An everyday story (or why we like the Cliff Richard fan club)

11 02 2012

This post is about the most everyday of all stories… but still it was a pretty big event in our book!  On 10th January our son Adam joined us, making a rather dramatic entrance to the world.  That was followed by a short stay in hospital for treatment for a chest infection.  I’m writing this to fill our family and friends in on how things went, share a few photos and to say some BIG thank yous… (apologies to all who come here to read about James’ cycling!  Normal service will be resumed shortly!).

From the outset we had stated our preference for a Home Birth, although with an open mind about transferring to hospital if needed.  Our midwife, smiley, supportive Anola from the Stratford Road Midwifery Team, was all for it from the start.  As the pregnancy progressed well we began chatting with friends who spoke positively (and realistically) about their experiences of giving birth at home.  They also offered us some great advice and support (as well as a birth pool!).

As the due date approached we went along to an excellent antenatal class at Birmingham Women’s Hospital as well as a ‘Birth Rehearsal Day’ with Cat Morgan who runs the Pregnancy Yoga classes I’d attended throughout the pregnancy.  These were great for helping us to understand what was ahead of us.  Being able to visualise and understand what was happening as the contractions hit, understanding how I could help the labour progress through movement and positioning as well as finding ways to cope with the pain through breathing were invaluable on the day.

My contractions began in earnest at 4am on the 10th January, and as recommended we rested up, tried to relax and kept track of the frequency and intensity of the contractions.  By mid-morning the TENS machine went on and the notes had evolved into James’ star-rating system – each wave being followed by ‘was that a two or a three?’ or ‘that looked like a two’.  Whereas others may have needed to resist the urge to strangle him at that point, I think we did a pretty good job of supporting each other, staying calm and making it a really positive shared experience.


At 6:30pm, with the contractions (eventually!) becoming more frequent and lasting longer, a midwife came out to us and stayed for an hour to check my progress and examine me.  The verdict wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for: over 15 hours in and only just entering ‘established’ labour.  I was advised to prepare for the long-haul – rest, stay hydrated, get some food and try a bath and a couple of paracetemol.  I could be looking at another 12 hours of labour.  We were to ring through to get another midwife out when contractions became more frequent.

So, into the bath I went, cursing the fact that our shallow bath barely touched the base of my huge belly.  Within half an hour of getting out my waters broke and everything sped up.  We decided to call a midwife out to us, but after 20 minutes of trying to ring through, James eventually spoke with someone who broke the news that there was no midwife available to come out to us.  They were, however, able to offer us a room on the midwife-led ‘Birth Centre’ at the Women’s Hospital and use of their birth pool.

James got our bags together and managed to catch our neighbour, Sandra, returning home to ask if she could drive us the 10 minute drive to hospital.  We piled into the car with me kneeling on the back seat, focusing on my ‘horse breaths’ (a way to concentrate on long exhalations which is really effective at focusing your mind and slowing your breathing – but yes, it looks as daft as it sounds!).  By now I had the distinct feeling that we weren’t far off meeting our littl’un, prompting the revelation to James and Sandra in the front of the car that ‘I think the baby wants to be born!’.

(Just a little tip here.  When you’re in the midst of an emergency in a vehicle and you need to get somewhere quickly, ask a driver, not a cyclist where to go.  You may find that you end up in front of the wrong hospital unable to cut through the where you need to go without needing to drive all the way back round or drive up the cycle path.  Alternatively live somewhere where the nearest hospital doesn’t have a daft one-way system and poor signage.)

We arrived at hospital at 10:20pm and were immediately admitted to the Birth Centre.  After several contractions the midwife, Harriet, checked to see how far dilated I was.  She was as surprised as we were when she looked and told us that the baby was already there and that I could push when I was ready!  So, after about five minutes of pushing and only 15 minutes after arriving at hospital our little warm, red and crying bundle arrived.  Our boy Adam.  All 7lb of him.

Not long after he arrived

Come the early hours Adam still wasn’t feeding, and later that night a ‘Pulse Ox’ test indicated that there was cause for concern and that further tests were needed on his heart and lungs.  We were transferred to the Neo-Natal Unit where Adam was put in an incubator to raise his temperature (for the first few hours), given oxygen and rigged up to monitors.  An x-ray revealed he had a chest infection, which can occur when there has been a quick delivery as the amniotic fluid can remain on the lungs.  He was prescribed five days of antibiotics, to be administered through a cannula in the back of his hand.  A heart scan also revealed two small holes in Adam’s heart which are common in babies, are not usually cause for concern and often heal by themselves over time (one has since healed, the other is likely to heal – we have another scan at the end of the month).

On the Neo-Natal Unit

I’m not sure what hormones saw me through the rest of the day, but I’m grateful for them.  It was tough to see our tiny little boy who we dearly wanted to take home and get to know inside an incubator, and even more difficult to drag ourselves away from him to eat.  But, within twelve hours of giving birth I needed to keep myself healthy too.  However, the staff on the ward were so calm, friendly and genuinely compassionate, and everything was explained so well that it really didn’t occur to us to worry.  It was just unfortunate that Adam was ill.

The next few days in hospital saw me spending each day sat on the Neo-Natal Unit chatting with nurses and marveling at the way in which they went about their work.  We were on the Grasshopper Ward, which the sign on the door informed me was sponsored by the Cliff Richard Fan Club!  Each night I went off to Ward 4, a post-natal ward, and tried to get some kip before a midwife appeared to let me know when I was needed to be with Adam.  Traipsing nightly through empty hospital corridors in the early hours in a nightgown to try and feed a lethargic, poorly child was not exactly my most glamorous moment, but with supportive staff and a tiny, beautiful, bright eyed boy to cuddle I wouldn’t have been anywhere else.

Getting well on the Neo-Natal Unit

On the Friday night Adam joined me on the post-natal ward (our first night together!) and on Saturday morning we transferred to the Transitional Care Unit where we could both be monitored and supported.  Without those few days of round the clock support we would never have managed to establish breastfeeding.  Gradually Adam took better and longer feeds, his colour returned to a healthy, rosy pink (he had a bit of jaundice) and his energy levels increased.  On Monday, after Adam had finished his course of antibiotics we were given the thumbs up to come home.

We're home!

Throughout our stay I was overwhelmed by the care and attention we received from nurses and midwives.  I certainly didn’t need any convincing of the value of NHS staff prior to our stay, but to be on the receiving end for the first time was a real eye-opener about how hard staff work round the clock with a gentleness and compassion which feels over and above what is required.  Thank you so much to any of you who may be reading this.

We’ve also been taken aback by the support, gifts and cards we’ve received from friends and family.  My little Blackberry was a real source of comfort in the early hours on the ward, when I could read the lovely comments from people on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and text.  Don’t underestimate how much it meant.

A little over a month in and James and I are having a great time getting to know Adam, going on little adventures with him and spending hours staring into his bright eyes.  He’s now been introduced to scores of family members and friends.  As with everything else so far, he takes it all in his stride.  We’re just a little bit smitten…





4 responses

17 05 2012
Harriet Fisher

Dear Rachel,
What a absolutely wonderful blog. One of our student midwives told me about it. I remember you very clearly and how friendly, happy and quick you were!! I did enquire as to how the three of you were doing after Adam was admitted to NNU. I’m so pleased to hear how well he is and that you’re all now at home, healthy and happy.
We, as midwives, join families at one of the most emotional times in their lives. It’s the most amazing job but what’s truly fantastic are those odd occasions when you get to hear about how a couple you’ve bonded with are, a few weeks down the line. I have to say, this is probably the best account so far! I’ve never seen anyone write a blog about their experience before, I’d like to say a personal thank you. I’ve really enjoyed reading it.
I hope all of you continue being happy and healthy. Lovely to hear from you again, all the very best, Harriet xxx

23 05 2012

Gosh Rach, how did I miss this post???
I’m sat in front of my computer with a little tear in my eye and big happy smile.
I can’t wait to see you this summer even if it takes me 2000km to get there 🙂

1 07 2012
Ann Bew

Hi Rachel, James and Adam, hope all is well with the little one now. I’m Ann, President of the Cliff Richard Fan Club of Birmingham who sponsor the Grasshopper room. It’s stories like yours which keep us going with our fundraising. Take a look at our Facebook page and you’ll see that the NNU had a very special visitor yesterday… just before he went to run through Brum with the Olympic torch!

1 07 2012

Thanks so much Ann, we have only good things to say about the NNU! Adam is coming up to the sixth month point now and is doing great. I hardly recognise the photos of the wee thing in the photos here, he’s grown so much! Thank you so, so much to everyone who has contributed, we really appreciate your efforts. Well done to all of you for inviting Cliff to the Women’s Hospital and drawing attention to the unit.

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