Ok, so here’s part 2 of Lola’s Birth - you can read part one here.
What is it that they say about hindsight being 20/20? I know I’m not alone in that I have a long list of things I wish I knew before having my first born.
How much the emotional experience of labour mattered
That pregnancy and labour were the easy part, it’s true - there is no epidural for Motherhood!
That I can and should fight for my body and choices
To that end, part two of Lola’s birth begins at the end of my first born Cooper’s. Roughly half an hour after the most empowering and heart bursting moment of my life came one of the worst. My sweet boy, born at 6:48am, just shy of 7am. Staff changeover. The beautiful midwives who supported me for the duration of my labour vanished and new unfamiliar faces walked in. It didn’t bother me - I was in that giant oxytocin bubble! They performed all the routine checks, it all looks good, not too bad - a bit of tearing.
We’re waiting for the OB to arrive - he’s just finishing up another Mama and then I’m his last one for the evening.
He arrives, rushed and impersonal, that’s O.K. cos I’m still in that bubble. He looks at my file.
“What no epidural?”
He is incredulous and impertinent.
I respond matter of factly “No.”
“Oh, and this was your choice was it?”
Bubble - BURST.
I should have kicked him out of my birth space and demanded someone with respect. I was totally speechless but the weight of his authority crushed me and my confidence like a cinder block.
With little to no explanation he begins to suture my tearing. He fails to inform me of the extent of my tearing as well as what the procedure entails.
I am clearly just another god damned vagina that he has to stitch tonight.
The injection of anaesthetic stings, but it’s not enough I can still feel the stitching. With every other ‘stitch’ I instinctively and uncontrollably jolt away. All he can do is bark at me to “Keep your bum down!” but I am not complying.
He takes his frustration out on my body which is being pulled and jolted with every tug of every stitch.
The procedure feels never ending, and the midwife who has just started her shift gives me her hand for comfort. We lock eyes and I realise in the way that she is feigning a smile that this is not how it’s supposed to be.
If you are a birth professional reading this remember this truth: People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
I have never forgotten how I was made to feel.
My recovery from the suturing was long and painful. I couldn't comfortably walk for 3 weeks, I suffered serious bruising and swelling.
Fast forward 3 years and I am preparing for Lola’s birth. I am infinitely more educated and empowered to stand up for my choices - to have the birth I want and deserve.
Tanya (our doula) and I are discussing birth plans and preferences. We talk at length how we’re going to avoid a perineum tear and how to communicate this best in my birth plan.
As it turns out Little Miss had her hand up on her cheek and her shoulders did sustain me a tear. If you read part one of her Birth Story you’ll recall her entrance was fast and furious.
My Birth plan requested that we were not rushed following birth and we were blissfully left alone for some time before the Dr advised that the OB would be on their way up to check me.
I reminded them of one of my most important preferences. Female only care.
(and yeah, yeah - not all men. But remember MY own personal choices can only be informed by MY personal experience and this tells me that 100% of the time that I have had male care in pregnancy and birth that I have felt small and disempowered and shit.)
This prompted a long discussion about my previous experience. I give so many thanks to the midwifes attending me for truly listening and making me feel understood and heard.
My female OB arrived and talked through my labour and with the midwives present began to talk me through the tear I had sustained and the procedure step by step. With Tanya and Jules on either side supporting me I accepted what needed to be done and gave the Ok. I found great strength and courage with Tanya beside me I know she, along with my husband, was fiercely watching to ensure I treated respectfully and gently.
While they prepped my body shook with anxiety, remembering what happened last time.
Every one in that room helped me to breathe and find calm.
The OB respected my birth preferences and sought my consent at every turn - she talked through each step before proceeding and gave me updates on how many minutes were remaining and how many more steps there were to do. I felt no pain. The procedure was slow and still.
I was up and walking comfortably the following day.
With my trusty perineal irrigation bottle, perineum strip and postpartum sitz - physically I healed beautifully. And emotionally too.
Too many of you reading can relate, I know this because women talk, and it is not OK. Time to fight for something better, actually scrap that - for the best.