Birthing through a Pandemic

Giving birth under normal circumstances can stir up such a mixture of emotions, from excitement and eagerness to apprehension and nervousness (plus a million more ). Add a pandemic to the mix, and I could only imagine how overwhelming and scary giving birth in these times could be!

Three amazing mothers shared their stories with me. I met them all in person to capture some keepsake photos which they could look back on and remember their lockdown births and the challenges that these unprecedented times brought.

These stories I have read over and over in amazement. The stories show me that women are so incredibly strong and powerful and can overcome the most challenging obstacles. Seeing the families together, holding their little ones close, brings me such warmth and joy.

They did it! These incredible mothers gave birth through a pandemic. They now have photos to look back on. In years to come, they will remember with their grown-up babies and their children will know that they too can overcome the most challenging obstacles.

Danielle’s Birth Story.

On the 10th March just before lockdown at our 29-week growth scan at Worthing Hospital, they noticed something unusual. Our obstetrician quickly referred us to St George’s Hospital in London the next day for a scan by the specialist in the fetal medicine unit. Upon having the scan, they advised us that Grace had a condition called Duodenal Atresia. 

Duodenal Atresia is rare. It means the first part of the small intestine, just beyond the stomach, is closed off rather than being a tube. This stops food and fluid from passing from the stomach into the intestines. This would mean our baby would need an operation once she was born. Luckily we found this out early, so we could prepare mentally for what was yet to come. 

After a postponed induction on 11th May (due to the hospital not having enough intensive-care beds for our baby) I finally arrived at the hospital the next day for my induction. 

Standing outside the delivery suite doors I had to say goodbye to my husband due to the coronavirus restrictions only allowing partners with you in active labour. I’d never felt more nervous, anxious, upset, yet excited in my life. As I walked in, I could see the receptionist give me a sympathetic smile, knowing I was facing the first part of my journey alone. 

By the time I had my first examination, it had been midnight. I was 1cm when they inserted the pessary. Following the pessary, I was in a lot of pain and very uncomfortable, so I was given co-dydramol and when the pain got worse a pethidine injection. They examined me 24 hours later and I was still only 1cm which was very frustrating. As I was so uncomfortable, they thought I might have had a reaction to the pessary so they removed it and left me for 9 hours to see if I’d progress on my own. When they next examined me the following morning, I was 2 cms and ready to have my waters broken. This was a relief as it meant I could go to the delivery suite where my husband could then be with me. By this point, I really needed his support as I’d been alone for 2 days. Unfortunately, they had no delivery rooms available for me and therefore I had to wait all day for one to become available… Just my luck!

Finally, a delivery room became free later that evening, and they broke my waters. A little bit later they gave me an epidural and the hormone drip, by this point it was Thursday. My observations were taken every hour, so I had no time to sleep in between being monitored.

The next day I began to go downhill and I was diagnosed with Strep B which is an infection. This is an infection that I could pass onto my baby during labour, so they treated me with antibiotics. 

When I next got examined later that afternoon, I was 8 cms. The last two epidurals I had didn’t work. I had been having excruciating contractions for 4 hours, so they decided to give me something stronger. That gave me a bit of relief but not for long. Any pain relief I was given only worked for half the time, if that. 

By late evening I was 10 cms and my midwife advised that the next step would be to labour down. Labouring down allows your body to naturally bring the baby further down which means less time pushing. So for the next 3 hours the hormone drip was turned off, I relaxed and prepared myself for birth. I knew the time I would be pushing, so we turned the lights down, had an ambient light on and I played calming spa music. 

The time came to push, the hormone drip was switched back on and by this point it was the early hours of Saturday, I was so much more relaxed and calmer than I ever thought I would be. As my epidural had started to wear off, I could feel my contractions so I also had gas and air. From the start of pushing the labour lasted 45 minutes, of that I only pushed for 5 sets of 3 pushes. I was so surprised our baby girl arrived so quick, but I think the labouring down definitely helped. 

By the time I gave, birth the paediatric team were in the room ready to check our baby over once she was born. She was a healthy 6lb 3oz and beautiful with lots of dark hair.

When Grace our baby girl was born I was able to hold her straight away which was magical. I finally cried tears of happiness after being so upset and emotional on the lead up worrying about her condition, operation and coronavirus. After 10 minutes of cuddles, the team took our baby to intensive care. Once I was able to, we visited her a few hours later in her incubator. It was so hard not being with our baby and seeing her with the tube and wires everywhere, but we knew it was the best thing for her.

The operation was a success and her recovery in the Neonatal unit at St George’s Hospital took 4 weeks. She was unable to have milk for the first 2 weeks, but once she was able to have milk her recovery went from strength to strength. Grace was then transferred to Worthing Hospital where she stayed for the last few days of her recovery. 

We were able to take our beautiful daughter Grace home on 16th June 2020. My pregnancy, labour, and birth were a roller coaster of emotions and made me realise I’m stronger than I ever thought I could be! A poorly baby born in a pandemic is something I never could have imagined, but it’s certainly going to be a story to tell her when she’s older.

Support Team Grace in the Worthing 10K Run by donating to First Touch which supports sick and premature babies at St Georges Hospital Neonatal unit.

Natalie’s Birth Story

I started contractions on 14th April at around midnight and couldn’t get comfortable. I ended up going up to the hospital with my partner at about 3 am. After a couple of hours in the hospital with checks, we were sent home as contractions were too far apart and slowing.

The contractions slowed right down but after a walk and contractions getting very painful we returned back to the hospital on 15th April at around 4 pm. My partner had to wait outside whilst I went onto the ward to see if I was in active labour during this time my plug had gone and I was 4cm dilated so we were both shown through to the Labour Ward.

I was managing the pain with gas and air but it kept making me feel queasy so once the contractions were stronger I then had an epidural for the pain. Due to having a previous c section I was monitored regularly. I continued to dilate, threw up a few times, and didn’t start pushing till the early hours of 16th April

Once I started to push my temperature spiked so I was put IV fluids and they told me that if my baby didn’t arrive in half an hour I have to go to surgery. My partner was amazing and by side. As the pressure started to mount, he could sense that the midwives were worried. The midwife that was with me went for a break and was replaced by a more senior midwife.

I ended up been taken to theatre and my partner had to stay in the labour room as he was not allowed with me. All the staff geared up with extra PPE, I was given more medication which made me sick and baby boy was delivered by forceps at 5.23 am I got to hold him and was so relieved he was here safe. They suspected I had sepsis so tested me and treated me with antibiotics but because of the temperature they then also assumed I had coronavirus. I was taken to my labour room where I had to stay until another 2 days later and was tested for coronavirus (the test didn’t get taken properly, so I had to be re-tested the following day again.)

We had to ask how much our little boy weighed and what time as no one came to see us once I was taken back to my labour room. What we then realised it was because they suspected I had coronavirus. My partner left to go home the 16th in the afternoon as we were told I would be allowed home the following day but I was then informed once he left that they had to test my baby for sepsis which had been forgotten (didn’t get done till 12 hours after it should if been) and that he needed to be on IV antibiotics and we wouldn’t be allowed home till they finished. I was devastated and so upset and so was my partner. Not only was he not allowed at the birth of our boy, but he left and wasn’t allowed back and was missing the time with us. The fact the test wasn’t done within an hour of his birth meant that an automatic complaint and investigation had to be taken against the hospital.

The midwives were all brilliant with me but due to suspected coronavirus they had to wear extra PPE, I had to have throwaway plates and cutlery and couldn’t join other mothers in the ward. After 3 nights in the hospital, I was eventually allowed home with my little boy.

Ellie’s Birth Story

I woke around 3 am on Sunday, 17th May with what I thought was a bad backache, after a couple of hours my contractions had started but weren’t very consistent. After speaking with a midwife at East Surrey, my partner and I went out for an early morning to walk around the block to try and bring on my labour.

I then spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon keeping active, bouncing on a birth ball, walking around the house and also in and out of the bath. By around 5 pm the contractions were coming thick and fast and the back pain was unbearable.

We decided to go up to East Surrey, where I was examined and told I was 3cm and due to coronavirus if I wanted to stay in my partner couldn’t stay with me. I decided to go back home and stay active. Having been given a sweep the contractions seemed to really ramp up and after a few more baths the back pain was unbearable so back we went to the hospital.

By this point it was around 10.30 pm and after being examined I was still only 3cm so the midwife advised that we spend the next hour or so walking the empty corridors of East Surrey so I hopefully progressed to 4cm and would then be in active labour.

After 2 hours of walking around and nearly 2.3KM, the back pain was unbearable and I couldn’t walk anymore, but I was still only 3cm. I was sent home again with a dose of morphine to try and get some rest. We had only been home around 45 minutes when my waters went so back to East Surrey we went.

I was examined once again and couldn’t believe it when they told me I was 10cm! 3 midwives then rushed around filling the birthing pool for me with buckets of water – I’ve never been so grateful! After 46 minutes of active labour and 25 minutes in the pool pushing, our beautiful little boy arrived.

Roman was born back to back with the cord wrapped around his neck, to everyone‘s surprise, this explained why I had suffered such bad back pain with a very slow first phase of labour. All the midwives at East Surrey were absolutely amazing throughout and did all they could to help us. It was such a shame that my partner had to leave just 3 crazy hours after Roman had been born.

These women all had to face unimaginable obstacles in these unprecedented times and overcame them! I want to thank these wonderful families for sharing their personal and amazing birth stories with me. I am in complete amazement at their bravery.