A tale of two twin births: private and NHS
Updated: Sep 27, 2020
I have had two sets of twins, both caesarean births; the first set were born privately at the Lindo Wing of Saint Marys Hospital - where Kate Middleton delivered the next generation of Royals - while my second pair of princes were born at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford courtesy of the NHS. There were differences in each birth, both exceptional experiences, but the biggest difference had nothing to do with the price tag.
The Private twin birth
I remember viewing my first c-section as the finish line when in fact, as all mums subsequently realise, it is just the start! I was wheeled in to the operating room and felt like I was starring in a magic show; sawn in half by a masked- surgical-magician and ta-da! Presented with not one but two babies by smiling assistants.
I had written a birth plan that stated I wanted to hold the babes as soon as possible but didn’t specifically request skin to skin, and so it was that my boy bundles were handed to me fully wrapped and sanitised.
I had an irrational fear that I would drop a newly hatched life when it was presented to me for the first time, and there was no doubt that the tiny little people encased in blankets were less slippery for their cocoons - but the whole experience was so sudden and surreal that second time around I knew I wanted to be a more intimate part in the process. No doubt I rose-tint what a natural birth must be like but I imagine that the duration and intensity of the process gives your brain time to join up what is happening or has happened to your body.
I stayed at the Lindo for four nights, in my own room with en suite shower. I selected meals from a menu and was able to rest at night when my babies were wheeled into a nursery and bought in to me for feeding. That first night I lay in my room alone feeling neither pregnant nor mum and went in search of my children, shuffling along the corridor to the surprise of the staff for whom this was clearly not the norm. My pain relief was generously topped up and I felt absolutely no discomfort during recovery and was sent home with a bag of meds that probably had a very high street-value!
The NHS twin birth
There was undoubtedly a difference in food, continuity of care, luxury and pain relief between my experience of a private and NHS twin delivery, but the second time around I had the love of a supportive partner and that is definitely what made the biggest difference to my birth experience and motherhood journey.
My big twins may have had a premium start to life but I was single Mum to them from when they were five months and, five years later, we were on the brink of being moved into a council flat with the help of Women’s Aid when I met my now husband – father of my little twins. As a loving partner and step-father it is he who has picked up the moral and financial slack and shown me how much the role of Dad shapes your experience of being Mum.
Second time around I had a bumpier pregnancy; more worrying scans and more aches and pains - not awful and everything was fine in the end - but I realised how lucky and naive I had been first time around.
I wouldn’t change a thing about my NHS delivery, the atmosphere was warm and inclusive and it made the world of difference that I knew what to expect, was less overwhelmed and more able to be present in what was happening. A wonderful member of the team acted as an impromptu birth photographer and we have the most phenomenal images, I love being able to look through them and see the birth through my husband’s eyes - his journey and reactions, as I was busy focussing on my experience!
The individual team members that cared for me during the 48 hours we remained in the hospital were lovely but there is no sugar coating the fact that they were obviously stretched in terms of both time and space. There wasn’t enough room for two babies in my cubicle on the post op ward, I was ‘missed’ on the food round and had nothing to eat or drink for close to 10hours following the op (having also been nill by mouth from midnight the night before...).
It was only because I’d ‘done twins’ before that we were able to fend for ourselves in the immediate aftermath of delivery. It worries me that first time multiple mums may find themselves drowning not waving in that crucial first chapter and be sent home close to breaking point so early in what is most definitely a mummy marathon not a sprint.
As per the first c-section my epidural remained in-situ as I was wheeled into the post op ward, but unlike the private birth - where pain relief was topped up that way - the line was removed immediately. Within hours I was in significant pain and asking for meds which eventually came - but not before I was asked if it was just wind and nothing a peppermint tea wouldn’t cure?!
Even though my private twin birth was more ‘comfortable’ my NHS c-section was where my loving husband held my hand and my babies were placed naked and new on my breast, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.
I wrote this book after my first set of twins were born but never imagined I’d be dusting a copy off for myself a few years later!
To buy Katy's book guide to twins, which she co-wrote with Dr Carol Cooper