Sunday, 1 August 2010

Agent of Birth

I resisted Make do Mum's post. I can't resist Single's post.
The big question is that of birth plans. Or not. With just over 4 weeks left (or maybe more or less) I guess it's particularly relevant for me right now. Having the benefit of hindsight, I'm a bit more informed about this all than I was last time, but in principle, my views haven't changed.

Draw back the clock 4 years ago when I was just pregnant, and one thing that was overwhelming was my fear of giving birth. It was bad, it was ugly, there seemed no way out. I was scared of a c-section, especially being awake through it. I was scared of labour and the pain, and all that comes with it. Neither natural birth or a c-section were something I wanted to ever experience.

I knew I had to do something about it and I did. I informed myself about birth, the process, complications, options, choices. I embarked on a HypnoBirthing course and did an NCT course. I faced my fears and worked through them. I signed up for some forums, including one on homebirths. I really and truly considered all options and made sure I knew what my preferences were.

Thanks to HypnoBirthing, I entered labour without fear, but with excitement and confidence. I also had a lengthy birth plan which was along the lines of natural birth, no epidural, birthing pool etc. My main worry was that of a c-section - the one thing I hoped to avoid at all costs and I was confident I would. And yes, things went different - a long labour, and prolonged second stage which needed intervention. I was very close to the knife but managed to do with the forceps (and boy was I thankful for the last minute spinal). I did manage to avoid a c-section, I did manage to do labour without an epidural (for whatever that's worth), I found out that labouring in water works wonders for me, gas and air is odd but not to be dismissed, and that diamorphine is shite.

This time around, I'm much more open to the idea of an epidural because at the end of the day, when you're labouring forever and are tired, it doesn't help to be so categorically against it. Diamorphine did more damage to my mindset than an epidural would have done. I'd still try doing it without, just to be able to stay in the pool, but rather have it than go through the last 3 hours of my last labour again.

I do have a birth plan this time. It's shorter, to the point and much more flexible. I still find it important because it establishes me as a person who has choices and a say in birthing. This is something not to be taken for granted. Consider this: everytime I tell someone that Cubling was 15 days late, I hear the sentence "I didn't know they would let you go that long over". I'm sick and tired of the implications of this turn of phrase. I was offered induction at 39 weeks because I felt rotten. I refused because there was no medical indication. This was my choice - and if another woman had chosen the offered induction, that would have been fine as well. No woman should feel or actually be "made" to have an induction because "they" don't "let" you go over a certain number of days (or refused one because she hasn't reached that point yet but has real reasons for requesting one). It's the woman's body, the woman's choice, the woman's baby.

I was scared of induction and refused to have one before 42 weeks as long as baby was doing well. Baby was monitored and was doing just fine. It was my choice to have an appointment for induction at 42 weeks because of the higher risk of stillbirth from that point onwards. Labour started at 42 weeks exactly, so I didn't need induced.

Due dates aren't an exact science, but it shocks me that women still feel totally at the mercy of the medical profession when it comes to what is supposed to be a rather normal occurrence, that of birthing a baby. It's great we have good healthcare, midwives and medical intervention if needed. However, we also have choices, and should be informed about risks and options to base our choices on. Of course there may be circumstances where we have to adapt - when Cubling got tired and a c-section was advised, I questioned this. We discussed it for 10 minutes and I still struggled to sign the consent form (because I didn't feel I could consent to it). I did it though-for the baby. And in those 10 minutes Cubling finally moved down the crucial amount to make it out by forceps.

I struggled for about a year with this less than perfect birth, not having felt her being born, not having pushed her out by myself. And then, suddenly, I realised that it didn't matter. What mattered was that I tried to do my best, I did the best I could, we were both well and giving birth is nothing but the start of a much bigger adventure and challenge - that of parenting. It's important though to take ownership of how we birth and not be subjects of the medical profession. It's not so important how it all ends up. I'm very much at ease with how Cubling's birth went now, and positive about what's to come.

Above all, I'm glad I did have a birth plan, it made me an agent in this event, rather than a subject. And that's a good thing, surely.



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