Real Birth Journey: Harvey Alexander

Birth. It is the most incredible, indescribable, unpredictable and miraculous occurrence. Bringing life into the world is an experience that is personal and precious beyond belief. Each delivery is different to the next, and yet I feel that despite the varying differences it is something so special it can actually bring us altogether. I’m pulling together a range of real birth stories to share in the hope of expanding our knowledge and expectations of birth, and to dwell in the wonder that is the gift of life, in the countless forms it may arrive in!

Name & age at birth:
Kloe, 28 years old.

Due date:
14th of September 2020.

Cravings during pregnancy:
Sour lollies – one particular brand from the Exeter IGA.

Worst symptom/s:
Heart burn (yes it’s true about heart burn and babies with hair haha) 

Biggest concern about birth was:
When it would start and whether I would cope with the pain.

Ideal birth plan was:
To wait until the baby was ready and go into labour spontaneously, be free to move around the room and have minimal/no interventions or pain relief unless it was an emergency or the baby was distressed.

Hours in labour:
Active labour – 4 hours 
Transition – 1.5 hours 

How we went from wombmate to roommate: 
At 40 weeks and 3 days I spent the day finishing off lots of things I’d been putting off.

I went to bed wondering if it was the night but had no symptoms to suggest it was. I woke up at 11:00pm with a sharp pain in my lower stomach. I got up and went to the toilet, then sat on the edge of the bed and felt a popping sensation in my stomach. My waters had broken! So many people told me this wouldn’t be the first sign of labour so I wasn’t expecting it at all. I woke my partner Alex and rang my midwife who asked me to go into hospital to be assessed. I showered, packed the car and left. 

It was midnight when we arrived. A midwife made us comfortable in an assessment room, where they could monitor the baby. A doctor came in to give me an examination to make sure my waters had broken. She was happy with how everything looked and said we would be able to go home and wait for contractions to begin – hopefully within the next 18hrs. 

Alex and I were left in the assessment room so the baby could be monitored and after about ten minutes I felt the first wave. I got excited that things were starting naturally. I’d been worrying that if things took too long to begin naturally I may be induced. 

It seemed like I’d barely caught my breath and the next wave came. Realising how close these two were I asked Alex to start timing them so we could tell the midwife when she returned. They were consistently 1 minute 40 seconds apart and 40 seconds long – there was no gradual start like I had expected. 

It was 12:30 by the time the midwife returned and I had unplugged the monitors so I could move freely around the room. Laying down increased the pain a lot. We showed the midwife the app we were using to track the contractions and she moved us straight to a birth suite. Alex asked my mum to come in as I was progressing quickly. 

Over the next four hours I walked around in the birth suite, listening to a labour playlist that I had created. During the contractions Alex held me and massaged me using techniques he’d learnt during our Calm Birth class. As the contractions continued, I reminded myself that my body was made for this and the pain would be over soon. Repeating this in my head and focusing on the music helped me stay in control of the pain and kept my mind calm. 

I asked for the birth stool which Cherie mentioned during Calm Birth class and I’m so glad I did. I took it into the shower and knelt over it, holding the handles while Alex sprayed my back with warm water. The water felt amazing and helped me to relax for the short bursts in between each contraction. I also used the birth stool to sit near the bed, where Alex sat to massage my shoulders. The birth stool was similar to sitting on the toilet, which was how I felt most comfortable. Kneeling over the exercise ball was also comfortable and helped take the weight of my tummy. 

After 4 hours of contractions my body felt like it wanted to push and the midwife told me I could. For the next hour I began to push, but I wasn’t focusing all my energy into pushing like I should have been. I kept thinking that I hadn’t been in labour for long enough to start pushing, I’d been told lots of times that I would have a long 12+ hour labour with my first baby. I also didn’t know how dilated I was as I asked for minimal examinations. So I was riding the pushing feeling out like I had with the contractions.

After an hour of ‘pushing’ the doctor came in and told me I’d been pushing for too long and that she would need to help me get the baby out using an episiotomy and forceps. They were struggling to find baby’s heart rate with the Doppler, so asked to insert and internal fetal monitor. I agreed to the internal monitor but declined the interventions. I said if the baby became distressed I would let them intervene but I wanted to finish on my own, so the doctor gave me an extra 20 minutes.

I laid on the bed so they could insert the monitor and the doctor set up all her instruments at the end of the bed ready to intervene. Seeing that gave me the motivation I needed to the last of my energy to push him out. I stayed on my back to push, which wasn’t the position I planned to be in because I knew gravity wasn’t helping. But after 20 minutes of pushing our beautiful boy arrived. He came into the world with his hand above his head and a full head of hair.

I had planned to ask for the gas to help with pain during labour but I was so focussed that I didn’t think about pain relief. It did however mean that Alex’s poor hands got squeezed so tightly during the pushing. 

I did have a 2nd degree tear, which may have been the result of pushing baby’s head and elbow out together. After being stitched up and waiting for my placenta to be delivered, the doctors came around to assess baby and we were sent home at lunch time. 

I thought the hardest part was over, but breastfeeding was a hurdle I hadn’t prepared myself for. I struggled with latching and blistered nipples, then I ended up really sick and was admitted to hospital with Mastitis. Harvey was none the wiser and was gaining weight really quickly so that eased my mind. 

The Hakkaa nipple shield was my saviour and gave my nipples time to heal. I was grateful that I could continue breast feeding despite our rough start. 

Most vivid memory during labour:
My music – I remember focusing on that to help with the pain.

Most amusing/interesting moment during labour/birth:
Worrying about the mess and trying to clean up the blood on the bathroom floor during active labour and the midwife kindly growling at me, telling me not to. 

During labour/birth, I definitely did not expect:
That I would be able to stay calm and in control during the contractions.

A myth/misconception I believed prior that I now don’t is:
That a first birth will be long and that I couldn’t say no to the doctor.

Baby’s name, birth weight and date:
Harvey Alexander, 8lb10oz, 17th September 2020.

Baby’s name was almost:
Harvey was actually the only name we had agreed on.

Time spent in hospital post birth:
5 hours.

Best tip/trick you received for those early days:
Let others do things for you.

Top 3 lifesaving items for a newborn:
Hand towels or cloths if you’re breast feeding – milk goes everywhere! 
White noise machine, we use Glow Dreaming.
A portable caddy in the living room, filled with cotton tips, nipple pads, nipple cream, nappy rash cream etc to save 100 trips to fetch things.

If you could speak with yourself while pregnant, what would you say?
Sleep in! And don’t feel guilty about it. 

If you could speak with yourself on day 3 of having a newborn, what would you say? 
Don’t be afraid to say no visitors early on (I wish I had waited until my milk was in before we had visitors) and reach out to other mums for advice and support (the Birth Club on the Birth Center App helped me so much).

Any words for first time mums-to-be nervous about their own upcoming birth?
Your body has been designed perfectly for birth and you’ll be amazed at just how strong you are.
I also highly recommend doing some kind of birth course. We did the Calm Birth course with Cherie Chugg. Not only did I learn so much, it also helped Alex understand the stages of labour and how he could support me and be my voice during labour. I gained so much knowledge about birth and how our bodies release hormones to help during each stage of labour. I also understood all the options I could choose from if labour didn’t start spontaneously or if I needed interventions during birth.

If you have a birth story you’d like to share, then please get in touch and let’s start the conversation and continue celebrating this incredible life changing event!

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