Wow, hello! If you’re reading this, welcome back. I’ve been taking some time off following the birth of my second baby, Felix.
Felix was born on May 9th, it’s been so incredibly rocky since then. I will split this post into two as I have so much to say… first, a labour & delivery story and the postnatal problems following Felix’s birth, including intensive care, cooling treatment, etc.,… and the second half in another blog post: losing my ability to walk.
Let’s get into it. As a quick back story, I had not “planned” a birth per say, but I did want to try for a VBAC. I had birth trauma for the last three years following the birth of my first, which was horrific. Due to that, I was lucky enough this time to be recognised as needing additional support during pregnancy and I was taken on board by a special support team for maternity care. The continuity care midwives. They took under their wing. It’s thanks to them I was able to pluck up the courage to face my fears, try for a VBAC and even achieve it!
I was 40+5 days pregnant when I went into labour with Felix. I’d never experienced going into labour naturally before, so I had no idea what to expect… only a clue based on what people had told me! Things started on Wednesday 8th. I was feeling emotional, a little bit rough, scared and anxiety was creeping in so my midwife asked me to go into the maternity unit at hospital to see her and speak to the team.
This was when I was able to have little tour of the midwifery led unit which I was hoping to be in when I had Felix, too. I was sooo nervous to go there and I nearly didn’t make it, but I’m so glad I did! It was fantastic to see her and she really put my mind at ease (as always) and seeing the amazing birth rooms in the MLU helped me calm down.
She strongly believed that if I felt calm and supported, then I would go into natural spontaneous labour. I had a lot of anxiety about the hospital giving my last birth so it was important for me to try and relax… and imagine going in there to give birth. I knew if I was scared then it would probably pay against me and going into labour wouldn’t happen. I was induced last time at 42+1 so it was all new to me.
At the hospital my midwife showed me the lovely birthing rooms, many of them had fantastic, big birth pools. I hadn’t thought about what I wanted in labour or where I wanted to be purely because thinking about it gave me so much anxiety. But seeing the pools did make me consider requesting a pool birth in labour and luckily I was able to use one when the time came.
During the midwifery led unit visit I spoke to her and members of her team about how I felt… I remember saying I felt completely fine, actually, besides the big belly I felt okay! and so I didn’t think I was going to go into labour anytime soon. I left the hospital excited, feeling supported, calm and happy.
After my appointment I went into town and treat myself to lunch at a coffee shop at Waterstones. I had plans to meet up with Ollie and Eric later that afternoon. Whilst I was sat in the coffee shop I got some cramps but thought nothing of it. Fast forward, we all went out to eat at Frankie and Benny’s. The cramps were definitely getting more intense and I had the feeling that I needed to poo… a lot! I must have gone to the bathrooms a good few times, sorry, TMI, but it was just feeling very strange down there. I joked with Ollie that I thought I was going into labour.
The pains at that point felt nothing more than period pains, they were not consistent and it never crossed my mind that they might have been contractions. The pain continued and it only worsened considerably when we were stood waiting for a bus home, I had to sit down on a bench, then on the bus concentrate on breathing and I felt very sick. Once home, I had a bath, had my dinner and went to bed as usual. I had lots of cramps still, felt very sick, had back pain and ached all over.
During the night the cramps turned into contractions. I kept waking up in the night, feeling the pain but thinking it was nothing, then going back to sleep. 10am I got out of bed and noticed they were definitely regular, 12am, then 2am I couldn’t sleep through it any longer and I thought… is this labour? The pains came every 15 minutes or so and felt like period pains. Compared to how contractions felt when I was induced last time, it was nothing similar at all… which is why I thought I wasn’t in labour.
By 4am I knew they were contractions not just cramps because they came regularly and did not go away… plus it felt more intense. I imagined waves crashing on the beach, coming in, reaching a high point, then going out again. I breathed through them and used the birthing ball in the living room. I didn’t want to wake up Ollie and Eric so I tried to stay downstairs.
It was around this time I started to leak waters. Every time I had a contraction something came out into my underwear and it was clear, had no scent and kept happening pretty much throughout every contraction. I put a pad on like my midwife had advised before and waited to see what happened. There was no big gush or anything like what you see on TV!
Around 5am I texted my mum and told her I thought I was in labour. At around 6am I texted my midwife, she was so excited! This was when I finally went to tell Ollie… it seemed so weird because I sort of *still* didn’t believe it was happening. I had always wanted to go into labour spontaneously, see what it felt like, I didn’t want to be induced… so it did make me feel great even though it hurt. The pain was not bad, it was nothing I couldn’t deal with and I actually welcomed it because I knew it was my body doing what it was supposed to be doing.
My midwife came over around 7am, checked me and I was 4cm with bulging waters. By this point the contractions were coming every 10 minutes or sooner, lasting about a minute or less. I was sat in the bedroom just breathing through them. It felt OK and I remained in control. Having my midwife at home with me made me feel very safe and supported, which I thanked her for.
It was then time to go into hospital. We went straight to the midwifery led unit, my midwife led me into a lovely room with a huge birthing pool and started to fill it up. The pool was great, it had blue tooth connection so you can plug music into it! It was around 9am at this point.
The birthing pool was soooo great, I was in it for about 4 hours! The warm water really helped as natural pain relief and I didn’t need gas and air at that point. I just breathed through the contractions, and it helped to bubble the water with my lips just on the surface when a contraction built up. Around 11am I started to use the gas and air, it worked in the pool and that really helped. Unfortunately things started to go down hill because there were signs of meconium (baby poo) coming out of me in the pool; a sign that baby inside was a little bit distressed. This did make me really anxious because Eric did the same thing when I was in labour last time, and it was almost like a flashback. Because of the meconium I then had to be monitored continuously meaning being hooked up… which meant I couldn’t be in the birthing pool anymore. I was really upset about this.
The monitor they used was mobile, though, so instead of being wired up and having to lay down I could still move around the room. At this point it was past lunch time, the contractions were getting intense and I was starting to lose control. Not being able to get in the pool didn’t help and I did start to freak out at this point. I asked for more pain relief, tried a shot of diamorphine but it just made me puke up everywhere.
The rest of the day was spent in that room just getting through the contractions… and to be honest, I wasn’t doing very “well” in terms of coping. Well, my midwife was very supportive and said I was doing great but I didn’t think so. Inside I was losing my mind, control and felt really scared… I was worried about a cascade of interventions and slowly heading down in a rabbit hole towards another c-section, something I really wanted to avoid.
I was shouting when I had a contraction at this stage, the pain was intense and I started asking about an epidural. I had an epidural last time; I was screaming for it, in fact, only after 2 hours or so of being on the drip. Those contractions with being induced were soooo intense though. I really wanted to avoid having an epidural this time, mainly because it means you can’t move anymore and I wanted to stay active throughout birth, but I gave up. I really thought I couldn’t deal with the pain anymore so I asked for an epidural at around 3pm.
They can’t give epidurals on the midwifery led unit, only in the consultant led care unit. I had bad memories of that place from last time so going back down there was horrible! Not only for the epidural but I had been in labour quite some time, not progressing an awful lot, my waters had been leaking since the day before (I suspected) which could start to be dangerous, and the meconium… all of these things meant the doctors agreed I would be best on the consultant led care unit for closer monitoring.
The contractions were so intense at this point I was sick a few times when I was using the gas and air (yep, down the tube of the gas and air!), so disgusting I know. They wheeled me to the other unit in a chair and I think I must have been screaming the entire time, lol. It makes sense why I was feeling like this though… because the next time I was checked, I was fully dilated and baby was ready to come out!!!
It was around 6:30pm now and I had just got to consultant led care, no one had checked me at this point. I was begging for an epidural, I was sat on the bed screaming saying it was so painful, asking ollie to help me… I didn’t know what to do with myself. I really had lost all control and I just laid on the bed looking at the clock opposite me knowing that, about every 30 seconds, a contraction would come. The clock helped, though, because the contractions lasted only about 15 seconds each time, so I sort of got through it by looking and dividing them up with the hands on the clock.
Finally a doctor came to talk to me about an epidural, but this is where things get very blurry. At this point they wanted to check me to see how dilated I was and if I was progressing at all; it had been slow up until that point. This was when the doctor got a surprise because I was fully dilated and she could feel baby’s head!!!!! No wonder I was in so much pain, haha, but they told me not to push. At this point, I was so scared… I wanted the epidural because I was scared about giving birth, and the contractions seemed to be hurting more. I was scared with all the people in the room, the wires, the machines, baby’s heart rate wasn’t great, everyone talking, the bright lights… it was just like last time when I felt scared. For some reason, I felt safe asking for the epidural, almost like the epidural would give me some calm and composure back. It was all I knew that was familiar and I knew from before that it really does take all the pain away.
I waited for the epidural for an hour. During this time I got the most overwhelming feelings to push and bear down… it lasted about 10 seconds at a time. No one was helping me get through it, checking me, or supporting me… no midwife or doctor seemed to be around at this point. Ollie asked them for a cup of water for me but they forgot, and when someone did come in the room they just told not to push.
It was so difficult not to push though, I completely understand now what people mean when they say you can’t help but push… your body just takes over. This was something completely new to me, I hadn’t experienced this before. I had never got to that point with my last labour; I was only 4cm when I had a c-section.
At this point I had no idea what was going to happen. As I pushing every 10 seconds I honestly thought I was going to just birth the baby on my own that room because no one was around (well, besides Ollie). Things calmed down when I had the epidural. It was really difficult to sit still for them to put it in, though, because at this point the contractions were… well, just constant. Looking back I wish they had just said, no, you are too far along to have an epidural so let’s just get you pushing, get the baby out and forget about the epidural. But honestly, at this stage I had no idea what was going on, I couldn’t think straight, I was in no position to make any decisions, I was in full blown labour at 10cm!
The epidural is where things went wrong for me in more ways than one. It didn’t work. By that I mean, the epidural was put in and I didn’t feel any pain relief at all. All of the doses were given to me over 20 minutes and I still didn’t feel any pain relief. I could move my legs as normal and it was obvious it had not worked. I couldn’t believe it! I remember feeling so angry… because I had waited so long, I expected to be numb after but nope I was still in all the pain, awww man! Haha, sucks to be me! However, at that stage I didn’t know that because the epidural hadn’t worked it was a sign that I may suffer from some nasty side effects.
As I had been pushing for some time and the baby was not obviously out, he was also in distress, this was when they decided to take me to theatre for an assisted delivery. I signed some forms and off we went to theatre. This is what I had been having nightmares about for the whole 9 months of my pregnancy. I had flashbacks about theatre and the c-section last time, I definitely had a phobia. The care I received throughout my pregnancy did really help me come to terms with it and heal, so it was thanks to my midwife I didn’t completely lose my shit when I went to theatre. I did think, “I can’t believe it. it’s going to happen again (c-section)…” because I thought the chances of a VBAC at that point were over. I just wasn’t optimistic at all.
In theatre things happened really quickly, they put in a spinal block as the epidural hadn’t worked, I laid down, they put my legs really far up in stirrups, the doctor told me she was going to do an episiotomy and then use forceps to deliver him. The next thing I heard her say “okay, baby’s head is out!” and that was when I filled up with happy feelings because although I was in theatre and it hadn’t gone the way I had imagined, I HAD done it. I had given birth, I had gone into labour all by myself, and my baby had come out down there just like I wanted to, it didn’t matter to me that it was an assisted delivery with forceps.
But… when he came out, the cord was wrapped around his neck twice, he was grey, limp and not breathing. I saw him for a few seconds and he was taken away to be resuscitated. At this point neither me or Ollie knew what was going on. I kept asking everyone in the room whilst they stitched me up where is my baby? can you bring him? where is he? how long are you going to be? I honestly did not register that he might be in danger. Ollie said they saw them put him in an incubator and wheel him off. We didn’t know what was going on though.
It wasn’t until about 20 minutes after that a doctor came over and told us that he had gone to intensive care, he was alive, but he had been born with a very dangerously low level of oxygen and starved at the brain. He was breathing fine now, but because of what had happened, he would have to receive a special treatment to prevent brain injury. This treatment would take 72 hours.
I honestly didn’t digest this information. At first I said to them, well is it really necessary because I don’t want him to be separated from me so I might not agree with it? That is just such a stupid thing to say, I know, and I would never want my baby put at risk and of course the doctors know right but at that moment I wasn’t thinking. I just wanted my baby. One minute he was nearly coming out of me, then he was pulled out with forceps, then he was gone… and now they were telling me that I wouldn’t be able to hold him for at least 4 days. I was heartbroken. I was very heartbroken but mostly, I was in shock. I didn’t cry. I didn’t shout, I didn’t even say “oh no” actually, I told them I was hungry and wanted some toast. I literally was in shock, it didn’t register what was going on.
I was taken up to a ward and put in a private room. A midwife checked me, gave me medication, sorted the IV’s out and removed the baby cot next to the bed. Once she left… me and Ollie were left in the room and without a newborn baby with us, our baby, it just felt wrong. It was the middle of the night and I didn’t know what to say to Ollie apart from… well… that’s that, then. I asked the midwives when I would be able to see them, they said when the spinal block had worn off and I was able to walk they could take me down there in a wheelchair. That was all I was waiting for.
Ollie left (Eric was at home with my mum, asleep, and Ollie needed to get home before he woke up in the morning) and a few hours later I went down to intensive care to see my baby. I was still in shock at this point, and on morphine, so to be honest I remember feeling nothing but quite happy. I was happy I had given birth, I had avoided having a c-section, I had a baby boy, he was alive, he was called Felix. I felt okay. I was just incredibly confused. I was also convinced that I was going to get down to intensive care, see Felix and just get him out of the incubator and take him back to my room… the doctors would say “oh he’s fine now, don’t worry it was just a mistake!”
Unfortunately, it wasn’t a mistake and by the time I got down to intensive care in the early hours of the morning, Felix had already been receiving this special cooling treatment for about 5 hours. I could look at him and put my hand inside the incubator, but I couldn’t pick him up, I couldn’t breastfeed him, I couldn’t smell him or cuddle him. That was when it all hit me and I was really sad.
I’m incredibly thankful for the treatment he received, it saved his life. He was cool for 3 days in the incubator and made a very quick recovery… what’s cooling?… “Brain hypothermia, induced by cooling a baby to around 33 °C for three days after birth, is a treatment for hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. It has recently been proven to be the only medical intervention which reduces brain damage, and improves an infant’s chance of survival and reduced disability”.
It was really scary whilst he was having the treatment as we didn’t know if he was brain damaged or not. Until the end of the treatment and with an MRI scan, it was pretty much guesses to if he was okay or not. The doctors were able to do some tests to gauge if he was responding well, but we wouldn’t know how effective the cooling had been to his brain until the MRI. Not knowing if your baby might have brain injury is so scary. It was soooo difficult to listen when the doctor was talking about Felix having problems and that he was very lucky to be alive. The levels of oxygen in his body when he was born was dangerously low, they kept telling us. They also found out at birth he was covered in group strep B, I didn’t know this at all (and didn’t know I was a carrier of it) but he was lucky enough to not have been infected with it. Felix was a very lucky baby, and everyone kept telling us this.
I spent many hours sat next to to Felix in intensive care just looking at him breathing and sleeping. It hurt so much to sit on a chair because of the episiotomy but I didn’t want to be apart from him. The need to hold him was so strong… I had the biggest urge to just open the incubator and start taking all the tubes out. I wanted him so much. I would go back to my room up on the hospital ward and just cry because I wanted my baby and knew it was at least 3 days.
I counted down the hours to go until he finished the cooling treatment. Once the 72 hours of cooling ended, he would be warmed back up in the incubator, then if responding well, able to come out and be held. I was sooooo excited… I just had to count down the days and divide up the days to go. It seemed soooo long. During this time, I was either down at intensive care sat next to him or up in my room expressing colostrum for him. Felix wouldn’t be fed whilst on the cooling treatment, but if I could express any colostrum in a shringe for him they would buckle feed it to him (put it in his cheek).
The colostrum post birth is so thick and in such small amounts, it was sooo tricky to hand express and get it contained into a shringe but I spent hours doing it in-between going to see him. Eventually, I moved onto using an electric pump as well as hand expressing, and because I was able to give them over 0.5ml they could start giving him a tube feed.
The day they give him his first tube feed was the last full day he was in intensive care, though! Things moved sooooo quickly once the cooling treatment was finished. From there he was moved to special care before getting discharged to the ward with me.
It felt amazing to have him in my room on the ward, almost like he was ‘home’ even though it was only my hospital room! We both went ‘home’ to our real home a few days later.
Felix is doing really well and has no signs of brain injury. His MRI results are back perfect, and all the doctors are very happy with him. They call him a miracle and a little fighter. He’s very lucky to be alive and it’s all thanks to the NHS who saved his life.
Postnatally, I am not doing well. Since giving birth I have lost the ability to walk, had nerve irritation side effects from the epidural, and found out I have arthritis in my hip. You can read about that here. Felix? He’s perfect, he’s lovely and I couldn’t ask for a better second baby. Compared to Eric he is much more relaxed, easier to settle and doesn’t mind being put down (to a degree!).
He breastfeeds very well and latched on straight away the first time I held him once he had finished his treatment in NICU on day 4. Since then, he hasn’t stopped! He is exclusively breastfed and is piling on the pounds. Felix is a much chunkier baby than Eric was. He’s so different is so many ways to Eric… I know I shouldn’t compare TOO much… but it’s hard not to!
Felix is patient. He’s smiley, he has started to roll from his back onto his side. He outgrew newborn clothes pretty quickly and is nearly as big as Eric! (joke, haha). He is patient, loves to cuddle/touch, has long naps in the sling with Ollie, only cries if he’s hungry or over tired, and loves to smile at people.
Felix Louis, born 9th May 2019. Welcome to the world beautiful baby boy.