My third pregnancy was an emotional one – my son was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect and suspected oseophageal atresia so we lurched from doctor to doctor and from hope to hell. My hopes for a third homebirth were crushed, although my lovely consultant did say that although he wouldn’t advise it, I could if I wanted to but I needed hope and that lay with birthing in hospital and being near the doctors and the equipment that could try to save my baby’s life.
After one of my weekly scans with my consultant, when I was 36 weeks pregnant, he said he thought I was in very early labour and doubted he would see me for our next appointment – and he was right. I didn’t want to give birth on my eldest daughter’s birthday or during her Saturday party, even though I was having mild, regular contractions throughout. On the Sunday I slept alot and on the Monday I woke up at 5am and felt like it was a good day to have a baby. Twenty minutes later my waters broke with a gush – I also had polyhydramnios (excessive amniotic fluid) – so I ended up standing in the bath while I worked out what to do. A friend swooped in to get the girls until their grandparents arrived and I left in an ambulance – because my baby was high in my pelvis and because of the fluid, there was a greater chance of cord prolapse and my consultant had already suggested an ambulance was the right thing to do in this scenario.
Getting to the RVI from North Shields in 7 minutes was an experience and once there I was taken straight to a delivery suite. My baby was monitored and his heartbeat was fine – I had a great midwife who fought my corner and encouraged me to do what felt right, although I was told that I wouldn’t be able to use the pool. I wasn’t really having many contractions by this point and my midwife encouraged me to stay off the bed, to use the birth we have brought in with us and to stand/sit as I wanted to and my baby was continuously monitored throughout.
Eventually my contractions kicked in but they took a while to feel like they were doing anything. At one point there was a flurry of doctors in the room, all talking at me, some continued during contractions – which thoroughly pissed me off. At 8.30am I was told by one of the obstetricians that if I wasn’t contracting well within 4 hours I would be put on a drip to bring on my contractions. That also pissed me off. Thankfully I was able to use my breathing to give me some headspace, to give myself a good talking to and to connect with my baby.
I don’t remember feeling emotional during my labour, even though I knew there was a huge chance my baby would be very poorly when he was here. But my instinct told me he was ok during the contractions. Eventually my contractions became strong and close together, there was barely a pause inbetween and there was panic in the corner of the room because my baby’s heartbeat did start to slow. Looking back it was because I was starting to push but, as I had only been 3cm dilated 10 minutes previously, nobody thought labour had moved along that quickly. There was talk of a c-section and then I started to make that low sound that only a woman in labour can make, I was checked by a student midwife who confirmed that baby’s head was almost born.
The consultant rushed over and ordered me on the bed but I refused, I was ok where I was. I gave birth standing up and leaning against the bed. The room was full of people and I didn’t get to see my boy for more than a few seconds. He was taken straight to Special Care with my husband and I was on my own. Then I panicked and felt frightened and vulnerable. My placenta refused to budge so I had to be taken to theatre to have it manually removed by an obstetrician. Not the best experience of my life and I cried a lot, mainly because I was scared and on my own. Nobody really spoke to me or comforted me and I do remember this as being traumatic because I was so frightened – some caring words and human contact would have made a huge amount of difference.
I stayed in recovery on my own for quite a while as well because my husband was with our baby. Very surreal, isolating and confusing and I only felt better when my husband came back to be with me and then to take me to see our son before his first surgery.
The postnatal ward was so much better – I was given my own room and my husband was able to stay with me. One of the midwives was so very lovely and made sure we were ok. At about 2am, after his first surgery, we were given an update on Jamie and both doctors said to get some rest and to go and see our son in the morning. But we needed to see him. As soon as the doctors had gone, the midwife fetched a wheelchair so I could be taken down to see the boy because she knew we would need to.
Giving birth in a hospital was a very different experience and it made me see firsthand how births could turn out so differently depending on what support a woman has. It was still a very positive experience, although it was emotional and hard in so many ways. I was supported and looked after by some brilliant midwives and they made a huge difference to my experience. I also needed the support of my husband more during this birth, he made me feel safe and he helped to keep me calm, especially when Jamie’s heartbeat dipped right at the end.
The support and care from the medical staff continued after we left maternity and Jamie was transferred to The Freeman for heart surgery. The nurses and doctors we encountered looked after us and our son – they found us food and a bed after Jamie was transferred at midnight, they communicated clearly and were honest with their information. Our boy died during heart surgery when he was three days old but, on the whole, our care was so positive that we have such good memories of such an emotional and difficult time.