One year on: my birth story

I read somewhere, some time that the birth of your child is also a bit of a rebirth as a woman.

A year on from the early arrival of our girl, I am finally putting finger to keyboard to tap out the story of her welcome to the world.

There’s no real reason why it’s taken this long to get this out there. I didn’t question whether I wanted to share this info. It’s just been quite the year and as the months rolled by it seemed to make more sense to do it as a bit of an anniversary piece. Because right now, my lordy, i’m feeling so nostalgic and reminiscent. 

A year really isn’t a long time is it? And when you hit a certain age they bloody fly by. Whenever someone I care about is going through a hard time, a time that they cannot see will pass or ease I always tell them that just a year from now things will be different. When you’re in the midst of a struggle or challenge, that might sound forever of course. I’ve been known to mark dates in my calendar as a pinpoint to check in on someone who a year prior was having the worst time of their lives in the hope that with time things have got markedly better, that they can see how far they’ve come.

So while Del Boy affirms that this time next year ‘we’ll be millionaires’, I am currently looking back a year and feel like that is when I hit the jackpot.

As i’ve shared here, we decided to keep our pregnancy completely off social media. The eagle eyed may have spied a chubbier ankle or a fuller face but we never overtly said that we were up the duff. Personal choice, no judgement to how others handle it.

So, below is a run down of the events. It’s a long account and may seem rather detailed, but we were fortunate enough to have a wonderful doula with us who also kept a log of what was going on, so you’ll see little excerpts from her too throughout. She was so lovely by the way so I’ve put her details at the bottom of the blog.

I don’t want to ever forget the moment that I became a mother, so this blog is mainly for me and Elodie but if it’s of interest to you too, then fab. 

It’s not exactly the birth we hoped for or optimistically anticipated. But it was safe and well managed and resulted in us holding our darling baby girl that just a year prior we had no idea we would ever be able to create.

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So it was my idea. Let’s grab a 3 nighter away with the dog before baby’s arrival. I’d found a cute little barn in a place called Fressingfield, about 30 mins drive from Southwold where I had been before and loved but John had never visited. The weather forecast was pleasing. We would paddle, eat chips out of paper, go to pubs, walk and wander. Just us 3 for the last time.

We had 3.5 weeks to go before the suggested arrival of our little girl were she to be on time at bang on 40 weeks gestation and although I kept saying in singsongy tones over and over ‘she’ll be early, I just know it’ I perhaps didn’t fully believe that she would arrive quite so early and had led the charge on one final getaway.

“So, shall we pack the baby hospital bag thing?”; a question we had banded back and forth before the final decision was “nahhhh…as if she will come while we’re away! Hahahahahahahahaha” 

So I swept to the side the growing piles of stuff cluttering up our spare room. The clary sage oil, the battery operated tea lights, the Tena lady pants, my new dressing gown, freshly washed organic baby sleepsuits and cute hats I had pondered over for hours on Etsy. Nappies, creams, the car seat. Glorious snacks for me. New slippers. Oh you bloody name it, I had loaded UP on the ‘essentials’ and would finish packing them all on immediate return from our minibreak.

I did however pack my maternity notes, just in case something happened while we were away that wasn’t the actual baby herself. Shudder.

Before we hit the road, our sausage dog nestled into his carry bag, we stopped for a local brunch.

I was so excited for this break. I love a U.K break and nothing more than quality time with my other half. Bring on the uber charming town of Southwold with its white sand. We both have our sights set on some sort of seaside life in the future so any chance to go and checkout a shoreline and we’ll take it.

The weather forecast was good and I was heavily all about the lounge life this far into pregnancy so for the road trip was donning a casual harem pant, birkis and a baggy tshirt.

Now earlier that day we had been for a routine scan. Because our pregnancy was an IVF creation and i’d suffered a complicated loss some months before, we were being more regularly checked along the way. It was at the hospital we were due to give birth in just under a months time. The scan was fine, all good, no concerns. But also no suggestions of just how ready baby was looking.

Baby had been ‘head down’ for weeks, she had assumed the right birthing position well in advance and hadn’t moved from it. The last midwife check I had before this scan I was told that she was one fifth engaged and when i’d stated all matter-of-factly ‘yeah but i’ve read (read: googled) that she can still move around and change though so…’ the midwife said more matter-of-factly ‘hhhmmm unlikely’. Ah.

My tummy had always been low throughout the whole pregnancy. I never had one of those perky up-bumps and quite often I would say to John ‘hahaha it feels just like she’s going to fall out hahahahaha’.

The drive to our barn was straightforward, if a little bumpy as we winded down country lanes. We arrived late afternoon but because the weather was so lovely we decided to forgo the unpacking and just get back in the car, headed for Southwold beach. Down windy roads we meandered before arriving and parking up by the pier.

With Rupert on his lead we took to the path lined with beach huts, making our way down towards the doggy friendly stretch of sand. And yes ok, this was a bit of a walk for someone carrying what felt like 8 watermelons in her insides. But we took it slow.

Finding a suitable place to sit, we plonked (well I definitely did) down on the sand a while. John coaxed Rupes down to the waters edge for a paddle while chatting to his pal on the phone, arranging some work thing for a weeks time, checking with me if that would be ok because of baby’s imminent arrival. HAHAHAHAHA. I gave him the nod.

This big old bird then got hungry and decided it was dinner time. 6.30pm-ish.

We sauntered up to the little town. It’s at this stage that I start to feel a little damp down below. I didn’t say anything to John. I google (obvs) and apparently a little more stuff in your pants at this stage of pregnancy is normal so i’m all ‘hhmm what to have for dinner?’ still.

After we can’t find somewhere at this time to eat, we start the long walk back to the car deciding to stop en route back to the barn to get food supplies. Now, I am starting to feel a bit knackered at this point. I start to walk a little more hunched as everything inside me is just starting to feel like it’s gathering in weight right down in my lady bits. John notices and offers to run and grab the car while I perch on a church bench with Rupes.

As we then drive to leave Southwold we notice a little pub and pull over to see if they allow dogs (of course they do) and could cater for a vegan (yup!). We’re on! Mine’s an alcohol free shandy please, plus obviously fish and chips.

As we sit and watch two pigeons repeatedly get it on on a roof opposite, I start to feel a little more damp. I pop to the loo, all is fine.

The bumpy drive back to the barn takes 40 mins. I’m all for some telly on the sofa and an early night before some exploring out and about tomorrow. John settles on the sofa in the lounge, Rupert is trying the wicker dog basket out for size and I lay my head on John’s lap as we watch a bit of The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds.

I need a wee. Don’t I?

I go to the loo downstairs. I start weeing. Except the ‘wee’ doesn’t stop. In fact are my pelvic floor muscles already completely shot to shit and therefore can I no longer stop my own wees?! WHY CAN’T I STOP WEEING?

I stand up, my trousers still around my ankles and WHOOOOOOSH! I kid you not. My body leaks clear fluid like no fucking tomorrow.

OH MY GOD.

I literally paddle back up to John, losing so much fluid with every step. My trousers are completely soaked.

‘John I think we need to go to hospital now’ I say, relatively calmly as John’s eyes pop out of his head at the sight of my sodden harems.

The next bit is a bit blurry. It’s a mix of phoning midwives, 111 and any ‘local’ friends to help us, particularly with the dog! I mean what are we supposed to do about him? Leave him in the middle of nowhere in a barn? Hells no. John tries the neighbours but no one answers. I am fairly certain in this tiny sleepy town that hearing aids and teeth are atop the bedside tables for the night.

I have vivid memories of John and I circling the kitchen table in mild to moderate panic at this stage. However, I somehow muster a moment of clarity where I remember that my mum and dads old next door neighbours who I basically grew up next to had moved up this way in the last year and I ask John to call them. To their surprise! They are absolute angels and hotfoot it into their car to come and collect Rupert. Luckily they are about 20 mins away.

We are waiting for an ambulance to come and get me, arranged by the lady on the 111 call. The lady that also told me to go and get some towels and put them on the floor. You know, just in case. The look on Johns face as I am placing towels on the floor is a PICTURE. Yes daddy. You might be delivering this child. With Rupert as head nurse.

Once your waters go there’s just no going back. Had contractions started first then you might have days but not if your waters go first. And not if you have previously tested positive for Group B Strep; a fairly common condition in women that can have catastrophic consequences on the baby during birth. I tested positive for that at 6 weeks pregnant when I was in A&E with a bleed. They did a swab, like a smear test, and yep positive. Oh fabulous. The best scenario with ‘GBS’ is that contractions start off labour first, not your waters going. Once waters are gone, then baby is exposed to bad stuff and there’s a maximum window of time they will let you go before intervening with an assisted birth to get baby out; so forceps, the sucky vacuum device, c-section. It also means you are heavily encouraged to get on IV antibiotics asap and then so too is baby immediately after birth. Anyone who knows me knows that I HATE medication, especially antibiotics which yes play a really important role in controlling active infection but why GPs don’t prescribe probiotics alongside them is beyond me. Antibiotics do a lot of damage internally too. And with GBS you end up taking them as a precaution rather than because infection is definitely present. So could all be for no reason. The thought of the first fucking thing going into my baby right after birth being bloody antibiotics made me really unhappy. Those mum guilts starting before she was even birthed!

Natasha, our doula:

As I was going to bed on 8th May I turned to see my phone lit up and a call coming from John. Uh-oh I thought! John was in a bit of panic about what to do as Vicky’s waters had just broken and were continuing to leak. They had just arrived that day for their mini- break in Suffolk. He informed me they had called an ambulance that was on its way and that he was trying to figure out what to do as there was also Rupert to consider. We didn’t get much chance to have a long chat on this first phone call but when we spoke again I asked more questions to see if there were other signs of labour or any worrying signs re: the waters. Seeing as all was well, except for the waters breaking this early, 37 +3 weeks, I was able to tell John that it was great to get her to hospital and have her and baby checked but waters breaking was not an emergency and to take their decisions slowly so at each step they would know they had made the decisions themselves without any pressure. 

The ambulance arrives and I waddle out to it as Liz and Ian (mum and dad’s old neighbours) arrive to collect the dog. I am in the stretcher thing inside the ambulance as a trainee paramedic fails to accurately insert a canula into my hand just incase I need fluids. He pokes it in all wrong, blood spurts everywhere not least over my white flip flops. I remember the words of Natasha, encouraging me that I am more in control of the birth than I realise. I just need to speak up and be direct. So at this point when the trainee is attempting a second route into my hand I say ‘no offence but i’m a little nervous just now and would prefer him to do it’ as I point to the fully fledged paramedic sat next to him. Who as a matter of fact, has delivered 9 babies in this type of situation before. In good hands then?!

I can hear the calls from the ambulance driver lady to local hospitals as she tries to determine where we are headed. Norwich is too full. That’s what they call ‘they big hospital’ which makes me think it’s the best choice. So not going there makes me feel a bit sick. That and the driving while not being able to see out of windows. It’s decided that we are off to the St James Pagent in Lowerstoft, 40 mins away. 40 LONG OLD MINUTES IN AN AMBULANCE. Windy roads, pleasant enough but banal chat with the paras, facing the wrong direction, no windows. Husband somewhere behind us in his car, to a hospital I know nothing about. I mean why isn’t the labour ward there busy? Is it because it’s shit and unsafe and people avoid it? OH GOD.

So as you can see, things aren’t going according to the plan so far are they…

Sodding plans. I am reminded of our ideal birth plan (that I don’t have with me). A list of preferences for the occasion; dim lighting, water birth or at least time in the birthing pool for pain relief reasons, limited to no pain relief like injections, maybe only gas and air if I can stand just that, I don’t want to be induced as know that inevitably leads to c-section. And I don’t want one of those. Aromatherapy would be nice, positive affirmations and language from the midwife team, calming music. 

Our doula (Natasha) had worked really closely with me in the months prior to get to a preference list we were happy with and empowered by. She had explained how certain decisions that may seem simple and harmless at the time, might unbeknownst to us put us on a very different path to what we wanted. So I was very confident about exploring every possible route before anyone could utter the words ‘theatre’, ‘caesarean’ or ‘episiotomy’.

We finally arrive at the hospital but being in an ambulance and wheeled around, I can’t see what it looks like. WHERE AM I PLEASE? I want to get a sense of the place. Is it a dive? I then start praying that the medical team we have are really great. Please.

I’m taken straight to a consultant led ward which already makes my ears prick up. I don’t want to be consultant led. I want midwives and pools and a natural delivery. John arrives and I’m feeling a bit stricken already. Overwhelmed by what’s going on and the immediate suggestion of a c-section. Hang on a minute son, I haven’t had one contraction yet! I’m laying in a hospital bed and at the foot of the bed are two midwives and a consultant. The consultant is mega keen on just getting me into theatre and cutting baby out of me. John gets on the phone to Natasha who is hotfotting it up the motorway to be with us. I’m soooo grateful for this as some 3.5 weeks before our due date, she wasn’t even supposed to be on call for us.

Natasha listens to what the consultants are saying, John relaying bits that she can’t hear clearly. She is our voice of calm and reason, telling us to ask questions and seek alternative ideas. I recall BRAIN from both an antenatal session with Natasha and our hypnobirthing course;

B R A I N:

  • Benefits – what are they for this route?
  • Risks – again, what are they for this route?
  • Alternatives – are there any?
  • Implications – what are they for this route?
  • Nothing – what is likely if we do nothing at this stage? If we wait a little longer…

The consultant isn’t thrilled but it’s agreed that we will wait a while and see what my body does. But we are on a ticking clock, that is abundantly clear.

I think John must’ve relayed some of our preference information to the midwives as when we are shown to our birthing room the lighting is dimmed, they have an aromatherapy diffuser machine thing going and some nice calming music on. There’s a bed for me, a couple of chairs, our own loo.

Natasha:

I set out at 12 pm with the GPS telling me it would take 3 hours. On the way I had a couple of calls with John, pulled over in a lay by and stayed on the phone at one point when the consultant and midwife were giving them their options. I did say that they could still leave and feasibly get back to Barnet if mother and baby were all fine after having been checked and monitored. Vicky was quite happy to stay where she was though and the thought of a midnight journey back to London with Rupert and the unknown was a lot to ask, so the wise decision was made to stay at James Paget. 

The next few hours sort of blur for me. I’m not having contractions and they are unsure if all of my waters have gone. I am hooked up to a belly belt thing that monitors baby’s heartbeat and I remember that being the most stress inducing part at this stage – the monitor that is permanently recording her heart rate is immediately to my left as I am on the bed and it beeps all the time and prints out the report. I like to know whats going on, generally in life, and ask about the numbers and what is deemed low etc. Baby shows up a few irregular patterns in her heart rate which makes my heart flip out of my fucking body so I ask that the machine be turned away from me and the beeps turned off. I ask that whoever the midwife is at the time (because they change shifts) to keep an eye on it but that with it blaring out beeps and info all the time I felt like I was too distracted by that when that’s arguably their job, not mine.

I poo a lot. Now, in the movies and shit you are shown that if a lady in labour needs to poo it’s because she actually needs to get the baby out and that she might end up doing that on the loo. No, no. I just genuinely needed a lot of poos (which is because the body is amazing and is trying to make all the room inside you for a easier delivery). However, because I was (at some point?) hooked up to an antibiotic IV drip a trip to the loo meant that someone ideally had to come with me. Sorry hubs. For better or worse. Probably the end of our sex life forevermore.

I look a state. Because we hadn’t packed a stitch of our hospital bag, at some point John heads out to the shops – honestly do not ask me when – and brings back a mans t-shirt from Tesco or something for me to wear as a nightie. He also picks up some baby things, but his wonderful dad – my father in law – is also on his way up the motorway with the car seat and some of the baby stuff from home. 

Natasha:

I arrived at 3am. Mummy and baby were being monitored and everything was fine. At 3.30am they began the antibiotics and I encouraged Vicky to try to get to sleep if she could so that when labour began she would have hopefully had some rest. 

After a vaginal examination had established that the cervix was closed and posterior the Doctor had explained about induction using the oxytocin drip and this was begun at 5.30am. The main midwife at this point was Belinda, she was fine but we all much preferred Naz and Freya who came on for the day shift!

The drip was turned up to 12 mls at 7.45 and thereafter about every half hour. The midwives changed over at 7.30 and we said goodbye to Belinda and Rosie when Naz and Freya came on. Freya was a student but she was brilliant and spent the whole day with Vicky. She was very competent and helpful. 

I don’t think I slept. I remember really trying to but at best I snatched a 10 min catnap here and there. We must’ve arrived at the hospital about 10pm-ish on the 8th and we were now into the early hours of the 9th but I couldn’t tell you what day it was, truly. And that was nothing to do with drugs as I hadn’t had any.

I’d had one internal examination at this point to see if I was dilating, I wasn’t. Not a smidge. So again, off piste on the old birth preferences it was decided and agreed to start an oxytocin drip. This made me a bit sad, a bit like ‘woah hang on that’s basically fake contraction juice. Surely my body will eventually kick into gear when it and baby are ready?’ But fear also set in now, that medical intervention is there for a reason. I’d like to say that the trust in my body and ability was greater than the protocols that hospitals follow when you tick a few boxes on a piece of paper, determining the likely route of delivery, but it wasn’t. Control felt like it was slipping away, the balance tipping more in favour of probable intervention to get baby out and I felt so sad and flat about that. I was meant to be one of the ones who had this down, to deliver baby naturally, surrounded by tweeting birds and someone somewhere playing a fucking harp. Shame. It sometimes just doesn’t work out that way does it. And I guess the good thing about needing to get a baby out into the world is you really have very little time to dwell on the ideal path that you so wanted to be skipping down. The here and now is all that matters.

Natasha:

At 8.30 am John lay down on the floor and tried to catch a nap. 

At 9am the drip was increased to 48 mls and soon after Vicky started to get some surges. 

John was brilliant organising his Dad (who was getting over food poisoning) to bring things from home and encouraging and supporting Vicky and keeping her fed with healthy snacks. At one point Vicky said, “where’s the Mars Bars John?!” 

After about 1pm Vicky had been encouraged not to eat or drink anything else in case surgery became an option if the cervix wasn’t opening. So Vicky had and enjoyed a cheese sandwich for lunch.

It was all such a roller coaster for John, trying to manage getting the things that Vicky and the baby would need, including buying new clothes. All the midwives were very impressed he got the right sizes. A hard task for an unborn premature baby!

Another vaginal examination was done at 1pm and the cervix had moved to the anterior position but was still closed. I left to try and get a nap in the car at 1.45pm and slept for half an hour and came back in and had some lunch. When I got back Vicky was tired but very upbeat and having more surges which were increasing in strength. She was happily sitting on the birthing ball, bouncing away slowly and relaxed.

Vicky was so calm and strong and positive the entire time. At no point did she feel she had to rush things, or be hasty in her decisions. We got lots of help from the Midwives giving us as information on Strep B and what other options were potentially available and it was nice being able to get all the information calmly and not being rushed or pressured. 

I have vivid memories of when contractions started. I thought i’d want calm lovely music but I opted for Beyonce’s angry, shouty, sweary album for a bit. It might sound weird to say but I enjoyed contractions. They started to get stronger and more regular but I mainly bobbed up and down on the big ball thing with my head on my hands resting on the side of the bed as they peaked and just breathed through them. They hurt like hell yes but it was bearable. I didn’t opt for any pain relief.

Quite a fetching look yes?

Natasha also did a lovely foot massage on me at some point, which was bliss.

Natasha:

When the Doctor gave Vicky another vaginal examination at 5.30pm and there was no progress in dilation the decision was made to have a caesarean. They had now waited for about 21 hours since the waters had broken and the risk of infection was always the main concern, for the baby’s wellbeing and health. 

It was an emotional and disappointing moment for you both, but you had done everything you could to cope with the unexpected and had been patient and taken each step very bravely and calmly. With no dilation it didn’t seem waiting longer would change anything within the next 12 hours or so and to continue with the oxytocin could take a day or more to really begin opening the cervix.

The Doctor and the anaesthetist came in to explain the procedures and the risks. Vicky had a good laugh when told of the risk of death and said: “good luck John”

I kind of knew as I laid back for the final vaginal exam that I hadn’t dilated. I just knew. When the words came out of the consultant to confirm this I just cried and cried. I can’t tell you if it was disappointment, fear or a heady mix of a lot of swirling emotions all at once.

Things then happened very quickly. It was about 6.50pm and before I knew it I was getting the gown on and I *think* I walked to the theatre while John was busy getting all Derek Shepherd on me (fans of Greys Anatomy will know what I mean).

With a c-section you are largely only allowed one birth partner so Natasha waited for us in our room while John joined me. Although it felt like he didn’t actually enter the room until I was pretty much being cut open. I remember repeatedly saying ‘is he here yet?’

A c-section is full on. Or the kind that I had was. You enter a brightly lit theatre and there are LOADS of people in there, instruments, the bed. I recalled Natasha and my hypnobirthing words of support if a c-section ended up being the delivery route and that was to gain a little control in a moment that felt completely the opposite.

So as I got in there and perched on the side of the bed I asked for everyone to introduce themselves and to let me know what role they would be playing. I didn’t want to be seen as just another woman on the table that they would perform just another c-section on. I wanted to make it a little more personal. 

It felt like people were surrounding the bed as I was told to sit upright and very still as the epidural was prepared. They sprayed some ice cold stuff on the site of the injection first to confirm that I could feel it and yes of course I could. Then they inserted the needle with the drugs that would numb my lower half – which I don’t recall hurting – and then sprayed the cold stuff again to see if I felt the temperature of it, but I couldn’t, only the pressure of it hitting my body. A very weird sensation.

I then started to get scared. I suffer a little with claustrophobia. Not in an extreme way but the sensation – or lack thereof – of not being able to feel or move or summon my own body to respond to my mental messages of ‘move’ scared me. Someone lifted both of my legs and swung them out in front of me as I was helped to lay down on the bed. I was laid out like Jesus on the cross, arms out wide. A man sat on my right and took my right arm and inserted lines into it. I don’t know what they were.

John had joined now and was to my left, head end. I was scared and shaking. I remember telling them that I was so scared that I would feel them cut into me. I had flashing images of screaming out in pain. 

Relax. I didn’t feel a thing. Apart from tugging. A lot of heave-ho-ing.

Then something I’ll never forget happened which made me warm to the whole c-section thing. I asked ‘how long until I meet our baby?’ and the surgeon confidently said ‘about 2-3 minutes now’. And that right there blew my mind. So simple and matter of fact. You will be meeting your bundle so very, very soon. She’s on her way.

Any fears I had had about the surgery dissipated. I went into mummy mode. She was going to be in my arms so soon and I just couldn’t wait.

With one big final tug, they told me she was out and she squeaked. 7.15pm on May 9th 2018.

Because we were having my placenta encapsulated she was kept with cord in tact for longer than usual and was cleaned up and checked over by the nurses before she was given to me. She was laid on my chest, with a tiny little woolly hat on her head. Her little scrunched face and her searching hands. She was tiny and perfect. 5lb12oz of love and wonder.

I remember telling her repeatedly that ‘mummy’s here’. I couldn’t believe her. I stared and stared. She was there, she was real but I just couldn’t believe her.

I then started to feel out of it. I was talking as the surgeons were working on piecing me back together behind the curtain and I became increasingly aware that a) I couldn’t see properly and b) my speech was fucked. I was slurring and my vision was hugely impaired. I kept trying to tell the medical staff this but was told it was just the medication. But I got really scared that the epidural had effected me abnormally somehow. 

If the moments prior to being led into theatre were a blur, the next bit is a total mess in my brain. I literally can only remember these bits:

Being wheeled on the stretcher/bed thing into a big lift – I have no idea where Elodie was, if I was holding her, if she was being wheeled in too in one of those plastic baby cribs on wheels. 

Trying to vocalise that I was going to be sick, before being handed a cardboard sick tray thing and hurling. I was sick A LOT.

Ending up in some sort of room, again no idea if Elodie was there with me, I *think* she was to my right but I just remember repeatedly asking about my speech and vision but it felt as though no one was hearing me.

I don’t remember the first time I tried to breastfeed. I just have sketchy memories of various midwives/nurses coming in to our little private room to try and help baby to latch on.

I remember feeling so awful that Elodie had a little cannula in the back of one of her tiny hands for antibiotics. I felt bad that she had jaundice and was told hastily and rather curtly by one visiting nurse that the best way to get rid of it was to breastfeed. But I just couldn’t get my boobs working or Elodie latched on. 

I remember going through loads of tiny plastic syringes as I squeezed my boobs to collect the important colostrum to then get that into baby. They brought a breast pump machine in and I used that too, keeping track via a chart about how often I was expressing and how much we were getting in her. We ended up giving baby Hipp organic formula which I felt terrible about while we still worked on trying to get my milk to come in. We cup fed her and tried a tiny bottle too, one I still have in a little keepsake box.

We were in hospital 5 nights due to the antibiotics Elodie and I needed and her jaundice. John largely slept on the floor.

Overall the staff there were amazing but a few days in to our stay I had a major meltdown. I was so stressed with all the attempts at breastfeeding, all the endless knocks on the door from medical staff to give Elodie meds, to jab her on her tiny heel to take blood samples to check the jaundice and threat of Group B Strep or to encourage breastfeeding. It was when one nurse said to Elodie but absolutely aimed at me ‘come on Elodie, I have an even more premature baby next door and he’s breastfeeding no problem’. Right then and there I felt like I’d failed. A follow up comment by another nurse shared that the worse case scenario with jaundice is that the baby will be brain damaged, so best to get my milk into her asap. That hit me so hard. I was vulnerable and weak. I was trying my best in a role I had no prior experience in. I desperately wanted Elodie to be strong and well and would’ve given my life for her at any point, no question. I just wanted her to be strong but my body wasn’t kicking in and my tiny baby didn’t know how to latch on. John took matters into his own hands and ushered everyone out of our room – politely of course – and gathered them all outside the door. He asked that they basically organise their visits a little more because I was feeling so overwhelmed and hardly had anytime to relax or breathe before the next person knocked and entered. I was knackered and sore and on the edge.

Two tired girls

My first shower was amazing. Well, as amazing as a hospital shower can be when you are bleeding like no tomorrow. Those super dooper sanitary towels were beyond huge but would quite quickly be soaked through.

Oh by the way, my vision and speech corrected itself in the end, thank god.

I became a bit of a hermit in our little side room. John was the one mainly taking control of making the bottles and going to sterile bits as I sat in the room pumping and faffing around and trying to learn how to swaddle baby.

On our last day our favourite nurse who had identified a teat that Elodie finally got on board with for bottle feeding offered to show us how to bath her. This was a special moment, gently placing her in the warm water, learning a trick of how to stop her from sliding under by looping your fingers over one of her little weeny arms.

I’d never felt like such a learner. I had NO idea what I was doing, seeking encouragement and words of reassurance from anyone. 

Natasha:

Beautiful little Elodie was born at 7.15pm. The midwives had been great and very supportive and helpful in making sure your wishes about the placenta were adhered to.

At about 7.30pm Freya came in with the placenta and packed it up and put it in the cool box with the ice blocks. I gave her the forms to complete and the placenta was all packed and ready to go. 

When you came back to the room, John you came in and right away told me her name. I think it’s the prettiest, sweetest name and fits her cute tiny perfect little face so well. Poor Vicky was feeling really sick and began throwing up a lot and feeling ‘very out of it’. We kept a bowl nearby and a handy little box of tissues to wipe your mouth. You were feeling so ill and weak and tired, you had been through so much. But you looked  like the most beautiful strong women holding your little baby even at this point of physical weakness. Elodie had on the loveliest little wool hat with a little wool flower and naked little body was so soft and curled up on your chest and she looked absolutely content and peaceful. Feeding was slow and would take time as she was getting the hang of things. Clare was the midwife who came back with you and she was really confident and helping with the feeding. 

The paediatric nurse came in and explained about the antibiotics for Elodie and why it was a good idea for her to have them. She would take Elodie off to the NICU to put in the cannula and then bring her back. She didn’t come back for a while and Clare went off to find her but it gave a nice chance for skin to skin for Mum and baby. 

Clare gave you an anti sickness drug through your cannula which I hoped helped.

I began to be aware that time was ticking away for the placenta and where I am the shops close at 10 pm so I suggested I head home and take the placenta and get some frozen peas before the shops closed. 

I left around 9.30/45 and found the co-op where I bought 6 bags of frozen peas which I packed all around the placenta. Louise (placenta lady) called me while I was at the shop so we discussed getting it to her tomorrow. 

I got home around 2 am and put the placenta in the fridge which Louise collected at 1.20 pm on Thursday 10th May. 

So many special people really supported us through that first week, behind the scenes. Our go-to doggy care man, Phil, who runs the Sausage Dog Hotel made the 6 hour round trip from Newbury to Norfolk to collect Rupert from Liz and Ian. He kept him a few more days after our return home too so that we could settle in and work out the best and safest way to introduce him to baby. He then brought him too us, being I think, the first person aside from hospital staff, to meet Elodie!

Natasha had obviously ensured that my placenta made its way safely and chilled to Louise Balm, our hypnobirthing lady who also specialises in placenta encapsulation. 

We stopped a lot on the drive home, sort of freaking about the length of time a baby is supposed to be in a car seat. She mainly slept and squirmed. I sat next to her the whole journey, holding her tiny hand and just staring at her. Ok, gawping.

As we pulled away from the James Paget Hospital I just felt so emotional. I took blurred pics of it. I’d ended up feeling so safe there that I was scared to leave. There were experts there, while John and I were about to road trip back home with NO CLUE of how a baby works.

A year on and we’ve done it. Reached a huge milestone. Baby waves, blows kisses and has learned how to clap just today on her first birthday. 

The way she entered the world was the exact way she was supposed to. 

She makes our hearts burst, she’s my best little friend and I struggle to put into words the bond we have and the little bolt of excitement I get every single time she wakes up from a nap and I get to go greet her. 

I am still to a point in disbelief that she’s ours, that she was made. After the struggles and uncertainty and staring infertility in the face I had doubts that she would ever find her way to us. But here we are. I will never take her for granted or put her any other place than first.

Happy birthday darling girl.

Mummy x

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If you are interested in our doula, Natasha here are her details. I think she covers Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire and the neighbouring areas. 

I think another Norfolk adventure might be a stretch.

Profile: https://thedoularegister.com/user/natashabennett/ 

Email: natasha.bennett66@googlemail.com

Tel: 07707 836593

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