‘My decision to have a home birth was an easy one really. I hate hospital and anything remotely medical and I have in the past suffered with anxiety. Home is my safe space. I knew I wanted a water birth, so I set to work doing a lot of research on home birth. I felt it was really important to be armed with a lot of information if I was going to bring our baby into the world at home. I spent a lot of time reading up on the pro’s and con’s reading statistics on when things go wrong and equally when things go right. I researched what my body would be doing whilst giving birth and took part in an online hypnobirthing class. 

Remmi Rose Mitchel 5lb 14oz born at 37 plus 1 on the 21st October at 5.15pm

Saturday night on October the 20th on the eve of my baby shower around 8pm I started feeling a bit odd. I couldn’t really put my finger on it, but I just felt unsettled and a bit sicky. I didn’t eat my dinner which was probably the first time I had skipped a meal since morning sickness. I went to bed but couldn’t sleep, I came back downstairs and bounced on my birthing ball until 1.00am. I went back to bed and finally drifted off at around 1.30am. I woke to my waters breaking in bed at 2.45am which was quite amusing as I was wearing my partners boxer shorts as they were now he only thing that fitted me at night. I started shaking with Adrenalin….Oh my goodness this is it. All the yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, hypnobirthing and research had brought me here. It was time to deliver our baby and put all that I had learned into practise. 

I phoned my doula and she instantly put me at ease. We chatted on the phone for a while, she reassured me and told me to call her when I was ready for her to come over. I started bouncing on my ball again at around 3.30am and contractions started, I used my up breathing and tens machine to manage my contractions. I was bouncing on my ball and very randomly tapping my foot hard on the floor with every contraction, the tapping of my foot counteracted the pain and although looked strange worked really well. The community midwife arrived at about 7.30 am and went over my birth plan. My birth plan must have been every midwives worst nightmare. No vaginal examination (VE), no coached pushing, no episiotomy, no stitches (where possible) She offered me a VE and I politely declined. 

I stayed on my ball until around 11am when my partner then filled the pool.  I was offered a VE again before I got in the pool, but I declined again. She did however suggest later down the line if I felt comfortable to do one on myself to see if I could feel babies head during a contraction. This was a fab suggestion and highly recommend if you have anxiety about VE’s or being touched. 

Contractions ramped up in the pool and it was time to start down breathing and really going with my body. I could feel the change in contractions and visualised her head coming down. When I started to push, I asked for some gas and air. After pushing for what felt like some time (and second midwife now turned up) Remmi’s head was just bobbing in my cervix and going back up. At this point the midwives asked me to get out the pool to try some alternative positions. I was lied on my side with one leg in the air, this worked better but just couldn’t get her head to crown, it was right there! A third midwife turned up and she was a force to be reckoned with. “Kate we have got to get this baby out now push with everything you’ve got girl” I could hear the midwives starting to talk about transfer as they felt I was getting tired (Remmi’s heart rate was absolutely fine and I knew I had more fuel in the tank) I used my BRAIN and asked for some more time. We switched positions again to a deep squat. After a lot of whaling and giving it all I’d got her head crowned just as the word’s episiotomy left the midwives lips.

I got away with a small 1st degree tear which I asked to just be left to heal naturally. My home birth was just incredible. Everything I could have asked for. The midwives were so respectful of my wishes even when the going got tough. If I had been in hospital, there is no doubt that it would have resulted in an instrumental delivery. 

Giving birth is without doubt the most empowering thing I have ever done. At no point did I feel panicked, rushed or out of control of what was happening. Remmi’s birth was calm even towards the end when we needed to get her out.
I’m so grateful to the homebirth team for giving me the birth I had always dreamed of.’

Working towards Better Births Together

‘Over 12,000 babies are born in Devon every year, but if you consider mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents and health professionals all play a big part in a baby being born – bringing together experience, expectation, anticipation and excitement.

It’s important that people have the opportunity to share their experiences, so that we continually learn from those.

What we have heard through the Better Births work gives us a great starting point and we will continue to build on this by encouraging more people to share their experiences through the Devon Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP)’.

Charlotte Burrows, Chair
Devon Maternity Voices Partnerships (MVP)

What is Better Births Together?

Over the summer of 2018, the Local Maternity System (LMS) in Devon – consisting of NHS and health care organisations – undertook 8 weeks of intensive engagement to gather the thoughts, experiences, and views of parents and families about births in Devon. The engagement ran from 19 May – 14 July 2018. 2,267 people gave their feedback, and this has already started to help shape the priorities for maternity services in Devon.

During the engagement, we explored the recommendations of NHS England’s Better Births review. This national review focuses on personalised care, continuity of carer (i.e. seeing the same health professionals), postnatal and perinatal mental health care, digital medical records and the wider planning of maternity services.
Before developing the maternity transformation and implementation plan around these.

Better Births in numbers
• 12,500 births per year in Devon
• 1,370 people completed an online survey
• 29 focus groups were held across Devon
• 78 children’s centre events were attended over 8 weeks – reaching 324 people
• 438 engagements on the dedicated ‘Better Births in Devon’ Facebook page (use insights on most talked about topics)
• Involved over 60 children’s centres and voluntary groups across Devon
• Over 300 people registered their interest in being further involved in the development of maternity services

Some of the recommendations from families included:

  • More shared decision-making and better communication between families and health professionals
  • Consistent information is needed regarding safety, this is a big part of the decision-making process for families when deciding where to have their baby
  • Post birth support when a birth has not gone to plan
  • Many other recommendations came out of the engagement and they will be available in the final Better Births in Devon engagement report, which is due to be published and shared in April 2019.

Snap Shot: What did people say?
“Health services need to listen to mums more and know the mothers birthing history. My other children were born quickly too”.

“The demand on the service is huge and it’s clear for everyone to see when they are on the ward post-delivery”.
“NHS Services saved my life. My placenta got stuck and I had five days of slow labour”.

How you can get involved, to help shape maternity services in Devon

Join Devon Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP)

A collective of parents (and parents to be) and organisations who support maternity services (health professionals, charities, Healthwatch, non-health professionals) working together to review and contribute to the development of local maternity care across Devon.

There are different ways of participating depending on your interests and available time:
•  Share your experiences and attend future events
•  Join and represent women and families on the Devon MVP. The first meeting will be held on the 15 May 10am-12 contact Charlotte for information
•  Collect maternity stories and recommendations which we can feedback on your behalf.
•  Host a local gathering. We want views from the different geographies of Devon (this could be through an existing group you already attend e.g. a baby group, or perhaps you have an idea for your own gathering)
•  Champion a particular aspect of maternity services. Perhaps you are passionate about homebirths, or as a dad you are interested in support for fathers. If you feel strongly about a particular element of maternity services and are interested in getting others involved in this topic we would love to hear from you.
•  Be involved in maternity service quality improvement initiatives, for example, a ‘Walk the Patch’ in your local maternity unit.

For more information about Devon MVP call Charlotte Burrows on 07943 861 420
email: charlotte@devonmaternityvoices.org.uk
Twitter – @devonmaternity
Facebook – Better Births in Devon
Visit – https://www.devoncommunities.org.uk/devon-maternity-voices-partnership






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