This is the story of Lucy's Positive birth at NSCEH ( Cramlington ) during the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. Her amazing Mum Lindsey was a regular at the Positively Pregnant Weekly Relaxation Group, and it was SUCH a privilege to get to know her during this time. I love how in tune Lindsey's Husband Matt is with her, and it's a beautiful example of how induction doesn't have to be an all or nothing process - when Mum is in control of when and if that happens, birth can be calm, joyful and beautiful.
Having to make big changes during this time is so difficult - but with the support of her amazing husband, the Northumbria Midwives and our weekly group, Lindsey went on to have a really positive experience.
"Following an induction at 41+3 weeks pregnant with my first child, that resulted in a long and traumatic labour, I had a lot of negative thoughts and anxiety around birth that I wanted to resolve. A friend recommended Jess at Positively Pregnant and I decided to attend her weekly pregnancy relaxation classes held at her home.
The sessions proved really beneficial, not only did I always feel completely relaxed and positive but it was also an excellent opportunity to ask birth related questions and meet other local Northumberland mothers to be. My whole perspective of birth changed, I felt really positive and well informed thanks to the information and techniques Jess had provided me with and I wished that I had done something like this during my first pregnancy.
When I was 33 weeks pregnant the government made a COVID-19 announcement that would change things for all pregnant women in the UK; all pregnant women were now to be categorised as high risk and were to practice self isolation where possible. Up until this point I had felt relatively unaffected by the pandemic but this latest announcement knocked me for six, the uncertainty of what the next few weeks and months had in store hit home and I began to worry for my baby’s health. Luckily Jess recognised that this would be playing on all our minds and organised for the weekly relaxation classes we had been attending at her home to be done remotely instead via video conference call. These sessions really helped control my anxiety as I was able to share with others in the same situation any worries I had but also practice relaxation techniques to keep me feeling positive and calm.
With my due date fast approaching I decided to write my birth plan and discuss it with my midwife at Hillcrest MLU at Alnwick. My husband, Matt and I had decided that we would like to have our baby at Hillcrest, as the care I had received there during my pregnancy had been exceptional and I hoped for the delivery of my baby to be in a familiar place with a midwife present that I knew. I also wanted to experience a water birth and at Hillcrest they could guarantee the use of the pool. My midwife was really supportive of my birth plan and as a low risk mother it looked like all was set to have my baby at Hillcrest.
Unfortunately at 38 weeks pregnant I was told that due to staff shortages in light of the corona pandemic, Hillcrest was closed for all births. I was really disappointed and so were many others in our pregnancy support group who had hoped to have their babies at their local MLU. Recognising the importance of our MLU’s, especially during this time, Jess and the MVP championed for the reopening of the MLU’s at Hillcrest and Berwick, and the head of midwifery for the north east took the decision to reopen Hillcrest just in time for my due date. I was delighted with this news and repacked my bags for hospital in attempt to naturally induce - I’m ready baby for you to come!
At my 40 week appointment I was offered a membrane sweep and as I wanted to avoid induction I decided to go ahead with it. I was pleased to hear that my cervix was favourable and I was given a bishop score of 8. The midwife told me that I would only be able to have my baby at Hillcrest if I went in to spontaneous labour before I was 10 days over due so I agreed book in for another sweep in 5 days time. During the evening of my first sweep I felt really uncomfortable and I woke up at 1am with cramp pains and mild contractions 15 mins apart. I thought wow this is it, the baby is on it way - only to be really disappointed a couple of hours later when the contractions stopped altogether. I continued to feel uncomfortable and have pains at the same time through the night for the next 5 days so I attended my second sweep hopeful of some positive news. On examination my cervix was the same as it had been 5 days previous and I couldn’t help but feel a little disheartened. My midwife reassured me that my bishop score was good and that the latent labour I had been experiencing were all good signs.
The next day I attended the weekly relaxation group and when Jess asked “is there anything you need?” I said “yes my baby out!” Jess said the best thing I could do was to have a relaxing day to myself, so I took her advice and the next day my husband took care of all the house work and occupied our daughter. I spent most of the morning in bed listening to relaxation tracks and watching TV, then in the afternoon went on a long walk breathing in that local sea air.
This advice clearly all worked as at 5pm that day my waters broke! It wasn’t a large gush like you see on the films more of a trickle but I noticed that it had a slight green tinge and knew this was a sign of meconium (baby had pooed). I rang Hillcrest and my midwife asked me to send her a photo which I did and she agreed that it looked like it had meconium in it.
She told me to ring the pregnancy assessment ward at NSECH Cramlington and they asked me to go down to have everything checked, the midwife also told me to take my bags with me to expect that I would have to stay in if it was confirmed as meconium in my waters. At this point I had a cry, I was worried about my baby floating around in dirty waters and the risk of infection I knew that brought with it. I also knew all my hopes of going to Hillcrest and use a birthing pool to deliver my baby werent going to be possible now.
The prospect of needing a drip to bring on my contractions was also a worry following my induction experience with my first child. Using some breathing techniques and a chat with Matt in the car on our way about “what if’s”I came to terms with the fact there was still aspects of my birth plan that we could still have and I knew that the care we would receive at NSECH would be fantastic as we had our first baby there. We were going to the right place and would be in the safest hands. Whilst on the journey there I began to have contractions every 15 minutes and lasting for a minute - our baby was on its way at last and I was so excited to meet him or her.
On arrival to the hospital I was amazed at how quiet the entrance and corridors were, considering the global pandemic we are in. Everyone was wearing PPE which I thought I may find daunting but it surprisingly left me me feeling safe. When we arrived at pregnancy assessment they asked us to go straight to the birthing centre instead as they had no rooms free. On arrival at the birthing centre we were welcomed with smiling eyes (couldn’t see their mouths for the masks!) from all the team and ushered to our room, number 13, I said “unlucky for some” and Matt replied “but it won’t be for us.”
The head midwife on the ward examined my waters and confirmed there was meconium present, she did my ob’s which were all fine, and then did a scan as she wasn’t sure if the baby was breach (thankfully wasn’t). I was then told that they would need to continuously monitor the baby throughout my labour to check the baby was not showing any signs of being distressed and I was attached to an electronic fetal monitoring machine. I was concerned this would restrict my movement but was reassured I would still be able to use the birthing ball and move around the bed.
Soon after our arrival we were assigned our midwife Paula who explained that they would need to break the rest of my waters to minimise infection and this would also hopefully encourage my labour to progress. If the baby wasn't distressed and labour was progressing well they would leave me for a while before administrating any hormone drip to induce labour further. Paula told me that they would put a cannula in my hand so that it was ready should I need any IV fluids, medication or blood transfusion.
When Paula finished her shift at 9pm, we were assigned another lovely midwife Edele and she asked to see my birth plan. Other than not being able to use the birthing pool, everything else was still possible. My contractions at this point were getting stronger and more frequent, I explained that I wanted to avoid any hormone drip for as long as safely possible and it was agreed that they would review things again at midnight.
Matt put on a playlist of relaxing music and during contractions for the next few hours I used a mixture of standing and swaying from one foot to the other, bouncing on the birthing ball and using breathing techniques. The room was dimly light and as we were we lucky to have a sunny evening and lovely views across the fields, we left the blinds open until it grew dark.
When my contractions became more intense I asked for the back to be put up on the bed so I could kneel on the bed and rest my chest against the back. I also asked for gas and air and ushered Matt to help me with my breathing, breathing in 3-2-1 and exhaling for counts of 8. At exactly midnight, Matt told me to listen to what music was playing it was “Here comes the sun” by the Beatles. This was a song that reminds us of our late friend Danny, so we saw this as a sign he was saying hello and all would be fine.
At 12.30am I consented to an examination and I was 5cm dilated. Unfortunately the baby was facing sideways so Edele advised we should start the hormone drip soon in the hope that the baby would turn in time for me to be fully dilated.
At 1.30am Edele began the hormone drip and my contractions began to become more intense. I was offered diamorphine which I refused as I felt like I could manage the pain with gas and air. Matt was amazing during this time, I didn’t feel like I could speak much but what I did say must’ve been clear enough to follow as he seemed to know exactly what I wanted: the sick bucket appeared in seconds when I felt the urge to vomit, drinks of water, back rubs, and a hand to hold.
At around 2am I began to feel overwhelming urges to push. As I had an epidural with my first child I hadn’t experienced this sensation before and I was concerned that the baby hadn’t turned the right way and that I wasn’t fully dilated. The midwife could see I was panicked and reassured me that when I was having urges to push on every contraction that it was my body’s way of saying go for it! At this point I decided to lie on my back and put my legs in stirrups as I was beginning to close my legs as they were cramping.
I began to push at 2.30am and by 2.50am our baby had arrived. Edele placed our baby on my chest for us to discover the sex for ourselves, Matt shouted “it’s a girl” (and I’m pleased he did as I thought the cord was something else!ha!) The overwhelming elation, and over powering love at that moment was amazing and I was on cloud 9. She looked so like her sister when she was born and I couldn’t wait for the two of them to meet. After delayed cord clamping, Matt cut the cord as she lay feeding in my arms.
I was that overwhelmed with happiness that I barely noticed the five other midwifes enter the room in a hurry, I had haemorrhaged like I had with my first daughter and Edele had pressed the emergency button to get assistance. This was a post partum haemorrhage caused by my uterus not contracting post delivery of the baby (uterine atony). I had been forewarned this may happen again and that if it did they would need to give me an injection in my leg to deliver my placenta.
They thankfully managed to control the bleeding with oxytocin through the cannula in my hand and Edele told me that there was no sign of any tears so I wouldn’t need any stitches. I delivered my placenta soon after that and I was amazed at the size of it. The placenta with my first daughter had ruptured so we didn’t really get to see it in all it’s glory, so whilst Edele examined it she talked us through the different parts of it. What a truly amazing organ that had nurtured our baby all this time.
For the next few hours we were left on our own which was lovely, in that time we decided on a name for our beautiful baby girl, Lucy Clare and we contacted close family to let them know the news.
A while later Edele asked if we would like Lucy weighed, I guessed she was 8lb 13oz which was spot on! We were transferred to the ward at 8am and cared for by another wonderful midwife Kayleigh, until we were discharged at 8pm. During those 12 hours Lucy received all of her checks and passed with flying colours.
It was a beautiful sunny evening as we arrived home and our eldest daughter was so excited to meet her little sister, it was one of our proudest moments as parents and we felt like the luckiest people in the world.
The care we received at NSECH, Cramlington was fantastic and I am so grateful that they made my birth experience a positive one and helped bring Lucy safely in to the world.
In a time of such uncertainty and darkness for many, Lucy and all the other babies born during this time are truly a ray of sunshine."