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.