Postnatal Without A Baby

Once you’ve given birth in hospital, you’re usually transferred fairly quickly to a ward called postnatal where midwives look after you by providing regular monitoring of your blood pressure etc, help you establish breastfeeding if you’ve chosen to feed that way and make sure baby is okay too.

First time round, I spent 11 days between postnatal and labour wards after the birth, with Dylan allowed to stay most nights because of how poorly I was. Whilst it was tough and I was in horrendous pain – not just from the stitches and general soreness of giving birth but also from the clots and pneumonia that had decided to join me for the post partum experience – we met some genuinely lovely people there, healthcare assistants, midwives, cleaners and doctors.

The second time round, I was taken to postnatal (I gave birth in a different hospital this time) where I spent six days. But the key difference this time was I didn’t have my baby with me. He was downstairs in NICU and was really quite poorly at the time.

I know how severely under funded the NHS is right now and that you’re lucky to get a bed and some meds! But I so wish the money was there to provide a separate ward for all the NICU mothers before they’re discharged. Having a baby in intensive care is a pretty harrowing experience anyway, but to come back on to postnatal every night and hear the (healthy) cries of everyone else’s baby who is right by their side on the ward is awful. I remember hearing one baby cry while I was waiting for them to intubate Max for the first time because he was so unwell he needed a ventilator – that was probably one of the lowest moments of the whole process. Especially as I knew I wouldn’t hear my baby cry until he was well enough for them to take the tube back out.

I missed most of my regular checks because I was downstairs with Max and only popping back up to express, eat and sleep. I’m sure it was frustrating for the staff me not being there (although I’m assuming most NICU moms do the same?) but it came across in the tone of some. Like I was inconveniencing them or being a nuisance. Some of them would happen to catch me a few times during my shift and never even ask how my baby was doing.

Generally I felt fine. I coped with all that NICU life threw at us. But every time I was on postnatal or thought about it, I felt upset and angry. I dreaded going back on the ward and I couldn’t wait to be discharged. Everyone told me the parent accommodation I moved into for the rest of Max’s time on NICU was super basic and lonely but I breathed the biggest sigh of relief when they finally let me leave postnatal. I think I skipped off the ward at the thought of no more checks, no more stern words from some of the staff and mostly no babies crying.

If I suddenly became a billionaire I would love to fund special private wards for NICU moms where they could come and go as they pleased, chat to the other moms in the same situation and get some support from midwives trained to deal with how they may be feeling. It’s an ordeal but there are ways to make postnatal life easier for those who have sick babies.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

A tale of two births

After I had Alexandra, there was obviously a very extended recovery time from all of the physical things that had happened to me relating to CAPS. That meant that the recovery from the actual birth (physical and emotional) was somewhat pushed aside and I’ve never really thought about my ‘birth experience’ that much – that was until after I’d had Max and I had something to compare it to.

On paper, while the postpartum experience with Alexandra was about as horrendous as it gets, the birth itself wasn’t totally awful. Around 27 hours from start of induction to birth, her heart rate slowed down, gas and air plus pethidine for pain relief, episiotomy and ventouse delivery. Not totally without its hitches but a lot better than some of the stories I’ve heard.

Compare that however to Max’s birth which was like a dream – okay the induction itself took a lot longer and even the time between my waters being broken and baby’s arrival was longer, but I got to actually push this baby out myself!

I felt totally in control, once I started listening to my body I pushed when I wanted to, I felt like I gave birth. With Alexandra’s birth I felt like the doctors had done it and I was almost a bystander. The gas and air didn’t do much for me – whereas with Max because I felt much more in control I was able to take in the proper amount of gas and really feel the effects of it. Yes I would have liked an epidural but in hindsight I’m pleased they didn’t get to me in time!

I felt a real sense of achievement after having Max and it was made even better by the fact I was able to get up and walk around very quickly after. Obviously it’s really helpful when you’re birthing a 4lb 13 long skinny thing who ‘slips out like an eel’ in the midwife’s words, but I still feel quite empowered by the whole experience.

Does that sound cheesy?
I guess I felt like my body let me down a bit last time, firstly by needing that assistance to get my baby here and secondly because I didn’t really know what I was doing and didn’t cope as well as I wanted to during labour. And then there was the whole organ failure thing afterwards.

So this time I was shit scared of giving birth. I felt like I was going to crumble completely and spend hours saying ‘I can’t do this’ like last time (and I mean not just during the transition phase like you’re meant to but through the whole thing practically). I just did not want to go through labour.

Now I am so so glad we didn’t end up with a c-section which was being talked about at one point (not that there’s anything wrong with a section, needs must!) but for me I almost needed that little ‘yes I did it’ moment after!

Having children and not dropping or breaking them (and hopefully not screwing them up too bad) is one of the biggest achievements any of us can list, but I’m actually really proud of giving birth to Max and it’s not often you catch me praising myself quite so liberally!

Crazy how you can have two births only 18 months apart and feel so differently about both.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Max’s Birth

I was just about to write a post about the differences between both my births and the advantages of having an amazing midwife, then I realised while I’ve written about Max’s first few weeks in hospital, I haven’t actually dished out the gory birth story details. Here we go:

We had always known I’d be induced and we’d had a date for weeks that we were working towards, although a hospital stay at 32 weeks had meant we knew there was a fairly good chance we’d go earlier than 37 weeks.

As it was, we had a growth scan at 34+6 so the three of us (myself, Dylan and Alexandra) went along to the hospital with the intention of doing something fun in the afternoon before having some friends over that evening. At the scan it became apparent quickly to me that there was an issue. Normally they’d talk me through the details straightaway but instead the sonographer asked us to go and talk to our obstetrician. She said it looked as if our son’s growth had slowed down from the 50th centile to the 10th since the last scan four weeks previously. There was also a concern over the blood flow from the placenta indicating it had potentially started to fail.

The doctor said all this, combined with me having slightly raised blood pressure, meant now was probably the time to start the induction process.

We had to wait a couple of hours and my sister came to pick Alexandra up while my parents sorted out the arrangements for getting all our bags and hers sorted. Then we were shown to our bay in the induction suite.

At around 7.30pm that evening (Friday) I had the first prostin tablet inserted. Overnight Dylan stayed at my mom’s to try and get some rest (it’s nearer to the hospital than our house) and I had another tablet in the morning.

They ended up doing a third one because, while I was getting tightenings, they weren’t regular enough and my cervix wasn’t dilating very quickly. Then the doctor came at around 4pm on the Saturday to check if I could have my waters dilated, this was the most painful part of the process including giving birth! In fact the doctor who did the check came back a few days later and apologised to me for how awful the check was.

It was then a wait to get a room on the delivery suite: we were told it could take days although I was given priority because of my condition. In the end it was about 12 hours before we went round. In that time we’d gone on endless walks to try and progress things. I tried sitting on the birth ball but found it really uncomfortable this time round (although it did wonders helping me dilate during Alexandra’s labour).

It then took an hour and a half to get a cannula in my arm before they could break my waters. Nothing much happened and then at 8am our midwife Antoinette came on duty. She was fabulous! She got everything organised straightaway and then after a couple of hours it was time to start the drip to see if they could progress my contractions.

Nothing happened for a while and then all of a sudden it was like a switch had been flipped. I went from 2cm to 5cm in a matter of minutes. They decided I could have an epidural (they’d said no originally because of the blood thinning injections I’m on – but it had been long enough since my last dose to make it safer) so I said I’d like one.

The anaesthetist came to have a chat to me about the procedure and I agreed to it but it became quickly apparent there wasn’t time. I had a check as Max’s heart rate had dropped a little, to see if he could tolerate the epidural, but by this point I was 8cm. I was just using gas and air (although probably mentioned a few times that it was painful and I’d really like some more pain relief!) and feeling really out of control during contractions. I then realised instead of concentrating on breathing in the gas and air during a contraction, I actually needed to focus on the fact my body wanted to push.

Because I had a ventouse delivery with Alexandra, I’d never experienced the urges to push so it took me a while to realise I just needed to trust my body and go with what it was telling me. Dylan said he could visibly see when that happened and I became much more focused and wasn’t thrashing around the place like I had been previously.

All of a sudden I was fully dilated and it was time to push. Then his head was out and one push later our son Max was born at 11.57am weighing 4lb 13.

He was lifted onto my chest and Dylan got  to cut the cord (for the first time even though Max is his fourth child – with Alex because she needed a bit of oxygen straightaway the doctors cut it). We had 15 minutes of skin to skin before he was taken for his checks and taken upstairs to transitional care while I was sorted out. Although that process was a lot easier this time (just a small tear with no stitches required compared to an episiotomy with 27 stitches).

Antoinette had said to us it would all happen quickly once it started and wasn’t she right! It was amazing to actually get to push the baby out by myself this time. As I mentioned earlier, I definitely want to discuss the differences between the births soon!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

The Perfect Birth

Whatever your views on pregnancy, birth and parenting, I don’t think anyone could disagree women these days know far more than they used to about the whole process. When I talk to my nan, who had five children, she just didn’t have the knowledge about how everything worked. She didn’t have access to the internet, to the NCT, to the kinds of books we can pick up from any high street store these days. When I was talking to her about various aspects of my pregnancy with Alexandra, I was telling her things not the other way round which is crazy when you consider Alex was my first. Things she’s told me about people she knew losing their sight during birth, she puts down to the baby being so big but actually the more I’ve read the more I’d bet it was a condition like eclampsia (although maybe that’s just because I feel a bit weird thinking about pushing out such a large baby you actually go temporarily blind!).

Whatever you think about women having much more access to information (and in most cases it’s extremely empowering and beneficial to all involved), it does create something else – more pressure on women to have the ‘perfect’ birth regardless of what the medical professionals are telling them.

I think women these days (and I talk about women because I am one and I know a lot of fellow moms, not because I think there’s no pressure on men) are under more strain than they’ve ever been to do things the ‘right’ way. Whether it’s breastfeeding/formula feeding, staying at home/working full time, vaccinating, weaning, we are judged on every single aspect of our motherhood journey even from before conception because everyone thinks they’re an expert.

And one area where I feel there’s increasing pressure (and there really shouldn’t be) is in the labour room. I’m constantly seeing a barrage of posts in various places online about the ‘perfect birth’, this pressure to have an all-natural birth, to have relaxing music, candles, no intervention, someone playing a harp in the corner of the room. Not being induced, not taking all the drugs on offer, breathing through contractions rather than screaming at your husband and breaking his hand holding on so tight.

Whilst it’s great to promote the labour that women want, and to empower (there’s that word again!) them into being able to speak up about how many people they want poking around their nether regions while they pop the baby out, or about giving birth at home, or whatever’s consider the ‘best’ way – we also need to accept that this ideal is just not what’s going to happen in some cases.

Some of us need a room full of people staring up at them while they’re in stirrups, some of us need doctors who know far more than us, some of us need scissors and vacuums and all sorts of exciting contraptions to get the baby out. For some of us, a low risk birth in a dimly lit room with just a whale sounds CD for company is simply not going to happen.

So let’s not give first timers the idea that they can have exactly the birth they want, because it’s not a restaurant order (yeah I’ll have a water birth with a side of delayed cord clamping please). Yes, it’s good to read up, to know what you’d prefer ahead of time. But it’s also important to understand the risks if we start ignoring medical professionals – sometimes they still know best no matter how much your friend Dr Google might try and convince you otherwise!

And let’s also not keep pressuring women that there’s a ‘right’ way to give birth. The best way to give birth is for there to be a baby in your arms at the end of the day, whatever way it came out. You don’t get any medals in this game – your reward is your child!

Harriet, Alexandra and bump x

 

A High Risk Pregnancy

I’ve seen a lot of women ask on baby forums and elsewhere about seeing consultants and I think there’s a general lack of knowledge around low/high risk pregnancies so wanted to write a quick post about it. Please remember I’m in no way a medical expert and anything I say here is based upon my own limited experience – please ask a midwife/doctor etc anything you’re not sure on!

When I had my booking in appointment during my first pregnancy, I was categorised as potentially high risk as I’d got a history of mental health issues, including a previous hospital admission the summer before. This meant I had some extra appointments to see a specialist mental health midwife so they could check how I was doing and put in place a plan should my health deteriorate following the birth. Being high risk also automatically means they want you to give birth at a consultant-led unit rather than a midwife-led unit or at home.

At 33 weeks, it was decided because I hadn’t been on medication during my pregnancy and hadn’t been unwell at all, they would step me down to low risk and I’d just have a follow up appointment six weeks after the birth. But then because I started showing symptoms of pre-eclampsia at 37 weeks and my platelets became dangerously low, I ended up becoming high risk again and giving birth in the consultant-led unit after being induced.

This time round, I was automatically high risk and as such won’t even be giving birth at the hospital I had Alexandra in, I’ll be going to Birmingham Women’s Hospital which takes on the complicated cases from around the region. This has meant monthly obstetric and rheumatology appointments (more often from the end of the second trimester), monthly haematology appointments with plenty of blood tests, frequent cardiology appointments and echocardiograms and ECGs to check how my heart’s performing, weekly midwife appointments from 16 weeks (luckily I’m able to have these at my GP surgery) and more frequent scans (so far at six, eight, 12, 17 and 20 weeks as opposed to the standard 12 and 20).

It’s also meant a change in medication (although actually taking fewer tablets each day) and twice daily Clexane injections (which are a bitch but worth it if it keeps us safe!). We were told very early on that as soon as we had any worrying signs or symptoms we’d need to have a frank discussion straightaway. They will deliver at 37 weeks (considered term, although your due date is 40 weeks) but would be more than happy to deliver at 34 weeks if needed and will consider it beforehand if necessary. Thankfully we’re now at the stage where they would be looking at early delivery with every medical intervention possible to ensure baby was healthy, rather than being told we need to end the pregnancy to save my life.

Of course, a lot of this is fairly worrying and yes it would be lovely to have a low risk pregnancy! But equally, baby has been perfect on all scans so far and I would be much more upset if we had to contend with the thought of our little one being poorly. I’ve said from the outset that, while some people may have considered it too much stress to go through, this pregnancy and everything that has gone with it will be more than worth it if we have a healthy baby at the end of it.

If we’d been told at the start of our pregnancy with Alexandra what was about to happen, then maybe we would have considered our options. But knowing what we know now, and having her in our lives, would we go through that again? Absolutely, a million times over. And I think that’s what’s made this second pregnancy easier, knowing how much I already love our second baby and how much more I’ll love him once he’s here and I can hold him and watch him grow every day. Knowing how much being Alexandra’s mom means to me and knowing I have a chance to have that all over again and to give her a sibling to grow up with – a few people have said to me they couldn’t deal with the injections and all the appointments and the stress, but it’s more than worth it for that chance.

Sorry we got all a bit slushy towards the end there! Here’s to reaching 24 weeks this weekend and trying to keep baby in there for a few weeks longer!

Harriet, Alexandra and bump x

This Time Last Year

Alex enjoying the toys at her friend's party

Alex enjoying the toys at her friend’s party

On the mommy forum I go on quite a lot, you’re split up into ‘birth boards’ depending on what month you gave birth. I spent my pregnancy on the September 2015 board but due to Alexandra’s early arrival have ended up on the August 2015 instead since. As everyone’s babies turn one this month there’s been a lot of talk of ‘this time last year’. It’s been the same with my NCT friends: the first of the babies was born on July 18 then we had a bit of a gap until four were born in August and two in September. The busiest time was when the little one older than Alex was born on the Tuesday, then Alex on the Saturday then the next one the following Wednesday.

So again we’ve uttered the phrase ‘this time last year’ a lot as we reflect on the last few weeks of our pregnancies/the first few weeks of motherhood. The fourth of the seventh babies was born on this date last year – little did I know that just four days later we’d have the fifth arrival in the form of our tiny Alexandra! In fact I remember being convinced I would be the last of the seven of us. Myself and one of the other mommies were due on the same day, September 13, and there was one baby due after ours but I was certain I’d go overdue so felt like mine would be the youngest.

As it was, by August 25 last year I’d had a niggling ear and headache for weeks and had been at the hospital a couple of times. I’d been told it must be an inner ear infection and there was nothing they could do. I couldn’t take any strong painkillers and generally was in a lot of discomfort! A year tomorrow (August 26), I toddled down to the GP surgery for what would turn out to be my last midwife appointment – and the last time I did a long walk with my bump. While I was there the midwife said I’d got protein in my wee, high blood pressure and she was concerned about some bloods I’d had taken a couple of weeks before at the hospital. They repeated the bloods as a precaution and I remember her apologising to me because I wasn’t meant to have blood taken at my 37 week appointment. I said it was fine. As it was, her erring on the side of caution could have saved both of our lives!

The following morning, bright and early, I got a call from her saying I urgently needed to go to the hospital to see the consultant. While I was there he said they thought I’d got pre-eclampsia and although he didn’t want to induce me until 38 weeks they wanted to keep an eye on me every other day. I booked an appointment for the Saturday and went home. The next day I didn’t feel well and called my mom. She said she could come and get me and take me to the hospital as it was best to get checked out. Little did she know she wouldn’t go to work again until the December!

So we went to the hospital and as soon as they hooked me up to the blood pressure monitor, I knew I wasn’t going home without a baby! The midwives called the doctor who said he was very concerned about my low platelet count and then I began the long walk down the corridor to the other side of the hospital where the consultant-led unit is. My hopes of a midwifery-led birth had long gone by this point! Some 20 odd hours later after two gels to get me started, my waters being broken, the longest bath I’ve ever had, not a lot of sleep, gas and air, a violent bounce around on the birth ball, a rapidly decreasing heart rate (baby’s), some probably very rapidly increasing heart rates (Dylan’s and my mom’s), lots of hand holding and reassurance and support (from Dylan), pethidine, a glorious hour and a half that I have no recollection of, an emergency button press, about 3,000 people running into the room, an episiotomy, ventouse, some pushing (mainly forgetting how to push from me!), the ventouse slipping off and having to be put back on her head, a little bit of oxygen at birth and many more things I can’t even recall, we had A BABY!

And a year later after highs, lows, cuddles, kisses, lots of milk, almost as much milky sick, jaundice, lots of time with daddy while mommy was ill, many naps, thousands of nappies, weaning, first words, first steps, first crawls, sitting up, rolling over, pointing, waving, clapping, hair-growing, lots of pretty outfits, lots of mucky outfits, soft play, making friends, welcoming a cousin into the world, playing, so much playing! And about a million other things, Alexandra is nearly one!

Harriet and (for the last time before she turns one!) Alexandra x

Birth Plan? Don’t Bother

And that my friends, is a facial expression symbolising absolute relief!

And that my friends, is a facial expression symbolising absolute relief!

Some people have a hugely detailed birth plan which basically goes through their labour minute by minute. My birth plan largely focused on ‘get the baby out’. Whatever happened, I was focused on the fact I wanted to leave hospital with a healthy baby whether it came out upside down, through the ‘sun roof’ or doing a tap dance. My view is does it really matter? If no one died (I was going to type ‘or got hurt’ but realised that probably is an unrealistic birth plan!) then all’s good. I say that fairly flippantly, but in truth that’s what it comes down to. Did the baby come out of you? Are you now taking said baby home? Great!

Don’t get me wrong, there were a few things I would have liked in an absolutely ideal world. I thought about having a water birth and, all things being well, I probably would have asked about the possibility when I got to the hospital. All things weren’t well and I couldn’t have one. It didn’t really fuss me, although I did feel a slight sense of irony when I was put into the water birth room a few days later when I was transferred back on to the labour ward from post natal. I had to stare at the damn thing all day.

Other things would have been great, like not needing to be induced and delayed cord clamping (she needed oxygen so faced with two minutes attached to her cord or her being able to breath, the latter was definitely preferable), but really I had very little expectation about the birth other than the baby had to come out.

I find it frankly quite worrying when I hear of people writing huge, long, detailed plans because really the likelihood of it happening exactly that way is so slim. Out of the seven of us NCT moms who gave birth within two months of each other last year, I think one would possibly say her birth went pretty much how she would have liked (although I’m sure there are still things she would have changed if she had the choice). The rest of us ended up with an assortment of ailments, interventions and tales to tell which frankly wouldn’t be in any right-minded person’s birth plan (I’m not trying to put any first timers off birth, honestly it’s fantastic. Unicorns come and play harp music to you. It’s like a holiday really rather than a hospital stay).

I fear people who decide they are definitely having a drug-free birth or a particular type of pain relief (most of the options weren’t available to me cause of my platelet levels being so low) will end up being hugely disappointed and will this affect the birth because they’re so down about it? I would hate for anyone to get their hopes up about something only to have them crashed when it’s so vital for them to stay in a positive frame of mind to get through whatever the labour brings.

Conclusion of the tale: you’re going to get a baby. A soft, squishy, lovely baby you can take home and cuddle so tight their head might pop off (don’t do this). You’re about to embark on a really long journey which, although an important part, labour is only the tiniest proportion of. It’s like focusing on the fact you forgot to take a particular t-shirt you like on a year-long journey around the world. At the time (and often most of the way through pregnancy), labour is the sole focus and it seems like the biggest deal ever. But in a month, or a year, or ten years, it just won’t matter as much because what will matter is your baby, your family, the life you’ve had since that tiny newborn was placed on you for the first time.

Oh and don’t be a hero, no one hands out prizes for being tough. Take all the drugs on offer! (Seriously, best hour and a half of my labour was on pethidine. I remember nothing)

Harriet and Alexandra x

The Bit After The Birth…

Every baby girl needs a tutu!

Every baby girl needs a tutu!

When you get pregnant, when you go to the classes, when you finally give birth and your baby’s placed on you for the first time, you think about being a family, about going home and starting your motherhood journey. You don’t think about becoming critically ill and missing a lot of your baby’s first weeks! But apparently that’s what sometimes happens. I haven’t blogged for a long, long time as shortly after my last post I was readmitted into hospital and that’s where I’ve been up until Friday last week. Thankfully, I am much much better and Alexandra is a healthy, happy and thriving little girl (although getting bigger by the second – she’s nearly three months old already!).

So much has happened it seems overwhelming to get into it, but I’m just going to start at the start and when the post starts getting too long I’ll publish it and start a new one:

After Alex was born (birth story here), it’s all a bit of a blur for the next few hours apart from when they tried to take me for a shower, I collapsed and all of a sudden there were about a dozen people in the room! At around 1am they moved me down from the labour ward to a bay with four beds on the postnatal ward, meaning Dylan had to go home. I was just watching Alex all the time so the midwives took her cot out of the room and in with them for a couple of hours so I could get some sleep. We had visitors the next day and everything seemed to be going okay, my platelet levels were even going up.

On the Monday when she was two days old they were talking about discharging me because of this but then one of the lovely midwives, Karen, noticed Alexandra was looking a little bit yellow and suggested she get tested for jaundice; it turned out she was right on the borderline so she had around 17 hours of treatment. Over those 17 hours my oxygen levels suddenly started dropping and no one could work out why, the staff were all testing themselves, swapping machines in case the original one was faulty etc. I started feeling really dizzy and out of breath and ended up on oxygen – around this time I was transferred to my own private room. I was having to get help to get to and from the bathroom and was really feeling quite rubbish.

I ended up having numerous tests including chest x-rays and a CT scan where dye is put into your veins – this led to a diagnosis of extensive pulmonary embolisms in both lungs (blood clots) and pneumonia. I was put on warfarin which is a drug which controls the consistency of your blood and stayed in hospital for a further week. I look back on those first 12 days as quite a happy time because I loved the midwives and healthcare assistants looking after me and Dylan was allowed to stay so even though he was on a little camp bed, me on a hospital bed and Alex in a plastic cot at least we were all together in one room.

There were of course huge down moments, the most major of all being two days before the wedding when we had to have a serious chat and come to the decision I was too unwell and it would be too much of a risk me leaving the hospital for the day. Up until that point the doctors and rest of the staff were going to do everything possible to ensure I could get there, even if I was in a wheelchair and on oxygen, but by the Thursday they too said it wasn’t a good idea. I’ve still double barrelled my name by deed poll and we’ve both now started wearing our wedding rings but of course it was heart-breaking to call off something we’d planned for so long and put our all into organising.

Fast forward to the following Wednesday and there had been talk for a couple of days of me being transferred to the respiratory ward and Alexandra being discharged as she was absolutely fine and they’re not meant to keep babies past ten days on the antenatal ward. But I seemed to have got a little better (I was adamant I wasn’t going up to the ward without my baby so I was desperate to improve!) and the decision was taken that I could be discharged.

I’m going to leave this post here as it’s already very long! But I’ll be back soon with the next chapter.

Harriet and Alexandra x

Having A Baby! My Birth Story

I can only describe my look here as 'relief'!

I can only describe my look here as ‘relief’!

My last post announced the arrival of my baby daughter Alexandra but I wanted to go into more detail for those who want to know what happened during the birth and afterwards. Warning: I will be fairly graphic about it all so maybe don’t read during dinner or if you don’t like (a small amount of) gore.

So I made it to 37+3 and other than the headaches I’d been experiencing for weeks, everything seemed to be running fairly smoothly. I went for a routine appointment with my midwife who said my blood pressure had gone up (it had been low throughout my pregnant) and there was some protein in my wee. The blood tests I’d had done at the hospital a couple of weeks previously had shown that my platelets were slightly lower than they’d like so she made the decision to do another blood test and see what was going on.

The following morning I had a call from her saying my platelets had dropped even further and I needed to go in to see the consultant at the hospital as I was showing a lot of the signs of preeclampsia. That afternoon I had my appointment where it was confirmed that’s what I had and decided I’d go in every other day for monitoring. If my blood pressure went up any further he said they’d induce me but they wanted to try and get me to 38 weeks if possible (this was the Thursday and I’d be 38 weeks on the Sunday).

The following day I didn’t feel very well at all so I went into the day assessment unit with my mom and as soon as they hooked me up to the blood pressure monitor I knew I wasn’t coming out of there without a baby – it had gone up even further and the consultant on that day said actually he was more concerned about my platelets so let’s induce!

I was transferred up to the antenatal ward where I was checked (cervix was soft at this point) and given the first lot of gel. They said it might take two or three to get me going but within an hour I was having regular tightenings and wondering how the hell I was going to get through labour if this first bit was so bad.

Dylan managed to finish up everything he had to do at work and home and then come down for what was a long night! I had a little walk around and a bath but neither of us got much sleep as he was sat in a chair for the night – although we managed to fit in the bed together for an hour’s nap near morning. Fast forward to 2pm and we’d sent him home to sleep and my mom had come back in, I was examined again and it was decided I was 1.5cm and my cervix was ready enough that my waters could be broken.

I was taken upstairs to the labour ward and my waters broken and put on a drip to get things going a bit more. Immediately I felt very out of control – like the midwives were controlling my labour not me (not because of what they were doing, they were great, I’d just got into a weird mindset about it all) and felt quite distressed. Dyl came back and my mom left for a while although she was back for the pushing bit (we hadn’t intended to have her there but things just worked out that way as we both wanted the extra support).

I went on the birth ball and Dylan encouraged me to keep mobile and do all the things we’d learned at our antenatal classes – although apparently I was moving round on the ball so violently I was in danger of knocking everything over. I was using solely gas and air at this point for pain relief and I didn’t feel like it was working but the midwife said I’d tell the difference if I didn’t use it for a contraction. We had a slightly comedy moment when the mouthpiece of the gas and air came off and we both completely panicked but luckily I got it back on again really quickly and could carry on using it through the contraction I was having.

I wasn’t meant to be examined for four hours but I begged them to do it an hour early at 5pm which I’m glad I did as it turned out I was 5cm dilated and could have some pain relief, although my options were limited cause of the platelets and blood pressure, so I had pethadine. I then can’t really remember anything until what must have been about twenty to seven.

In the meantime baby’s heart rate had started dropping and the midwife had pressed the buzzer prompting more medical staff to come in. I had my legs up in stirrups and could hear the doctor talked about EP which I knew meant episiotomy and it turned out they were going to use the ventouse to get her out. I really wasn’t very good at pushing at first but thankfully got myself a bit together in the end – although we had a slight mishap when the ventouse slipped off her head. Thankfully second time round it worked and less than a couple of minutes later our baby daughter was born!

She was put on my stomach for a while – the first thing I asked was whether she was really a girl! They got me to check and yes she was!’ – but then she needed a little bit of oxygen to get going, they said because of the shock of being born so quickly. I’d gone from 5cm to fully dilated (10cm) in an hour and a half and she was born half an hour later, so my recorded established labour is actually just under two hours.

I can’t remember where she went then but I think she was either with me or Dylan during the time I was getting stitched up – I asked how many stitches I was having and the doctor said ’20 but it’s only really one’ as it’s all in a row. I’m claiming 20 though! That was slightly painful and felt like he was stitching up my leg! So I had some gas and air during that which helped a little. After that (the placenta delivery I hadn’t even noticed!) the whole ‘birth’ business was done and it was time to start being a family and recovering from the labour.

Now there is a whole lot of drama to come but I’m going to have to split up the posts otherwise it’ll be the longest read ever! So I’ll grab some time soon to write up the first part of the post-birth story.

Harriet and Alexandra x

A Little Bit Of News

The eager beaver readers among you will have noticed I haven’t blogged for a while. I’m delighted to announce that’s not because I’m being lazy or decided I didn’t want to blog anymore – it’s because instead of writing this being hugely heavily pregnant I’m writing this as a mom!

I will write a much longer post about the birth and the days since, in fact it’s likely to be a few long posts as so much has happened! But firstly I wanted to announce her birth and celebrate that before getting into the nitty gritty!

Alexandra Cavanagh was born at 7.04pm on Saturday, August 29th 2015, weighing 2.93kg or 6lbs 7.
She is a tiny bundle of absolute joy and we can’t believe how much we love her! She’s very well behaved and is settling herself into a routine already (although that may change when we finally get home from hospital!). All of the staff here compliment us on how pretty she is and how much hair she has – I think we did a great job making her although I’m a little biased.

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That’s all for now and I’ll be back soon once I’ve started processing the birth/postnatal story and getting it down into a vaguely readable post!

Harriet and Alexandra x
(Weird to not write Harriet and bump!)