowing that there would be no traffic so it really was just 10 minutes door to door, and that the Birth Centre looked so amazing, I went for it!

The journey wasn’t very comfortable because I didn’t want to be sat down at all, but rather kneeling or standing, so I was relieved to get there (at 1.30am) and be shown into a room by a very friendly midwifery nurse. As she was doing the routine checks (like blood pressure, urine, foetal heart rate), or rather trying to do them as I kept needing her to stop for another contraction, it soon became clear to the nurse that she needed to fetch a midwife.

As soon as the midwife arrived, she took one look at me, felt baby’s position, checked the heart rate, and got out the delivery kit next to me as I was kneeling down on the floor with my arms over the bed. I remember asking to go in the pool, but her response was that baby was nearly here so there was no time to fill it. The next thing I knew I was pushing and could feel that baby really was very nearly here! At 2.08am, just over half an hour after we arrived, an hour since labour really started, and after only a few pushes, Joel was delivered. He let out a big cry as I sat backwards still on my knees and was able to pick him up myself and put him straight on my tummy. When the cord stopped pulsing, the midwife clamped and cut it, and I moved to sitting on the bed holding Joel still on my tummy. He lunged across to my right breast and had a good first feed, just minutes after birth. Meanwhile the midwife took care of helping me deliver the placenta; I was checked for tearing and blood loss, both of which were fine, so I didn’t need to have the injection to help deliver the placenta quickly and minimise blood loss (this had made me vomit several times after Andrew’s birth).

A sleepy moment - he spent the night feeding and sleeping, next to me the whole time, skin to skin.

After Joel had been weighed and given vitamin K once he’d latched off from his first feed, the midwife left us to it and we sat marvelling at the new addition to our family as he continued to feed and feed. As I looked over at the snazzy clock with time and date on, it struck me that he’d actually arrived on his due date! I never thought we’d be part of that rare statistic. From googling I see that the percentage of babies born on due date is somewhere between 2% and 5%, depending on the source – the most reputable one for the UK that I could find was the NCT website.

Throughout the night, Joel slept and fed in alternation, and I sat there just looking at him – the lovely mood lighting with changing colours was amazing, as I could see him perfectly but the light wasn’t too bright. Tom was allowed to stay the night in our room in the new Birth Centre, which he hadn’t been allowed to in the old one; he slept a bit – I guess he didn’t have the hormonal high that I had which stopped me sleeping after the birth.

In the morning, Andrew came to meet his little brother, complete with Grandma, Granny and Grandad in tow. He seemed very impressed with the ‘beh-beh’, though was also highly fascinated with the birth ball in the room and rolled it around giggling loudly. Joel has his neo-natal checks and once all the paperwork was done, we were allowed to go home, less than 12 hours after we turned up!

Overall, I’m very thankful that I was once again blessed with a fast labour and all went ‘to plan’. I still didn’t get to have a water birth, and it doesn’t look like I ever will – even if we do decide to have another child, which isn’t that likely at the moment, then it’s unlikely I’d have time to get a pool filled if labour was even faster! I’m also so glad that we made it to the new Birth Centre – it was lovely, even though we didn’t make use of many facilities like the pool in the room because it all happened so fast.

Pregnancy diary: week 37 – full-term baby and antenatal class 2

Well we’ve reached a full-term pregnancy, which is a nice feeling! If baby had been born last week, he/she would still have been classed as premature, but if he/she is born this week (hypothetically, there are no signs yet) then he/she would be classed as a ‘full-term’ baby (for the Cambridge peeps who might be reading, this is nothing to do with the 8 weeks of intensive work that’s just begun round here!) In terms of my hopes for the birth, this means I can go ahead with either the Birth Centre or a home birth, neither of which would have been possible before 37 weeks, because the medical teams would have wanted me in hospital with all the equipment for helping baby and me recover from an earlier than expected birth. Now I really think that the end of pregnancy feels near, even though I don’t know exactly how near – anywhere between tonight (unlikely) and about 4.5 weeks time (hopefully not).

Earlier in the week I had the slightly annoying experience of living with two aching arms, after I was jabbed once in the left for my flu vaccine and once in the right for my whooping cough vaccine. The flu jab is now routine for all pregnant women, so although I’m not usually eligible as I don’t have any health conditions that would warrant it, I had one this year and two winters ago when I was pregnant with Andrew, which was also around the time when swine flu was still in general public awareness. The whooping cough vaccine is not normally routine for pregnant women, but there has recently been an increase in the number of cases in this country, particularly in young babies, who don’t receive the immunisation until their series of jabs at 8,12 and 16 weeks old. By vaccinating pregnant women, their babies will be born with immunity to this disease, which can kill young children.

Annoying as aching arms are, at least I know this minor discomfort is worth it for the protection of baby (and me!) against nasty illnesses. It’s interesting how I used to hate needles of any sort, particularly blood tests but also vaccinations, and would get very nervous and distressed about having them. Since my first pregnancy and now this one, I’ve totally got over that, and although I wouldn’t say I enjoy going to get these things done, it really doesn’t bother me like it used to. I think now that I’ve experienced the pain of labour, these short sharp pains of a needle going through my skin just seem so bearable. It’s funny what having kids does to you on so many levels!

Also, one thing that did help me get through the jabs this time was the thought that afterwards I was going to have a whole hour to myself of sitting down being pampered at the hairdressers. I rarely get my hair cut these days. Before Andrew came along I’d go maybe 4 times a year, but the last time I went was 10 months ago, before he was even 1 year old, and the time before that was about 9 months previously when he was a couple of months old, so I’m averaging about once a year at the moment, and I can’t see this changing in the near future. Not that it particularly bothers me, but it is nice to have that little bit of me-time and have my hair cut back into some semblance of a ‘style’ rather than it constantly being scooped back and tied up.

Not long to go now until bump will be baby!

Apart from these couple of things worth mentioning at the start of the week, the biggest thing on my mind was the second antenatal class that I did last night. It was lovely to see all the mums I met last week, except one who unfortunately couldn’t make it, and continue to get to know each other and build friendships. The evening was split into a few parts. First we talked through the stages of labour, to refresh our minds on it. The teacher had some cards with diagrams of a baby in the womb which showed a labour progressing from start to finish. Our job was to put them in order, based on our knowledge of labour. Between us we got them right, except for one which was a bit tricky and apparently fools most classes she teaches! This was a great way to go through what we might expect to happen, although as our different stories of birth with our first child testify, not everyone (in fact hardly anyone in our group) has such a ‘textbook’ birth. Mine was much faster than many, and my waters broke at the start rather than somewhere around the middle; others had ended up with complications and needed a caesarian, so they didn’t experience the baby coming all the way down the birth canal as the pictures showed.

A few things came up whilst we were talking about labour that we ended up discussing whilst we were thinking about them, like the start of breastfeeding (and how mum’s milk may come in later if she’s had a complicated delivery with lots of intervention), and these off-shoots of discussion were really important too. We then carried on conversations about various things in a tea/coffee (for me, water) break, including the fact that my baby could be born anytime soon and I might not make it to next week’s class. I’m hoping we will, as Tom is also attending that one and I’d like him to meet the other dads.

After the break we split into groups to discuss three different types of birth: water birth, home birth and caesarian birth. The mums in each group had either had or were planning the type of birth being discussed, so it was useful to get different perspectives on each type. I wasn’t sure whether I should sit in the water birth or home birth camp, but in the end went for the water birth one, because this is my main plan, with home birth as the back-up. Although I didn’t quite deliver Andrew in the water, I was in the pool until a few minutes before delivery, whereas the other ladies in the group hadn’t had any experience of birthing in a pool, so I hope that sharing my experience was positive for them – they seemed to like the idea after I talked about my experience and didn’t give the impression that I’d put them off at least. Once we’d discussed in groups, we came back together and the teacher went through the main points of each, giving time for us to ask specific questions if we wanted. Overall this was a very positive exercise; I now feel I know enough about both potential types of birth that I’m hoping for, and also more about how a caesarian isn’t the end of the world if it did have to come to that.

The final stint of the evening was left to a bit of brainstorming about potential issues that could arise between siblings. I hadn’t thought about this being covered in the class, but actually it’s a really good idea to try and preempt things that might come up between Andrew and the new baby, so that we can put strategies in place or at least think how we might deal with things before they escalate. We do have one of the smallest age gaps in the group, so I’m hoping we won’t have major issues, but it’s good to be prepared and hear others’ thoughts on this. The idea was that we came up with some potential issues last night, and then we’ll discuss them along with possible solutions next week when our partners are there with us too.

One thing that did come out of the discussion was getting a present for the baby to ‘give’ to the toddler after they are born. I’d thought about this a little before when someone else mentioned it, but I have to admit it went out of my mind until last night! One suggestion was a doll, so that the toddler can copy what mum is doing with the baby. I think this is a good idea, but my initial search for dolls at the local shops this morning wasn’t very fruitful – most were too pink, many were too fancy with loads of ‘functions’ like talking/weeing/pooing etc. (I want something simple), others looked really odd or a little freaky, and some were just downright too expensive (who would pay £50 for a plastic doll?!) So I’m now on the lookout for a doll online, hoping to find something quite plain, dressed in blue/purple/neutral colours, and which is quite cheap.

I’ll probably be back with another instalment of my pregnancy diary at 38 weeks next week, but it’s not something I can bank on. Once the baby is born there won’t be as much time for blogging (if any?!), so the days of writing posts this long are numbered. In some ways this is a bit sad, but I’m also excited about entering into a new stage, being a mum of two little ones who will keep me very busy but who will also reward me with many joys. I hope you as readers will also enjoy the transition as the blog moves into this new stage with us.

Pregnancy diary: week 36 – antenatal class 1 and midwife appointment

This week saw the first of three evening sessions of antenatal classes. You may be wondering why I’m doing antenatal classes at all – I mean it’s my second baby, don’t I remember what it’s like, especially given the relatively small age gap? Well, yes, I do think I remember most things about birth and the early days, but one of the main reasons I’m doing the course is to meet other mums who are in a similar situation to me: they are having a baby when they already have (more than) one child. This course is specifically a refresher course, run by the NCT, for second-time (or subsequent-time) parents.

I was a little disappointed to miss out on attending an NCT antenatal course when I was pregnant with Andrew. Cambridge has a massive NCT branch, one of the biggest in the country, and the courses are always oversubscribed. We tried to book onto one when I was only a few months pregnant, but even by then they were mostly full, and the ones that weren’t, we knew we couldn’t make because we had a regular commitment at church on that evening or we’d already planned things for the weekends (like going to weddings) that they were on. We’d heard that they were a great way to meet a group of people who were all in the same situation, and that often NCT groups would meet up after the babies were all born, and even continue doing that every now and then for years afterwards. Of course this comes at a cost – the courses are not free – but we thought it would have been worth it, if we’d have managed to get onto one.

However, we did attend the (free) NHS ‘Parentcraft’ (!) classes that we were told about via the midwife. These were pretty good at giving us info on birth and early days, but we didn’t feel they gave us much more info than I’d read in the NHS Pregnancy book. I did attend an optional breastfeeding workshop as part of the course, but this turned out to be not particularly useful in our case, because we weren’t ‘textbook’ and they didn’t cover any of the major potential issues that you might encounter breastfeeding. The worst aspect of the course was that the group (about 12 couples) didn’t seem to want to talk and get to know each other. Maybe there were too many of us? (I think NCT groups are generally smaller than that.) Some of the couples seemed to know each other already and formed little cliques, or maybe it’s because they were of the same nationality so just spoke their language in little groups (we were the only native English speakers in the group except one other man – that’s Cambridge for you). This meant that we didn’t get that ‘social group’ outcome like we’d hoped for in an NCT class, despite trying to make conversation with a few couples – it just didn’t happen.

So when I read about the NCT refresher courses online, I decided that it was worth trying to have this experience the second time around. It helps too that all of us in the class have had the experience of a first child already, and will all be looking for ways to cope with a newborn as well as an older toddler/child. We’ll all also be off work at the same time, so we should be able to meet up pretty regularly at least in the early months. And so far, from just one 2.5 hour session, the prospect of this is looking promising. The first session was for the mums only, and I think this helped to get us all chatting and start to make friendships, as none of us knew anyone else in the room. I felt like I had things in common with these ladies, and can definitely imagine meeting up and getting on well with them. There was already a consensus that the teacher should send round our email addresses so that we can get the ball rolling on meeting up.

Apart from the social aspect, which was my main reason for attending, it was good to chat together about our previous pregnancies and birth experiences, and I got a lot of info out of others’ personal experiences as well as the teacher’s input. I felt a bit shy in telling my birth story though, because many in the room had had much more complicated and longer births than my experience with Andrew, but I hope my story was an encouragement that things can go really smoothly and quickly and it’s not all negative. I’m looking forward to next week already, when we’ll be recapping various things like breathing techniques, movements and positions for labour, and different types of birth (e.g. c-section, water birth). Then on the third week, our partners will join us for the last session. Next week I’ll actually get there on time – for some reason (baby brain is my excuse) I thought it started at 7.45pm, but as I was walking into the centre, I got a text from the teacher asking if I was OK, and as I walked into the room, slightly puzzled by the text, I realised that everyone else had obviously been there for quite a while and they’d started doing small group discussions! (The actual start time was 7.15pm.) So I sheepishly made an entrance and joined a lovely group, who welcomed me despite having to do introductions all over again. Ooops!

Still quite a high bump, but baby has dropped a little into the pelvis already.

On to the midwife appointment that I had earlier today. At my appointment 2 weeks ago, she asked again whether I’d thought more about a home birth. My answer to this was the same as it’s always been every time she’s asked (I think she’s on commission or something!) – I’d rather have a Birth Centre birth than a home birth, but I’d rather have a home birth than a car birth, if baby decides to come even quicker than Andrew did. One of my issues with a home birth is that our flat is small (think proverbial cats and swinging motions) – where would we put a birth pool for a start? So the midwife suggested that my next appointment at 36 weeks should be at home rather than the GP surgery, so she could take a look at our flat and see where things could go and what we should have prepared in case we end up staying at home. I agreed that this would be a great idea.

When she arrived, we had the inevitable conversation about the fact that Andrew had clearly grown since she last saw him – I should hope so, he was only 2 weeks old when she last saw him to discharge us from her care! After that she moved straight on to talking through the practicalities of home birth. She said that there was no problem with our flat. The fact that there’s not really room to swing a cat wasn’t an issue; in her opinion there is room to give birth to a baby. She was happy that our kitchen table is a good enough work surface for the midwives to work on, and she even said that we would just about have room for a pool if I wanted one. I don’t think I’ll bother though, because they are expensive to buy/hire, and if we’re at home it means things are happening fast and we wouldn’t have time to fill it anyway. Shower curtains are fine as plastic sheeting, so Tom’s now on the case to find some cheap ones. Other than that, we’re pretty much sorted in terms of things on the list that the midwife gave me to prepare for a home birth. It’s good that my midwife is so pro home birth, given that not all midwives are so keen these days, but I did have to remind her that this was my back-up plan, my ‘just in case’ idea. Of course she understands that if my platelets (which were tested again yesterday, so I don’t yet know the results) drop further, then home birth wouldn’t be an option anyway. It’s just nice to know that we have all bases covered.

After the home birth pep-talk, and in amongst Andrew’s attempts to charm her with various acrobatics, chatting and smiles, we moved on to the usual antenatal checks. My blood pressure and urine were fine, and baby’s heartbeat was as clear and fast as ever. Andrew was intrigued by the sound of the heartbeat on the monitor – it sounded a bit like a ‘choo-choo’ to him, and that’s one of his favourite things right now, along with aeroplanes. I still don’t think he gets what’s happening, even though I’ve tried to explain; he just laughs when I say there’s a baby in my tummy. Baby’s position is generally good, in that he/she is head down and one fifth engaged (dropped into the pelvis) already, so pretty unlikely to turn now. The midwife said it was normal for baby to have dropped slightly by now in a second pregnancy, as I was sure that Andrew hadn’t started to engage until a couple of weeks later. Bump is still measuring bang on the average line of the graph, so growth is progressing well.

The only slight issue was that this morning baby was lying slightly posteriorly – not completely ‘back-to-back’, which would potentially make labour longer and more complicated – but with its back to one side instead of pointing outwards. But the midwife reassured me that there was still time to move, and I know this baby moves a lot, so it’s perfectly possible. She also advised me to sit as upright as possible, on hard-backed chairs, no slouching on the sofa, or better still, spend lots of time on all fours wiggling my hips. I used to do this more in pregnancy with Andrew because I did yoga, so I’ve decided that I’ll start doing some of those moves in the evening when Andrew is in bed. Now I have no excuse not to be the one who clears up his toys at the end of the day, as that is basically 5-10 minutes of being on all fours!

At the end of week 36, I’m feeling very positive and I’ve enjoyed my first week (since maternity leave ended) looking after Andrew every day. I feel less tired today than I did on the Friday of the last few weeks of work. This week has also been very exciting because several family members and good friends have made exciting announcements. For example, I’m now an aunt to a lovely little niece, and my brother-in-law and his girlfriend are now engaged. My Facebook status today carried a warning: any more exciting announcements this week and it might just tip me into labour! I need a weekend to recover 🙂

Pregnancy diary: week 35 – birth plan

As yesterday was my last day at work (I’ll come back to that in a mo….), all of a sudden giving birth seems like a much more imminent event! So I thought it was about time that I write my ‘birth plan’. I thought I’d saved a copy of my birth plan for Andrew’s birth, but I have a feeling I didn’t back it up to the server (unusual for me, Little Miss Paranoid Doer of Back-ups) and annoyingly my laptop hard-drive died a few days after Andrew was born. The birth plan must be forever lost in an irretrievable gobble-ti-gook of 1s and 0s. But nevermind. I managed to find a great resource on the NHS choices website, which runs through the various points you might like to include in a birth plan. It even lets you save an online version of a birth plan that you create by ticking various multiple choice option boxes and then printing off a PDF, but I found this a little restrictive and preferred to write my own using ideas from the website.

Not much to say this week, other than it's a bump!

I’m not a massive fan of the word ‘plan’ in this context, because I don’t think labour and delivery are really things that you can ‘plan’ in the sense that I normally plan things (like what I’m doing next Monday morning at 10am, or when we will go on holiday next year, or what we’ll eat for dinner tonight, for example). Yes I have an image of what would be an ‘ideal’ birth, and actually I came pretty close to this with Andrew (lose the vomiting after the syntocinon injection and it would have been perfect), but I’m not so naive to think that there is no possibility of complications that might cause my ‘ideal’ birth to fly out the maternity hospital window. I’m optimistic that, given previous experience, the birth will go smoothly, but realistic that I have no control over the fact that it might not.

I remember when I came to write my birth plan for having Andrew that I didn’t know where to start. Although I had some ideas about what I wanted and didn’t want, I also had no idea how I would react to and cope with the pain once I was in labour, having never experienced anything like it before. So most of my points were couched in a ‘I’d like it to be as natural as possible but if I scream for drugs then please give them to me’ kind of tone. This time, of course, I know what it’s like, so I found it easier to write down what I hope for, complications and long duration notwithstanding.

This sets the scene for my birth plan, which I’ve set out below. I will print this out and keep it with my maternity notes, so that whichever midwife gets the job of helping us through labour will see it when she looks at my notes – this worked well last time, and she was keen to read what I’d written before doing much else with me. I’ve probably forgotten some important points, so if you think of anything I might like to mention, I’m all ears. Next week I have another midwife appointment, so I might have chance to go through it with her too, particularly as she’s coming to look at the flat in case of home birth necessity!

Ruth Cumming’s birth plan

This is not so much of a ‘plan’, because I’m not sure you can really ‘plan’ labour and birth, but rather it’s a list of things that I would like and not like to happen, if at all possible.

Location

My preferred place of birth is in the Rosie Birth Centre, because I had my son at the former MLBU, and I liked the relaxed atmosphere and received excellent care from the midwives, who helped me but did not take over.

However, if baby comes even faster than my son did (which was pretty fast), I may decide that I’d rather stay at home, because I’d rather not risk being in advanced labour in the car – I’d rather have a ‘home birth’ than a ‘car birth’!

Of course if there are complications, I understand that going up to the delivery unit in the main Rosie hospital would be necessary.

My birth partner is Tom, my husband, and I would like him with me at all times during labour, no matter what happens.

Labour and delivery

I would like to be in a birth pool during active labour (another reason for choosing the Birth Centre); this helped me a lot for my first labour.

If possible I would like to deliver the baby in the water. Last time the midwife could tell that being in the water was relaxing me too much and she was concerned that I wasn’t pushing as hard as I could during the final stage in there, so she suggested I got out for delivery. She was right, because I gave birth within minutes of getting out, as I pushed much harder ‘on land’. If this happens again, I’m not against getting out of the water if necessary, but would rather have a water birth if possible.

Last time I used a birthing stool for the final pushes – this worked well and I would like it again if ‘on land’.

I am happy for baby’s heartbeat to be monitored like it was last time – with a detached probe device every now and then, i.e. I’m not constantly hooked up to a machine so I can move around freely.

I will move around during labour before the pool is ready, and get into positions that I find most comfortable at each point. This could include getting on all fours (possibly on the bed) and walking around. But I hope to spend most of the time in the pool.

I hope to deliver in the water, squatting or upright in some other way, or if I’m on land, squatting on a birthing stool worked well last time. I do not want to be on my back, lying down or completely horizontal in any way.

If I am in the water for delivery, I would like to pick baby up myself from the water, and sit there skin to skin for a while until I feel I’d like to get out.

If I am on land for delivery, baby should be delivered straight onto my tummy, without being cleaned, so that we can have skin to skin time. This worked well for my son, and he latched on for a breastfeed almost straight away. I would like this to happen again if possible.

I would like the midwife to cut the cord (Tom is not particularly keen to do this).

I do not mind if there are trainee midwives in the room.

Possible drugs/interventions

For pain relief, I would like to try and use just natural methodsbreathing, movements, and the water of the pool. This worked for my first labour and I didn’t need any drugs.

However, if labour goes on for a lot longer than my first labour, I may decide on other pain relief methods. Gas and air would be my first choice. I didn’t find a TENS machine helpful last time, so I won’t try it again.

I would prefer not to have an epidural, but I can see that if I’ve been in pain for several hours and I’m exhausted, that this would be something I would consider and would want to be given if I decided on having it.

I had a 2nd degree tear with my son, so I’m prepared that this might happen again. I’d rather not have an episiotomy if at all possible, but would consider it if the midwife thinks it is necessary if baby was in trouble.

I would rather not have an assisted delivery with forceps or ventuose. But if baby was in trouble and therefore it was advisable to have these interventions, I would consider them.

After my son was born I opted to have the syntocinon injection, but in a reaction to this drug I vomited several times and felt nauseous for about 6 hours after the birth. I would rather not have the syntocinon injection this time, but if the midwife thinks it is necessary because I am bleeding a lot (and I know I’ve had a slightly low platelet count that might not help the situation), I am prepared to have the injection. I would like Tom to be able to stay for as long as possible after the birth this time if I am feeling sick.

I would like my baby to have the vitamin K injection or oral drops.

Breastfeeding

I am going to breastfeed and this is extremely important to me. I struggled with breastfeeding my son in the early weeks, but eventually got on track with it and have continued to feed him until now – I plan to tandem breastfeed if he still wants to continue after the baby’s birth.

So I would like my baby to stay close to me at all times and not be swaddled – I would like to remain in skin to skin contact for several hours after the birth, so that baby can feed off and on whilst lying on me.

If complications arise and I need to be separated from him/her, I would like Tom to be able to have skin to skin with baby whilst I am out of action. I would like baby to be brought to me as soon as possible if we are separated, and have help with positioning baby on me for feeding if I am in pain from a difficult delivery (e.g. c-section).

What a difference a year makes!

Yes I know the title is obvious when we’re talking about a baby, but when Andrew turned 1 year old last weekend, it made me think back over the year, and how much he (and we!) has developed. I can remember the first week of his life almost like it was yesterday, and there are many other memories from the 12 months that particularly stick in my mind, for example the milestones he reached like smiling, crawling and walking. As I hadn’t braved it into the world of blogging when he was born, I didn’t share our birth story on this blog. So I thought I’d do a ‘then and now’ post – first look back at his actual ‘birth day’, and then contrast it with the same day a year later, his first birthday.

Birth day

A couple of hours after birth

A birth story might not be every reader’s cup of tea, so I’ll try not to waffle on or get too gory, but if you’re not in the (what might be quite a small) crowd of birth story fans, please feel free to skip this section.

On the morning of Tom’s birthday, we woke up as usual at 7am, and Tom went off to work. I had been on maternity leave for two weeks already, and was 4 days over my due date, getting bored of being pregnant, and wishing ‘Baby C’ would put in an appearance. But I’d had no signs of labour. The midwife came (as planned) at 12 noon to give me and baby a check-up as we were overdue, which involved having a membrane sweep (as I promised no gory details, you can read about this on someone else’s website here). She told me I was already a few centimetres dilated, so baby should be on the way soon.

At about 2pm I had what I think was my first contraction (I say ‘I think’ because it wasn’t as massive and painful as I had been expecting, bracing myself for the worst pain ever). It was short and I didn’t feel anything again for about half an hour. From then until about 7.30pm, I had irregularly timed contractions that were quite painful, but not so bad that I couldn’t bake Tom a birthday cake to take my mind off them. I emailed Tom to say that I was having irregular contractions but that there was no need to rush home. He turned up at home earlier than usual, because he couldn’t concentrate knowing what I had told him, and it was his birthday anyway. But we were losing hope of baby and Daddy sharing birthdays, thinking that this could be a long haul (my first baby, not having had any signs of labour until now etc.)

At about 6.30pm we decided to get a take-away curry, rather than go to the restaurant itself just down the road. Curry had become our staple diet that week, trying (along with pineapple and raspberry leaf tea) the old wives’ tales for natural labour induction. We sat down to eat at 7pm; half an hour later we were about to settle in front of a DVD, with me perched on a hard dining chair, arms over the back of it. Just as I sat down, I felt and heard a big splash beneath me and lots of kicking from Baby C – my waters had gushed all over the chair and floor! In antenatal classes, we’d been told to phone the hospital as soon as my waters broke. So Tom did, and they told us to come in for an assessment, even though we might get sent home again if all was OK.

My contractions were still irregular, but as we got in the car, they suddenly got much stronger, more like what I had braced myself for, and more close together. We arrived at the Midwife Led Birth Unit (MLBU) in the Rosie Maternity Hospital and were promptly shown to a room. I was so pleased because I’d heard that it quickly gets full, though I knew we might not be staying. The midwife assessed me by asking when my contractions were and taking various swabs; the outcome was that I wasn’t properly in labour yet, and because we lived so near the hospital, I could go home and be in a more familiar environment. I wasn’t too keen on moving very far, because just as the midwife was filling in the paperwork, my contractions suddenly got even more intense and more close together.

The next thing I knew, the midwife was going through my ‘birth-plan’ (more like guidance notes than a plan really) and asking her assistant to fill up the birth pool. I was on all fours on the bed, answering questions and asking for things like a drink and help in taking some layers of clothing off, in between the contractions. Just as I was about to ask for the gas and air to be set up, the pool was ready, so I got in for pain relief instead. Not long had I been in the pool when I felt the urge to push – this was a completely instinctual feeling, and my head was saying ‘this can’t be right, it’s too early in labour to push’, but my body was just doing it. The midwife was lovely and said if I wanted to push I should push, and that I knew what I was doing far more than any examination she could do of me would tell us. I liked her faith in me, but still thought it was crazy to be pushing already.

After a few more contractions, I started to believe it more, and thought I might as well go with it rather than resist. I carried on like this for a while, until the midwife made a bet with me (well, no money was involved) – if I got out, baby would be delivered more quickly than if I stayed in. She could see that I was ‘relaxing’ a little too much in the soothing water (it was hardly what I’d call relaxing, but I saw her point), and I wasn’t pushing as effectively as if I were ‘on land’. So I got out, and no more than 10 minutes later, out came our little baby; we soon confirmed my gut feeling that it was a boy, as he was lifted up and placed directly onto my tummy. Timings are all a bit of a blur to me as, needless to say, I wasn’t clock watching, but the one thing I know is that he arrived at the very memorable time of 22.22.

A few minor procedures later (cord cutting, stitching and cleaning me up etc.), and we were enjoying those amazing first minutes as a new three person family. We decided that the names we had chosen before birth were still a good choice now that we’d met him, and so we named him Andrew James. Whilst we were sitting tummy to tummy, he did the very instinctual thing of climbing up and lunging towards one of my nipples, then latched on and started what turned into a very good first breastfeed (you can read more about this here).

After a while I started to feel sick, and placed him in Tom’s arms to give them some bonding time, before I was actually sick. Unfortunately this was a reaction to the injection I’d had that helps deliver the placenta more quickly and less bloodily (stopping gory talk now), which is quite common, apparently, though I’d not heard of this in all the antenatal literature I’d read. I had a shower, which helped me feel a bit better, whilst my boys bonded some more. We then dressed Andrew up warm in some tiny cute clothes that the midwife picked out of our bag for him, and headed across to the post-natal bay for the night.

Tom made sure we were settled and then headed off home until the next morning. Andrew was fast asleep, so I laid him in the ‘fish tank’ which was right next to my bed, and lay down myself at the edge of the bed, close enough to put my arm in and hold his little hands and stroke his little head. I couldn’t sleep a wink, I just lay there watching him and holding him. All he was doing was sleeping, but somehow it seemed absolutely amazing. For me that night was a (long) moment in which I couldn’t stop thanking God for His incredible generosity in giving us this new little life, a perfectly formed miniature us with mini limbs and mini organs all working together to sustain life.

Birthday boys together (0 and 27 years)
Back home at 1 day old

Birthday

A year later, our day started much earlier; gone are the days of lie-ins – the 7am start of the year before seems like an absolute luxury! After trying in vain to settle Andrew back to sleep with various things like feeding, rocking and head stroking, I decided he must be so excited about his birthday that getting up and playing was our only option. I did the early shift until breakfast, and Daddy took over after that, allowing me an extra hour in bed to regain some energy for my cake-icing extravaganza. Andrew was also persuaded (with not much effort) to have a much needed nap, otherwise I was fearing a lunchtime meltdown.

After our naps, my boys went out to a Dads’ event at a local Children’s Centre, and left me mixing up copious amounts of butter and icing sugar, to ice the cakes that I’d baked the day before (if you haven’t spotted my creations yet, see here). Icing aside, the fact that my littler boy and I could go for a few hours without each other is very different from the year before, when we spent all of the time he was outside of me cuddling and feeding. Although I miss him when we’re apart, I find that I really appreciate some me-time, especially if I know he’s having fun and bonding with Daddy.

Whilst I was in the middle of cake creating, my parents arrived, just in time to help with the washing up and other bits of cleaning. Not much has changed there in a year! When Tom and I had left for the hospital, the kitchen was messy with washing up, which all disappeared and didn’t reappear for a few days after the birth, thanks to our parents. That still seems to be one of their main occupations when they visit.

Back to the birthday celebrations, we headed off to a local pub for lunch. I love the fact that Andrew is such a good eater that we don’t have to worry about taking baby food out with us for meals, because he’ll happily munch away on a small(-ish) portion of an adult meal (it’s amazing just how much he can pack away into his little tummy!) He only has 2 teeth, but that doesn’t deter him. This time he tucked into a bowl of scrummy pasta with tomato sauce and cheese – much bigger than his first ever meal of breastmilk the year before, but on a similar scale of scrumminess, judging by his enthusiasm on both occasions. Sitting still has never been his strong point, and the interesting sights of the pub were soon beckoning him down from his highchair. He walked from table to chair to table and even brushed near the bar. Gone are the days of holding him like a newborn babe in arms, except when he wants to feed, then it’s acceptable to snuggle up to mummy. But that hardly ever happens anywhere other than home, and even then he’ll often wriggle and get into all sorts of funny positions when still latched on.

What's on the menu? I'll have some scrummy pasta please!

A brisk walk back from the pub was followed by a present-opening-athon at home. Not that he had any idea of what was going on, and was more interested in playing with the wrapping paper, gift bags and packaging, with the occasional glance at the goodies within them. Daddy enjoyed sharing the limelight with his (relatively small compared to Andrew’s) pile of presents too. It occurred to me that here our toddler was, making up his own mind about what he wanted to do. Even though we had decided to open presents, because that’s just one of the things you do on birthdays, he wasn’t going to sit still and do it orderly, and why should he, it was his birthday after all. This independence was such a change from the utterly dependent on us newborn who arrived the year before.

As the signs of the dreaded ‘overtiredness’ started to make an appearance, we skillfully (after a year of getting to know the signs) averted a meltdown moment by whisking him out in the buggy for a nap. Like sitting, napping has never been one of his strong points, though I do remember just how much he slept just after he was born. They say babies get worn out from labour just as much as mums – how they know that I don’t know, did they ask the babies?! His sleepiness didn’t last long.

The day wouldn’t have been complete without the consumption of the aforementioned cake, but not before we sang Happy Birthday To You (once for Andrew and once for Tom). This year we actually got to eat the cake on the birthday, whereas the cake I’d baked last year for Tom, as a distraction from contractions technique, didn’t get eaten until the day after. Andrew joined in too this year.

Bathtime and bedtime (mine that is 😉 ) drew closer, and family made a move homewardbound. The action this year was definitely centred more around the middle of the day, not like the quiet daytime and sudden action-packed evening featuring the birth. The little fella was zonked and (without precedent) went straight to sleep when his head touched the mattress after a short feed. I wasn’t too far off a state of zonkedness myself, so Tom and I decided that staying up til 22.22pm to mark the official year of Andrew living un-umbillically-attached to me was probably not wise. Again I ended the day by thanking God for the blessing that Andrew is in our lives, and that he (and we) survived the year and is thriving. Then my head hit the pillow – at least I got more sleep that night this year than last.

Birthday boys together (1 year and 28 years)