My three previous births
Birth and babies are a funny business. Whatever happens in the process, it's the end result that's all important, right? It's hard to say, "I was disappointed in the birth" without someone saying, "Well, if you have a healthy baby, that's all that counts."
Don't hear me not being grateful for my first three healthy babies. I am - and I love them all to bits. But the truth is, I was disappointed in the process of their births. Their emotional impact was my main motivation in working hard towards having a 'natural' birth fourth time around.
I think it's a shame to deny people their feelings of disappointment or loss, no matter what area of life they are in. I'm grateful to have had a chance to do it differently - because I really did want to.
For my first birth , 11 years ago, I really wanted to do it naturally. I had read a few things (not much) about how avoiding drugs brought a better outcome for mother and baby, and I was motivated to try. I went into labour spontaneously at 41 weeks, but was in hospital at the time for a day of high blood pressure, so I wasn't feeling fantastically well. I laboured in the ward from 4.30am, but felt unable to move around from a sitting position.
At one stage I went into the shower, but felt too sweaty, and too worried about water wastage, so gave up there. I hardly drank, and then vomited. After hours and hours I asked for a shot of pethidine which sent me woozy (I saw pages of handwritten foolscap papers zooming before my eyes). At some stage, I got dehydrated from the lack of drinking, the sweating and the vomiting. Besides, I wasn't dilating quickly because I couldn't move from a sitting position. All of that meant the baby's heartbeat was dipping as well.
I just remember the room filling up with staff, people talking over my head and things being done to me. I felt sick and terrible and hopeless, and when my waters began to show meconium stain, people got worried. I tried to push the baby out when they told me, but I didn't know where to push, and eventually after 19 hours of labour the baby was pulled out with a vacuum, just in time to avoid a c-section, and sent to the special care nursery.
I felt traumatised from pain and shock for months and so, so disappointed that I hadn't been able to do it.
Four years later, as I planned my second baby's delivery, I felt cynical and hopeless. "This time, I'll just take the drugs," I said. I was sick before the due date, and went in and begged for an induction. The hospital let me do it, so I was induced into labour with a syntocin drip, asked for an epidural early on, and spent most of the time hooked up to a monitor, chatting with the nurse. She turned up the drip and after five hours told me it was time to push. Again, I couldn't push effectively. I was pushing in my tummy, not into my bottom, and it didn't work at all. Again, the vacuum had to be used to pull out my little boy.
This time, it was quick and it was painfree, but as I approached my third delivery, a few years later, I realised that I hadn't liked feeling so dissociated from the process. It was as if something was being taken out of me, rather than me 'birthing' the baby and being involved.
The third time, I decided that I wanted to try a natural delivery again. "A third time, I reckon a safe bet is a six hour labour," I thought. "I could do six hours. And anyway, it couldn't be any worse than the first time."
One of our friends from the church we were at at the time was a doula. She gave me a number of books to read and tried to help me out by working through some of the fears I had from the first time. I also listened to a lot of birth meditation and relaxation CDs.
I was pretty pleased with how things were going, and I was confident that this time would be different. However, I made a number of key mistakes.
The biggest mistake first off was to not hire my friend as a doula. For some reason, AP and I decided that we didn't want someone else there sharing our special birth moment.
The second mistake I made was in getting induced again. The baby was overdue, and AP had exams coming up, and it seemed easier to be induced on a particular day than risk him missing exams and doing resits.
The labour appeared to be going well for the first six hours. I was relaxed and happy and focused, but once again, I found it impossible to move from a sitting position - partly from discomfort and partly because I was once again hooked up to the EFM because of the induction.
After six hours, I started to feel pushy*, but on examination, I found out I was only two centimetres dilated. The disappointment was too much and I gave up and said, "I'll have that epidural now." From there, unfortunately, things didn't work out straightforwardly. The drip being mismanaged was one thing. The incredible pain that I felt in my hip was another, and when baby's heartbeat dipped lower and lower, and the vacuum extractor didn't work, I was transferred in for an emergency caesarean.
If I'd had the coaching from the doula, and if I'd been active instead of confined to the bed with the EFM, things may have been different. Of course, the fact that the baby was 10lb10 (4.85kg) and had a tautcolis - or tight neck and shoulder muscles - may have meant I had to have the c-section anyway, but I don't know.
So I was wrong. It could get worse than the first time, and it did. The process of the emergency c-section was horrible - I lay with my teeth chattering so much that I couldn't actually speak or communicate. It took several hours before I could see the baby properly and then the recovery was painful and difficult. And this time, I was even more disappointed in my birth than previously, because I had tried to prepare so well for it.
"Maybe I just can't give birth," I thought and resigned myself to living with my disappointment in the process.
*I realised the fourth time around that my 'pushy' feelings were actually pushing to try to stop the contraction pain. So I was actually resisting the baby coming down rather than allowing the descent.