Maggie's NICU birth Maggie's NICU birth

Maggie's NICU birth

IMAGE_TEXT
I really enjoyed being pregnant. Right from the beginning, I felt fulfilled in a way that I’d always longed for. It felt as if I was living my truth and my purpose - that I was doing what I am on earth to do. But mixed with that divine certainty, was a lot of self-doubt, deep wounding and unhelpful conditioning from my childhood, that I wasn’t aware of at the time. And I believe this stopped me from fully surrendering to birth - stopped me from ‘going cat’ as I jokingly referred to the animalistic state that I hoped to achieve. On reflection, I realised that I didn’t stand a chance of getting into that ecstatic/orgasmic birth state - ‘labour land’ - because we didn’t fully set things up to put me in an empowered state - and I wasn’t healed to the point where I could approach it with an empowered mindset and be sovereign in my body.
IMAGE_TEXT
I threw myself into learning about positive, mindful pregnancy and physiological birth. We had one-on-one hypnobirthing sessions, I read stacks of books, joined groups online, created a vision board, painted affirmation posters, wrote and practiced our own hypnobirthing script, practiced prenatal yoga at classes and at home, stuck affirmation cards all round my desk at work, we engaged enthusiastically in our antenatal classes and doula sessions, went to breathing and visualisation classes, I did pregnancy meditations, had acupuncture, listened to pregnancy and birth podcasts every day. Until I became pregnant, I had the same conditioned view of birth as most women in the developed world - and everything I learnt to the contrary was wonderful and enlightening and amazing to me. I felt so excited and blessed to be so fortunate as to be the kind of person who seeks to educate myself - so that my baby could have the kind of beginning every baby deserves.
IMAGE_TEXT
But I now know I was holding onto a lot of fear, didn’t trust my body completely, didn’t know myself well enough then, wasn’t healed enough to have boundaries and speak my truth. And it’s likely these things that impacted my birth the most - not the position Maggie started in and whether i’d done ‘enough’ to influence that. We planned for a home birth, as all the evidence says that is where it is most likely to experience a normal, physiological birth without interventions - which is the best and safest start for mother and baby. I put so much pressure on myself to achieve this ‘perfect’ start for Maggie, I was afraid of needing to go into hospital, and spent some time affirming that ‘interventions are safe’ and that we’d only have interventions if we truly needed them, and had made informed choices.
IMAGE_TEXT
My surges started naturally during my 41st week during the day after having a huge burst of energy and doing an unusually vigorous cardio home workout. The surges were intermittent and continued that way into the evening. I had this idea that it would be lovely for Maggie to be born at dawn, and we’d hear the birds and see the sun rise as we had our ‘golden hour’ in our own bed at home, and I felt sure that I’d meet her that night. I told Shaun to go to sleep as he’d need rest for what lay ahead, and felt proud of myself for choosing to stay up on my own to wait for my surges to progress. It felt nice to sit on the sofa in our peaceful little home, talking to my body and my baby, feeling self-sufficient and full of anticipation.
IMAGE_TEXT
The surges didn’t progress as I had thought they would, and after a night of little sleep, the surges subsided somewhat during the day. Our doula came late morning (after expecting a call from me to come in the night too) to check in on us, and I was relaxed on the sofa. We went for a walk in the afternoon with my mother, and the surges made it quite uncomfortable but it was fine. (Although I now realise I felt disempowered around all those people - so weren’t the best ones to surround myself with). My doula noted that I told her I felt less confident than I had the night before. After we went for the walk my waters started releasing and the surges increased in intensity and frequency from that point. I found it worsened the discomfort of the surges to be in any position other than standing, so grew tired quickly.
IMAGE_TEXT
I leaned against Shaun and we swayed together through the surges. I marched around with a scarf tied up and around my bump so I could pull it to support my belly during surges. Our doula noted that I was anxious that the long, strong surges I’d been having seemed to be dying away again. Around midnight I started feeling nauseous and retching a lot during surges, which made me feel out of control, anxious and unsettled. My surges became more consistent, and I continued to retch during surges which made me feel afraid and doubt that my body was ok. I couldn’t rest at all between surges as they were coming so fast and being in any other position apart from standing was too painful, so my legs were exhausted from standing through the surges for hours, with no food and barely any drink because I felt so sick and kept retching. I persisted in trying to lay down but it made me actually sick. The midwife said later that she thought active labour started after i’d been sick.
IMAGE_TEXT
I started to worry I wouldn’t be able to make it to the end because I was so exhausted, We tried again to get into different positions but it felt really wrong so I was forced to stand again. Our doula noted that I was feeling ‘emotionally wobbly’ by this point. At 5.30am a midwife I didn’t know arrived to relieve the midwife we were familiar with. I got into the birth pool at 7am, and the exhaustion and the sensation of the surges were very difficult to cope with - but I would have carried on forever for the sake of my baby. It was so intense, each surge feeling like I was being split in two, roaring in the water, feeling so sick, staring desperately into Shaun’s eyes for strength - that I thought surely we were near the end. I had to believe that we were near the end. It was so hard, so not what I thought it would be - I thought I must be in transition and expected to move onto pushing any moment. I’d declined any vaginal exams, so i didn’t know that I was 4cm dilated, so nowhere near that stage. Shaun was amazing. Is amazing.
IMAGE_TEXT
It went on for hours, and I doubted that I would have the strength to carry on. I started to feel desperate and afraid. How would I have the strength to do this for Maggie? Where was the calm and relaxed birth I had planned for her? I started to pass out between surges as I was so exhausted, but I was afraid to sleep because it meant waking up to the body slam of a surge - and it was terrifying. It was like torture, being so desperately tired but not being able to rest even between surges. At 10.20am the midwives asked to examine me, as Maggie’s heartrate was rising. Laying down during the surges was agony, and I asked not to be told my progress. After 24 hours of irregular surges, then 6 hours of stronger early labour, then 6 hours of what had appeared to be strong active labour - we hadn’t progressed as one would have hoped. Maggie’s heartrate continued to be concerning, and I was told it was recommended to transfer.
IMAGE_TEXT
I felt like my heart was breaking. I couldn’t believe that after everything we’d been through, we were going into hospital after all. That i’d suffered and struggled through all of that, to ‘only’ get to 4cm dilation. Trying to gather things to go in the ambulance whilst having body-shattering surges was torture. The epidural didn’t take the pain away until 2.45pm. It was an amazing relief, words can’t describe. We arrived at the hospital hours before, and the wait for pain relief was unbearable. Totally unbearable. Like losing my mind. Long gone was any hope for a manageable, unmedicated birth. The fear-tension-pain cycle had been in place for a long time, probably since I started feeling like I was losing control by retching so uncontrollably. I still couldn’t sleep despite the pain being eased.
IMAGE_TEXT
At 3.45pm I was examined and found to be fully dilated. Our doula was really happy, we woke Shaun up and told him the good news. I text my family and we all thought everything was going to be alright. That I’d meet Maggie soon. They told me I’d be given two hours to sleep, and then we’d push. I felt so relieved. It felt like everything I’d been through would be ok now, everything would be alright because we were safe, the pain had gone, and Maggie would be born soon. It was only a few minutes later, just as I had just settled into sleep, when a doctor came into the room as Maggie's heartrate was concerning again, and did a scan that showed she was back-to-back. At 4.30pm they told me Maggie needed to be born right away. They told me they would try to turn and deliver her with forceps, and if they couldn’t it would be an emergency c-section. I remember being warned that I could end up losing my womb. By this point I was beginning to shut down, I couldn’t think or function. I couldn’t believe that this was happening. That all our preparation and passion and ‘getting it’ and believing it all so thoroughly could have led us to this nightmare.
IMAGE_TEXT
They took me into theatre and at 5.09 Maggie was born. I managed to feel enough to help push her out. They gave me an episiotomy but I tore anyway, a 3a tear. I lost 1.5L blood. As Maggie was born they saw she was covered in thick meconium, and had aspirated it. She was briefly ‘showed’ to me on a tray or something, before she was whisked away to intensive care. I shut down. I couldn’t conceive that this was my reality. I’m not sure I can now. I panicked as they stitched me because the anesthetic had numbed me so high I couldn’t swallow, and I felt I would choke or drown as I felt what little food i’d managed to eat come up. The anesthetist dismissed my concerns.
IMAGE_TEXT
I was taken to recovery, and I sent Shaun down to NICU to be with Maggie. They said I couldn’t go to her until I could move my legs. It was a torturous wait. Then when I could move my body enough to be wheeled down, seeing my child in the incubator was more than i could bear, and I just wanted to be away again. I was desperate to go to sleep and not feel anymore. It was three days until a doctor told us she would definitely come home. Three days where we didn’t know if she’d live. It was 3 days until I could hold her, still attached to loads of wires. 5 days until I could try to breastfeed her. The hospital let us stay for 5 days on the maternity ward, and Shaun wheeled me around. My tear was painfully infected, searing hot pain almost constantly, but when I was examined they said they couldn’t see any signs of infection. I persisted and it took 3 different courses of antibiotics before the infection eased and I could be comfortable.
IMAGE_TEXT
After the 5 days we had to travel back and forth to the hospital, but I refused to go home without her, so we stayed at my mums. Leaving her there overnight, not being in the same building, was unbearable. It was like living in a nightmare. The worst thing that could have happened. Not knowing if she’d be ok. It was layer on layer of disappointment, grief, pain and trauma. It wasn’t until about 9 months postpartum that I started to feel I was coming out of the shock of it. But I am so proud of how I mothered Maggie through it all. I’ve done everything I can, with the knowledge I had at the time, so keep her close, help her feel safe and loved and validated since then. We brought her home on her 11th day. We’ve breastfed every day since, despite significant challenges. We have slept together every night. I threw myself into learning about parenting, and through Maggie I have finally unlocked the reasons for my life-long mental health problems. Thanks to her, I’ve finally started believing that I am good, and always have been.
IMAGE_TEXT
But I worry I’ll never lose the fear, the terrifying reality of what Maggie experienced. What she lost. The trauma she experienced. The nights alone. The strangers. The loss of me - all she knew. The antibiotics. The loss of delayed cord clamping, the loss of vital colostrum. The loss of the calm, relaxed, connected and safe arrival into the world that she so deserved. I can’t quite cope with it. I can heal myself - but how do I help her heal? I can grieve for what I lost and try to move on. But I don’t know how to move on for what Maggie has lost, and how it will affect the rest of her life. While she breastfeeds and as she falls asleep, I often affirm to her 'you are safe. You are loved. You are wanted'. I tell her that we are safe now. We are safe now.
4 years on...

4 years on...

I wrote the above about a year after Maggie's birth, and it still felt so fresh. Since then I've grown, and healed, and learnt a lot about myself - and birthed another baby. I still worry about how her birth experience will impact her now and in the future - but I also feel much more secure and trusting in our journey, and that the Universe is guiding us and supporting us on the path that's right for us. It was necessary for me to go through this, and Maggie chose me for a reason. I may want to protect her from all pain and suffering - but I know that's not realistic or needed. We've never spent a night apart though - still sleeping in our big family bed - home-educating, and we breastfed until she was 3. She is a sensitive soul and I am honoured to be her mother and protector, and grateful for the lessons she has taught me.
Read Rosie's birth story

Read Rosie's birth story

Read Rosie's birth story of planned spiritual home birth to elective caesarean to surprise vaginal birth.
Help raise NICU awareness

Help raise NICU awareness

1 in 7 babies in the UK will need some neonatal support, and 60% of NICU babies are full term. Can you share my free handouts and help raise awareness?
Sharing what I wish I’d known when our full term baby needed special care after a healthy ‘low risk’ pregnancy, to help other parents in a similar situation know how to care for their NICU baby and have the guidance we didn’t get.
Trauma healing through art

Trauma healing through art

Read about how I started Womb to World and how my creativity and spirituality has helped me on my journey to heal childhood and birth trauma.