Updated: Sep 16, 2020
*Trigger warning – birth trauma due to physical restraint/lack of consent/hospital setting*
To really understand the decisions, I made and subsequently Finn’s birth story, I feel that the background of my first birthing experience, that of my daughter Eva, is necessary.
I gave birth to Eva in our former home down in Hampshire in 2017. At the time I was undergoing my training in Pre and Postnatal yoga, studying with midwives and women with vast knowledge of physiological birth – so I knew perhaps a little more than most in regards to the birth process and my choices. However, I was still influenced and coerced against a home-birth because I was a first time Mum and therefore it was ‘not advised.’ So I settled on a Midwife-led unit (attached to a hospital) as a second-best option.
I continued to have a low-risk pregnancy, feeling really well and in-tune with my body and my baby. I found a good balance between gentle activity (yoga, walking, swimming) and lots of rest through napping, meditations and breath work. When I woke up on my due-date to contractions, I couldn’t believe my luck – I wanted as little intervention as possible and was grateful to not have the looming pressure of induction over my head. I felt calm and confident.
Over the course of the day my contractions grew stronger but never unbearable. My breath and gentle, intuitive movement were my best friends and I drew myself inwards – spending much of my time at the wall, rocking my pelvis back and forth and resting in whatever supported position felt comfortable at the time. I adapted as per my body’s needs.
After several hours I thought it may be time to call the unit. My husband Col, made the call and they asked to speak to me (I felt so ‘in my birth bubble’ that this alone felt a bit unnatural.) They asked me of my ‘pain levels’ and I explained that the sensations were strong but not unbearable, so they told me that I may not be ready to come in yet and potentially would be sent back home. I was then asked if ‘I felt the baby moving the same?’ which was when the panic set in. I hadn’t been thinking about this, I hadn’t been thinking at all, I’d been just been following my body. It planted a seed of fear and brought me out of my cosy bubble. It’s worth saying that nothing felt ‘wrong’ about what I had been experiencing, I hadn’t felt a distinct lack of movement, I was just not in my ‘thinking’ brain, instead I was responding to my body and my baby in a very primal, animalistic way – I now know that this is exactly what I ‘should’ have been doing!
We made the 40 minute journey to the hospital, my contractions were very intense and I felt very uncomfortable sitting. On arrival I was examined and told that I was 8cm dilated! But I HAD TO be hooked up to a monitor due to my response over the phone about movement. This monitor, and the midwife, restricted my movement – which, along with my breath, had been my pain management from the beginning (I have also since learned that these monitors are not particularly reliable.) Apparently, my baby’s heart rate was dipping with contractions (which I have since learned is perfectly normal at this stage of labour.) Soon I had this incredibly strong urge to go to my knees (I’m now convinced that I was in transition and close to birthing Eva) but the midwife held me upright in what felt like an intense physical battle. I became very, VERY stressed and scared for the first time.
It probably won’t surprise anyone that it was down-hill from here. Not only will adrenaline produced from the stress have interfered with my natural oxytocin needed to birth effectively, I was also then forced and physically restrained on a bed in a position that felt so unnatural (because it is) and incredibly painful. Everything felt SO WRONG. I wanted to tell them to stop but I couldn’t find my voice.
My husband felt helpless.
I felt like I was going to die.
I was then cut (I did not consent.) A ventouse was used (I did not consent.) I was screamed at to ‘push the baby out.’ I pushed my daughter out using every ounce of my strength when the surgeon said he was ‘getting the forceps.’
My daughter was born approx. 6 hours after I felt that I was in transition.
She was distressed but perfectly healthy.
I was traumatised.
The experience affected my postpartum journey and it will never leave me. But it has fuelled my work to help other women feel empowered in their bodies and know that they have a choice. That they don’t need to do anything they don’t want to do. That birth should also consider the well-being of the mother not just getting them and baby through the process alive.
My baby did not fail me, my body did not fail me … the system did.
My next birth would be my 'healing birth,' read about it here