Having a positive birth is possible for the majority of women and the care they receive can greatly influence their experience
Emma – volunteer for the Leeds Maternity Voices Partnership
Hi, my name is Emma, I’m a mum of three, a step mum of three, and a wife to one, living in Farsley, west Leeds. I’m a service user representation for the Leeds Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP) around my work and family commitments, and I’m a bit of a birth geek. I’ve had three babies in the last six years and, I’d like to tell you my story.
Why I became involved with the MVP
I become involved with the MVP because my three birth experiences have been hugely different from each other. The difference between them has inspired me to believe that positive birth is very possible for the majority of women and that the care a woman receives can greatly influence their experience. Frankly, I think that although care is often excellent, sometimes it is not, and I would like to add my energy to improving this for women, to enable them to face the challenges of parenthood without the challenges of a difficult birth to hinder their efforts.
My birthing stories
The high intervention birth
Baby one: My first experience wasn’t great, initially I was fine but my labour escalated dramatically and immediately after some intervention that I later learned was unnecessary, this led to further intervention and ultimately a lot of healing for my poor battered body. My initial aftercare was very poor and I left the hospital in quite a bad way. I felt awful for some time afterwards, but I thought it was normal, after all, birth is supposed to be hideous isn’t it?
The undisturbed birth
Baby two: Three years on, I was pregnant again and I was sailing through physically but emotionally I was NOT OK. I had fantastic support from my community midwife and I employed a doula, a professional birth attendant, between them both I got my head in a better place.
When it came, my experience was so different it blew my mind. I stayed in control, I stayed mobile, I stayed calm. Labour was intense but manageable. When I had my moment of panic I mentally forced myself to relax. My baby descended with each breath without any pain, without panic, without pushing. It was such an amazing experience I couldn’t believe it had happened. I couldn’t believe it had happened to me and I felt amazing and I was on a high for weeks afterwards.
The home birth
Baby three: For baby number three I wanted to repeat my second birth experience but with a birth pool and I wanted to get into my own bed afterwards. I was confident I could birth my baby on my own without the facilities of a hospital behind me and I knew I would feel more comfortable at home. I was not disappointed. My baby was born in the pool, I didn’t experience the peace of my second birth but instead I roared through the sensations as I felt my baby move down. It was intense and incredibly satisfying and I fished her out of the pool with my own hands! I felt amazing. She was born all wrapped up in the cord and still with the caul/membrane sac partially around her. She was pink and healthy and was clearly happy with our birth experience too!
These three experiences were so different it seems hard to believe, but this is my story and my truth. I am left in awe of birth and with a great respect for the birth process and the human body and its innate capability to create and nurture life. The effect of a negative birth experience v’s a great one is like trying to compare being in a horrible car accident to having trip in a hot air balloon. They are so different.
Is birth is a trial to be endured?
I was left with an enthusiasm for birth and yet an empathy for those who have had a hard experience. My eyes opened to the ‘bad press’ birth has, which has become intrinsic in our generation. We see films and TV programmes where women scream and holler through labour strapped to hospital trolleys, have you ever seen a calm, peaceful birth on TV? Our expectations of birth are very low and I want to change that for my daughter, and for my sons. As a non medic I didn’t know what I could do, but as the MVP was forming I thought perhaps I could do something. I still don’t know what exactly, but maybe telling you my story is a start.
My advise to pregnant women and their partners would be to learn, to make a plan, and a plan B and possibly a plan C too. To be advised but to know your own mind too. To consider who you trust and to take them with you, either literally or in your mind. To remember that you have the history of thousands of birthing women behind you and know that you can do it too. To ask questions, and keep asking if you don’t understand the answers and trust that your body knows it’s business. Know that you matter too, know that you will be OK.
“If a woman doesn’t look like a goddess in labour then someone isn’t treating her right” Ina May Gaskin