Five Star Babies

Alexandra in the safe hands of the NHS.

Alexandra in the safe hands of the NHS.

Did anyone watch Five Star Babies, the two-part programme on BBC recently about little ones born at the Portland Hospital? (Still available on iPlayer for the next couple of weeks – you can find it here) I have to admit, it was one of those programmes I watched kind of knowing I would get angry about it!

Some of it wasn’t too bad. They focused a lot on how they tried to provide a five star hotel experience as well as their apparently world-class medical side of things. Some of the couples were shelling out tens of thousands and in return for that, they were getting champagne, afternoon tea and pretty much any fine dining ingredient that tickled their fancy.

In one way, it all made complete sense to me. These aren’t the kind of people who are going to go for a weekend away camping, instead they’ll be jetting off to the latest ‘designer’ holiday location and living in complete luxury. They’re not raking the rails of Primark to find a new dress to go to Wetherspoons in, they’re off to a designer boutique to be fitted for a little number for some ball or other. So why wouldn’t they use their money to get the very best birth experience (in their opinion)? Why would they ‘slum it out’ on the NHS and be sat eating toast sharing a room with a few others new moms when they can have their own luxury room and 24/7 room service?

The part which annoyed me much more than the general idea of the Portland was the nursery. Women could choose whether to send their newborn off to the nursery to be looked after for them. Some of the tiny babies were only sent back to be breastfed (and some even less if they were formula fed). This I can’t get my head round. You’ve carried a baby inside of you for nine months, given birth and now you’re going to let a stranger spend many of its first hours in the world with it instead of you? Yes you might want a sleep and yes you might be exhausted from birth but I just can’t fathom farming such a tiny, new baby out to someone else at that stage. I guess some of these women will have nannies and various other staff members to see to baby’s every need when they get home, so that being the case in hospital isn’t odd to them, but to me it just completely goes against any sort of mothering instinct.

There was one aspect of the care at the Portland which I did think was fabulous and that was each woman essentially ‘hired in’ their consultant who would be there for every appointment, scan and crucially for the birth as well. The idea of getting to know someone who would then guide you through one of the most important things you’ll ever do is incredibly appealing in a world where most women have never met the doctor or midwife who delivers their baby before the day itself. It must be massively reassuring, especially if there are complications, to have that one point of contact and that one familiar face all the way through.

While some of it was ridiculous (the woman wanting a C-section because she’d heard it would hurt to give birth *massive eye roll* – plus she’d seemingly not caught on to the fact a section is major surgery and would be painful afterwards? And she didn’t seem to understand the concept of picking her son up when he cried), I actually didn’t hate-watch it as badly as I thought I was going to!

Harriet and Alexandra x

Post-baby mental health

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The week before last I watched My Baby, Psychosis and Me – part of the BBC’s season of mental health programmes. I found it extremely emotional to watch, as many people will have done, and to be honest felt like this could have so easily been me. It made me squeeze Alexandra just that little bit tighter and cuddle her for that little bit longer.

Because of my own mental health history (including a hospital admission in 2014) I attended a few extra appointments during my pregnancy where they would check how I was doing. I had come off antidepressants in November 2014 in order to get pregnant so due to the fact I wasn’t taking medication during the pregnancy and I had remained relatively well mentally, they decided I could have a ‘low risk’ birth when they saw me at 33 weeks pregnant. This meant I could have (had the physical health problems not occurred) given birth at the midwifery led unit rather than consultant led.

One of my biggest fears during pregnancy was how I would cope emotionally after the birth – I knew my mental health history meant I was more prone to post natal depression and some health care professionals spoke to me as if I was guaranteed to suffer from it. It also felt like, although I had been extremely well since being discharged from hospital, it hadn’t really been that long. I started dating Dylan just weeks after leaving, although we’d known each other for years previously, and we conceived six months into our relationship. So although I was incredibly happy there’s no way to tell how things will be long term.

When things happened the way they did, I was spoken to a lot about the emotional after effects of being unwell and in intensive care. Especially at the QE they were very keen to let me know it was entirely normal to feel a bit all over the place. And I did for a week or so while still in hospital. I was crying pretty much constantly! When I came home life was definitely very different and I didn’t quite know how to feel but I felt surprisingly well – I think most people were shocked at how well I was?

But now? Now we’re six months into our parenthood journey and life has settled into a routine. I feel an intense bond between myself and Alexandra (and Dylan of course) and feel hugely lucky not to have struggled with PND. I feel ridiculously emotional some days and I know I have changed a lot but let’s be honest, tiredness and being unwell can have a lot to do with that without adding a baby into the mix!

I feel like I’m babbling on a bit here and I don’t really know what the point of what I’m trying to say is. I feel very much like I’m trying to process my emotions at the moment and get to grips with everything that’s happened. Life (and my thoughts, my head and my worries) has changed so much beyond recognition. A lot of things about the future terrify me. But above all that, I am just immensely grateful I have my family and my friends and, by and large, my mental health has fared much better than I thought it would in all my 4am ‘worst case scenario’ pregnancy fears.

Harriet and Alexandra X