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  • Writer's pictureMidwife Pip

Emily Sanderson’s Birth Story: Vaginal Birth

On the night of Monday 16 January I thought I could feel my waters slowly start to trickle, but it was hard to tell.Waking up in the morning, I felt good, went to the gym and worked from home. I did feel the need to take a bump picture thinking it could be the last opportunity! The day passed fairly normally. Daniel had cooked chilli in the slow cooker and I had a nice little after work walk.

About 8.15pm I started to get waves of back pain, not intense just a kind of ache that came and went. It was hard to tell if it was actually labour or just backache. We phoned the hospital at 8.40pm and explained about my suspicion with the waters and the backache. The midwife said to come in to check if my waters had gone, and said it did sound like labour. When we asked if we should bring bags, she said yes bring the basics, but be prepared we may get sent home. While Daniel was picking up a nearby Zip car I went to the loo and felt a big gush, which I then knew was my waters.

We arrived at the hospital about 9.30pm. In the maternity assessment unit, they took my blood pressure and checked the sanitary towel I'd been wearing and gave me a maternity pad. My blood pressure was a little high so needed a few checks.

Contractions were now coming frequently and with little rest in between (midwife’s words!). Each contraction I found it comfortable to be standing, braced against the bed with Daniel pushing his fist into the small of my back. I focused on breathing (in for four, out for eight, or just a longer exhale than inhale). During contractions I often had gushes of liquid come out too, which easily soaked through the maternity pad and my clothes.

An examination showed I was 3cm dilated. So not yet ‘active labour’ which is 4cm, but getting close. I was told I'd have a second exam in four hours (2am).

Going to the loo again, it was quite gunky, so I showed the midwife and she said there was meconium (first poo) in there. The midwife explained there are two reasons for this: either baby’s bowel is fully developed and they were just ready, or they’re stressed. Standard procedure is to treat as if they’re stressed so we were assigned to the labour ward.

Another midwife took us over, and we got settled into our room. I immediately asked to take a clock off the wall because I didn’t want to be thinking about how long things had been going on for. Our midwife also dimmed the lights for us. At this point, it was 11.20pm. Daniel called my parents because my mum was my second birth partner while I went to the loo. I quite liked contracting there because it didn't matter what came out! It was also reassuring knowing my bladder was empty to clear the way for the baby to come past.

My midwife was keen to help me get comfortable and offered the birthing ball. I continued to breathe through contractions, gripping the bed and Daniel pushing into my back.

Because of the meconium, they needed to do continuous monitoring on the baby which meant having two bands with circular monitors attached around my belly. This proved tricky while on the ball, and she mentioned that if we couldn’t get them to stay in place they would need to attach a clip to the baby’s head instead.

My mum arrived about 12.10am. Monitoring for both of us was now consistent which was great. At this point I asked to try gas and air. Apprehensive about feeling nauseous, I asked for a sick pot in case. Breathing through the gas and air I found I could still feel the contractions, but they were more removed. I didn’t feel any nausea. While using it, I continued the 4:8 breathing. Because the gas and air made a fan-type noise, that also gave me something to focus on.

Throughout this I was sat on the ball, focusing on breathing with my eyes closed. I didn’t want any music or distraction. I found being at one with my body, in the zone, felt best.

At one point, I did feel sick so allowed myself to be ill (maybe the chilli was a mistake?!), but stayed on the ball. I’d mentioned to the midwives at the beginning that we’d recently eaten so was semi-expecting to be ill at some point.

Around then I felt an urge to push, which I mentioned to the midwife. She seemed a bit surprised but said yeah go for it.

I was asked to get onto the bed at this point for an exam and took the opportunity to remove my leggings which were soaked through. With each contraction I continued to breathe with the gas and air, eyes closed.

At this point, the monitor showed the baby’s heart rate dip, so Daniel was asked to pull the emergency button. Unfortunately timed with a contraction when I wanted him to press on my back. Over to my mum who was better positioned to pull the button out.

Within seconds, the room filled with people. A senior midwife gave an examination with my feet in stirrups and requested the obstetrician (also named Daniel which confused me because I thought it meant my Daniel must have left). Obstetrician Daniel came and had a look, at which point they realised she was arriving, but was sideways.

The team asked me to change my breathing pattern to down breathing (or what I’ve termed ‘poo breathing’ which I checked with Daniel was what they meant) and the team said they could see her when I pushed.

I gave a really big push/strain and they said it was the best yet. In the short time since the exam, she’d flipped face down.

The team asked me to push really hard for as long as I could, before breathing out which I did two to three times.

Throughout this my feet were up in stirrups, eyes closed, focused on breathing the gas and air with each contraction.

A midwife asked me to slow down, so I swapped to panting breathing to slow her progress and felt her head come free.

I don’t recall this, but apparently when I asked for gas and air, the midwife told Daniel I didn’t need it. He gave it to me anyway so it got taken out of his reach.

A midwife placed a towel on my chest and, with a light push or two later, during which I felt the rest of her come out, she was born and straight on my skin.

While being transferred, the sex was checked and my Daniel told me we had a girl.

Our baby Elsie was born at 12.55am.

I could feel the umbilical cord still attached which was an odd sensation! They asked if Daniel wanted to cut it. I checked it had been delayed and the midwife confirmed it was white and had been delayed for 2 minutes and 30 seconds, which was fantastic.

I was given an injection to deliver the placenta and they suggested breathing the gas and air again. I pushed, and it came out into a bowl which felt really satisfying. It had been an odd sensation of having the cord still coming out and I could feel something needed to be removed.

I remained in stirrups while being cleaned up and examined for tears. I did have two, but they were to the sides, not the perineum. Because they were second-degree tears I did need stitches. So I was given a local anaesthetic and advised to have gas and air.

It felt like a long time for the placenta to be delivered, them to clean me up and put in the stitches, but all the while I was getting skin-to-skin with Elsie.

They then took her for checks and I was offered a shower which midwives and Daniel helped with (until Daniel was tasked with putting on her first nappy!).

The care of the midwives was incredible – gentle, caring and compassionate. At no point did I feel vulnerable or even really notice I was undressed!

After my shower, I sat in a chair and the paediatrician came and said about having vitamin K. He explained the difference between drops vs injection and we chose injection. With drops it’s three separate doses, so gets more complicated.

We then went back to the bed and tried feeding. The midwives bought us tea and toast and allowed my mum and dad to swap (dad had been sat outside since dropping my mum off) so he got to come and see her too which was amazing.

We were transferred to the labour ward at 4am via wheelchair because it was a bit far for me to walk, and then got some much-needed rest!

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