Having a Baby with the NHS – Part 3

If you missed it: Having a Baby with the NHS – Part 1 covers the pre-birth generalities. Giving Birth with the NHS – Part 2 talks about the benefits of an NCT course, and how we got to the hospital.

So now it’s time for Part 3. We all know how the story ends – with a beautiful baby girl. The exciting part is how we got there.

In addition to the NCT course, we found this helpful TV show on Netflix called The Delivery Man. It’s all about this ex-copper who decides to become a midwife. The cop is male, though – so it’s a cute little sitcom about a male midwife.

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Quirky UK comedy featuring Matthew, the male midwife.

The night before induction, I watched three episodes and then went to repack my suitcase with more pajamas because it seemed that’s what ladies wore when they birthed. And my midwives would be funny, attractive, and a bit unusual. Everyone knows you should base your real life expectations on a sitcom.

BUT IN THIS CASE IT WAS ACCURATE – Our midwife was named Scott! Not short for “Scottina” or “Scottett” – plain Scott, a male midwife. Yes a MAN was all up in my lady bits. And I could have cared less.

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Scott, our male midwife, with Vivian Hazel shortly after birth. I dig his astronomical cap.

He was very competent. The girl next to him is a first year midwife student, and mine was the first birth she attended. #yourewelcome

Anyway – after being shown to the Labour ward (where they managed to find us a room, probably by rushing some other lady out the door), we met Scott and the student, and I continued to writhe about in pain. Eventually they gave me gas as in nitrous oxide, which the US is just getting into again. We learned about gas in our NCT class as well as on The Delivery Man show, where women in labour would frantically suck the gas. I frantically sucked the gas too, but mostly it just made me dizzy, and that was kind of nice at first because it was distracting.

The student would offer the gas to me when I was contracting, and sometimes I would take it but after awhile it was mostly so I could bite down on the mouthpiece. As things got more intense, I started to feel like a dog, biting the mouthpiece or just pushing it away with my head. Ruff.

Finally (basically everything in birth starts with “finally” because it all feels like it takes forever), the very, very nice anesethisiologist (actually spelled anesthesiologist – I was pretty damn close) came down to give me the epidural. It was VERY hard to hold still, and VERY painful to get put in – more than with Max, who knows why. It sort of started to work… but I still couldn’t talk through contractions. He came back and gave me an extra bump. All of a sudden I felt human again. Well, a human without legs, but a human. I smiled. I talked with my husband, whom I no longer hated. I asked the student questions. I enjoyed life. Modern medicine is miraculous. Major props to the moms who give birth without pain relief. 👍🏻👋🏼👊🏻

Less than 3 hours after going into labour naturally, I was ready to push. The biggest difference in my “birth plan” from the US was that they were only going to let me push for 40 minutes as to not strain my heart. With Max, I pushed 2+ hours! Here they were more conservative. We tried to push back – figuratively – but they were pretty adamant. Sadly after 40 minutes of hard work, the baby was still pretty far up there.

The OB came in and was like “No more pushing, we will now take you into an operating theater where you will have two pushes with the forceps or ventouse (ie vacuum) to get the baby out, or we’ll do a C-section.”

WHAT? A c-section with baby #2?? I really, REALLY did not want that. Neither did T. And lady, your bedside manner is severely lacking. Ultimately we decided to go forward with prepping for the forceps and c-section because in their medical opinion, it was the safest for me in the long run to stop pushing. I want to see my kids get married one day!

30 minutes later, I’ve had the extra pain killer that has me convinced that I truly do not have legs any longer and has me shaking like a Polaroid picture, and they wheel me into the operating theater. This other pain killer is in case I do need a c-section – it’s mega intense but better than general anaesthesia.

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My view. It’s bright. Yes I took a picture.

I prepare to push, with my legs sky high and like 6 people clustered around my nether regions. SURPRISE, the baby has descended 5 cm, which everyone agrees is quite impressive given I wasn’t pushing… and eases my fears about a c-section. They do a little snipping, say “Forceps please… now PUSH” x2, and out comes the baby!

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A few minutes after birth (and after a quick wipe-down).

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Look, dad’s in a cap and gown!

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Scott takes care of the umbilical cord.

I very much felt like an accessory at this point. The medical staff were talking to each other and joking, but it was like I wasn’t there… until I made jokes too and they liked that. The same thing has happened to me in the US too.

We were just happy to have a healthy baby girl.

Now comes the shitty shit part of giving birth – staying in the hospital. The UK still uses wards to house patients. Wards as in multiple people in the same room, but with paper curtains between them.

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Yes, really. Wards like the 1900s, only with curtains. Wo-hoo. Curtains. What an upgrade.

You could get a private room for £300 a night. WHhhhhhHHhaaaTTT?! No way.

We were in a high risk ward with 5 moms for 10 hours, which was okay because visitors were restricted. We were then moved to a regular ward, where people were SO inconsiderate. Visitors staying WAY past visiting hours – I had to ask the midwife what the visiting hours were because it was 11 PM and there were still very loud talkers chat chatting across the way (visiting hours are 4-7 PM). The visitor was sort of kicked out.. eventually. People were on Facetime, talking at elevated levels with their visitors at all hours, and generally pretending like the paper curtains were walls.

PAPER DOES NOT EQUAL WALLBOARD. I wanted to kill everyone (not the babies). And unlike our experience in the US, there is no place for your partner to stay overnight – it’s just a waiting room chair next to the bed. T went home to sleep. We didn’t even have our own ward bathroom – it was out in the hall.

The video is of background noise in the ward during “quiet hours.” Vivian Hazel is napping.

The doctors had threatened to keep us there for a few nights “just in case.” I told T the next morning that there was no way under the sun I was staying there another night unless something was actually wrong with me. The only sleep I got was with headphones in, listening to music. I normally NEVER sleep like that. Thank GOD we were released that afternoon (so we had 1.5 nights in the hospital). Other parents we’ve talked to had equally awful experiences in wards, only often the wards were just 4 moms/babies (instead of 6).

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Swaddling the baby girl. The Brits don’t seem to be as into swaddling as the US, but we’re still firm advocates.

The biggest difference besides the whole “share your space with 5 other moms and babies ward” thing was that other than sheets, a johnny, and a bassinet for the baby to rest in, you had to bring in everything else. That’s right – blankets and clothes for the newborn, pads, even DIAPERS. Food was hit or miss – I had to ask for meals. Fortunately we had heard this in our NCT class, but somehow missed the memo on diapers. I asked for ice to help with pain management but “the hospital didn’t have an ice machine.” Seriously?

Aside from the lacking creature comforts, the actual medical care postnatally seemed to be fine. I saw a few different medical professionals. My high risk OB never came by to say hi even though he was on the ward (I saw him) and talking with the midwives about my care. I guess nothing was wrong, so why waste his time…? My blood pressure was measured regularly. OH I forgot to mention the sexy compression stockings they put on my during labour to help with circulation – didn’t have those in the states.

We were SO HAPPY to go home. Perhaps postnatal care is so lacking in comforts because they want you out of the hospital. Yes, being out prevents infections… and also saves money.

Perhaps the best thing about giving birth with the NHS is the home visits that Community Midwives make. The day after you get home, a midwife comes to the house to check on you AND the baby! Not only is it great to not have to leave your house, but unlike our follow-up pediatrician visits in the US, the midwife was concerned with my health AND the baby’s health. Our pediatrician was useless when it came to breastfeeding and other, ahem, postnatal care bits for mom. The midwife will come over a few times if needed until you’re ready to go to a clinic.

The only weird part is that they just show up unannounced. I was just happy she (yes both midwives were shes in this case) came because they were confused about where we lived and which hospital the postnatal care would be coordinated out of (the midwives are from a local hospital, not Chelsea and Westminster). Fortunately the NHS came through and midwives visited.

We also will see a “health visitor” for the baby – I’m not entirely sure what s/he will do, but they’ll be here tomorrow and will provide the all important “Red Book”, which is the baby’s paper medical records that yes, we will have to bring to all doctor appointments. [Side note – I’m not sure how to get Max ones of those…] Following that, all care will be through our local GP. And remember – the baby and I both see the same GP. Or will, once we register with one near us.

In conclusion, there were pros and cons with having a baby with the NHS:

Pros: Less expensive, midwives at the hospital, home visits from the midwife, pain relief – gas, birth centres, local care, good specialists (at least in London), combined care for baby/mom

Cons: Mother f’ing wards, weird communication gaps in care, having to bring your own diapers, creams, and pads, less flexibility when it comes to your medical care choices, paper medical records

Ultimately in both cases, we had healthy babies, which is all that really matters.

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