It’s easy looking back now having studied for two years to become an Essentials (antenatal) Practitioner and Breastfeeding Counsellor and think about all the things I’d wished I had known and read up on before I had my babies but there are certain things I feel guilty for not questioning during the birth of my boys.
Why didn’t I question the constant foetal monitoring, the breaking of my waters or the syntocinon (artificial oxytocin) drip to induce my contractions? As an educated women in her late 20s who had attended the hospital’s own antenatal classes you’d think that I would have wanted to have a part in these decisions but the truth is I just went along with it. I trusted the doctors and knew them to have more knowledge than me and to want the best outcome for me and my babies. The thing is though, in a medicalised environment, do they always know what is best?
I had been under consultant led care since we found out we were having twins at our first scan at 12 weeks pregnant. I had scans every fortnight. Thankfully our boys were always growing well and there were no concerns about TTTS (Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome). All through the first 24 hours of my labour there were no concerns about them, apart from that a small bleed had set the labour off. After 24 hours my labour slowed down, my contractions basically stopped which I now know can be pretty normal for a first labour, especially in a hospital environment. The next morning the decision was taken to break my waters and put me on the drip to get the labour going again. The contractions came back from so much more intense and painful than they had been the day before until I felt I couldn’t cope any more, I asked for an epidural. I was 9cm dilated but I never got any further. After hours of being at 9cm I ended up having to have the boys delivered by caesarean section because Ethan’s hand was stuck by his face so he couldn’t move down properly.
I felt like the power was taken away from me, that my body failed but was never left to see if it could do it on its own. But I felt worse because I had let that happen. At no point did I question things and say, can I use the birth pool for a couple of hours to see if things get going again, or can we go out for a walk. I had never thought to look into hynobirthing as a way of coping in labour. I had done pregnancy yoga so knew somethings about how to use breathing but I never explored it further. I never asked about the risks. I suppose I felt it would be rude to question somebody who has the level of training they do, who does the job on a daily basis, who has probably looked after hundreds of women like me. For me they’re called health professionals because they are just that, professionals, experts in their field. They do these amazing jobs every day but it doesn’t mean they can’t be questioned or asked to explain more, even if they are super busy because the labour and birth experience for a women and becoming a mother for the first time is one of the defining moments of her life.
After leaving it for two years, I finally arranged to meet my consultant to debrief about my experience and go through my notes. This was amazing as I got to ask all the questions that had been going round in my head for so long. Although I can’t get any firm answers, for example, did the inducing of labour lead to Ethan moving too fast and getting stuck, as we just don’t know, I straightaway felt more accepting of what happened to me.
All of this plus my feeding experience led me to do my NCT training. I now teach Essentials antenatal classes to expectant parents. This is my way of coming to terms with what happened to me by supporting others to have informed choice and a wealth of evidence based resources to go to, in the hope that they never feel the way I did. It’s ok to want ownership of your own birthing journey.
This blog post was first published on Blended Parent Network in April 2017.