This birth story from my 'October Sister' Amanda has had me in tears of joy and hysterics.
Amanda and I met at a running club in Middlesbrough when we were in our early teens. We were both fiercely competitive and extremely dedicated cross-country runners, dragging our poor Dads out of bed at the crack of dawn every Sunday morning to go down to 'Foxes' woods to train. We ran in the freezing cold, in the mud and the rain. I remember quite vividly running until we were sometimes physically sick. But we just kept going back for more!
Cross-country running is all about endurance: going to your edge, and then pushing the limits of what you think you are capable off. So all in all not bad psychological preparation for birth really! It thus doesn’t surprise me that Amanda approached her births with such incredible determination and endurance.
Below is the story of her first birth, which is both wildly funny and deeply emotive.
The absolute gold in this piece for me is what Amanda says about the support she received from the kind student midwife who assisted at her birth, and motivated her to keep going.
Many women have similar misconceptions about student midwives, or indeed midwives who have not had children of their own, before they have experienced the incredibly compassionate care that they can give.
Many student midwives often take on the role of ‘Doula,’ providing invaluable emotional support and reassurance when accompanying a busy midwife, who’s primary focus is often on clinical assessments and documentation.
In particular, midwives in their 3rd year of studies do a ‘continuity project’ where they follow one or two women very closely throughout their pregnancy. This can be an invaluable form of continuity and support for those women who may ordinarily not see the same midwife twice during their whole pregnancy.
If you do have the chance to have a student midwife to assist at your birth, then this is well worth considering!
The saying “No two pregnancies are the same,” was so true for me. I had two completely different labours.
My only regret is not knowning more about hypnobirthing at the time I had my babies. The ‘hypnobirther’ mums that I have spoken to since seem to have had much better birthing experiences; not necessarily less painful, but definitely more manageable.
My first pregnancy, with Megan, was really difficult. I had a fall down the stairs at 5 weeks pregnant, severe morning sickness, a bleed at 13 weeks, Symphasis pubis dysfunction, and then Pre-Eclampsia.
I was due on the 14th December. My dad is notoriously difficulty to tie down to go Christmas shopping and so my Mam had booked in the date of the 8th December with him. She said that the chances were that I wouldn’t give birth early; but that date was the only day that I could not go into labour. So low and behold – on the 8th Dec at around 3am I felt the urge to wee, rushed to the loo, and my waters broke on the toilet (perfect for me not soaking my mattress, not so perfect for my Mam's shopping plans!). I didn’t really feel any contractions, so I waited until 9am to ring my Mam to let her know I was in labour.
Triage told me to come in to Hereford hospital; they gave me an internal examination to find that I was 4cms. I was having very regular contractions, but still not feeling much at that point. My parents made the long journey down from Middlesbrough expecting me to give birth that day. The contractions intensified but they were bearable. I remember the very surreal experience of the TV being on in the hospital, and witnessing a girl that I competed against at the National Running Championships winning £50,000 on ‘Deal or No deal,’ whilst I was strapped up to a monitor about to give birth (I would have quite happily swapped places with her!).
I continued having contractions but I wasn’t dilating. The amazing Midwives brought out a little mattress for my husband to sleep on - and sleep on it he bloody did!!! I however, couldn’t get a wink of sleep, due to the combination of contractions, baby kicking, nerves, and pure excitement all at once!
The next morning my little baby would appear to struggle on the monitor every time I had a contraction and so the Doctors came in and kept talking about a caesarean. I wasn’t dilating and I was becoming really fatigued.
One of the midwives from the previous day came into the labour room and made a joke about me STILL being there and how another woman who had been in for only 30 minutes had already given birth…My response was “Well it doesn’t say much about her if her baby is falling out!” (I have since learned that every woman’s body is different and that woman who have had numerous sexual partners don’t necessarily have quicker labours…).
They put me on the ‘drip’ to try and get me to dilate – the contractions came hard and fast, to the point that I had completely talked myself out of being able to give birth. I asked for an epidural and was given it. I felt a bit of a fraudster using such a big pain relief, but I was too fatigued to carry on. Every time I had an internal examination I felt personally invaded, and to me, that was the worst part of labour, to find that I wasn’t dilating quick enough for my liking.
I finally reached 10cms, at approximately 8.30pm on the 9th Dec, and one of the midwives at the end of her shift went out to let my parents know that I was pushing and to expect a grandchild very soon. I remember very clearly when I started pushing.
I had always said I wouldn’t have a trainee midwife or someone that hadn’t given birth themselves to assist in my Children’s birth (but I was happy for them to learn by observing). However, here I was with the most amazing, compassionate, excited, childless student midwife! When it felt as though I had been pushing forever, the student midwife was kind and calm, and every time I pushed she would encourage me - I felt like I tried hard for her because of the encouragement. The other midwife was like the Trunchbull in Matilda and kept telling me that I had to push for longer because it wasn’t doing anything – this made me want to give up.
I had an episiotomy and ended up with a Doctor, two nurses (setting up the baby resussitaire), a midwife and a student midwife all in the room. The doctor said I had been pushing for too long and so he turned to get out the forceps, which looked like a terrifying device! So I pushed one last time and my purple-blue baby came out with a cord around her neck. At 11.03pm I gave birth to my gorgeous baby girl - 44 hours after my waters had broken!! And considering everyone remarked on how big I was during pregnancy, she was a pretty small 6lbs 5oz.
The instant relief you have when you give birth is unimaginable.
I’m not a crier (most of my friends have never seen me cry) but I blubbed and blubbed like a baby. Holding my baby for the first time and placing her on my chest was something I can’t even put into words.
Whilst they stitched me up I didn’t even think about the fact that I had someone’s face pretty much in my vagina! Seeing my proud husband hold our baby was all of the pain relief I needed. Then comes the family….My Mam is quite ditzy and she just clapped with a stupid proud grin on her face because I had given birth to a baby (I’m not quite sure what she thought I would have?!)
My dad who is also not a crier, cried proud tears.
Then the rest of my family came into the labour ward and they all wanted to hold MY baby (it was hard for me to see at the time that they were all just so excited!). I had a bit of an issue with people touching my newborn, and for the first night only my husband and I held her….