After having my first baby, 3 years ago, I knew what I was ‘in for’ second time around. I was naturally overjoyed and excited to be expecting another baby but I was all too familiar with how antenatal appointments and hospital birth went, and I knew from experience that those bits weren’t anything to get excited about.
In many ways, it was the antenatal appointments I dreaded most. I was always anxious that my blood pressure would be too high, my urine sample would show some dubious result, or that a midwife who I had met for all of 5 minutes would make a flippant remark about measuring too big or too small and it would send me into a spin. Memories of the hot, crowded, windowless corridors, regularly waiting an hour past the appointment time to see a different anonymous midwife for whom I was just another name on a list, were not fond ones.
As for the birth itself, my past experience told me it would be frightening, urgent and painful, surrounded by anxiety inducing beeping machinery and doubting health professionals. I hardly dared remember the 3 nights spent on the post natal ward recovering from significant blood loss, struggling to feed my baby and almost having to beg any midwife who came near, to help me.
And this is how I thought it had to be. What other option was there than to grin and bear these aspects of pregnancy? I planned to cross my fingers and hope my baby and I would emerge relatively unscathed.
It wasn’t until the wonderful Hollie from London Hypnobirthing suggested that it didn’t have to be like this, that I realised there was another way. It wasn’t until she planted the idea of an independent midwife in my head that I considered it could be different this time. I gave Neighbourhood Midwives a call that afternoon. From the moment I spoke to Tina on the telephone at 34 weeks pregnant, I knew that this time the story would have a different ending. She listened to me, told me she would call me back within the hour and came to see me the following day. From the very first minutes of conversation I knew I had struck birthing gold. I didn’t look back.
Having Annie and Tina as my dedicated midwives was incredible. Not having to visit the hospital again for my final appointments was worth every penny. Instead of a name on a list, I was now a real person with choices and concerns who was listened to. Annie and Tina got to know me, helped me understand what had happened last time and readied me physically and mentally for birth. Knowing that they would be with me when the time came made a huge difference in how I was feeling in the lead up. They were never hurried or formulaic. It felt like they had all the time in the world.
Tina did a fabulous job in negotiating hospital bureaucracy on my behalf and managed to get hold of my notes from my previous birth. I had been told that because of the blood loss last time, I would have to give birth on the labour ward in order to be monitored. I hadn’t thought to question it, until Tina suggested doing some investigation to see if there was alternative. After countless emails and phone calls, Tina received some detailed information and I was given the go ahead to access the midwife led unit instead. For this I will always be grateful.
Annie’s patience when my patience was all but gone in the final days of pregnancy was enormously helpful in trying to keep me sane! She was always available for chats and advice about bringing on labour and how we might approach the induction issue. Most importantly she advised me on how to relax to get things moving and just like all of her other advice, it was sound! My labour started that night and Annie came over when we called her, early the next morning. After an hour or so at home, Annie advised a transfer to hospital, and as it turns out, she did so at exactly the right time! By the end of the journey I was making quite a bit of noise and it felt like the baby was coming. The memory of Annie with her arm out of the car window directing traffic as she instructed my husband to drive on the wrong side of the road to bypass a queue of standing traffic in the Monday morning rush hour will stay with me for a long time!
Because Annie had called ahead and given the hospital midwives my details, we were able to zoom straight into the birthing centre with no questions asked. No unnecessary conversations and not even an examination, just Annie’s word for what was happening. Her hand holding, forehead mopping and encouragement during the final stages of labour all helped to contribute to a wonderful natural birth. Her very presence meant that I didn’t feel frightened at all. I trusted her and my body to know what they were doing and less than an hour after arriving at hospital, baby Amber was born in a way that I previously never thought possible. No machines, no doctors and no anxiety. Post birth I enjoyed wonderful post-natal care and support and have only just said ‘goodbye’ to these wonderful women. I wish I hadn’t had to.
Enlisting the services of Neighbourhood Midwives is without doubt some of the best money I have ever spent. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I didn’t just pay for a one off service or even a few weeks’ worth of service. Amber is 6 weeks old now and I am still feeling the benefits. I am sure I will feel them for a long time to come. I recovered quickly both physically and emotionally and look back on my birth with pride and very fond memories. Having midwives who knew me and who I trusted entirely, helped me to have the birth I always hoped for, one without panic or fear. Annie and Tina are not just incredibly experienced, professional midwives they are lovely, wise women who are worth their weight in gold.