This is Molly’s honest and heartfelt account of her two very different experiences of birthing her babies. Thank you so much for offering this, Molly. I hope it encourages discussion and inspiration for others to seek the support they require…
“Leading up to my first birth I felt a blank wall of fear about labour. I tried asking friends and family about their experiences but I could not relate much to what they were saying. My mum had 6 home births so I wanted to do that. Looking back I did not really know how to prepare but I just thought me and my husband would muddle through. We went to NCT but I seemed to focus more on the biscuit breaks than what they were saying.
All this contributed to my first birth being a profound shock! It was not helped by a few factors: I did not know the midwives who came to my house and they did not know me- so they were not able to help me in the best way for me. I was panicking for sure- but what I needed to hear was that I could do it and that this was normal- whereas what I heard was that I should try to sleep and that maybe I needed more pain relief to cope.
We transferred to hospital and I felt rushed into decisions to be induced and have an epidural: decisions I blamed myself for long after the birth as I hated them so much. I had not realised I would feel nothing at all, and I was left feeling entirely irrelevant to my birth. I lost connection with my baby and when he was born I just thought thank god, I can go to sleep now.
I was pretty depressed for a year after my lovely son was born. I felt very angry, regretful and sad: I felt I had not given my son the best start in life and my bond with him took a long time. I do not doubt that other issues were going on here- I was being contacted by my stressful job and I was under confident in my ability to mother, but my birth story kept looping in my exhausted brain.
I did birth after thoughts, counselling and a lot of talking with my husband. In the end a letter back from the hospital trust set me on the road to acceptance. the midwifery team had taken the time to explain issues about my case and I felt listened to.
So. . . The second time round it was going to be different! I was extremely anxious but this time my husband and I got more educated, we were more proactive about what we wanted, we worked with some wonderful midwives and professionals and we had a bit of luck.
You hear this a lot but continuity of care was crucial to my second birth experience being a whole lot better. I
was case loaded by a lovely student midwife who was there for every antenatal visit and at the birth. I hired a brilliant doula who listened to my every fear before, during and after labour. Her detailed account of my second birth story is one of my most precious possessions.
And we had the incredible good fortune that Trudy was the second midwife at our home birth. Al
though our son actually popped out in hospital (again!) in the end, Trudy’s calm and reassuring presence, her experience and her belief in home birth allowed me to remain at the very centre of this birth. At the crowning of my son she looked me in the eyes and talked me through each minute. I maintain I would not have got that head out without her! I tell everyone that will listen that she also took time to contact me after the birthto explain why it had been tricky. This was so important as I could quell the niggling doubts in my mind with her knowledge. When you are feeding at 2am your mind will try to fix on something but thanks to Trudy this time round, I am not worrying about the birth.
I feel very proud of my second birth even though it did not go how i expected. I felt elated when my son was born instead of downtrodden. I still feel a bit gutted about my first birth but I understand now what support you need.
I found Molly’s a very interesting experience, too. There were unusual dynamics with the different care givers present, and an undercurrent of expectation….
Molly’s was a wonderful experience that I was lucky enough to be part of. I remember getting to her home in the early pre-dawn hours, and being met at the door by her doula. This was a lovely surprise, as I know her, but it also gave me inclination to think Molly, who I’d never set eyes on before, might have already had a tricky birth and felt she needed more support this time around. She presumably needed the commitment and continuity that a Doula could ensure. Respect.
Molly was brilliantly supported by her husband and, also on the scene, her ‘named’ student midwife, and a newly qualified midwife. With eight very eager hands on deck, Molly in early labour and not so much work for those hands to actually do, I decided to be the professional and mentoring referral source and sit in the conservatory, watching the sun rise, eating cake (yeah, yeah, typical ‘One Born Every Minute’!), and be ready for action should this birth take a trip outside the realms of normal.
Molly had the reassurance of our presence and thankfully found confidence and space to labour at her own pace. She progressed well and, very soon after, she settled into full labour. But… over a few hours, it became clear this little one was relaxed to the point of horizontal in his desire to meet us!
In these situations, the tricks of the trade are wide and varied. The student, midwife, and doula tried them all, and I was the big bad guy who had to step into that space and state that we had a problem we needed to solve. Baby appeared to be in a tricky position. He was doing fine, but our time and tricks to coax him earthwards were becoming a bit limited. Given Molly’s previous experience, this wasn’t what she wanted to hear. I knew nothing of that earlier time, but sensed the slightest delay/ denial when discussing my findings and thoughts.
It’s amazing to watch a woman labour exactly how she feels she needs to and, I believe, women who birth at home are less inhibited and more in control. A midwife’s job is to ‘hold’ that space but also to, when necessary, use her skills and experience to inform, advise and support the woman to have the birth she wants. I generally try not to invade a woman’s mental state when she’s labouring.
However, the challenge with Molly’s birth was wholly a mechanical one. Hormones and contractions were strong, but they weren’t moving that baby.
It wasn’t too great a surprise when her partner confided in me her fears and anticipated disappointment of being referred into delivery suite. Hmmm, how to handle that! As ever, honesty is the best policy. My thoughts were to say it as it is, make a plan, and work together for the good of baby and Molly. Having shared my thoughts, that Molly’s little one needed some encouragement to manoeuvre his way through her pelvis, and that continuing as we were doing was looking unlikely in achieving that any time soon, she decided it was after all time to be transferred into hospital. I use the word ‘decided’ rather than ‘agreed’, because there were choices. We could have stayed at home a bit longer, and reviewed progress after a given time. Both were safe choices.
The important factor, at this point, is that Molly was holding the reigns. She wanted to stay at home, and was reassured that there would continue to be choices along whichever way she chose. Going into hospital shouldn’t take away control… confidence… or choices. What’s more, her birth supporters would be going with her.
….and it wouldn’t be the strangest thing in the world to find that the ambulance transfer assisted the little man’s task in getting out!
Molly’s labour noises changed en route, still a few miles away from the hospital. Having been upright and mobile for all of the labour, she found it incredibly difficult to lay down on her side for the journey. But this was possibly the key turning point for this baby boy’s birth. Within a short space of time arriving at the hospital, and certainly before any assessment could be made, Molly pushed her baby out, in glorious fashion. The doctor stood back, and was almost joyful for us all. There was a wonderful celebratory mood in the room.
So…. how did THAT happen? I wasn’t able to palpate Molly’s tummy to gain all the information I needed in labour, because of her discomfort. But I believed the baby was descending ‘back to back’. However, seeing the bruise on baby’s head after his birth changed my view to thinking he descended in the more straightforward position, but that his head was tilted upwards and to the side somewhat. The actual transfer had enabled the little chap to straighten his head. Once he was able to ‘get his head down’ so to speak, and regardless of care givers, eye connection or feelings of weakness, that baby was coming! Molly’s body did what it needed to do, and couldn’t have stopped even if she’d wanted it to. She birthed her baby beautifully.