Kirsty and Flynn: A true northerner’s birth story!

This month's sister of the month goes to my childhood friend Kirsty 'Bartlett' for sending me her amazing birth story.

I have known Kirsty, for more than half of my human years, she is one of my oldest friends.  We first met through our love of riding (horses!) when we were 11 years old and I loaned my first pony ‘Dusty’ from her, or ‘Dustbowl,’ as we called him.  I also went to my first ever Yoga class! with her, aged 15, at our local David Llyods Gym!

I love this story and I love Kirsty for approaching her birth so positively and bravely. I can very vividly imagine her roaring at the Midwives and hurling the gas&air across the room!  An incredibly moving story, from an incredibly strong woman.

Deeply personal and witty, her story importantly reminds us that it’s not just about the end result (in many peoples eyes she had the ‘perfect,’ ‘normal,’ birth, with minimal intervention) but also about the birth experience and the way in which care is given.

It clearly highlights the importance of continuity of care, and that having an experienced, supportive, and reassuring Doula, would have made a big difference to her.

“I just needed someone to hold my hand and tell me it was normal and to keep breathing.  What I needed was a calming influence; a gentle voice guiding me through each wave of increasingly intense pain, and that was not there.”

Thanks for sharing Kirst! You're a total hero xxxx

Hi! I’m Kirsty, I'm 30, and I am writing this in shifts that coincide with the napping pattern of my now 8-month old son, Flynn.  My pregnancy was not planned, and it really upturned the 5 year plan I once had, but despite a jittery start I had an uncomplicated, and low risk pregnancy.

My birth plan was 'there is no plan.' Take it as it comes. I didn't rule anything in or out, but I had secretly wanted a water birth. I didn’t fix my hopes on anything in particular.

It is now 8 months since the birth of my son, Flynn. I shall try and reflect with as much clarity and honesty as possibly. It is true what they say; as time passes you do remember the pain and events very differently.

 OK... hear we go, and breath.

In the early hours of a Tuesday morning I was in bed, already not sleeping (due to heart burn, cramp, insomnia, general discomfort EVERYWHERE, I know I'm preaching to the choir here). It started with a deep ache in my lower back, which is exactly how I feel when my period is starting. It was very early hours and I just knew that my body was gearing up to evict this overdue baby.

I was kind to my husband (Nigel) and didn't wake him. I just tried to rest and waited for the aches to come and go and spread around to the front. Then much to my dismay it stopped! I had high hopes of popping this baby out by lunch and being home for dinner. I was clearly delusional!

 Wednesday morning came and I was still having the odd twinge and ache on-and-off but nothing worth shouting about. My husband went to work and I got on with my latest neurotic nesting project: scrubbing the bathroom floor, with a toothbrush, oh and I got the razor out for a bit of de-fuzzing, in hopeful anticipation.

I was booked in to have a sweep that day as I was term + 3 days. I drove myself to the doctors whilst having hot flushes and road rage, and waddled like an obese toddler, to see my lovely midwife.

I had been dreading 'the sweep' more than the birth for the last 40 weeks but in actual fact it was in no way as horrible as I has expected. Getting on and off the examination couch was more uncomfortable. It did reveal that fantastically I was already 1cm dilated and in early labour. Time to get this party started....

Back at home, life went on as normal with the aches and not-quite pains continuing with no real pattern, but becoming more noticeable. I was waiting for a sudden gush of water, which never came. I went for a walk and re-packed my hospital bag... for the millionth time. 

The Thursday morning brought actual contractions (yeahhyy!). I took up residence on my birthing ball and started bouncing, rocking and doing figures of 8, if I could have wiggled this baby out I would have.

I wanted to stay at home for as long as possible as it had been promoted to me as being the 'best' option (at one of the antenatal classes I went to – I only had 2). 7cm was my goal for when I wanted to arrive at hospital. I spoke to the hospital 3 times before I finally thought I couldn't hold onto the doorframe any longer and the pain was changing, becoming very real. At this point although very tired I was excited and happy, we even managed to have a laugh in the car on the way to the hospital, in between what were now back-braking contractions.

 My experience changed rapidly from the point I walked through the doors of the labour ward, and to this day I feel very negatively about my birth experience. I don't want to scare or discourage anyone reading this, it is my story and my experience and simply the truth about how I feel and felt.

I was 8cm dilated by the time I was examined in the birth suite (a wonderful room painted in pastel colours, blue lit-up corridors, flowers on the wall, Michael bubble pre-programed into the CD player and a massive birth pool. So far the 'non-plan birth plan' was right on track.

Unfortunately I did not get to use this blissful room. The initial examination broke my waters and we discovered that Flynn had poo'd inside me (Jodi insert medical term! – “passed meconium” says Jodi!). This meant that I was shuffled through a set of double doors out the lovely, oh so lovely, birth suite and into a very clinical labour room. I was hooked up to CTG monitors above and below my bump and told to get in bed basically. It was at this point that the pain of my contractions started to become increasingly intense. All I could think was that the monitors were the cause of this increased pain (rational thought left the building a while ago!) I protested (not very peacefully) through the contractions and they finally took the lower monitor off and put a wire inside me onto Flynn's head. On reflection I felt quite bad about this as he had what looked like a cigarette burn on his head for about a week. It was at this point I felt that I lost control of my birth experience. Up until this point I was very positive, calm and embracing of the situation.

My husband, Nigel, pointed out that the numbers on the little monitor was basically showing my contractions and when the numbers went up I was in for it! This was the worst thing that I could have been told. Being able to see your pain in numerical form rising through 60...70...80....OMG I think my spine is being snapped! I managed to somehow get onto a birth ball. I was offered gas&air, which I gladly took but after one drag I managed to pull the nozzle off the end of the tube so the whole thing got launched across the room.

So, to my own amazement, and like a true northerner I did the whole thing without any pain relief.  I was a very angry pregnant lady ALL the way through my pregnancy and my anger seemed to have reached boiling point; it’s possibly my anger that got me through without pain relief.

Joking aside, pain relief just didn't occur to me and after the gas&air incident I don't think they dare try and give it back to me.

I was very insular and couldn't even handle Nigel touching me other than to hold me up. I didn’t want patting, rubbing or massaging. He was allowed to wet a cold towel for my forehead and that's as far as his responsibilities went. Poor man.

Even if I sat here thinking for days and day I could not fully articulate the feelings, both physical and emotional, in the final stages of labour. I think every individual will experience it differently. All I can say is that I was in no way prepared for the way it felt. Apparently, I repeatedly shouted at the midwife ''just tell me what the f**k to do?' as I lay on the bed not able to take control of my body.

I felt very alone and powerless; I just wanted to move into a position that would make a difference. On reflection there was little anyone could have done for me really; I just needed someone to hold my hand and tell me it was normal and to keep breathing. I do not want to go into a spiral of regret about the care I feel I received in the final stages of labour. What I needed was a calming influence; a gentle voice guiding me through each wave of increasingly intense pain, and that was not there.  I should have had my Jodi there with me.

As there was risk involved in the birth/to Flynn there seemed to be a troop of doctors who appeared for a meeting in my room to discuss what happens when he is born. I tried to listen to what they were saying, however in my very confused brain I thought they basically told me that they would come back in 5 hours and see if I was still in labour...I demanded an epidural instantly! About 40 minutes later Flynn was born.

The 'pushing' part was a relief and there were moments of clarity and calmness between contractions. 37 minutes and he was out, all 8lb 14oz of him (yes, it still makes me wince a little). To add to the urgency when he was born the cord was around his neck and he was whisked off to the little baby unit in the corner (It’s called a Resuscitaire says Jodi!) to be checked over and have his airways hoovered. He was squorking within moments. Nigel was the first to hold him.  He was born at 10.47pm and we had arrived at the hospital at 7pm.

The next 4 hours we spent in the delivery room and it consisted of having my vagina darned back together (my Midwife was also a seamstress (somehow reassuring, whilst looking at your toes in stirrups). We got a very close-up guided tour of the placenta (apparently it had a rare 2nd chamber? I really didn’t need to know, let alone see it). Then the most grotesque, uncomfortable, horror-show of a shower you can imagine...

The highlight of the night (second to having a baby obviously!) was the jam and toast. It was better than any drug they could have ever offered me, and the sugar rush saw me though the next 8 hours.

Having been through my birth experience I can understand why people opt for home births. I am not planning on having more children but if I ever do I would not hesitate to have a homebirth, in fact, I would insist. Knowing my environment, having familiarity and a sense of control, in a safe place would have transformed my experience. The care that I received at home and in the community was excellent. The 2 midwifes I had for all my antenatal care (Julia and Trudy) and the first midwife that visited me at home postnatally, were like a breath of fresh air and gave me hope that I was going to be okay. I would have done anything possible for my antenatal Midwives to have been at the delivery.

I went into my pregnancy and birth thinking that I will take things as they come, my body is built for this and there is no need to over-prepare.  In hindsight, I possibly underprepared; the birth and the first couple of months were a serious shock to the system. To contradict myself I stand by the fact that there is nothing anyone could have said, done or written, to really prepare me for what my body would go through. You will be warned that one born every minute is not in anyway a valid source of information: never a truer word has been spoken. For a start the babies on the TV don't look like aliens. 

As a side note, we arrived at hospital apparently in the middle of shift change over and this seemed to have a series of knock-on effects. They made us wait in a waiting room for about 15 minutes as they had no idea we were coming! I had spoken to the hospital 3 times before we set off. The midwife who took us to the birth suite was rather rude and when I said that I hoped I was 7cm dilated as we had waited so long at home, before coming to the hospital, she abruptly told me that if I was then they might not have a room ready in time for me. She was our first face at the hospital and she made me want to get in the car and go home. She implied that I might not have a choice. I saw about 4 midwifes in the space of the next 20 minutes and they lost my notes between the birth suite and the labour ward so if I told one person my full pregnancy history, I told everyone in the hospital. I had no time to build even the slightest of bonds with the midwife who delivered Flynn and this was the ultimate drawback.

I feel honoured to be a mother and my facebook friends don't half know it: I am a regular baby spammer.  The love you have for your very own mini-me consumes your life, the love you have grows everyday alongside of them. The first moments are unique and magical and it is the start of the most rewarding unconditional relationship you will ever be part of.