It was three months before my husband James and I were due to get married when I found out I was pregnant. To say we were surprised was an understatement, as I had suffered with endometriosis and thought that it may take a while for us to conceive. Seeing those two magical lines on the pregnancy test filled me with such joy, it didn't even cross my mind that I still had a wedding dress to fit into! I’d seen hundreds of those special announcement videos online of ladies telling their partners and family members they were pregnant with presents with a test inside, or a tshirt announcing they were going to be a dad, and had always thought I’d do something similar. But, when it actually happened, i’m was so excited I just ran into the kitchen where James was cooking dinner and slipped between him and the cooker and announced it there and then.
Obviously from being a midwife and teaching hypnobirthing, you think about how your own pregnancy and birth will be, even before you're pregnant. I visualised being at home, in a birth pool with the fire lit, drinking tea and eating whatever I fancied, music playing in the background, using my hypnobirthing techniques and James quietly supporting me through each contraction/surge, before calling the midwives to come. Unfortunately, babies have their own ideas as to how and when they are going to enter the world and you sometimes have to adjust those initial thoughts.
For me, it was gestational diabetes (a running theme through all these stories for both Rachel and I!) I was all set for the homebirth I’d wanted, and then I got referred for a scan at 26 weeks as my tummy was measuring a few more weeks ahead of what I actually was. This prompted a test to check for gestational diabetes as there is a link between diabetes and having bigger babies. Sure enough, the test was positive ( I blame my Grandma as she was never diagnosed but my dad was born weighing 11 pounds 2 ounces, and we don’t have diabetes in our family). I remember feeling gutted that I’d moved from being a low risk pregnancy, to one that would now need more monitoring and intervention. Suddenly my image of the birth that I wanted was changing and becoming more medicalised.
From then on, I required insulin injections to control my blood sugars as diet alone didn’t stabilise them. After discussions with my consultant we agreed that I’d be induced at 39 weeks if I hadn’t gone into spontaneous labour by then. In the lead up to these final weeks, I did lots of hypnobirthing practice, and tried all the usual recommendations to help bring labour on. Unfortunately, unless these babies are ready to come out, there isn’t much you can do! At 38 weeks, my blood sugars had begun to normalise and I wasn’t requiring my usual doses of insulin. This is a cause for concern as gestational diabetes disappears as soon as the baby and placenta are out due to the hormone drop, but if it’s disappearing whilst you're still pregnant then it might be because the placenta isn’t working as effectively.
I was monitored all day in hospital and we made an informed decision to induce 2 days earlier than scheduled. My cervix had been very favourable for labour so the plan was to give me a pessary to get things going and then hopefully break my waters. Because the birth that I’d imagined was now only a memory, we took those ideas, and set up my own ‘nest’ in the hospital birthing room. There was a pool in there I could use, we had ambient lighting, music playing, everything was dark and quiet and James stayed with me the whole time. James and I got to have time alone which was lovely as it didn’t feel like I was being watched the whole time and could relax. It took a few hours to get things going, but once my waters were broken I went from 3cm dilated to Ada being born in just over 3 hours. The surges got more and more powerful, but I found getting in and out of the pool and breathing on some gas and air helped tremendously. I did make decisions to decline certain recommendations for labour when you have gestational diabetes. I’d done a lot of research prior to birth and decided that I wouldn’t have a sliding scale in labour; this is an intravenous drip of both glucose and insulin which allows the midwives to control your blood sugar throughout labour. I decided that I’d monitor my own blood sugar closely and have the drip if I couldn’t stabilise them myself. I was reluctant to have the intravenous drip as it would mean having a cannula in my hand and using the pool would have been more awkward as I wouldn’t have been able to put my hand in the water. I felt supported in my choices by the team that looked after me.
The hypnobirthing techniques taught me to trust in my body, and gave me confidence for birth. I’m sure it made my labour quicker too! I was kneeling on the bed breathing gas and air as Ada calmly entered the world. As she landed on the bed and was passed up to me, the first thing I said was ‘my baby!’. It’s such a wonderful moment to be present as a midwife when a baby is born, but it was now my turn to hold my very own baby. I had done it, I was now a mum!
Just as we were getting into the swing of things looking after a newborn baby, I found out I was pregnant again. Ada was only 10 weeks old and I was exclusively breastfeeding. I really should have taken my own midwifery advice of ‘you can still fall pregnant if you are exclusively breastfeeding!’ “Oh my goodness” was the watershed version of what came out of my mouth! So many thoughts ran through my head; how on earth were we going to cope with having a newborn and a baby not even one? How was I going to cope doing another 9 months of pregnancy? Damn, I’m going to be back on the gestational diabetic diet again! And my beautiful pushchair! I’m going to have to sell it and buy a double! James however, was absolutely overjoyed, and after a calming chat over a cup of tea about how we would deal with everything, so was I.
The first few months of the pregnancy with Eleanor were identical to Ada’s. The overwhelming nausea and vomiting, tiredness and feeling emotional were there, but it was heightened this time because we were going through sleep trouble with Ada, so I was getting very little, broken sleep which just made everything so much worse. Fortunately, by week 13 I was feeling less nauseous and the vomiting had near enough stopped. From then on, it was the wonderful gestational diabetes, regular scans and hospital appointments. My blood sugars played havoc though as I went into the third trimester and there were concerns I may have to give birth early due to concerns about placental function. From about week 32 I was having to have a check up and have Eleanor monitored several times a week which on one hand was a nightmare as I had to try and arrange childcare for Ada, but on the other hand, it was an opportunity to have a rest for a couple of hours and practice my hypnobirthing.
At 37+5, the medical team looking after me decided that I should be offered induction as my diabetes had nearly disappeared. We had my mum looking after Ada at home, and James and I went up in the morning. Unfortunately that day, it seemed like every baby in Guildford wanted to make an appearance so we had a very long wait for a delivery room to have my waters broken. We used the time to relax, play games, listen to my hypnobirthing cd, and we even went for a lovely woodland stroll. However, at 10pm we had the green light to go over to the delivery suite. In my head this was my plan- break waters, get in the pool and within a couple of hours Eleanor would appear. But once again, these babies have their own ideas!
Eleanor decided she wanted to start labour in a back to back position; it’s not a problem, but it can take a little while for the baby to rotate before they come out. I fell asleep for the first few hours after having my waters broken, and stirred occasionally in between tightenings. After four hours of not much happening, the doctor recommended I start the hormone drip to get contractions going (as is hospital policy). I declined at that point as I had not been mobilising, and I was sure that walking about and being upright would get things moving. The doctor was happy to wait and we made the plan to review in a couple of hours. Unsurprisingly, moving around got the contractions going! I kept feeling the sensation to push, and after a while, as there weren’t any external signs that Eleanor was close to being born, we decided that I’d have a cervical assessment to see whether my cervix had dilated any further from when I’d had my waters broken. Unfortunately, there was no change and I remained at 3cm and so the plan was to start the hormone drip. However, just after I was cannulated and ready to have the hormone drip started, everything progressed very quickly and shortly after that Eleanor decided she was finally ready to be born.
Eleanor’s labour was five hours long (due to her being back to back), but with the hypnobirthing techniques, getting in and out of the pool and just some gas and air, I calmly and confidently gave birth to her. I gave birth kneeling on the bed, and she cried as soon as she came out. My placenta came out a few minutes later on its own and i didn't require any stitches. Within minutes, she was having her first breast feed and after a quick shower myself, we were all tucked up in bed enjoying breakfast.
2018 was a very busy year for us! We had a flood in our house from a burst pipe which left our house in an uninhabitable condition. So, with a 15 month old and a four month old we were shipped off to a nearby hotel for a couple of weeks, before being put into a rental property for six months whilst our house was restored. Between juggling two very small children and renovating a property, we thought it would be a brilliant idea to have another baby! It all happened very quickly, unsurprisingly, and on Father’s Day, whilst away camping, James found out he was going to be a daddy again.
I didn’t suffer with the same nausea and vomiting this time, which made me sure it was a boy. In some aspects, the pregnancy was a lot easier carrying a boy. However, I developed terrible sciatica with Rupert from about 16 weeks, which left me not being able to do a huge amount with the girls. Some days it was fine, and other days I could barely walk, never mind run after toddlers! My gestational diabetes was very different this time, and I could only put it down to having a boy. I required little insulin injections, and I was able to tolerate much more food than I could with the girls.
Exactly the same thing happened with the disappearing diabetes later into the pregnancy. Rupert did decide to throw a little spanner in the works though, as he was quite happy sitting in the breech position (bottom first rather than head first). Babies can be born naturally in the breech position, but what made things complicated was that it would require me going into labour naturally and not be induced. As I had gestational diabetes, it was recommended that I be induced by 39 weeks if I didn’t labour naturally before then (as was the plan with all of the pregnancies). I tried to have him turned around manually (this procedure is called an ECV and is performed by doctors in the hospital). Unfortunately, it didn’t work as he was the opposite side to my placenta and in a more difficult breech position to rotate so each time they tried to turn him, my placenta obstructed his turn. The plan ended up being that I’d either have a natural breech birth before 39 weeks or I’d need a planned caesarean section. As with all the pregnancies, I never got to 39 weeks before my diabetes started disappearing, and after a day of monitoring in the hospital, the plan was made that I would be coming into hospital the next morning for a caesarean section. The following day arrived, and James and I went into the delivery suite to have Rupert. We were first on the list and after the routine checks, all that was required now was a quick scan to check he was still breech and then we were off to theatre. On the ultrasound scan, we could see he was still breech, but the doctor told me that he was now laying on the same side as my placenta. With this news, I told the doctor that the reason for the failed ECV last time was because he was opposite the placenta, and so I asked if it was possible to try and have him turned again now that he was in a different position. It was a Sunday morning, and fortunately the consultant who performed the ECV last time was working that weekend and was currently in the unit! We couldn’t believe our luck! The consultant came to see us, and after scanning, he was happy to have another go at turning him, and this time it worked, with a bit of help from me singing a bit of Bonnie Tyler, (on a bit of gas and air I might add) ‘Turn around!’ This now meant that they could induce me there and then. We were so relieved and happy! As the consultant, doctor and midwife left the room we heard a cheer from the other side of the door as the midwives heard the news that he had turned.
They decided to give me the pessary to begin with rather than going straight to breaking my waters as his head was not engaged into my pelvis at this point. From then on, it was a very similar story to the others. Lots of hypnobirthing techniques, sitting on the birthing ball, massages, resting, laughing. The contractions were very regular, but like Ada’s birth, until my waters were broken I knew I wouldn’t have made much progress. I wasn’t surprised when I got told prior to my waters being broken that I hadn’t made much progress, but I was confident in my body’s ability and knew that it wouldn’t be long. After my midwife broke my waters, I turned onto all fours (my favourite birth position!), looked at James and said “I’ll see you on the other side!” We phoned for the midwife who cared for me during the pregnancy to come in who was just enjoying the end of her Sunday lunch! Thirty minutes later she arrived, holding a plated up Sunday dinner and a plate of churros for dessert, put them in the cupboard and not long after that Rupert made his appearance. James ‘caught him’ and helped bring him up between my legs. A couple of minutes later, my placenta appeared, again with no drugs to assist it and no stitches required and before I knew it, we were again all tucked up in bed, Rupert was breastfeeding and I was tucking into roast beef and yorkshire pudding! The best post birth food ever!