Two Birth Stories, by H

H's first three babies were born in hospital, and her fourth at home. Here, she writes about her last two births - one in hospital, after changing from a planned home birth because of hospital policy, and one at home with an independent midwife.

The Last Hospital Birth

Towards the end of the pregnancy I was getting extremely large - much larger than with my other two, because the maternity clothes that I wore before simply weren't fitting. Also my skin on my abdomen had really deep purple stretch marks and was incredibly itchy and uncomfortable.

About 3 weeks before the birth I changed my mind as to where I wanted to have the baby - I did not enjoy the hospital experience before on either occasion, and my community midwife was very supportive of me having the baby at home.

However once I went 10 days overdue she said she was no longer able to care for me as I think it was the local policy then that your baby had to be born in hospital if more than 10 days over.

Note from Angela: Some hospitals have a policy that they advise hospital birth after a certain duration of pregnancy - most commonly 42 weeks, but sometimes earlier. Unfortunately it is not always presented as 'advice', but as a case of your 'having' to give birth in hospital after a certain date, and you may be told that the hospital will refuse to send midwives out to you at home after that. However, nobody can force you to go into hospital to give birth, no matter what your gestation, and it is usually possible to reach an agreement about this. If you are unhappy with the advice given to you by your caregivers, contact AIMS for advice.

I had been having a lot of false labour pains for quite a few weeks towards the end. I went into hospital at one stage thinking I was in labour, because the strength and pain of the contractions was similar to what I had experienced in my second labour when I was actually in established labour!!

When I went to the clinic, a week overdue, the young doctor expressed concern at the size of my abdomen and the fact that I had seemed to have so many contractions which weren't going anywhere. They scanned me and measured the amount of amniotic fluid and said that I had "polyhydramnios" - in other words a lot of fluid. Apparently the normal measurement is between 5 and 15 and I was measuring up as 30 - in whatever units they measure.

I was shocked to discover that they were keen to induce me before I had gone two weeks over. I had been two weeks late with my first baby and 10 days late with my second, and with my first they had been quite happy to let me go the full two weeks. I don't think their eagerness to induce was directly related to the polyhydramnios as I was given the impression that my obstetrician didn't like to let any women go more than 10 days late.

I was upset about this, but they also managed to convince me that there were potential risks about cord prolapse when you have a lot of fluid or something like that.

Anyway they decided to induce me on - I think it was the Thursday afternoon - but then as usual they couldn't induce me because labour ward was so busy, and so it went each day until finally Saturday morning I was to go in.

Each time I saw someone at this late stage in my pregnancy they seemed to insist on doing internal examinations. The reason for this was apparently that they wanted to check nothing was in the way - i.e. perhaps that the cord was in the way of the head. I don't quite understand the reasoning of it - they seemed to justify it, but I wasn't convinced and I felt very vulnerable and rough handled.

Note from Angela: Where there is polyhydramnios (now often called just 'hydramnios'), your caregivers might be worried that part of the cord could be washed out of the uterus ahead of the baby, because of a large gush of fluid when your bag of waters breaks. Where the cord is in front of the baby's head, this is called a 'cord presentation'; if the cord actually comes out of the uterus before the baby's head, this is a 'cord prolapse'. Cord prolapse is potentially life-threatening for the baby, because if the cord is squashed as the baby's head comes down, its oxygen supply can be cut off. It is therefore understandable that H's doctors and midwives were concerned to check that she did not have a cord presentation, but it is a shame that nobody explained to her why they were so worried about this.

I think it was Friday night when I started having contractions - I was up all night with them. I should have known my labour had started, but I just didn't trust my own instincts and because they insisted that I go in at the very latest on Saturday morning to be induced, I meekly went along as requested about 09.00.

Of course about 7.30 in the morning all my contractions seemed to stop. And they didn't resume even when I got to hospital.

The female consultant came around shortly to see me, and I was most upset to see that she came in with the appropriate gel etc. on her little trolley in spite of the fact that I had told the midwives that I had been up all night with contractions.

She said that she would have to examine me, to which I reluctantly agreed. Then, with her hand inside me, she said that I was 3-4 cm dilated, and then said "Shall I break your waters now?". I couldn't believe she was saying this - and also still with her hand inside me. I said to her that I was not in distress - and nor was my baby, so as far as I could see there was no reason to break my waters. I think she then said that it would speed things up for me. Anyway I refused. When she took her hand out of me, she said "I gave the neck of your womb a good stretch while I was there." I couldn't believe again that she should do such a thing without my permission, but naturally was not in a position to argue with her. Knowing that I was only 3 - 4 cm dilated, I said to the midwife, "Great, well I think we'll nip off into town now, or go for a walk in the woods." The midwife rushed out, and then the consultant rushed back in and said "You are not to go walking in the forest!".

The consultant then instructed the midwife that she would have to examine me again at 1pm.

The first midwife I felt didn't do much for me. I was kneeling for the contractions on one single pillow on the floor leaning against the bed. I asked her if there were any more pillows to make my knees more comfortable and was simply told that there weren't any. She didn't really say anything to me at all, and kept disappearing out of the room. Everytime she went out of the room, I felt more scared and my contractions felt worse, and so as I shouted she would run back in again. When it was painful and I asked her what position might make me more comfortable, she just didn't seem to respond.

At one o'clock a new team breezed in - another midwife along with a student. I can remember the new midwife saying in a loud voice - "We'll get this baby out." Anyway one o'clock came and before I knew it the first midwife midwife (the one who didn't say anything) decided she would have to do an internal as she had been instructed to do by the doctor. I didn't want her to do it, but with all those people in the room I felt pressurised into behaving. So she examined me - my husband was holding my hand - and the other two midwives stood at the foot of the bed watching. That memory still upsets me as I felt both invaded and very much on show. Why couldn't the two from the next team have done this once the first one had left - if they really had to do it.

Anyway this midwife declared that I was now 6 cm dilated. I personally don't think that that was too bad progress seeing as it only took me about 4 hours to dilate two cm.

So they decided that this progress was too slow and that given the polyhydramnios that they should break my waters. I had had this done to me for my first labour - not for my second - and I remembered the experience with horror. I knew that the only way I would allow them to do that was if I accepted drugs, as I recalled how painful the contractions were after the membranes had been ruptured. Not only needing drugs in terms of pain but also to help me to cope with the embarrassment of what I felt was utter invasion. They said that it was wise for them to break my waters so that this could be done in a controlled way - otherwise I ran the risk of cord prolapse which could be fatal for the baby.

So I was strapped to the monitor - I was not informed that if I accepted pethidine I would stay attached to the monitor from thereon - I didn't know this as I had managed my other two labours without drugs. Also they felt that I had "coped long enough." What they didn't realise was although I may have been making a lot of noise, I didn't feel inside that I wasn't coping in the way they perceived.

The pethidine enabled me to relax for them to do the necessary, and from then on I had to lie on my side and the contractions came thick and fast. The pethidine did not stop the pain, and made me feel quite out of control in a helpless sort of way. I was then dependent on the student midwife to help me through the contractions - she was very good in fact - and I felt that she cared and tried in a way that the others didn't.

I think it was about 5 pm when they said to me to get into a position to deliver the baby. I knelt up on the bed - they put the end of the bed for me to hang on to. I can remember screaming a lot with the contractions - I was very frightened and I felt extremely lonely and vulnerable at the end of the bed - it seemed that everyone was looking at my back and I can't recall seeing anybody's face. I started to feel the head moving down - and then when the head came out. It felt like it was there for actually ages before I managed to push the rest of the body out. I can remember the head there between my legs and thinking that I just couldn't get him out. Then I remember the main midwife coming to me and saying "Stop screaming, shut your mouth and push." I decided to do as I was told even though I really believed that it would tear me apart.

He came out. There was absolute silence. No-one seemed to say anything. I couldn't see anyone in front of me. They whisked him away to the resucitaire. I felt lonely and bereft. A faint voice from within me said "Is he alive?" I can't remember anyone hearing me or answering me. That I think was perhaps the worst moment and perhaps almost as dreadful as the day I was told that my father had died. Then I can remember my arms aching and saying again faintly "I want my baby." This had never happened to me before - with my other labours I was blessed with noisy screamers who yelled as soon as the air hit their lungs. If only someone had said to me "He's fine - we're just helping him to breathe" it would have made all the difference.

Then suddenly - I was still kneeling in the position that I had delivered in and was still strapped to the bloody monitor - I heard a strange noise and realised that this blood was pouring out of me. I can remember the student midwife looking absolutely horrified - the other two midwives were still preoccupied working on the baby.

They gave me another shot of syntometrine - they didn't really know how much blood came out as my husband said a lot of it went on the floor.

I can then remember everything going very black and feeling like I was a million miles away from everything - it was all dark.

Then they said that they were going to get the paediatricians to check the baby over. I had no energy to really ask why or to question their judgement. I don't recall if I even held him before he was handed to the paediatricians.

Then they checked me and thank God, my tear didn't need stitching. I was very lucky there.

The paediatricians rang down to say that my baby weighed 9 pounds 15.5. ounces. A bit of a bruiser then!!

They brought him back and said that his blood sugar was low and that if it didn't pick up in the next hour that they would have to give him a bottle. I was furious that they had said that - when I had hardly had the chance to hold him. I asked to feed him straight away and fed him for the next forty minutes although all the while I was feeling very faint and everything was still black and miles away.

It did the trick though as his blood sugar picked up and they left me alone. Just imagine if I hadn't had the previous help of the NCT with regard to breastfeeding and the importance of trying to do this as soon after the birth as possible.

I can then remember being given a very kind bath - and it was only minutes before bathing me that they realised I was still strapped to the bloody monitor!!

They said that I couldn't go home because I had lost a lot of blood. It was about 10 pm before I got to the ward. I promptly threw up on arrival in the room. We asked for a side-room; thank goodness I did, as I remembered how noisy the wards could be.

I was starving about 2AM in the morning and a Healthcare Assistant brought me a couple of pieces of toast. I was still feeling very faint and was still hungry after the toast, but they seemed to think that two pieces was all I should have.

My baby was throwing up a lot in the night and as I felt too weak to deal with him a Healthcare Assistant would kindly come and sort him out each time for me. In fact she said that every time he did it, to buzz on the buzzer and someone would come and help.

So at 6 in the morning when I buzzed on the buzzer this midwife breezed in and said to me "There's only two of us on - you're going to have to start looking after your baby yourself." At which point I burst into tears. What an insensitive cow! I had had no food the previous day, and I still know that I was in no fit state to deal with him on my own. She came back and asked me what the matter was - she said that she had looked at my notes and that I had had a perfectly "normal birth" so basically what was the fuss about! I then replied with some excuse about being upset about my father. I also told her that I couldn't get over the fact that when my baby came out I thought he was dead. She didn't seem to understand how this was so upsetting for me.

Yes, it was a normal birth. Yes, I was very lucky - it doesn't go so smoothly for many other women.

However I did have - I think - a birthplan in my notes which appeared to be totally overlooked. I cannot recall at any time being asked for my preferences. The student midwife actually delivered my baby - I do not remember being asked for my permission for a student to deliver my baby. I was not asked for the "neck of my womb to be given a good stretch." I do not feel that I was fully informed as to the medical profession's concerns over polyhydramnios. I do recall being given a total of 6 internal examinations over the two weeks prior to the labour and the actual labour, all by different people, and often with other staff looking on.

The whole experience left me feeling as though I had allowed these professionals to abuse me. This I understand may well be a reflection on my own hang-ups - to their minds they were only doing their jobs; but I believe it is also a reflection on the way many who work in assisting labouring women seem to be oblivious to the deep emotional and psychological trauma that some of us experience as a result.

I don't think that writing this has helped me to come to terms with the event. I am left feeling both sad and angry but at the same time I am glad I have written this down.

The Home Birth

It's hard to know quite where to begin. I booked an independent midwife to care for me during this birth. Within hours of the birth, I had no doubt that it was the best £2000.00 we'd ever spent. I never thought that giving birth could feel "OK", let alone perhaps, dare I say it, more than OK. I didn't feel after the birth the need to go through it all again in my head - I just felt at peace about it and ready to begin concentrating on the enormous demands of looking after my new baby. Baby A was born at home and immediately after the birth it struck me how calm and quiet, private and unhurried the atmosphere was compared to my previous three hospital births. I now believe that unless there are complications that hospital seems a really weird place to go to give birth.

We booked with independent midwife Kay Hardie very early on in pregnancy mainly because, as far as possible, we wanted to be guaranteed continuity of carer and to avoid a repeat of some of the trauma I had experienced previously at hospital, particularly with regard to the birth of my third child.

It almost seemed too much at the beginning to keep seeing the same midwife in our own home at a time convenient to us. Kay always allowed plenty of time for each antenatal visit - she'd often just chat a bit at the beginning and I used to wonder why - until as the weeks went by it dawned on me that by chatting she was taking the time to get to know me, which I think was extremely helpful by the time it came to giving birth and also for the care that followed after the birth.

I won't go into detail about the birth of my third child except to say that I came through the experience feeling as though I had been violated. That is the only way I can express it. I don't doubt that all the Health Professionals I encountered - and there were many - were acting according to "best practice" and therefore appeared as though they had my and my baby's interests at heart - but it didn't feel like that. In short so much was done to me, and I believe at times without my full consent, and never at any stage do I remember being consulted about my preferences or my feelings as a person having been taken into account.

How different it was with Kay! By the time it came to labour we had already discussed my preferences at length throughout the previous months. She knew for example that I abhorred vaginal examinations above all, and she seemed quite happy about the prospect of not doing any. Throughout the pregnancy she consulted me properly about any decisions, and where necessary sought documentary evidence to help me make as informed a decision as possible. Interestingly I didn't have a single needle stuck in me the whole pregnancy. For example she told me what all the routine blood tests in pregnancy were for, and armed with that information I decided not to have any. It seems very simple but having such information which I had never been given before was very empowering. How different from the community midwife with my previous pregnancy who would simply say to me on an antenatal visit "I need to take your blood this week."

Kay exceeded my expectations in the way she respected my dignity and my personal concerns. I gave birth to A and I think we managed this without Kay even touching me once except to listen to baby's heartbeat and to support me during contractions when necessary. Even then she allowed my husband to do the main job of supporting me, as when she arrived I was in strong labour and was already relying on S to hold me through the pain. She didn't come in and take over just because she was the midwife. I really appreciated this, because in spite of the rapport which we had built up with her, I am ultimately more comfortable with his arms around me as opposed to anyone else's. I wonder also however whether she held back a little because I had also mentioned how in the previous labour I had felt very lonely in the hospital and had felt that my husband was effectively a spare part having been pushed aside by some very determined midwives.

A arrived just 3 days after my due date. Amazingly early for me as my previous 3 pregnancies had gone to 10 days late for my other daughter and 13 days late for both my sons. About the only issue which I thought was negative about the prospect of a home birth was the fact that we live in a semi-detached house and I was worried about making a noise and disturbing my neighbour, and also the thought that I would feel embarrassed about that. I can remember on the Tuesday - the day after my due date - saying to the baby that he/she could come now - as my neighbour had gone away on holiday, my mother was also away (and she is often unfortunately not too helpful at stressful times) and I had completed a fair amount of preparation work for next term's teaching.

Towards the end of pregnancy as usual I had been having a lot of very strong Braxton Hicks contractions, and wondered on several occasions whether the contractions I was feeling were a prelude to the "real thing." The day of A's labour was no different. On the Wednesday I had been having the contractions on and off all day, but by about 8pm they seemed to increase in intensity. Still not sure whether this really was labour, but because I was feeling very frightened we phoned Kay that evening. She came across about 10pm. Even at that stage I realised that she was going to respect my dignity, given that as I was in my nightie, before palpating my tummy she asked whether I had my knickers on. I really appreciated that.

These contractions went on for a few hours, and were very uncomfortable and kept making me feel as though I was going to throw up. However they gradually quietened down, and at about 03.00 Kay went back home. I felt that I was in early labour, and so was happy for her to go back home. Although Kay left her box of equipment here, as she said she didn't have any other clients due in the next few days, S felt that this indicated that she thought I was in early labour too, although subsequently Kay has told me that she really wasn't sure whether it was labour or nothing.

Only about an hour later however after Kay had gone, the contractions started up again, but this time I felt them more as definite pain coming from my lower back. I took some Panadol, and went back off to sleep for a couple of hours, but I was aware even in sleep of the pain coming and going.

That morning my husband phoned his work to say that he would be unlikely to be in - and took the other children off to school and nursery.

I still kept getting contractions - sometimes they came regularly and sometimes they were more spaced apart. Although they were painful, I felt able to cope with them.

I can remember not having any contractions around lunchtime, which enabled me to have a good lunch.

We then phoned the nursery to ask them to keep our 3 year old for the afternoon as we normally pick him up at 1.30, but weren't sure what was happening with me, and I didn't want S to leave me. The nursery very kindly also offered to take our other children to the after school club, for which we were very grateful. It hadn't occurred to us to use this as an option.

I think S phoned Kay about the contractions in the morning to keep her posted about the fact that I was still having them.

S had started filling up the pool the previous night and periodically he would add more water to it so that it would be full enough for when I wanted to get in it.

I was sitting on the birth ball mostly when the contractions started to get stronger and leaning forward holding on to S to get through them.

Then I got bored with the idea of waiting around for each contraction so I suggested to S that we play a game of backgammon. That was really good as it took my mind off things, although by the same token the game kept getting interrupted for a contraction, which made me wonder at the back of my mind whether this really was labour.

We rang Kay at about 2pm I think, to say that I was still getting contractions and they were more frequent by this stage. I still wasn't sure I wanted her over just yet, because I didn't want to give her another false alarm. At the same time I was very worried that I might be further on than S and Kay might have thought, but felt unable to communicate this to them. Kay told me then to give it another 30 minutes and to see how I felt after that 30 minutes. It felt like a very long 30 minutes as I knew deep inside that they were very strong and painful and I kept debating whether I should ring her back before the 30 minutes were up to say "please get over here now." However I kept going for the 30 minutes, and then S rang Kay and said something like "I think H would like you here now." Kay told us that she would be here within the hour, and was just about to pick up her boy from school.

During that next hour, we abandoned the second game of backgammon - S was winning, but the fact that I gave up on the game indicated to S that it was quite likely that this was the real thing.

I found the contractions very hard - the fact that I was waiting for Kay to arrive however did in a funny sort of way give me something else to think about, but it seemed like a very long hour without her.

As soon as she arrived I felt very relieved, and as she came in the house, the pain seemed to step up a pace! I can remember crying a bit and saying to Kay that I wasn't coping because I was yelling quite a bit with the pain. Kay then quietly told me that some women make a lot of noise, and it is their way of coping - so I felt a bit better about it then.

I said that the pain was coming through my lower back. Kay said that she knew a very good back massage which she could teach S. I think she just started to try and demonstrate it when a split second later I yelled at her to get off. I couldn't stand anyone touching me where the pain was, it seemed.

Although before Kay came S had suggested my getting into the pool, I didn't want to get in because I was frightened of getting in too soon and being hours in the pool, even though it looked quite inviting. Shortly after Kay arrived I think she suggested the pool, and I said something like "I've been waiting for your permission to get in!" So I climbed into the pool and was able to sit down in it with my legs outstretched. I must confess I felt quite happy in there - it was comfortable and I just felt happy and relaxed inside. However the contractions still kept coming, and I found by this stage that the best way of coping with them was to hang on to the side of the pool with my arms behind me in a sort of semi-squat and just to yell through them. I think it wasn't long before Kay or S were also helping to support me from behind with each contraction. I was aware of someone behind me and my hands in theirs. I say Kay or S, because sometimes I thought it was Kay supporting me, but then I would suddenly see her at the other side of the pool so it must have been S. Kay did suggest trying to kneel on all fours as some women find that helpful. I tried but didn't like it - it always makes me feel very vulnerable for some reason.

While all this was going on, we were aware that the nursery closed at 6pm and that we would need to arrange for someone to pick up our children. S had left a note for our neighbour to call when she came back from work, as she was usually home by 4.30. However it was now after 5pm and she still hadn't called, so I suggested to S that he call one of our other friends in town who was happy to help out. He rang up C at 05.10, but poor C could hardly hear what he was saying as I was making so much noise. She reassured him that she would pick all the kids up and take them back to hers, and told me afterwards that with the noise she could hear she reckoned that I didn't have long to go.

I remember asking Kay how much worse the pain was going to get. She replied with something like, "well it's pretty intense now, so it's probably unlikely to get any more intense." She asked if I would like to try some gas and air, and I thought that I would give it a go. She went out to the car to get it. I felt a bit worried about her leaving me, but she seemed to trust that S could cope with me. I can remember feeling a tremendous pressure at one stage, and then hearing Kay saying that my waters had gone, and that they were clear and that was good. She listened in to the baby's heartbeat at that stage, and it was still fine. I felt the head moving down, but didn't want to communicate this to Kay or S just in case it wasn't the baby's head.

I'm not sure if this happened before or after she brought the gas and air in. I can remember seeing her struggling in with this big cylinder, and then she started to show me how to use it. I couldn't take in what she was saying with the strength of the contractions, but I recall her very calmly laying it down on the floor because I think at that stage her saying that she thought she could see the baby's head. When the head came out, it felt surprisingly OK compared to my last labour. It definitely felt smaller (my last baby was nearly ten pounds in weight), and didn't feel too uncomfortable hanging out of me! Kay confirmed to me that the head was indeed out, when she said to me something like "the head's out now, H; with the next contraction the shoulders will be born." That was a really good thing for her to say, because I didn't feel worried then, and I actually allowed myself to push with the next contraction and sure enough, at 17.22 out she came. What a contrast again from the second stage in my previous labour when I recall the head hanging out, and the midwife then saying to me "Stop screaming, shut your mouth and push!!"

I was so relieved to hear A crying straight away. When my last baby was born, I though he was born dead because there was no noise, no one said anything and they took him away to the resusitaire. Again in contrast to my previous labour, Kay immediately passed her to me to hold. She felt very small and slippery - I think I was slightly in shock as it had gone very quickly at the end.

S said that Kay kept having to tell me to lift the baby's head clear from the water - I was finding it hard to hold her - she was crying and I was beginning to have afterpains. Kay cut the cord because she said it had stopped pulsating quite quickly and passed her to S to hold. She kept crying. I knew I needed to hold and feed her, but didn't feel able to do anything much at that stage. I stayed in the pool a little while, but felt a bit chilly then so decided to get out. There seemed to be very little blood loss with the birth - there was certainly no bleeding immediately after she came out, which made Kay suggest that it was possible that I hadn't even torn.

We had decided to have a physiological 3rd stage if all went well - in spite of the fact that I haemorrhaged last time. As there seemed to be no blood loss, Kay stuck with our decision of not having the sytonmetrine. We therefore had to wait for the placenta. I had never experienced this, having had managed 3rd stages for all the other births. I got out and sat on the edge of the settee. Then I knelt for a while against the settee - this felt quite comfortable. The afterpains were a little distressing, but Kay remained very calm and quiet.

The whole atmosphere was very peaceful - just the 3 of us in our own home with Amy crying - but I felt that that was a nice noise as it showed she was very much alive. I think I tried feeding her for a while, and I think she was very hungry, but that seemed to make the afterpains worse so I gave her back to S. I got a little concerned at one stage about the length of time it seemed to take for the placenta to come out, but Kay was still very calm and didn't appear at all worried.

In retrospect, it was good to wait for the placenta as really nothing could be done to me or Amy until it was out, and it gave us a really calm interlude after the birth, where significantly Kay's attention was still focussed on me and not on sorting out the baby and rushing me onto a postnatal ward for example. Kay suggested trying to sit on the loo to get the placenta out. I got up and walked to the loo and a few minutes later out it came! It had taken just over an hour.

At every stage in labour, and also with my baby afterwards, Kay never did anything without asking my permission. Even with regard to dressing baby A after the birth - Kay asked if I would like her to do that. I was more than happy for her to do that as I didn't feel able to myself.

Again, I think respecting my privacy, Kay reiterated that she didn't think I had torn and I agreed with her. My perineum didn't hurt at all, and so both I and she felt there was no need for her to inspect it, although I am sure she would have done had I wanted this. I subsequently checked myself the following morning, and it certainly looked pretty intact to me!

Kay then helped me up to bed, where I lay feeding A. She even got me a hot water bottle to help with the afterpains, and sat quietly writing up her notes whilst S went off to our friend's to collect our children. He went to get them about 07.30 so they were back quite quickly after the birth.

She visited us frequently in the days following the birth for the next 4 weeks. Virginia visited us once when Kay couldn't make it and it was really nice to see her to and listen to another perspective on things. We had already met Virginia antenatally as she did one of the antenatal visits so that we could meet her, in case she was also needed in labour and I really appreciated this for when she visited after the birth. Kay's postnatal visits were most useful in providing me someone to chat to, when lacking in sleep and feeling overwhelmed by the demands of the new baby.

Interestingly this was the first time that I had a baby and didn't end up with cracked nipples after the birth. I think this was due to the fact that prior to the birth Kay took the time to discuss breastfeeding with me and showed me a video on it to "refresh" my memory. At the time I thought she was being a wee bit pedantic, but actually having come through the other side with less breastfeeding trauma than with the previous 3 children, I think her input this time was crucial. I always believed that cracked nipples were all just part of breastfeeding, but this time thanks to the video and Kay's advice I paid more attention to positioning and had no cracked nipples whatsoever!

I look back now four weeks on, and can truly say that the birth was a joyous, peaceful occasion. Also it was probably the best pregnancy I ever had because of the continuity of carer, and the fact that for any little worries, Kay was just a phone call away. I didn't ever have to wait for surgery opening hours to be able to speak to her. Finally I think having access to Kay for up to four weeks after the birth, has helped to minimise the stress of these early days, and now I feel ready to move on.

As said at the beginning therefore, we certainly believe that although it seemed a lot of money at the start of pregnancy, it was worth every penny!

H's independent midwife was Kay from the Kent Midwifery Practice
(www.kentmidwiferypractice.co.uk)

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