All of these stories have to one degree or another been what you might describe as 'anti-intervention'. Often women feel that the doctors or midwives involved in their care are too quick to resort to drugs, instruments or even surgery, and that there should be more faith placed in a woman's natural ability to birth well and successfully.
Whilst this may be true, there are occasions in which our gratitude for medical help goes beyond words. In the following story, there are no grey areas, no question marks, and no doubts: modern obstetrics saved a life.
This is without doubt the hardest thing I have had to write.
I walked in to to my local hospital feeling, sick, nervous and most of all excited. I was due to be induced with my second baby. It was an emergancy induction. I was 38 weeks pregnant and the day before I had discovered the baby was far too small, there was not enough fluid and insufficient nutrients getting through the cord. Yet I felt confident and believed everything was going to be fine.
Labour ward was busy and I remember reading trashy magazines and thinking of my daughter at my mother in laws and how much our lives were going to change.
Finally a midwife gave me some gel. I remember her as warm, comforting, mothering and being very much what I wanted. It took me a very long time to get into labour as my body just was not ready for it. By the time contractions had started it was the middle of the night and I was walking around a dark, quiet labour ward smiling at the same hideous painting I had stared at in labour with my first daughter Grace. I thought back to my lovely, perfect birth with her and silently hoped for the same again.
Unfortunately that's not how it turned out. So many things started to go wrong it's painful to look back on, memories so deeply repressed that now I want to access them I can't. Contractions were regular but weak, the midwife decided to put me on a drip to make them more intense, this was the only point I remember crying. A drip felt like such a barrier in my head, a physical line stopping the natural, drug free, active birth I wanted. It was also suggested that I should have some pethidine as the contractions would be very intense, and there was an urgency to get my baby out. The pethidine went in and boy did the contractions increase. This was the turning point in my labour, I now knew it wasnt going to be like my first one.
I was lost in my head, rolling the chosen names around, playing with the sounds like when you have your teenage crush and practise writing their surname after your name, day dreaming my way through the pain. It was safe and warm in my body but going through my head I could hear sharper words, intense words and glances. I crawled out of my drug induced brain fuzz and looked at my husbands face. He had his hand on my arm and was staring at the machines. With every contraction our babies heart rate dropped to almost nothing. The midwife couldn't put it off any longer and was just about to organise an emergany c-section when bang, my cervix went from 3 cm to fully dilated and I really HAD to push. I never had that intense feeling last time but i remember chanting I need to push, I need to push as the midwife turned on her heel to examine me. She agreed and I pushed about three times when my baby shot out. Because my bump was so small I saw her coming out and pulled her up to me, she was tiny, beautiful and blue, so very blue. The same cold sweat and sick feeling I remember then is burning back through me now. I remember the midwife cutting the cord with such haste to get her to a doctor that bright red blood covered us, the contrast between my red and her blue burned into me. Silently and without fuss the room filled with doctors. I watched them trying to get her breathing, rubbing her, bagging her, pleading with her. Watching strangers pressing their mouths to her lips to get oxygen into her tiny body and all I could do was watch. The doctor fighting for her looked up, I saw total panic in her face, that is one of the parts I will never supress. She was taken to SCBU before I knew she was ok, before she had cried, before I had seen all of her body, noted her hair colour, told her her name or kissed her. The room emptied and I was by myself getting 'cleaned up' by a midwife and throwing up. Fighting the effects of the pethidine I tried clearing my mind. My husband had gone to be with Tilly and I felt so alone. Twenty minutes and still being sick the phone rang to say my little baby girl was crying for her mummy. I made a noise of gratitude, words couldnt explain, the sound came from so far inside my body. I found her in my husbands arms in SCBU doing the same face as Grace does when she is upset. I latched her on to me and the horror seeped out of our bodies, she was here, mine and just beautiful. The following days were hard and there were many trials, we experienced even worse events with Tilly a week later but yet again she pulled through.
Whilst there are without doubt things I could fault about events during the labour, my overwhelming emotion is gratitude.
Matilda May Appleby was born at 1550 and weighed 4 lb 15.