Becca went into her birth with the best attitude and dealt with the impact of the pandemic on her birth experience incredibly well! A lovely, quick pandemic birth story.
I found out I was pregnant with my first baby about a month before the first lockdown. Much to the surprise of many close to me, the prospect of birth had never been something that I found particularly daunting. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit it became apparent that my husband wouldn’t be able to attend our scans and appointments, and I was presented with the prospect that I may have to labour alone. My confidence wavered and I experienced all sorts of worry and anxiety about what my birth experience was going to look like. I was encouraged to look into HypnoBirthing by a friend at work. Given the pandemic, I bought myself a book and I was soon sold. I had a daily pelvic floor and HypnoBirthing routine going by the time I was well into my second trimester. For me, I knew that to have a positive birth experience (no matter how I birthed my baby) I would need to feel in control of the situation. HypnoBirthing equipped me with the tools to feel confident, competent and ready to birth my baby in any situation.
At 39 weeks pregnant I had been having daily Braxton Hicks for weeks. It was October 2020 and the threat of a second wave/lockdown was very real. With COVID-19 restrictions having limited my social contact whilst pregnant, I was willing my little girl to arrive soon so that I could share her with my friends and family before the imminent second lockdown began. I met with my midwife and expressed my worries. In turn she explained that she wanted to monitor my blood pressure, as she was concerned it was slightly elevated. Given this, we agreed she would do a membrane stretch and sweep. After my cervical examination, she established that I was already 2 cm dilated and fully effaced. I left feeling positive and excited knowing it wouldn’t be too long before I would meet my baby girl.
I lost my mucus plug that afternoon and settled down with a nice candle lit bath listening to positive birth affirmations, before listening to a relaxation track before bed. A further 48 hours passed and I went to bed early believing that the sweep had been unsuccessful. Little did I know that I would go into labour very soon.
I woke at around 10.30pm with an instinctive need to go to the bathroom. As soon as I got to the bathroom my waters released. Immediately I felt my first surge (contraction). I called my husband in and I was soon shaking with shock that I was in labour. I was fully prepared for a long labour, so took my time getting myself comfortable before thinking about letting the birth centre know that my waters had released - they were clear and I was very keen to stay at home as long as possible. I popped two paracetamol and began tracking my surges with the Freya app, and straight away it identified that I was in established labour based on surge timings. Simultaneously I realised that I hadn’t felt my baby move since my waters had released, so I decided to call the Maternity Assessment Unit (MAU) instead of the birth centre.
Despite having strong and regular surges, I was able to breath through these and (fairly) calmly talk to the midwife on triage over the phone. She reassured me and encouraged me to monitor the movements and call back in 2 hours with an update. She felt it was very unlikely that I was in established labour and told me to settle in for the long run. At this point I was on all fours on my bed, eyes closed and breathing along with the Freya app and felt fully in control. Within 20 minutes my husband whispered that he felt we should call back and let them know how frequent my surges were. As I still hadn’t felt the baby move, it was agreed that I would go straight to MAU for assessment.
I kept my eyes closed the entire car journey, breathing through each surge. I felt a strange pressure below and found myself lifting my bum off the seat for the majority of the journey. On arrival to the hospital, I was fully expecting my husband to be allowed in with me, as we had been informed the week prior that the restrictions at the hospital had been relaxed slightly to allow birth partners to be present for the initial labour assessment. It came as a huge shock when he was turned away via the intercom. We had moved from London to Oxford when I was 36 weeks pregnant, so I wasn’t familiar with the layout of the JR’s women’s centre.
The next minutes are a blur, but I somehow managed to find my way to MAU in the dead of night. The corridors were empty and there was not one person around to ask for help. Once in MAU the receptionist asked me to do a urine sample, but after locking myself in the toilet I realised how close my baby was to making her appearance. I opened the door and a kind lady also in for assessment came over to me. She called the triage midwife over, who took one look at me and agreed to assess me straight away. Turns out I was already 9 cm dilated and started to get the urge to push very soon after the examination. My husband was rushed in from the car park, all the while I had my eyes closed and was focused on my breathing. As soon as my husband arrived he started reciting affirmations to me. Having learnt HypnoBirthing together throughout my pregnancy, he knew exactly how to support and advocate for me. We were a great team.
Whilst the triage midwife tried to find an on-duty midwife to support my birth, I felt powerful and in control and fully believed I could birth my baby. The triage midwife wanted to move me to a more appropriate room, and I somehow got myself onto a wheelchair and was whipped next door. Between surges I clambered out and onto all fours on the bed. There was no time to transfer me to the birth centre for the water birth I had planned. The room was kept dark and quiet and I asked my midwife to apply a warm compress to my perineum to help minimise the risk of a significant tear, given I knew my baby was coming quickly. I had a slight wobble at transition, and announced to the room that I couldn’t do it. My husband calmly reassured me and told me it meant our baby was so close to meeting us. I was given gas and air and before long I felt in control again.
Giving birth was the most instinctive yet involuntary thing I have ever done. It was very primal. I let out this low pitched roar as I felt baby move down the birth canal. I felt so empowered, and after a short period of ‘pushing’, our little Etta entered the world weighing 6lbs7oz. I immediately scooped her up from between my legs and put her onto my chest. I cut the cord and decided to have the injection to speed up the delivery of the placenta. I needed a couple of stitches for a small second degree tear and Etta and I stayed in hospital the following night due to some feeding difficulties. FaceTime became our best friend and allowed us to keep in contact with Daddy, seeing as he wasn’t allowed to stay post birth due to the restrictions.
My labour took just less than 3.5 hours in total. Despite the pandemic, I had a positive birth experience overall and I truly believe it was HypnoBirthing that facilitated that. I am still coming to terms with the fact that my husband was turned away when we first arrived, but I often remind myself how incredibly strong and resilient I was. I have a new found love and respect for my body and wholeheartedly believe women are amazing! I will most definitely be considering a home birth with any future babies. To any women due to birth in the pandemic, you have so got this!