7 months ago Beth gave birth to Gwenn in her local Midwife Led Unit – the very same one I so desperately wanted to have Reuben in! It’s a very real, epic tale with no rose tinted specs on but at the same time it’s really lovely and even funny in places! Enjoy xx

Giving birth in a midwife led unit

Beth’s Birth Story – Giving Birth in a Midwife Led Unit

On Easter Sunday, about three weeks before my due date, my sister-in-law (who has had three children) and I were talking labour. She regaled me with her birth stories and finished with a piece of advice that I would wholeheartedly pass onto others: “You just have to enjoy it, because it’s something you’re only going to get to do once or twice in your life”.

The lead up to my labour had been fairly textbook. I lost my mucus plug on the Tuesday and on the Thursday I had a bloody show.  On the Friday I joked with the engineer who had come to fix our boiler that when he came back with the right part there might be a newborn in the house, but I didn’t really believe that would be the case because most first pregnancies seem to end with an overdue baby. That night I had a niggling pain in my lower back while standing doing the dishes (which my husband dismissed as an excuse to get out of doing them) but I still wouldn’t allow myself to get too excited.

My waters broke at about seven the following morning, five days before my due date, but as I wasn’t totally sure that they had (the first rupture being quite small) I thought it was probably better not to tell Andrew, in case it was a false alarm. I quietly got back into bed with a maternity mat to save the mattress but within half an hour there was no doubt that my waters had well and truly broken, so I had to then break the news to Andrew. Leaving him to his nervous breakdown, I went into the bathroom to clean up and I stood for a moment, physically shaking with fear, when it actually dawned on me just what I was about to do. I felt completely overwhelmed and I was already terrified that I wasn’t going to be able to give birth to an actual life at some point in the next twenty four hours.

At our antenatal classes we had been told to ring the hospital as soon as our waters had broken, but that we wouldn’t be asked to go in until labour was more established, so I was quite surprised when the midwife told me to make my way along to the midwife led unit. By the time we got to the hospital, after having a shower and attempting to make myself look vaguely presentable, I felt like I had lost all of the sixty percent of the water that usually makes up my body, as my waters continued to break every time I stood up, sat down, breathed, etc. etc.

I was in the MLU for about an hour and a half because I had said I couldn’t feel baby move as much as normal and I was put on a trace. By the time we left, about an hour or so later, I had only just started to feel the first twinges of contractions, so we decided to go to Mothercare at the Silverlink to get me a dressing gown. It was about midday when we got back home, by which point my contractions seemed to have come out of nowhere and I was on my hands and knees with Andrew (bless him) timing my contractions but lying to me about duration and spacing because the pain I was feeling didn’t seem to correspond with what we’d been told to expect at our classes. I was in so much terrifying agony that I rang the MLU and the midwife who I had seen that morning advised going in the bath because it didn’t sound like I was quite ready to go back into hospital yet. Unfortunately I had broken the twisty up and down bit (I believe that is the technical term) of our bath plug a few weeks earlier, which meant Andrew had to drive me to my mam’s house; a fifteen minute car journey which felt like fifteen years, as by this point I was experiencing pain that I genuinely cannot describe and would not have believed that any person could bear up until it happened to me. My mam was in Corbridge at the time so the house was empty apart from the dog (I was so worried that the poor thing would be traumatised by seeing her big sister contorting around the place like a woman possessed).

The bath was frankly a waste of time. It was about three o’clock and I was feeling an overwhelming urge to push by this point. Overwhelming doesn’t actually accurately describe the feeling; every fibre of my being was telling me that my baby was coming so I rang the hospital again. My lovely midwife, Valerie, said that if I wanted to come in, I could, but that she wanted to make it clear that there was probably nothing she could do for me at this stage (my telephone voice obviously belied my distress). I got out of the bath and while trying to get dressed in between contractions I noticed my thighs were covered in blood, which terrified me beyond belief. Andrew rang the hospital as we’d been told a heavy bleed would probably mean we would have to go to Wansbeck, which is a consultant led maternity unit. Thankfully Val said we could still go to North Tyneside, which was a considerably shorter drive. I wish I could have photographed the face of the taxi driver, who was waiting outside the maternity unit, when he saw me staggering through the car park with a towel tail (I had taken one from my mam’s, to stem the bleeding). Somehow I managed to practically crawl down the corridor to the unit and was quickly ushered into the assessment room. My genuine fear was that the midwife would say I was about three centimetres. As it happens, I heard her say “Oooh, there’s a head” and “Get her into room 2”.

What happened next took place over about an hour, but for me it felt like twenty minutes. Nothing that anybody can say can adequately prepare you for just how painful labour is but I would say it is something like trying to be violently sick while trying to have a massive poo at the same time. The noises I was making came from a place deep within my stomach, something between retching and crying, via The Exorcist. Valerie gave me the gas and air immediately, which really worked, although it did render me so off my face that I didn’t really know what was going on, although I do remember turning to Andrew at one point, who was trying to talk to me, and saying “Sorry, I was just on Wallsend High Street” (???) and then being pinned down and physically undressed after refusing to take off my bra and slip.

When it was time to push, I got really scared. It felt like my body was telling me with every fibre of my being to push but my brain was saying “Erm, hang on a minute, I don’t know if this is such a good idea”. When baby was crowning I chickened out of pushing through so many times and it was really scary to feel it going what felt like three feet back up inside me each time Eventually, having got sick of me saying “I can’t do this” over and over and over, Valerie said, “You are doing it; I am putting on my gloves now, and gloves mean business”.

I finally found the courage to push out the head (ouch is all I’m saying) and it felt like with the next push baby was born. The next part was such a blur and in the shock of all of a sudden having a tiny human being placed on my chest, I forgot to ask if it was a boy or a girl! As it happens, our not-so-little daughter, Gwenn Elsie Allonby, weighing 8lb 5oz arrived at 5:05 on Saturday April 20th. There were no tears, just relief that it was over.

Giving birth in a midwife led unit

Very soon after Gwenn was born I thought I was still losing fluid by the pint full, and when Val checked I was actually lying in a massive pool of my own blood. She was quite concerned about it for a while and I think I received some kind of coagulant shot but in the end the bleed eventually stopped on its own. I had to have some substantial stitching done immediately after delivery – “I thought I heard a tear” are words I hope to never hear again! – and I still can’t believe it but I did nothing but flinch and hiss throughout the whole procedure, as if it were the most painful thing that had happened to me that day!

I consider myself really lucky that I had such an uncomplicated and quick labour. For one thing, as painful and scary as it was, it was over with fairly quickly. More importantly though, as I was delivering in a midwife led unit, I didn’t have access to epidural, ventouse, forceps, emergency C-section etc., so if we had encountered any problems, I would have been bundled into an ambulance and whisked to the RVI. The only thing that I regret about the whole experience was agreeing when I was offered a shot of pethidine. I really can’t remember at what point it was administered and at the time I would have agreed to ANYTHING to stop the agony, but I had it so close to Gwenn being born that it didn’t really make a difference to me but it left her very very drowsy for days.

For the first few days Gwenn was so tired that she couldn’t even latch on and I ended up staying in hospital for three nights, just so that the midwives and lactation consultant could help me keep my supply up. Seven months on and we’re still breastfeeding, so it turned out fine in the end, but it’s a situation that could have been avoided.

If I were ever pregnant again I think I would be more scared about labour than last time, because now I know what it’s really like but I still totally agree with my sister-in-law, that giving birth is something to cherish and enjoy. At the time, it was genuinely horrific but now there is not a day when I don’t think fondly about some aspect of it.

Thanks Beth! So much of this story sounds like mine only it actually ends the way I wanted mine to (minus the birth pool and the pina colada!)

Beth writes the blog Betty and the Bumps, should you wish to go and say hello.

Did you give birth in a Midwife Led Unit? How did you find it? Do you wish you hadn’t had the drugs you had?!

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