My #firstday as a mother or "how I nearly died but didn't"

It was almost 20 years ago but each painful, exciting, scary step of my labour and the subsequent delivery is etched in my brain like it was yesterday.

mother and son copyright
Me and my first "baby"
 I woke in the early hours, a week "overdue" and discovered I was lying in a small damp patch - about the size of a rich tea biscuit. Only a heavily pregnant woman or one who has had children can appreciate my next sentence- I sniffed the patch to see if it was wee!

Hmm. Not sure. Still sitting up in bed I reached for "what to expect when you are expecting" and read up on mystery damp patches. Advice was it may be that your waters are about to go -check with your midwife.

Oh I can't tell you how excited I was. I reached for my notes (also by my bed for late night perusal) and the phone and rang the delivery suite. It was 1am. A tired-sounding midwife yawned and told me to stick a pad in my knickers and ring back an hour later if it got damp - then I could bring it in and test to see if it was urine or amniotic fluid.

I got out of bed (finally) and as I straightened up I flooded my legs, nightie and the floor. Ok. Not wee then. Rang back the midwife who said to take my time, no rush, no contractions as yet so just waddle in at my leisure.

So I raced around, washed my hair, checked my hospital bag for the 4 millionth time pausing to coo again over my tiny babygros which I had washed in non-bio powder and ironed (ha!) ready for my bundle of joy. Made my husband a packed lunch. No really, I did. It said to do so in "What to expect" so I did so he wouldn't have to leave me to get food during my labour. You know, the labour where I would start off with my TENS machine and some calming music then move into the water (I had been on a course and everything!) to ease the labour pains (described as like period pains only slightly worse by a well-meaning lying cow  friend.) All the time with my husband by my side massaging my back and speaking soothing words of love.

What actually happened. Admitted. Husband sent home. Night of pain not helped by irritating TENS machine with wandering pads. Not helped by the fact I was rooming with a mother having her 6th who spent the night giving me a rather more realistic account of what was to come. Thanks for that love.

Husband back, Midwife check - 1cm. Argh! Repeat this every few hours. Hated the water - every time I had a contraction I felt like I was drowning. Probably because I don't even like swimming so why on earth I thought I'd find a water birth relaxing I don't know!

Jump to about 7pm. Starving! Attached to everything but the machine which went ping including a scalp monitor for baby whose heartbeat was dipping dramatically......

Cue serious people in scrubs mentioning the C word. Midwife trying to cheer me up showed the next shift of midwives my original birth plan with now embarrassing insistence of limited medical intervention written probably while I was listening to whale calls. (Yep - I bought that CD) Oh how we all laughed!

DS#5 whose life was saved by a team of midwifes
and doctors who treated him for  premature baby syndrome.
He needed ventilating and surfactant
and was in an intensive care incubator for over a week.
Everyone left me to prepare for my op. Husband took the opportunity to eat his packed lunch. I suddenly realised post section I wouldn't be able to eat for another 24 hours (that was the rule back then) so pinched his Mars Bar.  Which given that they had just given me pre-op meds was not a great idea.

I was raced down the corridor vomiting over the side of the trolley and terrified by now as everyone looked worried about me and baby. Stripped, epidual topped up to max numbing power, sheets up and my anxious DH was ushered to my head. He bent down and whispered... words of reassurance? Love? Nope - he asked me if I thought he was supposed to keep his pants on under the scrubs. How the F should I know?

I remember tugging, more vomiting and frowning medical staff until-waaaaaa! Sighs of relief all round as Jacob Thomas Kingsley Willmore finally emerged alive and kicking.

A midwife told me afterwards we were both lucky to survive - a generation or so before or in fact in other parts of the world my husband would have been planning a double funeral.

And sadly that is true -Save The Children today launches a new campaign #firstday to make sure that more women globally have a happy ending like me.
 It breaks my heart to see statistics like this:

Every year 2.9 million babies die in their first month. Their tiny airways get blocked, the delivery is obstructed or they are exposed to infections or hypothermia.
Newborn deaths now account for nearly half of all under-five deaths.

"One Born Every Minute" midwife Gemma in Liberia where conditions are
very basic and women often give birth alone.

Luckily we can all help to change this. Most of these deaths are preventable, with the help of a trained and equipped midwife along with basic medicines such as antiseptics and antibiotics, vital equipment and a clean environment to work in- all things we kinda take for granted here in the UK. Yes, our midwives are stretched and stressed but on the whole we have access throughout our pregnancies and birth.

Save The Children say all it takes is political will from governments around the world to provide the funds to train up and equip midwives.

The world has made amazing progress in saving children’s lives over the past two decades thanks to global action on vaccines, family planning and treatment of childhood illness, the number of children who die each year has dropped from 12.6 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012. 

But really, that isn’t enough – not while 2.9 million babies a year never reach their second month of life. Lack of political focus on newborn deaths is blocking us from being the generation to stop all preventable child deaths.

 2014 gives us a unique opportunity to make change happen: For the first time ever, countries and institutions around the world will sit down to agree the Every Newborn Action Plan. Save The Children say we need to ensure world leaders take action on this and know the world is calling for them to do so. 

So think back to your #firstday as a parent, an auntie or uncle, or as you celebrated the birth of a baby to someone else close to you and think, for instance, of the women in Liberia who may give birth in the dark, alone, on the side of the road. Of the babies who die because they don't have clean water or antiseptic gel to clean up their tiny belly buttons. Of the mothers who die because they have retained a teeny tiny bit of placenta - easily picked up and treated with access to basic healthcare facilities, trained staff and when necessary antibiotics.

 Save The Children launch their #firstday campaign today with two aims:
  • To save the lives of 2 million newborn babies a year
  • To ensure that every baby is born with the support of a trained and equipped midwife
 How can YOU help?

Sign the petition to ask David Cameron to put a global plan into action in 2014 that will ensure every baby is born with the life-saving help of a trained and equipped midwife and use his influence to get world leaders to do the same.

Text a donation: a donation of £3, the price of a cup of coffee, could save 10 newborn lives by buying 10 tubes of antiseptic cream. Text COFFEE to 70090 or click here to donate.

Look back through my birth story. Look how many times a midwife was involved in my story. And lets make that the case for more new mums worldwide. Let make every #firstday a happy one.

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