Written by Rosie Smith for her blog, Baby Boys Rock.
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I am deviating from the story to take a moment to show my appreciation for those without whom, for many, there may not be a story. So far I have spoken a lot about my love for Harry (as I should do), a little about my love for my catheter (perhaps a tad weird), but not so much about my love and appreciation of the women who helped me in my forty hours of need – and the forty weeks previous too!
I touched upon this previously, but it is so undoubtedly true that midwives – and midwifery and maternity support workers – are an incredible breed of people. I have never been more grateful for the work our NHS does than during my pregnancy, labour and the weeks postpartum.
I didn’t have the same community midwife throughout but, despite seeing multiple midwives, they all ensured that I knew – and they knew – exactly what was going on in my pregnancy. They re-assured me that my bump wasn’t growing too quickly and that my baby would be a normal size (ahh, how wrong they were); they talked soothingly and explained what I needed to do when I called up in a panic as I hadn’t felt him move and they listened patiently, as though they had all the time in the world for me, when I called up at 2am, 40 weeks pregnant, and told them I thought my waters had broken. They hadn’t – when they did there was no second guessing. I am now 99% certain that, on the occasion in question, I had peed myself a bit… it truly is a magical time.
During my labour I encountered a number of midwives; the one who answered the phone at 1 am on the 2nd of June when I told her, for definite this time, that my waters had broken; the one who took my amniotic-fluid-soaked pad from me (again, what a job!) when I arrived in the hospital at 6 am to be checked over and chuckled, “Crikey, I can tell just by the weight of this! I don’t need to sniff this one to know!” (I’ll admit that I was grateful – as she probably was – that she didn’t need to start sniffing something I’d just taken from my knickers); the one who told me they had no delivery suites when I arrived back at the hospital at 10pm, contractions coming thick and fast; the one who then put me in a room in the assessment unit to wait for a delivery suite, told me she would be back and then proceeded to go home from her shift without telling us whilst I spent two hours waiting for her, bent double in pain and painting the floor with amniotic fluid – she was probably my least favourite!
Then came my two heroes: Amanda and Vicky.
Amanda fought her way through floods of amniotic fluid and tears (all mine, all naturally exaggerated) to rescue me from the room in the assessment unit, where “she who shall not be named” had abandoned me two hours earlier, and instantly was able to soothe my panic. Both Amanda and Vicky possessed this innate talent for being able to know what type of midwife I needed by simply looking at me in that moment; stood there, crying, worried, covered in amniotic fluid and with fear in my eyes, Amanda knew that I needed her to be a calming, motherly figure to restore the confidence I had lost whilst alone the previous two hours: she held my hand and hugged me, she stroked my hair, she told me to breathe more air and less gas (I did not listen); she stabbed me in the back with water (we will forgive her that sin); she didn’t even get annoyed when I kept calling her back to the suite, adamant that I couldn’t do it without her!
Poor Jonathan kept saying “it’s okay darling, I’m here”, to which I would shout “I need her!” back at him… real confidence boost for the hubby there! Amanda powered through with me until her shift ended at 8 am on 3rd of June, at which point Vicky took over and was with me until Harry was born at ten past five that evening.
Not long before her shift ended, Amanda measured me to see how far I had dilated. Her shift ended at 8 am, so I imagine this was about 6 am, meaning I had been in labour around thirty hours and so, quite realistically I think, I was expecting to hear around 8cm… 4. She said FOUR. 4cm?! FOUR FRICKING CENTIMETRES?! Christ, I’d been in labour that long that Jonathan was probably 4cm! I was so disappointed I just burst into tears. Those two words devastated me and in that moment I lost any confidence I had left in my ability to give birth. Amanda hugged me and I sobbed “I can’t do this.” She offered me more pain relief and, after reassuring me it wouldn’t increase the likelihood of a c-section (I am petrified of operations), I had an epidural. Prior to labour I was apprehensive about epidurals but, by this point, I knew she was right and that, if I was going to make it to 10cm at this snail pace, I needed something to help me relax; it was far from the drug-free, birthing-pool experience I had written in my birth-plan but, with no pools available, I had to take it as it came and let go of any previous ideas I’d had about how it would play out.
The epidural meant that Vicky probably had a far more relaxing experience with me as I rested my way through the next few hours. She measured me again a few hours later and I was still at 4cm and so, aware I had been awake an awfully long time by now, she said we needed to speed up the process and gave me an induction hormone drip… as my epidural hadn’t worked properly I could feel this and, let’s just say, I wouldn’t recommend it. Ouchie. As well as pumping me with hormones, Vicky pumped the room full of energy; we laughed and joked together, spoke about baby names and how, in her experience, it is the baby boys who do like Harry and take an age to come out. We chatted about the music I’d put on – ‘The Essential Otis Redding’ Playlist – and she sang as she checked Harry’s heartbeat and fluffed my pillow. When she told me I’d made 10cm I could have snogged her. She may not have appreciated it, but I could have. When it came to pushing she had managed to restore all the confidence I had lost and I was feeling pretty damn proud of myself. I was proud that I was pushing out a baby, I was proud of my vagina (a sentence I never thought I would say) for making it to 10cm and, mostly, I was proud when Vicky said that she was proud of me. With every “well done!” and every “you’re doing amazingly” my confidence grew, so much so that when, after nearly two hours pushing, she said she could see his head but finished with a deflated “oh… it’s sideways”, I didn’t really care. I knew that, with Vicky’s help, one way or another, I would get him out and we would both be okay. Even when I had to go to theatre so a Doctor could turn his head as I pushed him out, Vicky kept me smiling and laughing all the way through and, on top of everything else, for that I am grateful.
So thank you. Thank you Rita, and Debbie, and Carol and any and all of the other midwives and maternity support workers from the Wantage Maternity Unit who took care of me during my pregnancy.
Thank you to all the midwives on the recovery ward and the maternity ward who took care of Harry and me during our stay in hospital.
Thank you to the doctor who turned Harry’s head, the anaesthetist who gave me my epidural, the obstetrician who checked my hip dysplasia wouldn’t be an issue in giving birth.
Thank you, above all else, Amanda and Vicky, for being the support and care I needed whilst bringing Harry into the world. Jonathan, Harry and I are eternally grateful… far more grateful than the card I sent you would ever have been able to adequately say, but something I hope that, by using your midwife super-powers, you were able to read between the lines, look at me and see.