With their restaurants just yards from each other, Hannah de Martiis and Isabel Bilous had become good friends in recent times as Altrincham’s thriving Market Quarter went from strength to strength.
But little did one know the extent to which she would come to rely on the other – until, that is, the evening of September 28th 2016.
The story actually begins the night before. Isabel, who works at Market House favourites Little Window but is also a qualified birth practitioner, asked after heavily pregnant Hannah – a teaching assistant but also the wife of Sugo co-owner Alex de Martiis – who was then a week off her due date.
“I jokingly said to her, if you need any help, give me a call,” said Isabel.
Not even 24 hours later, and that call came.
Shortly after 6.30pm on Wednesday 28th, and Isabel’s phone went. It was Alex’s brother, Mike (also a co-owner of Sugo), informing her that Hannah was in an advanced stage of labour. Dropping everything, Isabel raced over to the de Martiis’ home in Altrincham.
“I wasn’t sure what was happening to Hannah but I could tell from Mike’s voice that he was very worried,” said Isabel.
Hannah, who had given birth to a daughter three years ago, remembered: “My first baby took about 48 hours to come, but this was happening very quickly. Within an hour my contractions had gone from one every 10 minutes to one every two to three minutes.”
“I get there and Alex and Mike are outside, both looking incredibly stressed out,” said Isabel. “I just went into the living room and Hannah was on the sofa, clearly in full-on labour.”
It had been a full 13 years since Isabel had delivered a baby, having studied midwifery at Leeds University. She hadn’t actually completed the course, but had since gone on to qualify as a birth practitioner, offering various birth support services through her business, B is for Birth.
But thrust into this unlikely situation in the de Martiis’ front room, it all came flooding back.
“I checked and the baby’s head was there,” she said. “The paramedics were still on their way and it became apparent that this was possibly going to happen without them. Luckily it all came back to me.”
From being in something of a panic, Hannah suddenly felt in safe hands. “The day before she had been quite casual about her experience,” she said, “but when Isabel arrived, her absolute confidence gave me the reassurance I needed and I realised how knowledgeable she was.”
The paramedics finally made it with a few minutes to spare – but with Isabel in apparent control of the situation, they decided to leave her to it.
“They could see I was comfortable doing it,” said Isabel. “The baby then came very quickly. Hannah was the hero – she was incredibly brave, with no pain relief. Amazing!”
Given the circumstances, the birth went unbelievably smoothly, and at 7.45pm, 7lb 5oz Matteo was born. “He was very pink and cried straight away,” added Isabel. “We keep talking about all the things that might have gone wrong, but it all went perfectly. Afterwards I did go a little ‘what just happened then, was that real’?”
“I think we’ll feel a bit connected from now on!” said Hannah. “Isabel was amazing – I wouldn’t have got through it quite so well without her.”
After a couple of days in hospital, Hannah and Matteo returned home and both are doing very well.
Isabel says the experience has spurred her into getting back into birthing more seriously. “It really has been an amazing experience,” she said. “It meant lots to her of course but it meant a lot to me too. It feels a bit fated.”