Midwife Appreciation

Max is very happy we got a lovely midwife.

During every big life event you’ve ever gone through, the people around you will have mattered hugely at the time. Roll on a week, month, year or decade into the future and their name, manner or appearance may have blurred so badly that you can’t recall anything about them.

That’s certainly the case about birth. Both times I was in hospital for longer than average. 12 days in total on antenatal, labour and postnatal wards with Alexandra, then ten days on antenatal while pregnant and a week on delivery suite and postnatal with Max. (We’re just talking pregnancy/birth specific wards and stays here so not my long hospital admission postnatally with Alex or any of the care Max received)

Along the way we met many midwives and other staff who were utterly amazing, whose names and faces are imprinted on our memories, and none more so than the midwife who delivered Max. Her name was Antoinette and I knew from about 30 seconds after the start of her shift that I liked her.

She walked into the room on the morning of the 26th March, introduced herself and had a quick handover from the night midwife and then immediately began tidying the room. A woman after my own heart! She instructed Dylan what to get out of the bags then put them away, and got out everything she might need for the delivery even though it wasn’t imminent at that point. She wanted to be ready for every eventuality and, as someone who writes lists like it’s going out of fashion, I was won over by this!

She chatted to us about her family, asked us questions and got to know us as well as you can in a couple of short hours. Everything was sorted so she could focus on us – even fetching Dylan some breakfast. Then when everything ramped up (Antoinette told me once I got into established labour it would be quick and she wasn’t wrong!) she knew the time wasn’t right for chatter anymore and began guiding me calmly and efficiently through the process of giving birth. There was no panic, alarm or harshness. There were just suggestions, advice and care. She knew what to say and do at any moment and her decades of experience combined with the joy you could tell she still feels every time she helps bring a new life into the world.

Even once Max was born, she was fabulous. She made sure I was washed, changed and fed as soon as possible and kept me company while Dylan and Max were on the transitional care ward then got me in to see him as soon as possible once he started showing signs of being poorly and had been transferred to NICU.

I’m sharing all of this because I can’t believe what a difference having such a great midwife made to the birth. Altogether it was better anyway owing to the lack of need for intervention but she made it so positive and something I look back on fondly despite the pain and blood and gore!

Having someone championing you and telling you you’re doing great (other than your husband cause you know he’s GOT to say it and what does he know about delivering babies anyway), having someone who intuitively knows what you may need at any given point or how you may be feeling, having someone who makes you feel like the most important person in the world right now – let alone the room. That’s something you can’t pay for, you can’t order, it’s luck of the draw.

Whoever walks into your room to deliver your baby will be qualified, but what their nursing degree won’t have given them is that amazing attitude we saw that day where nothing was too much trouble, everything was kept calm (as calm as it can be when you’re pushing a human out of you) and we were the focus – not the doctors or the medical side of things or even Max, me as a woman giving birth and us as a couple having a baby that day.

Dylan’s had four children and been at all of their births. He can’t remember any of the other midwives’ names but we know we won’t be forgetting Antoinette ever!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Post Birth Recovery

Looking a bit less dead than I did last time.

I’d just like to warn anyone reading that I’m going to talk about lady bits during this post. So maybe look away now if you’ve either never had a baby and don’t want to know about the grizzly details or if you don’t own lady bits and want their postnatal state to remain a mystery forever.

I realised today I’ve talked a lot about my children’s progress on this blog, which is a given really, but not really mentioned my own recovery from the birth this time.

If you put aside all of the other complications that happened postnatally with Alexandra – there was still the small matter of an episiotomy and 27 stitches to recover from. Even if you’ve pushed an entire human out of your body with no lasting damage to your hooha, it’s still going to be a little sore right? So add into that the fact someone’s done a cross stitch in your lady bits and it’s a long slow recovery. I’ve heard of people taking up to a year to recover from an episiotomy.

Thankfully mine didn’t take anywhere near that long but I do remember around day five getting the midwives to check my stitches as I was in so much pain I was convinced there must be some sort of infection going on down there. There wasn’t but it was still pretty unbearable!

This time round I escaped with a small tear that didn’t need stitching. I cannot tell you how much easier that was to cope with! None of that wincing as you sit down (handy when you’re spending all your waking hours in a chair next to your baby’s incubator) and weeing was much more comfortable – although that first post-baby poo is always going to be a terrifying prospect! But the thought is MUCH worse than the reality.

Aside from the hooha situation, I lost weight much more quickly the first time round (obviously being so ill!) so I’m still well over the weight I was when I got pregnant with Max (although I was this fat when I got pregnant with Alexandra!); I’m expressing this time so clearly that’s affected what’s happening up top as my milk had dried up by this point first time round; emotionally I didn’t have the third day baby blues either time but I think that’s because I haven’t had a ‘normal’ postnatal experience – there’s definitely been hormones flying around but isn’t that always the case even when you’ve not just given birth!

I was shocked how well I felt this time having had an unassisted delivery. By the next day I was walking around normal and aside from the lochia, leaky boobs and empty sack of a stomach I hardly knew I’d had a baby! People were commenting how well I looked and it was super refreshing especially having prepped myself to feel pretty shoddy.

It’s nice to know you can go through something as major as birthing a child and feel so good afterwards! It’s kind of empowering really! Which I feel a bit cringe saying but having felt like doctors delivered my first child and everyone else looked after her for months while I was a bit…well…useless, to bounce out of bed the next day and put some proper clothes on having pushed a baby out all by yourself feels pretty amazing actually.

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