Birthing in a pandemic: A positive birth story
Updated: Feb 18, 2021
Meet the newest baby bird to the nest, Minnie Jane van den Borst.
Born March 28th at 7.29pm, a nice squishy 9.5lb.
Giving birth in a pandemic? It wasn’t in my “birth plan” TBH, but I’m here to shed a positive spin on what could’ve been a lonely & anxious arrival of our daughter. I hope this story will offer some reassurance & positive vibes to those mamas to be...
As a new mama I had started to create a vision of how I hoped my daughter to come into the world. My ideal was her coming on her own accord in the comfort of our home. Surrounded by all my beautiful house plants, fairy lights, candles, incense & sweet tunes being carefully selected my my wannabe-DJ husband. Supported by Josh, our doula & midwives all the while having my own little pool party. Sounds dreamy right??
We were also lucky to be having a healthy & low risk pregnancy, our little bird was wriggling, growing & in the correct position for our home birth to go ahead.
As we reached D Day our little girl wasn’t showing any signs of making an appearance, we were impatiently being patient. No natural ‘induction tricks’ were getting this bambina out! Coronavirus has started to make an appearance into our daily news & the midwives had started to address the situation, noting that their may be changes to their system.We were still pretty chill at this point, the new-found reality hadn't quite kicked in.
Around this time our beautiful doula Sarah took herself off call. Sadly Sarah was unable to commit - her family were self isolating, it was too risky for both parties for her to be with us. As heartbreaking as this was, Sarah’s influence had already been super invaluable, putting Josh & I in a comfortable & knowledgeable position surrounding our birth needs, wants & knowing all our options.
I began to feel the pressure of making a decision, trying to figure out what my priorities were for birth was not as clear as I thought - was I desperate for a water birth? (meaning induction in the midwife led birthing centre at 41+6wks) or did I want to be at home? Or was induction my biggest fear?
The amazing Lydia from My Hypnobirth suggested we call AIMS helpline. The lovely Gemma on the other end of the phone really put as at ease, the best advice she gave was to take each day as it comes, I didn't even need to consider booking in for an induction until 42+1wks.
4 midwife sweeps later - nudda. Which BTW, I was clearly not prepared for - needless to say I felt mildly violated, someone should've prepped me for a potential 'brutal fingering'!!
Monday 23rd March the UK went into lockdown.
Wednesday 25th March (41+6wks & still no movement from our bub) under the request of the midwife team we checked into the hospital for monitoring for a couple hours. We arrived at Lewisham Hospital & were told restrictions now in place for birthing partners - “strictly no birthing partners allowed until active labour”. So while I was strapped up on the bed, Josh was waiting out in the corridor. The gentle nudge of “let's begin the induction process” started... I politely declined & said I’d book in for Friday (42+1wks).
We came home, ran the bath & I had a wee cry. The idea of being induced, being in a potentially CV infected hospital & being separated from Josh was not the birthing combo I was after.
On Thursday 26th March, all home births in the UK were cancelled, along with any further home visits from the midwives. CV was starting to push its weight around!
Thursday was another visit to the hospital for monitoring (without Josh). All was peachy with our bambina & we returned home, hopeful as ever she was going to arrive - COME ON ALREADY BABY. We had a bath, a little dance party, a yummy dinner with a rom com. We passed out for a nap on the sofa together & woke at midnight... I guess the doctors “past due date worry” finally kicked in & we had a mini panic as we could feel any movement (they’d stressed to us to come in instantly if we didn’t feel movement). Turned out she was sleeping, duh. Anyhow, we wanted to be safe & zipped to the hospital at 1am like over-cautious parents to check she was ok. Obviously they checked me in for the night & were set on the induction path - starting in the morning. I said goodbye to Josh & settled in to my hospital cubicle for the eve.
Incoming the letting go & embracing the new birth path. My cards had been dealt birds, it was apparent I had to surrender to whatever was about to be laid out for us. I was suddenly grateful to be strapped up to the monitoring & be surrounded by other mamas on the ward going through the same thing.
The midwife on night duty was so warming & welcoming, I was put instantly at ease. I had a few solid hours sleep - these incline hospital beds are legit! I woke to the rising sun bursting through my window. After locating a birthing ball did some meditation, bouncing & stretching on the ball with the golden hour bursting onto my face. I felt calm & had accepted my new birthing boudoir - albeit naked of plants, candles or incense! Actually - in a moment of madness, I had lit my palo santo. I quickly realised the potential of setting off the smoke alarm & put out my spiritual moment in a flurry!
Friday started with a warm welcome from the day shift midwife, induction would begin at 9.30am - a pessary inserted for 24hrs to kickstart contractions. I made the decision to go ahead with this first stage of induction. Simply let go. I called Josh on FaceTime for the ‘big event’ of the pessary being placed - pretty uncomfortable experience actually! Now we had 24hrs to see if anything would happen...
Josh arrived with a homemade Nasi Goreng (his speciality) delivery at lunchtime. TOP TIP - hospital food was blah, get as much homemade goodness in as you can!) We snuck out of the hospital for a walk (ok, it was definitely more of a waddle) & talk in the park, it was a beautiful sunny day & I was so relieved to feel fresh air & sun. With no signs of contractions & about an hour of QT together we said our goodbyes, hopeful to be reunited within a few hours.
Friday night arrived & still no sign so I settled in to get some rest, essential oils, headphones & eye mask setting my vibe.
12am I woke & knew something was beginning... the super exciting moment, I had finally started to feel actual contractions! I had imagined up contractions for weeks building up. But thee was definitely no mistaking it this time! From 12-2am I was calmly breathing & counting the contractions. When I counted 3 every 10mins, like an excited kids in a candy store I went & told the midwives! They put on an excited front for me in return but told me “great, but we need more”. At this point they started to get a little more intense so I sent a video of the “the signal” labour had started to Josh and continued to breath & count while on the birthing ball, still donning the headphones, eye mask & sniffing the oils!
Saturday 28th March (Minnie's birthday finally!)
7am - Josh had arrived back at the hospital & was waiting in the corridor (having been sent home at 4am early that morning when he tried to gatecrash). I was about to get an internal examination to see how far along I was, to my horror - 1cm! After almost 24hrs of induction I was only 1cm? Ugh! Suddenly I was ALL over an elective c-section. It became crystal clear to me this was going to be my preferred option for birth. No more induction process for me please! Knowing Josh was in the building I became a little distressed, it just felt wrong that we were apart! So I marched with my birthing ball & sat with him in the corridor for the next few hours though my contractions. (Ok, I probably didn't march). I’d been contracting for long enough on my own, Josh was finally with me to experience this together, kind of exciting if I wasn't already zoning out like a zombie!
After a little gentle wrestling with the consulting doctors, we were so stoked to be transferred into private room at 9.30am to discuss an elective c-section - Josh included! The CV regulations were kindly bent for us (4cm dilated for active labour are the currently rules) - we were finally together for the long haul. Further 'induction pressure' ensued (insert eye ball roll), birds - we had to really insist what we wanted. TOP TIP - understand BRAINS so you feel empowered with your decision making process, even in the heat of the moment - especially during a time when you might be without your chosen birthing team. We gave our 'off call' super Doula Sarah a call, who reassured us on our decision.
The pessary came out & the contractions came in strong! Our c-section was booked for 6pm, such a relief - the countdown till we met our girl was actually on! We settled in for 8hrs of Josh puffing on the gas (he was in "pain") while I was still donning the headphones & eye mask on breathing like the big bad wolf.
6pm - I was definitely not marching into theatre, stopping to howl & moan into the hospital walls every 2mins. It was touch & go as to whether they were going to be able to get the spinal tap in - I was writhing around constantly! But when they did... 30secs later I'd literally died & gone to epidural heaven! O M EFFFING G, to not feel contractions after 18hr was a legit dream guys. A few yanks & pulls later our baby bird arrived out the sunroof. The team of doctors, anethistist & nurses of around 10 people strong were professional, laid back & business as usual.
Minnie was in Josh's arms. Josh was looking as if he'd been holding her all his life. We Facetimed his Oma & Opa in NZ to meet their 9th great grandchild while I was basically still wide open. A beautiful midwife showed me how to 'forcefully nuzzle' Minnie on to the boob, like magic she was swigging back the milkshakes. Before I knew it we were in the postnatal ward with an incredible team of midwives there to help Minnie & I navigate through the night. Josh was sadly kicked out within a few hours of Minnie's arrival (I can't even imagine how that must've felt for him), A special shout out to this postnatal team of midwives, Minnie & I felt so supported & well cared for. The morning arrived as did a series of thorough health checks for Minnie & I. That morning I sat in on a really insightful breastfeeding clinic with some other new mamas. Miraculously 3pm that day, less than 24hrs after Minnie was born - we were discharged from hospital & finally with Josh reunited as a new family back in our home sweet home.
The current regulations in the UK still allow for one birthing partner to be present (from active labour). Even during the times when Josh & I were apart though, I never felt alone. The NHS team are incredibly supportive, as are other mamas behind the curtain going through the same thing. We are in a lucky time where technology connects us at the hit of a thumb. Then finally, there is always the forever company & strength of yourself & your baby. You will never be alone for your birth.
At least we will never forget the moment when Minnie came into the world... Please pass this on to any expectant mamas to be who may need a little reassurance & if anyone needs any extra support just reach out!