A Birth Story (with a twist) During A Pandemic

by Jemma Harvey-Jones

A Birth Story (with a twist): Our birth story for baby #3 who has not yet, and will not for some time (don’t panic Mr WMD), be conceived. What the actual? Read on, I haven’t lost the plot
(in association with Little Robins Hypnobirthing)

birth story

I launched What Mummy Does almost two months ago and I have been meaning to write a couple of posts documenting our birth stories ever since I began; it seems to be the ‘done’ thing after all. I just never seem to get around to it. So, with it being six months since the arrival of Baby F, I decided that today would be the day that I set out to tackle it once again. Trouble is, I don’t know if it is the brain-fog that descends soon after you leave the labour unit and seems to cloud your thought process for the foreseeable future – the one that is responsible for going from NEVER AGAIN, to BROODY AGAIN (surprisingly quickly) – or something else, but I still can’t seem to put it all on paper. Perhaps it’s that I don’t think I could do our stories justice? When it comes to recounting our time in hospital verbally, I get in a muddle. Take away the opportunity for gestures and facial expressions, I just don’t think I could express myself properly. Instead, I’ve decided to put a bit of twist on it all and compare them to what I hope will be my birth story if I am so lucky to persuade Mr WMD to allow us to have a third sometime in the future – there’s that brain-fog! I’ll try to include a comparison to our two previous deliveries and tell our story that way. Less pressure!

Leading To The Arrival Of Little M

Birth Story

So, there I was, pregnant.
 
Something I’d always longed for.
 
For the first trimester at least, I didn’t really think about anything other than the fact that I was growing a tiny human. To be honest, I didn’t really believe I deserved to be that happy, to be that blessed, so I thought something would go terribly wrong and everything would be spoilt. I lived in fear until my app told me that if my body didn’t do its job properly, my little bundle would be old enough to have a decent chance outside of the womb. (Looking back, I pretty much lived in fear until Little M was at least one).
 
By the time the third trimester came along, when we took our trips to NCT classes of a Monday evening, my thoughts were primarily directed towards getting some Mummy friends. We hardly live in the most cosmopolitan of areas; my school friends moved away long ago, my university friends are scattered over the country, well world actually, and my work friends weren’t in the same ‘place’ as me. Point being, the last thing on my mind for the most part of those 42 weeks was the actual labour. 
 
The more NCT classes we attended, the more I wanted to avoid thinking about that bit anyway. I don’t think countless viewings of One Born Every Minute, particularly helped with this. I couldn’t get my head around so much of it. I think I’m one of those people who learn from experiencing or doing something, like I have to drive somewhere myself to have any chance of remembering my way in the future, and obviously EVERYTHING was impossible to learn in this way. It seemed too much to contemplate, and of course there was THE FEAR, so I didn’t. This is not a criticism of our NCT sessions at all. Penny our leader was lovely and the classes were brilliant – I’d definitely recommend them. But I was deeply frightened and that couldn’t be changed, whatever anyone said or did. I was certain that if I could have one, I wanted a C-Section. I didn’t care about the recovery time. It was surely worth it to feel nothing? I’m a bit of baby when it comes to pain and I was convinced that my pain threshold is significantly lower than normal, so I was sure I wouldn’t cope. There was no way I was going about it ‘au naturel’.

One by one the babies came; the Facebook posts of many proud husbands announced that their wives were heroic in their efforts to deliver their offspring with just a smidge of gas to get them through. It didn’t inspire me, it just made me panic: My deadline was looming and I was starting to worry that no one was ‘offering’ me a section – there was no reason to after all. It’s not like I’m the pushy sort, so I’d never have the balls to force the issue, I didn’t even ask for one of the two rooms with the birthing pool at either of my births. One wasn’t offered so I simply let it go.
 
One of the girls in our class had planned a home birth and hypnobirthing was her choice for delivery. I’d heard her chatting to our leader about it over the weeks, borrowing books. I wrote it off as far too late in the game for me to delve into preparing myself for having anything to do with this this when producing a baby of my own.

I did open my mind a little and decided that I could quite fancy myself a water birth, although I wasn’t much impressed by the restrictions for managing the pain that this would mean. I felt comfortable and relaxed in the water – it was the only place I did. Read my post on Becoming a Baby and Preschool Swimming Teacher for how special I think the water is in pregnancy and beyond. As aforementioned, I didn’t, and still haven’t, managed to persuade my offspring to allow me to have this experience but here’s hoping for the future.
 
So onwards with the story… Little M arrived mid-heatwave, in May 2018. Despite my last-minute shopping to buy all the books (and not reading them), endlessly discussing the pregnancy, labour and motherhood of my friends, scouring the internet and attending NCT classes, I was, as you’ll have guessed, a woefully under prepared when the moment came.
 
Taking a break from the birth stories for a moment, I have now learnt a lesson… burying my head in the sand was no good. She was going to come out one way or another so I should have accepted it and let myself think more about it.

Whatever stage of pregnancy you’re at, it’s so important to think about, plan ahead and prepare for the birth. We live in a world where many people, [like me], think birth is something to be feared, something to dread or something that we just have to ‘put up with’ in order to meet our baby.

Charlotte Chaloner, founder, Little Robins Hypnobirthing
little robins hynobirthing

Honestly, if it weren’t for birth #2 I would have totally dismissed this sort of statement, but she’s got me listening.

little robins hypnobirthing

At Little Robins Hypnobirthing, we feel passionate about supporting you to have a positive birth experience. This is the day you are going to meet your baby! Let’s plan and prepare to make this special occasion the best it can be. 

Charlotte Chaloner, founder, Little Robins Hypnobirthing

Both of our deliveries were less than ideal, for very different reasons, but the birth of Little M had left me feeling very negative about labour, so I was not looking forward to Baby F’s eviction day.

I won’t give you all the ins and outs of Little M’s delivery as a normal birth story would, this post would become a book and I’m more interested in the future! But, in a nutshell: I wasn’t fully dilating, she was in distress. I had a temperature; she had a reduced heart rate. There were various other complications too. All of which lead to a very ‘medical’ birth. I was rushed into theatre, struggling (with all the equipment and wires tangled around me) to sign my consent for an emergency section, crying with the panic that I was going to die and not meet my baby. There I was, alone, waiting for Mr WMD, numb, on my back, bright lights bearing down on me, a room packed full of bodies all introducing themselves – so many names I couldn’t keep up – legs akimbo with what felt like one hundred people staring at my bits and pieces, only to tell me that the plan had changed. My worst nightmare – an emergency caesarean on hold now that I WAS dilated. ALL THE PAIN, only to have ALL THE DRUGS. A total loss of control on my part as I pushed without any sense of feeling; forceps and an episiotomy.
 
I’m a girl who likes to be in control. Whilst I never had a birth plan because I’d glossed over that part, pretending it wasn’t going to happen and hoping that if I did this it would go away, I didn’t bank on having NONE OF THE CONTROL. Casually telling everyone “What will be will be,” and “I don’t believe in birth plans, happy and healthy is all that matters however she comes,” to avoid confronting the matter left me with the shock of my life when it came to it.
 
What a fool.

Had I of taken ownership of what my body was going to go through like Lotty advises, instead of seeing it as something that was going to happen to me, had I of appreciated that instead of ignoring it I could have learnt:
 
• The basic physiology of birth
• How to release any fears you may associate with birth
• How to quickly and deeply relax using breathing techniques and deep relaxation
• How to promote the production of your birthing hormones
• How to prepare yourself to be better informed and in control of your birth
• How to involve your birth partner to support you in the best way
• The knowledge and power to navigate birth should you require intervention or assistance

And so much more…
 
That makes so much more sense than just hoping to ‘get through it’.
 
Lotty teaches The Little Birth Company (@thelittlebirthcompany) Hypnobirthing Programme and offers a variety of courses to suit the mother’s needs. She provides you with simple tools and techniques to support you wherever and however you choose to have your baby. It’s not a one fit approach and it’s not written in stone:

You will finish our course feeling confident to plan the best birth possible, to feel empowered to make informed decisions, and to be totally prepared should your journey to birth change at any point.

Charlotte Chaloner, founder, Little Robins Hypnobirthing

Yes please.

Leading To The Arrival Of Baby F

What Mummy Does Birth Story

So, what about Baby F?
 
Born during a pandemic, my anxiety over the whole thing was worse than ever. I was sent to work from home early on into my pregnancy and my fear of the virus kept me at home. We ordered click and collect shopping from local farm shops, bleached anything that entered the house and stayed away from everyone, even when some of the restrictions were lifted. I lost touch with the outside world, which only served to fan the flames of my fear. All we had to go on was the news and all I heard were the statistics.
 
Once again, my pregnancy wasn’t a particularly easy one; we ended up having to be monitored for reduced movement, monitored because she was breach, monitored for her growth, she had to be turned and checked, and checked again… Each scan, each trip to the midwife, each hospital visit filled me with dread; I had to go alone and risk getting Covid-19. I hated it. I hated finding out the gender alone, I hated being strapped to the monitors for hours with no one to talk to, I hated not seeing a smile behind the masks, I hated feeling breathless behind my own mask, I hated that I couldn’t even accept a glass of water for fear that it would be covered in virus droplets.
 
The silver lining that I saw in all of this however, was that it was looking like I was going to have to have a caesarean. After the ordeal of birth #1 I was genuinely thrilled at this possibility.  I’d struggled to feed Little M, I think partly because we were both so knocked by the trauma of the birth. She’d lost a huge amount of weight – we were lucky not to be admitted back to hospital. I struggled to bond with her too. Plus I was still so frightened by the way it all turned into an emergency so quickly. So when it was time to write the birth plan, I had all my hopes pinned on a section once more to avoid any of the stress; I wasn’t even bothering to think about an alternative… I got to within touching distance. A section would have meant knowing when it was going to happen, planning properly, having my partner by my side despite Covid restrictions (so many people were having babies and their partners weren’t getting there on time), no emergency, no trauma, no pain…

In reality I ended up with exactly what I didn’t want…
 
Having been given the option for a caesarean and pursuing this journey for some time with my midwife, when it came down to booking it with the consultant, I was swayed away from it.  At the time I blamed the hospital for pushing me to avoid a section and to go for the induction instead.  In some respects, they did do this. To be fair on them a section is major surgery so they were saving me from the recovery etc. but 6 months ago I just felt like they were being difficult with dates because of the costs to them. Silly, I know. My pregnancy brain isn’t the most rational. I think deep down I didn’t really want the section – of course I wanted to avoid the pain – but some part of me didn’t want to feel like I was cheating. That’s not to say that I think that anyone having a section, for whatever their reason, is cheating – it’s personal choice and that’s absolutely as it should be – but I felt like I was. I guess I felt that because it was unnecessary and purely based on my own anxiety, fears (which were really not extreme) and comfort, I didn’t need it. I find it hard to explain my mindset, I’ll just end up going round in circles, chasing my tail and wouldn’t ever wish to cause anyone offence so we’ll leave it there. Whatever works for you, you should absolutely do – IT IS PERSONAL.
 
Anyway… it came to induction day and of course, being September the Women’s Health Unit was rammed. I waved goodbye to my partner in the carpark and hauled my stuff upstairs alone.

I sat and waited. And waited. Sitting on the hard chair, mask on, bags by my feet, barely anyone around. Eventually a midwife came by to apologise for the delay, they were extremely busy, and told me they’d be back for me soon. I could see my partner sitting in the car in the car park. He’d insisted on waiting for me since Little M was safely stowed away at my parents. I felt like it was a bit ridiculous since we hadn’t even got started yet. Whatever I texted, he wouldn’t shift though. Eventually, over an hour later, I was taken through the double doors into the birthing centre. Where I was sent to another waiting station. This time it was the family room; a room filled with sofas and toys, usually reserved for visitors but given the pandemic barely touched. There was a new mum face-timing her family with her newborn and I sat uncomfortable about the fact that I had a mask on, implying I was unsafe.  Awkward. I didn’t get to take my mask off until all the paperwork was in order to decree that I was an inpatient.
 
A little time later I was collected, midwife explaining how busy they were (I know September is a busy time but it wasn’t quite September and they did seem VERY busy) and taken to a private room – a birthing suite – where I was monitored and the process began. After an hour and a bit, I was given my pessary (two hours later than originally planned) and put back on to the monitor for a little longer. I was given my hospital bands and was finally able to take my mask off.
 
At lunch time I was sent to get myself some lunch. I raced down knowing from experience how quickly they run out of the jacket potatoes and the best deserts. I wasn’t prepared for quite how busy the centre was – they were running out of food altogether, never mind the good stuff, and all of the seats were taken by groups of women bonding over their little ones.  I scuttled back to my private room to eat alone, scrubbing my hands with antibacterial gel ferociously since I was more paranoid than ever.
 
More waiting – there were no beds available on the wards, it really was very busy and they were understaffed – and eventually I was taken through. Someone else must have popped.
 
I met my roomie, a woman 10 years my junior, who had been induced 2 hours earlier and settled down.

Interestingly enough, at this point I was allowed to go outside and see Mr WMD for as long as I wanted. I didn’t think this made particular sense given the covid test I’d had the day before and all the other precautions that I’d been through up until now, but there you go. I did pop out briefly to take him some goodies, but it wasn’t exactly much fun to sit cramped up in the car.  I waddled back up to the ward to work my way through my own snacks (although I was silly and didn’t open much because I didn’t want to wake my roomie and I was worried about getting through them too fast which was a joke since I took SO MUCH), whilst he watched the football on his phone. By the evening there was still no sign of Baby. Again, I tried to send Mr WMD home but he wouldn’t go. I felt incredibly guilty about it! It got to 10.45pm and the midwife phoned him to tell him to go in the end. She would be checking me again at midnight and we would update him.
 
I was starting to get a real sense of just how busy and stretched the staff were by 12.30. Both my roomie and I were supposed to have had our checks, hers an hour before mine, but no one had come to see us. Eventually a midwife stopped by to see her and said she’d be back for me ASAP. I was given some paracetamol to manage a dull pain. We were both shattered so we tried to get to sleep. The midwife came back at 1.00 and asked if I wanted a check or not – they’d had a couple of births in the unit, the women hadn’t made is over to the labour ward and their husbands hadn’t made it in time either. Just what I dreaded. I couldn’t do it alone. I definitely wanted to be checked. Trouble is when they give you a pessary they don’t do checks ‘down there’ so it didn’t do much good, I still didn’t know if I was 4cm dilated and therefore able to have Mr WMD by my side yet.
 
I went for a wee before trying to get back to sleep but as I went my pessary fell out. I buzzed for the midwife and she inserted a new one. I tried to call Mr WMD to let him know but no answer. He’s a very heavy sleeper. My anxiety levels went up another notch.

At 5am the midwife returned. It was my roomie’s turn to be checked again.
Whilst she was in with us, I was offered some more pain relief, which I accepted as I was keen to get some sleep – I had been pacing the halls for hours unable to sleep with the pain and due to the snoring of my roomie. She was so loud that I had recorded her. I phoned Mr WMD to update him and fell back asleep, a little more comfortable, until 6.45.
 
By 7 we were starving and although she could have had her breakfast brought to the room due to her hip problems, my roomie and I ventured down the corridor to be the first in line for tea and toast. Three quarters of the way there and I collapsed against the wall with sudden agonising pains in my stomach. Then they vanished. I managed to make it the rest of the way and guzzled some orange juice.  I couldn’t get enough. It still hadn’t clicked that this mean labour. Then the pain kicked in again. It took my breath away and made me sick. A cleaner went and found a midwife who came to me with a wheelchair to take me back to my bed.

It’s all a bit of a blur after that… I climbed back on to the bed, contractions (still not getting it!) thick and fast. I was told a midwife would be back and was left alone. Next thing I knew, my roomie arrived back from breakfast – it must have been quite some time later as she really couldn’t move fast. I was in floods of tears with the pain, throwing up all over myself. She buzzed for help and held my hand despite the mess, despite me beating her to labour!
 
Eventually a member of the labour ward came in to see me. She explained that the birthing was so busy, so understaffed, that they were having to share staff between all units to cover the load. She said there were 3 women ahead of me and no beds available?! Like I could wait in a queue! Off she went again to check my notes. She was gone an age, leaving my roomie and I alone. The pain was worsening and I felt like I had to poo. Like there was something between my legs. I was convinced I Was about to burst. Again, my roomie buzzed for help. Back she came, explaining that she had been collecting the notes for three of us to do a handover. I felt like no one could see the urgency of my situation and begged for them to check me. The midwife asked me to climb off the bed, into the wheelchair to go to a private room for an examination. I tried to explain that I didn’t have time to go somewhere else and couldn’t fathom how I would get off the bed into a wheelchair given how I felt in my nether regions. Luckily another midwife came in and suggested that they take me straight to the labour ward. On the bed.

At this point it started to click: I was about to have this baby. As they raced me across the corridor I asked if I could call my partner. They agreed… and left me thinking how I couldn’t believe that no one had told me I could before this point.  I couldn’t get hold of him. I started to cry. I called my mum asking where he was. He had left the house at 5.30 after my previous call thankfully. I screamed down the phone to get hold of him and to tell him I was going to labour. Worrying that she wouldn’t understand that this meant I was going to the ward NOT just going into labour. I kept calling him too and eventually got hold of him. He’d been for a walk around the hospital; no signal apparently! I screamed at him to get to me, that the baby was coming. He made it with 12 minutes to spare.

As for the actual birth bit… picture me asking for an epidural and them saying it was too late for anything other gas and air; I was not amused and made it known. Last time I’d had that it made me sick, but I was desperate. Thankfully it worked and made a difference. Despite me telling them repeatedly that I couldn’t do it and they’d simply have to find an alternative way to get it out because I had no intention of doing it like this, I managed to push her out! There was one brief moment where Mr WMD had his turn to swear at me – frightened when between contractions I had stopped pushing and that Baby F was half in, half out at a very awkward angle – but all was well in the end. I can’t tell you how proud I was of myself. I did that. I went through most of the labour on my own. I was superwoman. I managed with only gas and air. And it didn’t make me sick this time, it was quite nice in fact! It’s this feeling of total elation, that I’ve never felt anything close to before, that has made me realise that next time I will plan to give birth, calmly, naturally, positively.
 
Post-birth, things got very medical AGAIN when the placenta got stuck and had to be manually manipulated out in theatre. I’m not going to lie, this was pretty horrific; I ended up away from my baby, in THAT room AGAIN with all the bright lights AGAIN and lots of unfamiliar faces AGAIN (all wearing masks this time). It was unplanned AGAIN, I had to have a spinal AGAIN so I felt like I’d gone through all that pain for nothing AGAIN. But it didn’t take away that feeling of wonder at my own body.

So next time around… the plan is TO PLAN! I won’t ignore it all. I won’t shy away from it.  I shall not be trapped by my fear, too afraid to plan, too afraid to consider anything other than NOT FEELING A THING… I can do this.
If I’m still on Cloud 9 about my achievement this time, then I will definitely give hypnobirthing a bash next time. This comes from a sceptic – someone who in the past has envisioned chanting and tie-dye – when in actual fact, I see now that it’s all about making every birth as positive as possible. This goes for every type of birth too – including induction and c-section – it’s not all about drug-free water births, although I’m definitely keen to fulfil this dream.  I truly believe that hypnobirthing would give me the calmness and confidence I crave, the control I’m desperate for.

If you’re not yet convinced about hypnobirthing or simply want to know a little more, I cannot praise Lotty at Little Robin’s Hypnobirthing highly enough.  Get in touch with her for a chat – she’s one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met; she’ll put you completely at ease and nothing is too much trouble! Got questions? She’ll answer them. PLUS, silver lining to Covid, she now teaches worldwide!
 
If you need convincing , here’s a little more information about Little Robin’s Hypnobirthing, Lotty and her birth…

hypnobirthing devon cornwall

“I’m Lotty – a fully qualified hypnobirthing instructor with The Little Birth Company and proud founder of Little Robins Hypnobirthing. I am mummy to my little girl Elsie and live with her in Plymouth, Devon with my husband Chris.

I first discovered the world of hypnobirthing when I was pregnant with Elsie. If I’m honest, I was a little sceptical at first, mainly because I had it engrained in me that birth was destined to be this traumatic and painful experience portrayed on TV or from well-meaning friends sharing their often negative birth stories. I also thought that hypnobirthing was some sort of eccentric magic that wouldn’t float my boat. I quickly realised how wrong I was. I was genuinely blown away with how much hypnobirthing just made total sense.

Hypnobirthing is logical and evidence-based. It focuses on the understanding of how best to maximise your body’s ability to do what it was made to do. Nature made women to conceive, grow and release a baby. Your body knows exactly how to do this. What often interferes with this is our mind. Hypnobirthing is all about allowing our conscious mind to quieten down, to release any fears, and to look at birth as an enjoyable yet powerful process. Where and how you give birth does not matter. What matters is knowing that you have the knowledge and understanding of how birth works, and knowing that you have choices with which to make informed decisions to best suit you and your baby.

I gave birth to Elsie using hypnobirthing in the middle of the Covid pandemic. I had planned a home birth but my plans changed dramatically during my labour. I had set the house up with twinkly lights, nice music, birthing pool etc. but after a long time of labouring at home, I ended up giving birth in a hospital theatre with an epidural and forceps. Yet, I still had a positive and calm birth experience. It wasn’t how I had planned, but I was able to make informed decisions and felt totally calm and in control thanks to the hypnobirthing tools I had in my bag.

As I now reflect upon my whole birth experience, I feel so grateful for not only exploring the world of hypnobirthing but for giving it a chance and putting my scepticism aside. It has changed my whole life and I can’t wait to share my passion with other women. I feel like every single pregnant woman needs to know about it!

Charlotte Chaloner, founder, Little Robins Hypnobirthing

At Little Robins Hypnobirthing, they offer several courses to suit all women’s needs. At the time of publishing this post, these are all currently running via Zoom – silver lining being that although Lotty is based in Plymouth, Devon, she has adapted to teach worldwide.

These courses include:
·      A Complete Hypnobirthing Course either 1-1 or in groups of up to 6.
·      A workshop which is a condensed version of the complete course
·      A caesarean workshop aimed at people who are planning to have an elective Caesarean. Prices start at £120.

So there it is; our birth stories and my hopes for next time round. Lotty, Im looking forward to going on that journey with you if Im blessed enough to have another tiny human in a couple of years. Fingers crossed!

Whatever happens though, look at these three beauties that we made…
(1 and 2 – My girls Little M and Baby F, 3 – Lotty’s little girl Baby E)

I have not been paid for this post. I am sharing because I genuinely believe that Lotty will give me a birth experience that I will remember fondly forever (and which will drown out the memory of the 10cm strike of Little M and the swearing of Baby F). She’s felt how I feel. Remarkably, she’s been through what I’ve been through. I’ve not known her for years, she’s not one of my closest friends or anything like that but I trust her, completely.
 
For more information visit the website, email or see @littlerobinshypnobirthing on Facebook and Instagram. 

Contact Lotty:

Email: hello@littlerobinshypnobirthing.co.uk
Social media: @littlerobinshypnobirthing

All that is left is for me to wish you GOOD LUCK on your journey

Thanks for reading! If you’ve enjoyed this post, we’d love for you to follow our adventures on our social media channels or become part of our family by subscribing at
www.whatmummydoes.co.uk
SHARING IS CARING

xxx

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