Andy's Dad's Eye View of His Wife's Birth Journey.
You can read Kerrie's birth story on my website (click here to be directed to it) but I particularly wanted to share Andy's take on it, quite simply because it's not very often that I get a birth story written through the eyes of a father. Here is Andy's honest and powerful take on their birth experience. It shows how much of an impact care providers can have (both positive and negative), and the importance of being knowledgeable and prepared for what may come your way! The decision of what happens to you, your baby and your body is 100% yours, but I won't sit here typing this and lie to you that that will always be respected unfortunately. Andy tells it as it was for him!
"43+ 2 Weeks
After reading all we could find on pregnancy and child birth my wife and I couldn’t wait to meet our little baby, during the pregnancy we attended a hypnobirthing course with Terri at Cornwall hypnobirthing. Although this taught us many things one thing that stuck in both of our minds was the importance of patience, oh boy did we need that!
The elephant in the room during our pregnancy was Covid 19 and so I’ll touch on that because if and when it all goes away there were benefits from it that maybe useful to others. Obviously what happened world wide was tragic but in my opinion there was only a few negative ways it affected us. The biggest of these downsides being I could no longer accompany my wife to the midwife appointments or her final scan. I just got to sit in the carpark and wait for her like a lemon. I wasn’t upset for me at all just felt a bit useless and for a man that’s not how we want to feel. Other than that, the reduction in available distractions and our seriously reduced social circle all played into our hands meaning the two of us got some much needed rest and time together, I was stressed at work (we both run our own businesses) but my wife was incredibly understanding of that and certainly in the final 6 weeks of the pregnancy all this seemed to bring us closer together. The only other way in which Covid changed our plan is that we had originally planned to go to the birth centre in Truro but at around 35 weeks we decided we felt more comfortable having the baby at home, this is something we had considered before but Covid gave us the final push we needed and I’m glad it did. Only slight issue is our home is a bit of a building site, 300 years old with narrow stairs and has terrible access, needless to say our less than supportive midwife was not impressed. Never ones to be easily swayed, we made our decision and we stuck to it. I think it’s fair to say that it was after this that the less than satisfactory care we had received from our midwife went further down hill, more on that later.
After what can only be described as a beautiful pregnancy with minimal discomfort and sickness we both arrived at 37 weeks fresh faced and perhaps too ready. At 38 weeks my wife got “the show” and we both had a gut feeling the baby was on its way, in what in hindsight could now be seen as a silly move we jumped in the car and picked up the last few things on our list and ended up being busy all day, long story short, the baby didn’t come, if nothing else though, it brought it home that it could be any time now.
Hypnobirthing had made us very excited about our birth and although there is always trepidation I personally felt very confident in my role as birth partner, it was so clear in my mind what I needed to do that I could clearly visualise it. I think that is probably worth doing for any birth partner who hasn’t been at a birth before, unbeknown to my wife I spent a fair bit of time visualising a not so successful birth also but always with the desired outcome, this gave me confidence I could cope if things did go wrong but I was careful not to discuss that with my wife as what you visualise has a habit of becoming a reality. I’m very practically minded so knew I would need a gauge on which to base any decisions, I chose heart rate and blood pressure and decided that regardless of time, changes in these would be the only time I would consider a change of plan. This did cause me a slight panic at one stage that perhaps I should have prepared better for but we’ll come to that later.
Once we hit 40 weeks we were really hopeful of an arrival soon but knew that it could be a lot longer so we needed to stay calm, this is where the fact finding on stats came in as we had been made aware that pressure from the medics to be induced would become more and more intense. At around 40+2 my wife had another appointment with her midwife, she didn’t get the support she needed just offered a “sweep” as if it was a werthers original and a lecture about late babies. Also told the baby was back to back but with no advice on how they may be turned, we also now know the baby likely went back to back as a result of sitting with her feet up to reduce swelling (Midwife’s orders) She left in tears and I was angry!
Needless to say we didn’t hurry to make another appointment with our current midwife. All her checks had been great and we knew that a baby is not overdue until 42 weeks, we also knew that dating scans are not that accurate (although there haven’t been many studies) the only one we could find said +\- 15 days, we also had a suspicion that our date was 10 days out. I should say here that I’m sure in certain situations our midwife was very capable however we found her to not be interested in facts (something very important to my wife) and to be quite robotic, we just didn’t click and definitely should have changed sooner.
At 42 weeks our research suggested that two areas of concern are amniotic fluid levels and the ageing placenta (although there is no real evidence of the latter) a quick scan of the NHS guidance said we were entitled to, and encouraged to have a couple scans a week and hence on the Sunday of 42 I took my wife in for a check up and she booked a scan, My wife was given the litigation “against guidelines” talk and it was agreed that this would not be mentioned again, they said they would send evidence to back up their guidelines (ironically in the post, if they really wanted us to have it they would have been emailed it but this was purely a litigation action which I entirely understand albeit a little insensitive) they wanted us to have check ups everyday but that wasn’t for us, we live too far away and our priority was staying chilled but we did stick to the scans, thankfully the results were good but after the first scan, Kerrie was encouraged to go and see the midwife, BIG MISTAKE. This was the second time she left in floods of tears, I can’t tell you how angry I was that someone who’s job it is to support the mother would do this for a second time. To cut a long story short she told my extremely well researched and highly intellectual wife that our baby might die if they weren’t induced and it wasn’t a time to be ‘selfish’ she failed to provide any evidence for this scare mongering and pretty much wouldn’t let her leave until she accepted she was being selfish.
The good news is that this spurred an action that I implore others to take much sooner, our midwife had to go (sadly not into retirement but at least out of our lives) we wrote a letter to the head of midwifery asking for a change and we were rewarded with a very warm and supportive reply that reinstated our faith in the system, we had to go through the legal stuff again but done in a much more professional manner. It was at this time the “evidence” arrived in the post, strangely a child at school wouldn’t get away with stating a fact without referencing its origin or giving a full picture but the NHS do. Their data seemed to match a study that had given us great confidence that we read on the AIMS website (well worth a visit) but the NHS info was not placed in context, namely that your baby is at far more risk at being born at 38 weeks than they are at 42...albeit 42 is slightly higher risk that 40. Basically there is very little evidence and that really adds to the confusion. GO WITH YOUR GUT and know that induction and C section come with great risks that in our opinion outweighed waiting.
These 3 weeks from 40 were hard, we live in a small village, everywhere we went we were continually asked, when are “they” going to induce you, as if we had no choice in the matter. When we summoned the energy to explain our reasons people were generally supportive but it was exhausting, definitely not what you need before going into the biggest day of your life. My advice would be pick a birth month and don’t utter a date because as soon as you do, you have applied pressure that you really don’t want or need!
On top of the stress of being supposedly “overdue” we had some dormant stresses regarding our home come to light, two separate highly stressful incidents that meant that at 43+1 my wife and I were essentially moving house until 10pm at night, 12500 steps and 42 flights climbed later (my wife’s watch told us) we went to bed physically and emotionally exhausted...only issue being our little one had other ideas, our heads finally hit the pillow at 11:30 and my wife started to complain of back pain, she suffers from that a lot, I jokingly text a work colleague saying either she was in labour or her back was out as a result of moving house at 43 weeks pregnant.
10 minutes later, another pain, 8 minutes after that another, then 6 minutes then 4 minutes then constantly every 2 minutes for 40 seconds. Both my mum and my wife’s mum had fast labours and hence we called the midwife and my wife said there was no time to get to hospital we would have the baby at home. This was met with some distain by the lady in triage who no doubt knew our case as the “awkward ones” by this time. She also assured me that the baby would not arrive quickly and although I have my own theory on this, she turned out to be absolutely correct. She did tell me that she wasn’t allowed in the pool until a midwife got there....oops too late!
About 2 hours in, the Midwife’s turned up and my wife’s contractions slowed to every 5 minutes but still intense. I’m not sure on midwife protocol but it seems there is one lead and one note taker/auxiliary. In our case the lead was a lady called Liz and she was amazing. She understood hypnobirthing and gave all information to me to pass onto Kerrie while I supported her. She pretty much left us to it as my wife was in such great control, no screaming just utter focus! I’m sure they say it to everyone but I believed Liz when she praised my wife for how she was coping it was unreal and much of that has to be put down to the hypnobirthing course that although we didn’t practice too much we did understand and agree with the premise. It was just like the videos they showed us to prove that labour doesn’t have to be traumatic! She was really doing it and my pride was overflowing.
The first and in my opinion the only hurdle was lurking in the wings from before the start and that was exhaustion, she had no sleep and couldn’t take on food or water, this started to really show itself about 5 hours in, contractions were still regular but they were weaker, I know my wife and I knew she was tired. I knew again from hypnobirthing that there was nothing stopping her lying down and taking a rest, nothing that is apart from my wife’s stubbornness, when she starts something she wants to finish it, as seen by the house clearance the night before!
I was by her side throughout and definitely did not feel like a spare part, keeping the pool at temp was a full time job and if I moved more than 12 inches from my wife she clearly told me I was not to move! I too was exhausted and started to wonder how she could possibly keep going. I was immensely proud to overhear during the 8am handover of the Midwives that I was doing a great job they could leave me to it and just monitor!
About 10 hours in with an old school midwife in the wings (not in the room) and a typical know it all Dr on the phone, murmurs of transfer to hospital set in, my wife wasn’t having examinations and hence they could only guess but the words “failure to progress” were thrown around by “Mrs old school”. Luckily our new primary midwife, like Liz had been, was amazing and we privately chatted about bullying my wife into taking a rest.
After some cajoling and promises (guesses) that the labour would be quicker in the long run I managed to help her out of the pool and into the bed, she wasn’t happy about it but after a lot of extreme offshore sailing I knew the power of even 2 minutes of sleep, she rested for about 20 minutes and probably slept for about 8 minutes between contractions, In hindsight I should have strapped her to the bed but as she rested the contractions grew in strength again and my wife was eager to get going, back in the pool she went and another few hours went by, she still didn’t have the energy to progress and I knew she needed more rest but this was a harder sell the second time. She was getting pretty disheartened by this point though and knowing my wife and knowing how her brain works I gave her two options, one was rest, the other was a trip to hospital and potentially a c-section. She agreed to rest again and this time I stood fast and made sure she laid there for the best part of an hour, she was uncomfortable and only sleeping for seconds between contractions but in bed you are not holding your body and hence your muscles get a chance to recover. In hindsight I should have got her to rest as soon as her contractions slowed but hey hindsight is a wonderful thing and we all make mistakes.
The next stage is where in some ways we departed from our original course a bit and I suppose got a bit of luck just when we needed it. My wife was so tired she was clutching at straws really and after probably 12 hours of saying no to examinations she agreed to have one as she really had no idea how close (or far) she was. Rosie the midwife was great and really put her mind at rest telling she was leading the exam and it could stop at any time. I’m not a religious man but thank god, she was 9.5cm dilated (I suspect she had been near that for the last 10 hours)
Her waters had also not broken and although we normally wouldn’t agree with them breaking them, in this instance we didn’t see it could do anything but help, there was meconium but that’s to be expected with a baby 3 weeks over so it didn’t worry anyone, although it did give Mrs Old school another excuse for a hospital transfer lecture.
Overall this news gave my wife just that little bit more fight she needed that she could still do it, I don’t know where she summoned it but she found some energy and although things didn’t happen as quick as she hoped after about 90 mins she agreed to a second exam “Mrs Old School” was in the room now and she was so keen on calling an ambulance that I wasn’t completely sure she would admit it if Kerrie was fully dilated. Once again luck (and an monumental effort from my wife) was on our side and she was fully dilated. Again this somehow meant she found a little more energy.
Mrs Old School directed her to push whilst holding her breath, I disagreed and told Kerrie to do as she felt, this did not go down very well and I have to say I don’t think Mrs old school likes me!
She did push and with all her might, now I will never know if this departure from the hypnobirthing breathing was what turned things into a minor emergency or if perhaps that would have happened anyway...as I said before my chosen metric which was heart rate and blood pressure and it had not wavered throughout on mum or baby...until now! Suddenly our superstar Rosie couldn’t find a heart beat and when she occasionally did it was very weak and slow. I’m pretty experienced at faking calm but I can honestly say I was panicking. Mrs old school finally got her wish to call an ambulance and myself and superstar Rosie set about, as she put it, beating the bus. Neither of us had ever coached a football team but with all the woops and cheers you wouldn’t know it, as stated before my wife tops the stubbornness charts and she wasn’t about to get into an ambulance unless she had to! Slow and steady progress was made and hope was regaining, I have no idea how long this took, it felt like 3 minutes but could have easily been 30! Once the head was visible we could also see a hand, just to make things more difficult. Due to this and a lack of heart rate and various other factors mainly relating to an overdue baby we agreed to an epiziotomie, it was quick and painless and immediately helped progress, next issue, shoulder dystocia, again common in post date babies but potentially dangerous. Credit where it’s due, Mrs old school and Teresa (our lovely auxiliary midwife) sprung into action with a manoeuvre called McRoberts, not exactly delicate but highly effective, especially if you are interested in hydraulics. I have since googled it and found that not everyone does it with such force but I’m not complaining, with the second round our beautiful baby boy slid into the world at speed! It was my job to announce the sex and as they placed him on mums chest I caught a glimpse of his tiny little winky (and massive ball sack, who knew?)
He is a whopper at 10 pound 7 ounces and the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. He was the largest and latest baby our midwife had ever delivered (already breaking records)
I have learnt a level of respect for all mothers that I couldn’t have dreamed possible, not least my stunningly beautiful, stubborn, super hero of a wife! I have to say next time I think I am running out of steam I will try to channel just 1 % of what got her through 15 gruelling hours with no food and barely any water or sleep, I am forever in her debt and I will make sure our darling son William knows that too. Thanks also go to all the midwives who attended especially Liz, Rosie and Teresa. Terri at Cornwall hypnobirthing and to mine and my wife’s parents for bringing us up to use our own minds, form our own opinions and make our own informed decisions. It’s not easy to go against guidance when it at least appears to put you more at risk but my message to care providers that hate people like me and my wife, is, just because we don’t agree, that does not mean we don’t care for the well-being of our unborn child, stats (of which there are few on this topic) are there to be interpreted and the picture is much bigger than labour itself. I hope that the decisions we made not only put our son at the least possible risk but also gave him the best possible start in life coming into the world un-drugged and with immediate skin to skin contact with mum and dad. All that said I would be lying if I didn’t say that when the sh%# hit the fan all of those decisions we had made flashed before my eyes with a deep sense of regret, perhaps we got lucky, perhaps we played the odds, we will never know but all I can advise is GO WITH YOUR GUT."
Hypnobirthing isn't just for one type of birth, it's not against medical intervention, it's not anti anything. It's about knowing your options, your rights, your choices, feeling powerful to speak up and be heard, feeling ready and knowing the importance of listening to your body. It's all of these things and more!