Planning a baby is a hugely exciting time. If you are anything like me, you will imagine what it will be like to be pregnant, and how lovely and glowing you will look with your gorgeous bump! You will fantasise about how amazing it will be to hold your baby in your arms, and show them off to friends and family. You know that the first few
weeks months will be hard, but once you are through it, you look forward to attending baby groups and having coffee catch ups with all your mum friends. And these are all things you should get excited about and look forward to, because they are a brilliant part of motherhood.
One thing you most probably won’t have such an idyllic view of is the actual labour part. You will definitely think about it in the early stages and then probably again towards the end. You will also probably spend a big part of your pregnancy in denial about the whole thing and the fact you have to actual get that baby out of you somehow!
If you’re anything like me though, you might like to plan and prepare for labour as much as possible. For me, that meant creating a birth plan and reading lots of positive stories about labour in order to try to envisage what it would be like when the time came.
What I didn’t bank on was what would happen if my labour didn’t go the way I wanted it to. Having an emergency cesarean after three days in labour wasn’t something I could have predicted, but it meant I wasn’t prepared for it – or more specifically how it would make me feel afterwards.
So, I thought I would create a series of guest posts to discuss how it feels when things go wrong in labour. I want to put together a series of blog posts from mums out there who didn’t have the labour they had hoped for and discover how that made them feel afterwards, and what they did to combat those feelings. It may be that like me, you planned a water birth but ended up with a c-section, or you had to have an assisted delivery, or something happened to your baby upon delivery. It may be that you had the perfect labour you had wanted in your head, but you weren’t prepared for the feelings you had afterwards. I know as someone who’s labour didn’t go as planned, I would have liked to have read other stories that were similar to mine, and get some information about how to process the way I felt about it.
I have some lovely mum bloggers who have agreed to share their stories in a monthly series called “Love Your Labour”. I will post a new story on the first Friday of every month. To kick off the series, I thought I would share my own story and feelings.
1.How did you prepare for your labour? Did you have a birth plan or an idea of what you wanted to happen?
I was pretty sure I knew what I wanted during labour, and had an image in my head of how it was going to go. I’d go to our local midwife-led unit, have a water birth with no drugs, or very limited pain relief. I wrote out my birth plan, and although I aware it might not go to plan, there were a few things I was adamant weren’t going to happen – for example I wasn’t going to be forced to lie in a bed, and I wasn’t having an epidural. I also was very against being induced, and was happy to go beyond my due date, and even further if I felt comfortable to.
2. Did you find reading labour stories helped you in the lead up to your labour in preparing yourself for birth?
I loved reading birth stories, and I also loved talking about labour with my friends. I wasn’t someone who got worried or scared by these stories, I think they actually made me feel more calm and focused on what I did want.
3. What happened during your labour that meant it didn’t go to plan?
My labour couldn’t have been any more different to what I’d imagined if I tried. I went for a routine check-up, with the view of having a second sweep, when my urine tested very high in protein and there were concerns that I might have pre-eclampsia. There was no panic, but I was advised to go to the day assessment unit at the hospital where they would run some further tests and decide what to do. At no point did I think I was going to be having my baby any time soon! Once there, they made the decision to induce me. There was a lot of waiting around, and my contractions actually started on their own before I was induced. Then we waited….and waited…and waited. 20 hours after the induction started, and 26 hours after my contractions started they decided to break my waters. 3 hours later I was taken to the delivery room. At this point I asked for some gas and air – I’d had no pain relief at all up to this point, so I was pretty pleased for sticking to at least part of my birth plan. Everything else had gone out the window – I had to be monitored so was pretty much confined to bed and I wasn’t allowed in the water either. In the delivery room I was pretty much left alone with my gas and air to get on with birthing the baby. I wasn’t progressing well, so I was given the hormone drip to try and speed things up. This didn’t work at all and 10 hours later I was still only 6cm dilated. The baby’s heartrate suddenly dropped and after 40 hours of labour, it was decided that an emergency c-section was the best option. I have to say this part wasn’t particularly traumatic. I was so exhausted, I didn’t know what my own name was, so I have to say I really didn’t care what happened to me at this point. I just wanted it over with. They did a spinal block, which I don’t really remember much of (probably because of the pain/exhaustion) and then all of a sudden the baby was here. I don’t remember him being lifted out, or being stitched up afterwards. I do remember being shocked he was a boy, and that he weighed 10lb 3oz. That might have had something to do with the difficult labour….
4. How did you feel immediately after the birth? Did you struggle to come to terms with the labour or did you accept that it had happened?
Immediately after the birth, I was completely fine. Apart from the feelings of exhaustion, and the obvious pain that came with having a c-section, I was actually ok about what had happened. I was just glad it was over.
5. How do you feel about it now? Have your feelings towards your labour changed as time has gone on?
A few months after the birth, I began to get really upset by what had happened. I’m not really sure why, as I was healthy and so was my baby, but I felt like I was grieving for a birth I wanted but couldn’t achieve. I also felt like I was grieving for future birth experiences. In my mind, now I’d had a c-section, that’s all I can have in the future. I’m not sure I would want to go through an attempt at a natural labour for it to end up in a c-section anyway. I was very lucky with my recovery, as I didn’t have a lot of pain (in fact, I found breastfeeding more painful at times), but there was just something inside me that made me feel like a failure. When doing all my research prior to the birth, it had never crossed my mind that I would end up having a c-section, so I was in no way prepared for it. My sister had had an elective the previous year, so I at least knew the side effects and what the recovery was like, but that didn’t help me emotionally.
However, it’s been almost 2 years since the birth, and now I have no problem with the way I gave birth. Yes it was unexpected, but I was safe and my baby was safe. I am lucky that I have no long term health problems, and I can and will have more children.
6. Do you find talking about your labour helpful or have you struggled with this? (either in person or through writing about it)
It took me longer than I expected to come to terms with my labour, I think because initially it didn’t bother me. I spoke about it a lot, but I think I always downplayed it so as not to scare or worry people who hadn’t experienced labour. I didn’t want to put people off! Then I went through a stage where I didn’t want to talk about it at all, and I found it really hard to read stories about c-sections. I was on a support group on facebook that I had to leave because it made me so upset. Equally, I was also on a natural birth group that I had to leave because I was devastated about not getting the labour I had planned. However, writing my birth story for the blog really helped me. I was very detailed and wrote down everything I remembered. This made me realise that my birth wasn’t that dramatic, it was just very long and I did the best I could.
7. Did you seek any professional help to guide you through your experience, either by speaking to your midwife or doctor, or an organisation such as Birth Reflections? If so, did you find this helped? If not, do you think this would have helped?
I think it would have been useful if the hospital offered some kind of option to speak to a midwife or the consultant about what happened during your labour. I still don’t really know the cause of my c-section, or if there is anything I could have done. However, I have since found out about something called Birth Reflections, and I will definitely be requesting my maternity notes and will try to speak to someone about what happened when I am pregnant again. I think this will not only help me overcome my fears about what happened the first time round, but also will help me make a decision about whether I have a vbac or election caesarean.
8. Have there been any long lasting impact due to your experience, e.g. has it affected your decision to have more children? Have you had any physical or emotional complications since your experience?
It definitely hasn’t affected my decision to have more children, as I don’t feel “done” with just one baby. However, it has really made me more aware of how dangerous childbirth can be. Considering it’s something women do everyday, I never really thought about how life-changing it can be for women, and it certainly makes me more grateful for the care I received. In terms of how many children we have – probably not as many as I originally wanted. Part of that is for financial reasons, but I also couldn’t go through many more labours like that. I may change my mind upon having baby no.2 if it is very different, but if I have an elective caesarean, then I’m quite sure I’ll be done at two kids. Physically, I still get some pain and tugging in my c-section scar, especially around my period, and I can bear for it to be touched! Really freaks me out. But other than that I think I have been pretty lucky with my recovery.
9. Would you change your approach for future births?
Even though my birth didn’t go to plan, I’d still do a birth plan next time. I think it will help me feel even more in control, even though I know it might be go to plan. If I have a c-section, I still want to make sure there are some things I can do – such as skin-to-skin straight away, delayed cord clamping if possible. I’ve even seen things such as a “natural” caesarean which could be an option, I don’t know. But I definitely need to go in with a plan. I think I would also do more research into successful and unsuccessful vbac’s, and elective caesareans – just to cover all bases!
10. What advice would you give to someone who has been through a similar experience?
It’s very hard to give advice, because you can’t tell someone who to feel and everyone feels differently about things like this. One thing I would say is do what is best for you – if talking about it helps, then do that. If not talking about it helps, then do that. But know that time is a great healer, and it does get better and easier to come to terms with. Remember that you are not a failure, and don’t read into negative stories. Often those saying that you shouldn’t have done this and that, haven’t been through it. One thing you should always remember – you birthed that baby, and helped them to arrive safely. That’s all that matters in the end.
How do you feel about your labour? Did it go as planned or has it taken a while to get to used to the fact it wasn’t how you imagined it? Please leave or comment below, or if you would like to take part in this series, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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