Welcome to another birth story. A birth is always celebrated, but it doesn’t always feel like a positive experience. Victoria describes her story here, and how she’s struggled to come to terms with not having the birth she imagined, whilst being grateful for a healthy baby; this feeling should never be ignored. I wish her all the best for her next birth, whenever that may be! The story is told in Victoria’s own words. Photo by Rebecca May Photography.
My son was born in August 2014, my first baby. I’ve had type one diabetes nearly my whole life, which means I was classed as high risk and the pregnancy required a lot of extra care because of this. I had always known that labour and birth would be ‘different’ and I couldn’t imagine the period after my baby was born because I was so focused on, and scared about, the birth.
As with all diabetic mothers, I was scheduled to be induced at 38 weeks and put on Syntocinon throughout labour. Looking back now, I should have asked why. I didn’t understand why these things were put in place and, more importantly, I didn’t understand that it’s okay to say no. Like millions of other women every day, I put my faith in these people as professionals and I said yes. I must say that the midwives and consultants I saw were only working in my best interests and just doing what they did for all diabetic mums to be. I do wish, though, that someone had found time to explain it all in detail and to remind me that it was my choice, not something I HAD to agree to.
Something I don’t understand, however, is why I was never asked to write a birth plan. To me, there is no excuse. And because of this, I never got the chance to lay out in detail what I wanted. Again, I assumed there was a reason for this and put my faith in the professionals. I knew I wanted a water birth but when I mentioned this to my midwife, I was told that high risk women (like myself) cannot have water births. I was extremely disappointed. Had I done some research at the time though, I’d have discovered that some local hospitals do actually offer water births to high risk women though, so I wish I had known this as the time.
The day was booked. I was due to be induced at 38 weeks on August 5th 2014. I was not looking forward to it. The induction process scared me. The whole birth situation, for a high risk woman like myself, sounded very medicalised – the complete opposite of what I’d always imagined.
In the end, I went into labour naturally at 37 weeks and 4 days. I was so relieved because I had wanted to do it naturally and I knew I wouldn’t have to be induced. Like all women after their first baby, I really wish I had stayed at home in labour much longer and, if I were not diabetic, I probably would have done. But I thought it best to go to hospital as soon as possible so, after contracting all night, off we went.
I was heartbroken to be told I’d have to go on Syntocinon anyway. Syntocinon is a drug that emulates natural labour (making it even more painful than natural labour) and apparently speeds up the process. Everything was progressing well until I decided to stop being active and lay down because I was exhausted. A rookie mistake I won’t make again! Another thing for me to avoid next time is Pethidine. I am aware that it is an effective painkiller for most women but, for me, it made me hallucinate and lose track of reality, which was terrifying. After a slow 30-hour labour, baby started showing signs of distress and my worst fears were realised – I’d need an emergency C section. I was prepped quickly, crying in fear, but my husband and midwife were really reassuring.
The operation was terrifying. I felt no pain but I could feel everything that was happening, which I wasn’t expecting. My anaesthetist was lovely but he couldn’t stop me screaming and thrashing around on the table. My husband had to pin down my arms. I was devastated that I couldn’t see our boy straight away and that my husband was the first to hold him, not me.
The arrival of Lucas William at 3.37am on August 4th 2014 made me (temporarily) forget it all and I fell in love. My surgeon did an amazing job and I physically recovered quickly. Mentally and emotionally, though, I had not recovered. Soon after having Lucas, I started getting flashbacks to the birth. I struggled to deal with the fact that I didn’t have the birth I had wanted. I felt I had had no control over the situation and didn’t have the chance to make choices. I felt cheated of the birth I had always wanted. Don’t all women deserve that? Yes, I should have asked questions and done my own research, but it was my first birth and I was swept up in everything.
I want to encourage all expectant mothers to do their research. Decide what you would like, even if it’s something against your midwife or consultant’s wishes. Remember that it is your body, your choice. If you don’t understand something, ask questions until it makes sense. Talk to other mothers and get tips and advice from them. Make your decisions for YOU, no one else. So don’t be put off from induction or Syntocinon after reading my story. And don’t be afraid of C sections. Just be aware of the pros and cons of everything and that what works for one woman doesn’t work for every woman. And, most vitally of all, WRITE A BIRTH PLAN. Everyday, I feel angry and disappointed that no one asked me what kind of birth I wanted.
I had a birth debrief with a consultant midwife a few months after the birth and she explained how and why everything had happened. Something she said stays with me – “Be realistic about the kind of birth you can have”. Part of me agrees that some options may not be recommended due to medical reasons, and the safety of my baby would always come first. But I don’t agree with discouraging women from pursuing their wishes, because I know how it feels to be a woman who didn’t get their dream birth. If birth professionals can help all women achieve what they want (or at least find a close alternative), women would be less afraid. Just expressing that I would like an active birth next time, with dimmed lights, music and water, would help me feel I had more control. And laying out what I’d like to happen if I need a C section again, would help me feel less afraid.
I ended up suffering from PTSD because of the birth. My midwife and surgeon, etc, we’re fantastic on the day but I do feel many opportunities were missed to make me feel happier, safer and more prepared. If I had felt these things, maybe my emergency caesarean could have been avoided and my PTSD definitely could have.
Today, nearly two years on, I am feeling almost ready to have another baby again in the near future. I didn’t think that day would come but I have made progress and, when the time comes, I will feel more prepared.