Thank you midwives

Everyone knows our NHS staff are heroes.

The work they do every single day often goes unnoticed. You know they are heroes because they would play down what they do.

Recently, the NHS celebrated its 70th birthday.

I have had a lot of dealings with the NHS over the years - when I get poorly I don't do things by halves! But my most recent was when I had Peyton and, honestly, I can't praise the hard work and dedication of the midwives enough.

That first bit of skin-to-skin
My community midwives throughout my pregnancy were great, we built up such a good relationship over the nine months I was visiting them. I actually miss them now I don't see them every couple of weeks! I'm sure they don't miss me, though, I always talked so much I made them run really late for the rest of their appointments...oops!

It was the midwives at the hospital, who helped me during labour and Peyton's birth, that I will be forever indebted to.

As I have previously mentioned, we did hypnobirthing before Peyton was born to prepare us for labour. This is still a relatively uncommon/new thing, and we were aware before going into hospital that many midwives still didn't understand the concept of hynobirthing or the importance of staying 'in the zone'.

When we arrived at York Hospital, just after 7am on Wednesday, June 20, we made sure we gave the midwife (Clare) who took us to the delivery ward our birth plan. It stated, throughout, our requests regarding hypnobirthing. I'd included things like not using the word "pain" and keeping a calm environment. I wasn't sure how it would play out - staff at hospitals are so used to asking people "what would you rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10?" I figured they'd still accidentally let it slip.

First cuddles
If I'm being completely honest, she could have asked me my pain and I just don't remember... But I'm almost certain she didn't!

Clare basically let us do what we wanted. We had taken some little LED tea lights to try and create a nice little ambiance in the room and some relaxing room spray. Tom put the tea lights round the birth pool and sprayed the Temple Spa scent around the room and on a flannel for me to sniff. Clare turned the lights down and, honestly, when I shut my eyes (and wasn't having a contraction) I could have been in a spa.

Enjoying myself in the birthing pool...
Half of the time, I forgot Clare was even there. She stood in the corner writing on my notes. I would love to know what she'd written, she was stood there the whole time! She just let me and Tom do our thing, occasionally popping over to check the temperature of the pool or to remind Tom to get me to drink something. She was so discreet when doing my temperature and blood pressure, she didn't interrupt my groove at all. Same with the examinations, she always managed to time them to a T so that I didn't even really notice I was getting out of the pool.

When she noticed my concentration was slipping, and I was forgetting to breathe through my contractions, she did the breathing we had practiced. She had seen me and Tom doing it and joined in with him in encouraging me and reminding me the long, slow breath in and the long, slow breath out. She would count with him and was forever telling me how well I was doing.

Hearing her say that, encouraging me and telling me how amazing I was doing, really spurred me on.

When we arrived at hospital I was already 4cm dilated. By midday, I was 6cm dilated. Clare said that, typically for a first baby, you'd dilate at 0.5cm an hour. I remember thinking that would take us until 8pm until I was fully dilated - and that felt like a long time. I didn't want to wait that long, I wanted her out sooner than that.

Team Kersh.

As it turned out, it wasn't going to take that long. My contractions started coming in thick and fast - and I was struggling to stay "in the zone". Clare kept asking me, in between contractions, if I wanted any pain relief.

"If you need anything for the contractions just let me know," she said.

I'd not had a single thing since my early labour started the previous evening - not even paracetamol. I was so determined we would get our money's worth from the hypnobirthing classes and I would put everything we'd practiced for those months in action!

As the contractions started hitting me harder, though, I opted to have some gas and air. I maybe had it for between half an hour and an hour, before it got too difficult. I wanted to pant using the gas and air, - to get as much as possible - but Clare kept reminding me I needed to continue with my controlled breathing. I couldn't do both, so I sacked off the gas and air.

Clare was an absolute diamond and by 3pm I was fully dilated.

"I might get to see your baby born before I go home today!" She said with such a big smile I thought it would reach her ears!

As it turned out, Peyton hadn't yet made an appearance when Clare's shift finished, despite me having been pushing for a while.

"Liberty, who is taking over, will ring me when you've had the baby if that's ok?" She asked me before leaving.

"Of course," I said. I loved that she cared so much.

Liberty came in and her and Clare did a little handover, before Clare left; wishing us all the best.

Liberty was lovely - very much like Clare just letting me get on with it in my own way.

By the time they swapped shifts, you could see Peyton's head. She was close, but just wasn't quite close enough.

Liberty suggested I get out the pool for my next few contractions so she could watch what was happening when I pushed. As I stood by the couch in the room, Liberty noticed something on one of the pads on the floor. She was concerned that Peyton may have had a poo while making her way out.

She quickly rushed off, poo in hand (not literally, she took the pad!), and Tom and I worked our way through the contractions while she was gone.

She was back no sooner than she had gone and said it was definitely a Peyton poo. This meant she was in distress, and they needed to monitor her and get her out sooner.

Liberty and Tom helped me waddle across the corridor. At this point, I can't remember whether I was covered in a towel or had any clothes on or what - I just remember them both helping me to another room.

Liberty helped get me onto the bed and strapped me onto the machine. Every single thing she did, from attaching the bands to my belly to the sounds the machine made, she talked through with me and made sure I understood what was going on.

As I continued pushing, I could tell Liberty wasn't happy. Every time I pushed they could see Peyton's head, but despite giving it my all I couldn't push her out by myself.

"We're going to have to intervene," she said. "Is that ok, Natalie? We are going to have to do a ventouse delivery."

By this point, I didn't care what they did to me, I just wanted to make sure Peyton arrived safely.

"Does that mean she'll have a funny shaped head?" Was the only thing I managed to say.

"All babies have funny shaped heads but, don't worry, by tomorrow it'll be fine," she explained.

I don't know why I asked about her head. If she had said "yes, she'll have a strange shaped head for the rest of her life, like Hey Arnold" I would've still let them do it just to get her out safely.

Suddenly, the room filled with people. There was a second midwife and another lady who had a tray covered in instruments (not the musical kind!) and all sorts of other medical paraphernalia.

Liberty, once again, explained every single thing to me. She talked me through how they were going to do an episiotomy to enable them to have better access to Peyton and get her out easier.

I don't remember feeling scared or worried or nervous, and that's all down to Liberty. She made sure I knew everything that was going on and kept calm.

A male doctor then entered the room, right as my feet were in position in the stirrups facing the door. Hello, welcome to my birth.

"This is the baby doctor, he's just here to check her over when she's born," Liberty narrated. "He's got a resuscitation table with him but don't panic. We bring them in for every assisted delivery just to be sure, but nine times out of 10 we don't need it."

As the lady brought in to do the assisted delivery got to work, Liberty talked me through everything. She explained how they would attach the cup to Peyton's head on my next contraction when I pushed. After it was on her head, they'd wait till my next contraction and when I pushed they'd suck her head out. Once her head was out, I thought that was it.

"You need to push her shoulders out now, Natalie," Liberty reminded me.

As I mustered up the last bit of energy I had, I pushed her shoulders out.

Liberty grabbed her straight away, wrapped her in a towel and slapped her on my chest. I just had time to say hello before she was whisked away to be checked over.

She let out the biggest squeal as they were checking her over. I think Tom was unsure whether he could go over, so he was stood next to the bed with me.

"Go on Tom, go over and take some pictures," Liberty said.

I absolutely love that she said this, and encouraged him. I could see he was desperate to but didn't know if he could, and didn't want to be in the way. But she made sure we have those precious first pictures of her (even if she does look mightily unhappy on them!)

A few hours later - after all the stitching up and skin-to-skin - Liberty came back and showed Tom how to put on a nappy, vest and sleep suit. After Peyton was dressed, she helped me off the bed, got out my pyjamas and helped me get dressed. She brought me some toast and a hot drink and made sure we were all settled before our parents came to visit.

And then, just like that, she was gone. Her shift was over.

She was like a fairy godmother who came when I needed her most, and then disappeared when everything was completed and everyone was safe.

I honestly could not thank Liberty, and Clare, enough for everything they did during those nine and a half hours in hospital. They were amazing. So supportive of our hypnobirthing, so friendly and so keen to make sure that we were in the know. They didn't want us to be scared, or worried, about what was happening and made sure that we knew what was going on at each stage so that wasn't the case.

Midwives all over the country deliver babies every single day. They go above and beyond the call of duty, often staying on shift longer than required to see the birth of the babies they have invested so much of their time in.

I couldn't have done it without their help, support and encouragement. Our birth plan didn't quite go to plan, but where possible they made sure they followed through with our wishes.

So, thank you to my midwives. Thank you for bringing our daughter safely into the world, for looking after me, and for looking after Tom. We wouldn't be the family we are now if it weren't for you.

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