A Story of Birth at Warrington Hospital
Anyone who has given birth has a story to tell. Some people tell their stories freely and openly, while others hold it secretly close to their heart; maybe they want to hold it like a sacred treasure under lock and key, or perhaps endured such trauma that the time has not yet come when they feel able to verbalise or re-live it in any detail. I fall in to the ‘speak freely’ category, for fear that if I don’t tell it, repeat it, re-live it and document it, the story will fade and the details will begin to ebb away. Estelle is a story-teller too, and she has carefully documented all manner of details from her previous two children’s early days. Snips of hair, funny moments, photographs, letters, clippings, milestones – all stored neatly in a series of books that become more and more precious with every passing year.
Pregnancy was somewhat of a U turn for this family. Not unplanned, but a decision that they would not have expected to make at this stage in life had it not been for a couple of years of unexpected illness, which changed the pace and the priorities completely. Baby Florence is all the more adored and beloved given that she came after two hard years of adversity. Not only does she have the usual (and then some) gorgeous-squishy-adorable factor of any newborn beauty, but she’s also a symbol of hope after hardship, of perseverance and of new starts. Because of the symbolic nature of her arrival, it seemed fitting to be able to tell their story through photographs; a small way to celebrate the new season of hope and opportunity for this beautiful family.
Below: Estelle and her two older kids, pre pregnancy
I’m a big believer in sharing and normalising all kinds of birth stories. Since becoming part of the parenting tribe, I’ve come across so much shame and guilt amongst women who somehow feel that they didn’t do it ‘right’. After I birthed each of my babies, I struggled deeply with the emotions associated with things not going entirely to plan. On a selfish level, this is one of the reasons why I am so endlessly grateful to Estelle and her family for inviting me to be present with my camera as they welcomed their third child in to the world. It was strangely therapeutic – healing even – to be able to re-live the joy and the pain of my own birth stories. As a type-1 diabetic myself, there was a parallel in the early induction narrative of Estelle’s labour, which rolled itself out smoothly like a hybrid of my own two birth experiences. The pessaries, the endless treading of the hospital corridors; staring at walls, crosswords, watching seemingly endless streams of other women come in and then vanish off to the delivery suite while you are still staring at the clock, willing those tightenings to get a little closer together. Estelle doesn’t have diabetes, but her own equally (if not far more so) trying health challenges led her (along with her fantastic care team at Warrington hospital) to the decision to be induced well ahead of her due date. Every birth story is different, and it’s hugely reassuring to capture elements of your own story in someone else’s – just as a simple assurance that we are not alone in our journey and that the boundaries of a ‘normal’ birth stretch far and wide.
A couple of weeks prior to Estelle’s induction, I captured her ever-growing bump as we talked over the logistics of photographing a birth. We rounded up the shoot in a field full of tall grasses and billowing seeds, and I couldn’t help but notice an element of ‘lioness’ about Estelle. She is strong and graceful, and carries that familiar gentle fierceness of a Mother protecting of her cubs. This ‘spirit of the lioness’ felt tangible and thick within the air from the very second I stepped in to the delivery suite. Determination and strength, mixed with an occasional flicker of delicate vulnerability in between contractions. This is when her husband Nige stepped in with a cool flannel on her forehead, then switching back to being her coach and cheerleader as she pushed through the hard part. They say they didn’t notice me at all, which is reassuring because I felt very aware of my ‘click clicks’ and wanted to remain as unobtrusive as possible. It’s fair to say that they were in the ‘zone’ and that anything other than the task at hand was filtered out as they focussed on the prize, which was well worth the effort. It’s a funny feeling, being a third party at a birth. I could tangibly feel that oxytocin-induced elation and relief as if it were transfusing from the little family unit to anyone else who happened to be in the room (also, I was reminded that post-birth tea and toast really is the most brilliant and welcome treat, second only to holding a brand new human in your arms!). Welcome to the world, baby Flo! I’m ever so honoured to have met you on your very first day.
I’m sharing this series of photographs first and foremost as a celebration of perfect little Flo, and as an acknowledgement of the fortitude of Estelle and her family over the last few years. I’m hoping that this birth-story will also provide encouragement for mothers and mothers-to-be everywhere, to remind you that you are incredible and that you have so much worth. Whatever your story, wether your birth-plans stayed bang on track or if things took an unexpected turn (perhaps like Estelle and I you were induced, or your planned home-birth turned in to an emergency section) – you are a lioness, and you did it. You have been through a lot. You grew this tiny little being inside of you – your body is unfathomably incredible. Women of the world – you rock!
Estelle, Two weeks before induction date
Estelle: ‘Induction day tues 22nd Sept. I spent the day packing my bag, leaving notes and instructions about what the kids are doing on certain days at school and after school, how to use the washer etc for mum and Nige. Felt nervous, excited, worried, hyper, exhausted all at the same time.’
Estelle: ‘Got to the hospital at 3pm, went to the induction suite. They induced me at 6:30pm and then it was just a waiting game…tried walking around the hospital with Nige as I heard that that helps…but no signs of labour came.’
‘Hazel came to see me as she was staying close by to the hospital on standby to take photos of my labour. Met her outside Croft Wing in my dressing gown and… …she turned it into a pre-labour photo shoot! Very fun and passed the time very nicely! Stayed out a bit late though and got back to the induction suite to a note on my bed to press my buzzer when I returned as I was due a blood pressure check – felt like a naughty teenager getting in late! Went to bed, had pains in the night but nothing came of them, woke up still with no signs of labour.’
Below: Updating friends via text. Still no baby!
Estelle: ‘Wednesday 23rd. Decided to walk down (to Costa) for a bit and had a hot chocolate. Nige met me there and then by chance a good friend of mine walked past – she had just taken her daughter for an appointment – and so she joined us too! Sat there in my nightie and dressing gown casually chatting in Costa with friends like I wasn’t supposed to be having a baby! Had to be back to the induction suite for half 1 so me and Nige left to walk back over, it was quite a long walk. Half way back I was really struggling as I was getting quite strong pains so Nige had to grab a wheelchair and push me the rest of the way back to the induction suite.’
‘By 3pm I was getting pains every 6 minutes lasting 50 seconds. At 4:20 the midwife examined me. Just as I had my legs akimbo and she was about to start, a group of people came in obviously on a tour of the place! Had to laugh, midwife asked if I wanted to wait until they left but the curtain was round the bed fully and so I said to carry on. I was 2-3 cm dilated.’
‘At 7pm Laura said the labour ward midwife was just having a break as she had had a very long shift, and then she was coming to get me. We packed up all my stuff and made sure we were ready to go. Around 8pm I pressed my buzzer as I really felt like I needed to get across to labour ward asÂ the pains were feeling very intense. A midwife appeared and askedÂ “did you press your buzzer?” I said yes, I can’t deal with the pain anymore and I really need to get across to the labour ward. She repliesÂ “well I’m Debbie and I’ve come to take you across now” . “Are you my saviour?” I asked, and she smiled.’
‘Once in the labour ward, Debbie examined me to see if I was ready to have my waters broken but before she could decide they broke by themselves, rather violently! She was covered, the bed was covered. Nige said I could have probably taken the record for most distanced travelled by waters! I had a dose of diamorphine. Nige contacted Hazel as the baby seemed imminent – I had an urge to push already. Debbie checked and said yes, I was indeed ready, so I started pushing.’
Debbie and Julie examine the chart
‘Debbie was very clear about what to do, and when to push with each contraction. Baby was coming. She was a little distressed and she pooed, and Debbie was trying to keep her airways away from it. I sensed the urgency in her voice that said ok Estelle, we need to get her out in the next contraction. Nige looked straight at me with his face close to mine and said “come on love, you can do it, come on push” and I pushed really hard with my chin into my chest, grasping both thighs and holding my breath and she came out!!’
Nige: ‘As she was being born I was concerned because she’d pooed and was face down. The midwife was trying to keep her face out of the puddle by pushing the mattress down. I could tell by their faces and the way that they were talking to each other that we needed to get baby out, so I spurred Stel on even more. It was an intense moment but she listened because with the next push she came.’
Estelle: ‘She was born at 9:04pm. Weighing 8lbs 9ozs. I Felt elated! A paediatrician came to check baby as her airways needed clearing and she wasn’t crying, but soon started crying much to our relief!’
Nige: ‘It’s hard to say what I felt that moment she was born – relief more than anything – and then the emotions started kicking in and the feelings flooded in. This was our third child, but the intensity of those feeling doesn’t change’
‘Considering what my wife has been through medically the last couple of years she showed real strength, grit and determination and I was so proud of her.’
Estelle: ‘They brought us tea and toast and Nige dressed baby. He rang my mum. The diamorphine by this time had had an effect on me and I felt very hazy and quite sick but I could hear my mum in tears on loud speaker. She was just so relieved because of my medical history that everything had gone well.’
‘Next few hours were a blur. Laura the induction suite midwife came in as she’d heard I had already had the baby and had to come and see for herself as it hadn’t been long at all. Nige helped me shower and then they transferred us to ward c23. Nige brought the kids to meet their little sister the following morning, they fell in love with her instantly and my daughter Ebby (13) stayed with me when Nige and Mikey (8) went home for lunch and helped change nappies etc so I could rest. My mum and dad visited, so did my friend Eli and by 5pm I was heading home after a tussle with the car seat of course!
Below: Baby Florence meets siblings. photographs by Estelle CadwalladerÂ
One Week On
‘Now it’s a week on, and I can’t imagine life without her. We called her Florence Lily and she’s perfect! Thank you to all the staff at Warrington Hospital who helped us complete our family, don’t worry you won’t be seeing me again haha! A big thank you to Hazel for documenting the event, so glad I asked her to capture it. She managed to get fantastic shots which I will treasure always.’