Familiar Faces

Many of you may remember that NHS England attended one of our forums at the end of 2017 in order to make a film about #BetterBirths and the importance of #continuity. They finally released the video! It’s wonderful to see so many familiar faces.

Thank you to everyone that took part.

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Friday Night Live

I was ‘due’ with baby at the end of April 2018. Having been very careful in my first pregnancy to only tell people the end of my ‘due window’ date and to have mentally prepared for going to 42w or longer, and then birthed him at 39 + 6, somehow this time I’d messed up and actually told people the end of April! So as the 1st of may came and went I found that I was starting to get impatient – and irritated as the ‘any news yet’ texts started rolling in! Turns out I’m great at advising friends and family that babies ‘arrive when they’re ready’ but I’m not so patient myself!

With my first I’d had no pre-labour signs at all and the first thing which happened was my waters breaking in the night. However, this time around I’d had tightenings, on and off low back ache, baby’s head engaging and waddling for a morning only for it to have gone back up after a lie down etc for weeks!

Having checked the weather forecast for the may bank holiday weekend I’d joked on the Thursday that Friday Eve would be perfect timing for baby to arrive! On Friday I was feeling quite emotional and irritated by my son so I did wonder if it would happen! I’d been watching home birth videos with my son to prepare him in case he was there and on Fri afternoon we watched a new one together. After we finished watching it I started becoming aware of some ‘period pain’ cramps starting to come and go. At the same time (around 3.15) my husband phoned to say he was leaving work and on his way home for the weekend.

By the time he got in (around 4.45) I told him that tonight could be the night as although the cramps were mild they were coming and going every few minutes. We decided to continue with dinner and then Dan would at least blow up the birth pool just in case. I also text my doula and the midwives just to give them a heads up it could be tonight.

At 5.10 my phone rang and I answered, thinking it could be one of the midwives. However it wasn’t – it was an estate agent giving us the news we hadn’t got the house we wanted. I felt deflated and through dinner the cramps stopped and I was worried labour would stall. By 6ish though they had started again so I called the midwives and by 6.30 they were increasing in strength so I called again, and my doula, to say please come NOW.  My first birth was only a 4 hour active labour and I’d been warned this one was likely to be even faster so I suddenly wanted them here asap! I was thrilled when Alice (midwife on call) said that Tanya had been asked to be called as Tanya had been my named midwife through both pregnancies.

My son was still up and wanting to play so I just knelt on an armchair through surges and played with him in between. When Nikki (doula) arrived around 7, Dan took Charlie through to go to bed and left us to labour alone. Around 7.25 though Charlie came pottering out wanting mummy to put him to bed (we usually feed to sleep still at night). I judged he was close enough to sleep to give it a try so I went and laid down with him and let him have a feed. I had to use all my hypnobirthing concentration and affirmations to get through surges whilst staying relaxed so he could go to sleep!

At 7.40 he was down and I left him and returned to the sitting room. Surges were getting really quite strong and I could feel we really weren’t that far away. The midwives arrived (Alice, Tanya and a student) whilst I was still labouring knelt in the armchair and Dan cracked on with getting the tea and biscuits out (fortunately he already had the pool up and filled!).

After the next surge or two I asked if I could get in the pool as I was starting to feel the urge to push. It was heaven getting in! Once I was in I don’t think I had many more surges to breathe through before I could feel her head was there and ready! At that I panicked slightly inside as she was coming so fast I was worried I would tear. Dan tried to leave to go make more tea and for the first time I snapped at him to stay with me!

Her head was born in an unstoppable rush on one surge and then Tanya was able to warn me that there was a hand up and I was able to gently breathe her out through the next surge. I even managed to catch her this time whereas Laura (midwife) had had to help me with my son! Official birth time was 8.14, only 34 minutes after finishing putting Charlie to bed!

We had lots of cuddles in the water as we greeted our little girl (we hadn’t found out the sex and I’d not had any strong feelings this time, unlike with my son). However the placenta was being a little slow to come so eventually Dan cut the cord so Tanya and I could concentrate on getting it out whilst she had some skin to skin with daddy. The placenta then came out quite quickly and I got out the pool to be checked – miraculously no tears and not even a graze!

We snuggled on the sofa and all had a chat over tea and biscuits whilst the midwives finished their notes and did the first checks and weighed (7lb 9oz).

By half 10 everyone left us to it, with Alice joking she’d said she’d wanted a birth that evening, preferably done by 10pm 😉 we were happy to oblige!

I cannot express how blessed we are to live in an area with access to such amazing midwives, providing an incredible personalised service on the NHS.

A Tale Of Three Births

Dear Jacqui,

I wanted to write to you to express my gratitude and share my experience of care from the homebirth team. The majority of my care for my three pregnancies and 2 homebirths was given by Deana Frost and Tanya Ashton and I don’t think I could ever effectively put into words how much they mean to me.  Their ability to go above and beyond what would be expected of them is commendable.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting all the homebirth members and would like to thank all of them for working together to make a truly awesome team

I honestly believe they are unsung heroes and I wish every woman could experience such a personalised service during pregnancy, labour and post natal care that I have been fortunate enough to have.

The continuity of care provided me with the chance to develop a rapport with the midwives, this meant when I was in labour and felt most vulnerable, I was being cared for by women I knew and trusted.  This cannot be compared to having 3 shift changes during my first labour where I knew nothing about them and they knew nothing about me.

The relationship that was built up over the course of meeting the same few women during my pregnancies gave me the trust that they cared about how I wanted to birth; I felt this, along with me and my baby was prioritised above all else. They work with you to create your birth plan and because they are working in your home, it feels as though you are working with them, all striving for the same goal. They watched my body but never asked to do internal examinations, they allowed me to listen to my body during the birthing stage, they gave me the time and oppurtunity to deliver my own newborn, they gave me the chance to have a physiological third stage and actively encouraged skin to skin contact for as long as we wanted. This is just so different to my hospital experience where my wishes were not always followed and at times I felt like a number on a ward.

I appreciate that not everyone wants to give birth at home, or even have a “natural” experience, but I think it should be possible to establish the same rapport and trust with teams of midwives at maternity units.

So many people have said you must be a ‘brave’ person to have a homebirth but Deana and Tanya made me feel so empowered by my first homebirth I honestly looked forward to having my second one.

Mother Theresa once said “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone that will make many ripples.”

Knowing how Deana and Tanya made me feel and reading the feedback from other mums I truly believe they are causing ripples within the birthing world, spreading empowerment, confidence and happiness to mums and babies across Surrey. And that is a pretty spectacular thing to do!

I hope I personally managed to express my heartfelt thanks to Tanya and Deana, but wanted to write to you as head of midwifery in the hope that they and the entire team can be recognised for the outstanding work they do.

Yours sincerely

V N

A feedback letter written to the Head of Midwifery at the Royal Surrey County Hospital. Posted with consent.