Our Birth Story: Part Two – Labour/Birth

Following on from ‘Our Birth Story: Part One – Induction,’ we’re so excited to share part 2 of our story with you all! This blog post will take you through our labour and birth, what happened and why. Then in the next blog post, we’ll introduce our little one (for those who haven’t seen our little one on our Instagram already) and what happened next. 

For now, let’s take you through our labour and birth journey! 

0300 Friday 20th August 2021

At 0300, Sarah, who was looking after us, checked my progress and excitedly announced that I was 4cm dilated and officially in labour. Considering that my cervix was still very much closed at midnight, most of the team on the labour ward couldn’t believe the quick progress. Thankfully, my epidural, which was fitted the evening before, was working brilliantly at keeping the headaches at bay, with them only resurfacing around the 10-minute mark, which was when I could press the magic button for more pain relief. 

With dad being my second birth partner, he and Alex decided to go and get some fresh air to keep themselves awake whilst I tried to get as much rest as I could whilst my body was doing its thing. Since the headaches first really kicked off in the early hours of Thursday morning, I hadn’t been able to sleep much, so I needed to get as much shut-eye as possible. With the headache resurfacing every 10 minutes, however, that wasn’t easy. We also had a problem in that little one’s heart rate dropped with every contraction, thankfully recovering each time. Dad and Alex returned, and whilst Alex managed to stay awake, it was a different story for my dad, who fell asleep bless him! 

At 0500, Sarah rechecked me to see how dilated I now was, realising I was 9cm dilated! We now knew that it would be a fast labour and that the big moment was upon us! The doctors came in to recheck the CTG, and as our little one was still dropping heart rate with each contraction, they decided that I needed to be rechecked in an hour. I decided to continue getting as much rest as I could on Sarah’s advice, although the epidural was beginning to not work as well as it had, which made resting difficult. 

0600

Finally, the magic 10cm had been reached! From here on in, things went very quickly. Half dazed, all I remember was hearing the word theatre and panicking that the doctors would switch to c-section last minute. One of the doctors came to speak with us about the plan now and decided that a trial of forceps would be done in theatre so that the doctors could quickly switch to a c-section delivery if need be. We knew the birth itself would be difficult as I wouldn’t be able to push, but with little ones CTG still showing decelerations, letting my body do its thing was no longer an option; it had done all it could. Whilst I was disappointed that I couldn’t continue letting my body do its thing, I knew that our little one needed some help getting out and making it safely into the world. 

At 0615, I was wheeled down to theatre with Alex in tow while dad stayed in our room on the labour ward. The whole time I was praying that my hips wouldn’t dislocate so that it would only be forceps and not a switch to c-section, which had my hips dislocated would have ended up being the case. We arrived in theatre and was introduced to the theatre team before they completed the various checklists. Luckily, my consultant’s extremely detailed delivery plan included suggested positions to make sure my hips stayed aligned, meaning that they didn’t dislocate! Then, with a more potent anaesthetic popped into my epidural, it was time to get this baby out! 

All I could do to assist the team was focus on my breathing and try to use my top two abs to help push down (those are the last muscles I have voluntary control over). Paige, who was taking over from Sarah, arrived and together, they told me when to take a breath in and when to breathe out, timing my breathing with the contractions. Alex later told me that the doctor pulling our little one out with the forceps had to use all their strength, so I’m not sure how much my breathing helped! 

0710 and 6 contractions later, our baby’s head was born! After some delayed cord clamping, which was one of the main things I wanted along with skin to skin as soon as possible, we got to meet our little miracle and fighter at 0714! All in all, my total labour was 4 hours and 15 minutes – pretty quick, all things considered! 

In the next blog post, you can meet our little one and find out what happened after the birth, including why our little fighter had to spend some time in NICU and later on transitional care. 

Our Birth Story: Part One – Induction

Finally, the time has come for us to share our baby’s birth story! After our baby was born on 20th August 2021, we thought it would be nice to share our birth story and what happened. As it’s pretty lengthy, we’ve split it into two parts – induction up to labour in part one and labour/birth in part two. We hope that sharing our story will help those of you who are giving birth in similar circumstances.

Wednesday 18th August 2021

After nearly three weeks of being in hospital (bar home leave to sort out the last few bits between CTG monitorings), the day had finally arrived to induce labour and meet our little miracle. Although this date had been the planned date for the last four weeks of my pregnancy, getting there wasn’t guaranteed, especially after finding out about the fetal growth restriction and the low baseline heart rate that would often get picked up on overnight CTG monitorings. 

At 0830, the midwives who we’d gotten to know very well in the final few weeks came to transfer us over to the delivery suite. Unlike most people who have their inductions started on the antenatal ward, my consultant wanted me on delivery suite to keep a closer eye on me because of my risk factors. We were fortunate that because everything had been well planned out in the weeks leading up to induction day, we had the largest room in delivery suite, which is usually reserved for multiple births. It meant that I had room to move around in my wheelchair, even with all of our bits and pieces. 

A few minutes after arriving in our room, my consultant and the team on the delivery suite with her that day came to say hello, discuss the plan and see if we had any questions. After we discussed the plan and exchanged a few jokes about the size of my suitcase (a great mood lightener which helped put my nervousness at ease), we were left to get settled in. About an hour later, the midwife looking after me for the day came in to examine me and start the induction! 

As my cervix wasn’t entirely favourable, our induction was started with a Propess pessary which was left in for 24 hours. Alex and I spent the rest of Wednesday morning watching Netflix. Later in the day, dad arrived, so we decided to go outside and get some much-needed fresh air before they went home.

Thursday 19th August

At around 0330 on Thursday, the contractions I’d been having for weeks beforehand were finally strong enough to trigger my headaches. The problem with this, however, was that my blood pressure also became spiked. Thankfully paracetamol took the edge off a bit for a couple of hours until it stopped doing anything. 

Come 0900, the contractions were getting stronger but still not regular. The team looking after us for Thursday came to introduce themselves and discuss seeing if the Propess had done anything. At 1030 we had another monitoring done before the pessary was removed. Although it had softened my cervix, we still weren’t in a position for my waters to be broken, so it was time to try the gel! The gel went in around 1100, meaning we’d be checked at 1700 to check progress. 

By lunchtime, the headaches had really ramped up, and nothing was working. Alex had to help me transfer when I needed to catheterise as the pain was triggering my spasms and making transfers nearly impossible. Eventually, at around 1500, the team asked me if I wanted to try an epidural and set the wheels in motion to get it set up. Anaesthetics were called to discuss when to start it. As my waters hadn’t been broken, they were worried it may be in for too long if they were to do it at that point, so instead, they inserted a cannula to try and push IV paracetamol through in an attempt to take the edge off. Unfortunately, due to poor veins on my right side, it took the anaesthetist 3 tries to get the cannula sited. 

1700 soon came, and it was time to check my progress. Alex had gone home for a few hours around 1600 and joked that it looked like I’d peed myself; knowing that it would take a lot of retention for that to happen, I told him that was highly unlikely. Well, you can guess what it actually was that Alex saw – my waters! Somewhere between 1500 and 1700, they’d decided to go on their own. This was great news in that my epidural could be started. However, it also meant my IV antibiotics needed to be started as well. The team of midwives I’m under for my care were called, and Sarah arrived soon after. 

Sarah jumped into action when realising my antibiotics to cover us for the Group B Strep infection I was found to have hadn’t been started. It turned out that most of the team on the labour ward that day hadn’t realised I’m Group B Strep positive on top of all the other things they needed to know about me, so Sarah made sure they were brought up to speed. Around this time, the anaesthetics team came to put in the epidural, which thankfully went in without too much trouble, providing much-needed relief from the headaches. 

Alex arrived back just after the epidural was sited, and then it was time to get the oxytocin drip in that would make contractions more regular! The drip was started around 2130, and at this point, my cervix was still very much closed, so we knew it would be a slog – or so we thought! 

Fast forward to midnight and another check, we were still closed. But at 0300 on the 20th August 2021, the unexpected happened. We were 4cm dilated and officially in labour! 

Find out tomorrow in part two for what happened during labour and birth! 

Navigating Pregnancy When One Of You Is Intersex And The Other Is Trans

Firstly, Happy Pride! June happens to be our favourite month of the year, not only because it’s pride month, but our anniversary also happens to be today! Yes, we got together on the 28th of June, the same day as the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. For the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s the month where we celebrate how far we’ve come thanks to those who came before us, but at the same time raise awareness that there is still much more to be done. Even in 2021, the world isn’t a safe place for everyone, especially when there are still countries in the world where being your true authentic self is dangerous. There’s also those in power who keep trying to take away our community’s basic rights, rights our elders fought for.

2021 for us is special though, it’s the year that we become parents and a family of 3. But being LGBTQIA+ parents is far from easy. The journey to parenthood has been tough on us both. There have been moments of heartbreak with repeated miscarriages, and the system itself is full of red tape and discrimination. In addition, it’s been exhausting having to deal with people who don’t understand what we’ve been through, which is why for us, it’s so important that we’re visible, not only to challenge the outdated views and myths that you can’t have children if you’re intersex or transgender, but also to provide hope to other LGBTQIA+ people who want to become parents themselves. This year, we’re honoured to be part of The Positive Birth Company’s #ProudParent campaign, sharing our story alongside some other amazing LGBTQIA+ parents and parents-to-be, and you can read all the stories here.

Being LGBTQIA+ in a maternity/pregnancy care environment throws a whole host of emotions at you. So often misunderstood, Alex and I were extremely guarded and protective of each other until I met my community midwife, who, with her compassion, empathy, and determination to get it right, broke down every single barrier in the space of two hours. Unfortunately, she left when I was 16 weeks, but our new midwife is just as caring and empathetic, and it’s meant that we’ve felt welcomed, included but above all, safe. How did they manage it? By asking open-ended questions, not making assumptions, and giving us the time and safe space we needed to open up. It takes a lot to trust someone in the medical profession when you’ve been subjected to medical trauma in the past.

For me, my medical trauma started as a young child. Put on hormones at just 9 years old because my body didn’t ‘conform’ to the not so lovely little tick box that doctors have. I struggled with body image, being bullied and even comments from some family members regarding me being on hormone replacement therapy. When I moved in permanently with gran at 14, one of the first things she did was attempt to get me off the hormone tablets that I didn’t want to be on. We went to the doctors, only to be told that it was in my ‘best interests’ to stay on them despite horrific side effects, mood swings and further down the line, a blood clot. Intersex kids are seen as medical emergencies, our bodies over-medicalised and decisions on surgeries, hormones etc., made before we’re even old enough to voice our own opinions.

For Alex, on the other hand, it was a case of not being believed by healthcare professionals. When Alex first went to ask his GP to refer him to the GIC, he was told he needed therapy instead (he didn’t). That wasn’t the only issue; once the GP finally did the referral, rather than changing gender markers and details on his record, they completely deleted his old NHS record and set up a new one. It meant that vital medical history was deleted, putting Alex at risk, and even now, any medical problem he has is often blamed on his hormones rather than actually investigated. It’s resulted in Alex becoming so guarded that we’ve often gone to walk-in for medical attention instead of the GP. The only time he now goes to the doctors is for blood tests and testosterone shots, as these are handled by the nurses with who he has a better experience.

We had this conversation about our struggles with healthcare professionals a while back, and a few things became super clear. Firstly, those who stop trans people from accessing the healthcare and referrals they need are often the same ones dishing out hormones to intersex kids causing irreparable damage. Secondly, those in power trying to restrict trans healthcare are often the same ones who allow doctors to perform cosmetic surgeries on intersex kids before they’ve even been able to voice their opinion. Not only is it hypocrisy at its finest, but it’s a massive issue because cosmetic surgeries on intersex kids are irreversible and come with lifelong consequences, especially when they’re performed before the child has even had a chance to explore their identity and tell the world who they are.

Back to our journey to parenthood, and as you can probably already tell, my decision to be the gestational parent wasn’t an easy one. Alex would never even contemplate carrying, so we knew straight away that if we were going to do this, it would be me doing the carrying. So naturally, I felt excited but nervous because of my past experiences. However, I found focusing on the end and having our bundle of joy helped me through the appointments and hormone courses.

What no one prepares you for, however, is the heartbreak of pregnancy loss. The one in 2019 shattered me, and my mental health took a massive hit. It’s difficult enough to deal with miscarriage alone, I was away with work at the time, and Alex was working as well, so he couldn’t come on this trip with me. No one on the trip knew I was pregnant. We’d all been at pride the day before, and my excuse for not drinking was that I was on antibiotics at the time. Not a complete lie, as I actually was! But it meant that when I realised I was miscarrying just before boarding the flight, I didn’t feel able to tell any of them. I took the flight, got to the hotel, checked in and then made an excuse as to why I wouldn’t go shopping before making my way to the hospital. From there, it was confirmed that I was miscarrying. I had Alex on the phone in a panic and feeling guilty that I was going through it alone, but nothing could’ve prepared me for the lack of empathy and support from one of the nursing staff. When they looked through my notes, realised I’m intersex and had repeated miscarriages, they took it on themselves to tell me that they were surprised I’d even gotten pregnant in the first place and that Alex and I should look at other options. Anyone who’s suffered miscarriage or baby loss will know that it destroys you inside. To have that comment thrown in the mix sent me to an extremely dark place. It was the very thing that caused both Alex and I to become guarded about what we shared and whom we shared it with regarding maternity care after breaking down the walls we’d previously had built up from our individual experiences with healthcare professionals.

Back to now, and to be so close to meeting our baby fills us with joy, hope and a sense of achievement. Joy because we knew that one day, we would become parents; it was something we’d spoken about early on. It was just a case of when would be the right time not only work-wise but also allowing a new team of healthcare professionals into our lives when we’d both had previous bad experiences. Hope for the future, that the world is a more welcoming place and more progress is made, so that future generations don’t have the same struggles that we do now. Finally, a sense of achievement in that my body isn’t a failure, and we’ve proven the person who made that shocking comment almost two years ago wrong. Being intersex or transgender doesn’t exclude you from becoming a parent; we’re living proof of that fact along with many others.