Once upon a time, there was a pregnant woman who wanted a natural birth…

So this is my birth story. Although it does have a happy ending, be warned – that is where the similarity to a fairy story ends.

My pregnancy had progressed relatively straight forwardly – despite unpleasant nausea in the first trimester, and the never ending exhaustion, I was feeling healthy and ready for birth. I’d attended NCT classes and completed my own research, and wanted a natural birth with minimal pain relief.

In one of my final midwife checkups, I had a high blood pressure reading. It was not my usual midwife, but a stand in. She’d been brusque from the start, and raised her eyebrows at my reading. She re-took it 5 minutes later, and without telling me the results, or even speaking a word to me, made a phonecall. I gathered this was to the ante-natal assessment unit at the hospital, where she was explaining she was concerned about my blood pressure and wanted me to be be checked out. This was how I found out about it. She offered me no reassurance or explanation of what this meant. I left the appointment blinking away tears, and then cried all the way home. After a sleepless night, and hasty call to work to arrange cover and explain my absence, I reported to the antenatal assessment clinic first thing in the morning. They took my blood pressure at 10 minute intervals, and listened to my baby’s heartbeat, and were satisfied I was fine. My first blood pressure reading was slightly high, which they accredited to my worrying about it, as it settled to normal throughout the readings. However I now was worried sick about my blood pressure. As a result of this, I had a high reading at my next two midwife appointments, and each time was sent to hospital to be checked. Each time i was discharged as my reading would return to normal, but my anxiety about it meant my initial reading became higher and higher. Eventually a week before my due date I was admitted into the Maternity Assessment Centre overnight for monitoring. I cried constantly. I was woken every 4 hours to be monitored – each time the initial readings were high before settling. I didn’t sleep at all, so I demanded to be discharged the next day – all I wanted was to go home. I was given beta blockers, and had to return every couple of days to be monitored. This was over the Christmas period – my favourite time of year. I was devastated to have to keep going into hospital, and terrified each time that my reading would be high and I would be kept in again. Perhaps as a result of this, my blood pressure remained high and I was strongly advised to be induced before my due date.

The induction process was frustrating. I was in hospital for three days and nights. Women were coming and going into labour, then being taken to the labour ward, whilst I was still there with nothing happening. Following procedure, I had a pessary inserted, then removed after 24 hours, then another pessary inserted, and again removed after 24 hours. I was not even 1cm dilated. The internal examinations were absolute agony and I dreaded them. After waiting for 6 hours for a doctor to become available, I then had a fast acting gel applied to my cervix. Due to how painful I found the internal examinations, they took me into a treatment room and gave me gas and air. I cried throughout. Contractions started soon after, then died away completely. At 10pm that evening I sent my husband home, as we had been assured that I would not be admitted to the labour ward for the next stage of induction until tomorrow. I settled down to get some sleep. It was New Year’s Eve, and at around 11:45pm my contractions started in earnest. My waters broke, although I was still only 1cm dilated, and I rang my husband to come back – it was midnight, as I’d heard fireworks during our call. He arrived 40 minutes later to find me launching myself off the bed in agony. I’d been given gas and air, and a midwife was pressing her fingers into my lower back and try and relieve the pain. More waters gushed out, and to my horror I felt the overwhelming urge to push. Mr F says this is when my midwife’s face fell – this should not be happening so quickly. I was now fully dilated, and my baby’s head was ready to come out.

I was urged to get on a wheelchair, with only a vest top on and a sheet slung over my lower half, and I was run through the corridors and into a room in the labour ward, roaring in pain the whole way. I climbed onto the bed, with the feeling of my baby’s head ready to come out. The midwife turned her back for a moment to attend to something – I had a contraction and almost against my will pushed, hard. I felt the entirety of my baby’s body come straight out. Shocked, I said nothing, and my midwife turned around and gasped. Suddenly more medical professionals entered the room – my baby was wiped and put on my chest. ‘What was the time of birth’? one asked. My midwife was flustered – she hadn’t even had the time to check it had been so fast. ‘1:20am’ she answered. I’d been in labour for around an hour and a half.

I don’t recall how much time we had together as a new family – it felt like barely minutes before another midwife was gently telling me that she thought I’d had a third degree tear. All I knew was that more and more bloody towels kept being taken up from under me and rapidly replaced. We were urged to ‘take pictures and bond’ despite the fact that shortly I’d be taken away for surgery. I almost laughed – I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do less than have a picture taken. Mr F was in shock – he’d left his wife falling asleep and returned shortly after to find me in full blown labour. Our baby was born less than 40 minutes after he got back to the hospital.

I was taken for surgery to repair my third degree tear. I was given an anesthetic which mercifully numbed my lower half. I was nearly asleep as for the first time I was completely comfortable. I kept urging the midwife to check on my husband and baby. During the surgery I remember looking at my monitor – ‘why aren’t you measuring her heart rate?’ I asked. ‘Because she’s no longer inside you’ they answered, bemused.

I was in surgery for around two hours before being reunited with my husband and baby. With the pain numbed, I felt euphoric. My husband was not faring as well, and seemed completely out of it and shocked. He’d been left almost completely on his own with our new baby, worried sick about me, with no sleep, following a fast traumatic birth where he’d had to watch the bloody towels, the concerned faces of the medical professionals, and his wife in absolute agony – he’d felt helpless.

Fortunately, our gorgeous baby girl was unscathed by the birth. My husband and I – not so much. Besides the physical pain, I was left confused, angry and emotional. Our plans for future babies are now on hold following the most terrifying experience of our lives.

We have sought help and been offered a debrief/counselling session back at the hospital – however the earliest appointment is three and a half months after the birth. We are able to talk to each other, and have been open with our friends, family and medical professionals that our birth was traumatic, but currently I am worried about the long lasting emotional effects it has caused.

Have you experienced any emotional pain from your birth? How did you cope with it?