I wanted to share with you the recent publication of this beautiful anthology of poems and art about pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, published by Mother’s Milk Books, an independent publisher producing books that normalize breastfeeding.Regrettably, there exist few books on the market which really normalise the baby-mother dyad, so this publishers is attempting to fill this gap, a worthwhile, courageous ambition, one I very much hope will be achieved.
I have been lucky enough to be a contributor to this anthology, under the first of eight sections in the book, ‘Broody to birth’, an excerpt from Ewan’s birth story, called ‘When the spell was broken’. I have learnt a lot by working with the editor of Mother’s Milk Books, Teika Bellamy, and thank her for all her support with my writing. I very much hope to have further contact with her in the future in the role as writer. Continue reading →
Welcome to the June 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Embracing Your Birth Experience
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about at least one part of their birth experience that they can hold up and cherish.
It is the journey, not the destination that matters. Here I describe the most beautiful, spiritual aspect of my labour, the first stages along a bumpy road to giving birth. My firstborn child, a son, was born in June 2010. Ewan’s birth was far from the ‘perfect’, natural birth I had envisaged, prepared for and naively believed I would have. Instead, I gave birth by emergency caesarean under general anaesthetic. Lying unconscious, I missed the first three hours of my son’s life, and then spent the next few days too ill to care for my son, recovering in hospital.
My suffering, the pain, trauma and long period of postnatal recovery were far outweighed by the child standing before me. My son was born a very healthy little boy, who nursed like a dream. Our first meeting was indescribable, as I instantly felt overwhelmingly attached to my son, an outpouring of unconditional love which knew no bounds.
Now, almost two years on, I can reflect on and celebrate this profound experience, cherishing the joy of labouring naturally, even though I could not in the end birth naturally. In this post I share the period before the second stage of labour, holding these hours up with strength, pride and happiness for all to see.
This article was first published in La Leche League GB ‘Breastfeeding Matters’ magazine, number 185, September/October 2011.
When I was pregnant I was asked whether I would breast or bottle-feeding. This puzzled me because there was never a question, to me breastfeeding is simply how you feed your baby. Luckily, I come from a family who support breastfeeding, including my Nanna who fed twins at a time it was ‘normal’ to bottle-feed, my Aunty who fed her children until they naturally weaned, and my mother who breastfed me and my brothers. I therefore felt supported in embarking on feeding my own baby. Continue reading →
Is hospital the best place to recover from giving birth? Once returned to the main maternity ward I failed to sleep at all. All around me was a tremendous din of crying babies. Surely there was something seriously wrong? All the newborns were crying; was it from shock, from separation from their mothers as they lay alone in plastic cots, seeking milk and the familiar warmth of bodies they had so recently left? The primeval sound haunted me. They were communicating in the only way they knew. Why was everyone ignoring them?
Is hospital the best place to learn how to breastfeed? An unfamiliar, clinical, stressful environment full of risk fuelled rules? I was instructed to feed Ewan in the communal nursery because it was apparently too risky to feed him in bed. I repeated the process of getting out of bed (no mean feat having just had a serious abdominal operation), and slowly pushing Ewan in his cot to the nursery. I was prohibited from carrying him in case I, his mother, dropped him. I managed to feed him sitting upright in a bright room. I was exhausted. The room was filled with other women who looked in a similar state of shock and dishevelment. I craved a familiar environment in which to recover and bond with my son. Continue reading →
It is inexplicable that women in our society are left alone with their newborns at the time they need family support the most. Feeling utterly exhausted, overwhelmed and traumatised with a tiny new being to care for, I needed my husband with me. He was told to leave. I felt totally alone, confused as to why he had gone.
A busy hospital ward
My stomach started to distend instead of decrease in size. I threw up all morsels of food and drink I tried in vain to get down. I was suffering from post-operative ileus; my bowels weren’t functioning properly after the operation where they had been handled. I had to ask for someone to hand me Ewan from the cot he had to sleep in. I couldn’t feed Ewan independently. I could hear new mums, looking relaxed and healthy, talking to their babies, holding them and smiling. I felt totally out of place as the pain worsened whilst other mums were being discharged.
This was not the right place for me. I was x-rayed and CTG scanned as staff puzzled over my condition. I was transferred back to labour suite in the observation room where I received one-to-one care. I was all wired up, including a tube down my nose into my stomach, and was on various drugs. Continue reading →
No pregnant woman imagines having an emergency caesarean, yet around 60% of caesareans are unplanned. Of these only around 6% are real emergencies. Mine was one of these. My Mum kissed my cheek as my husband squeezed my hand tightly. They were left alone in a suddenly empty room, their concern almost palpable.
Feet running, alarms and lights blaring. Frantic voices. A cold room. One last huge contraction. Breathing in, then nothing. Awakening, shaking uncontrollably, numb, rising pain and panic. Had my baby survived? Where was he? Disorientated and confused no one had cut the umbilical cord. Was this because although I knew my baby had left my body I had not been awake to experience his leaving it?
My baby was found to be in the back to back position, which is why I had laboured slowly and experienced so much back pain. I will forever wonder whether if I had been more mobile in labour I could have helped Ewan to turn to a more optimal position for birth.
First hours of life
Equally, no new mum imagines not seeing her baby in those precious early hours. Yet this situation is quite common. I didn’t see Ewan for the first three hours of his life. The thought never occurred to me that I would not share his first hours on earth. He was born perfectly healthy, at 2.29am on Friday June 11th 2010. There is a video of my husband, Rich, holding and soothing our newborn, as he nuzzles and cries, trying to nurse. Each time I see this video I try not to cry.
Rich was told off by a nurse for walking with Ewan instead of placing him in his cot, because he might drop him! This beggar’s belief. At what point in humanity have we arrived if we cannot hold our most vulnerable members of society to our skin to ease their transition into the world, simply for fear of litigation? Rich felt angry and humiliated at this admonition having simply followed his instincts. The sound of his Daddy’s voice must have been comfortable and familiar to Ewan when all about him was cold, bright and harsh. He wondered where his Mummy was. To leave him alone, even for a second, would have been wrong.
Meeting of mother and son
Eventually we met. A totally indescribable feeling, etched on my mind as my life’s most memorable moment. I was utterly amazed; he was perfect, so beautiful. Love at first sight. He gave me a look of knowing, he reached for me. He fed immediately, hungrily from both breasts. He had been denied this nourishment for what must have felt an eternity to him in this startlingly new, scary world. He made sure he wasn’t denied it again!
Labour is about managing the pain. When this is lost, we turn to others. My contractions suddenly felt on top of each other. I was acutely aware of their pain. My mental attitude had broken. I hit a wall The pain had not intensified by my interpretation of it had. This was fear from the pain instead of acceptance of and moving through the pain. Into my mind the words ‘pain killer’ blazed, like a saviour.
The names of drugs learnt about in NCT classes crossed through my mind. I couldn’t cope any longer. Feeling a failure, I shakily asked for diamorphine. Inside I was screaming, I wept. My baby sensed and shared my anxiety, his heart rate quickening in response to mine. Plans for a natural birth flew out of the window as the likelihood of a caesarean increased. Diamorphine did nothing. Desperate for anything to ease the escalating pain, I asked for an epidural. Administered too late it had no effect. My body was in turmoil from the sudden surge of drugs. It rejected them all. I was violently projectile sick all over the room.
More drugs were pumped into my system. I was given syntocinon, a hormone drip which increased the pain and frequency of the contractions. My panic reached new heights. I needed my mother. She arrived in the night, sensing there was something seriously wrong. Later she described the horrific scene before her of a woman trying to wrench a foetus out of her daughter with huge forceps. I gripped onto my mum’s hands on my left, my husband’s on my right.
I sensed crowds of people hovering around my bedside. I tried in vain to follow the doctor’s instructions to push, opening my eyes for a moment to focus. Twice the doctor tried and failed to deliver Ewan using forceps. His heart rate dropped as the forceps delivery was abandoned. I cried as I was informed I had to have a caesarean section under general anaesthetic. Devastation I couldn’t give birth naturally. Relief the pain would end. I had been in active labour for thirteen hours, a long labour even by the doctor’s standards.