I grew up around pregnancy and birth. When I found out I was pregnant I realised that I knew a lot more about pregnancy than an average first time mother.
My Mum trained as a midwife when my brothers and I were all young children. Looking back now I have no idea how she managed it all at once.
I remember her training well, not least her and my Aunty practising with this book on a packed train home from an evening in London!
I remember the shifts, the nights, the having to be quiet whilst Mum was sleeping. I remember the strange phone calls when she was a case loading midwife in the community and on call … One especially memorable one occurred whilst I was eating my shepherds pie (with ketchup)
“Hello Linda speaking”
“Ok, is the discharge yellow? … Lumpy? … Blood stained? … Bright red blood? …”
I don’t think I wanted to finish my dinner.
I was and am very proud of her and the work she does.
Having her as my Mum was hugely beneficial when I was pregnant. Who doesn’t want a 24/7 on call midwife who loves you and your unborn child?? She was a brilliant support and lovingly answered all my ‘is this normal…’ questions.
She also did some key things for me:
She arranged for me to get tested for Group B Strep. This test isn’t routinely available on the NHS – I wasn’t a carrier, which was a relief. I hadn’t realised the potential severity of the condition until my niece had to spend the first week of her life in NICU due to it. Glad Mum got me the test.
She was my breastfeeding counsellor, supporter and example. I had seen her breastfeed my little brother and it was normal and natural and ‘what you did’. Her car, as we were growing up, had all sorts of weird things in it – I’ll never forget the knitted breasts! (Or discovering, far too young, what a speculum is). I think this exposure and reassurance really helped me be sure of my choice to breastfeed.
She didn’t beat around the bush, as it were, about the reality of birth. The beauty and wonder of uncomplicated birth and the life saving interventions that are sometimes necessary. It was fantastic to share two pregnancies and births with her, and her colleagues, who in both pregnancies gave me advice and support too.
So, what about the birth part? Well I, naively perhaps, presumed that I would have the same uncomplicated births that my Mum and her Mum had. How wrong I was, Joni’s birth was not as we expected and Wilbur’s was an elective caesarean.
Almost a year later I have been reflecting on the birth of my little ones. As pregnancy and birth increasingly feels like something far away and not to be encountered again (perhaps maybe who knows) I am increasingly at peace with the way my babies were born. Firstly, they don’t give a monkeys how they were born. But more importantly I don’t think I do anymore. You don’t get a gold star for doing it without pain relief (hell, I didn’t have pain relief for 12 hours of excruciating back to back contractions and I didn’t get a gold star, that’s for sure). There is no league table and every birth is different. I’m so glad I feel differently now. I was so worried at one stage that I’d never get over my disappointment in myself.
It’s funny how somethings just cease to matter over time, isn’t it?