Today we’ve got a wonderfully brave post which Hannah offered to write for us. It tells the story of how her birth didn’t go to plan, and how she then felt, and dealt with this afterwards. We’re so grateful to Hannah for writing this piece for us, as we think it’s really important to get talking about ‘the not perfect’, the difficult times, and the struggles.
Over to you Hannah…
At the start of my pregnancy I decided I was going to be as prepared for my journey into motherhood as any millennial can be. I ordered a pregnancy health cook book from amazon, I followed the appropriate Instagram influencers, I signed up for pregnancy yoga and pilates classes, I listened to podcasts and audio books about birthing choices and I convinced my husband to attend a hypnobirthing workshop.
It would be a lie to say that I had my heart set on a perfect hypnobirth, I hadn’t, but everyone else around me as having amazing birth experiences…so why wouldn’t I?
I kept active and remained healthy up until my 38th week in pregnancy when I was showing symptoms of preeclampsia.
Due to high blood pressure I was induced on my due date and instantly my contractions came back to back. I popped in those ear phones, pulled out my homeopathic oils and tried to stay my most ‘zen’ self.
Fun fact – you are not taken onto labour ward until you are two centimetres dilated and therefore I spent the next several hours rolling around in pain, vomiting and trying not to cry in our curtained cubical.
I’m sure some of the skills I learnt from my yoga birth classes and hypnobirthing were helpful during this time, but a few hours on I was still in this tiny cubical, zero centimetres dilated rolling around in agony with my unfriendly midwife telling me ‘childbirth is supposed to be painful’.
Two paracetamol, a few hours and a dose of pethidine later my babies heart rate started going up…and then it just kept on going up. Induction being a famously long process my husband had been sent home for rest and being the polite British woman, my mother raised I followed the doctor’s advice not to call my husband while they monitored me.
So, at 1.45am, I am alone, I am told my baby is in distress, I am having a C section and I am not waiting for my husband. It was not the ‘loose birth-plan’ I had written down at all. Luckily, we live so close to the hospital my husband made it into theatre for delivery, but please let me express that the prep for an emergency c section is intense and I didn’t enjoy going it alone.
During the c section we had more than one emergency bell. I recall at one point somebody calling for a step ladder, so they could pull the baby out. When the baby was born it wasn’t breathing and was taken straight to intensive care. I saw a little arm hanging out as the doctor carried it towards to the incubator and had to ask what the gender of our baby was. I told my husband to go with our baby and finished surgery alone.
We had a girl and I met her several hours later.
The days that followed quite honestly were horrific. C sections are not for the faint hearted and I have very quickly changed my mind about the amount of plastic surgery I want if I win the lottery. I was in pain, swollen, scared and lonely without my baby beside me.
Learning to breastfeed in a very public environment with a c section scar was stressful, having a baby made nil-by-mouth the day your milk comes in was chaos, peeing for the first time after they take your catheter away was terrifying and eventually bringing your baby home on day 5 to be readmitted on day 6 due to low oxygen levels was traumatic.
I don’t want to sound ungrateful to the NHS as they saved my daughter’s life twice and I don’t want to sound resentful to all the woman that achieve amazing natural births, but I do want to vocalise that not all birth experiences are positive.
I spent many months feeling bad about myself for the events that followed. Nobody wants to hear that you didn’t have a positive birth and if you talk about your ‘bad birth’ its almost as if you are making them uncomfortable or seeming ungrateful for the beautiful baby in your arms. As far as I know my birth story wasn’t read to the yoga class I attended and I’m sure when I was pregnant I would have drowned out the noise or said ‘that won’t happen to me’ but at the time it made me feel like I had failed and let them all down. I went to a cranial osteopath who told me my baby needed more skin to skin and I felt like I wasn’t doing a good enough job. When a fellow mum asked about my stressful birth and I told her what happened her reply was ‘I guarantee if you use my hypnobirthing teacher next time it will be so much better’. Breastfeeding fell apart, which upon reflection isn’t much of a surprise after having to express, having a baby diagnosed with tongue tie, CMPA and silent reflux but at the time I honestly felt ashamed of myself that I couldn’t do it.
It wasn’t until one day in a post-natal baby massage class when the teacher asked us all if any of us found the transition into motherhood difficult It dawned on me that my ‘I’m fine. I’m ok. I’m a nanny and I know what I’m doing’ answer wasn’t working.
My post-partum shed was beyond the norm, my sleepless nights surprisingly were not due to my baby and my husband’s unwavering support wasn’t enough. I made excuses to eager friends wanting to meet my baby, I found it overwhelming being in large groups of people and I mostly felt like my daughter deserved better than me. I finally opened up to my husband and saw a birth trauma therapist. Did I have depression? No, I don’t think so. Was I traumatised by childbirth and my first week as a woman post-partum? Yes.
I find it strange that we upload pictures of our c section scars healed and our babies attached to our boobs, we talk over brunch about sleep deprivation and our need for a grande latte, we even have the balls to wear tee shirts that say ‘Strong Girls Club’ but we are not actually asking anyone what they need to be strong.
We’re not asking them how they felt when their wounds were healing, how long and how many consultants they saw to get a good latch and we’re not asking them if rather than having brunch and a coffee they want to go home and take a nap?
The current millennial mantra of only talking about the good and only posting the picture perfect is not helping women post-partum.
When I searched for support in the community I was often mistaken as second time mum (#nannylife) and dismissed. When I went online there was very little I could find to relate to or take comfort in, and I wished there was more.
I don’t know if anyone will read this post and find it relatable and I don’t know if it’s a very comforting birth story for women pre or post-natal, but I promise it is honest. So, if anyone else is reading this who recently had a tough time…. honestly, it will get better. You will feel stronger and it will be Ok.
Me in the recovery room. Waiting to meet Baby Girl… she didn’t have a name and I was so convinced I was having a boy she went to NICU with no name and a blue hat! I felt so guilty. Everybody must have thought she was a boy! #FeministBaby
Huge thanks to Hannah for sharing her story!