Our next Guest Blogger, for National Tell A Story Month, is Helen Wright. A Midwife from the North-West and a new mum. Here, Helen shares her experience of trying to wrap her ‘midwife head’ around becoming a mum. Just a pre-warning… we give Helen a good quizzing at the end so its a long one… well worth the read but you may want to save the link for when you have a good 10 minutes to take it all in! 😀
Putting Midwifery to the Test by Helen Wright
A qualified midwife for over 10 years and an unqualified mother for 4 months… I love my job and have always wondered what all the fuss is about? Well, this year I found out!
Whilst my pregnancy was planned, it was only after gagging on my cereal a couple of mornings in a row that prompted me to do a test. I took the test the night before I was due to go on holiday to Malta (I had to be sure if I was pregnant or not before I went away and drank enough wine and cocktails to sink a small ship).
It was about 11pm and my husband was in last minute panic packing mode, so I snuck off to the bathroom without mentioning anything to him. To my surprise (not sure why I was so surprised) the test was POSITIVE! We had to be up at 3am to get to the airport so I decided not to share the news with my other half until the following day… once we had checked in to the hotel and he had a beer in his hand. He was speechless! More so shocked I’d managed to keep a secret for longer than 5 mins to be fair.
As I say, the pregnancy was planned but not very well, I was due 3 days before Christmas. Typical… the one year I was guaranteed to have Christmas off work and instead I’d probably be there giving birth (I wasn’t in the end, thankfully).
I decided to have my baby at my place of work … It was quite funny the look on my colleagues faces as they walked past me in the antenatal waiting room and having to take a double look at me whilst clutching my maternity records.
I was certain before I got pregnant that I would become a hypochondriac, self-diagnosing anything and everything. Fortunately, I managed to keep my cool through most of the antenatal period… although I did do a second pregnancy test before I went for my scan. How embarrassing would it be for a midwife turning up for a scan and there was nothing there? Crazy, I know, but it did put my mind at rest and a couple of friends have since told me they did the same thing.
My scans and check-ups were all smooth sailing, I didn’t get any extras or preferential treatment unfortunately… not quite sure what happened there!?!
The husband was really keen to do some parent education classes, because friends of ours had gone to some and found it really useful. Whilst I was glad he was so eager, I wasn’t so keen on the thought of spending £200 on classes that I could teach in my sleep. So, instead we popped along to the freebie NHS classes at the local hospital- 2 sessions, 2 hours long, all about labour, looking after a newborn and breastfeeding.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, you guessed it, he FELL ASLEEP during the second session! As a midwife, there is nothing worse than people bum shuffling, snoozing or some ‘know-it-all-fella’ in those classes… and my husband had the potential to be one of them, so it was probably for the best that he was catching some ZZZs.
I felt calm and keen for labour and thankfully I went prior to my due date as I really didn’t want an induction of labour, having looked after many women, its such a long process. My birth plan was short and sweet; stay at home as long as I could, get to hospital, straight into the pool, push it out and jobs a good-en! And that’s pretty much what happened! Wow!
The thing I was most anxious about was being sent home if it was too early when I got to hospital, so I could have kissed the midwife when she told me I was progressing well on arrival.
Knowing what was to come during labour and how and when to push after “coaching” so many women on how to do it, helped me so much, but it was the most surreal thing to experience for myself. I kept saying sorry to my husband and midwife for absolutely no reason, which is something patients I’ve looked after do all the time. It did make me chuckle, but I just couldn’t stop saying it (perhaps the gas and air had something to do with that… I was definitely taking advantage of that free flowing).
I don’t think I made too much of a commotion in labour (?), so I’m fairly sure I still have a job when I return at the end of the year.
I’d decided to give breastfeeding a go which has and still is going well, but the postnatal period has probably been the most challenging as a midwife. I’ve had the usual ‘new parent’ concerns; is he too hot? Is he getting enough milk? Has he got wind? And it’s difficult to rationalise things in your head in the wee hours of the night at the best of times, but when you have a mother and a midwife voice battling it out, it became quite confusing and stressful in the early days.
As my son is getting older we have the fun and games that is teething, reflux and 4-month-old sleep regression to battle with… I don’t think my midwifery skills will help me with this so wish me luck!
I chose to have just my husband with me in labour, although you are allowed 2 support partners. I knew he would keep me calm and be a good advocate for me if I was unable to communicate effectively in labour. I wanted it to be just our experience.
Drugs- I was keen not to have opiates like morphine in labour, I didn’t want any feeling that I wasn’t completely aware of what was going on and know that this type of pain relief prolongs labour.
I was aware of Hypnobirthing but decided it wasn’t for me. In my experience it helps some women get into “the zone” but takes a lot of practice. Although I did use it’s breathing and relaxation techniques in early labour.
I’ve always been a big advocate for waterbirth and have assisted a lot of deliveries in water, luckily for me there was a pool available when I arrived. I was extremely well looked after during labour by my wonderful colleagues who facilitated me using the pool and made sure I was as comfortable as can be.
The unit I work for is one of the largest maternity units in the North West and has an excellent reputation and the largest neonatal unit, they deliver close to nine thousand baby’s per annum so it was a no brainer to have my baby there.
I woke with mild abdominal pain at 4.30am, I was backwards and forwards to the bathroom not able to get comfortable in bed. I filled my hot water bottle (which really helped throughout early labour) and got into bed taking slow and steady deep breaths, my husband was snoring of course totally unaware.
By 9am the pains were becoming more frequent and painful, I kept mobilising from this point just around my bed space, I took some paracetamol and continued to time the contractions using the ‘Pregnancy Tracker & Baby’ app by the Baby Centre. I tried a bath which previous to labour I thought would help but I hated it, too restricted and couldn’t get comfortable.
I started to use my Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) machine which was a welcome relief for the pain and a good distraction. I believe the TENS really helped me stay home longer than I could without which surprised me as I’ve always been dubious about how effective they are.
By 11.30am I had started to feel quite unwell and vomiting with most contractions. I was very determined to stay home until contractions were every 3 mins. My contractions were coming every 5 mins at the point I contacted the hospital for advice I explained the labour so far and asked if I could come and be assessed even if they just gave and anti-sickness tab and sent me home. When I got there I was progressing well and thankfully was able to stay, it’s so common to be sent home in early labour particularly with a first baby.
When I arrived at the hospital I used a birthing ball, I’d found this position uncomfortable at home but now it seemed to help. I didn’t get into the pool straight away because getting into the pool too early can slow things down. After an hour in the hospital I got into the pool and what a relief! The water helps women in labour to change position easily and relaxes all the muscles we naturally tense up when we’re in pain.
I found kneeling in the water really comfortable (until I got cramp which was worse than contractions!) and leaning over the edge of the pool. In total my labour was around 12 hours start to finish, I definitely think my knowledge of different methods of pain relief helped me make the right decisions for me.
My top 3 tips would be… absorb as much knowledge about pain relief and birth options in the antenatal period, a lot of women avoid knowledge because they are fearful of labour and that’s all the more reason to learn as much as you can.
Be open minded with your birth plan, so many births don’t go according to a rigid plan and this causes so much disappointment and feeling of failure for some women. A safe delivery of a healthy baby is a good birth no matter how long it takes and how much or little pain relief you take.
Listen to your midwife! They are there to guide and support you as best they can.
Mobilise, keep well hydrated and have a good birth partner. (more than 3 tips but hey ho)
I was keen to try to breastfeed, it’s a huge part of my job to assist women in learning to breastfeed. I knew all the benefits for me and baby but at the same time I didn’t want to put a lot of pressure on myself incase it didn’t go well. Luckily after skin to skin in the delivery room my little boy had his first feed and its gone well since then.
I stocked up on the magic creams (Lansinoh-the cure for everything) for sore nips but thankfully haven’t had any big issues. It’s important in the early days to get the positioning and attachment right and my midwifery knowledge has been great in regards to feeding. Keeping well fed yourself and well hydrated is important too for your milk supply.
Due to my delivery being so straight forward I was discharged home from hospital the same day which isn’t uncommon now, even with a first baby. I would recommend to anybody not to feel pushed out of hospital particularly when trying to feed your baby for the first time you want to make sure that is right before you leave.
I felt well in the following days after birth so welcomed visitors, but by day 3 realised I’d probably over done it a little and that was the right day for hormonal changes and “baby blues” to hit me too. It’s good to have family and good support around you, but know when to say no and let your visitors make you a brew!
My son was thriving and passing all of his tests with midwife with flying colours but I was aware of how important it was to contact my midwife with any concerns.
I was nervous about being a midwife and being pregnant because maybe there is an expectation I should know what to do and how to feel. Now looking back I didn’t need to be nervous because my journey was MY journey and I did what I would advise my patients to do, my knowledge has been invaluabe.
My favourite eureka moment was when I started to feel my baby move that was the best feeling. To feel contractions and to be in labour as a midwife was the most surreal experience and as cheesy as it sounds it really has given me a better understanding and maybe a little more empathy for my patients.
Did you like this post? Then why not check out fellow blogger Laura from Sophella, who supported the Smart Cells #ThankYouMidwives campaign in her recent blog.
- This post is not sponsored but does contain affiliate links
- Whilst TENS machines are considered a safe and effective pain relief option during labour, here at Parenting Phils we can’t emphasis enough the importance of discussing this treatment option with your midwife (or other health professional) before making any purchases and/or before using