Lesli reached out to me at the end of July (2021) after finding out that hospital restrictions had eased and she was allowed a second birth partner aka a birth photographer into her birth space at hospital and was desperately searching for one. She'd had a previous birth documented in America and wanted the same experience here. After being informed that her due date was on the 21st August it meant that we needed to meet asap to see if we were a good fit for each other!
We met on the 3rd August at her home in Portsmouth and chatted away about her family move from America, their life as an Armed Forces family, the differences between America and UK, Covid and vaccinations as well as all the other things I normally cover in a consultation - previous pregnancies and labours, what parts she would like to be documented, my involvement and how I work etc. Five days later I went on call at 38 weeks! Communication is always important from 38 weeks but because Lesli and I were still at the very early stages of knowing each other we communicated more knowing that very soon I would be with her as she gave birth.
I had never been to the Queen Alexandra in Portsmouth before and as this was causing me a twinge of anxiety so on the 17th August I decided to drive to Portsmouth to visit the hospital so that I had it reasonably clear in my head where to go, how long it would take, where I could park, the entrance needed to get up to the Maternity Unit and then locate ward B5! The sense of relief after doing this was immense - preparation is key! And who knew that in less than 48 hours I'd be there for the real thing!
As it is I've since been back to the QA again (with no anxiety this time!)
On the 18th August Lesli had a stretch and sweep and headed home for a clary sage bath. I reminded her of my timings - being over an hour away we were looking at surges 4-5 minutes apart for over an hour, especially as this was Baby number 3! The next day there were lots of 'strong contractions in her back but nothing consistent' - these were Lesli's exact words until ten minutes later she text me a screenshot with the message 'maybe I lied about the contractions, now I can't get ahold of my husband'! At 330pm Lesli left for the hospital and I left Christchurch and headed up the motorway thankful that it wasn't rush hour!
At 430pm Lesli was on the Birth Centre ward at the QA and measuring 4cm, after parking and confirming that Lesli was in established labour according to hospital policy and that as a second birth partner I was now allowed in, I hit the buzzer for B5 and was met with the Matron in Charge who's exact words were 'Please tell me you're the Birth Photographer as Lesli says she's not having this baby without you!'
I walked into the most beautiful room in a hospital that I had ever been in - it was bigger than my lounge! With a rebozo, birthing stool, ball, bed, pool and gorgeous lights. Lesli was stood in the birth pool waiting for it to fill, holding onto Jason for support through her surges. I quickly and quietly introduced myself to the midwives and Jason (my first time meeting Lesli's husband!) and set to work.
"Eyes on me" "You've got this" this phrase as you see in the picture above became a mantra. "Eyes on me". I have to say as the birth went on it was the most beautiful partnership between the two of them, and to watch it was really emotional.
Lesli had asked for an epidural on arrival and when I got there we were told that it was a 2 hour wait for an epidural and that due to the intensity and togetherness of her surges she wouldn't last another 2 hours. They were every 1-2 minutes and 90 seconds long with very little gap in between - I felt confident in that we all felt sure that Lesli was reaching or in the middle of the transition stage due to how she was feeling and talking. The lovely midwife asked Jason to take Lesli's watch off her wrist as she kept checking the time and counting down the 2 hours to an epidural and getting really upset that we were lying to her about having one when really the anaesthetist was a) still not available and b) we were so sure she was close due to the pressure she was feeling!
Lesli started to ask for her 'Jesus music' - she'd made a playlist of Christian music and upbeat music and honestly......it was THE BEST playlist I've ever heard in my life, never before have I heard Christian music mixed in with 'Pony' & 'I like Big Butts' but it just summed up Lesli's zest for life, her humour, her character and her strength. We laughed A LOT! Generally mums are assessed every 4 hours and at the 3.5 hour mark Lesli was pleading to be assessed to be able to know how far she had progressed so Elle the lovely midwife agreed to check.
Lesli was still 4cm.
There were a lot of tears understandably. It was agreed by the midwives that came on duty half an hour later that a change in position, helping Lesli to wee and having her waters ruptured may help things along. With Lesli's other two babies she also had to have her waters broken before labour progressed so she was more than happy to agree to this knowing that for her it would bring some relief and most likely her baby!
Within 20 minutes of Lesli having her waters Baby Isaiah was born at 8:42pm arriving earthside to one of Lesli's favourite songs by Lauren Daigle weighing 6lb 13oz.
I will forever laugh and cry with all my birth families and this is something that happened in abundance during this birth. Gas & Air turns Lesli into a different person with hilarious results. Considering we'd only met a few weeks before I felt immeasurably close to this family.
Thank you Lesli and Jason. I will be absolutely gutted when you transfer back home next year but forever grateful for being brought into each others lives!