Three Very Different Birth Experiences & What I’ve Learned
I’m going to start by adding a little disclaimer here, just to note that everything discussed below is based on my own personal experience and is by no means meant to influence your decision. Birth is a very personal experience and I’ve written the post for information only. I would always recommend you speak to your Midwife before choosing the best options for you.
I should also point out that the paragraphs below cover sensitive issues such as baby loss and miscarriage so if you’re not quite ready to read about those just yet, perhaps leave this post for now.
I’ve had three birth experiences to date, all very different. The paragraphs below set out what I have learned from each experience and how those lessons will feed into the decisions I make for the birth of the baby currently residing in my tummy.
Whilst I talk quite matter of factly about each birth, they were all obviously deeply emotional times. I try to tone down the emotion when talking about baby loss because I think its important to try and bring the subject into every day conversation to try and help break down the taboos. If we can all talk about baby loss without feeling scared about knowing the right thing to say, then I think it will help those going through it feel less isolated.
And on that note, I will begin….
My first experience of birth was, well I don’t really have a word to describe it. I was 21 weeks, so too early to have had any antenatal training or preparation for what was about to happen. I also knew that I wasn’t going to be able to take my baby home and so it was far from a happy experience. I’ve thought long and hard about how to describe how I was feeling on that day, but I really can’t come up with a word. I could say ‘scared’, but it wasn’t scary. To me ‘scary’ reminds me of a ghost train at Alton Towers or a Freddie Krueger film from the 80’s. My first birth wasn’t any of those things. At the end of it all, it was the day we got to meet our first daughter and so despite all the confusion as to why it was happening…. above all else there was love. So. Much. Love.
I gave birth to Edie naturally using the TENS machine, gas and air and a shot of pethidine at the last minute. Because she was so early, I only had to dilate to 7.5 centimetres and she was out within a couple of pushes. I’m not going to go into the whole story here because it’s not what this blog post is about, but I do want to highlight a couple of lessons I learned from the experience…
Firstly, I discovered that ‘gas and air’ really doesn’t agree with me. Rather than providing pain relief, all it did was make me feel woozy and a little light headed. Whilst I found it useful having something to concentrate on and breath into through the contractions, I think any old tube would have had the same effect, because it was the ‘gas’ I didn’t really like. I also learned was that opiates such as pethidine are too strong for me and don’t wear off as quickly as promised. Although I had the shot very late into the labour, I was told the effects would wear off within minutes but unfortunately they didn’t. This meant that once Edie was born I was left feeling very drugged and quite removed from the whole experience. Looking back, having the pethidine is one of my biggest regrets because I wasn’t able to be fully there for my daughter during her few short hours of life. Because of that I know I won’t be opting for pethidine in the future.
My second experience of labour was a planned c-section with Ettie. Ettie was in a footling breech position meaning her leg was making its way down my birth canal, whilst her head had become wedged under my rib-cage. I didn’t know the extent of her positioning until after she was born and tried *almost everything in the weeks leading up to her birth to try and get her to turn. Unfortunately, as you might imagine, she was pretty wedged and so a planned C Section became our only option (unless we could find a midwife willing to perform a breech delivery but I didn’t want to take the risk).
*We tried acupuncture, osteopathy, the Spinning Babies website, the only thing we didn’t try was an EVC (external cephalic version) where the obstetrician tries to manually turn the baby.*
The reason I tried so hard to try to get Ettie to turn, wasn’t because I’m against c-sections in any way, it was simply because, God willing, we’d like to have three children some day and so I didn’t want to add additional holes to my uterus if they could be avoided.
Prior to me finding out that Ettie was breech, I had prepared for her birth using Katherine Graves’s Hypnobirthing book ‘KG Hypnobirthing.’ I first heard of Hypnobirthing through my best friend who had had a really positive experience with the birth of her daughter. Because of my experience with Edie, I wanted to try and have as natural birth as possible (without opiates) and so hypnobirthing seemed like to right option for me. Given all the reading I had done, I was a bit peeved when I couldn’t put my practice ‘to the test’, but looking back now I think a planned c-section was the best option for us as it was straight forward, uncomplicated and my healing time was quick.
Having said that, I do also feel like something was ‘missing’ from Ettie’s birth. I remember the huge surge of emotion I experienced the moment Edie was born – and to me that sort of ‘completed’ the experience. Because a c-section is a little more clinical, the moments following Ettie’s birth were a little more subdued (is that the correct way to describe the greatest moment of your life?? Probably not, but again the English language fails me!) It wasn’t that I found the experience negative in any way, far from it. Cuddling and holding Ettie for the first time, knowing she was OK and feeling her little body against my skin is one of the greatest moments of my life. I was so relieved! Yet, despite asking them to tone down the opiates, I think I was still a little drugged and because I couldn’t move my body from the chest down, she had to be sort of wedged in under my neck which meant I couldn’t see her face properly until we’d been moved to the recovery room.
And so whilst I am incredibly lucky that we had such a straightforward c-section, moving forward I would still like to try for that ‘natural’ delivery’.
Baby Number 3 …
My third experience of birth, was actually a MMC (missed miscarriage) at 12 weeks and it all happened in the bath at home. For those unsure as to why I would refer to a MC as a birth, it’s because like a birth you do experience contractions, there is pushing and something does leave your body, albeit it is very small in comparison to a baby. Again I won’t go into detail, but I think getting those little facts out into the open is important as it goes someway to breaking down the taboos currently surrounding MC and helps others understand what actually happens when someone experiences one (I know I didn’t have a clue what happened until it happened to me).
Our MC, wasn’t a surprise, we’d been for our 12 week scan a few days earlier and learned that the baby had stopped growing at around 9.5 weeks. Because of that we knew what was coming, we just didn’t know when.
Stu was actually out when the contractions started and so I paced around the house for a little bit on my own and instinctively run a bath. This time (because of the hypnobirthing training I had done with Ettie) I was a little more prepared and understood what my body was trying to do. I obviously didn’t have any affirmations planned and hadn’t done any practice, but it wasn’t a ‘full’ birth so I was able to cope in my own way. I was calm, alone and in a dark room – just as hypnobirthing recommends. The pain was intense, but being in the water helped relieve the pressure and right before the birth – just like with a full term labour, I remember the atmosphere changing, going deep within myself and trusting my body to do what it needed to do. A few moments later it was over (complete with the surge of emotion I’d experienced with Edie).
Stu did make it home for ‘the main event’ but it was such a horrible experience, I ended up banishing him to the other room. That said it was very comforting knowing he was there.
So there you have it, three very different experiences which have led to me learning a few things about my body that I’m hoping to put to use with the birth of my next baby. I’m not naive and understand that no two births are the same, but I think drawing lessons from the experiences I’ve had, should make the next birth a little less scary.
I am going to leave this post here as its been a long one, but I’m due an appointment with my Midwife in the next few days where I am going to discuss the options available to me for this baby (primarily elective c-section or VBAC), so once I have a little more information, I’ll report back on any decisions I make.
Thank-you for reading this far xx