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William’s Birth Story

Written by Emily (William's mum)

As I write this I’m sat at home cradling my beautiful son, William. It’s hard to believe he’s healthy, home and fitting in newborn sized clothes! Our route here is not quite what we expected and has been rather complex and we’ve many to thank for helping us get here!

All going swimmingly at 31 weeks….? Up to this point in my pregnancy all had been well, and the previous day my husband and I had attended Tacita’s hypnobirthing course. We came away feeling excited and prepared for the birth of our son in the coming months. The following morning I noticed William wasn’t kicking as usual, it got to lunchtime and after focusing on feeling his movements and drinking some cold drinks I was still concerned. After ringing the maternity hospital we went in to get everything checked out and we were relived when the midwives detected a normal heartbeat. They explained the change in fetal movements was likely due to a change in position. They’d already managed to squeeze us in for a doppler ultrasound late that afternoon to check growth and blood flow so we went along to be on the safe side. The sonographer explained that our baby was small, concerningly small and asked we await a consultant to see us.

The consultant came to speak to us early evening and explained our baby was very small and that the blood flow was abnormal, indicating a severe intrauterine growth restriction where William was prioritising blood flow from the placenta to his brain to compensate for a suboptimal supply of nutrients. The consultant explained that we would have a premature baby and a caesarean delivery but that keeping him in and having close monitoring was the best approach for the current situation. The nurses came in with a wristband, swabbed me and I became an inpatient that evening. They showed me to my bed and injected me with dexamethasone to help William’s lungs develop more quickly. Needless to say, we were very worried and in complete shock!

My stay in hospital The following 17 days in hospital were a blur - I had to drop everything at work, live out of bags, combat a terrible cold and face the uncertainty of when our son would be born and whether he would be healthy. I had CTGs (a method of monitoring continuous fetal heart rate) and observations checked regularly with nighttime waking; the CTGs would run until they ‘met criteria’ taking from 15 minutes to 3 hours each time. The highlight of these was being able to hear and see William’s heartbeat and his hiccups!

My husband and I are both scientists and we soon found ourselves becoming immersed in scientific literature outlining fetal growth restrictions and how to interpret CTG readings, and doppler ultrasounds. We were getting persistent decelerations in William’s heart rate, sometimes it would bounce back and other times it would stay low. On four occasions the midwives sounded an emergency and rushed me off to the delivery unit, but after close monitoring and discussing with the various on-call consultants these decelerations were not too concerning to warrant delivery…just yet.

William’s birthday On 29th December, following another Doppler scan we were advised that William’s amniotic fluid level was getting dangerously low and an emergency caesarean was needed - he was delivered that evening after an infusion of magnesium sulphate to help protect him during delivery. Note to anyone needing magnesium sulphate - bring ice packs and a fan! It was during the caesarean that my weeks of practicing hypnobirthing techniques particularly helped. I was nervous about the spinal anaesthesia and worried about William. As I walked into theatre there were so many healthcare professionals there to greet me, beaming with smiles and I felt “now is the right time, we’re doing the right thing”. During the caesarean I focused on my husband and my breathing to keep calm, I visualised happy places and it all worked incredibly well. I felt like the surgeons were washing up in my body but I was pain free and everyone was so calm and in control - including me! Soon enough I could hear William crying as he was born and after a few minutes of him being checked over by the neonatal team they brought him to me whilst I was being stitched back together. They laid William on my chest momentarily before placing him in an incubator and taking him off to NICU. I was overcome with relief, joy and surprise at how healthy he seemed despite being 2lb 12oz and 33+3 weeks!

William’s stay in hospital The following few days were tough, William had to stay in NICU and I was barely mobile whilst recovering from the caesarean on a separate ward. William was doing incredibly well in his little incubator and besides being very small he was in good shape. I was expressing colostrum for my husband to take to NICU and slowly my milk came in, after some trouble expressing and engorgement. The feeding team in NICU were really helpful and we slowly established my supply and expressing schedule so that William could be solely fed breast milk via his nasogastric tube.

After one month in NICU, the place became home whilst I spent my waking days there. William was getting bigger and stronger, he was moved from his incubator to a heated cot and was waking when hungry. The day he latched was incredible, he was feeding directly from me finally! After a few days of staying overnight in the hospital to establish breastfeeding in conjunction with nasogastric feeds William was discharged home. My husband and I finally got to see William without our face masks on and kiss his little head - we finally felt like parents!

Home at last! After a few weeks home with regular visits from the incredibly helpful NICU community team to monitor feeding and growth, William’s nasogastric tube was removed! We finally got to see his face without a tube taped to one side.

William is now 12 weeks old (5 weeks corrected) and weighs a whopping 7.5lbs! We’re so so proud of our super strong little guy! This was a long, drawn out labour albeit a very different one!

Although our journey to parenthood hasn’t been the smoothest and certainly not as planned we felt calm and empowered to make our own decisions throughout each twist and turn. Hypnobirthing techniques and Tacita’s support played a huge part in making us feel that way - thank you! Emily, Sam and baby William

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