Birth Story Of The Week – Nikki and Emmy

Todays birth story comes from Nikki who blogs all about life with her daughter over at Here she shares how her induction and medical intervention led to her dream water birth going out of the window.


”So where should I start? Perhaps at my 34 week appointment, where the Birth Centre agreed to take me as long as I kept trying to increase my iron levels. Iron levels had been a problem since the start of my pregnancy. I’d already resumed eating meat after a few years as a vegetarian, and at this point I started taking liquid supplements too. I hadn’t really enjoyed being pregnant, and arranging to give birth at a Midwife-Led Unit seemed like it would be a lovely end to it. We had a tour and we fell in love with it – especially the fact my husband could stay overnight with us in a comfy double bed. I hoped to have a water birth with as little intervention as possible – gas and air, with lots of moving around. This was encouraged by the midwives who ran the centre. Assuming the pregnancy was straightforward, the only definite thing that see you transferred from the MLU to the labour ward was induction. 

By the time I got to 41 weeks, I realised I wasn’t sure how much longer I could go for. My hips were causing me a lot of pain, I was barely sleeping and couldn’t move far. At my appointment on the Tuesday at 41+1, they attempted a stretch and sweep, but swiftly abandoned it because it to was too painful and my cervix was still completely closed. With a sinking feeling we discussed induction before the weekend. We asked for Friday, but they only had Thursday or Monday available, so rather than face several more days of discomfort and uncertainty, we chose the former. I left the hospital determined to bounce on my ball and move around as much as possible to get the baby moving. On Wednesday night I finally nested, cleaning the house and tackling the huge pile go ironing that needed doing. I kept hoping to feel something but nothing was happening. We went to bed early, apprehensive and excited about the next day.

The beginning of the induction was pretty straight forward. We went in for 8am, dragging all our bags with us. We’d been told to come in as if I was in labour, and led to believe we wouldn’t be leaving until we had a baby to go home with. I was put on the monitor for half an hour to get a base line, then after a quick internal, I had the pessary inserted (why do those things have so many sharp edges?!) and was left on the monitor for another half hour. The midwife came over and admonished me for not eating enough for breakfast and came back with biscuits for me to eat, before running over potential side effects with us. Then, to our surprise, they told us to go home and wait things out, returning when I got to the mythical 3 in 10 or at 6pm that evening, whichever came first. I was told we could hang about the hospital if we wanted, but that going home to bed would probably make more sense, so that’s what we did. We left with more biscuits and the elastic straps used for monitoring (they told us to hang on to them!).

I was knackered and decided to have a nap when we got home. I could already feel things twinging a bit, but there didn’t seem to be any real beginning or end to the contractions and they weren’t even hurting enough for me to class as contractions. I had something to eat, and then tried to nap some more, before realising that these were starting to feel more like the waves of contractions I was expecting, but that there was very little let down. I could still speak through them and they were painful, but nothing as bad as I had expected. At about 4pm I rang the hospital for advice and was told to come straight back in as it sounded like I had reacted badly to the Propess and was hyper-stimulating. They had warned us this might happen – it’s when you experience continual contractions that aren’t anywhere near the intensity needed to push the baby out.

When we got there, I was whisked off to an exam room, where I produced the elastic straps for the monitor, and was hooked up again. I was then given an internal which led to furrowed brows and a more senior midwife repeating it. I didn’t hear what was said, but my husband did – my cervix was now opening, but they thought they could feel the baby’s nose through it. I was sent up to the labour ward, where I was put back on the monitor. After a while the door opened and the consultant obstetrician and several other doctors came in with a portable monitor. I was told they suspected face presentation, in which case I would need an immediate c-section, but not to worry as face presentations were ‘as rare as hen’s teeth’. The scan showed it was not a nose, and indeed they couldn’t see anything. They guessed it might have been an ear, and all bustled out again leaving me on the monitor. I spent the rest of the evening hooked up, with the contractions getting more and more defined, and more painful. At about 11pm I was transferred down to the ward and my husband was sent home.

I managed fitful sleep for a few hours until about 4am when I woke needing the loo. I sat up and suddenly realised I didn’t need the loo – my waters went in a fairly big rush. I called the midwife who got me a clean gown and changed the bed then removed the Propess. Those sharp edges hurt more coming out then going in. Much more. My waters breaking led to a real ramping up of the contractions, and they became pretty unbearable, pretty fast. I asked for pain relief and was given some gas and air about half seven, but before that I was contracting alone, with no pain relief in a darkened ward, trying not to wake the other women up. This was probably the worst bit of my labour – I was scared, and alone, and desperately wanted some support.

Once I was allowed some gas and air it got a bit easier. I didn’t find it helped the pain, but the wooziness allowed me to concentrate on something else. About 9am I was moved up to the labour ward, and I started asking for an epidural. I was so tired and in so much pain, and I didn’t think I would be able to carry on for much longer. I was told that before I could have one, I needed to lie on the bed, on my back for 15 minutes for monitoring. I refused point blank to do this, knowing that that was the position my contractions were the worst in. They finally agreed to let me stand, leaning over the bed for monitoring, and called the anaesthetist. James was allowed in just as they were prepping me for the epidural, and him and the assistant anaesthetist held me still whilst it was sited. I felt awful for being so stroppy over it, but the idea of lying down for 15 minutes was utterly terrifying.

The relief was almost instantaneous. I was able to nap a bit and get some rest, which was sorely needed. Unfortunately, the epidural also slowed my contractions right down, so at midday I went on to the Syntocin drip. The afternoon passed in a haze of napping, eating Percy Pigs, topping up the epidural and a gradual ramping up of the drip. The contractions were coming regularly but weren’t increasing in intensity. A couple of internals were done, and I didn’t seem to be dilating much. Baby was doing fine but I was getting tired, and it was decided that we’d give it until 6pm, then a decision would be made as to next steps. 

The whole time this was going on we were listening to the heart monitor, which was reassuring, but if I moved around too much it slipped and we had to get someone to come back and re-site it, which was stressful – especially because the monitoring bands itched an unholy amount! Every 90 minutes to 2 hours the epidural was topped up just to keep the pain managed, but other than that there was nothing much anyone did.

At 4pm we got a new midwife. She did a quick internal showing I had dilated a bit more, but still not enough. She checked the Syntocin drip and suggested that the valve on it might have been set incorrectly, which would explain why the increasing doses weren’t causing more contractions, but no-one ever confirmed whether this had been the case. We chatted and she did some paperwork, and before long, the deadline of 6pm had arrived. The epidural was topped up in preparation for the internal, and I don’t think anyone was more surprised than her to find out I had finally got to full dilation! For reasons I don’t fully understand, she said we would give it an hour then start pushing. The epidural was tapered slightly to allow me a bit more feeling, and then we started. We kind of thought that the pushing bit would be fairly quick, so I was surprised when she said they’d review the situation after I’d been pushing for two hours. I was thinking I’d be holding my baby by 8pm at the latest!

We tried many different positions, using a stool, using the bed, squatting, lying down, on all fours…but nothing was happening. At 8pm we got another new midwife. She was pretty brusque, and seem determined to get the baby out, but it wasn’t happening. At 9pm a doctor was called in, and it was decided that I was going to need some help, but the monitoring was showing that despite her being pretty much wedged in the birth canal, she was doing fine, with the steadiest heart rate we could ask for. Because of this, they prioritised another mum whose baby was in a little distress, and promised to be back as soon as they could. The midwife decided that we were going to get this baby out in the meantime, and I tried my hardest, but by this point I was getting exhausted and was tearful, convinced I couldn’t do it. During this time, an incubator was brought in, and at half nine, the doors opened and quickly the room filled with people. It all started to get very hectic and I was put in to position on the bed, legs up in stirrups, and they explained they were going to use ventouse to get the baby out, along with an epistiostomy. The epidural was topped up, and there was a lot of pulling and prodding. I could feel the cup being attached, and then the monitors were watched, waiting for my next contraction.

I don’t remember how many pushes it took. I do remember being shocked at the violence of it. NCT classes had led me to believe it was a gentle procedure, using the suction to help the baby out. My husband described it as basically a tug of war. Suddenly I felt her come out and saw her briefly as the cord was cut. I didn’t hear her cry, and couldn’t see her, and I was so worried something was wrong. James could see her moving and knew she was okay, but in the commotion neither of us could communicate to each other, and it seemed like an age before she made a noise. Then she was brought over to me, this squinty little baby, frowning at everyone and all I could think was how perfect she looked.

The next few hours are blurry. Emmy was born at 9.45pm and I know I was stitched up, that we spoke to our parents, that I got the fabled tea and toast, that I cuddled her. Apparently I fed her, but I don’t remember this. The next thing I remember is about 2am, the midwife asking if I wanted a shower. She gave James the baby, then left so that I could go shower. I got up and went in to the bathroom, and promptly fell over. James called a midwife, who came in, hit the alarm, and once again the room filled up. I was helped in to a wheelchair, whilst my bed was remade, and I was put in a fresh gown, and out back to bed with more tea and toast, and told to get some sleep. Me passing out was out down to a combination of exhaustion, blood loss, and little food and sleep for 48 hours. James spent a couple of hours cuddling our baby girl whilst I slept. When I woke up, they said I’d soon be moved down to the ward so he was sent home. I changed her for the first time on the ward and, in the morning she was given a BCG injection (which is normal for West London). James came back in around midday and we left the hospital about 18 hours after her birth. She didn’t have much swelling from the ventouse cup, but there was a huge open sore and a big bruise from it, which looked so painful for her.

nikki and emmy 2nikki and emmy
Without being a C-section, Emmy’s birth was about as far from what I wanted as possible. I know people say that all that matters is that we are both here and both healthy, and to a point I agree, but I think it’s affected me a lot more than I realised at the time. We didn’t get to delay the cord clamping, I didn’t get to have immediate skin to skin, I didn’t get a water birth. I do have a wonderful, amazing daughter, and I am healthy, but if I think too much about her actual birth and the immediate moments after, I just remember how scared I was, which isn’t exactly the memory I wanted from my birth. Hopefully in time this will fade, and I’ll just remember how perfect she looked when she was handed to me.”

Birth Story Of The Week- Anya Rose

Dear Anya Rose

Today you are 7, an age I can vividly remember being myself yet it feels like only yesterday that you left my heavy, swollen body to meet me on that Summer Solstice back in June.

You weren’t meant to really be born at all yet, if my life plan had gone well according to plan, I was expecting you in around the next few years. Married at 30, baby at 32. But who likes to live by the rules, not me.

You grew inside me whilst I watched all my friends embark on the start of their lives. I envied their new existence in the world, their freedom and spontaneity but I clung on to the hope that you would be here soon and that’s all that mattered. We stuck together knowing that one day things would be Ok and Daddy would make the big move to London work out for us, because he always believed in us as a little unit, our family.

You finally decided to come 5 days after your due date, it was early on a hot Saturday morning, the sun was up but your Daddy slept soundly next to me as the early signs of labour woke me from such a vivid dream. I was dreaming I had a dark haired daughter and we called her Lola. Up until then you had always been a boy in my mind, blonde curls like his Daddy was but this dream was so clear. I knew you and I were going to meet today. I paced our tiny upside down flat waiting to see what these pains would turn into. My midwife head told me to eat so I managed a bowl of muesli and a glass of orange juice and decided to try out my TENS machine. Daddy woke and found me leaning over the banister, breathing deeply as I imaged I would meet my baby soon.

He lit candles, ran me a bath and soothed my sounds with the play list we’d so carefully compiled over the past few months. We were ready, our baby, so unplanned but so wanted was going to be born today. A mix of excitement but nerves hit me as the contractions intensified and my body told me ‘it’s time to go in’. We turned off our phones and left them on the kitchen table, not wanting to be engaged in the outside world, anxious Grandparents-to-be waiting for a call to say ‘it’s here’. We felt safe.

We made our way into the the Birth Suite. Daddy chatting away as if it was any old day, me humming deeply trying to focus on my unborn baby and not the road humps further ahead.

I was welcomed by the friendly faces I knew so well, the pool room was ready and we unpacked as if to say ‘this is our nest now’, Daddy made the room so soft and cosy. The noise of the running water filling the pool soften my deeper more guttural sounds that were coming from within. I was 5 cm dilated and your head was in a good position. We were off to a good start but I always knew you and I would work together, subconsciously as a team.

Time seemed to pass in a haze, the clock on the wall ticked so loudly I demanded it be taken out of the room! I needed to find that space within the overload of activity in my head. You were moving around, twisting and turning and getting your little chin tucked down ready for the next stage.

And then nothing. The sound stopped, the pain in my pubic bone stopped and the birthing pool no longer felt safe and small but a big dark abyss that I wanted to swim away from. I looked at your Daddy and the midwives not knowing what to do with myself. I got out of the pool and lay down on the soft mat, the cool plastic against my wet face felt soothing and calming. I closed my eyes and felt like I could have slept for ever. I was so tired, all I wanted was to meet you but the sheer exhaustion of the past 8 hours made my body feel so heavy and weak, like a dead weight I shut my eyes and zoned out the voices around me. Daddy was worried, he wanted to know if that was normal and those familiar voices of my midwives reassured him and said ‘let her sleep she’s in transition.’

But before I could even let my thoughts start forming into dreams in my mind, a different sensation started building in my sacrum. A rumbling like the beginning of a thunder storm in the mountains grew inside me and I just knew this was no thunder storm, but something harder and more powerful inside me. Was my body capable of experiencing such a force? I began to panic and your Daddy grabbed my hand and lifted me up off from the mat and told me ‘it’s Ok just listen to your body, don’t be afraid’. And that’s exactly what I did. There was no stopping it, the sensation was something I can hardly describe, like a breeze block being pushed harder and harder down my lower back into my pelvic floor. I couldn’t control these powerful waves of pressure, so I hung off your Daddy’s waist as I got into a deep squat and focused on your amazing body expel from my pelvis.

And then your head was out, I had my eyes tightly shut too scared to look at the reality of what was happening to my body, but with lots of encouragement from the chorus of voices around me I opened them for just one second. And in that second I saw your head, out of my body turning to release your shoulders. Your hair was black not blonde and I knew this was it. The moment you and I would be internally separated but the moment we would meet face to face.

Onto the mat underneath me you slid, all 7 pounds 11 ounces of your squishy pink warm body. Your cord was still perfectly placed in between your legs as if to say ‘not yet Mummy you can’t peak yet’. Your hair was so dark and looked curly and Daddy turned to me and kept saying ‘I can’t believe you did that for me’. I had done it. I had given birth to our baby, our baby girl.

And just like that we were a family, a tiny family of 3. We snuggled on the bed feeling each others skin as you took my body heat looking for your first feed. Like a brand new baby kitten but you felt so strong and capable of anything. You were our tiny person, created totally unintentionally but your presence was very much felt between us. You had caused me worry and fear beyond anything in those early weeks of finding out you were growing inside me. Terrified of your Daddy and my future but that all seemed so irrelevant now.

Today you are 7. You have three adult teeth and two wobbly ones. You love making up dance routines, showing us magic tricks, exploring in the garden, laughing hysterically at your sisters madness and adore your Daddy Doo. You declared you love all subjects at school, have discovered the wonderful world of Roald Dahl and could tell me every joke in your Horrid Henry book. You are feisty, ballsy, inquisitive and can show me a thing or two when winning an argument. I see so much of me in you it scares me. But I know we are raising an amazing force of nature. Happy Birthday Anya Rose.

Preparing for Being Induced

photo (37)

3 years and 9 months ago I was researching my planned home birth for my second baby. I had booked under a home birth team, borrowed a pool and had even asked a good friend to have my daughter for a sleep over if it should happen in the day. But that little plan all changed at 37 weeks when I was diagnosed with Obstetric Choleostasis. BIG SAD FACE. I still find it difficult to accept that I was induced. That I agreed to being induced despite everything I believe in, and wanted for my birth. Ok so I did have a relatively quick induction (5 hours) and ok I did give birth in the pool with no tears but that doesn’t mean it was what I wanted. And I have been known to say to my husband after getting home from a beautiful home birth ‘Oh please can we have one more baby just so I can experience a home birth?’.

As a midwife of a few years now, I have worked in both hospital and home birth settings. I have seen hundreds and hundreds of births and many of those have been in the form of an induction. When discussing induction with my women at 38 weeks, I go through the check list in their notes and explain the process and what each stage means. Most women are surprised at how long each stage can take, I try to be realistic and manage their expectations. After all the unknown can feel scary – I should know. So this blog post is to help you if you’re being induced. It’s not to scare you, or give you false expectations. Try to remember that not every induction is the same and what might work for one person, might not work for someone else. As always speak to your midwife if you have any further questions.

So the basics. Induction means to start your labour artificially either with synthetic hormones administered into your body or by having your waters broken (artificial rupture of membranes ARM). You will be offered an induction if the risk of prolonging your pregnancy is more serious than the risk of your baby being born sooner. You may have been recommended that induction is the safest option for you and your baby if:

  • you are diabetic
  • you have pre eclampsia
  • the fluid around your baby is too much (polyhydramnios) or too little (oligohydramnios)
  • your placenta is not working effectively
  • your baby is not growing at a normal rate
  • your waters have broken but labour has not started naturally within 24-48 hours
  • you are ‘over due’
  • or any other medical reason which an obstetrician has agreed

Depending on why you are being induced will vary where you will actually be induced. For example if you’re over due but ‘low risk’ you will most likely be induced on an antenatal ward. This ward usually consists of a 4 bedded bay (with curtains around you for privacy) with other women who may also be being induced or are being kept in for observations. Occasionally when the postnatal ward (where you after you’ve had your baby) is full, some of these mums and new babies will be admitted to the antenatal ward. It’s a good idea to take with you a pillow, some ear plugs and eye mask as induction may take a day or two before anything actually happens and hospital wards are noisy at night. You want to get as much sleep as possible when you can so you’re not too tired when the real work starts! If you’re being induced for a medical reason and are being considered ‘high risk’ you will most likely be induced on the labour ward. Depending on the hospital you may have a shared bay or a single room. It’s always good to ask your midwife/obstetrician about this.

Other good things to pack in your bag if you are being induced are:

  • a hot water bottle
  • A TENS machine
  • something to read ie books which include positive birth stories, a magazine, an ipad
  • comfortable shoes for walking around in (walking is really good for getting yourself into labour)
  • personal head phones

How is induction carried out?

A Sweep: A membrane sweep is when a midwife or doctor sweeps their finger around the opening of your cervix. This action can stimulate labour. Your midwife may offer you a sweep if you are full-term and waiting for labour to start. She’ll suggest a sweep at your 40-week appointment if this is your first baby, or at your 41-week appointment if you’ve had a baby before. During a sweep, your midwife carefully separates the membranes that surround your baby from your cervix to stimulate the production of prostaglandin. If your cervix is not dilated enough to do a sweep, she may stretch or massage your cervix instead. You may be offered two or three membrane sweep. It can be uncomfortable if your cervix is difficult to reach, and you may need to have several membrane sweeps before labour starts. If you are unclear about anything, ask your midwife to explain. (

Prostaglandins: Prostaglandin is a hormone-like substance that causes your cervix to ripen, and which may stimulate contractions. Your midwife will insert a tablet, pessary or gel containing prostaglandin into your vagina. The slow-release pessary, Propess, looks a bit like a small tampon. If you are given Propess, try to lie on your side for 30 minutes so it has time to absorb moisture and swell. You’ll then be able to move about. While you wait for prostaglandins to work you can usually go for a walk around. You may be able to go home for up to six hours or until your contractions start. How you are given prostaglandin depends on whether this is your first or second baby. If this is your first baby, you may need a second dose of a tablet or gel after six hours.

Artificial rupture of membranes (ARM) Artificially rupturing the membranes (ARM), also called breaking the waters, isn’t recommended as a first method of induction unless vaginal prostaglandins can’t be used. However, some doctors or midwives may use ARM as part of the induction process or to speed up your labour if it’s not progressing. This procedure can be carried out during an internal examination. Your midwife or doctor makes a small break in the membranes around your baby and she’ll use a long thin probe (amnihook). An ARM often works when the cervix feels soft and ready for labour to start. It can be quite uncomfortable, so you may be offered gas and air to help you to cope. ARM doesn’t always get labour started, and once your waters have been broken, your baby could be at risk of infection. That’s why it’s no longer recommended as a method of induction on its own and is best used after labour has started. If your midwife or doctor suspects an infection, she will give you antibiotics.

Syntocinon is a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin. You will only be offered it if a membrane sweep or prostaglandin hasn’t started your labour, or if your contractions aren’t effective. Your waters have to be broken before you can be given Syntocinon. Because Syntocinon has several disadvantages, if other methods of induction haven’t worked, you may be offered a caesarean instead. You’ll have Syntocinon through an intravenous drip, allowing the hormone to go straight into your bloodstream through a tiny tube inserted into a vein in your arm. Once your contractions have begun, the rate of the drip can be adjusted. This allows contractions to happen often enough to make your cervix dilate, without becoming too powerful. Syntocinon is started at a very low dose and increased gradually to prevent it from stimulating your uterus or causing stress to your baby. Syntocinon can cause strong contractions and put your baby under stress, so you will need to be monitored continuously. The contractions brought on by Syntocinon may be more painful than natural ones. So you may choose to have an epidural for pain relief.

Other Things To Remember: Some hospitals may have the option of using a telemetry monitoring (wireless) so you can walk around and not be confined to the bed. Ask for the use of mats, balls, a birthing stool, remember you DO NOT HAVE TO LIE ON THE BED. Not every induction means the use of syntocinon but you may want to consider trying the drip without an epidural to give your baby a good chance of getting in a better position for birth (epidurals increase the rate of having an instrumental delivery). Discuss each stage of your induction with you midwife/doctor to make sure you and your birth partner understand all options and that you can make an informed choice. And if that doesn’t make you feel empowered read this amazing birth story by Lucy who had the syntocinon drip for her first labour and totally blew the midwives mind!


Alpha Papa

It takes a real man to raise 2 daughters

It takes a real man to raise 2 daughters

This weekend was Father’s Day. A day which has bitter sweet meaning for me. Firstly, when I was growing up we didn’t celebrate Father’s Day as my own father didn’t ‘believe’ in it so I was the only child who opted out of making a card at school. As my Father is no longer alive, I don’t feel sad on Father’s Day as I have a pretty awesome guy being a GREAT Dad in my house to our two little girls. But unfortunately (and a second year in a row) we seem to be at friend’s weddings the weekend Father’s day falls. So yesterday was spent hung over, eating pizza and watching re runs of Friends. He said it was his best Father’s Day ever so brownie points for me.

Today’s birth story comes another awesome chap I know, husband to a friend and father to a one year old little girl. I saw them at the wedding on Saturday and we agreed what better way to celebrate Father’s Day on the blog than no other than a birth story, but written by a father. So here is Shiraz’s email he sent us all when his wife Susan gave birth to their daughter Amelie in Botswana.

Shiraz and Amelie

Shiraz and Amelie

It’s late, I’m exhausted, but I’m home alone (Susan’s Mum is staying in the hospital with Susan and Amelie) so here are the key facts…
At 2 in the morning (Monday 17th June 2013) Susan wakes up saying her water’s broken.  After reading the NHS advice we decided to call the Doctor.  He says try and get some sleep and come into the clinic at 6.30am.  We do actually get a bit of sleep (in hindsight, not sure how), but Susan’s contractions started and by 5.30am in the morning they were pretty painful.
Working on auto pilot (i.e. no emotions at this point), I pack the final things for the hospital bags and get them, plus the car seat, into the Honda as Susan’s pain gets worse. Susan’s Mum (who arrived on Sunday) recognises that it’s going to happen today. She doesn’t realise how soon.
Get to clinic at 6.40. Incredibly, we have to wait 10 mins before Dr Jochen Eichler is ready. Susan goes for an internal exam (I’m left in the office) and is first told “I’m not going to be able to come to the hospital with you as I have appointments all day.” Susan cries  “WTF?!” The Eichler inspects and realises he’s got it all wrong. (Later he tells us that he was expecting Susan would be in the early stages of labour and it would still be a while for any serious action. This information was based on the calmness of Susan’s phone voice at 2am; calm or tired or classically apologetically English?)
He storms back into the office where I’m waiting and after shouting something about “8cm already”, he demands that I bring the car to the door and that we go straight to the hospital (about 20-30 mins drive away). It’s 6.55am and as Susan and I jump into our car and Dr Eichler gets into his, he shouts that if we have to deliver on the roadside we will: “I’ve got my [rubber] gloves” whilst waving the said gloves.
I’m no longer on auto pilot, passing-out feelings are rising, but our German doc makes as if he’s on the autobahn and so I’m forced to focus and keep up. Susan’s in the back and is letting out a combination of yelps and deep sighing grrrs as she tries to count through the contractions every minute or so. We get to the hospital in 20 mins, I drop Susan at the entrance shout for a wheelchair and she goes in with the Doctor. After parking and finding the delivery room (room 540 – the same room Susan, Amelie and Kay are sleeping in now), Susan is already being seen by two amazing midwives, is connected up to a drip and a couple of beepy machines and the Dr is talking her through the steps.  Basically the baby is likely to come soon.
It’s about 7.20 when I walk into room 540.  Only 1 hr 22 mins before Amelie is born.
We discover that it’s too far gone for any painkillers.  No epidural is possible.  Susan is suddenly frightened. It’s a heartbreaking thing to see, cos I can’t do anything about it.
For the first hour Susan is asked to breathe through the contractions (i.e. not push).  Susan moves into a zone: eyes closed, listening intently, but – she says later – only hearing key information, and answering very quietly. I massage her back and put a cold compress on her forehead between contractions and stay away or let her nails dig into my hand during the contractions. She seems to be doing well – even though there is obvious pain.
Things are happening so fast, I’m barely able to catch my breath.
About 8.20, the Doctor asks Monica (the reassuringly buxom midwife) to up the drip (which has a medicine in to make the contractions more powerful) and says to Susan “now we push.”
It takes about 7-8 contractions for Susan to make it happen.  Along the way a vacuum is used because the baby is the wrong way up (face up rather than down) and there is a chorus of “harder”, “stronger”, “longer” and even “we’re fighting for your baby”, which I’m not sure Susan heard, but made me suddenly understand everything (that same everything from the original email) clearly… for the first time.
There’s noise from Monica, Mary (another midwife) and Jochen.  Susan is pushing and suddenly I see a face.  Strange.  After just 1 or 2 seconds a purpley creature with a blue cable is pulled out and placed on Susan.
That is the moment. No words can explain it.  Certainly not words that I can string together. Beauty, responsibility, oddness combined into a ridiculously happy, yet perplexing moment.
Then: it’s a girl. Surprise!  Susan double, triple takes and then gets a remarkable glow.  No one expected this, least of all Susan.
The umbilical cord scissors are shunted into my hands. I recoil but am bullied by the six  foot aryan to do it: “it’s your baby”. I do, it’s fine, but it’s not the moment – that’s happened. 
After mum and baby skin-to-skin time, Amelie is taken for a rub down and to an incubator table.
I have Susan exhausted on one side and Amelie swaddled on the other.  We did it.
Susan has a few complications, but they are pretty much managed in about 30 mins and then she gets the baby.  Then I get a cuddle and we settle. Susan is exhausted and still in some pain.  She’s encouraged to go to the bathroom and goes in with the midwife but ends up fainting and about 5 nurses had to come to bring her back to the bed.  For about 20 mins she’s the palest I’ve ever seen her.  But that’s the worst of it, done.
Susan gets some sleep and I have 45 mins completely alone with Amelie. She in my arms, mostly sleeping, occasionally whimpering, a couple of mini-cries and a one 1 minute stare into my eyes.
Once Susan is up, I bring Susan’s mum to the hospital and we get a steady stream of midwives/nurses popping in to give advice, check up etc.  I feel like a spare part and long for those 45 mins alone with Amelie.
But that will happen again soon – everyday perhaps.”


Birth Story Of The Week – Gemma and Leo

Today’s birth story comes from Gemma founder of the blog Bristol Foodie. Gemma emailed me after following my blog for a while she says – “Whilst pregnant I was bombarded with horror stories of birth – and as a result many women seem to see a traumatic birth is an inevitability. I hope that you can publish my story and share my experience to show your readers that birth doesn’t have to be horrific – in fact with a little self belief and confidence in your body, it can be an amazing experience which you can treasure!”

Gemma-Preggy1 (1)

“I was overjoyed to find out I was pregnant but very nervous about birth inparticular tearing and needing stitches. Just thinking about it made me shudder! I knew that fearing birth would only make the experience more traumatic so decided very early on to try hypnobirthing and pregnancy yoga with local company, Purely Pregnant.

I was amazed by how quickly my perceptions changed! I quickly learned to block out all of the horror stories about childbirth that (unhelpfully) people love to share and focussed on the birth I wanted rather than the one I feared. Hypnobirthing was really transformational, after a matter of weeks I was feeling so confident and excited about our upcoming birth that when my boyfriend suggested home birth, I decided to go for it!

I enter week 40 convinced I’m going to be late. Mum on the other hand was convinced that I would have the baby within the week and when I go to my local NCT cafe session, my NCT teacher says the same. At this point the birth pool is still in boxes and I’m due to have a new boiler delivered that week Eeek!

As luck would have it, that very night, I wake up with pelvic discomfort. I toss and turn as the discomfort comes and goes and at 3am wake my boyfriend, Sam. “It’s happening”.

3.00am I leave Sam asleep and go to watch TV, after all it will be hours before things really kick off. I put on David Attenborough’s Planet Earth, bounce on my birthing ball and do the “calm breathing” we learned in hypnobirthing.

4.00am I’m trying to not be too neurotic about timing contractions but at 4am curiosity gets the better of me. They’re closer than I thought, 5-6 minutes apart lasting a minute each. I wake Sam “I think we need to start putting the pool up”

For the next couple of hours Sam battles with the instruction manual for the birthing pool whilst I continue my relaxation techniques. The contractions are manageable at this point, a tightening sensation coming and going.

6.00am Surges are every 3-4 minutes and we ring Central Delivery Suite to let them know I’m in labour. I’m feeling okay so we agree for me to take a paracetamol and to ring back when I feel that I need more support.

8.00am Two hours later the surges are starting to feel more intense. No longer sitting on my birthing ball, I’m most comfortable on all fours. At 8.30ish we call CDS again and ask for a midwife.

At some point between 8am and the midwife arriving, British Gas arrived to drop off our boiler due to be installed the next day. I was in the living room and not really aware of what was going on but Sam tells me that the delivery men moved pretty quick when he told them I was labouring in the living room and that we were having a home birth!

9.30am The midwife has arrived and contractions, at 3 minutes apart are getting stronger and stronger. By now, I’m making a low “ooooh” sound as I exhale on each surge. My mooing might have sounded odd but at the time I found it was a really useful way of keeping my breathing calm and controlled.

I take two more paracetamol, put the hypnobirthing CD on and climb into the pool. As I lie back in the warm waters of the pool my whole body relaxes. For me, the water didn’t lessen the intensity of my contractions, but allowed me to relax and recover between contractions so I could rest and preserve energy for later stages.

11.30am Contractions start to slow and the midwife recommends I get out of the pool. We don’t know if my waters have broken. The midwife says I’m still in early stages of labour and I assume the pushing sensation I’ve started feeling for some contractions is the baby resting on my bowel as he moved down.

Sam is doing an amazing job helping me to breath calmly but I know that I’m struggling to cope. “I’m going to have to go to hospital.” I think to myself. “If this is early labour how much more intense will it get?!” I feel disappointed but know that I’ve done everything I can.

12.30pm We agree its time for the midwife to give me an examination. “Well” she says, “your waters haven’t broken, but your cervix is gone!” she looks and sounds surprised as am I! “I’m fully dilated?!” I can’t believe it, just a few more hours to go! I’d heard of people going through moments of “I can’t do this any more” and struggling to cope as they go through transition (7-10cm dilation) and in hindsight my moment’s of self doubt weren’t me giving up but must have been my transition from first to second stages of labour.

Full of relief and excitement as I enter into the second stage II get back in the pool, relaxing into the water. A second midwife arrives and my contractions get even stronger. I’m calling out to Sam and “mooing” with every contraction now, clinging on to him as I feel my muscles tighten. Its getting hard to stop myself tensing up with each surge but Sam’s continual coaching “breathe… breathe… slowly Gem… slowly” helps me to slowly exhale and stay in control. As I breathe out and relax everything feels so much better. In these moments I realised just how powerful my hypnobirthing techniques were things were certainly much more painful when I was tensed up. I’m so pleased I spent all that time practising how to relax myself, these skills came in really handy when I needed them most.

I feel the baby bearing down and start doing the “J breath” I learnt in hypnobirthing to try and breath him down. I focus on staying relaxed and working with each contraction, trying to stay relaxed enough to let my body take over and push as it needed to.

2.00pm My waters still haven’t broken. I stand in the pool and lean on Sam in the hope that gravity might break them and that our baby will follow soon after. I push hard with the next contraction but my waters stay in tact. The midwives break my waters as the next contraction builds. I push hard again, and let out a bit of a scream as I feel a searing, white hot pain and am swiftly guided back into the pool by the midwives as my waters and baby come out in one contraction.

2.05pm My baby is passed up through my legs and I lie back in the water with our son on my chest, Sam’s arms around the two of us. Tears of joy stream down my cheeks, the pain from minutes earlier already a distant memory. Weighing 6lb12oz, we call him Leo.image (1) (1)

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The next task was birthing the placenta which actually felt like more effort than the baby! I happily accepted gas and air for this part feeling just too exhausted to push without some help.

Leo had come out so quickly that I had a little tear and needed stitches (luckily these could be done at home). This was the thing I had been dreading most of all but in reality it was fine. I had gas and air, local anaesthetic and I didn’t feel a thing!

Sam confided in my afterwards that Leo came out so quickly that he was expecting me to have a much more serious tear and the midwives agreed. Perineal massage had seemed like a pretty arduous daily task during the last couple of months of pregnancy but I’m pretty sure that this was what made the difference between a second and fourth degree tear.

In the weeks that have passed I’ve loved seeing the look of disbelief on people’s faces when I describe my birth as “amazing” but it really was! Yes it was hard work, and the contractions got incredibly intense but I managed to stay in control throughout. I’m so pleased that I was able to give our beautiful baby Leo such a wonderful welcome into the world.


I was terrified of birth at the start of my pregnancy but managed to really turn things around. I hope that sharing my experiences will help other women who may feel anxious about birth to have confidence that our bodies are designed to do this and that whilst complications can and do occur, childbirth isn’t always a traumatic experience it can be an amazing one!

Everything You Need to Know About Assisted Deliveries

This blog post is to help you prepare for the ‘what if’ scenario if you need an assisted delivery for the birth of your baby.

An assisted delivery means when a doctor uses an instrument such as forceps or ventouse cup (sometimes called a Kiwi cup) to deliver your baby’s head. Around one in eight women deliver their baby in this way in the UK. This can be because

  • there are concerns about the baby’s heart rate
  • your baby is in an awkward position
  • you’re too exhausted and have been pushing for a long time

A forceps consists of two smooth metal long ‘salad spoon’ type instruments which are curved to shape around the sides of your baby’s head.


These are fitted carefully by the doctor and the handles of the forceps are then locked together securely. As you get a contraction the doctor will gently pull down onto the forceps as you push to guide your baby’s head to entrance of your vagina. When your baby’s head begins to crown and stretch your perineum the doctor may make a cut called an episiotomy to make the space in your vagina and perineum to allow for the baby’s head to be born. Once to the head is delivered the doctor will remove the forceps from around your baby’s head and wait for another contraction to deliver the shoulders and rest of your baby.


  • you are more likely to have an episiotomy which will require stitches which are done by the doctor (these are disolveable.)
  • if you don’t have an epidural, local anaesthetic will be injected into the area before the doctor makes the cut so you not feel it
  • you are more likely to bleed from the ‘cut’ (episiotomy) therefore your overall blood loss will be more
  • if after 3 pulls the baby cannot be delivered in this way the delivery should be abandoned and a caesarean section should be considered
  • therefore most forceps deliveries happen in theatre for this reason
  • you should still be able to have skin to skin with your baby
  • your can still have delayed cord clamping
  • your birth partner can cut the cord
  • you will require a catheter to be inserted into your urethra to empty your bladder of urine which usually stays in for 12 hours following the birth of your baby
  • you have an increase chance of having short term incontinence problems such as not be able to control your wind or bowel movements
  • you may feel more internal and external bruising from the forceps delivery than a ‘natural’ delivery
  • you may therefore need stronger pain relief after the delivery to make you more comfortable especially when sitting to feed your baby or going to the toilet
  • your baby is likely to be born with some markings on its face such as bruising on the side of the forehead and circular red marks around the cheeks. These should go after 24-48 hours
  • due to bruising around your baby’ jaw and mouth they can find breastfeeding more difficult and you both may require extra support. Some women choose to use a Cranial Osteopath once discharged from hospital

A ventouse delivery (or kiwi cup) is when a doctor applies a small silicone cup to the top of your baby’s head inside your vagina. Once the cup is in place, the air is sucked out of it using a foot-controlled vacuum pump, or a hand-held pump.


It can be noisy if a machine is used, so be prepared. When it is securely fixed, the doctor will ask you to push with your next contraction. The doctor will pull on the cup to help your baby out. Sometimes the cup comes off the baby’s head, which even if it sounds alarming, won’t cause any harm to your baby. After 3 pulls the baby’s head should begin to crown and stretch the perineum. Unlike a forceps birth where more space is require, with a ventouse delivery you are less likely to need an episiotomy. As the head is delivered the cup is removed so the doctor can deliver the rest of your baby.


  • it can often be performed in the delivery room rather than theatre
  • it is more likely to leave your baby with a temporary swelling on her head (cephalhaematoma).
  • and more likely to cause bleeding inside your baby’s eye (retinal haemorrhage) which look like blood shot in the whites of your baby’s eyes
  • you may not always need an episiotomy as less space is required of the instrument being used by the doctor
  • you may still need a catheter inserted for up to 12 hours following the birth
  • you should still be able to have skin to skin with your baby
  • your should still be able to have delayed cord clamping
  • your birth partner can still cut the cord

It is important to remember that if a doctor recommends an instrumental delivery you still have the choice to question their decision and where possible take time with your midwife and birth partner to discuss what is best for you and your baby. A good acronym to remember and to use at any point of your pregnancy or labour is BRAIN.

B – what are the benefits of doing what you recommend?
R – what are the risks?
A – what are the alternatives?
I – what does my intuition tell me?
N – what happens if we do nothing?

Sometimes it’s not always possible to avoid an assisted birth but good planning and preparation during your pregnancy can help you and your partner understand the options available to you. For example having an epidural increases your chance of having as assisted delivery because:

  • It may slow your labour down, especially the second stage of labour when you have to start pushing, because it can be very difficult to know if you’re pushing correctly as you are numb in the area you need to focus on
  • It increases the risk of your baby moving into the wrong position and therefore forceps or ventouse may be required to help turn the baby into a better position

But it’s equally important to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages. No one is going to think you’ve given up or couldn’t do it if you require an instrumental delivery. And the same goes for an epidural. Your birth is about it being positive for you and I have been at many many births where women had an epidural and a ventouse delivery and it’s been wonderful, beautiful and empowering. Milli Hill founder of The Positive Birth Movement says ” A good birth doesn’t have to be a hippy dippy ‘natural’ birth, all candles, knitting midwives and placenta smoothies. Many women who have hospital births that don’t go the way they planned and end in interventions such as an instrumental delivery, report feeling positive about what happened. Milli goes on to explain why, “This is because how a woman is spoken to and treated as she has her baby is much much more important than the actual mode of delivery. Women need to feel that they have been consulted, respected and given the information they need to make free choices in the best interest of themselves and their child. This allows them to begin motherhood feeling strong, capable and mentally healthy.”

And also please be reassured that eight out of 10 women who have an assisted birth have a normal birth next time around.

Has anyone else had an assisted delivery and would like to share their experience? Any tips on coping afterwards?

For more information about assisted deliveries please see:

NHS Choices

NCT Assisted Vaginal Birth


Missed me?

I’m back readers and I’m ready for anything. I’ve dusted myself off and I’ve got fire in my belly for another round of blogging.

It hasn’t been easy working out how I’m going to come back with the follow up blog post after that post. I was buzzing from the attention the blog post got almost a million people read it and I’m really proud of that. The comments and the amount if shares it got blew my tiny mind.

To cut a long story short and to clear up any confusion or questions you may have about my lack of presence or where the hell has that blog post disappeared to, I’m going to explain. Briefly.

In short that post was meant to be another honest blog post. Sharing my experience and challenge society’s attitude towards how we feed our children. No harm or hatred was ever meant to come from it. No disrespect to my fellow colleagues or mothers was ever intended. And yes 99% of the comments and feed back I received was AMAZING! Like beyond anything I could have ever imagined. But there were a few people who weren’t happy. (who are of course entitled to their own opinion) but felt to need to complain. And by complain I mean get the big wigs involved. So after many hurtful and bordering on cyber bullying comments left on various forums and social media groups and pages I decided to take the post down. It was attracting the wrong sort of crowd and comments and of course I didn’t want to jeopardise my professional career as a midwife.

So there. It’s gone, deleted in the waves of the World Wide Web. And what a funny web was weaved. But I’m back and ready for anything. Unfortunately due to my long silence I have developed an case of writers block. So I’m asking you readers…..

What do you want me to write about?

My next blog post will be on what you guys want (within reason) but I’ll really try to listen to you because after all if it wasn’t for my amazing followers I wouldn’t be here in the first place.