Birth Story Of The Week – Ali and Effie

Today’s birth story is very special because I was the midwife. Not that I have favourite births that I’ve attended but this is certainly up there. I’ll never forget watching my friend birth her baby girl. Thank you Ali for sharing.
Twiiter: @ alienoretcorwin
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This is the story of my second birth. I wanted to write this for Clemmie’s blog as Clemmie was our midwife, and those of you who have had babies will know how much a midwife touches your life, how you will never forget them. I met Clemmie virtually on Twitter and then we met in real life before Clemmie joined the team of midwives I was with and got assigned to me, so we were becoming friends as my pregnancy was progressing which was really quite special.
I feel very lucky to be writing this story, what I think is a beautiful birth story. I had a very straight forward pregnancy and my first baby was born at home and so I had planned another home birth for my second.
I knew Effie was going to be born on the spring equinox, it’s my grandma’s birthday and was a week after my due date, and I was right! My birth started in that classic move style way of my waters breaking. It was about 6am, I was lying in bed when all of a sudden there was water gushing out, I did that classic pregnant woman thing of worrying I was pissing myself so quickly jumped out of bed but it was pretty obvious it was my waters going. All I could remember was the midwives telling me to put a pad in if my waters broke to check the colour so I was pointing my husband in the right direction to find a pad, but when he finally presented me with it, I quickly realised I needed a bath towel rather than a panty liner!
Pretty soon after that the contractions started to come and my husband started to get things ready. I woke my mum up who was staying with us to take care of my son then I went and knelt by my bed whilst the contractions built. Shortly after that my husband came to check on me and I was already asking to call Clemmie. Within 15 mins or so Clemmie was with us and as soon as she walked in the door I threw up. During my first labour I had vomited for 8 hours straight and so had some anti-nausea drugs ready, Clemmie’s first job was to jab me in the bum!
I remember my husband putting the Tens machine on me but walking out of the room before telling me how to use it but I didn’t want to turn it on anyway, all I wanted was to get in the pool so as soon as was possible I got in and ran the warm water coming out of the hose down my back.
I was in the sitting room at this point and I could hear my son and my mum having breakfast in the kitchen but I couldn’t focus and asked my husband to chuck them out, I needed the peace that a two year old can’t give! I can’t really re-call every detail and I’m sure you don’t want me to but it felt like things were progressing pretty quickly, I continued to vomit a bit but nothing on the scale of my first labour so I was fine with it. The second midwife arrived (who was my first midwife at my son’s birth!) and I started feeling like I needed to push. I pushed with each contraction for a little while but nothing seemed to be happening so at that point I was examined but was I wasn’t fully dilated so Clemmie and Erika (the second midwife) told me to stop and relax a little in the pool.
I remember the next hour or so in a slightly bizarre way, I could see the midwives sitting on my sofa chatting, writing notes, eating. I don’t think I spoke at all, the pain had lessened but my contractions were still strong and regular. I clutched a sick bowl for comfort and told my husband to change the music (although I can’t tell you what we were listening to). Then after a while I felt the baby move, it felt like a huge movement and pretty suddenly the baby was definitely bearing down and I needed to push, Clemmie checked me again and I was fully dilated so I started to push. I think during my first labour I was pretty out of it by the time my son arrived, I’d been so sick and was on a drip and was pretty tired that I didn’t feel him come down or crown at all. This time it was different though, each contraction I could feel my baby move down, I knew when she was close and could feel the sting as she crowned. I could see her head when it was delivered and when she came out it was a pretty magical seeing her be born. There was a split second when she was out in the water before Clemmie reminded me to catch her and then she was up, straight onto my chest.
We didn’t know what sex we were having, and we had a boy already, but although I craved a girl, I know we would have been happy either way, once they are born and in your arms crying and pink you can’t care, you are just so happy they are healthy. After gazing into my babies beautiful eyes for a while Clemmie asked what we had, no one had seen yet, so I lifted her up and I have to admit my heart leapt when I saw she was a girl, it had all been too perfect.
I think I read in my notes that it was five minutes before I delivered the placenta, it was certainly quick, I was still in the pool holding the baby when I felt a contraction, so with the next I pushed and the placenta was delivered. Clemmie caught the placenta which was still attached to the baby!
After that, I remember the midwives had made me a path of those bed mat things to the sofa and they walked me over to it, and wrapped me up with my baby in a big bundle of towels and blankets. And that is where Effie first fed and we lay there together for hours, chatting to the midwives, eating toast and drinking gallons of water. It felt so natural and normal chatting to my new friend and my husband in our sitting room with our little addition, who was very tranquil and happy, just to be wrapped up against my chest. A few hours later my mum came home with our son and life continued as normal, Effie arrived in our home in such a natural way, it was as if she was always part of our family.
So five hours and with no pain relief, it really was such a lovely and calm birth. I am very very lucky to have had such great midwives, such a wonderful service to allow women to have babies at home, it made a massive difference to me being that relaxed and comfortable and I’m sure it wouldn’t have been the case for me if I’d have been in a hospital setting.


new parents

A while back I was seeing one of my women on day 3 postnatal.  She had a forceps delivery after a long old labour and was feeling rather shattered. Feeding wasn’t going well; her baby was very irritable due to the delivery and he wasn’t latching on and her nipples were cracked and bleeding. And to top it all off her perineum was incredibly sore and could barely sit down, lie down, manoeuvre herself to the bathroom. You get it she was in a bad way. But one thing really struck me about the scene I was witnessing. The people in her home.

Her parents were there. Her Mum, trying to be helpful getting extra cushions to support her when trying to feed her screaming baby. Her father hiding in the kitchen not really wanting to hear his daughter discuss her sore bottom and bleeding. Her sister, sister’s husband and 2 young nieces hovering in the living room ‘just wanting one photo of the girls with their new cousin to send to Granny’. And her brother who had driven all the way from Newcastle but won’t stay long, just wants a little peek at his new nephew. All in all there were waaaaay too many people in her small terraced house. It got me thinking. Who is really benefiting from all these family members being there? The 3 day old irritable hungry baby certainly didn’t need those extra hands touching his sore little head. Her husband was feeling undermined by his wife’s slightly overbearing Mother making annoying comments like ‘What he needs is a good walk in his pram’. And what about the woman, the centre of all of this bravado! She was a hormonal mess unable to express how she really felt, not wanting to push people away so she let all her family members bombard her. *

So what is the right thing to do when hundreds of friends and family are desperate to come over and see you and your new baby? How can you manage the endless texts and phone calls?  Rachel from When The Baby Sleeps  shares her experiences and tips when visiting new parents.

Visiting new parents is a minefield, and if you’re not careful you can really mess it up. You can leave traumatised by a gory birth story, riddled with guilt because you took totally the wrong things or, worst of all, blissfully unaware of the havoc you have wreaked. Becoming a parent for me meant apologising to my friends-with-kids. Primarily because on that first visit to meet their firstborns I had no idea. I mean I didn’t rock up with wine breath or anything crazy like that.. but you know, I just didn’t quite know how to behave. But I do now. Here’s how:

Take food.
Take food.
Take food. Yes, it’s that important that it gets three mentions. Take a staple, take a luxury, take something that can be stuffed in your gob while your friend does three things at once. Don’t text asking what they need and expect an honest answer. Just turn up with some stuff. It will be cherished. Seriously, you remember the bread & milk gifts as clearly as the cool gifts for baby. I learned quite quickly that if you take food, essentially, you rock.
Don’t stay too long. Now one person’s too long is another person’s warm up, right? But when it comes to new parent visits, limit yourself to 45 minutes to one hour absolute maximum. Unless you’re throwing in a bit of cleaning/putting out the rubbish/taking the baby out type activity as a bonus (see next point), which earns you an extra 15 minutes. Energy is limited and there’s a hit-by-a-bus vibe in the air for a good couple of months so be mindful and vigilant. Even if you catch parents on a good afternoon it is highly likely they will wave you goodbye and then quite literally want to lie down on the floor with exhaustion. Most parents will generally be too polite to say ‘please fuck off I’ve started to hallucinate again.’ Pay heed.
Be Helpful. Depending on the closeness of the friendship ‘helpful’ can range from rinsing out your own tea cups to doing a full clean of the kitchen or putting out the rubbish. Make it your mission to do something and do your utmost to ensure it gets done and not rebuffed in a brilliant show of English awkwardness. Offer specific tasks and embrace them with aplomb and beaming. You may have to literally shoo your visitees back to their seats and kidnap the washing up until its ass is wiped, but it will be worth any awkwardness. Definitely offer to take the baby out for a walk if they’re passed the ‘DON’T LET THE BABY OUT OF MY SIGHT!’ phase. 
Listen, but not too hard. If you visit in the first month then you’ll probably hit the ‘birth story’ phase. There will be details extraneous, things you don’t understand and the couple will almost certainly disagree or argue over some aspect of what happened and in what order. We couldn’t agree on specifically which swears I’d invoked at one key moment (I swear it was ‘ow, ow, fucky fucky ow ow’ but apparently I wasn’t this coherent.) Nod, pay attention but do feel free to drift off a little if anyone mentions something a bit too gross, particularly if you’re planning on procreating yourself. A well placed ‘hmmm’, ‘ouch’, ‘oh wow’ should cover you. And remember, it’s all part of the fun. 
Don’t take flowers. Yes, flowers are lovely to look at, but remembering to tend to them and throw them away before they die isn’t easy. When you’re prostrate, low on energy and riddled with hormones then the changing of the flower water just doesn’t happen. Said flowers become rank quite quickly, and soon your living room resembles a flower mortuary. The flowers’ rapidly decaying visage becomes a direct representation of your utter failure as a mother and member of the human race and circa 3am they haunt and disturb you as you navigate your new life feeling as vulnerable and weak as the shadows they cast. Don’t put anyone through that, alright?
Don’t take alcohol. Again, booze is all fine and dandy but it’s just not on the agenda for new parents. That bottle of plonk, while a lovely way to celebrate what is essentially the happiest event in your life, will instead come to resemble either your past, carefree life of grog and gayness, or the future that you know lies ahead of you but just seems so far away. There will be a time in the not-so-distant future when you will wear clothes, go about your business at normal hours of the day and then sit down, like a grownup, and have an alcoholic drink, but in the early days such activities seem baffling and unlikely. So give it a rest would you?
Be careful what you talk about. I met a brilliant mum of twins who told a harrowing story about some guests who spent 10 minutes decrying the difficulty of tracking down a particular size of Brabantia bin liner and their epic quest to get hold of said bin liner on a particularly hectic Saturday morning shopping trip. Six years down the line she remembered this event in excruciating detail, so painful and galling had it been. Poor, brave soul. Another friend spits bile whenever she recounts how a colleague turned up with a ton of office ‘news’ when she was still on Day 7 confusion. Don’t rock up with a load of office gossip or woeful tale about sourcing Brabantia products and expect anyone to give a shit, is essentially my advice here. 
Don’t panic. You may be freaked out by the state of your friend, now he or she has crossed the divide and become one of them. Please don’t panic. Your friend will return, even if in a slightly different, stranger format. 

On that first visit you may see and hear strange things. You may catch glance of your first nipple shield, pumping device or god forbid a maternity pad. For this we can only apologise. Your friend may say things that are utterly unforgivable  totally batshit crazy and she or he may not even pretend to listen to a word you say. They may tell you to wash your hands every five minutes or even ‘shush’ you particularly harshly if you have a barking kind of laugh… all of these things are normal, I’m afraid. And they too shall pass.

And that, dear reader, is it. Easy. You can thank me later.

Trouble is that now I have to take a toddler with me when I go visit new parents and that’s a whole other minefield. All advice welcome before I make a total hash of it…

*This is a fictitious story of a senario and was used as an example to describe an event. No persons mentioned are real.*

Birth Story Of The Week – Chloe and Rory

I’m back! It’s a funny old thing having no internet. On one hand being totally cut off from Instagram, Twitter and checking the Showbiz section of the Daily Mail online (oh come on I know you all do too!) is quite liberating. But on the other hand you don’t realise how much you use the internet for searching pretty much everything. We’ve just moved into our new house. Yup we are home owners for the first time, totally broke, totally clueless and too nervous to hang a single picture just in case it cracks the wall. But feeling a little uninspired creatively I felt lost without Pinterest and it was almost impossible ordering a new washing machine without going online. Even when Sky failed to turn up to install the rooter and phone line they suggested tracking our progress……….online! See impossible. And of course there was no Birth Story Of The Week last Monday. But alas! Here is today’s wonderful story from Chloe who’s blog is so beautiful I have serious photo envy, but then she is a photographer. I feel a bit connected to Chloe’s birth as I gave her my old birthing pool to use in labour.

Blog: Sorry About The Mess

Twitter: khloeee



I wake up on a gloomy May morning, three days past my due date, and for some reason I am in denial that I am in labour. I have been having irregular contractions since this time yesterday, and as I wave Sam off to work, I remain oblivious to the fact that they are becoming a lot more regular.
The sweep I had 48 hours ago couldn’t possibly be responsible for this. I have been warned so many times that second labours can often be slow to get going, that it’s often very stop/start, that the latent phase can last longer. So, the birth pool remains deflated in its bag, toddler overnight bags remain unpacked, and plans for the day are made.
All of a sudden, everything is hazy. The contractions are coming on top of each other, and I know that this is definitely happening. Sam has been at work for just half an hour, and I need to call him to come home. It takes him probably 45 minutes, during which time I call him every five minutes because I can’t remember how long he said he’d be. I call my midwife. No one is here (the toddler doesn’t count!) and I can’t focus on managing the contractions. I feel panicky, dizzy, and sick.
Our midwife arrives. Sam is busy dismantling our dining table to make room for the pool, inflating the pool, putting sheets on the floor, etc. I am 4cm and disappointed. The contractions had been so intense and everyone tells me that second labours are quicker, I was hoping to be told I didn’t have long to go.
The hours pass in cycles of pacing, squatting, and moaning about how long it’s going to take. I am 7cm dilated. The midwives inform me that this is not as much progress as they would typically expect for a second labour. There is talk of breaking my waters if I’ve not progressed much further in the next two hours.
I am definitely reaching my “I’m too tired to keep doing this” point. I am reluctant to start on the gas and air (it became somewhat of a crutch during my first labour), but I still have the pool to try.
With Arlo, the pool had made me feel hot and faint, and due to having hard sides and base, it wasn’t all that comfortable. This time is a completely different experience. I’m not too hot, and an inflatable pool is so much more comfortable. Contractions seem to slow a bit in the pool and not last as long, but I am so much more comfortable that I really don’t care. In fact, I become a bit scared to leave the pool and face strong contractions again. But it is time for another examination.
I am 9cm and everyone is happy. We decide there is no need to break my waters at this stage.
Knowing I am almost there, I have a new-found sense of optimism and enthusiasm to keep going. This is probably the most relaxing part of the whole labour. I am happy, chatting and joking with Sam and the midwives (our second midwife had arrived by that point), thinking “it is amazing that I am so lucid and ‘with it’ at this stage during labour”. Not having gas and air really made a difference for me and I remember everything so much more clearly than with Arlo’s labour.
I seem to cope so much better with this transition phase of labour than with the earlier stages. 4-8cm has definitely felt like the hardest point during both of my labours. I don’t know whether it’s the boost from knowing it won’t be long, or the fact that during 8cm-10cm my contractions slow a bit, giving me more of a break between each one. But with both labours I’ve found that stage to be a quieter, almost relaxed time.
Why am I still here?? Why am I not feeling at all ‘pushy’ yet?? Despite being ‘almost there’ two hours ago, the baby is posterior, and needs a little longer to get his head in the right position to get past that last lip of cervix in order to be born.
Contrary to what I was told during Arlo’s labour, this time the midwives don’t think there is a problem with me seeing what happens if I push despite not yet feeling those uncontrollable urges. They say that some women find they need to push to help the cervix open up that last bit. Just as with my first labour, it seems that we are just waiting for my waters to break and then we’ll be straight into the second stage.
I decide to see what will happen if I really push with the next contraction. I feel a pop. My waters. From then it is very quick. The midwives are not able to see a head at all, then suddenly the head is being born.
The head is out, but nothing is budging with the next contraction. I move from my crouching position onto all fours for the next contraction, but still nothing. Everyone springs into action very quickly and I know I need to listen to the midwives and do everything they say at this point. I get out of the pool (with a head between my legs!) and am told to lie flat on my back. Sam is at my head and the midwives are holding my legs up to my chest. I push with all I have for the next contraction. I think there is one more contraction before things start moving and the midwives can help pull his body out.
Born in the doorway between our kitchen and dining room, I catch that first glimpse of my baby as the midwife lifts him up and onto my chest. He is a boy, and he is much bigger than we were expecting (9lbs 4oz). Now it makes sense that it was a bit tricky to push out his chunky shoulders!
I would have loved to have had the whole waterbirth experience and ‘caught’ my baby myself. Or at least to have been able to see him being born. I also didn’t get to to the nice bit and have our first night together at home in our own bed, as we had to transfer to hospital shortly after his birth due to meconium in the waters – they wanted him to have 4 hourly obs in case of infection (he was fine in the end).
But labouring at home was completely the right thing for me, and it made such a difference. I’m really happy with the way Rory’s birth went, and how I managed the pain. Half way through my labour I do remember having a little chuckle at myself for being so silly to think that perhaps the pain would be different or easier because I was at home – the pain is exactly the same, hospital or no hospital. But being in my own surroundings definitely helped me feel more grounded and in control of my labour.
There is a definite sense of achievement that comes with giving birth in your own house… that ‘I can do anything’ feeling. But most of all, it’s lovely to have the daily reminders of welcoming Rory into the world under our own roof. Every day, I walk through the doorway where we became a family of four.

Preparing For Antenatal Classes

Things have moved on a bit since the 1940's

Things have moved on a bit since the 1940’s

Like most first time pregnant women, you’re probably feeling slightly clueless about what you are embarking on in preparation for the labour and birth. Friends, family members, colleagues and the lady in the supermarket will all be telling you their horror birth stories just to get you feeling really relaxed and stressed free about the pain. And by the time you’re showing, every hand will be touching your bump telling you what you should and shouldn’t be doing. Not so helpful.

Antenatal classes are aimed at any pregnant woman and her partner from around 34 weeks. This is the optimum time in pregnancy as it gives you enough time to focus and remember the keys bits, but not too far away for you to forget everything the minute you feel your first contraction. There are a rang of classes you can sign up to, both free on the NHS and private. Some are broken up in 4-6 sessions and some are held over a weekend. The most popular are the NCT classes which you attend in your local area usually at the teachers home or near by church hall. On average between 4 and 8 couples attend the classes and they are held in the evenings to allow couples to fit it in their work schedules.

There are however, many other private antenatal classes so it’s worth finding out about all your options in your area. Speak to friends who have had babies and get an idea of what to expect and how they found them useful. Your midwife will be able to tell you about the free classes your local hospital offer which are usually held in the hospital setting. These are sometimes bigger than the the private classes and less intimate but you will still receive the same up to date information.

Here are my top tips for preparing for your classes.

  • Try to remember that these classes are aimed at parents-to-be to find out about labour and birth. You can’t possibly learn everything in 6 sessions so doing some evening reading will go a long way
  • Don’t be nervous or shy about asking a question in the group. For all you know the girl sitting next to you may also have no idea what ‘cervical dilation’ means but is too embarrassed to ask. Your teacher will be approachable and be able to answer all your questions
  • Find out all your options and just don’t just accept that what a doctor recommends you do may be the best option for you and your baby
  • Get your birth partner on board. Make him or her swot up too. When you’re in labour you need them to be your advocate, contractions don’t allow for clear thinking and being expected to answer lots of questions.
  • Remember it doesn’t all stop when the labour is over. Life with a new-born is pretty full on and getting those ‘survival’ tips are essential to feeling prepared
  • Being pregnant and having a baby isn’t a test. Everyone will approach things differently, do things their way and you shouldn’t feel judged by what decisions you and your partner make. This is your experience so enjoy it!