I don’t actually know where to start my story. It seems too hard to start at the beginning and work through. So I’ll start with a story. The first time I encountered a “trigger”.
My partner, Dave, and I were watching a TV show where a woman gave birth, alone. She turns to her baby and says something along the lines of “I did it all by myself”. Already feeling very teary I had to leave the room when Dave turned to our own newborn baby and said “Your mummy didn’t do it alone. There were so many people in the room when you were born.” In that moment I realised that I was far from okay with the birth experience I had. The birth of my baby should have been more “intimate”. Instead we were surrounded by strangers. People we’d never met, who didn’t know our names or our story and who we’d never see again. I deserved better. My baby deserved better. This was the moment when I started to realise that I wasn’t just yearning for the vaginal birth I had missed out on…It went deeper than that.
So back to the beginning…or even before the beginning. I’d been a big believer in private maternity care in my younger years. Why on earth would you want to go to an overcrowded, icky, public hospital when you could have your own personal doctor caring for you in your own beautiful room? Then I did a uni assignment on the relationship between lay people and experts – using maternity carers as my example. I did a lot of research which included learning about midwifery care and abuse in child birth. And I scored my first high distinction.
Fast forward a couple of years and we are trying to conceive our first bub. We didn’t do anything special. I stopped taking the pill and we both got full physical checks and we were off. 4 months later I was telling Dave that he would have to drink all the “girly” beers himself on Australia Day.
We had a “dating scan” done at about 8 weeks. My GP did the referral. I didn’t know anything about them. Didn’t know that I could ask questions or anything. Just did what I was told. Found out that my dates were only out by a day. Then Dave and I had the talk about birthing location. For such a huge decision it was a pretty basic conversation:
Me: I’d really like to have a homebirth. What do you think?
Dave: Well…since I’m bigger than you the baby will probably be too big for you and you’ll need help. No homebirth.
Me: Oh. Well what about the birth centre? It’s attached to the hospital.
That’s a true story and I often wonder how different my story would be if that conversation had gone differently. It’s also very hard to look back and realise how incredibly uneducated I was. I mean, really?!?! Baby will be too big because my partner is (a little bit!) bigger than me?! WTF?
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
So we did the 13 week and 20 weeks scans. As you do. We booked into the birth centre. All was going well. I’d finally stopped feeling nauseous 24/7 and was starting to enjoy being pregnant. Then BAM!
So there’s the glucose tolerance test that you do at 28 weeks. Yep – “that you do”. Not “that you’re offered” or “that you should research and decide if it’s for you”. You do it. And if you fail you can’t birth your baby in the birth centre. You “HAVE” to birth in the hospital.
Time for another (very short!) story: I’m terrified of hospitals. Have been ever since I had an experience in hospital at the age of about 19. To me hospitals are a place where doctors and nurses bully you into unnecessary and dangerous procedures and don’t tell you the risks until AFTER it’s all over. (Turns out I was right…but that’s coming up!).
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
I had been making sure that everyone I spoke to at the birth centre / hospital was aware of my fear. The thought of birthing in hospital terrified me. The idea that I would have to put my baby’s life into the hands of hospital staff was insane. So my stress level was extremely high when I went to do the GTT. I later learned that stress can actually impact on blood glucose levels…but hospitals would never let a little evidence or informed decision making get in the way of a routine test – the whole fabric of society might collapse!
I was beyond devastated. But I went to the “diabetes education class”, which was a little bit interesting. And I went to all the appointments that I had to. After the 3rd appointment the dietician told me I didn’t need to go back again unless I had issues. My eating was perfect. My blood sugar levels were perfect. My weight was perfect. All with exceptionally minimal changes to my diet (I cut out juice, plain pasta and toast with inch thick jam). I started to wonder what all the fuss was about.
Went to the OB appointment at 36ish weeks. I asked about being allowed to labour in the birth centre and transfer across for birth. I was told that wasn’t allowed, but that I should labour at home as long as possible. So…for some reason it’s safer for me to labour at home, with no midwife than in the birth centre? Ok. I was told that I was required to stay in hospital for 24 hours after the birth because of the diabetes diagnosis. The thought of being left alone in hospital terrified me so I spent every spare minute trying to work out what would be the best time for me to give birth that wouldn’t require Dave to leave the hospital.
At around 38 weeks I was getting the usual checks done and the midwife decided that bub had shrunk. So it was off for ANOTHER ultrasound. The tech assured us that our baby wasn’t shrinking. The following day though I got a call from one of the midwives at around 5pm asking me to come straight up to the hospital for monitoring. Apparently I had some sort of blood flow and fluid concerns. So when Dave got home we went up to the hospital.
Hospital. My biggest fear. Courtesy of Amey Bencke.
The OB came in and said that what they’d found was normal for my gestation but considered an anomaly requiring monitoring. WTF?! How can something be “normal” but also require me to make a trip to hospital for monitoring. Because you really only go to hospital when something is wrong…don’t you?! We sat around for a couple of hours trying to get a decent trace, but baby was moving too much. So the OB let us go home.
Every interaction with the hospital was leaving me feeling more and more stressed. My intuition was screaming at me how wrong it all felt. I didn’t feel that I could entrust my baby’s health and well being to these people. I just couldn’t find it in me to trust.
At 40 weeks I accepted a stretch and sweep. Because surely the midwife wouldn’t offer something that wasn’t necessary? It didn’t do anything except cause some spotting. A stressful week followed as I felt the pressure to get the baby out. I did a bit of research on induction and was rather horrified at the prospect. Plus EVERYONE had been at me for weeks – “any day now!”; “Aren’t you in labour yet?”; “Have you tried xyz?” No-one said “Hey – up to 42 weeks is normal gestation and if your BSLs are under control there’s no reason to be discussing induction yet!” Because, again…why let information and evidence get in the way of hospital routines and “standard practice”.
So I was SUPER stressed by the time my 41 week appointment with the OB rolled around. I always thought of that as the day it all changed. The day my dream of a beautiful, peaceful birth disappeared.