Before I had my baby, I had a lot of plans and expectations based around an unmedicated birth and high hopes for a water birth. This didn’t seem unfeasible as the pregnancy had been entirely uncomplicated. I hadn’t bought a pram, preferring a Kari Me sling. I was planning to wear the baby all the time, breastfeed all the time (after all it’s free and if you’re on limited finances that’s pretty important) and was overall looking forward to it.
At 40 weeks and four days pregnant, I began getting cramps every ten minutes. I went to my midwife appointment as planned, only to be told that the exam showed nothing was happening and at most it was very very early labour. Two hours later, my husband had come home and taken me to hospital as the cramps were coming every four minutes and I was sobbing with pain and didn’t understand what was happening.
Over the course of the next eight hours, we went through a whistlestop tour of everything I hadn’t wanted. I tried to get control of the pain by using the breathing techniques I had learnt whilst pregnant, but as heart rate monitors were wrapped around my stomach I had a feeling that things weren’t going well. The foetal heart rate rose and then crashed and I found myself on my back with my legs in stirrups, having my waters broken and a doctor trying to scratch the baby’s head. The tens machine was on six by that point, I was sucking on gas and air to try and smother the pain and my poor husband, trapped behind me by the equipment and unsympathetic staff, was trying to talk me through the contractions and hold back his own fears.
I asked for an epidural, as by that point I just wanted the pain to stop. Before they could administer one, I was told that they were worried about the problems I had had and that since I was still only four cm dilated, they were going to do a C-section.
Trying desperately to reassure my poor terrified husband and tell him how much I loved him before they wheeled me off was one of the worst moments of my life — us being together is everything to both of us and the fear of that moment was unbearable — and I couldn’t do anything to help him. Equally upsetting, rather than sitting him by my head, they left him on a chair in the corner of the theatre. It was horrible and upsets me even thinking about it.
Our daughter came out covered in meconium, so the C-section was justified, but at no point did we feel in control of the experience. For most of the process we ended up feeling like a medical problem, rather than people and loving partners.
As a result of the whole birth process, I had terrible trouble bonding with our daughter. I settled for thinking of us as babysitting her in order to try and get through the next few weeks and months, until she finally became more responsive. Even seven weeks later I still default to that on occasion, mostly when I am feeling like all my time with my husband is being taken from me. And to stay sane, I’ve ended up throwing every single hippy ideal I had out of the window, in order to hold onto being me.
We’re using disposable nappies, simply because it’s quick and easy. I’m breastfeeding but seriously contemplating giving it up because I want to be able to have sex without leaking, want to be able to go away and spend a night alone with my husband, and the prospect of being trapped with our daughter every day for the next six months has been enough to send me to the verge of a panic attack. We’ve got a pram because after realising that babies scream and vomit, I cannot stand the thought of having said screaming, vomiting baby tied to me whilst I try to go outside and feel like myself again.
And doing all of these things is helping me be the happy offbeat mother that I wanted to be. And I think overall that will be so much better for her than all of my “how to do this” ideals I held before.