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I gave birth in a midwife-led unit: Heather's story

Wanting better aftercare, this M&B reader decided to use a midwife-led unit.

Heather Dunkley, 34, a primary teacher, lives in Leicester with husband Ben, 34, and daughters Grace, two, and Hannah, seven months

I was naïve after I had my first baby 

Having been discharged after just five hours, I struggled to breastfeed and felt isolated at home. On day three I started feeling fluey, which the midwife put down to a bug. On day 10 I was rushed to A&E and diagnosed with an infection on the lining on my womb. 

“The mums raved about their comfortable stays in the days after birth and the breastfeeding support”

Second time around, I researched where I could get better aftercare

Chatting to mums in my area, I heard about a local midwife-led unit. The mums raved about their comfortable stays in the days after birth and the breastfeeding support. I knew that was the best place for me. 

My labour began slowly

I had been feeling ‘tightenings’ in my bump for days. Then, eight days before my due date, I started having contractions every 10 minutes. At 2am the next morning, an intense contraction woke me. 

I was desperate to go to the MLU 

I paced around and breathed deeply. Ben phoned my mum to look after Grace, and called the midwife. I was advised to stay at home. My waters hadn’t broken but after a couple of painful hours at home, I called to say we were on our way. 

“I felt at home and any niggles I had about not having doctors around disappeared”

It was a relief to see my room 

At 5.30am we arrived at the midwife-led unit and I immediately felt confident. My room was homely with dim lighting, a big birth pool and a private bathroom. It felt a million miles away from a clinical ward. I felt at home and any niggles I had about not having doctors around disappeared. 

The midwives were so reassuring 

When I was examined, I was 8cm dilated – which surprised us all. Suddenly my waters broke with a gush, and it all felt very real. But I felt as if I was in safe hands. Waiting for the birthing pool to fill up, I sat on the edge of the bed, breathing in gas and air, which helped to keep me calm. As soon as I climbed into the water, I started to push. I didn’t feel the need for more gas and air. 

Pushing took about 15 minutes

I was aware of the midwives’ presence in the room, but they stayed in the background. Ben was the one sitting next to me as I knelt over the side of the pool and pushed with all my strength. I was aware that this was a really special moment. 

I felt a burning, stinging sensation and realised that the head was about to come out. In one huge contraction, I felt an enormous pressure and moved my hand down to feel a mop of hair between my legs. I gave one final, almighty push and the body emerged. As I held Hannah against my chest, I felt a rush of love. I was over the moon.

I never felt alone like I had during my previous birth

My birth experience was completely different and so much better.

The three days I spent at the unit after the birth were so important

Nothing was too much trouble for the midwives. I was transferred to a quiet ward, and given lots of help with feeding. Ben came along during visiting hours but for the rest of the time I was with the midwives. By the time I went home, I felt relaxed and confident.   

Three things I’d tell my friends

  1. Check that your chosen midwife-led unit has a birth pool – most do as standard. Water is an amazing natural painkiller.
  2. Moving around and staying upright really helped to progress my labour. A spacious unit will give you all the room you need.
  3. Don’t be shy when it comes to accepting help with breastfeeding. Sometimes, it’s only by being physically shown the correct position, that you can get it right. That means hands-on demonstrations!
 
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