I am a birth enthusiast, although if that surprises you given my tagline then this post might not be for you.
I have experienced
- long, drawn out, boring labour
- super quick and super exciting birth
- spontaneous vaginal birth
- urgent c-section
- midwife led, hands off
- hospital “by the book”
- home “birth before arrival”
- and most importantly, live & healthy babies
I am also a very lucky recipient of some of the best healthcare available, free at the point of delivery, and world leading practices and staff members. There’s no doubting in my mind, the UK nationals are incredibly blessed to live in an era where labouring women have access to the best of the best.
I have met some extraordinary Consultants, Midwives, & health care professionals. There are also a few too many rotten eggs that we could do with pushing out of the basket but that is true of all walks of life so the easiest way to deal with them is to write your concerns down and send them in for the powers that be to act upon. Okay, it isn’t perfect but it is ours and I prefer not to kick a wounded animal, thanks all the same.
Anyway, back to my musings and mullings.
The Boy was a bellyful before he arrived. He span around so many times in the last three months of pregnancy that it was hit or miss regarding our plans for a homebirth. I believe that a breech baby can be safely delivered at home with appropriately trained midwives, they would also more likely be birthed without diffculty in this situation than trying a vaginal breech delivery in hospital. I feel this is mostly down to hospitals dealing with complications of medical interference and the setting being the best place for births needing closer attention. Personal opinion, lots of reading and researching, not medical advice.
My final antenatal appointment at 41 weeks had the head back down safe and our plans back on the kitchen table, so to speak. Unfortunately I felt him spin as I played puzzles with his then toddler sister as I gently breathed through contractions. I had already sent for the Mr to come home, arranged for the elder children to be collected after school, rang for my sister to come and sit with the smalls. In the 30 minutes it took for Mr to cycle home my waters burst magnificently and to my despair, the familiar brown colour meant that homebirth dreams where finally dashed.
The drive to the hospital, only 10 slow minutes, was hideous. Why do hospitals put speed bumps around the very long drive to maternity? And why do councils seem to put them on every side road they can? Or so it seemed at the time. I could see that he was the wrong way around with each contraction. He’s broad back streched tight under my ribcage as my lower uterus failed to find a body to push lower. It took about 40 minutes from arrival at the labour ward to arrival at the theatre doors. My treatment was overseen by some of the not so world class midwives and my obvious upset and distress was “over looked” as my operating team set up around me. From the minute we decided that a c-section was the best course of action I cried almost uncontrollably. Some tears fell silently as people bustled around me, others slid across my cheeks as my breathing became rough and heavy, and my sobs heaved, the not so tiny boy pushing against my lungs making it harder and harder to focus on the positives.
Our only request, to see for ourselves the gender of our fifth child after what, at the time, was four beautiful girls, was at first agreed to but unfortunately forgotten as the registrar pulled first his bottom and then his legs from my abdomen. An encouraging “come on big boy” was heard as yet more waves of fear gripped at my body, now shaking uncontrollably, and a terrifying pins and needles sensation was felt in my toes. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t express how utterly broken I was as my 100% healthy, squawking, blue bundle was wrapped and taken to recovery. My only words were to Mr to go with our son, to not let him out of his sight.
The tears continued to fall, my heartbeat erratic and breathing still laboured. The equipment check saw a missing swab and a broken clamp. By this point I was all but sewed up and the tingling sensation had now reached my thighs, I can recall the anaesthetist joking with me before a rapid search of the room finds the missing articles and the final knot is formed. I had regained enough movement to shuffle myself over on to the recovery trolley, the only part of me still numb was my now deflated stomach, the empty housing for the 41 weeks it took for my son to grow. I can see how people would think I should get over myself, that others have truly horrifying experiences, that my desire for a “natural” birth experience at home was just a pipe dream, one of those things, so time to move on. But I can’t. I’ve tried so many times to move past the pain and chalk it up to experience, but the pain is still real.
This evening I found my file containing my birth notes. The tears flowed freely as I see laid out, line by line, the timescale of my labour. It notes my blood pressure and temperature, the baby’s trace and the ineffective contractions. It says very little of my distress. Even my outburst as I demanded the room be cleared and I flung the ctg straps from my belly was conviently omitted from the entries. Only a short note that the monitor was repositioned and a fresh trace performed before my transfer from the delivery suite.
Perhaps, if I had sought help sooner, the pain and distress that I still feel today would be more managable. Unfortunately the Boy wasn’t an easy baby and the postnatal depression gripped me so hard that I doubt I could have properly addressed the issues even had help been offered.
One day I hope to be able to help mothers who feel like I did, like I do. I want to reach out to them, to hold their hand, to cry with them and laugh with them, and to find a way to live well despite the trauma. We don’t talk enough about the weird ways our brains work when pregnancy takes control of your body. We don’t talk about how difficult it can be living with guilt, with disappointment, with the discomfort of nightmares and night sweats, waking in tears or dreading falling asleep as a birth gets replayed over and over again and sucks you back into grips of depression.
Postnatal depression, post traumatic stress disorder, “baby blues” – why do we take them so lightly? Mothers like me, we are so glad to be holding our happy, healthy bundles of joy but that is a position running parallel to the mind which can’t “pull itself together”, which can’t just be happy for a positive outcome.
Mum, don’t feel alone. What you are experiencing is all too familiar to many other mums and we will reach out to you, if you let us. I know it hurts, I know that is draining you mentally and that it is so tough right now, but we can find new ways to make it better, to make it hurt a little less, to make it managable at the very least. You are not alone.