It’s been a long time since I’ve last blogged. I guess I’ve been caught up in my own maternal matters as I endured the long, hot London summer during my third trimester and then recovered from a difficult labour and delivery (yes, that’s delivery, not birth). But now, ten weeks on from the arrival of my adorable son, I am ready to put finger to keyboard to blog again.
I was trying to avoid writing a cathartic entry, but that’s all that will come out. Oh well, best to get it out of the system and move on.
Having worked as a midwife for over 10 years, one of the most common questions I was asked during and after the pregnancy by family and friends was along the lines of, “How does it feel to be at the other end of things now?”. It was an interesting question that really caused me to reflect. The honest answer was that I totally abdicated my professional role and fully embraced the role of a punter. I was fortunate to be encouraged to do so by my midwives, who were former colleagues of mine. They allowed me to ask all the stupid questions, to which I was sure I should know the answers, but couldn’t find them in my ‘pregnancy brain’, and they encouraged me to engage with the subjective and intuitive, rather than the objective and rational aspects of pregnancy and transition to motherhood. (I still felt stupid asking the stupid questions though.)
I was blessed with a wonderful and straightforward pregnancy, which, with the exception of the last 6 weeks, I thoroughly enjoyed. I relished every kick and squirm of the little person growing inside me, made every opportunity to get a seat on the London Underground and wore with great pride the beautiful maternity dress that hugged my belly tightly, bought by my husband for my birthday.
Having attended many homebirths as a midwife, and knowing that labouring at home would give my body the best possible chance to birth my baby naturally, I was fully confident that I would have a beautiful and calm birth at home. As I started to progress towards term and realised that my little one had moved into a posterior position, the niggling anxiety that the birth may not be as straightforward as I had hoped started to grow. Hours of sitting on my hands and knees without any sign of the baby turning into an optimal position began to make me concerned that I was in for a long labour. But I nevertheless remained confident that my fit and healthy body would do its stuff when the time came.
Then the time came. I laboured for four days at home. For most of that time, the contractions were not as close together as they needed to be, but they were often enough that I was unable to sleep or rest during that time. They were excruciating and long. They gave me no warning of their arrival (no climbing up and down the metaphorical mountain, that I had told countless women that contractions are like) – just wham, bam, there they were. As time wore on, my baby started trying to wiggle into position. Each wiggle signalled a new wave of intense pain. These were movements I came to dread – not the pleasurable movements that I loved so much during the pregnancy. Getting into the once inviting birthing pool made matters worse. Hours turned into days, and finally my body, my midwives and I gave up hope and it was off to the operating theatre for a cesarean section.
My amazing little boy entered the world and I am still falling in love with him. Meantime, the epic labour and cesarean delivery, (throughout which I had excellent midwifery care for which I am so very grateful), has left more than ‘just’ a physical scar on me.
Having now travelled down the road on which I had accompanied so many other women, will I be able to once again journey with women during their labour? Maybe time will heal, but right now, I feel that I my overly high empathy levels will deter me from being able to provide the distance needed to make sound clinical judgements. Am I still passionate about women having a positive childbirth experience? 100% yes. Do I want to continue to make a difference in the field of maternal health? You bet. But I feel a shift has taken place since having a baby myself, and I sense that my contribution will now look very different.
I would like to acknoweldge the excellent midwifery care from Viv & Andy (Maya Midwives) and from Mary at the Royal Free Hospital, London. Additionally, the Spinning Babies website provides very helpful information for fetal positioning.