MY BIRTH STORY – by Helene Tsouloupas

9268ba12-43c5-4c68-aef6-9b24dff7213fPART 1 – The Birth

Twin 1: Agnes Marcelle Coates 5.04lbs

Twin 2: Percy Anthony Coates 5.15lbs

Born on 14th March 2015 by Emergency C-Section

Soon after we found out we were pregnant I had bleeding and had strange pains but the hormone tests and scans confirmed all was ok and we were having twins- their flickering heart beats were going strong. DOUBLE WOW!

We had decided not to find out the sex of our babies.

After the 12 week scan I relaxed into the pregnancy. I was lucky and had a pretty easy pregnancy for twins apart from bad SPD in the final 4 months. For the last two months Twin 1 was presenting and Twin 2 was breech so we were set to go for the natural birth we had wished for. We took Hypnobirthing lessons with a practicing midwife which was amazing. For a person used to being in control, this really helped me to let go. Mikey felt empowered with the knowledge, he was excited to be involved in the birth and the decisions we made during the most important occasion in our lives. We had decided to try and go for a natural birth with as little intervention and only go the epidural route if I asked Mikey three times in a row during labour.

The “Twin” specialist Consultant at St Peters hospital was convinced I would go into labour early. So our hospital bag was packed in my car from 30 weeks. I finished work at 33 weeks hoping I would have a few weeks to enjoy my maternity leave and prepare/rest in time for their arrival. After all the worry I ended up being overdue. At the end of my 36 weeks, I was booked in for three sweeps the following week with a potential Induction day booked in for the Friday.

Monday- At 37 weeks I had my first sweep and was found to be 2 cm dilated. The lovely midwife told me I would most likely to go into labour before the next sweep.

Wednesday- Sweep two, still 2cm and she could feel Twin 1’s shoulders- felt very real of all of sudden. Was told to ‘go home, walk lots and we will be seeing you before Friday’s induction day’

Thursday- Still no labour. We spent the afternoon changing all the names we had decided on. I rearranged all the sheets in the laundry cupboard with labels?!!! ( was convinced there was no way Mikey would know where all the correct sheets/pillow cases were when I will be busy feeding babies in the v.near future….)

Friday- I had slept the best I had done in months. We woke early and the sunrise was pink. I did some yoga and then we calmly made our way to the hospital at about 9am with our birth plan in hand and were booked in by the cheery midwives.

As I was still 2cm dilated and Twin 1 still head down, they decided to skip the pessary and break my waters. Once that was done we were encouraged to go for a walk and have some lunch ‘to get things going’. Remember seeing the daffodils in full bloom-I had told myself through the winter that I only wanted to give birth once the daffs were out as would be over 34 weeks J

The little ones still didn’t want to budge after 2 hours so I was started on the hormone drip to get my surges going. I spent 6 hours in what felt like was one constant surge with a few breaths of respite in between. Used gas and air after a few hours. I thought there was something seriously wrong with the hospital clocks as there wasn’t that lovely moment you see on One Born Every Minute – where you catch your breath and have a snack and sips of water from your partner, it was full on. But the Hypnobirthing was working as the midwife and Mikey couldn’t believe how calm and serene I looked during my surges and I hardly made a noise.

Unfortunately my surges were not regulating and I got to 4 cm and then 4 hours later we asked if I could be re-examined so we could make a decision and I was still at 4cm. I was gutted-after 4 hours of hard work I had got nowhere. Felt deflated. We decided to go for the epidural as we had to look at the long-term plan and didn’t think I could cope with 12 hours of this if there was the chance I wouldn’t dilate further. I was also informed that the epidural would help regulate my surges and get them stronger….we really wanted a natural birth and at this stage we knew this would be the only way to dilate further or be rushed in for an emergency C section. The epidural went in easy and within 20 minutes all was serene and my body was managing 4 strong surges every 10 minutes (so the monitor told us!)

We relaxed throughout the night and slept in-between all the examinations.

Saturday – I got to 7cm in the early hours and I remember thinking they will be here in a few hours and couldn’t wait to push. But then after another examination I still hadn’t progressed past 7cm. The midwives would check every few hours and ask if I had the feeling of wanting to push but I didn’t get past 7cm. My surges had dropped to 2 every 10 minutes and were getting weaker 🙁

The consultant came to speak to us and advised it was time for C – section. We had already got ourselves mentally prepared for this. By this stage we just wanted to meet the little ones and get them safely delivered into the world. I was wheeled in and all was very calm. I was hooked up to my Hypnobirthing music in one ear and all the breathing practice I had done helped to calm me- Mikey stroking my head. Then Agnes was born at 9.55am and came out with huge big cries followed by her brother Percy at 9.56.

We had no CD/music with us, but fluke-ishly ‘Happy’ By Pharrel happened to be on Magic FM for both of their entrances into the world. Was overwhelmed and we both had sparkly eyes from the tears of joy and excitement hitting us. Mikey was handed the little bundles and they then were put on my chest for the 20 minutes or so. Then we were all wheeled back to our room to start skin on skin and breastfeeding. The midwife was amazing and both latched on fairly quickly, Agnes a bit slower as she was that bit smaller.

The surgeon came to see us after the birth to explain that C-section would have been the only option in the end. Our little boys bottom was blocking our little girls entrance into the world-they were lodged which is why I couldn’t dilate further. During a labour with twins I wasn’t able to use the birth pool for pain relief, sit on the ball or sit up and walk around as was strapped to all kinds of monitors so no way of preventing this. His explanation and drawing of their positions made me feel better about the decisions we had made.

Even though, as many mums say: ‘it wasn’t the birth I had planned’ but none of that mattered- what mattered was they were delivered safely and were in my arms regardless. I was floating in a beautiful dream and couldn’t believe this was all happening to us. And that feeling would have been the same whatever the birth journey.

Part 2 – The Hospital and Care

We could choose between St Peters Chertsey and West Mid. We decided to go to St Peters hospital as it was easier for me to visit for all the scans/checkups.

St Peters embrace a ‘prevention is better than cure attitude’ and seem to put a lot of their funding into this area.

I was signed up to all sorts of courses:

Physio in Pregnancy – to avoid injury during and after pregnancy and to prepare your body/give you exercises-2 hour course. But as my SPD was bad my midwife referred me on to another extra class with other SPD sufferers and was assessed by the Physiotherapist and we could buy support bandages after the class. I was then put on another class to learn more exercises and be re-assessed.

Breastfeeding course- 3 hours. I feel I was taught so well during this course so when it was time to feed my little ones I knew exactly what to do. Although personally I feel there could have been more taught on mixed feeding in my opinion, but more on that later……

Twin Course-a 4 week course spending 2 hours once a week in the evening with other parents of multiples due around the same time us. It was run by an experienced and passionate community Midwife. We covered C section birth and natural birth over two evenings. She covered a lot of detail e.g how many people would be in the room for both, where they would stand, we role played a c-section theatre layout. The midwife passed around forceps, vontouse, epidural needles, catheters, strapped us to the double monitor to show how we would feel during a natural birth etc. One of the evenings we met twin parents and got to ask them lots of questions for an hour. Another evening was spent on a tour of the NICU, labour wards, C Section theatre and Ante Natal wards/SCUBU etc to familiarize ourselves.

It was like an NCT- in fact we didn’t need to go to NCT after this as felt confident we knew everything we needed to know to get through a twin birth… left on the last evening thinking BRING IT ON!

The Appointments: for scans I saw the same sonographer nearly each time I visited, we were assigned the Twin consultant and saw his team each time and managed to see him about 5 times leading up to the birth. The midwife that took the Twin course did my sweeps and would try and see me at my monthly/fortnightly visits and would go above and beyond to change appointments if we were stuck. So we had pretty consistent care throughout the pregnancy.

The care we received before during and afterwards was brilliant. During labour the midwives really took on board the hypnobrthing and our birth plan seriously.

Following the births, I spent my first night on the ward which was bonkers-two littles ones, a catheter, a lot of bleeding and had to chart their feeds/poos/ and ensure Agnes was fed every 2 hours as her heal prick indicated she was low on glucose. I manage to get this up after a tiring night juggling babies and feeds/nappy changes. But you just do it, I called for help when things got messy.

The following morning Mikey arrived at 7- pure relief and then we were given our own en-suite room for the next night. We were discharged the following lunchtime when Agnes and Percy were 2 days old when they were happy they were latching on well and Agnes’s levels were normal.

Part 3 – Re-Admitted in SCBU

The only negative experience we had was after we had been discharged-because of our postcode I was then to be under the Community midwife team at West Mid. We got home and started a 3 hour routine. After 24 hours I found the whole thing chaotic and couldn’t remember who had pooed etc and lots of post it notes dotted around the house. So I printed a baby feeding chart from the internet and we used this to record EVERYTHING!!

The Community midwife did not arrive the following day as expected so we called and called. No answer. The following day Agnes looked jaundiced and Percy hadn’t pooed for 48 hours (so the chart told us) so we called again and got through. A midwife arrived within hours, and after Agnes and Percy were weighed we were sent back to hospital with an overnight bag as they had lost 20% birth weight each. This was because my milk hadn’t come in properly till that day and my hospital grade breast pump had arrived a day late L

We were readmitted and myself and the little ones spent 48 hours in SCUBU. Seeing their little bodies naked being assessed was one of the worst things as I felt a failure. After lots of tests both were tube fed for 24 hours and I was on strict routine of feeding every three hours. The charts we had proved we had done everything perfectly it was just they were feeding but my milk was slow between leaving hospital and seeing a midwife 1 day late. My milk started flowing well and in two days they had regained enough weight for us to go home.

We ended up seeing our time in SCBU as a crash course in feeding babies. We learnt so much and ended up continuing the routine and felt confident mix feeding. So what began as a devastating negative feeling of failure, ended up being a positive learning experience.

What would I have done differently?

Stayed an extra night in hospital until my milk had come in properly, we were given the option but simply wanted to get home!

Wish I had ordered my hospital grade breast pump the moment I went into hospital so it waiting for me at home.

Should have printed the feeding/nappy charts before the birth. I gave them to the Midwife who runs the twin course so they are handed to all multiple parents that attend the course now.

Insisted with the phone the first day home and got a midwife around on the correct day.