I was determined to not be afraid of giving birth, as a woman I felt that I’d spent my whole life being informed of the horrors of pushing a small human being out of my vagina. That the agonising pain, like nothing on earth, would destroy me and I would never feel anything like it again, jokingly adding that it all would be worth it. Did it have to be this way? Why so much pain and fear?
My only experience of birth was from TV and movies. Often shown as rapid events consisting of lots of drama, pain, pushing, screaming, panic, more pain and blood. Yes, some of these elements are present during child birth but it’s not always like it is on the television or in the movies.
I suppose I stuck my head in the sand. I didn’t want to know about the horror and the potential risks. It wasn’t that I was ignorant to it, I obviously knew that things may go wrong and medical intervention may be needed, but what good would worrying or preparing for the worst do? I felt it was more important to look for a positive birth experience and educate myself in the process. At the end of the day I trusted my body and the medical professionals, if something went wrong we’d deal with it head on rather than prepare for the worst possible outcome.
I read a lot about ‘Active Birth’ and the importance of keeping the body moving during pregnancy and labour, the role that oxytocin plays during child birth and the different stages of labour. Some basic science really helped me get my head around what a baby goes through to be born and how I could help make that journey a bit easier.
Again I found a lot of the birth preparation classes heavily focussed on the negatives. Pain relief, induction and what to do when things go wrong were the hot topics. After spending some time searching for alternatives, a friend recommended Hypnobirthing and we attended classes with The Wise Hippo Birthing Programme.
I think Will wondered what I’d signed him up for, but we genuinely learned a lot about what other choices are out there for people. Hypnobirthing taught me a lot about managing situations, rationalising and making my own calm, informed decisions when it came to birth. We didn’t want to be another statistic with a ‘best fit’ birth plan, we wanted to do this in the way that worked best for us and our baby.
I was fit, healthy and low risk so I suggested a home birth. It just felt right, I like my house and I liked the idea of being close to my fridge and bed. I didn’t need any planned interventions or medication so it seemed silly to take up a bed in hospital when everything I needed was in my home.
Will was less easy to convince, it wasn’t an immediate no but just a wall of silence. For him, it was a lot to take it. I suppose deep down it was something I wanted to do as soon as I became pregnant but understandably he wanted to know that me and Cass were both going to be safe.
We had a pool in our kitchen and a plan in place. Will had stocked up on snacks and drinks and we were ready to go. I waited with excitement for the contractions to begin. They did begin but something didn’t feel quite right, the pain was constant, there were no breaks in between each contraction just horrific pain. After 17 hours of labour, 5 hours in the pool, enough gas and air to sedate a donkey and 2 paracetamol, I was 4cm dilated. My spirit had been broken.
A new midwife arrived and she took one look at me and said that the baby was ‘back to back’ which explained the constant pain. At this point Cass still needed to turn to get into the correct position and this could take 2 hours or 10 hours. I was so tired and felt deranged from the pain. I was being sick and felt like I needed to get out of my house. I told the midwife I wanted to go to the hospital, I wanted all the drugs, I wanted him to be sucked out or I wanted a cesarean. She told me to stop over reacting, everything was fine, he was just taking a bit longer to get here.
In my head though I knew that I needed a change of scenery, my lovely home suddenly felt small and claustrophobic, it smelled strange and there were too many people. The wonderful midwife made a few phone calls and pulled a few strings and it was decided that I could go to the midwifery led birthing unit in Salford. There were no drugs available and I definitely wouldn’t be getting my recent elective cesarean but it was a change of scenery.
We arrived at the Midwifery Unit at Salford Royal at 2pm and after a few more demands for ‘all the drugs’ and a small amount of ‘I told you a wanted a cesarean’ Cassius Edwin came into the world at 3pm. There was no drama, no fierce pushing and no panic.
During those final 15 minutes after my waters had broken I listened to my body, I breathed though the final contractions and rested when they dulled. I remembered everything I had learned through the Active Birth and Hypnobirthing classes, about breathing my baby out and putting my body in an optimum position for birth.
After we were both checked over we were allowed to go home. My husband and the staff at Salford Royal Midwifery Unit were unbelievable. I didn’t get the birth that I had ‘planned’ for but I did get the birth that was right for me and my baby. I had learned enough before hand to understand my body and realise what I needed to do. Luckily I had a fantastic midwife who helped me when I lost sight of what I wanted but during those final 15 minutes I felt calm and in control.
Not everything goes to plan during child birth and not everyone has a choice. But I don’t think many women are encouraged to look for other opinions and move away from a traditional ‘best fit’ birth plan. I encourage all parents to ask questions about what is available to them.
Women should be made to feel confident about child birth, not scared.