Feelings about birth – A year on

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.

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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!

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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?

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2 Responses to Feelings about birth – A year on

  1. Cathy says:

    This is just such a brilliant post Emma. I have long felt that far more is made of the method of birth than needs be. We all hope for quick, straightforward, uncomplicated, natural births and some of us are lucky enough to experience them – but many aren’t and honestly, it’s just the luck of the draw.

    At the end of the day the only person who really cares – and by ‘cares’ I mean judges you upon – whether or not you gave birth au natrel with a doula, joss sticks and candles or drugged up to the eyeballs is you. I hear far too many women talking about regrets they harbour from their birth experiences YEARS later. I wish I hadn’t taken pain relief….I wish I’d insisted they delay cutting the cord…I wish I’d refused an induction….I wish I’d had the hypnobirth I’d always wanted instead of asking for pethedine…..it’s so pointless and so heartbreaking to hear women beating themselves up when they have in fact achieved something incredible.

    Similarly however I find it frustrating when women use any excuse to drop into conversation that they had natural births/hypnobirths/no pain relief. It sounds so smug and again, the only person who cares is YOU. And aspects that lead to such births, such as pain threshold, position of baby, size of baby, speed of delivery etc are again completely the luck of the draw. You cannot control what kind of birth you have any more than you can control the gender of your child. It’s going to be one or the other, it’s going to be this kind of birth or it’s going to be that kind – you’re just along for the ride. All the positive thinking and pregnancy yoga and breathing techniques and visualisations in the world won’t make a blind scrap of difference if, say, you have a low placenta, or your baby is in the back-to-back position, or your baby is 11lb, or you have a long cervix, or a narrow pelvis, or there’s meconium when the waters break, and so on.

    All the rest of us, your baby included, care about is that you’re OK and the baby’s OK. The rest is completely irrelevant.

    • bornin2011 says:

      I think you’re totally right, and thank you. The realisation that my children don’t care how they were born (I don’t care how I was born!) was the thing that made me feel so much better about it. You know what though? I still get angry at those people who drop it into conversation that they didn’t have pain relief. I tend to retaliate with the – not at all childish – ‘oo you don’t know what you are missing, morphine’s amazing’ etc. I’m looking forward to caring less and less and less as the years progress. And yes, thank goodness for c-sections – neither Joni or I would be here without them.

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