The main concerns I receive in my quest to educate and empower women in calm, positive birthing relate to the what if’s:
- What if things don’t run smoothly?
- What if something goes wrong?
- What if there are complications, interventions etc?
What if a woman has her heart and mind set on a calm, natural birth, and that dream isn’t realised…?
Let me start by saying that I have two friends, both trained nurses (one now a midwife) who have had 7 c-sections between them. So yes, it’s true. Sometimes things don’t go the way you’d hoped.
I’ve previously written an article on when things don’t go to plan… but I have decided to write this, which is quite different for me, for several reasons:
- I’m not naive. I know very well that pregnancy and birth can be tough, overwhelming, frightening and even traumatic. It can be full of unknowns. There can be so many questions, some of which are never answered. You can feel a lack of control and way out of your depth.
- We can never understand something fully unless we have experienced it ourselves. But we can do our absolute best to empathise. To be there. To support. To offer a listening ear, open arms, and a loving heart.
- As much as I always like to focus on the positives and believe in the power of our mind and the words we speak, I thought I’d share some real life experiences purely from within my own circle of friends and family (anonymous, but all stories shared with permission). You’ll see just how incredibly diverse each of our experiences are and how pregnancy and birth affects us all differently. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll realise we don’t always have the control so many of us long for.
This is no place for competition or comparison. It’s not a case of who had it better or who had it worse. As I’ve said time and time again, a healthy mum and a healthy bub are the absolute priority and, in the end, all that matters.
I was able to deliver my babies calmly and naturally because we were healthy and well. We had no complications. Bubs were in the best position. I dilated well. I was full term with both: one born 8 days early and the other 13 days early. I believe I was able to birth pain-free because I had overcome all fear and apprehension, was educated and informed, and had prepared both my body and my mind very well. But that is still no magic formula.
I haven’t written this article to instil worry or fear. That’s the last thing I would ever want to do! More-so to illustrate how it isn’t always roses and no guarantees can be made, no matter how hard you try, prep, hope, pray etc. In many ways, count your blessings if you and your bub are healthy and well, no matter when, where or how they are born. Because even in this day and age, both pregnancy and birth are risky, sometimes extremely, for both mum & bub.
- Within the last few months both my sister-in-law and one of my longest & dearest friends had their babies delivered via caesarean whilst they were under general anaesthetic and their husbands weren’t permitted in the room. Read that again slowly. C-section. Under general anaesthetic (meaning they were completely knocked out and didn’t witness the birth – nor did their husbands). If that’s not the opposite birthing experience to what I advocate here on The Birthing Journey then I don’t know what is. My sister-in-law was very sick her entire pregnancy and developed severe preeclampsia. She was monitored incredibly closely and, ultimately, after at least two very close brushes with death which frightened the life out of all of us, the decision was made that the safest option was for baby to be brought into the world. My very first niece… born prematurely at just 30 weeks old. A tiny 1.04kgs. She obviously had a very long stint in hospital and her dear mum spent all day with her from dusk till dawn but she is now home and settling in beautifully. This is the second friend I have had with preeclampsia who’s condition was incredibly serious.
- My dear friend, well she checked in to hospital with suspected contractions only to, eventually, after much confusion and delay, be diagnosed with appendicitis of all things! So out came her baby & out came her appendix! Crazy!
Did either of these beautiful first-time mums-to-be have any control over their situation? Absolutely not.
Were their bubs born the way they’d envisaged? Not at all.
Are they both incredibly relieved that all ended well and that both they and their precious babies are safe & healthy? A resounding YES!
- Another friend was so debilitatingly ill with hyperemesis gravidarum (think the absolute most severe case of morning sickness possible and even then you won’t come close to understanding) whilst pregnant that her and her husband discussed terminating the pregnancy… she literally couldn’t function, was violently ill ALL the time, felt as though her life wasn’t worth living, and all the while with a toddler at home. They didn’t, and of course they are incredibly thankful for his precious life, but it goes to show how chronic ‘morning sickness’ can be. These mere few lines can’t even come close to doing justice what she went through… I honestly can’t fathom it and am in absolute awe.
- I know of another sweet girl right now who hasn’t left home in months, is on a drip every second day, also unable to function due to severe hyperemesis gravidarum… all this after having tried to conceive for years, enduring countless rounds of IVF, miscarriages and heartbreak… I tell you, I’ll be praying and believing for an incredible birth experience for her because she’s sure dealt with enough already!
- Someone else I know gave birth to an anencephalic baby. (Anencephaly is the absence of a major portion of the brain, skull, and scalp that occurs during embryonic development. It is a cephalic disorder that results from a neural tube defect that occurs when the rostral/head end of the neural tube fails to close.) She thought she was welcoming a healthy bub and only found out the situation less than 24 hours before he was born (at the time there were no routine scans). Concerns were raised when he engaged and then disengaged so only then was a scan performed and the grave situation realised. His mum was induced and he was born naturally, then the medical team whisked him away – she never held him or even saw him – but in many ways she is actually grateful of this. There was no counselling or support – the way to ‘get over it’ was to ‘get on with it’. “I mourned in private” she told me and again, I can’t even fathom and my heart breaks just thinking about it…
- My longest friend, pregnant with her first, had group B strep (bacteria normally found in the vagina and/or rectum of about 25% of all healthy, adult women). Her baby was completely healthy and well in utero but contracted the infection during birth. This occurred in the UK where they no longer test pregnant women for strep B hence no antibiotics were administered during labour. Even so, this condition should absolutely not have led to the final outcome. To this day the situation is still surrounded in confusion and controversy but, most likely due to negligence with her immediate care, bub found herself in a dire situation and, ultimately, was diagnosed with HIE (hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy). From that, she had quadriplegic spastic cerebral palsy and a whole list of other ailments. A gorgeous girl with extremely complex needs who graced this earth for 5 years with a purity, strength and resilience not many possess before she gained her angel wings… love you sweet girl xoxo.
- I’ve known friends to tear from the vagina to the rectum, friends with a uterus left paper-thin, and even one beautiful lass who heomarraged within weeks of delivering her firstborn via c-section and almost lost her life… she was thankful of course to have woken up from that ordeal but discovered she was the recipient of a hysterectomy… a decision her husband had to make in an intense situation where his wife was fighting for her life and one that she obviously had no say in… meaning no more biological children for them.
Life isn’t always fair. Heck, it’s often not fair. So yes, one of my ‘Top 10 Tips’ is to prepare for the birth you don’t want. How exactly you do this… well, it’s not easy. You don’t know the birth you’re going to have until you’ve had it. What we need to remember is this: that no matter what we do and how hard we try, there is only so much we can control and sometimes, we end up being able to control very little more than our attitude and our outlook. Whilst we’re positive, we’re also flexible. We work with, not against, the professionals looking after us. Together we work towards the best possible outcome: a healthy mamma, and a healthy bubba. And in the end, regardless of our experience, we have to trust that we’re meant to be exactly where we find ourselves.
I’m sorry. I know the mood of this post is a far cry from my usual positive, empowering, ‘you can do it’ beat. You wouldn’t wish any of these scenarios on any one. And yet they’re all real. Too real. Just from within my own immediate circle and I’m so humbled. We haven’t even really touched on the fertility issues, endometriosis, poly-cystic ovaries, miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies… the list goes on.
Please, amongst all this, take heart. In whatever place and stage you find yourself, it always helps to know you’re not alone. That someone else understands. That someone else has paved the way before you and made it through. No doubt they became stronger, wiser and more empathetic as a result.
I hope to have some women contribute to an article on how to come to terms with having a birth, or a pregnancy, that you didn’t want as this isn’t something I can comment on personally. Hopefully you won’t need it, but I’ll start working on it nonetheless.
Should you find yourself in one of the abovementioned situations, or in any other situation where you are concerned or feel alone, please, reach out! Thankfully in this day and age there is generally an abundance of support available: be it through clinics and support groups, counselling, online etc. Please, seek out someone you can confide in. Someone who understands. And always, always seek professional medical advice and assistance.
Some websites that may be of assistance include, but are not limited to, the following:
Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG):