These paragraphs are basically a collection on thoughts and writing about the births of my children, the odd rant, story, etc. I have collected them here so I can revisit them as I need to. Hopefully they may be of some use to others. They start with the oldest, working their way forward to present day.
Written retrospectively after the births of my boys - January 2009
The birth of my first son, Jacob, completely horrified me.
My pregnancy was unexpected, I’d known Chris for three weeks - moved in on the night I met him and went on holiday a week later, just as he got made redundant from his job in the pottery industry. I was sick all the way through with Jacob, and lost weight instead of gaining. I wanted a home birth from the beginning, and the community midwives would just nod and smile. They weren’t horrid, just not very enthusiastic.
Anyway, my contractions started, my waters broke spontaneously about 10 hours later, and I noticed they weren’t clear - so rang my midwife who told of course told me to go in to hospital and get it checked out straight away. (I later found out from Jo, -my independent midwife for Noah’s birth that it would have to be “pea soup” for her to transfer in)
Well, once I was in hospital that was it. I realised I could not labour there at all. They put on a foetal heart monitor, and couldn’t pick him up at all. Then they decided that they wanted to attach it to his scalp, (which on further research isn’t actually reliable when there is meuconium present) This was a horrible experience and I wish I had refused. Then they said his heartbeat kept disappearing, and before I knew it I had to have a Caesarean. The consultant decided I couldn’t have a spinal, because of a bruising condition I had when I was younger that was in my notes, at this point they decided his heart had stopped anyway, so just gave me a general, with no warning or consent.
An Jacob was born with Apgar scores of 10 and 10. How any baby whose heart had stopped can have an apgar of 10 at a minute and need no resuscitation is beyond me.
I woke up, and Chris was holding him. I put him to the breast straight away, there was no one to help me except Chris. He was then told he’d have to leave because he wasn’t allowed on the ward. I was mortified.
On the ward, the midwives were wearing their own tracksuit tops. No one offered any assistance breastfeeding and I was opposite a druggie who kept leaving her baby with people to smoke. The only other woman breastfeeding was down the corridor. I’m not being funny, but it would have been nice to have at least been in the same room as her, just to help each other.
I was let out before 72 hours. Only to get home and realise how crap it had all been. I felt hopeless at feeding Jacob. He was tiny and hungry and just wanted to feed all the time. It was painful, sore and didn’t feel natural. I managed to get a breastfeeding co-ordinator to visit. I’d hardly eaten anything in days and was a complete wreck, my blood pressure dropped and I collapsed, she called an ambulance and got me back on maternity - where they asked Chris to take Jacob home (!) (and feed him with what? man boobs?) Finally, they let me keep my baby with me, and they decided I had a blood clot. While I was asleep they feed Jacob formula, with out asking. To cut a long story short, I discharged myself. They wanted to check for a blood clot using radioactive dye, so I wouldn’t be able to feed Jacob. I consented to a chest x-ray, and that was it.
I got home, again, thinking Jacob would have to have formula because of all the palaver. Suddenly, my milk came in - after a week and a half! and it felt like a waste not to feed him, so I did. It was really difficult at first, but it became easier overtime.
At this point I didn’t want any more kids. My periods came back straight away and was petrified I’d get pregnant again.
I did when Jacob was about 8 months, and miscarried. That was a bit crappy and embarrassing, because it happened while we were shopping, but also helpful, because it made me realise I did actually want more children. I went to the EPU, and they thought I’d been about 10 weeks gone. I asked about when I could try for a baby and they told me to wait a few months. So that’s what we decided to do.
They’d asked me to do a pregnancy test after two weeks, which I forgot to do until nearly three weeks, and low and behold I got a positive. Ok, so, never use banana condoms. they don’t work!
The EPU were a bit worried it was something left over from the miscarriage, so did a HCG and a scan at 4ish weeks and we saw little Noah for the first time, (well he was a blob, lol)
Jacob stopped breastfeeding at about this point. I personally think it was all the hormones and things, plus I started being sick. He was down to night time only anyway, and one night he just refused.
At my first visit to the community midwives, I told them I wanted a home birth. They said they wouldn’t advise one and told me to think about it. I was also referred to a consultant (oh joy) because of my previous section.
I started doing research on VBAC (vaginal birth after Caesarean) and the possibilities of home VBAC. I also did a lot of in depth stuff on uterine rupture. I came to the conclusion that I was safer at home. I knew I couldn’t labour in a hospital and in all likely hood would end up having another section.
I told the midwives this at the next appointment, and that’s when the bullying started.
They asked me how Jacob would feel if I died. How Chris would be left to look after him. How I’d feel if the baby died. This continued at each appointment. Even though you make your mind up that you won’t be swayed by these people, because you’ve done research and you know what you want, it starts to mess with your mind a bit. I got really upset and down, and that was on top of raging pregnancy hormones.
On my first visit to the consultant, I waited ages, and then saw one of her understudies, who’s first comment to me was “another Caesarean, yes?”
I told him I wanted a home birth, and he said it wouldn’t be possible. That’s when my mum piped in and he backed down immediately. He then disappeared to “consult with his colleges” and came back saying that they were worried the baby was too small and I’d need scans every 4 weeks and that because my dad has very late onset diabetes I’d need a GTT. At this point I smelt a rat, and asked him to make his mind up - am I at risk of a huge baby or a tiny one? Hearing the commotion, a lady doctor burst in and tried to explain everything he’d said to me again, but strained to make it “in simple terms”
This finished in me being told I’d have to speak to the consultant at my next appointment.
Another thing they took exception to was my blood pressure. Whenever I when to the midwife or hospital, the reading was astronomical. At one of my consultants apps. it was so high they weren’t going to let me go. This is when one of the midwives had to tell the doctor to use a manual one, and hey presto - perfect. I’m sure medical professionals forget how to use them, or are just lazy. The mechanical ones have to be calibrated on a regular basis otherwise they are unreliable.
The climax came when my community midwife came round one dinnertime when Chris was home from work to drop off my Mat B1, and started on him (big mistake) “How would you feel raising your son by yourself, how would you feel if she died”. She said any midwife attending would be “bricking it”. It ended in her being asked to leave, and me sobbing.
I felt like a walking Caesarean scar. That is all people saw. One day, I got in the car and just felt like running it off a bridge. I suddenly realised how ill this was making me. I decided to end my relationship with the NHS and go it alone. I’d just downloaded the green top paper (NICEs guidelines) and as a lay person found it was full of unreliable assumptions generally made by men.
So, “free birthing” it was. My mum, although with me 100% was petrified of me doing it by myself. She secretly took out a loan and rang Jo Parkington, our nearest independent midwife. She was amazing. She came out for a free consultation and from that point I knew she was on my wavelength. She’d worked in the NHS for years, and had left because of the things she’d seen and the way they did things.
Jo was hired as my midwife, and she was great. There was no stress or pressure. I was ready to finish work at 36 weeks, I’d had an early show and Jo was worried I’d have the baby early, but things slowed down resting at home, and I even stopped being sick for a few weeks. Suddenly I had a huge bump and Noah put on loads of weight. I drank loads of fortified chocolate milk, and I swear it stopped nausea!
My due date (halloween) came and went, although I was having twinges. I started having contractions on the 2nd - Sunday, and spent most of the day resting and sleeping. I kept Jo up to date on what was going on, and promised to ring her when things changed. The next day came and I was getting a bit impatient although things were progressing slowly. Jacob went to stay with grandma and Chris and I spent the morning in bed together doing naughty things. It’s the best kind of pain relief and my contractions became regular and stronger.
We called Jo, blew up the pool and started to fill it. We kissed through contractions. When Jo came she told me to get n the pool - and things were going fast. We watched Bill bailey, then House, then American Chopper, then I realised it was getting late. I’d been in the pool for ages and still no baby. I tried getting out of the pool. I tried walking and dancing around. The contractions were close together and strong, but seemed to be doing bugger all. The baby was happy, his and my bp and heart rate were fine.
I finally asked Jo to check out how dilated I was - she doesn’t normally do internals unless they are requested. The baby had been in a painful posterior position for most of the labour and I was worried he’d got stuck. But no, he rotated all the way when Jo examined me, and there was hardly any cervix left. My waters were still there but they were hard. I tried again for a few more hours and finally went to bed and slept in-between contractions from hell. Jo gave me the option of breaking my waters and I took it. She said they were like elephant hide - probably from losing my show really early. I’d probably been quite dilated for a few weeks too. There was also meconium, but hey, I think that's just normal for me!
Hey presto I was pushing within minutes. Chris and Jo got me downstairs to get into the pool. The only problem was he was still posterior, and delivering a posterior baby is painful and tricky. I asked Jo to check again and she discovered a tiny bit of cervix left too which she pushed out of the way. Me being the dignified lady I am just wanted to squat over a bucket - but Jo knew how much I wanted a water birth and made me get in the pool. A few minutes later I lifted Noah out of the water, he’d got his cord round his neck and I passed him to Jo to be untangled.
Half an hour later I was in my own bed breastfeeding little Noah eating Chocolate Brazil nuts! Bliss!
Jo and I both think that he wouldn’t get out of the posterior - even though he could - because it put less pressure on my scar. I am also under no illusions that I would have definitely had a section in hospital.
Noah was huge (for me) at 8lbs 9oz - nearly 2lbs heavier than Jacob. I had no tears, and a relaxed, but long birth experience. I couldn’t have done it without Chris and Jo. xxx
Conor’s Birth Story – 3rd September 2012 – 8lb 13 ozs
We decided we’d have another homebirth before we thought about having a third child. We had a homebirth with Noah in 2008, with an independent midwife. It was amazing, and no comparison to the care we received from the NHS with our first child, Jacob, in 2007 which ended in a completely unnecessary section.
So I did a test on the Winter Solstice 2011, as I was pretty sure I was pregnant – and it was positive. I decided not to access NHS midwives straight away, as firstly I was quite apprehensive, and also I didn’t see a need. I did end up accessing the early pregnancy unit, as I had a substantial bleed at 6weeks which itself didn’t bother me too much, but I had a lot of accompanying hip pain. From the EPU I booked a dating scan and anomaly scan (I’m not fussed about scans, but Chris wanted them and I’m keen to share the decision making especially as I’d decided no screening.) This allowed me to leave my booking appointment even later.
When it finally happened at about 13 weeks, my booking appointment was exactly what I’d expected, over an hours wait in a stuffy doctors waiting room filling in my own notes as she was busy. Of course I took the opportunity to write homebirth in large text across the front. Once I got to speak to her, she dragged up the section, and said the fact I’d have a successful HWBAC meant nothing. Well it did to me, I was there after all. It went down hill after I refused all screening and bloods etc, and I left angry and upset. I had another appt. at 19weeks, where I again declined what they had to offer and was told about all the paperwork that would have to happen for me to have a homebirth because of all the risks. I was also told that I wouldn’t know the midwife sent out to me in labour, as it could be one of 60, whoever is on call. I started to really struggle with the idea of letting a stranger into my birth space, and it consumed me a little to the point where I’d half made the decision not to call till it was too late. I was unhappy with this but we had no pennies for an Independent Midwife and felt like we were out of options.
I discovered a service called One to One midwives, and sent them an email on the off chance that they were taking on ladies. Amazingly my old Independent Midwife (from Noah’s birth) replied and agreed to come and see me. It felt like a weight was lifted, as Katie is such a wonderful person. I cancelled my next Community Midwife appointment through the GP receptionist, who asked no questions and did not offer me another appointment, this was not followed up, and I heard nothing from the NHS till after the birth.
I had been having a lot more Braxton hicks this pregnancy, and at about 37.5 weeks I started to get mild contractions every 10 minutes, these continued for 2 weeks. I didn’t know what to make of them really, there were a few points where I though “oh, this is it!” but nothing materialised. In the early hours of the day after my due date (as mine was a few days earlier than the ultrasound date) I started having really intense contractions in my back, despite baby being OP – they were between 7 and 15-20 mins apart, so I didn’t get overly excited. Got up for a while as I was uncomfortable. Went to the bathroom 100 times, and then tried to get some sleep. Contractions were still irregular in the morning, so let Katie know. Chris was umming and ahhing about going to work, I told him to stay at home. Noah went off to Nursery but Jacob still had one day of his summer hols left so spent it playing with daddy and doing errands with nanny. I stayed in bed watching iplayer – eating sandwiches a drinking coca cola, hehe, The only way I could get contractions closer together was to dance around, but I didn’t want to exhaust myself so rested till about midday, when I felt I wanted to move around a bit. Even then contractions were 7 mins apart and not painful, but were soothed by a severely inadequate microwavable monkey thing.
Jacob and Chris set the pool up, which Jacob enjoyed thoroughly until he left at 3pm with his brother to go for a sleep over at MILs, Soon after, I got in the pool and things ramped up a notch. Chris put Billy Connolly live on, and soon I was wondering what he was laughing at because I wasn’t following it at all! I felt the pool was a bit cold, and I needed the loo, so left Chris in charge of sorting hot water out, while I leaned over a stool in the shower with it pointing on my back. Three kids and I’m yet to feel a contraction in my stomach. Chris later revealed that he actually finished watching Billy with his feet up on the birth pool. The shower did its auto cut off twice and I was getting a bit sweary at it and needed the pool. Chris came up and I was very tearful (transition) and said perhaps we should ring Katie as she was an hour away, so he did. Even then the contractions were irregular, but baby was obviously on his way.
Chris went to finish the pool, and I made it to the landing and felt the baby drop down. I had a quick check, and all I felt was head, although my waters hadn’t gone, so figured they were tightly stretched round his head. I then realised I couldn’t actually get up, as the contractions were getting closer together so I was stuck on all fours at the top of the stairs. Thankfully Chris came and rescued me, and helped me get down the stairs despite the fact I was positive I couldn’t! I asked how far Katie was away, and he replied “Er, 5 mins… and times it by 3”
Now came to getting back into the pool, which isn’t easy when you aren’t in labour, never mind about to pop, but we managed it! As soon as I got in the water, I felt like I was pushing. His head moved down, and back, and then Katie arrived. 7 mins later out he came. He was covered in meconium, his cord round his neck and arm. No problems with him though, and I expected meconium, as all of my kids had it with no issue. Waters must have gone as he emerged. He did have a short cord, and even untangling him underwater, I couldn’t quite get him to boob position. So we waited for the cord to stop pulsating and cut it, placenta came out swiftly after, no tears, no grazes and an 8lb 13oz baby boy named Conor.
Baby Conor, hours old
Some text I prepared to use to speak to students at a study day at Staffs Uni.
Hello, I'm Sarah, a mother of three small boys.
The birth of my first child was very traumatic for me and I have come to realise that the people you have around you during your antenatal care and the birth of your child are more important than a lot of women and care providers understand.
For example, I was so apprehensive of being bullied into a care pathway that did not suit me, I put off even telling a care provider I was pregnant with my third child, and sadly my first antenatal appointment with a the midwife at my GP surgery started with me waiting for an hour in the waiting room filling in my own notes.
Then I found one to one.
...and I found the control I needed over my own pregnancy and birth. Katie came to see me in my own home regularly, respected all of my wishes and the choices I made for myself and my family. She included my husband and young sons in the monitoring of the baby, and fitted in her visits when it was suitable for me.
I was at complete ease with Katie. This could be easily demonstrated in my blood pressure, which has always been on the high side within a doctors surgery, but at home with Katie it was always perfect.
Whatever happened I knew Katie was just a text or phone call away.
I felt happy and empowered through my pregnancy, and when my labour started Katie respected my birth space and we texted each other regular updates until the point came that I needed her.
I birthed Conor in our pool not long after Katie arrived. She was completely hands off just as I had wanted, the whole process was uninterrupted and I even enjoyed it.
I felt that Katie believed in me, and when a women is supported and empowered she is capable of anything.
I was in the care of one to one until Conor was 6 weeks old. The continuity was so important to me, and even though Conor is my third, and I should know the ins and outs of newborns, it was nice to be supported by a friendly face, that knew me during those formative weeks.
Conor's birth is now a fabulous healing memory that has given me renewed faith in myself and my bodies abilities, I only hope more women can access this wonderful service. Conor and I
Oona Lucy Bell, born 9th May 2015 7lb 11oz
Oona's Birth Story.
Oona is certainly a reminder that all babies and all births are different! I'd never gone over my dates with the three boys and I'd never had prodromal labour before. Oona gave me both. From around 32 weeks I was having regular bouts of labour, in the evenings which dissipated in the early hours. It really made me question myself and her position and it worried me she'd come early.
I tried to keep good posture and positioning, but I knew she was head down, and engaged really early, which was uncomfortable, and I think contributed to so many early surges.
On the evening of the 8th I felt my usually labourous self, after having an emotional moment a few days previous, worried at her being so different. I went to bed exhausted, only to be woken up in the wee hours with irritating surges. I say irritating because there was no rhyme or reason to them, between 7-15 mins apart. (And that's how they stayed till the end, with the odd pair getting to 4 mins) I gave up and went for a wander around.
I wasn't going to wake Chris, as I wanted him to get his sleep in case this went on a while, but I was so tired I ended up waking him around 4am and he timed a few surges, ran me a bath and left me alone. He knows me well.
The kids were up around 8, and I'd planned to let them decide whether they wanted to stay around or go to nanny's. Well obviously nanny's was more exciting... they only one who thought twice was Noah, my six year old.
Chris filled the pool, rang Katie, our One to One midwife, to let her know what was going on, and left with the boys. I got in and suddenly realised I was completely alone. And things ramped up a notch. I needed some more warm water in the pool, and thankfully Chris was back to sort this out. Followed by Katie just after 9. She waited in the kitchen, and only came back when Oona was about to make her appearance. I hadn't pushed till she crowned, but was suddenly hit by a wall of exhaustion. I was SO tired. nights of no sleep taking its toll and for a split second I thought I couldn't do it.
But I did. Again no tears or damage like my other water births. And here she is: