Last night I watched a programme on the BBC about women who have babies at the Portland Hospital in London. I say hospital, but it’s actually more like a hotel. It is unbelievably expensive but what attracts many women is the fact that they get to make their own choice about the kind of birth they have. They can choose right from the start of their pregnancy to schedule a cesarean section without any reason other than that’s what they want. There doesn’t need to be any medical need for a c-section, if they pay for it then they can have it.
I was also reading an article on the BBC news website this morning about the increasing risks associated with natural births on the NHS. This is apparently due to a reluctance to perform c-sections due to the cost which, compared to natural birth, is significantly higher.
With all of this on my mind, I have decided to write about each of my birth experiences. I have had a natural (ish) birth and a c section so I feel like I can comment from both sides. I hope it can give perspective parents a little insight into the realities of both of these life altering events.
George is my eldest child and is now four years old. I was elated when I found out I was pregnant with him whilst on holiday in Las Vegas. I had the usual sickness early on but nothing really too bad at all. I had sciatica which got progressively worse and is still with me now but that was the only real issue throughout the pregnancy.
George’s due date was 17th December but I found myself eating Christmas dinner with a baby still in my tummy rather than in my arms. It was around 10pm that evening that I began to have contractions. They were pretty close together and lasting a while so I phoned the maternity unit and gave them my details. They said I should stay at home a bit longer and keep them posted. After around three hours, I discovered some bleeding (TMI) so I called them and they told me to come straight inI wasn’t feeling too worried at this point, I was just pretty excited that things had got going without me having to be induced. I had been planning to go to the birth centre and this was no longer possible as it seemed like I might be having some complications. They strapped me up to a monitor to check that George was ok. At first, everything seemed fine. His heart was dipping occasionally but no one seemed overly concerned. Until. I just couldn’t hear his heart any more. The mid wife’s face immediately changed and she pressed some kind of emergency button. She calmly told me that the room was about to fill with people and I needed to try and stay calm. I had absolutely no idea what was about to happen to me, which is probably a good thing.
All of a sudden there were people everywhere. Multiple doctors and nurses all with their own role to play in caring for me. I have never felt so much panic and fear in my entire life. Even now, my heart is beating faster as I think about it. One of the doctors told me that my baby was ‘not recovering’ and that they needed to take me to theatre and perform a c-section to get the baby out. I had people taking blood and hooking me up to a drip, while someone else was taking off my underwear and examining me. It was absolutely horrific. I started to cry uncontrollably out of pure fear as they rushed me through to the operating room.
When I got in there, I realised my husband wasn’t with me as they had made him go and change into scrubs. I felt so alone and confused about everything. They told me that they would give me an epidural but if that didn’t work fast enough then they would just put me to sleep. I sat on the bed with my back arched, trying to keep still through the sobs while they administered the epidural. They kept asking me if I felt like the needle was in the middle of my back. I don’t know! I don’t know! I screamed.
They got the epidural in and I was lying down on the bed. My husband came back and sat beside me. I was just waiting for them to cut into me and praying so hard that everything would be ok. I just couldn’t even imagine that my baby might not make it, I just couldn’t believe that could be true.
Then, it was like a switch, and things just went quiet. We’ve got your baby’s heartbeat back now so we’re not going to do the c-section. Er, what the heck? They said they would monitor me closely but for now I would be taken back to the labour ward. They were saying that I was lucky really because now I had an epidural in place so I wouldn’t feel much pain. I wasn’t feeling particularly lucky right then, I can tell you that.
I think David and I were both in shock. It had all happened so fast and now there was nothing. Silence, apart from the pounding of my baby’s heart on the monitor. This was how things were for the next 27 hours until my boy was born. I was pushing for a long time and they decided they needed to use the ventouse (vacuum) machine to help things along. The midwife I ended up with at the birth was just awful. She hardly spoke to me and just obviously did not want to be spending her Christmas delivering my baby. At one point, she told me off because I wasn’t pushing correctly. You’re doing it wrong! Sorry love, I haven’t actually done this before so please forgive me.
George came into the world at 12.20am, 27 hours after I had first started having contractions at home. He was healthy and perfect and there was no explanation as to why his heart had dropped so dangerously just a few hours earlier.
I had to have a LOT of stitches and was waiting for the epidural to wear off so that I could get up and about a bit. The mean mid wife told me that my husband would have to leave soon as I would be taken down to the ward. She told me if I was quick that I could have a bath, then she left. No help, no nothing. It actually makes me so mad to think about it. Don’t worry, I made a complaint about her.
I went home at 7pm that evening, I just couldn’t wait to get out of there. My recovery was slow and painful. I was physically and emotionally traumatised by my experience and couldn’t properly speak about it for a long time. I think it was an unlucky first experience, not how it was going to be in my head at all.
Here comes the cliche, I have a healthy baby and I’m alive so who cares! It wasn’t how I wanted it to be, but that’s the same for so many women. My most valuable piece of advice to a first time mum would be don’t plan your birth. Sure, have a think about whether or not you’d like an epidural if you have the chance or if you’ll hop into the pool if there’s one available. But, don’t expect it to happen how you want it to. Be prepared for things to change and for you to not be in control. You need to be ok with not being in control and understanding that it’s about what’s best for your baby, not what beautiful birth experience you can tell your girlfirends in a week or two.
Sheesh, that was long, sorry. Birth story number two coming soon!