‘Will you be induced if you don’t go soon?’
‘No, I’m not going to willingly flood my baby’s veins with toxic chemicals!’
That was the exchange I heard between a woman I knew in her 41st week of pregnancy and her friend. I kept my mouth shut, because we aren’t allowed to judge other women, especially pregnant ones, and I’m a huge believer in a woman’s right to choose how she gives birth.
But I can’t put into words how hurt and angry and judged I felt when I heard them.
I had an induction. By definition, it was elective, but like most elective procedures in the childbirth domain, there was more to it than that. I was overdue, but only by four days, my baby was doing fine, although the placenta was showing signs of growing a little tired, and if I had been giving birth in another city, I would have probably opted to wait it out until Little Ms chose to make her appearance.
I wasn’t though. I was at the hospital where the doctor that delivered me and blessed my mother with one of the worst birth stories I’ve ever heard, was on call that weekend. If I went six or seven days over, he’d be delivering my baby. It had been my fear my entire pregnancy and in those final weeks I was wracked with anxiety that was quickly turning into panic attacks.
Monique Bowley and Bec Judd discuss what really happens when you give birth. Post continues after audio.
All I could foresee was him walking into that delivery suite, me reading his nametag and freaking the fluff out. None of the ‘trust your body’, ‘you’ve prepared for this’, ‘you are capable and supported’ mantras would be able to override my panic. A panicked woman is not a relaxed woman, and not a woman who is able to let her body do its thing and birth a baby smoothly.
I did not want my first child to be born in a room that was filled with fear and anxiety and resentment. I didn’t want the horrific experience my mother had. While I’m sure that that doctor had improved his treatment of patients in the intervening 27 years, I hadn’t changed my opinion of him.
So I elected to have an induction at 40 weeks and 4 days. It meant that I had the doctor I’d built a relationship with over the preceding five years. It meant I felt safe and secure and I knew my partner would be there for the birth and I wouldn’t be birthing on the way to the hospital (both unlikely scenarios, but an anxious mother will catastrophize anything). It meant my caregiver knew me and knew what I wanted and what I absolutely did not want. And it meant I was unlikely to be giving birth in the grips of a panic attack. Instead, I gave birth after spending a few hours watching videos on my iPad of cats falling off roofs and running into glass doors while I sucked on gas and howled with laughter. I was calm, and I was happy.
I was aware that inductions come with a higher rate of epidurals, which I ended up having. I’ll have one again next time. I’m the kind of person who won’t tolerate a headache without a Panadol so there was never a question that I wouldn’t tolerate the most painful experience of my life without the available pain relief. I was aware that epidurals meant an increased risk of intervention, which I ended up having (a single vontouse pull to assist when baby’s short chord was being compressed with contractions, lowering her oxygen levels and heart rate). I had an easy recovery from birth. I bonded with my daughter in the delivery suite. My husband was there for the whole thing, supporting me and looking at me like I’d just performed a major miracle.
I had an induction and I had a bloody wonderful birth experience. I believe that the best way to ensure a baby thrives is to ensure its mother thrives. So I put my mental and emotional wellbeing ahead of the goal of going into labour spontaneously. And yet, I feel the judgement of having an elective induction every time I hear a comment like the one I mentioned, as if I did it so I could be home in time for dinner, and as if I was willing to put my child in danger for that cause.
In the weeks leading up to and the years since my experience, I’ve read a lot of opinions about induction. Most of them are along the lines of ‘inductions lead to interventions which lead to worse outcomes’, or ‘inductions are so much more painful and traumatic than normal, natural births’ to ‘I’ll avoid an induction at all costs’. It almost, ALMOST scared me away from what I knew was the right decision for my family. Each to their own, but I believe I deserve respect for my own too. Respect goes both ways.
My induction was a great experience, and if I get to repeat birth the exact same way with my second child, I’ll consider myself extremely lucky.