It’s been four whole months since I gave birth to my little boy, and even longer since I closed Arcadia’s clinic in the Lace Market. Time really does fly when you’re having fun… and losing sleep! I did greatly miss my lovely clients and was extremely sad to close up what was essentially my blood, sweat, tears and passion for over 8 years, but in retrospect the timing, considering Covid-19, has left me feeling extremely fortunate. Physiotherapy, like so many aspects of ‘normal’ life, will likely come back changed when things finally settle down, in many ways for such a usually tactile, one-to-one service. But we’ll find a way!
Anyway, here’s our story, I hope you enjoy reading it, and very much hope you are all keeping well and safe in these crazy times…
Elective C Section (originally planned water home birth)
40+23 (a new record?)
22nd December 2019
Angus Timothy Oliver
Professional photos by Sarah Marsden Doula from Sacred Beginnings
I’ll say right now that this is not a home birth story as I so dearly wanted, and I ended up with a journey that was the absolute opposite of what I planned. However it is a positive story.
Our bump Filby was happily kicking right up to due date at the end of November 2019, and I was feeling fine, walking 2-3 miles each day and though tired sleeping well. Due date came and went, he kept wriggling, and all the research I’d read about how it is calculated armed me to politely hold off the health professionals who started to look grave and told me of their induction policies.
I’d always wanted a home birth, as a pelvic health Physio myself I really wanted to experience the physiological process and was excited about what amazing things our bodies can do. I’d spent ages planning it, got the birth pool, fairy lights, modesty curtain, smells and music sorted. I’d read loads about the process, attended groups and we’d enlisted the services of Sarah Marsden as our Doula to guide us through and use her amazing rebozo techniques and massage etc. We put up our Christmas tree a little early so we could have that in the room too, smelling of pine.
One week passed… I made Swedish Christmas biscuits to make the house smell festive. I visited friends and enjoyed the extra time before the sleepless nights began.
Two weeks passed… I stayed positive and active but a little combative, as I knew that the hospital were likely to try to push for induction, so I continued to read around the subject and get involved with online discussions promoting home birth. I was hoping for baby to come just to avoid the pressure.
When I went to see the midwife again, she told me she had booked me in to be monitored at City hospital the following week according to their policy. She was a nice lady but I felt really quite annoyed that it had been done without discussing it with me. However, I tried to reframe it in my head that it would be reassuring for me to hear his heartbeat and I was certain he’d be fine and they’d leave me alone. In the back of my mind there was the voice of all birth related professionals – it’s all about the oxytocin…
I went in for another scan and the sonographer was really sweet and positive – my amniotic fluid was very low, below the ‘normal’ range, but she did say it was probably just because he was so overdue as the fluid does reduce over time. However the registrar I saw 5 mins later was really grim and termed it Oligohydramnios. It apparently increases the risk of stillbirth, but also of pre-term labour, which clearly wasn’t an issue in our case! However, this would have meant any meconium would be less dilute in the womb, and therefore at higher risk of complications if he breathed any in on coming out. I left the hospital a bit shaken but thoughtful. I’d finally agreed to induction the following Friday, on 40+21.
The consultant had wanted me in for monitoring every day that week, but after two days of being told it would be just 20 mins and then being there for up to 2 hours it was really draining and I wanted to just have some time to feel normal not watched and hurried. So they agreed to see me on Friday unless baby came sooner.
I was still walking and trying to get fresh air, but finding my moods were changing a lot – one day I’d be energetic and cheerful, the next exhausted and tearful. I knew it was just the hormones and in some ways felt encouraged that things were clearly happening behind the scenes. I sipped my raspberry leaf tea and hoped over and over that baby would start to come naturally.
Finally three weeks had passed. I myself was born 40+21 so thought all along that this might just be normal for us. Plus the lungs are the last thing to develop apparently, and my husband has asthma, so I really wondered why there was so much rush.
But I’d had no signs, no contractions, not even back pain or anything. The pessary was really sore and sharp when they put it in, but things settled down and contractions started fairly quickly. Baby’s heart rate dropped substantially for around 3 minutes so they kept me in for monitoring yet another hour and then allowed me home on my insistence. Andy Sim (a well-renowned consultant at City, and one loved by the Home Birth Community for his manner and expertise) came to see us and introduced his colleague Petra who was going to be on call that weekend, which was really decent of them and it was very reassuring to know who to ask for when we came back in.
Over the next 15 hours my contractions ramped up and were coming every 2-3 minutes so early on Saturday morning we trundled back to hospital to check to see what progress we’d made. I was feeling positive that my breathing was making the contractions manageable and I was excited that finally things were starting to go forwards. Sadly when the midwife checked me, with an incredibly uncomfortable internal, I hadn’t dilated at all and had barely effaced. I was gutted and lost heart – I didn’t mind going through the contractions but it seemed pointless to go again if they weren’t doing anything. I really didn’t fancy the syntocinon drip as I’d read how contractions could go a bit haywire and could distress the baby – with such low amniotic fluid I didn’t want him to be put at more risk with another induction.
I asked for them not to put the pessary back in, and we went home. I was still contracting and I hoped that the pessary had started off my natural process, but things gradually faded away to nothing again. I got 12 hours sleep that night and on the Sunday morning woke my husband and said I thought we should go for elective C Section. We went in that morning around 10am and the team were really supportive and came to talk us through it all in great detail. Myself my husband and our Doula Sarah played cards while we waited the inevitable hours for things to get set up. I’ve never had surgery before and Caesarean had been the absolute last thing I had ever wanted to happen. But it seemed like the right decision for us, having tried for so long to give birth naturally.
Our Filby became Angus at 4.57pm that afternoon. My husband had fainted with the overwhelming potential of losing us both and was incredibly embarrassed to wake up to being stepped over on the theatre room floor! The whole thing was over in just a few minutes – I didn’t feel anything and was chatting to the anaesthetist about Christmas throughout! After a brief look at baby yelling healthily they whipped him away as he seemed to have swallowed some meconium. I was tanked up with drugs and though I felt aware of everything that was happening, I didn’t feel worried, just pleased we had decided for theatre in the end, as the right people were there to help him when we needed them. He was taken to NICU for monitoring and antibiotics and we were taken up to the ward to wait for news on when we could visit him. It felt very surreal being on the ward with my baby downstairs, who I’d barely met, but was very real, but could be in a bad way. My husband was all over the place, wanting to be with me, but wanting to see him. We finally went to see him around 11pm that night where we got some skin to skin, despite the cannula, heart monitors and nasal tube he had in. Thank god for the drugs still in my system or I think it would have been hugely distressing to see him like that, but I kind of felt I took it in my stride!
He finally joined us on the ward the following afternoon, just when all the families had arrived to meet him! We ended up staying in hospital for 5 days due to his antibiotics so had a Christmas on the ward which was again surreal but peaceful and really exactly what we needed in terms of support and guidance in the early days. Having been lucky enough to never really have needed the NHS until then, I felt incredibly grateful for the amazing service we received and all the lovely people who guided us through.
Angus is now four months old, and gives us magic every day! He’s so strong, and smiley, and is sleeping through the night most nights too. Though I ended up with the opposite of what I had originally wanted and spent so much time planning for, it really was a positive experience, and I think that’s because I made informed choices at every stage, and it turned out to be the safest option for baby too. I’d hope to try again for a home birth if we have another child, but we’ll be enjoying Angus for now and perhaps he’ll be part of the next birth!