This guest blog is Nicki Newton-Plater's story of her traumatic first birth experience and her experience of birth anxiety in her second pregnancy, and the apparent lack of knowledge from friends, family & medical community on how to deal with this.
Nicki is a blogger and mum of one from Australia who is currently 5 months pregnant with her second child, Nicki regularly blogs on all things movies at Movie Critical.
Giving birth is a concept which is never not daunting. The notion of how one's baby get's out into the world is enough to scare anybody who is not 100% committed to the idea off for good. No birth is ever easy, but some are well and truly harder than others and are not just hard physically, but emotionally and psychologically.
This is something they don't warn you about in antenatal classes.
You hear about how much pain will take place and how you should handle it and your partner is told what they should do to support you, but nothing about what happens afterwards if things couldn't go further from plan in the delivery room. We all cope in different ways when faced with danger or in a crisis, but sometimes it isn't always postnatal depression that is the cause of emotional problems after birth, especially when it hits you years later when you are preparing for your next child.
I'm currently a little over five months pregnant with my second child. I gave birth to my son in May 2012 and today he is a crazy, but endearingly hungry for life three year old. who doesn't give me a moment's rest. I had planned for a natural birth with him, but went into the labor ward with the mindset that I will do whatever it takes to get this baby out. I dare say that did help me get through what was to come.
I was over a week late when they took me in to be induced and was informed that most of the time it took ages for the gel to kick in.
So when I went straight into labor, none of the midwives believed me and giggled at me asking for a Panadine for the pain so quickly when anyone who knows me knows my pain threshold is ridiculously high. After two hours of me not being able to sit down and pacing the halls, they finally called the doctor who confirmed the baby had moved down and sent me to the delivery room. By the time I got there, they asked what pain relief I would like and I asked straight away for an epidural. Again, more giggling and they gave me the gas, which did nothing for me at all. They finally then called my husband and checked the baby again.
To everyone's shock, my baby had turned and was in distress coming out backside first. They tried to turn him, but instead my body started involuntarily pushing and he was coming out.
They sent me straight through for an emergency c-section, but had to knock me out to stop my body pushing.
As I went under, they told me they didn't know if the baby was okay or not.
I woke up two hours later and was told I had had a boy and he was perfect. So he was fine, I was fine and it was the best possible outcome in such a situation. All my family had met my son before I even knew he was alive.
Over the next few days, nobody breathed a word to me about the birth or asked if I was okay after all that. I tried my hardest not to think about what had happened, because I knew if I thought about it, it would drive me crazy. I knew at the back of my mind I had nearly lost him, and if he had continued to come out naturally, he would have killed me as well. It was one of those births that if it had happened 70 years ago, neither of us would have survived.
Yet, no one wanted to talk about it. More than likely they were worried about upsetting me and didn't know how to talk about, which I do understand.
So life went on and falling pregnant with this child I knew the only one to make sure that didn't happen again was to have a planned c-section. I discussed this with the midwife at the hospital on my first appointment and she was more than convinced that this is going to be the best way to go.
However, when she asked me about any concerns I had, I bought up what had happened with my son and how I was starting to feel that niggling fear of it happening again, she was at a loss as to what to say. Her response was with a smile and as if rehearsed was "It is normal for expectant mothers
to be afraid of what is to come, but remember you are in the best possible place"
"But what if I am not here and it happens again? It was a rapid labor before, what if I wake up in the middle of the night and I don't get here in time?"
I'd been knocked out when my child was being born and went to sleep not knowing whether I was going to have a child or not when I woke up, and this seemed a little too foreign for the midwife to deal with. She was seriously shaken up.
It was as if they were told what to say to mothers who were afraid of birth, but not the ones who had already gone through a troubled birth and were scared of it happening again. I left there feeling worse than I did when I went in.
My labor was terrifying, but I know it wasn't the worst. My son and I made it out of there fine, some babies don't. I can only imagine how these parents must feel in their next pregnancy.
It is these worries that need to be addressed straight after a troublesome birth, not when the mothers develop overwhelming anxiety the next time around because that does them nor the baby any good. All one can do is hope and pray things will be okay this time, but it would be nice for someone to offer some reassuring words or how to deal with this fear if possible.
I have learnt that even if you accept what happened in the first birth, when pregnancy starts again and the hormones run wild, nothing stops you from obsessively worrying about whether the same thing will happen again.
This is life, but we have counselling for marriage break ups where we learn to live with and deal with what happened, shouldn't this be available for something as traumatising as a birth where death nearly occurs?
So much emphasis is put on postnatal depression and this is in no way a bad thing and absolutely essential. Yet sometimes the depression can set in years later, but the question of "Are you okay?" should be asked after such a birth as I went through by medical staff. Friends and family shouldn't be afraid to ask this question either or talk about it, because many people assume if you got the baby out then all is fine.
As for me, I will go to see a psychologist, but I don't know if anything can soothe the worry or help me relax. Birth is like that, it is entering into the unknown and plucking up every piece of courage you have ever possessed to bring your child into the world.
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