SARA & GALA
I had recently moved to London when I found out I was pregnant, so I decided to give birth in Spain as my baby was due towards the end of January 2015 and I wanted to spend Christmas at home with my family. I soon realised things weren’t going to be easy. My obstetrician was nice and experienced, but I could feel he disregarded my wishes of having an unmedicated, natural birth. I came across a lot of criticism and negativity, and always found myself justifying my wish to not have an epidural. The closer I got to my estimated due date, the more unsettled I felt. I wasn’t scared of giving birth, but of not giving my daughter the birth I believed she deserved.
A few days before my due date I had a vaginal examination and my obstetrician told me that if I didn’t go into labour before I was 40+6 he would do a caesarean. Despite my complaints, he insisted my baby would be at risk past 40 weeks of gestation. Worried about not going into labour before then, I decided to book an appointment with an acupuncturist and I went for long walks. Unfortunately, I got a cold and at 40+1 I woke up with a temperature of 38.4C. I had an appointment with the obstetrician that day. My cervix was still closed but because the baby’s heart rate was a bit high they told me to go to the hospital so my baby could be monitored while I was put on a drip with antibiotics to bring the fever down. Once there, they told me they would induce me the next morning. I knew things would not end up well as I was sure my baby wasn’t ready to be born.
I was induced at 8am but I didn’t feel much pain. At 1pm the midwife decided to break my waters since contractions weren’t strong enough. From that moment on the contractions became strong, long and very close together. I decided not to have an epidural to be able to move around (not much as I had the syntocinon drip and continuous monitoring). I was in the room with my partner, who massaged my back and I kept doing my breathing, but by 7.30pm I was so exhausted I decided to ask for an epidural. It was a relief and I managed to sleep for an hour before being taken to theatre for a caesarean. My partner was not allowed in, so he had to go to the room and wait.
There was chitchatting while they were preparing the operating theatre. I felt so alone and nervous that I asked the midwife if I could hold her hand. At 9.20pm my daughter was born. They took her aside to help her breathe and do the necessary check-ups. I was crying, feeling so helpless and sad. Then they showed her to me briefly before taking her up to the room with my partner while I was taken to the ICU for 3 hours. By the time I got to hold my daughter I was exhausted. That night is a bit of a blur for me, but for my partner it was the worst night of his life. He spent all night pacing up and down with a crying baby and felt completely unsupported by the nurses. The next few days were a nightmare. The nurses and paediatrician pushed me to give my daughter a bottle of formula and threatened to take her away to NICU if she didn’t feed. I ended up giving in but decided to go home early.
Some people believe that it was the disappointment of having a caesarean that turned the birth of my child into a traumatic experience, but it was the lack of kindness, understanding and respect that I encountered during pregnancy, birth and postnatally which brought so much pain. As soon as I got home I shut everyone out. I wouldn’t let anyone take my daughter out of my room. I limited visitors and spent my days in bed breastfeeding (successfully, despite having missed the golden hour and being forced to give her a bottle of formula).
I was overwhelmed with love but in the evenings I would cry in grief. I felt guilty and weak. I had prepared myself mentally and physically for birth by doing pregnancy yoga and practicing breathing and relaxation techniques, but instead of trusting my body and my baby, I allowed others to dismiss my choices and I accepted their disdain with resignation hoping things would turn out for the best. There was no one to blame but myself. Or so I told myself. The truth is, the journey into motherhood is a vulnerable one and women need a lot of emotional and practical support in order to get through it in one piece.
Now, I’m about to have my second baby here in London. I feel supported by my midwives, partner and doula, but it’s taken me a lot of determination to get the support I want. I had to really inform myself, change hospitals and meet with the Birth Choices and VBAC consultants in order to be “allowed” to try for a vaginal birth at the birth centre. I’m really looking forward to giving birth on my own terms this time around and to share my birthtale with you soon.