When I was about to give birth for the first time my husband and I expected it to be relatively smooth sailing. We thought that nothing bad could happen to our baby – those sorts of things just didn’t happen to us. But when our midwife told my husband to push the red emergency button in the delivery room as I was in labour we knew that something was very wrong. The room was suddenly flooded with medical staff, most hovering around between my legs with concern written all over their faces. After much pushing, manoeuvring and help from the staff our daughter finally graced us with her presence. It was a nervous time as we waited to hear that sweet cry and when it eventually came I’d never felt more relieved.
We were told that my daughter had been born with shoulder dystocia and that was the reason she’d been stuck in my pelvis. My petit frame and her size probably had something to do with it – she was born at a sizeable 4.375kg or 9.64lb, almost two weeks post-term.
But before we’d had much time for cuddles she was whisked away again because of a high temperature. She was given antibiotics and then taken to the special care nursery, where she would stay for the following week. The reason why she had a temperature was never really discovered nor the reason why she had an abnormal amount of bile sitting in her stomach each day. It was frustrating for us that no one could give us an honest answer to our questions. As first-time parents my husband and I were completely overwhelmed by the entire experience and felt like we were mostly left in the dark about our daughter’s condition but thankfully after 10 days on antibiotics, lots of cuddles and love we were free to take her home.
Suffice to say when I fell pregnant two years later, I realised that I’d been scarred by my first birthing experience and I was petrified about giving birth again. I also realised that I hadn’t been prepared at all for what I experienced, but how do you even prepare for something that you have no idea is coming?
A year earlier, our family had moved to a small outback town in Queensland which meant that this time our baby was to be delivered in Longreach. Initially, I was hesitant about giving birth at a rural hospital because Longreach didn’t have a special care facility for newborns (and I was almost talking myself into believing that something bad was going to happen).
In the last eight weeks of my pregnancy, I’d been leaning towards having a caesarean because I was petrified of the baby getting stuck just as the first one had if I had a natural birth. It was apparent from examinations that I was carrying another big baby but the doctor assured us that everything would be different the second time around. I wasn’t so sure, but of course, he was right.
This time, the doctor recommended that I be induced at 38 weeks so I agreed to have my baby naturally and after a short five-hour labour and only a handful of pushes our son was born happy, healthy and loud and I wondered what I’d been worried about the whole time.
I was completely astounded at how different the entire birthing experience had been the second time around. When I was in labour with my daughter, I remember being on all fours in the delivery room as a doctor shoved a piece of paper under my nose to sign the consent for the epidural. I looked at him with disgust and scribbled on the paper as I screamed for relief. From the time I asked for the epidural until the time I finally felt my legs going numb was just over two hours of absolute torture. I suspect this also played a part in me becoming terrified of the birthing experience.
Of course it’s no secret that every birth is different. Childbirth can come with complications – it’s a fact of life and sometimes terrible things happen. But just because you had one negative experience doesn’t necessarily mean that all of the other experiences will be bad, too. Just as people with fears of heights, spiders or small spaces are told to confront their fears head on, I too decided it was the only way forward.
Image via Karyn Miller