Thursday, 7 August 2008

Plan C

Wriggly is seven months old today. Here's the first of a trilogy of posts about his arrival.

By the eighth month of pregnancy I was looking forward to the birth. I’d got over most of my fear of the process and was starting to feel so heavy and huge in the December heat that I was pretty keen for Wriggly to turn up a bit early. Many of my friends had shared their birth stories and the ante-natal classes had filled in the gaps. I had my dream scenario firmly in mind for talking through with the midwife at the birth plan appointment just before Xmas. I’d done a lot of reading about labour and I was feeling pretty confident about that part of parenting; my worry was now shifting beyond that to what to actually do with the baby.

The first thing that went wrong was to do with the midwife. At our first appointment, in the first trimester, she’d given me a copy of a brochure on water births, so I was a little surprised when she told me, with about four weeks to go, that she didn’t do water deliveries. I was disappointed, but accepted that my Plan A was off the table.

Within five minutes Plan B, a natural birth with as little intervention as possible, was also flailing on the floor. Feeling my belly the midwife was dismayed to discover that the fetus was firmly head-up. She seemed to be quite concerned about this, but refused to discuss anything to do with caesareans, beyond explaining that this was now likely. We were sent off for an urgent ultrasound to confirm the breech, and provide more detail of exactly how the fetus was lying. I had gone from low-level anxiety about giving birth to high level worry that we were both at risk. The midwife’s refusal to discuss much did not help.

The scan confirmed the positioning; stubbornly head-up, with legs folded up all funny and hands out beside the head in a happy jazz hands pose. Limited discussion continued with the midwife by phone, and she referred us to an obstetrician at Waitakere Hosptial. Apparently he would tell us all about caesareans, breech babies, and anything else relevant, and therefore she would not.

I’m not the kind of person who likes to operate in an information vacuum. I was very very unhappy with the caesarean black-out the midwife seemed intent on, especially as our ante-natal class facilitator had gone on at some length about the evilness of any intervention in the birth process, practically portraying the various drugs as Death Eaters and casting the C-section as Voldemort himself.

I was really hanging out for the appointment with the obstetrician. The cancellation, by the hospital, came only an hour and a half before the organized time. I was angry. Although I had discussed caesareans with a family member who had had two (positive) experiences, and a friend who had been in the same breech boat until a last minute revolution in her womb, I was rather keen on some advice from someone with actual medical expertise. The midwife still refused to discuss Plan C but continued to talk about the current situation as if there was a high level of urgency and risk. She made a few suggestions about how to turn the fetus around (homeopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, etc) and made me an appointment for an External Cephaic Version two days after Xmas.

Although I was trying not to show this to the world at large, inside my mind fear was running rampant around and around, tagging the walls with U DYZ and NOEZ BABY. Worries about my mothering skills were eclipsed by a nerve-gnawing anxiety about the state of my child-to-be and what might happen to us both in labour. Instead of looking forward to the birth I was now desperate to stave off any contractions, in case everything went too fast to get to a hospital and I ended up re-creating that horrific scene in Pan’s Labyrinth. I was afraid of the unknown.

Part 2 some time soon.

9 comments:

Hugh said...

It's nice to know this story has a happy ending, otherwise all this suspense would be killing me!

Azlemed said...

Having the right midwife is so difficult at times. I thought I had a good one lined up for Orion, but fate intervened and I ended up changing mw halfway through, the two i had in the end were great.

Anna McM said...

What is it about sharing birth stories that is so therapeutic? My friends and I do it often, and always feel better for it!

Information is crucial to feeling confident about your birth, whatever form it may take. I annoyed the bejesus out of my midwife by asking for statistical probabilities for each possible birth-related event, expressed as percentages. For some of us, though, it's the only way to get a bit of peace of mind.

My own most terrifying moment was being rushed into the caesarean room during my second labour - the urgency meant no one had time to tell me what was wrong. Things worked out fine, but in the interim it was awful!

The ex-expat said...

Anna, despite not having gone through the birthing process myself, I think part of it is a way of dealing with trauma. I've had so many people tell me that birth is this wonderful, natural process but at the same time I can't help but think that birth is one of the major medical processes that we are awake for. And having your body go through like something that seems pretty damn traumatic. Yet instead of being able to say hey, I'm sore and hurt someone please look after me, you have to look after this little person that suddenly entered the room.

Deborah said...

I felt a tremendous need to share my birth stories too. Giving birth is a profound experience - it's a huge physical effort, even if it's comparatively easy for you, and it can be physically traumatic. The telling and re-telling of birth stories is a way of processing what happened, of making it all make sense, and a way of incorporating it into your understanding of yourself.

And women really do connect over them! Secret women's business...

Anonymous said...

As an (ex) midwife I used to work in a rural area with a real midwife shortage and a large Maori population (who mainly wanted Maori midwives and there just weren't any). Very sadly I was often not the women's first choice but the only midwife they could get. Although you do your best it wasn't an ideal situation. I have been lucky in my own pregnancies to be able to pick the midwife I wanted and have had my best friend and colleague at all three births - almost by luck.

I always think there are lots of different types of midwives and lots of diffrent types of women and in a perfect world it would all match up eg some women like a motherly appraoch and that drives others crazy. The lack of choice in some areas because of shortages makes it diffcult for women and midwives. The same base service should be provided to everyone but different approaches, age, cultures etc come into it in a highly personal and vulnerable time.

Anna McM said...

My midwife was very big on keeping her women informed, and I found this abated my fears hugely. She made sure she was always on top of the most recent research, and always gave me a considered answer. It was fantastic!

hungrymama said...

The midwife I had with my second was awesome. any decision I had to make during the pregnancy her answer was always "I have a bunch of articles you might like to read".

Azlemed said...

My first mw was what I needed for my first two babies, I was going to have her for my third but she decided when i was 13 wks to quit practice, this lead to 6 wks of no care until I shifted to Oamaru and had the most awesome care I could have asked for.

I too like to talk about my births with other mums, its good, helps you feel better etc, but I have found once that a mum who had c-sections was quite rude to me cos of my babies having quick labours, didnt matter that I suffered afterwards with a hammorhage, and babies in nicu...