At thirty-one I was in a new relationship and pregnant with my first child, struggling with feeling tired and unwell whilst trying to soldier on at work, moving house, missing my friendships and worrying about the impending birth of my daughter. I found pregnancy hard. I know a lot of women feel amazing when pregnant; healthy, beautiful, virile! I didn’t. At five weeks pregnant (days after my first test) I bled. Jon and I had just got our heads around our new future and suddenly it felt like it was going to be ripped away from us. I bled for six days in total and had to wait another week after that before going for an early scan to see if I was still pregnant. I spent the time in the lead up to this scan checking myself in the toilet, taking pregnancy tests and scowering Google for what the bleed could mean. According to some sites, the blood was nothing to worry about if it was dark brown and thick. Other sites disagreed and stated the harmless blood was bright red in colour and watery. There were women on forums that had bled during every healthy pregnancy and others that had miscarried with symptoms similar to mine. Anyone who has turned to Google for reassurance before will agree with me when I say that it has the exact opposite effect. My doctor said there was nothing I could do but wait and see what the scan showed up.
On reflection, this fortnight of uncertainty set the tone for the rest of my pregnancy. The early scan showed a strong heartbeat and I was progressing well at both the 12 and 20 week scans. I know how lucky I was but instead of treasuring the remaining time, I was fretful and felt unwell up until 33 weeks. I attribute a lot of how I felt to the fear of something bad happening and the utter lack of control I felt in preventing this. I felt the responsibility of the baby inside me acutely. I know women that say the first few weeks after their baby was born were the hardest – that the enormity of what this meant suddenly hit them and that they felt scared by the overwhelming dependency and power this little life had over them. I actually know more women that felt like this in the early weeks of motherhood than not – so I know that it is perfectly normal. I didn’t feel like this. But I’d already experienced, addressed and talked through many of these emotions during pregnancy. I did this using person-centred thinking tools and crucially a one-page profile that I believe helped me regain control and direct my own support so that I wasn’t overwhelmed by the labour or those first weeks as a new mum. Quite the opposite in fact, I embraced them. I knew what I was doing and the person closest to me knew what support I needed. I felt calm, empowered and confident.
My labour was supposed to be at home in a birthing pool. Instead it was in hospital with forceps. It didn’t matter. My one-page profile birthing plan had a contingency for a hospital birth and it followed me there and was read and respected by the midwives on the ward.
After an hour and a half of pushing I was told that my baby was stuck and that I needed an assisted delivery. Her heartbeat was dropping and a flurry of activity ensued. They prepped me for theatre. I signed some papers saying they could take my womb out if something went wrong and was whisked into a bright white room, my legs hoisted up in the air, a blanket dividing by body into two parts and what seemed like dozens of people in masks and hats stood by my open legs. If ever there was a time to feel fragile or a little powerless, it was then. Instead, as the surgeon cut my perineum and pulled my baby down the birth canal, I reminded him to wait until her umbilical cord had stopped pulsating before he removed it. I’d just realised that in the urgency he may not have read and digested my birthing plan. In retrospect of course, the umbilical cord was of little importance, my baby was born safely and delivered straight into my arms, but it is evidence that despite all the elements against me, I was still directing my own support. Proof, if ever more was needed, that I was empowered by one-page profile birth plan.
It is true that I am typically an outspoken person and would always speak up on behalf of myself and others if I believed it was important, but the fear I’d experienced during pregnancy would have rendered me silent on a surgeon’s table had I not planned and prepared using person-centred thinking tools.
I have to apologise for the lateness of this post. Scarlett is 11 months old now and a whole world of things have happened since her birth, breastfeeding, first foods, first teeth, crawling, starting nursery… and so the journey continues. I really wanted to share my birthing experience though, especially with those of you that read and followed my blogs in pregnancy. Addressing my hopes and fears in pregnancy and in particular using the person-centred thinking tools to talk through my emotions with my partner was really good for us – and for Scarlett aka Scamp who is the most amazing little person I’ve ever met!