Helena's Story

Posted by Clarissa Primavesi on

Please introduce yourself and your family

Hi! My name is Helena and I am married to Andy. We have a son called Thomas (4) and a daughter called Isabel (6 months). We recently left London and moved to Derby to be closer to Andy’s family. It’s Isabel’s birth I will talk about in this birth story, with some references to Thomas’s to put it into context.

Did you write or discuss a birth preference in preparation?

I wanted a water birth with minimal interventions, and printed out the birth preferences form from the NHS website and kept it with my notes. I also made sure to discuss it all with Andy as I knew that he would need to be my advocate and speak up for what I wanted – and, just as importantly, didn’t want - when/if I wasn’t able to myself.

What type of birth did you have?

With Thomas’s birth I experienced what I’ve heard called a ‘cascade of interventions’ where a well-intentioned midwife breaking my waters manually on the promise that ‘two pushes and the baby will be born’ (horribly painful, and in hindsight I think unnecessary), snowballed into me needing a catheter, lots of internal examinations, having to be moved out of the birth centre and into the hospital, an episiotomy, a ventouse delivery in front of a huge team of people and no immediate skin-to-skin as Thomas had to be taken away and checked over. Nothing too dramatic and happily Thomas and I were both healthy, but it did inform my decision-making for the type of birth I wanted second time round.

In the months leading up to Isabel’s birth I was feeling anxious. We moved house and Thomas started at a new nursery, which made him quite unsettled. The baby was in the breech position, so I had lots of extra scans, but Andy wasn’t allowed to come to any of my appointments because of the pandemic. Thankfully I had a successful ECV (where a doctor manually turns the baby) at 38 weeks. I really wanted to avoid a c-section if possible as Andy had a slipped disc in his back which was very painful and restricted his mobility.

To cope with these worries I read a book called Hypnobirthing by Siobhan Miller. I also listened to lots of hypnobirthing podcasts and I think the breathing techniques I learnt really helped me to de-stress.

At bedtime on Thursday 4th February, when I was at 39 weeks, I started feeling period pain level cramping. We decided to get up and watch some TV, so I lay on the sofa in the living room and we watched a David Attenborough documentary to pass the time. I had downloaded the Freya app, which was helpful in keeping track of my contractions in terms of frequency and intensity. They were regular from the off, at least one every five minutes and lasting up to a minute, so I thought things would progress quickly. At around 4am I remember feeling the need to get in the bath, and that is when we called the hospital birth centre, who said I should come in straight away. We then called my mother-in-law, who had agreed to drive us to hospital (Andy was unable to drive due to his back problems), and then I remember the 10 minute journey to hospital being very intense as I could tell the baby wasn’t hanging around. Sure enough, within 30 minutes of arriving at Derby Hospital, at 5.58am Isabel was born!

Strongest memories?

I remember feeling really chilled and enjoyed being at home for most of the labour. Thomas was asleep and it was so nice just to be with Andy in our living room. The hypnobirthing really focussed my mind on viewing each contraction as a ‘surge’ and I was able to breathe through each one without any pain relief. I felt much more in control this time and could really appreciate the work my body was doing to bring Isabel into the world.

Best thing you packed in your hospital bag (or used if you were at home)?

I had a lavender pillow which was invaluable for the car journey to hospital. Each time I had a contraction I breathed deeply into the pillow and it honestly helped keep me calm while I was so uncomfortable in the car. Jelly Babies after Isabel was born were also a great sugar hit!

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