I first heard of Virginia and Independent Midwives whilst I was pregnant with my first son Edward. My husband, Adam, and I attended a Gentle Births course which informed us of the importance the environment and feeling safe and secure while giving birth to enable you to produce the hormones needed to birth naturally and how medical intervention can interfere with this natural process. I found the course really interesting and a real eye opener as had no idea about this before.
After the course I had strong ideas about how I would like to give birth and very much wanted an active labour where I could move around as much as I needed and wanted to be in the Maternity Unit at the William Harvey Hospital where the environment was less hospitalised. Unfortunately in the last few months of pregnancy I developed hypertension and was informed by my Community Midwife that I would have to be on the Labour Ward as I was considered high risk. I was worried that I would be in a very different environment than I had wanted.
It wasn’t only the birth that was effected as soon as there was a problem it seemed that continuity of care went out the window when everything was ok I would see my Community Midwife at regular visits but when the problems started by the end of my pregnancy I had seen about 10 different Community Midwives, a handful of Consultants and was in and out of the William Harvey Day Care Centre on several occasions resulting in two stays in hospital.
My blood pressure had to be constantly monitored and controlled with strong medication but I wonder how much stress played a factor in my ever increasing blood pressure and whether a lot of it was caused by fear of ‘White Coats’.
The CM’s and hospital staff all had different opinions and I felt like I was being shuffled around all these different people and hospital procedures ‘red tape’ and no one made any decisions about anything as one minute a Consultant said that it is likely I would need an early C Section and the next is saying nothing needs to happen. The hospital wanted to keep me in until my baby was born but there was no way I was going to stay in a hospital bed for any longer than necessary so they agreed that I could go home if they decreased the amount of medication to allow me home and that I would need to be monitored daily by a CM.
I was at home when my waters broke two days before my due date and was told by my CM that I needed to go to the Day Care Centre to get checked over. After a lot of waiting around and being monitored the Midwife in charge told me that I was ok to go home but would need to wait for the Consultant to discharge me. In the meantime unfortunately the Midwife in charge changed shifts and was of the opinion that I should stay in hospital and convinced the Consultant of this. So once again I was taken through to the Folkestone Ward.
I really didn’t want to stay overnight without Adam as I had been having irregular contractions throughout the day and didn’t want to be in pain alone. So we told a white lie that I was having regular contractions and was immediately taken through to the Labour Ward where they checked me over and sent me home saying if my contractions didn’t get stronger tonight to come back first thing in the morning to be induced.
Throughout the night I had painful contractions but they were still far apart. So the next morning we were back on the Labour Ward where I was given antibiotics and was induced. The Midwives laughed at my birthing plan and said that I wouldn’t be able to have any of my choices and that most women needed an epidural when they were induced. I told them that I didn’t want an epidural and managed the relentless pain with gas and air for the first two hours before it became too painful. I was strapped to a machine which monitored babies’ heart beat and my contractions and had an IV in my wrist and was flat on my back so I asked for pethidine to relieve the pain. After another two hours my beautiful baby boy, Edward, was born.
Apart from having my lovely baby it had unfortunately been the worst experience of my life I could go on and on about the ‘matron’ like attitudes and comments the Midwives made to me and the lack of aftercare (although should point out that not all the Midwives were like this) but I won’t as want to move on to a much more positive story.
I met Virginia when my husband and I were thinking about having another baby but I was terrified of going through a similar experience again. Virginia reassured me that even if I was to have hypertension again that it wouldn’t mean that I couldn’t still have the birth of my choice. She also discussed with me my last pregnancy and said that a lot of what I experienced wasn’t necessarily necessary and that the hospitals procedures mean that they are very cautious but that I could still have the final say and would be able to make an informed decision with Virginia’s guidance.
Virginia reassured me to think that there was a chance that I could have a healthy pregnancy and a natural birth and around 3 months later I was on the phone to Virginia to ask whether she would be my Midwife as I was 5 weeks pregnant.
My pregnancy went without a hitch and every checkup with Virginia went fine. She would always talk through any questions I had and reassure any of my concerns. I wasn’t afraid of having a home birth, much the opposite, I didn’t want to have to go anywhere near the Labour Ward again. But also because Virginia had explained that birth is a natural process and as long as there were no problems that I shouldn’t need any medical intervention.
The labour went well, and it felt to me to be comfortable and natural to give birth at home. The birthing pool took a long while for my husband to fill up toing and froing from kettles and pots and pans boiling on the hob along with a long hose from hot water tap to the pool in the Living room; all the while I was contracting well.
I didn’t use the pool until the very end of the labour, because my older son Edward decided to get up and I felt uneasy being in labour with him awake, and certainly didn’t want to give birth with him around to see his Mummy in pain. Although my contractions were strong and regular, I am sure that my body was holding off because Edward was awake. Adam had to take care of Edward so a lot of the time I was contracting without him and I really needed a hand to hold, Virginia held my hands when I asked her to which made me feel more relaxed and not alone. Whenever I was feeling unsure she would comfort me by saying that I was a strong women and that there were thousands of other women just like me going through the same thing and that I could do it by listening to my body and explaining how to breathe and how to relax my body through the contractions.
My husband took Edward at 6am to his Grand Parents, and soon after my husband’s return I gave birth in the birthing pool where the contractions became very rapidly and strong. After about twenty minutes of being in the pool my beautiful baby was born a lovely healthy boy named Luke.
I am positive that the continuity of care I received from Virginia as well as being made to feel reassured and positive every step of the way played a very important part in my health during pregnancy and my ‘healing birth’ experience.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank Virginia I feel very lucky to have had her as my Midwife and would recommend anyone to have an Independent Midwife like her I still miss her visits as feel she was a friend as well as my Midwife.