In this series, we share stories from different mums and dads-to-be about their experience of pregnancy, birth and parenthood in the pandemic. Here Hannah continues her story with her unexpected birth in a car park, her tips for preparing for labour and how giving birth in the pandemic has some positives.
I’ve heard many times that second babies tend to arrive much quicker – something that I was very glad to hear given my long labour first time around. I also learned from the first time to try to stay at home as long as possible in the early stages of labour in order to keep all that wonderful oxytocin flowing in the comfort of my own environment.
Given the pandemic too, we were keen to be in the birth centre for as little time as possible. We knew we would hold off as long as we could to make our way there. In hindsight, our efforts to keep as calm as possible second time around may have kept us a little too calm. We left it far too late to leave the house and our second baby boy, Wilf, arrived rather speedily in a Sainsbury’s local car park, delivered by my husband!
I remember making the call to the labour line while bouncing on my birthing ball as Theo watched Paw Patrol and Andy was in the shower. I don’t think I quite believed I was in labour until this point. I told them we were planning to go to the New Forest Birth Centre but they said it was closed due to staffing and more midwives being located at the Princess Anne Hospital instead.
At this point, my heart sank. I hadn’t seen any updates about this on the maternity services page I had been following. In my previous midwife appointment, less than a week before, the birth centre was open.
"This just went to show how quickly things were changing."
Keeping calm and focused
All along, we hoped to avoid a hospital environment anyway, even more so given the pandemic, but I knew now that this couldn’t be the case. In between contractions and breathing through the pain, I told myself to just get on with it – to the hospital we would go, because we had to, and all would be fine.
"I knew I just had to keep calm and focused."
A few minutes into the journey to the hospital though, I just knew we weren’t going to make it. My contractions were so strong and close together, and I soon reached the ‘I can’t do this’ stage, before then getting the urge to push.
After trying to flag down an ambulance on the other side of the road - who just thought my husband was waving in appreciation for clap for carers (!) - the labour line advised us to call 999 and pull in to the nearest safe place.
With the help of the most wonderful emergency call handler, my husband caught our son, Wilf, in the front seat of our car, seconds after pulling into a supermarket car park. By the time an ambulance arrived, our little boy was out and on my chest, with passers by wondering what on earth was happening. And my poor car looking a little worse for wear!
Despite the paramedics' masks and even Andy’s too, I felt euphoric that our son had arrived safely. At the time, I didn’t even think about the pandemic or risks as we went to the hospital to be checked over. I had told myself to keep calm, and so far I had, so I had to keep it up. At the hospital, we only had contact with two different midwives and thankfully, were home within seven hours.
"Despite all I could have worried about, our experience was so positive, mainly because of the incredible healthcare professionals who took care of us all."
As well as this, I really do believe that luck was on our side – I had a straightforward delivery and a healthy baby. We couldn’t have asked for more really.
If someone would have told me these were the circumstances our second child would be born into the world, I wouldn’t have believed them.
"As someone who worries a lot and equally likes to plan incessantly, this pandemic and life in lockdown has taught me to let go and adapt – something which was so important in labour."
Hannah's tips for expectant parents
Reflecting afterwards, Andy agreed that there are some situations in life where instinct just takes over. He felt this was the case for him when he realised he would be delivering his own son. The power of the mind and body is really quite something.
So, my advice to any expectant couples would be to keep calm. The pandemic is heightening so much anxiety, worry and frustration, and that’s all understandable, but try not to let it consume you.
"Instead, focus on channelling your thoughts to a positive birth."
Being able to adapt is so important. Advice changes as do circumstances and this might mean you won’t get your first choices when it comes to birthing preferences. But if you can be willing to embrace these changes, rather than allow them to be seen as something negative, it will no doubt help you to feel better about what’s ahead.
Think of the positives
Nobody wants to be pregnant in a pandemic, nor do they want to be worried about birth partners not being there or not having visitors. It’s not ideal. But there are some positives. We’ve got a great photo of us in the ambulance, minutes after Wilf was born, and although Andy has a mask on, his smiling eyes are oozing happiness.
I know that in many years to come we will look back on that photo with fond memories and a sense of accomplishment for having a baby in these strange times.
"And while not having visitors at the hospital was difficult, it was also really quite special – just us, in our little bubble, safe and unaware of the next stage of challenges before we headed home and began lockdown as a family a four."
I’ve said a few times, when emotions are running high at home and life seems totally mad, that I’d like to return to our calm little hospital bubble... and that’s something I never thought I’d say.
We'll share more from Hannah over the coming weeks and you can follow her blog on Instagram.
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The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Royal College of Midwives and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have produced information on coronavirus for pregnant women and their families.
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