Compared to my first pregnancy with Rupert which was relatively straight forward other than carrying Group B Strep (GBS), my second pregnancy felt a lot more stressful.
Very early on it was detected once more that I was carrying GBS, however this time is was found both on a virginal swab and in a urine sample, so double whammy. When I was pregnant with Rupert it was only ever picked up on a vaginal swab at around 16 weeks, and this was not due to it being routine practice to do so. At the time of my first pregnancy swabbing for GBS in pregnancy was not done routinely on the NHS. I believe this is now at least offered at 36 weeks under the NHS, you can however test privately before 36 weeks, and this is something I would recommend to any pregnant woman knowing the dangers that GBS can cause, and as Rupert proved 36 weeks would have been to late to detect and therefore I would not have been in the position to have taken preventative measures to help minimise the risk of him becoming infected during labour by means of having IV antibiotics.
Knowing I was carrying GBS again was upsetting but I felt was inevitable therefore I had already come to terms with this knowing that we had gone through this once before. Yet what I was not prepared for was the news following on from my 20 week scan. Directly after the scan I was taken in to a room and told in a very matter of fact manner by a MW that I had a low-lying placenta (placenta praevia), and that my placenta was fully covering my cervix. The MW went on to tell me to wear white underwear to be able to detect any bleeding, have a bag packed for emergency stays in the hospital in case of heavy bleeding, the possible need for a blood transfusion and that I would need to have a C-section. This was all scary stuff and it took a while to sink in. Needless to say I was worried about what was to come, what a waste of time and energy that was though. Throughout my pregnancy my placenta moved higher and higher up and out of the way, which when I had asked the MW at the time of delivering the news, had said that mine would not move (did she have a crystal ball)?! For anyone else in this situation and feeling anxious, try not to panic as I did. At 20 weeks there is still plenty of time for the placenta to move up as your baby grows, which in most cases will be the outcome.
Due to Rupert being born prematurely as well as a midwife, I was assigned to a lovely Doctor in the preterm birth prevention clinic. We attended appointments every two weeks which included internal and external scans and swabs to monitored baby and I closely. When the results were in from these tests at our first of these appointment, the Dr sat us down and said it was not good news. My cervix was shorter than it should be at 23 + 6 weeks, there were signs of reduced growth and that I was at high risk of another preterm birth. I was offered a cervical stitch and informed that generally the stitch is not performed passed 24 weeks due to the risks involved, therefore I should look to make a decision on this within 24 hours. I was once again left feeling overwhelmed by this news. Chris and I discussed the outcome on the journey home from the hospital and later that night I had made my decision. Led by my gut instinct, I decided that the risks involved were not risks I wanted to take and that I would trust in my baby and body to get us passed the 34 weeks gestation that we hadn’t managed to with Rupert. Declining the stitch I was prescribed progesterone pessaries to use each night to help to prolong going into preterm labour, as well as a course of aspirin to help to get all the required nutrients to baby through the placenta and hopefully address the reduced growth issue. I stopped taking the aspirin after a scan at 36 weeks which showed it had done its job and that same week also stopped with the progesterone.
Fast forward now to the 15th April 2022, Good Friday. A day that now has a whole new meaning to us as it was the day our baby girl Darcie decided was the day she wanted to come and meet her family.
The day started off as any other day, cuddles in bed with Rupert. The sun was beaming in through the bedroom window and I felt it was going to be a good day. I had my suspicions that today was the day Darcie would be welcomed into the world.
During breakfast one of Chris’s four brothers (Michael), arrived to do some plastering in Darcie’s room which was nowhere near being ready for her. Rupert and I had spent much of the morning playing outside, and continued to do so as we took lunch in the garden while light aircraft flew overhead, as always Rupert pointed to each one as it flew over us and we all had to look up and acknowledge it. After lunch Rupert was getting tired so I took him upstairs to read him a story before his nap, the book I picked up was perfectly apt, You Were The First. We sat on the bed and I crossed my legs as Rupert snuggled in. I felt a slight gush of fluid and got up to make my way to the bathroom. This was not a false alarm.
The practicalities of going into labour and arranging childcare did not go to plan, at least not plan A anyway, yet worked out perfectly in the end, everything aligned. Typically after two years of my family avoiding Covid, my sister tested positive a few days before Darcie arrived and as she had been staying with my mother who Rupert adores and was plan A, her staying with Rupert was no longer an option. Rupert is a lockdown baby and as such missed out on exposure to many members of his other wider family during the first 18 months or so of his life, and as a result has up until fairly recently has not been overly settled with anyone aside from Chris, myself and my mothers household who were our bubble during lockdowns. Our plan B for Rupert’s care was Michael, who just so happened to be the brother doing the plastering. How lucky were we then that he was there that particular day. We chose Michael as out of all of Chris’s family he’s the one who Rupert has taken a the biggest shine to and seems most at ease with.
I found it extremely hard and upsetting saying goodbye to Rupert, it had been something I had been dreading throughout my pregnancy and only hoped when the time came it would be during the daytime so he would not be disturbed in the night. I worried how he (and I), would cope having never spent a night apart from each other his entire life. As I was gathering my things together I had a big wave of mum guilt about how things were changing without him even realising it. Bittersweet memories washed over me as I thought to myself that this was the last time I would see him as my one and only. Unfortunately there were tears before we managed to get out the door, which in turn made me cry at having to leave so suddenly, thankfully I managed to soothe and settle a sleepy crying Rupert who drifted off to sleep while I stroked his hair before we left.
I had done The Wise Hippo birthing course for my first birth and had used this for the first 8 hours of my 13.5 hour labour with Rupert, after the 8 hours of labour I felt quite out of control and, although I see it as positive as it brought our Rupert into the world I did not feel that I manage to use it to its fullest potential. I re read my book and listened to my hypnobirthing MP3s every day/night from 20 weeks to assist me in getting into a calm and relaxed mindset about birthing our baby girl, and I am so thankful that I did as this played a big part in my positive birth experience.
On route to the hospital, a 40 minute driveaway, I ate as much as I could to keep my energy and strength up from nuts bananas and anything else I had grabbed in my rush out the door. It was a rush as anyone who has had GBS will be aware once your waters break you need to get to hospital if you have chosen to have the antibiotics as soon as possible to minimise risk to baby of infection. I felt so many emotions during the journey, from disbelief that things were happening naturally and quickly and that we had made it to a few days passed 37 weeks. Excitement that we would soon be meeting Darcie, but equally anxious about how Rupert would react and feel when he woke up and we were not there with him. My contractions were coming fast an frequently by the time we were 10 minutes into the drive and it seemed every farmer was out on the roads in his/her tractor and we got stuck behind each and every one of them.
When we arrived at labour ward I already 5cm dilatated, and my contractions were getting more intense. I was asked if I wanted to get changed into something more comfortable which I did and then sat on my ball and bounced while my cannula was set up so that I could receive the first (and only) dose of antibiotics. The MW was very apologetic as it took her longer to set up and by the time she was finished it was all a bit bloody.
A short while later the midwife asked me to move off my ball so she could have a check and see how things were progressing, this I found very uncomfortable and had to use gas and air for.
I really wanted to give birth as naturally as I could but as things progressed I asked for the epidural, I really did not think I could manage without. During contractions Chris attempted to read the leaflet to me at the request of the MW, soon enough it was being re read to me by the anaesthetist. As he set up, two MW’s came and did a check and informed me I was fully dilated and I was going to meet my baby very soon. There was no time for the epidural. I questioned myself how on earth I was going to get through the next part without the epidural. Within 16 minutes Darcie was born and we were having skin to skin cuddles during delayed cord clamping, we enjoyed our first feed where she nursed away for over an hour whilst I bathed in my shock and awe at both her quick entrance into the world and achieving giving birth only on gas and air alongside breathing techniques. I’m pretty sure I just repeated “I can’t believe I did it” for around 2 hours and hardly noticed getting stitched up. I remember looking over at Chris sitting and cradling Darcie while the stitches were done, my eyes taking in our second beautiful and perfect baby and feeling total contentment and happiness. Our family was complete.
As we didn’t have time for the second dose of antibiotics for the GBS they monitored Darcie every 2 hours for 12 hours. Her temperature was a little high, however after we were moved out of the delivery room this came down and we were discharged and home by midday the next day.
After my first birth experience and it feeling so hectic and busy in the delivery room (there were a couple of Dr’s, MW’s and nurses present) to have only a MW second time around and Chris, as well as no interventions, it all felt and still does feel very surreal to have had such a different experience and to have been able to practically ticked off all of my birth preferences aside from a water birth which in the midst of it all was the last thing on my mind. It all felt very alien to me to be able to walk out with a tiny 5.9lbs baby within 12 hours of giving birth.
Birthing Darcie so naturally was the most empowering experience of my life, I really doubted myself in early labour, yet birthing her without the epidural was nowhere near as scary as I thought it would be as I felt much more in control and my body was able to do what it needed to without assistance. My recorded labour was 3 hours and 51 mins from waters breaking to baby Darcie arriving.
Love a very happy and proud mummy of two.