Midwifes Angels and Dragons
As soon as I discovered I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to give birth as naturally as possible. I was excited at the prospect of a peaceful birth in a tranquil birthing pool, with my preferred playlist playing and dim lights. Fantasy this might seem, but this was the birth I dreamed of and which would form the basis of my birth plan. Let’s fast forward to 28 weeks pregnant when I started my hypnobirthing classes. These classes were incredibly relaxing and further promoted my belief I could have a natural birth. That I could move as I pleased and not have be strapped to a table like some 1950s movie (with my husband smoking a cigar outside waiting for news).
When it was announced in one class that our local birth centre was closing and therefore no further births would be taking place. Devastated wasn’t the word. There were no other birth centres nearby and the closest ones, well quite honestly I did not want to step foot there. I was utterly bereft. But then our lovely hypnobirthing instructor (herself a midwife) suggested a home birth. A home birth. My husband and I had never mentioned this to one another ever, but in one look at each other we knew it was the option for us. From there we booked a home visit, ordered the birthing pool and generally got prepared. My peaceful home birth plan was written and ready. And then….. Well the little monkey decided to be two week’s late.
Truly at this point I felt like all my choices were removed from me. The induction was booked, there could be no home birth and I had to go to one of the hospitals I had never wanted to be in. While the midwives during my appointments and sweeps were all very polite, none of them really tell you that you don’t have to follow the induction advice. I was scared by stories of mothers not being induced and endangering their babies. So bye bye home birth. However there was a slim hope that I could still give birth in the hospital’s birth centre if H started his arrival during the first induction. With every fibre of my soul I prayed and hoped for this to happen. Then my nightmare began. I was strapped to a bed with one of those monitors strapped to my belly. Throughout my entire pregnancy I was told – being on your back is bad – then you get to hospital and they strap you to a bed and gauge your child’s well being on a monitor that slips off your belly every 2 seconds. They were monitoring me every 30 minutes or so. The person monitoring me was not a qualified nurse. She was simply told to watch for fluctuations in the blips on the monitor. She decided that my baby was in distress because there was a massive dip on the screen. The truth was that my baby was moving, that the stupid monitor kept falling off. At this point they slammed the curtains shut, pushed my legs roughly apart and pulled out the pessary. No birth centre birth for me. I would have to give birth in the hospital labour ward.
I wept. Then I listened to my birth playlist and stayed calm. They moved me to the labour ward and I met my first of 3 midwives who would eventually look after me. She was lovely. But… She had never heard of hypnobirthing. She was not used to people not having pain medication. I concentrated on being calm whilst listening to my playlist. I could feel the contractions but it was barely a period pain at this point. She would nudge me gently me and ask me if I was ok, she was surprised that I wasn’t shouting with the contractions. I assured her I could feel them, but I was indeed fine. Then came the doctor. Now I believe doctors to be wonderfully clever individuals. But I will also believe until my dying day, that they have no place in a labour ward (unless someone is having a c-section or is in genuine danger obviously). The doctor decided that as my contractions were slowing down, he would like to break my waters. But he would give it some time before doing so. My contractions did get stronger. But still in he came 15 minutes later and broke my waters anyway, under the guise of doing an internal exam. I was not happy. I was then set up on the drip to make my contractions come stronger. Then my midwife had to change.
Enter the dragon lady. I pity any poor lady who has had this woman in their labour room. She turned the lights up full blast, claiming she needed to see the notes (the previous midwife had done her notes in the corner under a lamp, allowing me to keep some small part of my birth plan intact) She said my music had to come off. Then, and this is my favourite part, she told me I had to have an epidural. “I don’t want one,” I said firmly. Yes the contractions were heating up at this point but I was doing fine. The dragon lady went and got the water-breaking doctor and told him to tell me I had to have an epidural. The doctor, god-bless him then said (in his one redeeming moment): “if she doesn’t want one, she doesn’t need one” and left. The dragon lady decided to increase my drip. Obviously she had some important dinner plans. At this point, I needed the toilet. My previous midwife had allowed me to come off the monitor for 5 minutes for my toilet breaks and waddle to the loo, taking my little drip out with me. The dragon lady told me I would have to do it in a cardboard bedpan. Now a lot of the romance had already left the room by this point. I was hot, sweaty and wearing a god-awful gown that meant my entire backside was on display. But I wasn’t confident of what might come out if I had to go to the toilet in front of my husband. It felt like it was a wee, but who knew?? I did not want to poo in front of my husband and frankly that had been my entire fear about giving birth if I’m honest. Not the pain, not stitches or anything. But the threat that I might poo in front of my husband was frankly too much to bear at this point. Anyway I flat out refused and she tutted at me, muttering something under her breathe. This is the moment where my darling husband won 20 million brownie points. He is usually a mild mannered man but he said into my ear “Just say the word and I’ll get rid of her”. To be clear my husband was not offering to off the dragon lady, though that is a tantalising thought, no no he was going to get her “re-assigned”. “Do it,” I said, as if ordering some sort of mafia hit. I waddled off to the bathroom and when I returned, the dragon lady was packing up. Hoorah!
Then came the angel. I forget her name sadly, but she was peaceful, calming and so respectful of my birth plan. The lights were dimmed. The music was back on. She allowed me to drink some juice, which was well timed as I was completely running on empty by this point. At this point I also had two student midwives in the room too. One had been with me since my pregnancy and had asked during one appointment, if I minded her shadowing my pregnancy and birth. And I didn’t mind. Her name is Jemma and she is lovely. Having her as part of my pregnancy and birth was exceptionally special and I will always think fondly of her. The other student was shadowing the angel midwife and I had no problems with her being in the room. She too was lovely. Now this was the point where I had the weak moment. The pain, my word the pain, it had escalated very quickly after dragon lady upped my drip. I said the dreaded words to Andy: “I can’t do this, I want an epidural”. Cue crying. Announcing myself a failure. The hub once again was a champ. He grabbed the angel midwife and she was lovely about it. There was a waiting list for the epidural but she asked if she could give me another exam. I said no. I was tearful, exhausted and generally done in. I then waddled off to the loo again. At this point, sat in the toilet, I genuinely thought a baby was about to pop into the loo. I also made a quite distinct moo noise. I heard the midwife outside say to the hub “She needs to come out now”. Out I waddled. At this point I must have been a real sight as my gown was pretty much off at this point. I was a fat, waddling and moo’ing sweaty preggers lady. Back to the bed I waddled. The angel midwife gently insisted that she really must examine me. I allowed it, mostly as I was nearly asleep by now. I was 10 cm. I was ready. And you know what, I was relieved. I couldn’t have an epidural now. It was done. So now I pushed under a sudden burst of energy. He came out in 1 hour. As was my request, he came straight out and was placed on to my bare chest for skin on skin. He did not cry. He stared at me and was so alert. In this pic he looks like his crying but he’s honestly just a bit squishy. He didn’t cry until the next day when the doctor shoved her finger in his throat to pull up the mucus. Nice. Then there was a moment I will never forget. My hub and I looked at each other and cried. We knew. This was everything,. I was fulfilled.
The rest is a bit hazy. The midwife spent 1 hour stitching me back up, that much I remember vividly. H and the hub had some skin on skin time. And someone made me tea and toast. I was moved to a private room as the wards were busy, which ended up being lovely. I had my own bathroom and privacy. Much more than many others get. I was admitted for two days as my blood pressure had sky rocketed and I had lost a lot of blood. I was borderline for a transfusion. But we made it home. My birth story started horrifically (when compared to my initial dreams of a peaceful home birth) but the moment the angel midwife entered, it was lovely. It was as much as I could hope for under the circumstances. I know in the scheme of things it was fine, but the sense of not having any control over how I gave birth was really horrid. It made me feel angry, helpless and disappointed. But I got my H. He was definitely worth it all.