Rachel was a regular at our weekly pregnancy group, as well as having been on the All day Birth Preparation Workshop. Here, in her own words, she tells the story of her daughters arrival earth-side during the Coronavirus pandemic.
"I spent a lot of time preparing for the birth of my first child during pregnancy. I was nervous, like most mums, having heard the worst about birth from the media and other people around me. So I started doing my research and came across the powers of Hypnobirthing. I listened to Sophie Fletcher's Mindful Hypnobirthing, and came across a local company called Positively Pregnant with Jessica Ord, who ran a Hypnobirthing workshop.
Everything I learnt about Hypnobirthing made so much sense to me. The support from Jessica and the other women in the support group was invaluable. Jessica was so incredibly knowledgable about every aspect of birth, and I was able to ask her anything I was concerned about and she would immediately come back with helpful and evidence based information.
I wrote my birth plan specifically with a natural water birth at the Berwick Midwife led unit in mind. I had really gotten to know the midwives at the unit, and was keen to have continuity of care for the birth. I spoke to them about my concerns about having a quick birth and being overdue, as my family history indicated this would be the case for me. They re-assured and shared my birth plan so that all of the midwives at the unit knew exactly what I wanted. I went into the third trimester feeling confident, empowered and actually looking forward to the birth.
Unfortunately, due to the Covid19 Pandemic, things started to get a little complicated. Pregnant women were named as part of the high risk category, and the whole country was put into lockdown. My anxiety levels were on the rise, and as my due date approached I was informed I could no longer birth at the Midwifery unit in Berwick due to the virus. I was devastated by this news, as it meant that I would need to drive to the nearest hospital in Cramlington, 1.15 hours away.
At this point I felt as though all of my plans had been in vain, and that I would not get the positive experience I had hoped for. But with the support of Jessica, I was able to reframe the situation. I went back through my birth plan, and realised that most of the elements, other than the location could still happen.
My husband, Dan, and I self isolated at home from mid-March into April. I listened to my Hypnobirthing tracks every day, and attended the weekly pregnancy group virtually. Jessica did relaxation and Mindfulness with us to help keep us as calm as possible in difficult times. Our group stayed in daily contact through a Whatsapp group and supported each other, which gave me great comfort knowing we were all in this together.
Following some severe back pain, I was ready for baby to be out of me by the week before my due date. I had listened to some natural inducation Hypnobirthing tracks, to encourage my body to get ready for labour. I decided to take up the offer for a stretch and sweep with my midwife. Two days before my due date I went in, thinking this might be a pointless intervention as I still was expecting to be 'over-due'. When my midwife examined me I was astounded to hear that I was already 2cm dilated, and my cervix was already thinned. The midwife even commented that the Hypnobirthing must have been working, as this was unexpected for a first pregnancy. I went home and made sure everything was in place for the hospital.
The following day, the day before my due day, I went for a walk and sat down for some lunch. I started to feel some discomfort similar to period pains. I decided to go for a bath and noticed more of the bloody show I had experienced after my sweep. Very quickly these pains came in waves and I asked Dan to start timing them. Despite being slightly irregular they were coming about 6 minutes apart. I was excited this was clearly 'it'!
Dan and I had some laughs, hugs and smiles in this time. He encouraged me to eat, even though I wasn't hungry as he know I would need the energy. I rang the hospital and they told me to stay at home until they were 3 minutes apart. This made me nervous. We had such a long drive and the contractions were already becoming more uncomfortable. By 6pm, an hour or so later, the contractions were suddenly 2 minutes apart & we rushed to the door.
The car journey was not fun. The contractions did not let up for a second, increasing in intensity and frequency. Thankfully Jessica had prepared a 'travelling to my birth place' hypnobirthing track, so I plugged in my headphones and closed my eyes.
Once at hospital, we entered the pregnancy assessment unit. Immediately we were faced with midwives in full PPE. I made a conscious effort not to let this scare me. I consented to be examined and I was 3cm dilated, but the midwife commented on how paper thin my cervix were. She said I would have to stay in the assessment unit until I was in 'established labour' ie 4cm dilated. Frustrating as this was, I tried to settle into this space to get things moving. I paced, I sat on the toilet, I used the birthing ball. I was most surprised by the pain in my legs with each contraction, which seemed un-necessary and really bothered me.
By 10pm I was desperate to be moved to the birthing unit so asked to be examined again. I was 4cm, so got the all clear to move through. On arrival to the birthing unit I was greeted by Jolene, who would be my midwife. By this time I was struggling with the pain, and I used the gas and air which was extremely helpful. Dan put on some music and our midwife dimmed the lights. We had so much more planned in terms of creating a calm and peaceful environment, but we didn't have time to put this in place. Dan was incredible at keeping me calm, he just kept talking to me, holding my hand and reminding me not to tense up.
I began to doubt myself a little at one point; from the reactions of the midwives and the dilation I was at, I was a long way off and yet the intensity of the contractions was greater than I had expected. This was a fleeting thought, as the contractions soon started to feel different. I told Dan to get the midwife as I began to feel the urge to push; my waters broke as I was bouncing on the birthing ball and at this point I sensed a change in my midwife's behaviour, as she knew things were progressing a lot quicker than expected.
I climbed on the bed upright, and lend forward whilst on my knees - I had learned about birth positions but in the moment just did what felt right. I started to feel babies head coming down and, frustratingly, slide back up. Pushing felt intense but I knew the end was near. I asked Dan "Is it tomorrow yet?", knowing we were close to midnight and her due date. It was 11:58, and once her head was out I knew it would not be long until she was here.
I heard her cry, which gave me the motivation I needed to push the rest of her out, and at 12:14 Lucy Rose was born on her due date.
I felt really numb after the birth; I think the speed and intensity of everything put me in a bit of shock, but after resting and feeding her I was hit with a wave of emotions. I couldn't believe I actually did it - I gave birth to our beautiful daughter! And I did it in the middle of a pandemic!
Not everything was how I had planned and hoped my daughter's birth would be - but it was still a positive experience, and I will forever remember and be proud of that day. I'm so thankful to all the help of our midwives, Jessica, the Positively Pregnant group and Daniel for supporting me throughout labour and birth.