Daughter of Susan Cowan and Bryan Grundy
Born on the 20th August 2010
At Kingston Hospital
Weighing 8lb 2oz
Although they are five years apart in age, Susan and Bryan share a birthday on August 10th – and their baby was due to be born on the very same day. The parents-to-be hadn’t planned it that way – in fact, the pregnancy came along at a slightly awkward moment, when Susan and Bryan were going on a dream holiday to Cambodia and Vietnam.
“I found out that I was pregnant five days before we were due to leave. I’d been about to start taking anti-malaria drugs, and I consulted doctors, pharmacists and NHS Direct about whether the countries were suitable for pregnant women. The nurse at my local surgery provided the best advice which was 'of course you can't go dear, you're pregnant now'. Luckily, we were able to amend our plans to visit Thailand instead, which didn’t involve taking any medication.”
Whilst in Thailand, and only seven weeks pregnant, Susan had a scare. “I was bleeding for about a week. It was very worrying. We had to leave the island we were staying on to travel to a hospital for treatment. Fortunately, the facilities and staff were fantastic. I was seen by a specialist almost immediately and an internal scan showed that the baby was fine and had a very strong heartbeat. It was very reassuring, and it was definitely my favourite scan of the pregnancy. As it was so early, all we saw was a tiny head and body which looked like a miniature snowman. It was almost Christmas, so we named the baby Frosty the Snowman.”
The rest of Susan’s pregnancy went smoothly, and she was able to focus on finding a new home for the family. “We found a lovely old house in Kew and moved in within six weeks. However, it did require some modernisation, so, instead of just decorating the nursery, I was dealing with builders, plumbers, electricians and decorators. It was such a large project that I decided to take early maternity leave, three months before my due date. My dad helped out, and we managed to fit the carpets and put the curtains up two weeks before Amber was born.”
Susan and Bryan’s joint birthday came and went, with no sign of Amber and it wasn’t until just after midnight on Tuesday the 17th of August that Susan began to have contractions. In the morning the contractions stopped and Susan was advised to rest in bed in preparation for the big event. When, thirty six hours later, there were still no further signs of labour, Susan and Bryan decided to go to the day assessment unit at Kingston Hospital for advice.
“I was told that I was already 2cm dilated from the early labour, and that I had high blood pressure. The decision was made to induce me. After waiting for labour for nearly two days I was relieved, and I felt that I was in safe hands.”
Up to this point Susan had been keen to have a natural birth, but she was starting to change her mind. “After experiencing the pain of the early contractions, I felt that I had a good understanding of what to expect, and that perhaps a natural birthing experience would not be ideal. The induction was planned for later that evening and I was moved to a ward.”
Bryan went home to feed the couple’s cat, and as soon as he left Susan started to have contractions again. “Bryan got back to find an empty bed and panicked!” Bryan eventually found Susan in the delivery suite, contracting naturally and having gas and air. Because of her high blood pressure she was closely monitored, and when her labour did not seem to be progressing very quickly, the decision was again taken to give her the induction drug.
“At this point, I was asked about pain relief,” says Susan, “and I decided to have an epidural. I’d been made aware through the NCT classes that inductions can make contractions very fast and painful, and my baby was positioned back-to-back, which was giving me bad back pain. The epidural was very effective and I only felt some dull back pain – as if I was on the sofa watching a long movie, and I just needed a prop up with a cushion.”
Despite being given the induction drug, Susan’s labour still did not progress very quickly, and it was the following morning before she was ready to start pushing. “I was told that because of the epidural I may need additional help – forceps or ventouse – but I have never been as determined as I was at that moment, and I managed to do it without help. It made me realise why pelvic floor exercises are so important!”
“It was brilliant to have the support of the midwives and Bryan encouraging me. Previously, I’d felt that a home labour and water birth would be the best option, but once the labour had started I felt that it was preferable to be in a medical environment, because the medical staff are there to advise you on what to expect and you have easy access to medication should it be required. I was really pleased not to have had a long labour pacing up and down in our kitchen.”
Baby Amber was born at 8:40 am on Friday 20th August. “I was quite tearful as she was held against my chest, and I remember saying that it was the little Thailand baby, Frosty the Snowman, who I’d thought I might have lost at one point and I was so relieved that she was finally here. I was really pleased with how the birth had gone and I certainly won't be scared to have baby number two!”
“However, I would have gladly swapped what I felt was a relatively easy birth for fewer problems with feeding.” Amber had difficulty latching on, and also developed jaundice. In addition, Susan suffered from severe mastitis. “I hadn’t imagined that I would do anything but breastfeed my baby. I’ve had lots of help and support from the staff at the hospital, as well has having sessions with breastfeeding counsellors and going to my local BabyCafe, but Amber’s latching issues have never been resolved, and I mainly have to formula feed now. It’s been a huge disappointment for me, but a necessity.”
Despite this minor setback, the family are now doing well. “Amber is a very healthy, happy and smiley girl. I’ve continued to see the girls I met on my prenatal classes and I’ve developed a good support network nearby, which has been a huge help in dealing with the issues that arise in looking after a baby.”