'I Never Wanted A Hospital Birth. Here's How I Made It A Positive Experience'

Birth Diaries: Covid-19 has turned many women's birth plans completely on their head.

In HuffPost Birth Diaries we hear the extraordinary stories of the everyday miracle of birth. This week, Louise Tully shares her story. If you’d like to share yours, email amy.packham@huffpost.com.

The risk of catching coronavirus while pregnant hadn’t been a huge worry of mine. I was more concerned that I was no longer able to have a home birth.

That was all I’d planned for but the lockdown was the beginning of recognising my dream birth was going to be turned on its head. I’d done all the reading and everything, and in one fail swoop, it was gone. We were told we couldn’t have a water birth either, as they were intending to reserve that area for pregnant women with Covid-19 – although no one was actually in there.

I didn’t go into labour naturally. I’d gone in for a scan where they predicted my daughter would be over 10 pounds – but also saw I high blood pressure so they kept me in, and found out I had pre-eclampsia. By then I was 39 weeks, so they advised me to have a C-section or be induced. I chose the latter. I went home for the night to pack my bag and headed back in on Saturday morning.

My partner couldn’t be there until I was in fully established labour so I was alone – it was strange saying bye to him and getting dropped off, having no idea when I’d see him again. I had no idea how long it would be. How long is a piece of string?

The process for induction takes ages: a pessary for 24 hours, a second one for six hours, a third one for six hours, and hopefully by then, I was told, my waters would’ve broken.

It was a chilled environment in the ward. There were three of us women, all who had been induced, all bobbing about on our birthing balls. And there was me lunging across the ward, trying to bring labour on that way, too. We were allowed baths and showers to help us relax, and the staff looked after us so well. In fact, the whole process was better than I’d anticipated.

I’d come prepared for sure, with headphones, series downloaded onto my tablet to watch Netflix, and music. I had lots of video calls from my partner and family, too – and the food in the hospital was excellent! Apple cake for dessert, always topped up with tea. It really made the experience pleasant.

As women, we really bonded in that room (so much so, we’ve since added each other on Facebook). We were with each other for what felt like a long period of time: all the pessaries, toilet trips, whenever something happened. The bond was amazing, it kept the atmosphere light, as we chit-chatted away through our labours – discussing each other’s lives.

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My waters broke naturally on the antenatal ward, but my daughter pooed internally, so I was moved quickly for monitoring, then taken to the delivery suite where I finally got to see my partner again, which was a huge relief.

Because of the situation, I was plugged into loads of stuff – a drip to encourage contractions, a cannula because I kept throwing up, a trace on my belly to monitor the baby.

Every time I went to the loo it was like I was being unplugged!

On the delivery suite, my midwife Caroline respected all my initial birth plan requests. She darkened the room, used an infuser with essential oils and wiped my back with a cold flannel to keep me cool. I eventually had an epidural.

My anaesthetist was hilarious. As he walked in to start the process, he said: “How’s the lavender working out for your pain relief?!” I cracked up laughing. It was well-timed and lightened the mood.

My cervix dilated a little but made no progress. And when I started pushing, things weren’t budging either, so I consented to a forceps delivery and a C-section if things weren’t moving.

But on the way from the delivery suite to the theatre, my daughter moved down quickly. Two tugs with the forceps and she was out. “She’s here!” I kept repeating. “She’s finally here!”

I don’t think you really believe a baby is coming out of you that first time. It’s surreal, so surreal. I remember her big bottom lip poking out and hearing her cry out. I’ll never forget it. She was put straight on my chest, while they checked me over and repaired me. And we had more skin-to-skin back in our room – it was perfect.

I felt so looked after during my birth. The birth felt medicalised, but the care was so good, I really did try and treat it like a spa! I felt informed when they presented me with choices; I chose an epidural, I consented to a forceps delivery and episiotomy. And it was much better than how I thought it was going to be – in fact, I felt empowered.

My birth advice?

Try and be informed, so you feel like an active decision maker in your care – that transformed the experience for me. You feel like you’ve chosen the course of your delivery. Oh, and pack a good bag so you don’t get bored!