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.
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