Whilst the arrival of my first baby daughter, Sarah, brought me immense joy, the actual experience of her birth' took me years to come to terms with. it was sadly an all too common experience ... choosing to arrive on a very busy night when there was a shortage of hospital midwives.
In an unfamiliar environment and with my first baby on the way, I felt very frightened; I needed support and reassurance which seemed unavailable from the "bank" midwife present. My labour seemed fairly intense and, in a state of panic, I asked for an epidural which was agreed to readily and given at 5.15pm. At 10pm there was a staff changeover and I had a new midwife appointed. She was regular staff but was constantly being called away to help with other patients. She kept popping back to see how I was getting on and at 11.30pm noted that I was fully dilated and told me we'd have the baby soon. Unfortunately she was just too busy to stay and assist me with this and on her return at lam realised that Sarah's heart rate was dipping and we needed to get her out soon. I started pushing but the contractions had long since stopped and therefore I needed help. The midwife called for a doctor on several occasions, but they too were too busy to come. Eventually at 3.45am the doctor rushed in and performed a ventouse extraction. Luckily Sarah was born alive and well at 3.55am, but it might have been a very different ending.
Things on the ward weren't much better. The nurses were obviously rushed off their feet, therefore the support I needed both physically and emotionally just wasn't available. I felt totally alone .... I just wanted to go home. I discharged myself and was home after 48 hours.
The whole experience left me feeling violated. I was convinced I would never have another child because I couldn't go through that trauma again. However, after several years I decided I didn't want Sarah to be an only child, but still had the mental scars of my first experience. I went to see my GP to ask what I could do to ensure that I would have a midwife present when I was in labour - perhaps even someone I had built a relationship with?! The GP was brilliant and discussed the various options with me. I could soon see that the only way I could be sure of having a midwife I knew, was to employ the services of an independent midwife and my GP gave me the details of an Independent Midwifery Practice for which I shall always be very grateful.
Once pregnant I telephoned this practice immediately - I think it was actually before I told Russell, my husband - I wanted to be sure I booked them in good time!! My intention at this point was to have antenatal care at home with my appointed midwives, Tina and Annie, and for them to assist me in a hospital labour. However, as time went on I developed a really close relationship with my midwives, who built my confidence to such a level that I felt I was able to give birth naturally ... my body was designed to do this and it wouldn't let me down if I just trusted it and went with it instinctively. By this time I also saw the huge advantage to me of being in the safe and comfortable environment of my own home, ·so decided to go for a home birth.
This decision no doubt worried my friends and family since I am certainly not the 'mother-earth' type - I take painkillers before I go to the dentist just in case it hurts! But I had been taught a new way of understanding pain. Pain is usually a signal that something is wrong which brings fear ... Labour pain is a signal that something very right and natural is about to happen which is nothing to be scared of at all; instead you can welcome it and be glad!
It was Friday night and there was a full moon. I had been feeling a bit odd all day and was rather snappy with Russell. AI 11 pm I phoned Tina and said I was feeling a bit funny. She said. "Okay Jenny, just rest if you can and call me again if things change." At 11.45pm my contractions started fast and furious, so I telephoned Tina again, this time in no doubt at all, and just said "Come ... now ... they're 5 minutes apart!"
When Tina arrived I felt so happy to see her. She quietly took charge and I felt completely safe. She told Russell to call for the second midwife Annie ... so I knew I must be well on my way. After only one hour I was fully dilated so things had been pretty intense - I don’t remember much time in between contractions to rest like the video showed! Next was transition, I had been warned about this bit - my body was changing tack and getting ready to expel the baby. I started to get a bit vocal at this - plenty of "aaagh" - not screaming scared noises but low, expelling of air, glutural groans.
Unfortunately the baby's head was a bit stuck so I had to get up and keep moving to try to shift her. Tina and Annie had me up on my feet, hanging from their necks... pretending to climb stairs…you name it, we did it! They were marvellous. Not once did I feel lost or hopeless. They kept encouraging me and telling me how brilliantly I was doing.
At last the baby's head had moved into a good position and I was able to push her out. Annie was at the talking end, encouraging and rubbing my back whilst Tina eased my baby into the world at 4am. My baby daughter was passed to me immediately to hold and we lay snuggled up in my duvet on the lounge floor. Everyone was quiet and smiling. Russell kept saying over and over how proud he was of me and I just remember thinking "that really was okay ... it wasn't bad at alI!"
Although I was physically exhausted I felt elated by the whole experience. It was lovely to be able to go upstairs, have a bath, and then tuck into bed, with my new baby and husband beside me.
In the morning Sarah came home from Granny's house to meet her new baby sister, 'Annie'. As she looked at her for the first time, the expression on her face was one I will never forget ... such amazement and joy, my happiness was complete.