Sunday, 23 November 2014

BIRTH WEEK: The things that make a difference...

Whether you have a home birth, hospital birth, natural labour or c-section, there are no guarantees that it will all go along as you expect or hope. Labour, birth and the postpartum period can be a nerve-wracking, vulnerable time. The kindness, compassion and support you receive really can go a long way and will never be forgotten.

Here is a collection of contributions from mothers about the things that made a positive difference to their birth experience. This could read as a tribute to all the wonderful people out there who have made a difference to pregnant women, be it supporting their partner or their patient. In a way it is also a manifesto – this is what women want. It is not about a medical versus a natural model of care, it is about showing women respect, compassion and support when it really matters most.

Most of all, for me this is an emotional read. I feel so angry and frustrated when women and babies are not treated as they should be but these stories show such lovely, beautiful moments that it makes me feel almost teary. Thank you so much to all the women who contributed. Enjoy!
“That tea and toast after birth is magical” Faye, mum of two

“The anaesthetist, who sat in my room all night to monitor me, assuaged my fears” Nicola, mum of two

“The recovery nurse suggested that doing the first breastfeed might calm me down… and she was right. It did help, I was able to go back to the ward and have a cup of tea and forget that ten minutes earlier I thought I was going to die...” Chrissy, mum of two

“The midwife encouraging me to naturally let the placenta come out rather than having an injection” Helen, mum of two

“My hubbie holding me up in the birthing pool & being very supportive!” Siobhan, mum of one

“My homebirth midwife was very hands off - went out for a walk for a while to leave me to it as she could see I was fine, and hardly did any examinations to check dilation, just waited for me to tell her I was ready to push (her only advice at that point being that it might be a good idea to take off my knickers then!) Being allowed to feel in control of my own labour was very liberating.” Vicki, mum of three

“The senior registrar who simply got my epidural when I asked without treating me as if I was a child. Thanks to him I was able to be conscious for my son’s birth when it turned out I needed an emergency c-section. Had we delayed, there'd have been no time to administer local anaesthesia.” Nicola, mum of two

“It was a spur of the moment decision to use the birthing pool - the midwife guided me well and slowed the pushing down. This seemed awful at the time but I think the combination and slower pushing led to me not tearing. Having experienced a second degree tear in my first labour I can now say that if you can avoid a tear it speeds up recovery after giving birth so much” Bettina, mum of two

“I lost my hypno birth mojo somewhat after around 32 hours in labour and very slow progression and I decided to go to the delivery suite for an epidural rather than stay in the birth centre for the calm water birth I so desperately wanted. When the doctor had agreed my epidural, a new midwife came in to see me…The midwife told me very bluntly that I didn’t need an epidural and that I was giving up when I didn’t need to. That I should go back down to the birth centre and have the baby naturally like I wanted and she knew I could do. That was the kick up the bum I needed - someone to tell me they believed I could do it right at that time when I was doubting myself. So I went downstairs and number two was delivered calmly without intervention about an hour later! I will forever be thankful to that midwife I saw for like 30 mins” Abi, mum of two

“I went in for a c-section after 48hrs of failed attempts to induce. The surgeon and his team made such a great environment for me and my husband, playing music we requested, being really supportive and generally friendly. Apparently I was so at ease that he had to ask me to stop laughing as my belly was jiggling so much he was afraid to make the first incision!” Tina, mum of two
"My midwife told me after having my first baby, that "you can't spoil a baby, if you want to pick him up and cuddle him, then pick him up and cuddle him!" I've had five beautiful babies and I've picked them up and cuddled them all when I've wanted to and I have been so much the happier for it, as have they. It's a precious time and it goes by so quickly, why shouldn't we?" Amanda, mum of five
“The team worked together brilliantly to ensure all the admin and checks could be done swiftly to enable me to go home rather than transfer up to the ward, where I would have needed to stay overnight. Within three hours of giving birth, I was home for dinner and a glass of champagne to celebrate my daughter's safe arrival. The midwives were all amazing, brilliantly supportive and efficient without being clinical” Amy, mum of two

“The midwife running a bath for me after the births of both my children” Helen, mum of two
"My labour was very, very long and there was moment where my midwife suggested the option of breaking my waters for me as this would probably accelerate things. What I found so profoundly positive about the situation was that she gave me all the information I needed to make the decision myself without influencing me at all. I wasn't expecting that on the labour ward. I chose not to have my waters broken and carried on for another 4hrs. It made a difference to me to feel in control at that point, that I could trust myself and my body but that she was there should anything change. When my waters broke (quite spectacularly) they filled her crocs!!" Bonnie, mum of four
“We were left alone which was great and at just gone 8 I asked my husband to buzz as I needed pain relief. In walked the midwife and not once did I ask for pain relief again, she was calming and coached my 9lb 1 oz baby boy out. A good midwife makes all the difference to a calm and smooth delivery” Dawn, mum of two

“My labour was so advanced when I got to the hospital that the midwives offered not to check how far dilated I was (unless I wanted them to check) - I could do without!” Bettina, mum of two

“I had an emergency c-section...the Care Assistant was amazing! I insisted on her coming into theatre with us. She never once let my hand go, throughout the whole thing! We became firm friends from that encounter and she says I encouraged her to go on and become a midwife! (She did it all by herself) and she really did turn a scary time into something positive” Nina, mum of two

“My mum being there while in labour with my second meant I could stay at home for as long as possible and keep things as normal as possible for my eldest. Then when the time came my husband and I were able to just whizz off without any worry about leaving my daughter or dropping her off. Lovely to have been able to be with my family for 35 out of the 36 hours of my labour!” Fliss, mum of two
"My midwife stayed very quiet & just let me listen to my own body. For me this greatly improved the experience." Hannah, mum of two
"I had an emergency c section having been rushed to hospital when my placenta started to detach. The whole team were amazing but the soft calm Scottish voiced anaesthetist is the person who I will always remember. Things happened very quickly and my husband and I were very anxious (for that read terrified), he held my hand and explained what was happening at every step" Angela, mum of one
"I had a birth reflection session a couple of months after my baby's birth. It was very reassuring to talk to a counsellor and be able to piece together the events as I was under anaesthetic when he was born (I had a GA due to placenta abruption)." Emma, mum of one
“Post birth, the midwife taking the time to help ensure baby was latched on and feeding properly. She also showed me different positions and listened to my concerns regarding feeding. At the time I didn't feel this advice was anything special, but since being a mum and listening to other experiences I realise that this was a huge deal. The advice given at the time set me up positively for several months of breastfeeding, which was very important to me” Stacey, mum of one
"My mum massaging my thighs and applying hot towels to my lower back" Sally, mum of two
"The best thing was being at home and the midwives leaving me alone (they were in another room) I don't mean that to sound negative - being on my own was just bliss" Abigail, mum of two.
"When I was admitted to the birth centre, I was quite distressed - in a lot of pain, worried I was going to be turned away again and very tired after 2 nights not sleeping due to a stop-start latent labour stage. The midwife who admitted me recognised my state of mind immediately and knew I needed calming down. So before we did anything she got me on the bed and did 30 mins reflexology on my feet. It was amazing and positive, making me feel really confident again that I had the energy to keep going. Amazing woman." Sophie, mum of one
"My friend massaged my back constantly for at least 8 hours without complaining! I wouldn't have had the relaxed birth I did without her there." Jeanette, mum of two
"When the midwife came to do my final sweep at home, she did the routine check of my baby's heart beat & it had slowed. I can hear it now, got goose bumps thinking about it. I was blue lighted in & because of where we were living at the time my midwife couldn't stay with me, her duty of care was finished once she had handed me over to the hospital. She asked me to text her to let her know me & the baby were ok which I forgot to do. She didn't leave it, she rang and found which ward I was on and asked about me and my baby.  She needed/wanted/cared enough, technically her job was done, but she still cared, I wasn't just a number! Made me & my baby's life feel like it mattered, I'll never forget how that made me feel." Victoria, mum of one  
"The most positive thing anyone has ever done for me was to offer me an epidural during the first one and reassure me that this is not failing and really helps you cope!" Nancy, mum of two
"Although many are envious of my speedy labour with my last baby, I found it very shocking and didn't feel the rush of love I'd had with my previous baby. But being in the MLU was really amazing. My baby and I were left together in our own womb/room for 24hrs with the occasional interruption to be offered tea or toast and be checked over. This really gave us time to bond and fall in love" Bonnie, mum of four
"The midwives largely just stayed out of my way and let me and my partner get on with it - the last thing I wanted was strangers getting in my face, and although they were in the room the whole time, and were quick and efficient filling the pool etc, they were very much background presences. The midwife did interject right at the end, when I was starting to flail about a bit, and give me a firm pep talk that I was nearly there and all I needed was one last push. Personally I was really grateful that she wasn't a big presence - I don't know if she sensed this about me, or I was just lucky that that was her personal approach. We had a nice chat a few hours later when it was all over!" Lucy, mum of one
"My husband and best friend (who was doing shiatsu on me through out) were both in the birthing pool with me, the close contact made me feel really supported and that they were really present rather than just in the room" Helen, mum of one
"The anaesthetist for my second C-section making me laugh. I flat lined during my first section and this was a very emotionally charged time. He told me to be a cat, an angry cat (bending forward for epidural); the room was filled with laughter just for a minute but was wonderful and I now look back and smile." Petra, mum of two
"My mum came to stay for 4 days after the birth of my first. She cooked my favourite meals, did the shopping, cleaning and did a few night shifts only waking me for feeding, other than that she stayed out the way and gave us precious time with our precious boy...a precious gift from my gorgeous mum" Kristell, mum of two
"One of the most positive things the midwife did was in response to my mid first stage question asking how I would know when to push, she said that when the time came I would know it as there would be no doubt, and how right she was." Olivia, mum of one
"When I was pregnant I went to a hypnotherapist for one session of advice. The comment she made that meant the most to me was that birth was natural and hard work, but didn't need to be dreaded. The words 'hard work' really helped. I saw each contraction as simply part of this very natural women's work(!) and I was working towards seeing my baby. " Joanne, mum of two
 "My midwife stayed very quiet & just let me listen to my own body. For me this greatly improved the experience" Hannah, mum of two
"At the end of my labour my baby wasn't coming out. He kept coming up on a push but going back down when I didn't push. The two midwives coached me to push for over an hour and a half and got me through it...had they not I'd have been cut and forceps/ventouse used. I'm so glad that didn't happen. I also had to have my placenta taken out manually afterwards and I recall the anaesthesist being unbelievably reassuring." Emma, mum of one
"My midwife transformed the hospital room into a cosy den, she got bean bags, put a mattress on the floor, moved the bed against the wall... She was also so personal, wonderful, thoughtful and kind, the perfect personality for a midwife... I felt very comfortable..." Beth, mum of two
"I needed to stay in hospital for four days after my caesarean and I had a beautiful angel who took my baby for a few hours in the middle of one night when she could see that I was really struggling and needed sleep. Separation was not what I would have wanted in an ideal world but when she offered I cried with relief...and guilt. In the morning all I felt was thanks that there was someone to do that..." Danielle, mum of one
"My hubby was amazing! He cooked (and cut my food up so I could still breastfeed if needed), went shopping, did all the washing and was so patient with our boys when they were newborn. He took them for drives in the middle of the night to get them off to sleep. When our second son came along, he took our first to all the toddler groups/baby gym etc to keep up his routine whilst on paternity leave. I was very lucky" Mandy, mum of two
"My midwife talked me out of a epidural and told me I was strong enough to do it without it. She was totally right!" Karen, mum of one
"My midwife made me a sort of bed on the floor with a comfy mat, pillows etc... and let me lie on it and sort of 'sleep' for a good ten mins even though she knew it was slowing things down but I really needed a break " Jo, mum of two
"With the first one I requested to be transferred to the birth centre for a couple of days as I was not sure I knew well what to do with the baby. They were wonderful and taught me how to breastfeed and the rest and in general gave me great confidence so I became a less stressed first time mum!" Elena, mum of two
"The midwife said to me when she first arrived to listen to my body and do whatever I needed to do. If I had wanted to wander round the house they would have followed me, rubbing my back!" Charlotte, mum of three 
"There was the early morning tea lady who would come around and say 'morning Arfur' in her best South London accent making me laugh (and hurt) and then give me the best tea and white sliced, over-buttered toast I'd ever tasted." Danielle, mum of one
"Being supported and empowered to trust my body and birth at home at over 42 weeks pregnant. I am woman, hear me roar!" Helen, mum of two 

If you would like to find reassuring positive birth stories, have a look at the Positive Birth Movement, set up by Milli Hill.

Do you remember any specific things that someone did for you that really made a positive difference to your birth experience? It would be great to hear more!



  1. What a lovely read. I imagine most health care professionals would read this and recognise many times they've gone beyond their job description and it would put a smile on their face.

  2. What a wonderful thing to read! Thanks

  3. Lovely & great articles this week! x

  4. Very interesting article, I really happy to read your blog posts.