Category Archives: Labour Day

Nature girl

In case you missed it, here’s an article in the Metro about a new trend in reality TV shows based on birthing in the wild after one woman gave birth in a brook in the US almost entirely unassisted.

The video (below) shows the birth in its entirety and the whole thing is quite amazing with her three other daughters wandering around in the background playing in the brook and her seemingly breastfeeding the youngest in a gap between contractions.

The warnings over the “graphic” nature of the video all over the Metro article are quite fascinating. Is a woman giving birth something we should consider graphic like pornography or extreme violence? Watching these other children happily observing the process makes that description seem perverse.

But then again, probably not one for your tea break at work…

When you see an elephant fly

Apologies for the lacking of posting – trying to wrangle baby and Christmas all at once is a tricky business (I dread next year when it’s toddler, Christmas and job – fair warning, no one is getting anything next year!).

So to save Harriet from another day of seeing a placenta on her screen, here is a slightly off topic video of an elephant birth. Shut a crotchety Elphie up for six minutes (who needs Baby Einstein when you have animal births?!).

Lotus birth

As we seem to be on the topic of placentas, I thought I would share with you the concept of the Lotus Birth in case any of you fancied it.

We all know that the standard trick post-birth is to cut the umbilical (preferably after some delay) and then deliver the placenta, either helping it along a bit using a drug which is injected into your thigh while you are giving birth (a managed third stage) or naturally (a physiological third stage) where some time up to an hour after the birth you then push out the placenta like you did the baby, sometimes with help from the midwife pulling the cord to get the placenta out. The managed approach has been shown to result in less blood loss for the mother and is what I had this time round (although I have no memory of deciding this or being pricked by a needle – must have had my mind on other things). If there’s a next time then I think I would go the physiological route, just for kicks really as I am curious what it would be like!

But if I was a true hippy then the lotus birth would be the thing to do – you see the cutting of the umbilical cord is just an unnecessary intervention, so how about you just don’t cut it – leave the placenta attached!

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But then again too few to mention

I have been thinking vaguely about what I would have done differently.

An obvious starting point to this would be to have had a birth plan (that would help!) and to have researched the various different approaches to birth before going in. I was a bit downhearted about the whole birth plan thing because everything I wanted seemed to be forbidden by the consultants due to the monitoring I would have to be under (the tears I wept for my denied water birth) so I was in a bit of a petulant mood about it. I also thought I had plenty of time to work out what I wanted when on leave and that the NCT classes would kickstart my thinking on this – but that wasn’t to be.
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Thank you for the music

One of the hairiest moments during labour was when we decided to put the iPod on. In all the chaos, Mr Cath located the speakers and cable but the iPod itself was nowhere to be found. Within seconds of him going to look for it I was having a contraction and screaming at him to get back to me anyway – it was the first time he’d left my side in hours. So that scuppered the labour playlist idea.

It was all a far cry from the spa-like experience I’d imagined, complete with soothing music, atmospheric electric candles and of course the centrepiece of the birthing pool!

Although I kept the iPod with me during my hospital stay (by the way, it was in the bag exactly where we’d packed it!) I never listened to any music – after the fail during my labour I just couldn’t face it. However, in retrospect it would have been a good idea in order to drown out the sounds from the other people inhabiting my ward. Next time…

It was when we got home that the labour playlist really came into its own. I was struggling with the discomfort of breastfeeding and in tears for what seemed like 99% of the time. Mr Cath suggested putting some music on and with neither of us capable of making any decision he chose my labour playlist and put it on shuffle. The very first track that came on was the first dance at our wedding which of course had me in floods again, but this time it was different. The music helped channel my emotions and more importantly provided a soothing distraction. Pip’s weight loss in the first week was minimal and I think a lot of that was down to the effect of the playlist on his feeding!

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In the bag: the return

I’m pleased to report that my three hospital bags provided pretty much everything I needed during my stay. However, I did inevitably overpack and next time would definitely try to reduce it to one!

I was given drugs to lower my blood pressure which affected Pip’s blood sugar levels. This meant we had to stay in hospital for 48 hours for monitoring. In the end this was extended to 72 hours, or three nights. All rather unexpected! There were the usual items such as maternity pads and disposable pants that I’d luckily packed almost enough of – I did have to supplement these with NHS ones on the last day but by then I knew I was going home so it was fine. More interestingly, there were a few things that (a) I’d suspected might be useless but turned out to be essential and (b) vice versa. Here is my verdict on my hospital bag contents.

Things that were surprisingly useful:

1. Snacks

Although I was provided with three reasonably substantial meals a day in hospital, they were not quite enough for someone who had been through labour and birth! My appetite was insatiable. Mr Cath did get me my longed-for brie baguette from Pret and I also had a couple of takeaway pastas from Carluccio’s, but in between I topped up with the cereal bars, nuts and dried fruit I’d packed in my hospital bag. I’d thought these would just be taken straight home again, but like the very hungry caterpillar I munched my way through them all.

2. Towel

As suspected, the hospital did provide a towel, but it was tiny. It was great to have a normal-sized one. But make sure you wouldn’t mind getting stains on it (nice!) Even though my towel filled most of one bag, it would be an essential for next time.

3. Compact mirror

There were two bathrooms next to my ward and the one with the nicer shower had no mirror. While I didn’t feel the need to look at myself much (and trust me, I lost ALL vanity while in hospital), it was useful to check I didn’t have a white blob on my face after moisturising.

Things I thought I’d need but were unused:

1. Clothes in general


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My labour story – Part II: love’s labour’s lost

We made our way through the deserted hospital to the labour ward, pausing for a contraction in the lobby area while a completely uninterested man with a cleaning trolley continued to carry out his work around me.

I was directed to Triage which is basically an assessment area where they decide how serious things are. Rather than the row of plastic chairs we’d been warned about at NCT, we had a booth with a curtain around it and I could relax on the bed or yoga ball. At this point they examined me and discovered I was 4cm dilated! So while falling short of the ideal 6-7cm you should be on getting to hospital, I was definitely too far gone to be sent back home. Having heard stories of women who’d been only a couple of cm and demanding an epidural already, I even felt quite pleased with myself!

It was around now that things started to go a bit pear-shaped.

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My labour story – Part I: labour of love

On my discharge notes from the hospital it says that my labour was 5 hours and 9 minutes.

I’m a bit peeved this is on my record and assume it must refer to the bit following the moment my waters broke, as my contractions had in reality gone on for a LOT longer than that! Although when I tell people it took 31 hours to birth Pip, I don’t mean it was 31 hours of constant pain… it was actually only those last hours that were truly challenging and the rest was mainly just exhausting.

My due date had come and gone (sorry Americans) and I was gearing myself up for a sweep. However, on the Monday evening, 4 days after I was due, I started to feel something. It was like fairly mild period pain, a constant ache in my tummy. I’d actually experienced this before at around week 37, and this had been the one time I’d rung the hospital to check I wasn’t going into labour. They told me at the time that a constant ache wasn’t anything to be concerned about – when the pain started coming and going, this meant contractions!

To this day I don’t know whether these two incidences were Braxton Hicks contractions or not. The NHS leaflet I was given about signs of labour said they are “painless” but then in the same paragraph compared them to “period pain” which all sounds pretty contradictory to me.

Anyway, whatever this pain was, I was able to sleep as normal that night, although I woke up a bit early the next morning with exactly the same feeling (6:20am… it’s funny what particular details stick in your mind!) Until our alarm went off at 7am I occupied myself by reading the news on the Kindle – a good idea in retrospect as I wouldn’t be aware of any current affairs for the next week! As soon as Mr Cath woke up I told him I felt the same pain, but he should still go into work as it was probably nothing to worry about. He must have seen something in my face as he insisted on working from home; sure enough, by 8am the pains were definitely receding then intensifying. These were contractions!

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This is getting tens

At literally the eleventh hour, I have purchased a TENS machine.

I was talking to one of the girls from NCT about hers last week and then the next day, Mr Cath reported that his work friends highly recommended getting one. So on my due date, I ordered one from Boots online and shelled out for next day courier delivery – I could probably have got it delivered to the store for free but I panicked (I’d visited my local Boots shop in person and they did have TENS machines, but it specified that they were not for women in labour. Who knew there were different kinds?)

TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. How it works is that you attach sticky electrode pads to key pressure points on your back. These then send a small electrical current through your skin, which is supposed to block the pain signal travelling up your spine to your brain while simultaneously encouraging the release of endorphins (the feel-good hormone). The idea is that you use the TENS machine in early labour, as soon as the contractions start. It can also be used after the birth to assist in pain relief.

TENSBoots TENS machine

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