Life Pregnancy

Santino James: How you came into the world (A positive birth story)

I want to start this post by saying that I’m incredibly lucky this birth story is uncomplicated. I thank the stars every day that we didn’t experience any curveballs and everything was really straightforward. I know not everyone gets that luxury in life.

Wednesday 17th August

My midwife had requested an additional growth scan as my bump hadn’t grown quite as much as she would have liked. It wasn’t anything extreme but best to be on the safe side considering I was 39 weeks + 4 and we could be waiting another 2+ weeks for the little one’s arrival.

The scan revealed SJ’s stomach was measuring smaller than expected since my last scan 5 weeks before. A few members of staff reviewed the measurements and confirmed it was definitely on the small side and so I was referred to the Day Assessment Unit for review.

They hooked me up to monitor his heartbeat and check his movements while we waited for a doctor to review the scans. After waiting around for a few hours, we were given the all clear and I was booked in for an induction at 41 weeks as a precaution.

We got home later than usual, had a quick dinner and collapsed into bed, collectively breathing a sigh of relief that everything was okay and hoped we’d meet our little bundle soon.

Then my waters broke.

Talk about timing.

I phoned the labour line to let them know and opted to go into hospital in the morning for a check up. But I needn’t have worried, my contractions started about half an hour later.

I quickly found lying down was impossible and so spent the next 3 hours on my feet, gazing out the bedroom window, listening to one of my favourite audiobooks (The Next Always by Nora Roberts) and swaying from side to side. I’d done The Naked Doula’s Hypnobirthing course and started to implement her floppy face floppy fanny technique while squeezing my acupressure comb.

Thursday 18th August

At 1am, we headed to the hospital only to discover I was 2cm dilated – not enough to be admitted. They gave me some codeine and sent us home.

Back home, I couldn’t face going to the bedroom so we camped out in the living room; Lee on the sofa and me on one of the dining chairs where I spent the next hour or so dozing off in between contractions. When they started to get stronger, I switched to my labour playlist and danced around the living room, as much from agitation as it was to help alleviate the pain.

By about 7am, the contractions were back to back and pretty intense so we called the hospital in the hope that this time they’d admit me.

This journey to the hospital was awful. Functioning on minimal painkillers, the contractions were super intense – I couldn’t actually get out the car when we arrived.

In the prenatal ward, I was told I was 8cm dilated and asked if I wanted any pain relief. By this stage I really couldn’t stop the awful guttural sounds coming out of my mouth with each passing wave. While the student midwife went to find someone who could provide me with something stronger than codeine, my body started pushing and so I was rushed into the labour ward.

The final push

Upright, leaning over the bed, I was finally given some gas and air and I’ve never been so relieved. Within minutes the pain dissipated and I felt like I was floating.

Lee pulled out some of my creature comforts (an old blanket I’ve had since I was born and a Lucozade sport) before disappearing to move the car.

Winchester hospital isn’t the most visitor friendly and the parking situation is terrible, especially outside the maternity wing. Who has time to think about pay and display tickets in the midst of labour?

The next couple of hours passed by in a blur for both of us. Every time I thought we were close, I was disappointed. It felt like our little bundle was never going to arrive. At one point the midwife said she would need to put a drip in my hand but then things started to progress much quicker. They hooked me up to monitor SJ and found his heart rate wasn’t picking back up quick enough after each contraction so I was moved into the bed.

Still no luck and I was moved onto one side, then the other, but the stubborn little mite wasn’t quite ready.

Finally, I was moved onto my back and told if he didn’t come out in the next few pushes, I would need an episiotomy. Thankfully it didn’t come to that, and moments later SJ’s head finally made an appearance. But I couldn’t take a moment to rest, the little bugger was a wriggler and desperately trying to get free so required one more push.

Welcome to the world

SJ was passed to me the moment he appeared. This tiny, purple, wriggling human that was having the shock of his life was placed in my arms and lay perfectly across my stomach.

And it was all over at 10.25am on Thursday 18th August.

I don’t even know how much time then passed. We cuddled for what felt like forever but also just a minute.

The placenta came next, then they cut the cord and he was passed to Lee while I was inspected for damage. One minor interior tear (thanks to SJ coming out with his hand by his face) and a couple of small grazes all needed stitches. And believe it or not, the actual stitching me up was almost more painful than the birth…especially when the anaesthetic didn’t quite cover the whole area. That made me squeal.

Eventually, after the stitches and extra cuddles with SJ, I braved the idea of a shower. Getting up for the first time was shaky, my legs felt like jelly, and the amount of blood that was suddenly everywhere was a shock. The midwife was great and reassured me it wasn’t as bad as it looked. She helped me to my feet and I gathered the bits I needed from my hospital bag.

I was prepared for my first shower to be horrific considering how tender I felt everywhere but actually it was surprisingly refreshing. My first pee post birth also wasn’t as bad as I’d anticipated.

We spent the next few hours soaking in our time with SJ and waiting for our Covid tests to come back negative before we were cleared to be moved to the postnatal ward. All the wards were majorly understaffed and it took forever for us to be moved – it took so long that we missed the evening dinner round.

The postnatal ward was weird and really not pleasant. It was cramped, hot and we had no idea what we were meant to do next. So we flagged down a midwife and asked to be discharged.

Being readmitted

Two days later, we went back to the hospital for some breastfeeding support. I was struggling to get SJ to latch and it was getting incredibly painful. As the midwife checked him over, she noticed the colour of his skin…he had jaundice. She took a blood sample and the results were concerning enough for us to be readmitted.

The following 36 hours were super stressful. SJ was given a breastmilk substitute and put under a UV lamp while the midwife showed me how to pump. There wasn’t anything else we could do except feed him when he woke up and pump in between. We weren’t allowed to hold or touch him as he needed to be as exposed to the UV light as possible. It was heartbreaking to watch – I felt like we’d failed him already and he was only two days old.

After 6 hours, they took another blood sample and thankfully the results were positive. Not only had he improved, but he’d done a complete U-turn and no longer needed the lamp. We stayed overnight so they could retest him in the morning, but the results showed the level of bilirubin in his system was slowly creeping back in the wrong direction. While it wasn’t enough of a concern to restart his phototherapy, the midwife wanted to do another test that evening so we opted to stay in the hospital so I could have some extra breastfeeding support.

The second retest showed his bilirubin levels were still creeping back up and so we were asked to do a third retest in 24 hours. This time we headed home – we were running low on supplies and we’re out of babygrows, plus it felt like the breastfeeding was going much better.

We returned to the hospital for his third retest and I’ve never felt so relieved when they gave us the all clear.

My final thoughts

Thankfully SJ’s birth was pretty straightforward. I didn’t experience any complications and my recovery was pretty quick. But those first few days post birth felt really rocky. I was an emotional wreck and the sense of failure was threefold. It was scary to think we thought were doing all we could when in reality we hadn’t been able to spot the signs. If we hadn’t gone in to hospital on day two, his jaundice wouldn’t have been picked up on so quickly and it could have been a lot worse. I’m so grateful we decided to go into the hospital for that appointment. But the aftermath means my paranoia is definitely worse.

Seven weeks on and our little man is thriving. He’s growing so fast and getting so big. His grumpy personality is blossoming every day and we thank our lucky stars for his entry into the world.

I’d like to thank all the midwives and NHS staff who supported us. They were all fantastic and really helped us feel like we were in safe hands.

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