8. Bev's story during Covid

My Birth Story during Covid.

Each time I go to write my birth story, I stop. I am overwhelmed with love and the care that I have received since the start of my pregnancy 10 months ago from health care professionals and navigating the rapid changes due to Covid-19.

My pregnancy was good, I loved it to be honest, I was being cared for as high risk, due to a 3rd degree tear in my first pregnancy and my BMI being .1over the risk rate. Scans had gone well, baby was growing at the expected rate, I was beginning my hypnobirthing journey.

Then on the 17th March I received a text from my line manager informing me not to return to my job in teaching due to Covid and instead work from home for the foreseeable. That I found hard, there were lots of tears, probably a few tantrums tbh. The uncertainty of everything, was I at risk?  How was I going to cope? Was my baby at risk? Was I going to get paid?  The thoughts went on and on. I tried to manage what I could and stay in control of the things I was able to. My mental health took a real battering.  After a couple of weeks of the continued uncertainty, I had a stern word with myself. I'd waited for 5 years to have this pregnancy, there was no way I was letting Covid ruin that for me.

My birth experience was still mine; I could make all of the choices that I wanted within the new guidelines, them being there to keep me safe and not at risk. With this I learnt to adapt and think positively. Then I learnt about the Northamptonshire Maternity Voices Facebook page and I decided to only read items from there and on the BBC news page. I stopped reading into the statistics, again controlling those things that I could. I was in self isolation, my husband had been told to work from home, as I was classed as vulnerable and I was now working from home and I was home schooling our 7 year old. The rest that I expected before my due date didn't quite happen.....but I did have precious moments with my family. However I missed my wider family, especially my mum and I knew that we would all struggle with not seeing and meeting our new addition.  This was the most painful thing for me to deal with and would send me into a quick spiral of emotions whenever I thought about it.

There were so many uncertainties, so I joined the first Zoom call that was offered by MVP, with midwives from NGH and KGH.  I listened to their decisions, and I felt that the staff had genuinely agonised over some of them, but many were completely out of their control.  No one was making these changes to maternity care for fun, or on a whim.  I felt empowered and I trusted those decisions, using these to inform my birthing plans. I certainly didn't want to go into hospital well, and return home poorly; and I most definitely didn't want a poorly baby.

My latent labour began two weeks before my due date of the 15th April. I had surges every evening, throughout the night until breakfast time and then they would disappear. Part of me just wanted labour to officially start; another part of me thinking if I hold on for longer will we be closer to the end of lockdown and everything can go back to normal??? What is normal anymore?

I made the most of the beautiful weather.

At 40 weeks, I hadn't heard anything from the appointment team, so rang on the new phone line that had been set up. I was requested to go straight to NGH to be seen. I was nervous, but packed my bags into the car, as I knew I was so close to my due date. I was sent to Area K, by the Community Midwife team.  Everything was organised and they were expecting me. Once I arrived, all of the staff had aprons, gloves and face masks on. My temperature was checked and I sanitised my hands. I was asked the same questions as the other appointments; it was beginning to feel much more normal.  I had my checks and was told everything was fine. I was offered another stretch and sweep, but declined, as I felt things were taking their own course.  On Wednesday 22nd April, I decided to get up that morning and make the babies cot. I planned all of my sons home schooling for the next couple of days and prepared for another day of on and off surges. It got to bedtime and I went to sleep with dull back pains and period type pains low down.

I woke at 11pm, unable to sleep, had a bath hoping that would help and I knew instantly I was in labour. I left my husband to sleep. I used the birthing ball and thought I had better start timing the surges. After an hour or so, they were getting stronger and more frequent. It was now around 2am.  I decided to wake my husband and make a phone call to triage. By this time I was having 3 surges in 10 minutes, each lasting over 1 minute. We made our way to the hospital.  I kept my eyes closed on the journey as much as possible, whilst listening to my playlist that I had used daily, tracing the journey in my mind, letting the oxytocin build to allow my surges to continue and not cease once I got to hospital. I only really remember opening my eyes twice, once to tell my husband to slow down on the country roads; and the second when we joined the dual carriageway. It was so quiet, but the first thing I noticed was a beautiful barn owl on the central reservation.  I then kept my eyes closed as we drove the final 5 minutes to the hospital.

Once we arrived, my husband dropped me by labour ward, we kissed, I took my suitcase and wheeled it in to the reception area, alone. This was nowhere near what we planned a few weeks ago, but it was now what we needed to do. I buzzed in, handed my notes over and waited. The contractions continued whilst I was waiting and were continuing in their pattern, getting stronger.  It was now around 3am, I didn't feel scared at all, I felt in control, I knew what to expect and I knew I was in safe hands.  I was examined within 15 minutes of arriving to be told I was 4cm dilated and to call my husband who was waiting in the car park. He arrived quickly and the midwife swapped shifts.  My first midwife was a lovely lady called Andrea, she supported me as my surges increased and I focused on my breathing.  I felt in control, used the photographs and affirmations I had put together, my husband read these too me. I tried hard to remember the hypnobirthing techniques, thinking of the surges as waves, riding each one. The time flew past, for me at least, each time I looked at the clock another hour had passed.

It was then daylight and another swap of midwife; it was now Jodie's turn, the midwife that delivered our baby; the midwife that I demanded a c-section to over and over during the later stages; the midwife that ensured I was safe and listened to; the midwife/super hero who delivered our baby, finally after a 15 hour sometimes tricky labour.  I continued to dilate over the next few hours on only gas and air, which I was happy about.  I knew I should try and get off the bed and be more active. I asked to use the ball that was in the room.  This was given to me, but I was unsteady on my feet and the adrenaline was taking over my body with uncontrollable shaking.  I remembered my hypnobirthing techniques and forced my brain to remain calm, listening to my body and with my husband reading out my affirmations. The fetal monitoring straps kept moving away and the trace for the baby’s heartbeat disappeared.  I got back on the bed.

Time passed on, I was examined.  I was 10cm now, it was time to push. I could feel my body saying push, I listened to it, but something wasn't right and I could feel it.  I was told it wouldn’t be long, that baby would soon be here. I knew something wasn't right. My husband said I was pushing for a long time and I finally asked for an epidural. I was exhausted. The Dr on call arrived and checked me over. I then found out that I was 7cm dilated and baby had gone back to back with me. When the Dr told me that I let out a groan, back to back was not going to be easy.  I had an epidural.  No catheter fitted and a low dosage. I was still able to feel what was happening, but it gave me the rest I needed. It was now around 1pm. The surges became more manageable.   I was pushing; my body knew what to do. I pooped, a lot. I was demanding a section, in fact begging. The surges where incredible, but not frightening.  I was so tired now. I wasn't due an examination, which had taken place every 4 hours, but I felt so much pressure. The Dr wasn't available so, Jodie examined me, her response to my comments of the pressure were, "I can see a head", my body knew what to do, my baby knew how it wanted to be born and it was happening, right now.

Jodie put on a full gown, goggles and gloves. I continued to allow my body to push baby down and go with the surges. I listened to her as she supported the birth of my baby. Within 10 minutes of Jodie being gowned up baby arrived; a beautiful healthy baby boy! My husband told me the sex and he was passed to me for skin to skin immediately, just as planned.

I delivered the placenta (with help from the injection, as I had lost a lot of blood in my first birth) this happened quickly too.  Jodie spent time with me showing me what it looked like and how it had worked to grow my baby boy. It was phenomenal. I cut the cord once it was time, after optimal cord clamping, my final moment before baby was not connected to me physically and would begin to grow and develop on his own in this big world.  Jodie stayed beyond her shift to ensure we were cared for. I will always be grateful of the care she gave me and my baby. Have you ever seen someone smile through their eyes? Don't be scared of the masks that the health professionals are wearing; they have aced communicating through their eyes. Next time, take a look, because eyes speak and they speak compassion, empathy and LOVE!

And I only had a 2nd degree tear! Bonus! I was sewn back, whilst chatting to the next midwife, Gemma. The perfectionist sewer upper! Which, by the way had dissolved by my 5 day check.  Sally arrived too and she helped with attaching baby for his first feed; and after over an hour of skin to skin, she helped to pop a nappy on and cleaned baby up.  It was perfect. Oxytocin was crashing through my body.  I was in love, with my new baby, and my perfect family.

So much happened in such a few hours, some of which I was able to control, some of which I wasn't but at all times every single member of the maternity team put me first; and for that I will be forever grateful. Thank you Jodie for caring for me and my new son; thank you to Gemma and Sally; I will never ever forget you xx

I spent the night on Robert Watson ward, my bed was next to the windows which allowed a lovely fresh breeze to come through. There was help on hand from midwives and health care assistants all night.  I was able to get up and go to the toilet, I had as much help as I needed with breastfeeding and latching my son on. The atmosphere was relaxed and supportive. I had very little sleep, but that was ok, my oxytocin levels were through the roof, I was high as a kite on love, the best drug ever.

In the morning there was an assertiveness within the ward.  It felt like 'operation - get these people discharged', which was good with me. I was prescribed my injections to take home quickly, the newborn check and hearing checks were done, all by 10.30am.  I called my husband to collect me from outside the ward. He arrived and I could see where he had parked. I was helped to the outside of the hospital by staff on the ward. That was it. Home we went.

We returned home as a family of 4. Our missing jigsaw piece had finally arrived and we could take the distant future in isolation, getting to know each other and dealing with all the new rules.

Be brave, be strong, I am a warrior mama.

Bev xx

8. Bev's story during Covid