Are you judging my birth choices?

midwife-led-unit_c1_w555
New generation of birthing units

An overdue post! I’ve actually got quite a few posts to write up on various subjects (progress on the nursery, my pregnancy updates – am 34 weeks now! – and some reflections on pregnancy buying) but let’s start with this one as it’s a bit grittier. I love gritty topics.

I am generally discovering that I’m not immune to the parent / pregnancy / labour / birth / [insert any word ever] judginess that is rife on the internet and in real life. When people are really judgmental and nasty about the choices that you make or want to make, well, it HURTS. I think this gets worse the more personal the judgement is – and what is more personal than how you choose to give birth to your child? Which brings me onto my current post topic, and my current dilemma.

We went on a tour around our chosen Hospital the other day. Like many hospitals, it’s been set up with a midwife-led unit (MLU) and a consultant led unit / labour ward (CLU). During the tour, there was a lot of emphasis on having a natural birth in the MLU and how the CLU ‘should’ be kept free for the complicated/difficult/dangerous births. Obviously, though, being on the MLU means no doctors/anaesthetists so gas and air and maybe pethidine (there were conflicting responses on the pethidine question) is available. For more pain relief, a transfer (across reception, into the lift) to the CLU would be required.

We walked around the newly opened, very nice MLU and then around the CLU – this was then followed up with a Q&A session with one of the head midwives. I asked a question about their approach to mobile epidurals and received a rather bad-tempered, snappy response. Questions about transferring from the MLU to the CLU etc were shut down. Generally, the message was that, barring any medical issues/limitations, “women (should?) want a natural birth in a MLU”. At least, that was the message that I heard quite loudly. And, to be honest, it isn’t the message that I want to hear.

Let me be clear: I would LOVE to have a straight-forward natural birth. I would love to be able to deal with the pain, put my hypno-birthing training to the test and pass with flying colours. But birth, like life generally, doesn’t always go according to plan. There may be complications, bub may not want to come out. Or, heaven forbid, I may not be able to deal with the pain. If any of the above happens, I want the option of choosing pain relief for myself. Because, guess what, not all women DO want a natural birth in a MLU. We are, God forbid, all different.

What all women do want (I hope) is to be empowered and informed enough to make the choices they want. I know exactly what I want. I would like to start off with as little intervention as possible; gas and air; possibly try a birthing pool. But, if at ANY point, I decide I would like an epidural then I would like an epidural. I don’t want anything else (we have done research into all the options and things like pethidine aren’t going to work for me) and, importantly, I don’t want to be argued with. I want to feel that those around me are supporting the decisions that I’m making and respect my right to choose the birth that I want.

Which brings me back to my current issue with our Hospital. I did not get the impression that women are REALLY free to choose whatever they want. I got the impression that MLU-led natural births are what I’m expected to want, and I will have to argue for any deviation to that ‘norm’ that isn’t due to medical need.

Not to put too fine a point on it but: screw that. If I’m struggling in labour and decide I’d like an epidural, I will go ballistic if I’m ‘encouraged’ against it. It’s MY CHOICE.

However, I also know ‘me’. If, in that crucial, vulnerable, stressful, difficult moment, I am given the impression that someone, anyone, thinks I’m failing at birth because of the choices I am making, it’ll hurt. Because things like that hurt. It’ll stay with me, I’ll remember it, I’ll internalise it. Yes, my husband will be there and can advocate on my behalf but he’ll be stressed too and, importantly, he cannot control how other people act.

So, I’m taking steps to try and have the birth that I want:

  • On Saturday, we’re going to visit the other hospital near where we live so I can assess their attitudes and see if I feel more comfortable there
  • Arrange to speak to the midwives and explain my concerns. See if I can write something up on my preferences that make my issues clear.
  • Explore option of a doula.
  • If none of the above get me anywhere, check out nearby private maternity options.

I have no pre-conceived notions of what birth is going to be like because I’ve never given birth before. What I do want is to ensure that I feel as comfortable, relaxed and supported as possible. That’s what everyone woman should feel like going into labour, through labour and out the other side.

Mummuddlingthrough
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19 thoughts on “Are you judging my birth choices?

  1. Such an interesting post…firstly, wow that birthing room in the picture!! Where is that!? I love it! Secondly, I think you’re very wise…taking control of YOUR birth as it happens is, I believe, one of the best ways to avoid negative reflections of it afterwards.

    My birth went very far off my wished for imaginings and we ended up choosing something during the experience that I was adamant I didn’t want but it was the best option to avoid something else. Importantly for this comment is that it wasn’t the option offered to us by the hospital. We took a few moments to think and consult together and then counter-offered, so were fully in control of the experience which resulted in a very positive experience for me, even if on paper it didn’t look that way. I credit this to our independent midwife who was with us throughout and could champion our cause in the hospital.

    I really hope you work out an approach that makes you feel confident. Let us know what you go for (if you want to!). Sorry for the long comment again, your posts always resonate with me and then I can’t stop rambling! X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. littlebug

      Not rambling at all – thanks for your comment! I’m not sure WHERE this pic is from, I got it from a mum and baby mag – I want to go though!

      I love your point about being in control and thank you loads for linking me to your post on this – it’s really reassuring to hear that this was so important to others also. I think it really can make all the difference to feel as though you had the main say in something as incredibly intimate as giving birth. Interesting about your independent midwife, it sounds like she was able to do what I’m hoping a doula could do for us.

      Thanks again for commenting, made me smile.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I felt similarly to you – I had a very loose birth plan of being prepared to give it a go with gas and air and the birthing pool if possible (turned out it wasn’t, hey ho), but I wanted the reassurance that an epidural was an option if it was all too much. There are so many unknowns (how will I handle the pain, will gas and air work for me or just make me sick, etc.), especially for a first labour, that you just want to have all the options available. In the end, although I requested an epidural, the labour was so quick that by the time the anaesthetist turned up I was at the pushing stage and therefore too late! Luckily it turns out gas and air work a treat on me.

    I see from your profile you’re based in Surrey – is this St Peters? I know they are very keen on the midwife led unit! I had my baby at Frimley, although we’re actually closer to St Peters, so feel free to drop me a note if you’d like my thoughts on Frimley.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. littlebug

      Thank you Katy! I think your point about all the unknowns is key – it’s hard to know how you’re going to feel before you actually go through it so having the options is crucial. I’m so glad you had all those options and then actually didn’t need some of them – at least they were there.

      Yes, it’s St Peter’s! Frimley and Royal Surrey are our other two options although Frimley isn’t really talked about much so we haven’t explored it. Would love to hear your thoughts on it – do you have an email I can contact you on? xx

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  3. A great post on a hot topic. I had a long slow labour and luckily my local hospital #exeter were great at helping. During labour I had to get out of the birthing pool (which was great and helped work with my self hypnosis :)) I really didn’t want to but had to as baby wasn’t coming..so after a quick examination I had to be carted out to labour ward and have “help” I quickly came around a stood
    Up “both hand on hips” and said “I want 10-15 minutes of my way then we can do whatever needs to be done” and within 8 mins in standing and squatting cave women style my LG was born..remember you have a voice 🙂
    Good luck X

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  4. I found that a ‘natural’ birth was really pushed by the hospital when I was pregnant. That’s probably ideal for most people, but you never know how things are going to go. I didn’t write a birth plan because I was open to anything. I knew I preferred a drug-free birth (which I had in the end, except for gas and air), but if I had been in labour for much longer? I would have had the epidural for sure. #coolmumclub

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    1. littlebug

      Yes, I liked how, on our NCT course, the lady made a point of calling it birth preferences not birth plan as the latter sets people up to feel like they’ve failed if it doesn’t go according to said ‘plan’. I’m glad you had the birth you wanted. 🙂 x

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  5. I found all the way through everything was about a natural birth (which, of course, needed to be followed by a skin to skin breastfeed..). Eventually I had to go in to be induced at 12 days over, only to be rushed straight down for a full crash section because the placenta had ruptured. If I’d been monitored more closely like I wanted, as opposed to being fobbed with ‘mother nature knows best’ type answers, it might have been avoided. If I could go back and do it again, I’d have pushed much more for something I was confident and comfortable with. x #coolmumclub

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    1. littlebug

      That’s really rubbish – I think it’s so easy to get swept away with “These people are in authority; they know best!” when, actually, you are the best judge of your own body (I’m trying hard to learn this but it’s really HARD!). That sounds like you had a really tough time, hope you’re okay now. x

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  6. Wow that room is awesome! Seriously thought I think I used to be quite judgemental until I actually gave birth for the first time after which you realise you do not have control over these things and you’ve got to do whatever you need to do to get through it ok! Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub lovely x

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  7. Yes! This post is amazing!!!! (And that room is identical to the one I gave birth in, in Bristol, it was an amazing room!) I had massive judgment from others about my birth choices (even my own mother!!) I always said that as I’d never experienced labour, I had no clue how it would turn out for me, so I said I’d start at the bottom (paracetamol,) and go for the big guns (epidural) if I needed to. I never had any firm ideas that it HAD to be natural/hypno etc, so I suppose that helped. But at the time I had friends doing hypo birthing who openly turned their noses up at the thought I might agree to an epidural, repeatedly asking ‘but WHY would you want that?’ I wanted to ask ‘but WHY wouldn’t you take the option if it’s there and you need it?’ But respected their choice. It turns out that during my first labour, after 24 excruciating hours, and being stuck at 9cm dilated for 8 hours, I told the midwife I would prefer to die please, rather than carry on. At that point my husband demanded an epidural, which was received with tuts and ‘are you sure?’ the midwife then got the midwife in charge, who stromed into the room and demanded to know why I was asking for one. It’s a moment I’ll never forget, and will stay with me for ever. With my second labour, it was quicker and easier, so I did it in the pool, with gas and air. But I still would’ve had the epidural if I wanted it. When one of the hypno friends gave birth, the message we had to say she had delivered covered only the fact that she’d done it with no pain relief. There was no gender, no weight, nothing to say they were over the moon with a healthy baby-just that info. I was incredulous that THAT meant more to her than anything else!! I’m sorry this comment is so long, but this is a topic I feel really strongly about!!!!!!

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    1. littlebug

      Oh thank you lovely – that’s terrible that you had to go through that long labour (9cm dilated for 8 HOURS? JEEZ!) and then be treated like that. It’s not okay and you should have had your decisions supported and encouraged. This is exactly the type of thing that I am most dreading because I can so imagine that it’s not easy to forget even though you did absolutely NOTHING wrong.

      Really glad this post resonated, I wish it didn’t have to resonate and that all women got to give birth exactly how they want in a supportive environment but sadly we have a way to go before that happens, it seems.

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  8. As an OB nurse in a rural hospital in Canada, I am very impressed by the birthing suite pictured in your post! Wow, I wish we had rooms like that for our moms! However, I completely agree with you in that this hospital should not be asking their soon-to-be moms to make the decision prior of whether to receive analgesics. Sure, every one should discuss it prior and make a birth plan, but like you said: Nothing happens as planned! I am glad that you have alternate options available if you did not feel comfortable there. Good for you for not accepting the status quo! #PoCoLo
    Tori
    http://www.themamanurse.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. littlebug

      Haha, to be honest, I haven’t come across ANY hospitals here that look quite like the pic! 😉

      Thank you – it’s so nice to hear your point of view on this. I really want to have my preferences but also be very flexible if things don’t go quite according to the book. We’ll see what happens! Thank you for your comment. 🙂 x

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  9. How rude and frustrating for you! The major thing I learnt with my first-born was that birth never goes the way you think and like you said it should be YOUR choice. I wanted a water birth and no epidural, but I ended up on the bed screaming for an epidural (though I was discouraged and given pethidine instead as I was in the birth centre). It’s our body, our baby, and our choice so you should never have been made to feel that way. I hope you get kinder responses in future! Thanks for linking up to #MarvMondays. Kaye xo

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  10. Morgan Prince

    I totally agree that it should be YOUR choice. At the end of the day labour is tough enough without having to stress about not having access to drugs or even a doctor! What if something went wrong? I’ve given birth twice and they were both very different. Good luck with it hun. Thanks for linking to #PoCoLo

    Like

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