Before the birth of my first child, I didn’t go to any birthing classes. I watched a couple of episodes of One Born Every Minute and concluded that I should trust the midwives. I just needed to push when I was told to push, and ask for pain relief if I needed it, and let the medical professionals take over the rest.
I thought having a birth plan would just set me up for failure. I saw women who went into labour with a plan as terribly naïve at best, hopelessly controlling at worst, and potentially even impeding the obstetrician and midwives from doing their job. Oh, I was so smug. Not for me the anguish of my friends, who had planned for natural births but ended up with caesareans, forceps deliveries, or epidurals.
In hindsight, it was a protective mechanism. I had watched friends put themselves through the wringer when their births hadn’t gone according to plan, some of them needing long-term therapy. Some had trauma responses or flashbacks, or were worried about how they would cope with subsequent births. We had long, tearful conversations over tea where I assured them that they’d done everything they could, and they shared their guilty feelings, the belief that their “medicalised” birth had been the result of some personal failing. My heart broke for them, and I didn’t want it to happen to me.
According to this midwife, all your birth plans are nonsense. (Post continues after audio.)
I started to see the pressure for a perfect birth as evidence of the unreasonable and unfair expectations on women. I decided that the labour and birth were unpredictable, largely out of my control. I couldn’t plan for the unexpected, so what was the point in putting undue pressure on myself?
I was terrified of being seen as one of “those mums” – militant women who had “done their research” on the internet, for whom the birth experience was more important than the delivery of a healthy baby.
But now, I’m not sure “those mums” exist. There are just some pregnant ladies who have armed themselves with knowledge, and some who are woefully underprepared.
I was eight days overdue and had developed obstetric cholestasis, a liver condition which has a potential to result in stillbirth. I had been suffering the symptoms for days, but ignored them, believing they were standard “last-days-of-pregnancy” stuff, and that my obstetrician would let me know if something was wrong. My obstetrician, for his part, hadn’t noticed anything was wrong because I hadn’t told him. When my mother, through worried tears, demanded I go to hospital, the nurses took one look at my jaundiced face and declared it high time I was induced.