I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to birth stories, you generally only hear of absolute horror stories? Prior to having my children, my thoughts on birth followed two paths, the first being that it would be excruciating agony and I would just take every single drug available to me to block it out, the second being that I just really didn’t want to think about it at all, it was obviously going to happen at some point and I was just going to have to deal with it.
I tried to prepare for the birth, I half heartedly flicked through a few books, watched One Born Every Minute, took antenatal classes, ordered my tens machine and waited……..
I went into labour on my due date, very slow labour as it turned out. The baby was back to back and I was having contractions every 5 minutes for about 3 days. I couldn’t sleep, or even sit down. Eventually the midwives let me in hospital on my 4 th attempt! After a 12 hour labour I gave birth to all 9lb 1.5oz of my son using gas and air and a tens machine. Afterwards, I was requiring surgery, I was absolutely exhausted and felt traumatised. The pain had been bearable but I felt out of control. At this point I really wish I had prepared better. My birth plan had been sketchy to say the least and I had approached it with a Sunday night homework assignment mentality. I had written what I thought I should, rather than thinking about what I really wanted.
When I became pregnant again, I was still unsure how I wanted birth to be. I knew I didn’t want it to be like before, I knew I needed more control, but I was still unsure how to achieve this. I did a lot more research this time. I discovered that a water birth would put less stress on my previous scars, thus preventing damage. I also wanted to avoid drugs again if I could. I read a lot more books, talked to more people, asked my midwife lots and lots of questions and generally felt more prepared. I knew it was going to hurt, I also knew I was in control, I had done a lot of preparation, I knew I could do it.
Slow labour was a problem again this time, it lasted 4 days and I was exhausted. I finally got into established labour on day 4, and my daughter was born an amazing 3.5 hours later in the birthing pool at the hospital. The experience was again painful, but also magical, everyone was calm, the lights were low, there was no screaming, no shouting, just relaxed calm. She was born in water and her cord wasn’t cut until it had stopped pulsating. I even had 2 additional midwives to watch her water birth as they had never seen a baby actually born in water and they were both in tears. The midwife who delivered her was outstanding, she was confident, knew her stuff and offered me alternatives, a far cry from the midwife I had had the first time.
My advice for a birth you are in control of would be;
- Research lots and decide what you want to happen
- Ask your midwife lots of questions in the lead up to the birth
- Go and see the birthing unit to get familiar with what to expect and what your birth options are, for example birth pool, active labour etc
- Get yourself a useful and trusted birthing partner and if not possible consider hiring a doula
- Seek other alternatives to the local maternity unit if that is what you want
- Really think about pain relief and the pros and cons of each type
- Don’t let a bad experience cloud your birth, every birth is different
- Don’t be afraid to question your midwife when in labour if you feel you need to
Written by Katie B, loving mum to Evan and Seren