Carla Westwell, 28, a teacher, lives in Lincolnshire with husband Pete and son Henry, 21 months. Her birthing partner wasn't who you'd expect...
I’d always planned for my twin to be my birth partner. There was never a doubt. Holly’s my best friend. She was with me at my 20-week scan when I was told my baby had a cleft lip and palate. Holly was so supportive.
At midnight on my due date a sharp pain in my stomach and back woke me. I crept downstairs, sat on my exercise ball and timed the contractions. They were 10 minutes apart. By 4am they were every six minutes and a lot stronger, so I woke Pete. At 5am we called Holly. ‘Are we having a baby?’ were her excited first words on the phone. As soon as she walked in, I felt calm. Holly switched on the TV, we chatted and she even painted my nails! When I felt a contraction coming, I paced a lap of the garden, which helped ease the muscles tightening in my back and stomach. The hospital had told me to stay put until I felt I couldn’t cope with the pain.
At 11am I knew it was time for us to go. My contractions were every four minutes. At the hospital I was told I was 6cm dilated. Gas and air helped calm me. Holly constantly reassured me, telling me what a great job I was doing. She’d made a music playlist on her phone, which created a soothing atmosphere. Holly was incredible, constantly reassuring me and telling me what a good job I was doing.
At 5pm I felt a low-down pressure and my waters broke. After 45 minutes I felt an urgent need to go to the toilet. The midwife told me I was ready to start pushing. ‘Come on, sis, you can do it,’ Holly said. I pushed for about 40 minutes. Towards the end, it was a blur. I vaguely remember being strapped to a monitor, being told the baby’s heart rate was dipping and that I needed to push really hard. A midwife flipped me on to my side and Holly stroked my hair as I put everything I had into getting my baby out. In one painful contraction the head came out. ‘He’s here, sis,’ Holly exclaimed. In the next push, the body followed. Then Henry was placed on my chest.
I felt overwhelmed. Henry was beautiful and perfect. My fears about his cleft lip were forgotten. As I watched Pete, then Holly, cuddle him, I felt grateful my twin sister had shared such a precious moment. Holly was also with me six months later when Henry had surgery to reform his lip and close his palate. She’s the best auntie ever.
Three things I’d tell my friends
- Don’t feel worried about asking a third person to be at the birth. Having someone else there can be a comfort to you both.
- If you find out your baby has a cleft lip and palate, try not to Google images. It could worry you unnecessarily.
- Surround yourself with people who are positive. Don’t pay attention to those who talk about how painful labour is.