I am a mother of two, my daughter was born on 20 February 2010 and my son 25 April 2012, my husband of eight years and I hope for 3 to 4 children, we always wanted a large family having both grown up as only children.
I was very lucky with both pregnancies to conceive within the first cycle of trying. I have many friends who have struggled and have used IVF and other methods. In part I put it down to luck and good timing but in part I hope our healthy lifestyle assisted. I do believe my healthy approach lead to healthy uncomplicated pregnancies.
It is however thought that whilst carrying my daughter in my first pregnancy I miscarried a twin. At around eight weeks I had a period of intense cramps and three weeks of heavy bleeding. We did several pregnancy tests which came up negative and I was left to allow it to run its course, I knew in my gut I had miscarried but as the bleeding continued I did a further test which showed positive. Confused, we saw the doctor who sent us for a scan, expecting the worst at the scan we where delighted to see our daughter, dating me at 14 weeks pregnant, happy as Larry wiggling around.
The remaining six months sped by and my due date arrived…and went.
I let the midwife do a sweep at 40+7 and within a few hours lost my plug. Through the night I had niggling cramps but not real contractions, this went on for 36 hours, I wasn’t nervous I was excited and getting impatient. At 1am on the 19th my contractions became regular and I couldn’t sleep. At 5am they where becoming quite intense and every four minutes. I rang for advice and was told to head to hospital. At 7am I was told I was 4 to 5 cm and allowed to mill around labour room. 8 hours passed with a few rough internals that reduced me to tears and at 3pm and still at 4 to 5cm, I was told to go home again. We complied and I snuggled up in my bed but the contractions prevented me from sleeping. At 8pm I started to panic, the contractions were really intense and every 3 minutes so we headed back to hospital and I was mortified to be told I was still only 4 cm. I began to feel like an inconvenience to the midwives. The midwife gave me gas and air which made me feel very sick and caused me to panic even more so she strongly suggested I had pethidine. This is when I lost control, it was like I was drunk. She broke my waters in hope to speed things up but by 3am I’d had my three injection quota of pethadine. I started to come round and I was in agony. I was lying on my back as no one told me otherwise and another internal showed I was still 4 to 5 cm. They left me to get on with it but shortly afterwards my waters broke – they had previously broken my forewaters and I didn’t know that the back waters where still ‘to go’. I squealed, I had a full blown panic attack, I daren’t look down, I thought it would be blood, no-one explained to me about forewaters and hindwaters. I thought I was losing my baby. As a result of my panic attack and slow progress in walks an anaesthetist with an epidural “Just in case I needed a caesarean” I complied thinking they knew what they were doing, very craftily at the same time they hooked me up to a synotocin drip. No-one really explained but within 15 minutes I was in agony, sobbing, the midwife kept blowing cold air on my leg saying “You shouldn’t be able to feel the cold air?! Can you?! can you really?!”. It took me screaming out at her to convince her clearly the epidural hadn’t worked. The anaesthetist was now in theatre I wouldn’t be free for at least an hour, the pain was unreal. I begged the midwife to turn off the synotocin, she twisted the dial on the drip but what I didn’t know is she winked to my husband and mouthed that she had actually turned it up and baby will be here soon. Fortunately 30 minutes later in walked a different anaesthetist, that epidural worked and the relief was a lifesaver. A while later at 12 pm on the 20th a different midwife took over, I was now fully dilated but I was in such a state she let me sleep for an hour. At 1:30pm she woke me and said we needed to start pushing. Fortunately through all of this my daughter was fine and showed no signs of distress, goodness knows how! 90 minutes of pushing (I’m still lying on my back with no suggestions otherwise) and the doctor’s called in. They begin to prepare me for a Caesarean but as a last resort the doctor tried a ventouse. Finally 33 minutes later at 3:33 my somehow calm 8lbs 14oz daughter Eve was born by ventouse, everything else becomes a blur she was the only thing that mattered at that time. Anyhow it turns out that despite an episiotomy I still end up with the third degree tear and lose over 1000 mL of blood. I begin to feel desperately ill and have to hand my baby to my husband (she still hasn’t been breastfed at this point no one tells me to or even asks and I’m to ‘away with it’ to follow my instincts) everything is a blur and I’m hooked up to more drips. Finally at 5:30 I feel well enough to hold Eve again and my instincts kick in and I want to feed her, but I feel I should ask permission! That’s how much I felt the control been taken away from me! Granted permission I feed her, she feeds ravenously and no one helps me.
My mum holds Eve while my husband carries me into the shower to wash away the massacre of blood. I sob into his shoulder and here it began, weeks of sobbing. An emotional rollercoaster I thought was ‘normal’ all triggered by the scary experience of birth.
The day after I was allowed home, fortunately, just by the skin of my teeth, I avoided a blood transfusion thanks to high iron count (Back to that healthy diet), so my time in hospital was short. I loved my daughter unconditionally but other than feed her I was in such agony I couldn’t walk to even change her nappy, my husband ended up having to take five weeks off work to look after me nevermind Eve. I sobbed every day feeling like I had failed her right from her first seconds in this world. I began to struggle breastfeeding her too. My nipples bled and by day five I resorted to expressing.
I also began to feel very ill and feverish. An emergency trip to the doctors revealed my stitches had ripped out as they were put in too tight and the tear had become badly infected. 3 weeks of antibiotics followed as I point blank refused to go back into hospital.
Thanks to good friend who breastfed I did eventually get back into the swing of things and manage to do so until I returned to work when Eve was nine months old.
I sobbed my way through the first few months feeling like I couldnt cope. I couldn’t process in my mind what had happened. No-one other than my husband and family helped me through this and looking back now it is clear it was mild post-natal depression only my amazing daughter and family pulled me out of it. It was obviously triggered by the birth and of my feelings of failure associated with it. Then my inability to walk, let alone care for Eve and struggle to breastfeed added to this. By four month old my bond with Eve made up for lost time and we are amazingly close and connected and hope to always be.
I have always been a planner so when Eve was 18 months old we decided it was time for her to have a sibling. Despite all my previous experience I kept telling myself no two births are the same. I remained by this mantra to protect myself from the fear of Birth that could so easily have been. There was a surge of panic and fear when I discovered I was pregnant but I kept repeating that mantra.
On my booking appointment my midwife asked me where I would like to have baby, I quickly answered hospital and brushed off her suggestion of a homebirth – only crazy Hippy type people do that!? But her words set a seed, a slow growing one that I was too frightened to mention to anyone for fear of sounding foolish following my first experience. I kept my silly thought to myself. My pregnancy progressed beautifully and I attended weekly Aquanatal sessions run by a midwife, the girls and I always had a drink with the midwife afterwards. Anyway at 32 weeks pregnant that seed had grown into a little hopeful flower. I kept it hidden though and did lots of research, I read to my eyes gave in.
At 34 weeks I finally plucked up the courage to discuss with the midwife after Aqua Natal session and her positivity regarding homebirths was infectious. She too believed just because I had a horrific first experience didn’t mean the same was to happen again.
That evening I sat my husband down and explained, his initial reaction was the same as everyone, “you must be crazy?!” ” its too risky?!” “what if… what if… “But on presenting him with the facts and figures and research I had spent so long collating he began to come around and support me. From this point on my approach did a complete ‘U’ turn. I began practising Hypnobirthing techniques every day, went to NCT Yoga And relaxation classes every week, I studied homeopathic and aromatherapy remedies and hired a birth pool to go in our conservatory. I continued exercising with a purpose at the gym. I really enjoyed and embraced the last few weeks of my pregnancy.
At 38 weeks my pool arrived I could hardly contain my excitement. My midwife came to do the home assessment ready from the birth, just before she left she said let’s do a quick check on baby. She felt around quietly and I was smiling I could feel him kicking my groin and hiccups under my tummy….then the penny dropped….he was breech. She explained the risks of birthing a breech baby at home. My heart sank. She booked me in for a scan and ECV. I was not a happy bunny she explained the chances of him turning at this late stage was a million to one. I had 3 days before my scan and ECV. I decided I would try everything I could to get him to turn, despite the small chance. I used Pulsatilla, a homeopathic remedy said to turn breech babies and I studied the Spinning Babies website till I was blue in the face. I hung upside down on the sofa like a bat. The day before the scan my husband was driving us down a bumpy farm track and I felt a really huge movement that made my eyes water and made me feel sick. I clung to hope my efforts had worked. I was nervous at the scan but was soon relieved to be told that not only was he now the right way round but he was almost fully engaged. I went home delighted and hoping based on her words he would be here soon.
I waited and waited and waited.
At 40+1 my midwife wanted to pencil in a date for induction. I wouldn’t let her. I WAS having this baby at home. She suggested a sweep at 40+4, I weighed up the pros and cons and decided to let her. It took effect quickly when I had Eve so I hoped it would do the same this time, but the days went on. At 40+9 the midwife really started to push the induction based on ‘his large size and my previous experience’ She wasn’t as pro home birth as the midwife at the Aquanatal sessions. I decided that afternoon to go and see a different midwife who might help me make a decision. She asked me if it was ok to examine me to see if anything was happening. Somehow she seemed more experienced than my midwife. She didn’t really tell me much she just smiled and said “don’t you worry about induction, your cervix is doing what it should, go home and relax and baby will be here soon”. There was something in her smile that made me believe her but the day went on and I started to wonder.
I fell asleep and slept well. But at 2am I woke up, mild grumblings. I lay relaxed in bed daydreaming then I woke my husband and we timed the contractions – every 3 minutes lasting 45 seconds. I rang the midwife. We went downstairs to check the pool which needed more water and the runs to and fro with the kettle distracted me from the contractions. At 3:30am I heard a tap tap on my kitchen window, I was delighted to see the smiling face of my aquanatal midwife followed by another midwife. My mum arrived straight afterwards and Eve was sound asleep upstairs. I let the midwives examine me and had to ask her to repeat herself when she said I was 8cm dilated. I got in the now full pool and the water melted away any pressure from contractions. The water and freedom to move was wonderful. I practiced my breathing techniques from my NCT classes and thought about my Hypnobirthing techniques during contractions. Between contractions I laughed with my husband and the midwives. I felt safe! Another hour or so passed and I went very into myself. I started to feel nauseous and the midwife suggested gas and air but I refused it, it made me feel sick last time so I wanted to avoid it. Despite the pool being the perfect temperature I had gone very hot and I really started to doubt myself and asked for hospital transfer. Looking back now I laugh as it was a textbook transition phase. The midwife smiled and said my change in tune was a good sign and only temporary. I still felt too hot though so I decided to get out of the pool and get on the sofa. I felt cooler and gained composure. During my next examination my waters broke and my midwife told me I was fully dilated. At 5:30 my contractions stopped for a good 10 minutes, but I knew it was my body’s way of letting me recuperate before the big event. Then in a squat position the urge to push took over me. I can honestly say I enjoyed the feeling having missed it first time due to the epidural. 3 pushes later and his head crowned and emerged with calm eyes open looking around. I touched his head and another push at 5:56 my beautiful boy Harrison was born weighing a modest 8lb9oz (not the giant baby They tried to convince me he was). Straight on my chest looking into my eyes Harrison was latching on even before the cord was cut. When the cord stopped pulsing my husband cut it and Harrison nursed while I delivered the placenta. I delivered it naturally all be it with a bit of a tug from the midwife, in about 30 minutes. There wasn’t really any blood at all and I was cleaned up quickly. A small tear but no need to be stitched. I was so happy I felt amazing. I nipped upstairs and showered, a moment of reflection and comparison. It was a far cry from the tearful shower I struggled in hospital with when I had Eve.
Bang on time Eve woke up at 6:45 and my husband went to her and told her about her brother, she couldn’t wait to meet him and raced downstairs and smothered him in kisses. At 7:30 Harrison and I went upstairs we spent hours in my bedroom dosing and nursing intermittently. My husband, Mum and the midwives cleaned everything downstairs and when I came back down it was as if nothing happened. I pottered around holding Harrison in a euphoric daze.
The day after, I went on a long walk as a family. It was like celebrating my freedom after my disabled confinement after giving birth to eve. Harrison and I were and still are inseparable, I bonded with him instantly and didn’t cry once. He fed like a dream, not a single sore nipple in sight.
The 2 experiences where worlds apart and their effect on how I dealt with it afterwards.
I think the reason why both experiences are so different is that the first time I didn’t trust myself and my baby, I trusted that others would do the best for me and I thought interventions where for my benefit, when in part I think now they are for the system and getting women to labour is quick as possible. I also think that a huge amount is because of the education I sought for myself the second time and didn’t have the first time. I didn’t understand the consequences of such interventions.
I used to think birth was something that just happened and happened the way it was going to and there was no changing it. I now believe that couldn’t be further from the truth, I believe the way we treat our bodies during pregnancy and even before hand set the steppingstones to birth and beyond. I also believe the way we treat our minds and allow ourselves to think plays a huge part in our birth experience. A fear of birth or even negative approach can lead to all the wrong hormones being released and ruin our natural processes and make us feel like we require the interventions that are all too readily on offer.
Having a positive experiences is about making the right choices, having the right support and how we perceive it afterwards. The birth experiences is something that stays with a woman in detail for the rest of her life. She will share this with friends and future generations so I feel it is important to make it a positive experience so future generations can also see it that way.