Our guest poster today is Emma who is a 24 year mother who lives in Surrey with her partner Fabio, 22 month old son Harrison and their cat Darcey. They have just bought their first house and Emma blogs about motherhood, pregnancy, making their first house their forever home and their adventures as a family at Emmaandfamily.co.uk.
I was the first of my friends to settle down and have a baby at 22 years old. Since then I have been the go-to person for all my friends to come asking about the ins and outs of childbirth. I have retold my birth story countless times and the more I tell it the more I find I am an honing in on one key message. It’s not about different birthing methods, different pain reliefs or anything like that. My advice is to trust your body and trust your instincts. You are a mother and have some of the best natural instincts the world has to offer.
Now that our son is almost 2 years old, we are trying to conceive our second child. In anticipation, (ok I admit, in my broodiness), I have begun to read a book on hypno-birthing, this book discusses something that struck me as poignant. We have learnt to fear childbirth; we have been taught that it is a frightening, painful experience. I think we are all guilty of saying things like ‘it can’t be worse than child birth’ or something similar. But, if we watch animals in labour they do not panic, they take themselves to where they feel most comfortable and then just get on with giving birth. They don’t know the list of things that could possibly go wrong , they haven’t spent weeks reading blogs, watching ‘One Born Every Minute’ or going to antenatal classes. Their bodies just know what to do. We are the same, we’re designed to have babies, our bodies are capable to giving birth. What I want women to do is trust their natural instincts. As a mother you have this almost spooky instinct of protection for your child. It is those instincts you need to trust in labour.
My first brush with my natural instincts was about a week before my son was born. It was around 8pm when I realised I hadn’t felt my baby move all day. I did all the things they tell you to do like lie down on your side, drink a cold sweet drink and he still hadn’t moved. So I rang the maternity unit who told me to come straight over. Luckily I was at my mums at the time so she came with me whilst my other half rushed home from work to meet us there. Now in this instance we were lucky and my naughty little boy moved as soon has the midwife plugged in all the monitors etc. They kept me in for a few hours and all seemed fine, apart from my unease. I still didn’t feel completely reassured and wanted a scan to check he was ok but they said I didn’t need one.
Fast forward one week and I was in labour. This isn’t a birth story so I won’t go into too much detail about my labour but one thing I knew as soon as my contractions ramped up is that I wanted to be in hospital. I was anxious and I just had this feeling that being at home unmonitored wasn’t safe for me and my baby. So around 3am we went in to the hospital but I was sent pretty much straight home and told as a first time mum I still had hours left to go. So we left, disappointed and a little angry. I then spent the next several hours of my labour struggling and desperate to go back to the hospital but terrified of the midwives sending me home again. We rang again at 8am after my waters broke and asked to go in. The midwife I spoke told us not to go in saying I wasn’t in active labour yet despite my tears and begging! Eventually at midday I had had enough I could barely stand or walk and was beyond myself and went in. Then all hell broke loose. As soon as they put me on a fetal monitor they found that my baby wasn’t coping. With every contraction his heart rate dropped dramatically and because my contractions were so close together he wasn’t getting a chance to recover between them. I was rushed to theatre and he was born by emergency forceps in one of the most terrifying moments of my life.
Almost 2 years later when I think back I get quite upset thinking about my experience of labour. Not because of the pain, not because I didn’t get the water birth I was dreaming of but because I was not listened to whilst I was in labour. If I had been allowed to stay in the labour ward when I had first wanted to, they would have picked up on the difficulty he was having so much sooner. That wouldn’t have changed the outcome, in fact it may have resulted in a c-section instead of the vaginal birth I wanted, but there would have been so much less fear around his birth!
Secondly, the reason his heart rate was so dangerously low was because he was really dramatically tied up in his cord. After he was born they couldn’t even untangle him, they had to cut it off of him! My midwife later told me that the quiet day he had had was most likely the day he tied himself up in the cord. If they had scanned me when I had asked them to they would have picked that up and then we would have been prepared for when I did go into labour. Had they of known, they would have monitored me for much early and he would have been at a much less risk.
We are fortunate that he was born completely healthy and hasn’t had lasting health problems due to his heat rate. It easily could have been a different outcome from his birth. However, that does not change the fact that I wish I had stood up for both of us more when I was pregnant and in labour. I wish I had pushed for someone to listen to my instincts because quite frankly I was 100% right.
My advice to any pregnant woman is to research, learn, prepare for all possibilities for labour and delivery. When you are writing your birth plan research your rights and your facts and be prepared to fight for what you want. Someone later pointed out to be that I could have stayed at the hospital when they told me to go home. They weren’t about to get security to escort a labouring woman out of the hospital; I could have stayed even if they didn’t admit me. I could have progressed my labour by just walked around the hospital or even stayed in the waiting area and felt safer. They probably would have admitted me quicker that way!
Most importantly, my birth story aside, your labour is your labour, your baby is your baby. You know your body, you haven’t even met yet but you know your baby! Listen to your instincts and if needed be a mama bear and roar!
(Disclaimer: I am in no way advocating ignoring the advice given by any medical professional or suggesting you refuse any kind of medical treatments.)