This is the story of the birth of Penny Rae, daughter of Rachel and Ross and sister to Bobby. Penny was born during the Coronavirus Pandemic, and her gentle and calm birth is a beautiful story which will stay with me forever. In Mum Rachel's own words:
"Besides hearing the horror stories from friends and watching a few episodes of One Born Every Minute, I didn't really know much about birth and felt unprepared for the labour of my first child. My son, Bobby, arrived very quickly following a post dates induction without pain relief (not by choice, but that's another story) and I was left traumatised by the experience.
When I fell pregnant with my second child the excitement was slightly overshadowed by fear of the labour. My sister was also expecting her second child & had similar concerns about labour, having also experienced a traumatic induction with her first. A friend of my sister's recommended Jess, founder of Positively Pregnant. Jess offers a wealth of evidence based advice and support to expectant mothers and their partners, including birth preparation workshops, hypnobirthing and relaxation classes.
I attended the Weekly Pregnancy Relaxation group at Jess's beautiful home with my sister and several other pregnant mothers. Jess made us all feel so welcome and comfortable, I felt like I'd known her for a lifetime. During the class we practiced relaxation techniques which would help us remain calm and focussed during labour. We discussed our concerns and asked Jess questions about labour and our choices. It was great to meet other Mums to be, and chat with them over a cake and a cuppa. Jess also added us to a private whatsapp group (now The Pregnancy Support Tribe Facebook Group) so we could all keep in touch on a daily basis.
Shortly after attending my first class along came the Coronavirus, and the announcement that pregnant women fell into the high risk category and should self isolate. This news left me and many other expectant mothers very anxious about the risk to our unborn children. Following the announcement, Jess quickly made plans for us to continue the weekly relaxation group virtually. Jess shared evidence based information and advice on how the pandemic would affect our birth plans and provided Covid19 support packs and relaxation MP3s. The support and these resources provided me with much needed re-assurance.
As my baby's due date approached I frequently used the relaxation techniques that Jess had taught me; taking baths regularly, using aromatherapy oils, breathing techniques and mindfulness and listening to calming music.
On the 7th April, the day before my due date, I went for a walk and played football on the beach with my son (probably what got things going). Around mid-day I started to get some tightenings - these were similar to ones I'd had a few days prior, so I didn't get myself too excited! Later that afternoon I attended a 40 week checkup with my midwife and was offered an examination, which revealed I was 2cm dilated. Throughout the afternoon the pains continued and by 6pm they were much stronger and around 15 minutes apart - then I knew for sure my baby was on her way!
I took a bath, washed my hair, painted my toenails, had something to eat and then called my husband Ross to come home from work. I felt surprisingly calm and relaxed and sat on my birthing ball breathing through contractions. By 7:30pm Ross was home and my contractions were 5 minutes apart. I called the pregnancy assessment unit at NSCEH and the midwife invited us in. We packed up the last of our things and made our way to Cramlington. In the car I put on some of my favourite music and gazed out of the window; dusk was falling and the dim light and views over the fields kept me calm.
At 9pm, on arrival to the hospital I expected to be met with a manic reception area filled with sick people, but in fact we were the only ones there. We slowly made our way to PAU (pregnancy assessment unit) as Ross was laden with my overpacked bags and I needed to take a few contraction stops on the way! We were shown to a room and a lovely health care assistant took my obs, a midwife joined us (I was mid contraction and totally missed their names and regrettably forgot to ask them later).
An examination showed I was 5cm dilated, HALF WAY THERE, with no medical pain relief, I was so happy and a little shocked at how fast things had progressed! My care was passed into the hands of our incredible delivery midwife Katie, and we put on our PPE masks and made our way to the birthing centre at 10pm.
Katie read my birth plan and offered me pain relief; I opted for gas and air and she set it up and showed me how to use it. I changed into a comfortable nighty and re-briefed Ross on where in the bags he could find the things me and baby would need in the hours to follow.
I prefer to be left alone when in pain, so Ross sat in the corner and sent our family an update along with a photo to reassure them I was doing just fine.
Katie remained in the room as she sensed things were moving along quickly, and this also meant there was no need for her to keep changing her PPE. Katie and Ross both praised and guided me through my contractions and were there if I needed them in between. During contractions I stood over the bed, leaning on my elbows, the gas and air relieved the pain and the breathing techniques I'd learned from Jess kept me in control and focussed.
At 10:30pm I felt the uncontrollable urge to push, and I got up on the bed. A few minutes later our baby girl was born and placed upon my chest! I cannot describe the happiness I felt at that moment and how proud I was of the beautiful baby who looked up at me. Tears rolled down my face and I beamed with joy as I shared the life changing moment with Ross.
It all happened so fast; quick thinking Ross had checked the time when she arrived, 10:40pm - only an hour and 40 minutes after we arrived at hospital. Ross cut the cord and I had the injection to help deliver the placenta. Katie checked over and weighed the baby whilst we called our family to share our wonderful news and introduce them to our beautiful baby girl Penny Rae, weighing 8lb7oz. Ross cleaned and dressed Penny and enjoyed his first cuddles with his daughter whilst I had a shower and got dressed. Katie then brought me tea and toast (the best I've ever tasted!) and I fed Penny for the first time.
Shortly after we moved to the postnatal ward, and as I passed the staff who I'd met just a few hours earlier praised my 'efficiency'! Following our checks we were discharged and made the exciting journey home to introduce Penny to her big brother Bobby.
A difficult challenge we and other families face, having a baby during a pandemic, if being unable to invite our family and friends to meet our new addition. I took Jess's advice and looked for the positives in our situation. Our day's were un-hurried and there was no need for me to apply make-up in an attempt to hide my sleep deprivation! We really enjoyed the time alone to adapt to being a family of 4 and have had newborn cuddles all to ourselves.
Four weeks after Penny's arrival, my sister brought her beautiful daughter Lucy into the world. Penny and her cousin Lucy brought so much happiness to our family during a difficult and uncertain time - they are our lockdown rainbows!
Throughout my pregnancy and labour the care we received was exceptional, and we felt safe at all times. I have the utmost respect for midwives and NHS workers during this time.
On a final note I'd like to thank Jess for her advice, support and friendship. I will reccomend the invaluable services Jess provides to all the expectant mothers I encounter. Jess has a passion to empower women during pregnancy, ensuring their experience is positive - and that's exactly what she did for me!"