My Birth Story

14 hours old Ottilie photographed by the Bounty team at the bottom of my hospital bed

It’s taken me the best part of five months to get this written down as it’s still a real sore spot.

What I planned

Pretty soon after I found out I was pregnant I decided I wanted as natural birth as possible with very little intervention. I read all of the hypnobirthing books, listened to the MP3s, did all of the affirmations and drew up my birth plan. We were going to have a midwife led, birthing centre birth,using only the  birthing pool and possibly gas and air for pain relief. We’d use hypnobirthing terms “pressure” instead of pain, “surge” instead of contraction, the room would be dimly lit and we’d have a diffuser with my chosen essential oils. We would have delayed cord clamping and Nick would cut the cord. As it transpires, we had a very different experience.

End of Pregnancy

My last trip outside of the hospital before having Ottie! My face was about three times its normal size... look at that nose!

If you follow me on instagram you’ll know the end of my pregnancy didn’t quite go to plan. As well as having horrendous swelling, at my 38 week midwife appointment my blood pressure had gone through the roof (150-160 over 90 - 100) so I was marched straight to the ante-natal blood pressure clinic. The high blood pressure coupled with the severe swelling meant pre-eclampsia was a concern. 

I was put on drugs to take over the weekend and given a 5 litre bottle to fill with pee so they could measure the levels of proteins over a 24 hour period. We went back for a follow up on Monday and unfortunately the medication hadn’t made a dent in my blood pressure. The giant pee pot was sent off for testing and I was moved on to a new medication which started to bring my BP down instantly.

So swollen, look at the size of those feet and the size of my face, the weird thing is it was mostly all gone within 24hrs of giving birth.

I had a follow up a day and half later where I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and told I would be induced the next day if there was space on the labour ward if not it would be Friday. I had already come to terms with the fact I wouldn't be able to have the birth centre water birth I had planed due to the high blood pressure, but being told I was going to be induced really upset me. I really didn't feel like the mini egg was ready to arrive yet and I felt guilty for making her leave her warm safe haven before she wanted to. 


Friday - Induction

Fast forward a day and a half and we called the Labour ward at 8am to be told to get to the hospital ASAP, so off we went flying round the house to get the hospital bags together and to call the taxi whilst still not quite believing that next time we’d be here together we’d have our mini egg with us!

Because of the pre-eclampsia mini egg an I were under hourly observation to make sure all was ok throughout the induction

When we arrived at the hospital we were taken onto a ward and told to settle in as we potentially could be in our bay for a few days depending on how quickly the induction worked. Normally when you’re induced you get to go home afterwards and are told not to come back in until you’re in active labour. However due to the pre-eclampsia and needing hourly observations we weren’t allowed to leave the vicinity of the hospital. 

At midday the induction began, we were told the likelihood of this one working was probably slim and therefore I would need a second one after 24 hours… and so the waiting game started. I’d been concerned that time would go really slowly however it actually wasn’t that bad at all, we spent the afternoon chatting about our imminent arrival and all the jobs we still had to do to the house. 

Once I finally reached 3 in 10 we were taken to our own room which after  24 hours on a busy ward was a welcome relief
I started to get contractions that evening and had a lot of pain in my back however I was adamant I could breath through the pain without needing any medication. We got to about 3am and I accepted it was time to say yes to at least some paracetamol as I was exhausted and couldn’t get comfortable enough to sleep, the midwives laughed when I asked for paracetamol and said they’d been wondering how long it was going to take me to ask for pain relief and that I’d be wanting something stronger than paracetamol so they gave me codeine instead.

Saturday- waters breaking and active labour

At 12 noon the next day the doctors came in to assess how the induction had gone, my cervix was still only 0.5cm dilated however they decided to break my waters, I’ve heard people say this is painful but I honestly didn’t find it painful at all, I didn’t need any pain medication and it wasn’t at all uncomfortable. After my waters were broken my contractions started to become much more frequent and within three hours we had reached 3 in 10 and an excited Mr H and I were moved to our own birthing suite with a dedicated midwife just for us. 

Having failed to progress quickly enough I was hooked up to the Syntocin drip. This was the last picture before the epidural went in and the last time I got to stand up for about 48 hours! 
Despite my contractions having really ramped up I wasn’t progressing so that evening the decision was made that I would have to have the sintocyn drip and therefore also an epidural. I was absolutely devastated, I’d managed to get this far just using breathing techniques and an epidural was the very last thing that I’d wanted to happen but I didn’t have much choice; my waters had been broken, I wasn’t progressing and therefore the mini egg needed extra help. The anaesthetist arrived to insert the epidural, she ran through the potential side effects with me which, let me tell you, is not enjoyable! The first epidural was sited wrong and went into a blood vessel so had to be removed and then re-sited… however try number two did the job. For all I was really upset at having to have the sintocyn and the epidural it did mean I got to sleep on the Saturday night which was a welcome relief having not slept Friday and having had very little sleep on the Thursday night either. 

Because of the pre-eclampsia I had to have constant monitoring of both my BP and the mini egg's heartbeat  once I was in active labour
Sunday - epidural fail and failure to progress

The epidural started very well, it kept the pain completely at bay and it was so effective I had to have help from the midwife to move my legs when she needed to check how I was progressing. However as we got to mid-morning on Sunday I started to notice I could really feel my contractions and I could move my legs despite topping up the epidural button. I flagged this to my midwife and she told me just to top up the button again. I explained that I’d been doing that for the past few hours and the contractions were getting stronger and stronger despite the fact. It transpired that the drug bag in the epidural had been allowed to run out and because it was a Sunday there was only one anaesthetist on the ward. The anaesthetist was busy for over an hour and a half with another patient, leaving me to deal with the sintocyn contractions with no pain relief - I wasn’t even offered any gas and air… not fun. 

Once they refilled the epidural medicine bag, I explained that I could still move my legs and again no one listened, I was told it was because it would take the epidural a while to get back into my system. At 2pm, once the epidural started to kick in again re pain relief (I could still move my legs) the midwife checked to see how far I’d progressed. At 9am I’d been 5cm so we were praying for at least 7cm as I needed to progress 2cm every 4 hours to avoid intervention. We were SO relieved when the midwife announced that I had indeed progressed and was now 7cm. She was a little concerned about the position of the baby’s head as it hadn’t moved down and wasn’t engaged but I was progressing and there was still time for the baby to move so all seemed to be well. 

The epidural top up button, I knew there was a problem because no matter how much I pressed it I could still move my legs and could feel contractions.
As my waters had now been broken for over 24hours I had to go onto IV antibiotics as the risk of infection increases after 24hours but I really didn’t mind as I was progressing and hopefully it wouldn’t be long until we met our mini egg. It still makes me sad when I think about how we had the first outfit all laid out in our birthing suite ready for his or her arrival. 

At 5:30 the midwife did our next four hour progress check. Whilst the afternoon had progressed, I sadly had not. She told me not to panic and went to find our Doctor for a second opinion. He was really great however, he believed I was only 5cm and had probably been that way for the last 8 hours…

We had Mini Eggs outfit laid out ready for their arrival in our birthing room. Sadly it ended up stuffed in a bag as we rushed off to theatre for the C-Section
So that was it, emergency Caesarean Section time. The one thing I’d dreaded and desperately didn’t want. I was told I could wait an additional two hours but was advised that we should go straight to theatre given I hadn’t progressed in 8 hours I was unlikely to progress given an extra 2, the baby wasn’t engaged at all and was sitting at a very odd angle which meant they were unlikely to be able to drop and therefore could end up in distress.  

Everything happened very quickly from there, the Doctor read out the potential adverse consequences of a Caesarean Section (prepare yourself they aren’t fun to hear when you’re in a panic!).

When we arrived in theatre I was moved from my bed onto the operating table and the same anaesthetist I’d seen earlier told me he was going to top up my epidural for the operation. He injected the additional medication and asked me to move my legs, up they went straight in the air. “oh” was his reaction. He advised me that I must just need an additional top up, so in it went. He asked me to move my legs again saying they definitely shouldn't move this time. You guessed it, right up in the air. They therefore had to remove the epidural and replace it with a Spinal Block. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to stay dead still when someone tells you it’s imperative you do but it’s really hard!!! Anyway, spinal went in and everything from my chest down went completely dead. It was a very very strange feeling trying to tell your legs to move and just nothing at all, it was actually a very different feeling to the epidural which I thought was odd as they ultimately are both doing the same thing.

As they prepped the theatre our midwife who had been with us all day took one hand and Nick took my other. I was still very upset and they both did a great job of calming me down, our midwife Dawn actually stayed past the end of her shift so she could stay with us until our mini egg was born. Just before they started the operation our surgeon asked me what music I’d like to listen to as our baby was born. Naturally I picked Hamilton… ‘Wait For It’ to be precise. As the operation carried on they played more of the Hamilton cast album which I sang along to and this really helped me to keep calm and keep breathing. 

Having a c-section is a very bizarre sensation. You don’t feel any pain but you can feel tugging and pulling, it was described to us as “like someone doing the washing up in your insides” during our bump and baby class and I’d say that’s a pretty accurate description. The procedure itself is actually completely ok, once I had managed to compartmentalise the panic of having to have an operation and the disappointment of failing to progress, excitement to meet the mini egg took over; the only disconcerting thing was the surgeon popping his head over the screen every now and then to ask if I was ok and hearing the surgical team laughing and joking away whilst cutting me open to let the mini egg out. 

My feelings post birth

The moment we first met Ottie will stay with me forever. One minute we were just Nick and Soph and the next we were parents, Mummy and Daddy, it’s a very special feeling. 
There we are singing along to Hamilton and hearing the surgeons chatting amongst each other and next thing we know we were asked “would you like to meet your baby?” and there she was, lifted above the screen for us both to see. I just remember feeling this huge surge of love and relief that she was safe all in the same second.

Whilst they put me back together again, Mr H and Ottie were taken through to recovery where they were given some time to bond.

I don’t think anything will ever beat that moment even though it was so far removed from how I’d imagined it would be. I was so relieved she was here and safe I actually hadn’t even stopped to look if she was a girl or a boy! As it turned out Mr H hadn’t realised she was a girl either and so we had to ask the Doctors, who had taken her away briefly to cut the cord (something I had wanted Mr H to do, I still don’t know why he wasn’t allowed), whether we had a son or a daughter.

Less than an hour old and already the absolute centre of Mr H and I's worlds.No glam post natal shot for this Mama, safe to say I looked like absolute poop!
After they’d wrapped her in a towel they brought her round to us both so that I could have skin to skin with her. I was shaking a lot from the drugs in the spinal and was so panicked I’d drop her that the midwife kept her hand on her back just for my peace of mind. It was honestly the best feeling in the entire world, and whilst it was our first time meeting her, I felt like I’d known her my entire life. We’d been pretty much 90% certain what her name would be if she was a girl, one look at her and we both knew we’d stick with it, Ottilie Alexandra Bryony Hirsch. Ottilie for us, Alexandra my Mum’s maiden name and Bryony for Nick’s Aunt who sadly won’t ever get to meet the Otter. 

Ottilie is the best thing that has ever happened to Mr H and I, she is beyond perfect and being a mother is everything and more than I can ever have imagined. However her birth was so far removed from the peaceful, quiet and intimate introduction I had planned for us, and in many ways I am still deeply upset and disappointed that Ottilie had to enter the world this way and I find it hard to get over the feeling that my body failed, especially given “failure to progress” is literally written all over our notes. All that being said, we are incredibly lucky to have our beautiful little girl here with us and safe I just wish she could have had a slightly less traumatic entrance into the world. 

Our first nappy change at home after 5 nights in hospital

My Advice

5 months on and I don't know what I would do without my little best friend by my side everyday.
My advice to anyone would be don’t have a strict birth plan, it places added pressure on you and crushing disappointment if it doesn’t go to plan. By all means have an idea of what you would like to happen in your ideal world but just be prepared for the eventuality of it not going as you’d envisaged. I would highly recommend hypo-birthing, even though I didn't end up having a vaginal birth the breathing techniques were invaluable in getting me through early labour, active labour and keeping me calm during the operation. I’d also advise all soon to be Mums to read up on C-Sections and be prepared for the possibility just in case.

I also plan to follow up with the hospital and speak to someone about why my birth experience occurred the way it did, I hope this will offer me peace of mind and let me move past this birth experience. 


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