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Birth Story Special: When Intervention Saves Lives

This week I'm running a Birth Story Special. So far we have heard a dramatic story of a planned home birth that ended in an emergency caesarian, my own story of being induced, and yesterday an incredible tale of 'freebirth'.

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.

Anna's Story

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.


  1. Thank you Anna for sharing a story which is obviously a painful one to recount. I am so happy for you that it ended well after the agony of such a hard labour and traumatic birth.

    I cannot believe how it must feel for those Mummies who have a birth story with no happy ending.

    As you say Mule this week has had lots of pro-nature stories but this one I feel only backs it up - this is what hospitals and doctors and SCBU are built for and what they do best - they help poorly babies or babies who just need to be born quick...

  2. quite right jenski, we should never underestimate just how grateful we can sometimes feel to be surrounded by doctors.

  3. This is a really interesting story and has been the catalyst to write. As I have been reading this week I have been encouraged, saddened and challenge! I am one of those mums who has had a birth which didn't have a happy ending, despite the most amazing beautiful homebirth with 2 amazing midwives and a doula. Reading some of these stories is healing and challenging, people who know me know I am very pro home birth but I am not sure if I could do it again, or have a freebirth or a hospital one.
    Much love to all mums for sharing. MAybe one day I will be have the strength to share my most beautiful birth which was also my most tragic. xxx

  4. thank you emily. i am so sorry you have had a birth with a tragic outcome.
    please do get in touch if you would like to share the story one day, in the meantime, hugs to you.

  5. Thank you Anna for sharing Tilly's birth story with us. It sounds like you had incredibly tough time, but what a beautiful outcome! Emma

  6. Emily - I don't know what to say, I am so sorry you had a tragic outcome to your birth. Much love to you. xx

  7. Emily - I do hope you find the words to tell for story. Even if you just write it and put it somewhere and don't want to share it. Your child's birth is note worthy, even if their life was so painfully short.

    Althought your lost child is not something you will ever "get over" I do hope you are one day able to find peace and perhaps go on to have another child if that is right for you.

    I think it is admirable that you are still pro-home birth and thank you for this. Your words will carry a greater weight with women you speak to in light of your tradgedy.

    Sending support and love to you and all Mum's and Dads who are without their children. x

  8. Hospital birthing interventions saved my life and the life of my daughter. Bravo for sharing!

    As much as I wanted to have a natural experience, I am so so so grateful for the professional care I got when we came down with preeclampsia and HELLP.

  9. yes camille - it's important, no matter how pro a natural experience we are, not to lose track of how helpful intervention can be. thanks for reading xxx


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