Power to the Mother: My birth story.
This is a story that is mine. It is one that I get to choose how to tell. The language is mine, the narrative I craft is mine, and the emotions that run deep and earnestly throughout are all mine too. It is a story that I have held back on sharing because I was scared of marring the face of birth positivity, something that I feel is so important. I was worried that by sharing an experience that is at the very crux and core of me I would be letting the side down. I do not let it define me, but it is inherently woven into the tapestry of our lives. To ignore it is to ignore the yearning I have to share with you, it is to ignore the important message I feel exists in its past and present. It is to ignore the all-encompassing empowerment it gave me now and at the time.
To be told your baby is breech, lying on that paper mat in a too hot midwives office is disheartening. To have a scan that confirms it three hours later was devastating I felt. The birth that I had been yearning for, the primal imaginings of my insomnia-ridden brain, gone. I went home and researched, clinging onto the hope of a vaginal birth, knowing in my gut that it felt right to go for a c-section. Safest, we felt. Booked in at 39 weeks, off we went, me nil by the mouth and hypnobirthing podcast ringing in my ears. We were just scrubbing up, laying out tiny hat ready, when a quick scan surprised us with a baby head down, in prime position. “You can go home and wait for labour. You could have a water birth now. We'll see you soon.” The pangs of acute disappointment followed us out the door, accompanied by the cries of a newborn baby.
At 40+8 weeks, booked in for induction that Saturday, I was resigned. Two previous separate days of 'false labour', I daren’t let myself hope that the niggles when I showered might mean something. I carried on with my day, until later that afternoon the suspicions arose, these were getting stronger rather than leaving.
That evening things ramped up, and I spent an evening wiling away the surges in the bath, then coming out to light candles in the bedroom and continued late into the night until things slowed and I tried to sleep. It was such strong back labour, like blows to my lower back each time, and during a surge I would try to rise up to my knees and ride it out until they had passed.
I remember feeling really confused as I blinked my eyes as the watery early morning sunlight filtered through. It was disconcerting to realised I had slept for a couple of hours, and I was upset once more to think it had just been early labour once again. But within five minutes of being up things began almost where they had left off.
It was frustratingly stop-start, just as the gaps would close between contractions I would find them slowing again, and I was beginning to feel frustrated and completely exhausted. It was after a walk in the rain and I found myself in the bath for the third time that day, trying to soothe my aching and battered back, breathing through contraction after contraction, that my husband decided that enough was enough. He had been nothing but supportive before, and I was terrified of driving those twenty minutes to hospital, but this was the time he took control (told a little white lie to the midwife on the phone and to me, told them my contractions were three-in-ten) and insisted we go in. I was so tired that I willingly went.
We arrived at the hospital at just after 7pm, the car journey was tough and as we walked along the corridors towards the birthing suite we stopped frequently, me using Toby's shoulders to steady and anchor. I was nervously excited and just plain nervous too. I didn't feel like I could possibly cope with being sent home again. We were welcomed into the little room before the birthing suite, cuffs placed around arms, blood pressure checked, doppler placed on stomach. Baby heartbeat far, far too slow. I was wrenched up, dragged into labour ward, placed on my side with CTG paddles for all of thirty seconds before cords were pulled and alarms rang all around. Ten people flooded into the room, clothes were ripped from my body and my waters were broken.
I was utterly panicked but completely calm. I was having a c-section again, this time emergency. I told my husband that everything would be fine, that I loved him, and was wheeled away. I turned to the anaesthetist to my left and said “I'm going under aren't I?”. I breathed deeply, remembered the hypnobirthing, trusted in the NHS, its staff and that everything would be fine. I knew what was happening to me, entirely and irrefutably. It was the only thing that kept me fine, it kept me calm. And as I went to sleep with a mask over my face, there was no doubt in my mind it would all be ok.
And when I awoke, thinking that I was napping on my sofa at home, I was assured it was. You're in the hospital, you've lost a little bit of blood, you are in the hospital, your daughter is fine, she is fine, she is fine. In the Special Care Baby Unit, getting a little bit of help to make her life easier, nothing more. She cried immediately, blue but fine. She was fine.
I met her, I didn't cry. I touched her as much as I was able, holding my hand out across the void between our two beds. I stroked her soft belly and told her how amazing she was, is. I couldn't compute that I had fallen asleep pregnant, and woke up a mother. I didn't sleep at all that night, and got up after twelve hours, walked to the shower, walked to my daughter, walked to her all day. Held her for the first time, had our first feed. We were together.
Those traumatic birth stories you hear? I don't want to be one of those, I am not one of those. I am proud of my birth. Yes, it was undeniably scary, and I suffered the consequences of that for a long time, I sometimes still do. But I want my story to be a testament to the power that one can find in things that are out of their control. I gifted myself so much power, I gifted myself knowledge. I found control in an uncontrollable situation, I survived, I thrived. My daughter, born at 7:36pm, was fine. She was magic. And she still is.