Week 20 – Birth

Week 20 – Birth

My apologies to anyone who has been waiting for this blog, frankly – for entirely positive reasons – I have struggled to write it. This week I really did have a dream come true and describing this in a non-clichéd way while respecting the privacy of my wonderful brave, strong client (who has asked me to call her Mariam in this blog) has proved difficult. So I’ve decided to just get on and describe some of what happened and as long as Mariam is happy I will publish.

On Wednesday 20th (a week after her expected date of delivery) Mariam called me in the morning because she had had a “show” and was having a lot of what she thought were Braxton Hicks contractions. Mariam did not have another birth partner and I wanted to be there as early as possible so I went over to see her. We went to a pre-planned ante-natal appointment together and the midwife confirmed that Mariam was in the “latent” stage of labour and warned us (as we knew) that this could go on for a long time – potentially days. We spent the rest of the day together in Mariam’s home with her contractions increasing in frequency, length and intensity. I reminded her to eat and drink, and reassured her from time to time, but mostly I was just an observer while she managed by moving round the room and mainly sitting on the floor when the contractions came.

Birth professionals generally advise that for contractions to be effective – to dilate the cervix – they need to be coming every 2/3 minutes and be lasting over a minute. By around 9.30pm Mariam’s contractions were coming roughly every 4 minutes and most were over a minute in length. We decided to go into hospital. Mariam was found to be 3cm dilated – whereas “active labour” is defined as 4cm+ which meant that we could not go into either the delivery suite or birth centre – in fact we were told that at that point they were both completely full. (September is a notoriously busy month for maternity wards.) However we stayed in the hospital and were taken to the general labour ward.

This was a noisy, busy place with little privacy apart from that provided by a paper curtain around a booth. Not surprisingly Mariam’s contractions slowed down for a while. Over the next few hours Mariam spent a lot of time walking around the ward and leaning against walls when her contractions came. She also managed to rest on the bed from time to time. I did very little during this time and occasionally wondered if it was useful for Mariam having me there. Then sometime in the early hours Mariam was sick and she began to ask for my support through the contractions – I pressed her lower back and pelvis during contractions and she rested on me between surges. Mariam began to want some other relief from the pain – the midwife we asked felt it was too early for gas and air, but agreed to Mariam getting into a warm bath. She stayed there for a long time, managing brilliantly through increasingly frequent and intense contractions while I held her hand and rubbed her shoulders. We both felt that labour was really progressing (though were also a bit scared that we might be wrong). Mariam was examined again and was 8cm dilated. Wonderful!! A huge boost. Midwifery staff who had more or less left us alone until this point started to pay attention. They also agreed that Mariam could give birth in the birthing centre. There was now space and Mariam would be able to use a birthing pool.

We transferred to the birthing centre and now had one midwife with us in a large quiet room. A huge change from the ward. Mariam was soon pushing. She started in the pool, but her contractions slowed down. So despite being exhausted Mariam came out of the pool and between contractions walked around the room. Sometimes I supported her while she squatted to push. At other times she sat up on the bed and pushed against me and the midwife Sue. This “second stage” took a long time (over 2 hours), but at the end of it all Mariam gave one huge roaring push and her son (Hassan) was born. He was placed on her stomach and within 10 minutes was rooting for his first feed. The wonderful Mariam had managed the whole labour without any drugs. She also delivered the placenta without medical assistance.

I still cannot get over how lucky I am that my first birth as a doula was such a wonderful, intimate and positive one. This was without any doubt, and far and away the happiest and most satisfying day of work I have ever had. Doulas talk a lot about the oxytocin high which can envelope all those involved in a labour – I am still feeling it. This last 5 months since I left Acas have had their ups and downs – though far more ups. Whatever happens now 20th-21st September 2017 is the proof to me that my decision to change career at this advanced age was absolutely the right thing.

Week 19 – last stage of planned personal development

Week 19 – last stage of planned personal development

Well that’s it. This week I completed the last piece of my pre-planned personal development jigsaw. When I retired I had set aside a bit of money for further training. Earlier in the year when I  thought through my business model I decided to include hot stones massage as part of my “offer”. I really enjoy receiving this form of massage and there are relatively few therapists near me who offer it. The course – by Bodyology where I did my diploma – was very enjoyable. And unlike many had a strong focus on how hot stones can be used as an active part of massage rather than just to warm the client. (The latter is the default approach of many therapists and most spas.) Now I’ve got to shift from the fun of developing myself to the more daunting prospect of actively promoting my business. After weeks of a default mood of  smugly delight with my new lifestyle I am once again a little scared.

(And for anyone out there following  this part of my story – yes I am still on call. )

Week 18 – still on call

Week 18 – still on call

I have just had my first full week on call waiting for my client to go into labour. Its an odd feeling needing to be ready to go to her at any point, while at the same time trying to get on with my postnatal and massage work and the rest of my life. So my approach has been to ensure that the car has enough petrol; not to have any alcohol and to make sure that I am no more than an hour’s journey from S (my client)’s home. I also check regularly (obsessively?) that I have a charged phone battery and a reasonable phone signal.  My heart races a bit every time my phone rings!

Meanwhile I have had two days’ this week in training  – both around multiple births/ parenting twins.  I attended a workshop for doulas run by Mars Lord   – a/the go-to woman in the doula community for any issue relating to twins. I also went with my daughter – whose partner was at work – to  an ante-natal workshop for the parents of twins and triplets organised by TAMBA – the Twins and Multiple Births Association. I loved them both. As I feel at the moment I would happily spend the rest of my life learning about birth-related issues

Week 17 – on call at last

Week 17 – on call at last

This week I have been focusing on my role as a birth doula. My new (first birth for both of us) client (another S) has a due date around the middle of September. We are both on a learning curve. Before we met this week I spent a long time working through how I will talk to her and other clients about the different stages of labour and the options that may occur at different points. When it came to it the conversation went all over the place raising lots of questions that I had not previously considered. I could answer some of these; others I had to research. At our second meeting I demonstrated of how we might manage labour pain at different stage and potential positions for delivering the baby. Very glad I did this – helped us to get to know each other and understand our respective physical limitations and boundaries.

We also agreed to jointly go on a tour of the maternity unit where S is due to have her baby. The experience was a reminder of how thinly spread NHS resources are, but also how many lovely people work there. When I rang up to check details for the tour I was told it was cancelled as the unit was too busy and had too few staff. In the end we decided to go any way – if only to work out parking and where S needs to go when she is in labour. But despite clearly being very stretched, and despite the fact we were rather pushing our luck being there at all, all the staff we saw were willing to give S time and to answer our questions – and we were able to see both the delivery and postnatal areas. To the relief of both of us. So now we wait. This is my first week on call since I started my new life and I will be until the baby is born.