If you missed it: Having a Baby with the NHS – Part 1 covers the pre-birth generalities.
So now we get to the good stuff: BIRTH, or where the rubber hits the road. This is a combination “all about the NHS” and “my birth story but not too detailed”.
To warm up, let’s talk about the NCT class that T and I took to prepare for birth. NCT = National Childcare Trust, the UK’s largest charity for parents. We heard from everyone that taking a pre-birth learn all about pregnancy and babies class was a great way to meet people in your area having babies when you are. Oh, and learn about babies too. But the main point being that people take them both to make friends and to learn stuff because like many of us, our existing friends may not be having babies at the same time as us. And obviously we need friends period given our recent immigration.
The class met about an 18 minute walk through the woods from our flat in Crouch End in an after school program room. Highlights of the facility include having to get buzzed in; the miniature chairs we sat on; and most of all, the miniature toilets, which of course were made frequent use of given the fact there were 8 pregnant ladies in the class.
Anyway – the class was INVALUABLE (actually it was very valuable – almost $500!!), meeting 6 times or so plus a reunion meeting after all of the babies are borned. Not only had T and I forgotten (or never learned) a whole bunch of stuff about pregnancy and infants, but this class helped set our expectations for the rest of our healthcare experience. As different as giving birth in the UK was for us, it would have been even more jarring had our expectations not been set by this class.
And, we met some great people. I got to wow them with my technical prowess, setting us all up with a WhatsApp group. #coolkidforonce It’s really nice to feel more connected to the community, though.
Moving into birth, since that’s what the NCT class was in preparation for.
Many hospitals in the UK now have birthing centers (or rather Birth Centres) in addition to the regular maternity ward. These are very zen, spa-like spaces where you can have your baby, and often include a deep pool-like bath. They’re much more relaxing than a typical labour ward, which is good for your hormone levels. I really, really liked them, and the fact that birth centres are so common in hospitals here.
Sadly, this is NOT where we – I mean I – gave birth. A. No high risk births can be held here, and B. No epidurals are given though you can have gas (ie nitrous oxide). Instead you get to float in the water, hang from fabric thingies from the ceiling, and roll on a ball. And yes, that is a double Murphy bed that folds out of the wall. And the lighting really is that moody.
Instead, we were in a traditional labour ward. Importantly, there are two different sections of a maternity ward area – the maternity ward, where mums wait to be ready to give birth and/or recover from birth, and the labour ward, where active labour happens. We learnt this lesson the hard way.
Because I was over a week late, I was scheduled for an induction on Wednesday, Jan 13 at2:30 PM. They told us to show up at 8 AM in the Labour Ward (I forgot the second part). However, because my parents were leaving Thursday afternoon, I called and rescheduled the induction to Tuesday, Jan 12 at 1:30. I explained that the doctor had told us to show up early, but the midwife was like “Hmmm I’m not sure why he did that, come in at 9 instead.” Doubtful that this was going to be sorted correctly, I asked if I could talk with the doctor. And they were all “oh no no no you can’t talk with the doctor” as though I were a crazy person. I just had to trust the system.
What transpired: Tuesday morning we trekked off to the hospital via public trans, which takes about an hour. Upon surfacing, I had the deadly realization that I had left my damn paper medical records back in Highgate. Much swearing ensued. Then phone calls to the hospital and the grandparents. Yes we had to have the PAPER records, so the grandparents met us midway with them. We finally got to the hospital – stressed and sad from awful coffee – around 10:30 AM. We checked in but everyone was confused as to why we were there early if induction was scheduled at 1:30 and what to do with us.
An hour or so later, I hear my name mentioned. Quick as a bunny slash 9+ month pregnant woman I scurried out to the hall to understand what was going on. Dr. C was talking with a midwife – no one had told him that I had called to reschedule.
So this resulted in us being at the hospital, ready for induction, but they had already scheduled another cardiac induction that same day so they preferred not to do me too. They asked us to come in the next morning at 7 AM instead. Plus we were supposed to show up to the LABOUR WARD not the Maternity ward. Whoops. No medical staff in the Maternity Ward could correct us because it wasn’t clearly written in my notes or my EMR what I was supposed to do. This is an example of lack of communication within the NHS, or perhaps “patient empowered care”.
Home we went, not entirely unhappy given the stressful start to the day. I finished up some chores, we went out for Ethiopian food, and we FINALLY got Max a haircut at Boston Cuts (which refers to a type of haircut, not a place).
It was at the hair cutting place that I realized that the baby bump was riding MUCH lower than previously. As in WAY lower. It had already come down… but this was like “heyyyy low rider!”
We walked home and I ran a bath for Max, feeling some crampy type pain, which hadn’t been unusual. But it intensified. And then I was trying to read Max some stories, and had to stop midway a few times (The little Elephant eee heee oooo loved trains). Still, I wasn’t sure if this was labour (because with Max I was induced). #Denial anyone? Finally, I went to change into sweatpants and it was like “oh, so that’s my waters breaking. I guess this is labor.” A ha ha, Dr C, take THAT! I WILL be at the hospital today!”
T called my parents back from their bridge game and checked with the hospital – yes I was to come right in because this was baby #2 and it could proceed quickly, and because I was high risk. I insisted on a painful shower because God forbid I have dirty hair, and finally FINALLY my parents arrived at the same time as the taxi. Off to the hospital we went… it took about 45 minutes, and though the taxi driver didn’t say anything, I’m sure he noticed the heavy breathing, swearing, and open window in 40 degree weather. Things certainly were moving quickly – contractions were every 2-3 minutes. I was just hoping I didn’t give birth in the taxi (unlikely) because recently this very taxi company made headlines for sending a cleaning bill to a lady who had given birth in one of their cars.
FINALLY WE WERE AT THE HOSPITAL – longest ride of my life. I hobbled to the elevator and into the maternity area, where they showed us to a waiting room. Hysterically, there was a VERY young couple in there – the girl was less than 6 months pregnant. I can only imagine that we scared them a little. THIS SHIT GETS REAL, LITTLE GIRL. The medical staff were scurrying around to try to get us directly into the labour ward because they could see that labour was well under way for me.
They wheeled me into the Labour ward room. It basically looked like a US hospital room for giving birth, plus a huge beanbag chair and exercise ball. I focused on breathing, the medical staff scurried around… and then we met our midwife for the night.
Ok this post was longer than I thought it was going to be, so the actual birth event – including a fun surprise about our midwife and pain management options – will be covered next time. Spoiler alert #2: A baby will be born.