Thinking about Labour

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

I realise that you might think I'm a little mad, but I have been thinking about labour since the very first moment I found out I was pregnant. 

In fact, that's a lie. 

I've been thinking about labour since about November 2012, a month after Ollies birth, when the hormones wore off and my brain started to function normally again. Thinking about my labour with Ollie, thinking about the prospect of going through it again.

I have voiced my opinions on labour frequently in real life and oddly, not very much on my blog. My birth story, written within weeks of the event, is really bizarre. Totally devoid of emotion and just a list of facts. I wouldn't bother reading it if you haven't already, you'll get the gist from this post. 

I suppose the point I am skirting around and not actually making is that I have not only been thinking about labour, but feeling pretty traumatised by the whole thing. At my nine week booking appointment with this pregnancy the brilliant midwife picked up on this instantly and asked me loads of questions. She was very reassuring; that a second pregnancy often brings back the trauma of a first birth, that it's very normal etc etc. I think however she just assumed, as others have done, that it's the pain I'm traumatised by. And whilst yes it was a huge shock how horrendously painful it got, that's not the issue. 

The issue is I felt let down. Let down by the whole experience, let down by my midwife, I suppose let down a little by my husband, but most of all let down by myself. By my so called instincts, by my 'natural' ability.

When I was pregnant with Ollie I took the advice not to make a birth plan a little too literally. I didn't really think about birth at all. I didn't picture myself in labour, didn't consider how Id feel or react, made no plans whatsoever. I wasn't scared or anxious. My body is born to give birth. This is something millions of women have done. I will do it. I will be brave and strong and it will be fine. I will trust my instincts.

When my first proper contraction hit, when I was already strapped up to a million monitors in the delivery unit after my waters had broken with meconium, I did not feel brave and strong. I certainly didn't have any instincts to trust. I just wanted to run. The pain felt completely alien, like I had a torture device strapped to the inside of my stomach that was hurting me from the inside and I was powerless to stop it. I expressed this view to my husband who sort of shrugged helplessly. I felt terrified. I knew it was going to get worse. I couldn't stop it. I couldn't control it. 

Very shortly after this, it emerged that Ollies heart rate was unstable, that I had to lie flat on my back as it was less irregular in this position. That my legs had to be up in stirrups so every twenty minutes a needle extracting blood from his head could check oxygen levels. I was wired to machines in a room full of doctors and students, each taking turns to shove a device or an arm up my vagina. Throughout I was oddly calm. I was frightened by the pain, wanted to escape, but knew I couldn't, so wasn't going to make a fuss. I felt like a bit of a specimen on a table, laid out bare for testing. I gave up on what mattered to me or how I was being made to feel.  I had scoffed when people talked about creating the ideal birthing environment, thinking it was a bit of a whimsical idea, but on reflection, the environment I was in had a really negative impact on me. If any natural instincts were kicking in trying to help, they were drowned out by the noises of heart monitors and consultants. 

I was so overwhelmed by everything though that I kept quiet. My useless midwife at no point intervened, at no point acted as my advocate. No one at all said I was brave or strong, even though I wasn't screaming, wasn't swearing, was quietly trying to contain my fear and deal with the pain whilst watched by a million faces under spotlights. 

At six centimetres dialated I was told it was either a fast induction to try and force baby out vaginally, or emergency c-section. Ollies heart rate had been unstable for too long. The addition of a drip and a triple dose of oxytocin was the icing on the cake. The pain was completely different to that of natural labour. A different league. The alien torture device was programmed to kill. I didn't feel at one with my body. I didn't identify with the pain, or focus on my baby moving down the birth canal. There was no goal, no point to these contractions. I forgot all about Ollie. No one helped me or reminded me. My own mind and body included. Terrified and in total agony,  I still surpressed my screams as I didn't want to be a nuisance to the ever growing numbers of practitioners standing over me. After the anaesthetic team came and spoke to me FOUR times, I relented and took the epidural they insisted was the only humane solution given the circumstances.

Of course it was bloody wonderful. The pain stopped. But I had failed. I had failed to have a natural birth. I had failed in my first calling as a mother* I was totally and utterly let down. I felt instant regret and fury at myself. I was miserable, exhausted and felt like I had lost a part of myself.

Ollie was born 40 minutes later. Apparently I was the most efficient pusher the consultant had ever seen, but even that glory was taken away from me and after his heart rate plummeted they cut me and wrenched him out with forceps. The epidural had worn off between my legs at that stage. So I felt the cut, the cold metal. The final insult. I couldn't do it.

Ollie was born healthy and happy. Of course, that is what mattered. I would go through all that again and worse to have him here and okay. Of course I would. But I still feel like I lost something that day, whilst simultaneously gaining the most precious gift imaginable.

I read birth stories all the time where women felt empowered by labour. They felt strong and brave. The team around them helped them reach their goal. Birthing their child was a triumphant beautiful and powerful experience.

I am so envious. 

What happened changed a lot for me. It impeded my recovery. I swear the drugs in my system were what made
Ollie so sleepy and set in motion the chain of events that led him not to latch for 14 weeks. 

Yes he is fine. But I am not. 

I'm not sure what to make of this. I'm not sure how to approach labour this time round. What if there is meconium again? What if my body just can't do it? Do you think it's selfish putting importance on 'my experience' rather than just delivering  my child?

I need help. I need advice. Please share if you have any! I imagine there will be another post in the future about this because whilst I might be hoping my instincts work better for me next time, I sure as hell need a plan B.

Thank you for reading xxx

* PS. For the record, in putting such an honest and personal account of my experience on here I am in no way passing comment on anyone else's labour but my own. I do not think that if you have an epidural you fail as a mother. I admire and respect women who take pain relief because they bloody well want to. I just didn't want to. I do not think you fail if you have to have forceps. I think you are incredibly brave and you probably had no choice anyway. It is just the whole sum of events that has led me to feel the way I do, not specifics, and certainly not regarding anyone but myself.


  1. I think too much pressure is put on us to have a perfect birth, I certainly felt that I had failed after the first time round. I had a 46 hour labour with Seb at which point someone realised he was breech followed by a emergency section with failed epidurals, spinals not going in properly and so I was under general anaesthetc when he was born, I missed the birth of my child and i found it very hard afterwards knowing that, and I didn't even really feel like I'd given birth. Everyone always said as long as he is here safely it doesn't matter how he was born, I nodded along but really I didn't agree with that at all. Of course that was the most important thing but I had wanted a natural birth with minimal pain relief and I felt robbed of that experience hadn't even been aware that he was born, when I came round from the anaesthetic I just kept asking for water.
    Second time I wanted a natural birth but for various reasons I ended up with another c section though this time around i knew more. It was calmer and a much better experience and it did heal some of the wounds of my first experience even though it wasn't the natural birth I really wanted.

    I hope you get to have a better experience this time around x

  2. The most important person is mama, looking after you is key(Emma Cannon's nurturing guide'you & ur bump' is gr8:)!

    Best Wishes, Jo!



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