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The Birth of Samuel

On Tuesday 7th June my mood changed noticeably. I felt tired and emotional. Previously, for the duration of my pregnancy I had loved every moment of it and although I was aching to meet our baby, I knew I would miss having them inside of me, close to my heart, and safe.

On Tuesday 7th June, at 39 + 2, feeling noticeably tired and emotional, I verbalised to my husband and to the universe that I was ready to meet my baby and didn’t need to be pregnant anymore.

It was an unusual feeling as I had spent the whole pregnancy comfortable with the fact that this was our first pregnancy and we would likely go to 42 weeks.

The next morning, on Wednesday 8th June I had a check up appointment with our private midwife Jo at New Life Midwifery. We chatted about what might happen if baby decided to stay past 41 weeks and near 42 weeks, as physically I didn’t feel any different and felt that our baby was happy and comfortable in my womb for another while longer. Jo refreshed me on the different methods of induction and we agreed we would just happily monitor baby and discuss any extra steps if and when we got to 41/42 weeks.

At the end of the 1 hour appointment I went to the toilet and noticed spotting in my underwear. I was still at New Life so I called Jo in to check. Jo told me this could possibly be the start of baby’s entrance into the world - how exciting! and to stay calm, but asked me to put a pad on and monitor for any more spotting/bleeding. I had experienced no bleeding for the duration of my pregnancy to this point.

I stayed for the next 1.5 hours at New Life for their Birth Preparation Group and spent that time with some other powerful mummas-to-be listening and participating with Alex and Trish on their session about movement for labour.

Previously my husband, Chris and I had completed Jess’ (Mothermoon Hypnobirthing) hypnobirthing course as well so I found Alex and Trish’s session a good refresher and enjoyed feeling confident in the physiological birth process and the power of hormones and gentle movement to bring my baby earthside.

By the time I got home at 12.30pm I had quite a noticeable amount of blood in my pad. I had experienced no pain, only very infrequent dull period pain for short amounts of time over the last couple of weeks which I put down to Braxton Hicks. Alarmed by the amount of blood, I called Jo who suggested I head to the maternity assessment unit at the hospital to get checked out. I called my husband, Chris who was at work and asked him to come home so he could drive me.

The hospital hooked up a CTG to monitor baby and thankfully baby checked out happy, however a speculum revealed some old clotted blood with no known cause.

Previously throughout my pregnancy we had been monitoring a low-lying placenta but a recent ultrasound at 37 weeks stated it was clear of my cervix; the doctor read the report to us and advised it was clear by 10cm - a huge jump of ~8cm since the last scan. This didn’t seem right that it would suddenly move by this great amount so Jo and I questioned this fact but the doctor was confident that the hospital’s imaging report was correct and the placenta was clear. The hospital suggested to admit me overnight to monitor baby and to keep an eye out for any further bleeding. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep as I would be filled with worry if I went home so my husband and I agreed I would be admitted overnight to the maternity ward.

I had no further bleeding until 11pm that night (still Wednesday 8th June) when I got up from my bed for some food as I had not eaten yet, before feeling a sensation of a huge amount of liquid leaving my vagina. I pulled my pants down to check if it was possibly my waters however all I saw was blood. The blood was coming out so fast. I ran into the hallway and yelled out to the midwives who were thankfully only meters away. “I’m bleeding, I’m bleeding so much”. I pulled down my pyjama pants to show them; the blood kept coming. The midwives were so calm and directed me back to my bed before hitting the emergency button.

Another speculum was performed where the doctor and midwives swabbed for amniotic fluid which returned a positive result immediately. “Your waters have broken”, I was told, before the doctor advised that I should be induced immediately as per hospital policy, due to the bleeding I was experiencing. I was told there was a risk to my baby. There was a lot of pressure to go ahead with the induction.

At this time a CTG was on baby and this all showed baby was ok.

By then it was almost midnight, I remembered my birth rights and advised the doctor that I needed to speak to my husband and midwife before I could agree to an induction.

Previously, when discussing our birth preferences, and in my discussion with Jo only that morning we discussed that induction would not be something we would do unless it was absolutely necessary. Chris and I had previously discussed that we would rather let my body and my baby go into labour naturally if possible.

I called Jo who calmly advised me that an immediate induction would likely be counterproductive to the birth, as I had not yet slept or eaten and my body would not be rested enough to do what it needed to do. Jo suggested I sleep for the rest of the night and we look at induction in the morning.

I called my husband Chris to let him know what had happened. It was hard because he wasn’t there with me and I was alone. I calmly let him know that the doctors advised my waters had broken, although there was a large amount of blood. I let him know we may have to get induced in the morning. We discussed that Chris would arrive at the hospital in the morning, but due to the fact I was only admitted into maternity ward, the visiting hours meant Chris would not arrive until 8am.

Not too long after a doctor from birth suite arrived and advised she was taking me to the birth suite for an induction. I advised her that I had already told someone else that I didn’t wish to be induced so she advised that her boss would come to ‘counsel me’, and following, another doctor came to advise that the hospital strongly recommended of the immediate induction and again asked my reasoning. I stood firm with my birth preference and the advice Jo had advised and again declined the induction. Without the prior knowledge provided to me by Jo and the Hypnobirthing course I would not have had the confidence to decline this induction so many times. From the Hypnobirthing course I really took away that I could have the power to make my own informed choices, and be at comfort with how my birth experience went knowing we had made the best decisions for us.

The early hours of the morning progressed and I had dull period pain type cramps that came and went, came and went, came and went and before long the pain was getting unbearable, however the midwives advised that I was only in the early stages of labour.

The midwives were very frequently monitoring my belly by palpating to gauge if there was a sign of anything going wrong with my placenta.

The CTG which was monitoring my baby showed a deep dip in his heart rate along the way which was immediately checked by the hospital, but after I rolled onto each side a couple of times, his heart rate slowly returned to normal and the midwives advised this was due to baby likely rolling on their cord. However, due to the bleeding and previous reduced movements in the later weeks (from 37 weeks when I tested positive for Covid) of my pregnancy they advised the CTG had to remain on.

By around 4am the pain intensified to an amount where I couldn’t remain laying on the bed. I found relief at that point by just sitting up right on my bed. My body needed me to be up. However, every time I got up from the bed the CTG couldn't record baby’s heartbeat and started recording mine, giving a false reading. A midwife came in at one point and demanded I be on the bed laying down so that the CTG could do its job. She told me that if I didn’t remain laying down a doctor would see the concerning heartbeat (mine) and ‘whisk me off for an emergency c-section’. I remember I was quite taken back by the way I was communicated with but was not in a position to disagree.

The next surge came and I absolutely could not remain laying down so I got up off the bed and onto my knees on the floor with my hands on the bed, letting out a maternal noise that I had no control over.

By that point I had texted Jo and advised that I was starting to get in a lot of pain and believed the fact I hadn’t slept was contributing to my limited pain threshold; not having my support people (Chris and Jo) with me to assist me with the hypnobirthing method also made it quite difficult to manage the surges and I felt things escalating a lot quicker than I had envisioned for my first birth. I also felt the way I was being communicated with by the doctors and midwives was leaving me fearful and alone. Jo replied and said that I might be closer than I thought! Jo said she was on her way.

Sometime before Chris and Jo were due to arrive a midwife asked if they could do a vaginal examination to check how dilated I was. I agreed as I was so convinced I was in active labour and wanted the hospital to take me seriously enough to get me a birth suite. To be honest I don’t really remember the outcome of the VE due to the state I was in, but I do know it was not helpful unfortunately regardless of the result.

Around 6am both Chris and Jo arrived within minutes of each other and I remember still being on my knees on the floor of the maternity ward against the bed at that time. Jo promptly suggested I get in the shower of the maternity ward room which I did and Chris followed to support.

Jo was there as one of my 2 allowed ‘support persons’ which meant we also had a hospital employed midwife for our birth.

Within a matter of minutes I suddenly felt a sensation to push. It took me by absolute surprise and I was not able to breathe through this. We stayed in the shower while we waited for a birthing suite to be made available. The surges continued and within about an hour (I lost track of all time that day) a birth suite became available and I needed to be wheelchaired over as the surges I was having were so strong I could not stand up.

Once we arrived in the birth suite I promptly went back into the shower as I found the heat was working well to help with the surges. Jo reminded me to make deep noises and push baby down which I felt helped immensely.

Unfortunately the hospital advised that the CTG monitor needed to stay on, but because I was moving so much and because baby was moving down the monitor was ineffective with a strap on its own, so a midwife had to hold it on my belly through all stages of the labour which I found very distracting. At one stage a doctor or a midwife came in and asked me if they could use an electronic monitoring probe connected to our baby’s scalp, in lieu of the CTG. I was amidst surges and trying to remain deep in a state of breathing through them, so was unable to answer.

My husband Chris asked to see the device, weighed up the benefits/risks/alternatives etc and when he saw it he advised we absolutely did not want that in our baby’s head. This meant the CTG had to remain on, held by someone else throughout my labour. Our midwife Jo asked if we could use a Doppler every couple of minutes however the hospital advised the CTG needed to be used.

After being in the birth suite shower for what felt like 20 minutes to me, but Chris says was about 2 hours I began feeling overwhelmingly exhausted and fatigued. I’d been holding myself up on the shower hand rails between surges which was using a lot of energy after a night of no sleep and very little food since breakfast the day before. I felt like I wouldn’t be able to get through more surges and birth my baby if I didn’t rest. The gas was brought to me and after using this for only a couple of surges I felt nauseous and light-headed. I didn’t use it after that. I begged for rest and starting asking about an epidural and even a c-section. I was feeling defeated.

Along the way a hospital midwife asked if they could do a VE again to check progress. I declined. I vaguely remember also having a doctor or midwife ask me repeatedly what time my waters broke which they were trying to determine to know if they should recommend antibiotics.

Knowing our birth preferences (minimal/no intervention), Jo suggested I hop on the bed to get some rest, where they raised the end and I leaned over it. Chris dried me off and put the TENS machine on my back. Jo passed me my hairbrush and with every surge I squeezed my hairbrush really hard with my hand and Chris boosted the TENS machine. Chris also put his hands around my hips for hip squeezes. I felt that these things made it much easier to manage the surges and breathe easier/calmer.

Chris also had my birth playlist playing and some LED candles on in the dim-lit room.

After a little while I still felt tired so I opted to lay on my side on the bed. Chris continued managing the TENS machine for me and between surges I was having microsleeps.

After about 2 hours on the bed resting I needed to pee so I got up. I wasn’t able to urinate; it felt like the baby was in the way. I felt like I sat on the toilet for about a minute trying to wee, but Chris says it was about 15 minutes, all the while managing surges.

From there I moved to leaning over a birth ball on the floor however my surges considerably slowed in this position. Jo handed me my clary sage candle (which we couldn’t light in the hospital) but I sniffed it a few times before I felt the contractions get stronger again. I soon felt the strong urge to poo. We moved to the toilet and I had the biggest surge yet where I felt my baby move down and almost out. The toilet wasn’t prepared for a baby to be born over it so it was suggested I hop off it, so I got onto all fours on the floor in front of the toilet, but as I did I felt the baby move back up. My surges felt less powerful on the floor and so before long I asked to be back on the toilet. Jo put a sheet over the toilet (under the seat) and a mirror. I returned to the toilet but started feeling extremely hot. I asked for a fan but it couldn’t reach the bathroom so Jo offered to go get some cold face washers. As she walked out I had another very powerful surge. I grabbed Chris’ leg very hard and felt the baby move down to where it just was prior. The head was so close. Another huge surge came, I grabbed Chris’ leg again and our baby was ejected; the baby shot out very quickly and with the birth came a heap of blood - about 500ml worth all over my legs and the floor.

The hospital midwife, Tash caught baby’s head and I grabbed the arm. Instantly we heard baby crying - a sound we were so grateful to hear. I quickly brought my blood covered baby to my chest. I asked ‘where is the blood coming from?’ and it was about 15-20 seconds before we remembered to check the gender (the cord was between the legs and it wasn’t obvious). “It’s a boy” said Chris. Our son. Finally. Having suffered from fertility issues and conceived eventually through IVF, we had wished for this baby for so many years.

I continued to bleed so we moved to the bed. One of our birth preferences was delayed cord clamping, and another was to use the injection for the placenta only if it was required.

My blood was pooling on the bed and it was not clear where it was coming from. It was suggested to give me the injection which I agreed to and still, due to the heavy bleeding, almost instantly (or so it felt) they suggested that the cord be cut and the placenta pulled out.

The cord by then had stopped pulsing and was white, it had been 14 minutes since the birth. We agreed and Chris was able to cut the cord.

The placenta was pulled from within me as I nursed our newborn son.

Before long a doctor arrived asking to assess me for any tearing. My blood stained legs and feet were raised into stirrups and it was found I had second degree tearing which could be stitched then and there - I agreed to this. I was stitched up while still being able to nurse our son and have skin-to-skin.

Our midwife Jo believes my waters did not break the night before and that it was instead a large bleed, as the way my baby was born suggested the amniotic sac burst at the same time as baby entered the world.

It appeared the bleeding was caused by a partial placental abruption but it was unclear when this first happened.

Overall we were elated with the arrival of our happy and healthy son, but the initial events while I was alone in the maternity ward were scary and left me feeling with minimum control.

I am so grateful for the knowledge and tools we received from the Hypnobirthing course, as well as the invaluable support from Jo at New Life Midwifery so that we were able to make informed decisions for the benefit of my body and our baby. I had trust that both would work together from the moment the induction was initially suggested (and declined) and that is what happened.

Mama Tash and Dad Chris

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