We had our first child, Elowyn, at Kingston-upon-Thames Hospital in 2012 under NHS care. Like a lot of first time parents, the days leading up to the birth were filled with our questions of the nature: ‘Is it OK if we just….?’ or ‘Are we allowed to….?’. Contractions were stop-start for over a week - I know now that she was probably back to back and this is a normal thing to happen, but at 41 weeks I felt the clock was ticking, plus my NCT literature said it should only be 10 hours, not 10 days! I was ready for my (laminated - only joking) birth plan to be useful, I had after all spent months writing it, but it just didn’t seem to be going to plan. We were in and out of hospital over several days with the stop-start contractions, nobody told me this phenomenon was perfectly normal. I felt frustrated, very emotional, eager to please and doubting my ability to do this. After a bit of meconium and some concerns over bubba’s heart rate, we went very quickly from not being able to get on to the delivery ward (we always got stuck in triage where I was bombarded with questions and my contractions stopped!) to being rushed in and faced with an emergency C section. Elowyn was born at midday, she was healthy, I was healthy, breastfeeding was established straight away and I felt like I should have been more satisfied with the whole experience. We were actually a bit stunned. Had we really been given the chance for a normal vaginal birth? What the hell just happened?! Reflecting on this even now my emotions range from bewilderment, frustration, pure rage and a deep seated feeling of helplessness. We went home and cracked on with working out how to parent……
Two years later and now living in Dorset, we considered thinking about a second child. It was only at this point that we both really admitted to ourselves quite how much the birth of our first child had affected us both. I called Wessex Midwives and Caroline came to see us to talk through our hospital notes and to unpick what had happened, which was a great healing process for all involved.
A few months later and I called Caroline up to tell her the good news - bubba 2 was due! Plans for VBAC swung into action, Caroline’s check ups and consultations in the comfort of our own home were fantastic. We had a clear list of preferences (not plans - language is key in birth prep!) and were ready to maximise the chances of a normal vaginal birth. Unfortunately Caitlin had other plans and, being breach, we elected for a planned C section. This birth experience was very different, after I got over my initial VBAC disappointment Caroline helped us to be proactive and plan the Cesarean birth we wanted. It was a great birth, we felt informed and empowered throughout and Caroline was an integral part of our birthing team.
In 2018 I found I was pregnant with our third child. Without hesitation we contacted Wessex Midwives. Caroline had retired and so we were more than happy to bring Erika into our birthing team. Over the following months, in collaboration with the amazing consultants at Poole Hospital, we planned how to maximise the chances of a VBA2C being possible. Erika bridged the gap between parents and hospital team, she navigated the discussions and helped us to make informed decisions. We visited the delivery suite and the Haven (midwife led) with Erika and decided upon our preferences accordingly. I approached our third birth with quiet confidence. Ideally I wanted a quiet water birth in the Haven with no monitoring and minimal disruption.
Our third birth did not go to plan! It had similar elements to my first birth (41 weeks, stop start contractions) but this time the outcome was very different (successful VBAC) and very importantly, our perception of the birth was completely different. We had a fantastic birth experience and I am still buzzing 10 months on while writing this. With my high blood pressure on the day we ended up on the delivery suite with continuous monitoring. This did not affect my focus or my confidence, Erika was by my side along with my Mum and husband, I stayed in the zone and concentrated on my amazing body. Isabel was born in water and I cannot be more happy with the choices we made and the opportunity to fulfil my VBAC dream. It took years but I finally became the awesome birthing warrior that I had dreamed of becoming!!
To summarise, the key things that Wessex Midwives give you that transformed my birth experiences:
Having the same person beside you in the months leading up to birth, and also after.
Having complete confidence in your decision making process BEFORE the birth - it leaves both parents with a clear head space to focus on birthing
Negotiating the hospital system on your behalf, in discussions with consultants, in making birth preferences and then reactively on the day as the birth unfolds.
Whatever the outcome, whatever the deviation from the preferences, you know you have maximised your chances of a positive and beautiful birth experience for both parents.
"I cannot recommend Wessex Midwives enough. It was my first pregnancy and I really wanted to know my midwife and for my midwife to understand my wishes during birth. I dithered about an independent midwife, mainly due to cost, however once I made the decision to go for it I wished I had done it sooner. The relief I felt was incredible and I trusted Caroline from the off. The months flew by and at each appointment Caroline, my husband and I put a birth plan in place. No appointment was rushed and I felt I was listened to every step of the way. I thought my waters may have broken 2 weeks early and Caroline was available by phone immediately. She advised I make my way to hospital for a check up and she met me there. This was a false alarm but a good practice nonetheless. Caroline was amazing the week before birth liaising with the hospital regarding induction/cesarean plans but luckily baby made an appearance before these were needed.
My baby was born at home with my husband, Caroline and Erika. It was amazing and could not have gone better. I think this was because I was relaxed in the knowledge that I was in fabulous hands.
From speaking to my husband I know he also felt the whole experience was amazing. I think he was sceptical at first but would not hesitate to recommend Caroline. He was given lots of jobs so felt a real part of the birthing day.
The after care received is also brilliant and above and beyond anything the NHS can offer.
Thank you again for a brilliant experience x" Jenny, 2016.
"Thank you so much Erika (supported by Caroline) I fully believe we couldn't have had the natural home birth we had without your support. Throughout my pregnancy, you gave us facts and the confidence to empower us to make our own decisions. Quite simply getting in touch with Wessex Independent Midwifes was singularly the best thing I did: every woman should have an Erika and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Wessex Independent Midwifes. Thank you again, love all three of us X" Corrie, 2016.
"When it comes to planning who is going to be with you to support you when your baby is born, it feels like one of the biggest decisions you might ever make. I feel so incredibly lucky that Rachel was the midwife in the room for me.
Rachel has this unique energy that is at once gentle and assured, proactive yet utterly patient and perfectly balanced. It is something that is hard to describe but wonderful to experience. Rachel came for some one to one antenatal visits before the birth which always left me feeling renewed, confident & prepared. She even took extra time to show my older daughter pictures and explain the birth to her in ways she could understand (she is 3 & a half) which I thought was particularly amazing.
I was also lucky enough to do pregnancy yoga with Rachel at these visits which I would highly recommend to anyone and everyone. Rachel guides you through a fantastic practice which prepared my body and mind in a way I had overlooked in my first pregnancy. I truly believe this was a large factor in why I had the most incredible home birth experience this time. She is so experienced with home births in particular and she reassured and coached me at just the right moments whilst trusting in nature and me and my baby to let the process unfold without the interventions I had experienced the first time round.
Sky was born after only 3 'pushes' in the pool. As I reached transition (when I began to doubt I could manage it and began to feel a little lost). Rachel told me to look at her and then my partner in the eyes, which sounds simple but was exactly what I needed to refocus and bring me to a place where I knew I could do it! Sky's arrival was truly magical. We were all blown away by it! Rachel's close and continued care after Sky had arrived, both immediately afterwards and for our post natal visit was absolutely second to none. We all looked forward to seeing her and her visits so much. She always made us feel she had all the time in the world for us. For anyone considering an independent midwife, don't hesitate a single moment longer.
I would recommend Rachel in a heartbeat. It's a decision you'll be thankful you made forever for you and for your new baby." Rachel, 2017.