Our Lockdown Baby!
Joshua entered the world on
5th January 2021!
But what was it like giving birth in a pandemic? And how did it differ to my previous labours? I share all three of my positive birthing experiences below!
Whilst this post isn’t cake or wedding related, so many of my couples go on to have families of their own after getting married. So I thought it might help any nervous mums-to-be to see that whilst every birthing experience is different, and they may not go to plan, each one can still be a positive one – even in a pandemic!
Below you can read my birthing experiences with each of my three children. Each one different, but all of them equally amazing!
Elsie Edith Wood
When I was pregnant with my first child Elsie, I came across hypnobirthing which teaches relaxation and breathing technique for an easier birthing experience. I couldn’t afford to do a course so I bought a hypnobirthing book and CD by Katharine Graves. I listened to the relaxations and affirmations on a daily basis before going to sleep.
I decided I wanted a water birth but as my local hospital only had two birthing pools this couldn’t be guaranteed.
My daughter was stubbornly late and I had two stretch and sweeps to try and get things moving. For those wondering what a stretch and sweep is, it’s a simple procedure to try and initiate labour. Anyway, after the second one there was still no sign of labour, so I was all booked in for an induction at 42 weeks!
I really didn’t want an induction so I was trying ALL of the old wives tales to try and bring on labour naturally. At 41+5 (that’s 41 weeks plus 5 days pregnant) I went for a long walk during the day with my husband Mark. I’m not sure if it was the walk, or the vindaloo, but at around 8.40pm that evening I had my first contraction.
The first couple of contractions were around 10 minutes apart but they soon picked up pace and within half an hour they were 5 minutes apart.
I rang the labour line who advised me to take paracetamol, have a soak in the bath and try and get some sleep as i’ll likely be in for a long night!
However once I got in the bath things picked up pretty quickly and the contractions got longer and more intense.
Only a couple of hours later, I was still in the bath breathing through my contractions when my waters broke and I felt like I needed to push. My husband was on the phone to the labour line at the time and I was told not to push and get to hospital. Honestly, looking back now, I remember being able to feel the head and I think I was 100% ready to push at this stage, but my labour miraculously slowed down once I was told to get to hospital.
We were only 15 minutes from the hospital and we pulled up in the car park around 1am. I remember dropping to my hands and knees in the car park as I was having contractions as I could not physically stand or walk through them anymore. By this point they were probably a couple minutes apart.
Typically, I decided to go into labour on one of the busiest nights of the year, so the birthing pools were unavailable, but from what I learnt through practising hypnobirthing I stayed calm and relaxed, even though I couldn’t have the birth I planned for.
An examination showed I was already 8cm dilated upon arrival at hospital. A few puffs on gas and air (which by the way is absolutely AMAZING stuff) and only a short while later I was pushing. However after a while of pushing to no success, I had to have an episiotomy to help speed up delivery.
My daughter was born at 03.21am (only 6 hours 40 minutes after my first contraction) weighing a diddy 6lb 1oz. She needed a single puff of oxygen after delivery, but after this she was placed straight on me for skin to skin.
Giving birth lying down with my legs in stirrups was not what I envisaged at all when I wrote my birth plan, but it was still an amazing birth experience and I’m so pleased I managed to get through it with just gas and air.
Focusing on my breathing and keeping calm throughout those contractions was definitely key and why I think everything happened so quickly and so smoothly.
Elliott John Wood
With my second baby Elliott, I decided I wanted to have a home birth. The main reason being I was a little anxious about the speed of delivery, as they say subsequent babies usually arrive quicker than your first – and Elsie was pretty quick for a first baby! Plus we also had the stress of childcare to think about for Elsie when I did go into labour.
Throughout my pregnancy I was having regular growth scans, due to Elsie being small for her gestation. Scans were showing this baby was also on the small side too. A week before my due date I had the birthing pool all blow up at home ready, when I was advised by my consultant not to have a home birth and that they wanted to induce on my due date. My heart sunk as my wish for a home birth disappeared.
I really didn’t want an induction, so I agreed to a stretch and sweep at 39+4 to try and get things moving.
Only a few hours after the sweep, at around 8pm, I started to get very mild, irregular contractions. As there wasn’t really a pattern to them at this stage I decided to try and get some sleep, but by around 2am they had intensified quite a lot and were around 5 minutes apart. I rang the hospital to say I was making my way there and I also called my neighbour who came and stayed at our house with Elsie who was in bed.
We arrived at the hospital around 3am and I was told I was only 2cm dilated. I knew they were going to try and send me home and I think the midwife could tell I was quite anxious about that, so suggested I go for a walk instead. 30 minutes of walking up and down the hospital corridors must have done the trick as after that I was back in the birthing suite getting ready to get in the birthing pool!
The water was so relaxing. I had the lights dimmed, with battery operated candles dotted around the room and an electric oil diffuser with some lavender essential oil in it. I had relaxing music playing and on the iPad a slideshow of hypnobirthing affirmations. It was the perfect environment. Apart from checking the babies heartbeat every now and again, the midwife pretty much left me to it.
I was only in the birthing pool for around an hour and half before my waters went and I felt the need to push. Unfortunately I didn’t get the water birth I wanted, as I had to get out of the pool at the very last minute for another episiotomy. Again, through practising hypnobirthing I was able to manage the stresses of my birth plan changing. I think it was engrained in me to stay calm and relaxed.
My son was born at 6.09am weighing a tiny 5lb 15oz and was placed on me straight away for that initial skin to skin. We waited until the cord had stopped pulsing before Mark cut it and I also had the injection to speed up delivery of the placenta.
Whilst this labour was slightly longer than my labour with Elsie (at around 10 hours compared to 6.5 hours) I felt so much more empowered during this labour. I think the way the midwife could see how anxious I was about being sent home and the way she dealt with that anxiety, fuelled me with confidence and determination to have a happy and positive birth.
Joshua Richard Wood
As I wasn’t allowed a home birth with Elliott, I decided to have a home birth third time around with Joshua. As well as the speed of delivery and childcare being a factor in my decision, it also felt like the best thing to do in the current pandemic.
I had to undergo routine growth scans throughout my pregnancy again due to both Elsie & Elliott being small babies. All of my scans went well and showed this baby was bigger than my previous two. However in my final scan just before Christmas it showed the growth of the babies abdominal circumference was tailing off very slightly. The consultant advised me against a home birth and wanted to induce at 40 weeks.
Now I wouldn’t normally go against medical advice, however I felt the consultant was making a fuss about nothing. I had no problems at all throughout this pregnancy, fetal movements were still fine and growth scans predicted a birth weight of 7lb, as well as showing blood flow through the placenta was fine. My midwife also looked over the scan results and had no concerns at all. So I decided to still go ahead with the home birth and refuse an induction on my due date. To keep the consultant happy, I agreed to have a stretch and sweep at 40 weeks and reassess the need for induction at 41 weeks.
After the stretch and sweep I had some mild cramping for the next couple of days but no signs of labour. At 40+4 I had another stretch and sweep performed. Only a few hours later at around 4pm I started to get some mild contractions.
As my last two birthing experiences had been relatively quick, I started to get everything prepared. We got the children to bed, bought my bags downstairs, tidied up, hoovered, blew up the birthing pool, lit some candles etc etc.
Contractions were roughly every 5-10 minutes but quite mild and I rang the midwife to let her know things had started happening. Later that evening the contractions got stronger and closer together. We filled up the pool just in case, as I didn’t want to be caught out if everything suddenly happened quickly.
But the opposite actually happened!
Everything seemed to slow down whenever I moved around, lay down or had a bath. As you can imagine it was a long night and I only managed to get a couple of hours sleep.
As soon as I woke up in the morning the contractions picked up again. They were still quite mild at around 5-10 minutes apart. My neighbour (our childcare bubble before anyone thinks I broke lockdown rules) had Elsie and Elliott for the day whilst I went for a walk with Mark and tried to get a couple of hours sleep. Mark also had to empty the pool so we could fill it with fresh water when the time came.
By early evening the contractions began getting quite intense again and I was having to stop and breath through them by this point.
After putting the children to bed I had a bath and we tried to get some sleep, but this time the contractions just weren’t slowing down!
By 1am I had been in early labour for approximately 33 hours! My contractions were now regular at 5 minutes apart and 1 minute long. They had been like this for the past hour so I got Mark to ring the midwife again as I couldn’t talk by this point. She said she would come around straight away to see how things were progressing.
Mark started to fill up the birthing pool (again!) and set the room up to make it more relaxing. Like with Elliott, we put battery operated candles around the room, had relaxing music playing, essential oils burning and the lights dimmed low.
The midwife arrived at around 2am and immediately rang the second midwife to come with the delivery kit. By this point I was kneeling down bent over the sofa breathing through my contractions which were now around 2-3 minutes apart. I wanted gas and air!
An examination showed I was 5cm dilated and that was when she told me the gas and air was with the second midwife. I have never felt so disappointed, but it was also quite empowering knowing I would have to do this without any pain relief.
Only around 20-30 minutes later I felt the need to push. The pool was just about ready so I got in.
The head was half way out when the second midwife arrived at around 3am. I had one puff on the gas and air before the midwife asked me to get out the pool to let gravity help speed things up.
After one last push on all fours, our son was born in the middle of our living room at 3.18am weighing 7lb 1.5oz. We had skin to skin straight away. Like with Elliott, we waited until the cord had stopped pulsing before Mark cut it and I had the injection to speed up delivery of the placenta.
And best of all … no stitches were needed!
Before going into labour I had been so worried about tearing or needing another episiotomy, so I was absolutely estatic about this, along with almost giving birth without any pain relief what so ever!
So they may say that each subsequent labour gets quicker, but for me that wasn’t the case and each one actually got longer. With Joshua’s being the longest at around 35 hours! In hindsight, I think a mixture of having a sweep to start labour before I was naturally ready to give birth, as well as stressing about the house being spotless to create that ‘perfect’ environment at home, contributed to a very long early labour. As stress inhibits the release of oxytocin which is needed for labour to progress.
So giving birth in a pandemic … well there wasn’t really much difference. I enjoyed giving birth to all three of my children. The only difference being the midwives all had masks on during my birth with Joshua.
And the home birth? Well, I would absolutely recommend a homebirth to anyone! People say I was brave to have a home birth, but bravery doesn’t really come into it. Home births are not dangerous. After two previous birthing experiences in hospital, I was confident in my bodies ability to birth Joshua at home without any complications. So I just chose to give birth in an environment that felt safe, comfortable and relaxing. And best of all, only half an hour after giving birth I was sat on my own sofa with a cup of tea and a biscuit whilst breastfeeding!
Incredibly, Elsie and Elliott slept through it all and they got to meet their new baby brother as soon as they woke up a few hours after Joshua was born. It was magical!