When we discovered we were pregnant my husband and I quickly decided on private obstetric healthcare and engaged the expertise of an obstetric consultant, this was primarily due to the fact we were after continuity of care with access to private facilities and no wait time for appointments, check ups or rooms. Our consultant who is based at the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, was recommended to us and we were quick to secure his last remaining place for the month of May as given his experience, he is very much in demand. We set up an appointment and were blown away by his knowledge, expertise and calm bedside manner.
We also discovered our consultant was one of the handpicked members on the birth team for the Duchess of Cambridge, who delivered Prince George and Princess Charlotte, both of whom were also born at the Lindo Wing, so we knew we were in exceptionally good hands, with both our consultant and our hospital and this knowledge placated any fears I had with regards to childbirth.
Initially I was adamant that I was after an elective cesarean, as I have a low pain threshold and was slightly terrified at the prospect of pushing out a baby. However after careful consideration, and advice from my consultant and a couple of my new mum friends with regards to the benefits of a natural labour, particularly the quicker recovery time, I decided to opt for a natural birth. Also the potential issues associated with major surgery resulting from a cesarean, were too risky. Bearing in mind my low pain threshold, I made sure I included pain relief in my birth plan, consisting of gas and air and then an epidural.
At our 39 week appointment, we were sitting in our consultant’s office discussing an inducement and we decided to proceed. We went home, had dinner, picked up our hospital bags and Smart Cells kit (in an earlier blog post I mentioned that we are storing our baby’s stem cells) and made our way to the hospital at midnight. I checked in, and our consultant was already there waiting for us; with a reassuring smile which put me at ease. After a dose of labour inducing gel, a lovely midwife set up a bed for my husband and we both went to sleep. At 6am my consultant was back to check on my progress and administer another dose of gel, and afterwards we then ordered breakfast at the hospital, which fortunately has a chef-led kitchen. After breakfast we went for a walk to speed up the process, and it did, as my water broke (hurrah!).
We walked back to the hospital, by then it was 1pm and I was already 2-3cm dilated, then at 3pm I was 5cms dilated. During this time, my midwife advised I should make a call on the epidural. I said yes without hesitation and a few minutes later an anesthetist dispensed the epidural and I was in absolute bliss. My contractions were muted which meant I was in a rather upbeat mood and my husband breathed out a sigh of relief. My consultant came in regularly and checked on my progress and then worked his magic and I went from 5cm to 9cm dilated in an hour. While this was occurring, my husband was texting our phlebotomist from Smart Cells with an update, so they knew when to make their way to the hospital and attend to the collection of the cord blood and tissue. When I was 9cm dilated, my phlebotomist arrived, introduced themselves to my team and explained the collection process to me which was very straightforward.
Then in the preceding hour, following 7 hours of labour and four strong pushes, little Ava Grace was born weighing in at 3kgs. She had an impressive set of lungs and after a once over by the baby doctor who said she was just perfect and in good health, Ava Grace and I bonded immediately with skin to skin contact on my chest. This calmed her down and she carefully opened her eyes and looked around at her surroundings and her new mum. It was the perfect moment, lying there with this sweet angel on my chest and knowing that my world had changed forever. Our consultant and midwife were exceptional from start to end, and I am very grateful for their professionalism, friendly and supportive manner and I honestly would not have had such a quick and relatively pain free labour if it wasn’t for them by our side.
While I was enjoying new born bliss with Ava Grace, the phlebotomist attended to extracting the cord blood (which I didn’t even notice). Once complete, the Smart Cells kit was handed to my husband, who called the courier company to collect it and they promptly arrived at the hospital the next day. I also received a phone call a couple of days later confirming my results and that the stem cells had been successfully stored. Overall I was very pleased with both the service and organised manner of Smart Cells which made the process simple and stress free.
I also really wanted Ava Grace to have skin to skin contact with my husband and a little snuggle time so I handed her over and watched as they bonded. After ordering the entire menu for dinner (both famished at this point), we were transferred to our suite, where we could relax. The suite was lovely, it was just for us with a surprisingly large ensuite, all toiletries (and special items for a new mum like chamomile and witch hazel wipes, which I very much recommend post labour) and a reclining sofa chair that folded out into a bed for my husband.
Ava was then fitted with a security tag, as are all babies at the Lindo Wing. If the security tag gets too close to the maternity ward elevator, it immediately stops working and the area is locked down. This is to ensure all babies are kept safe and cannot leave the ward.
The wing also had a baby nursery, where you can check your baby in and specify whether you would like them breastfed (the midwives wheel the babies back in to your room at feeding time) or whether you preferred powdered milk (they have all formula brands available). The midwives in the nursery also attend to nappy changes and soothing the baby while mum and dad get some much needed sleep. In the morning, little Ava Grace was returned to us and we enjoyed some afternoon high tea to celebrate her birth. I reluctantly passed on the champagne (big mistake in hindsight, as a small glass while breastfeeding is completely fine).
The following morning, we were paid a visit by a pediatrician to check Ava Grace’s health (which was all ok), the anesthetist to ensure I was feeling well post epidural, a physiotherapist to give me advice on mobility after birth particularly on how to move in and out of bed comfortably and how to correctly do my pelvic floor exercises, a doctor to check on my pain post birth and if I needed any relief, and then I was given nutritionist advice on what to eat and drink while breastfeeding which was very helpful. My consultant also came in to see how we were doing and if everything was fine. Lastly, the team of midwives on the ward were very helpful and attentive and when we seldom needed to buzz them, they came immediately regardless of what time or the request.
As there is no check out date per say, patients only leave when they are ready, so we decided to stay another night as the advice and the help from the midwives was phenomenal, they showed us how to bathe Ava Grace, change her nappies, breastfeed her and gave us general advice on taking care of a newborn bub. The following day after a good rest, feeling refreshed and prepared for parenthood, we decided to check out, and we were on our way home as a family of three.
Kerstin // Lux Mumma