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Isobel's birth story, by Anna

Anna's first baby, Isobel, was born in hospital by forceps delivery, after transferring from a planned homebirth. Anna's experience in hospital was very traumatic.

I had an early miscarriage in June 2004 which was devastating but we were keen to try again, and 3 months later I was pregnant again. My due date was almost a year to the day after I lost the first baby, so that worried me a bit.

I had decided early on that I'd like to try for a homebirth, but we moved house to a different town when I was 6 weeks pregnant and the midwife at my new doctor's surgery was far from supportive: 'We'd like to try for a homebirth' was answered with 'well they do make hospitals very homely these days you know'. So, early on we decided to go with an independent midwife who I met when I was about 12 weeks pregnant and who was the most perfect person you could ever imagine becoming a midwife, someone who we both completely trusted straight away and who very much shared our sense of humour and values.

I had a very very easy pregnancy! Bad morning sickness but no other problems at all, completely low risk. I stayed active, doing yoga and swimming regularly as well as walking everywhere I could.

I got to my due date and nothing happened…In a way I was happy about this as it was very close to the date when I lost my first baby so I had quite a psychological block I think, and the more overdue this baby got the 'safer' I felt. My midwife did 2 cervical sweeps a few days apart, and an hour after the second one I started to have contractions; this was 3pm on the Sunday afternoon. Looking back now this was my favourite part, sitting in the garden reading a good book, breathing in my lavender plants when I had a contraction, it was so peaceful and relaxing! Told my husband after about an hour and then started timing them shortly after. About 3 hours later I was having contractions every few minutes so we phoned the midwife as she lives about an hour away and she came straight over. She examined me later that night, about 9pm I think and I was 4cm, feeling very pleased with myself as I wasn't really in any pain at all!

The second midwife was called out in the middle of the night as things seemed to be 'hotting up' but shortly after she arrived everything started slowing down and this is where the problems started I think. We did get about an hour's sleep at some point, which was great, but the contractions slowed to about 20-30 minutes for several hours. I was still only breathing in my lavender plants, but at lunchtime the midwife checked me again and I was only 'nearly 6cm' so I hadn't even gone another 1cm really in 12 hours, despite lots of contractions. The midwife checked the baby's position at this point and she had gone posterior, having started off ROA.

After this I spent several hours on the bed with gas and air, in the garden, in the birth pool, back on the bed, walking around basically doing everything we could to get the baby moving but she was having none of it. I had my waters broken that evening in the birth pool, this was about 28 hours in. It wasn't nice and I'm not sure it achieved much but at least felt like we were trying everything.

By about 10pm on the Monday night I was getting the most excruciating pains in my back and possibly an urge to push, but I was only 8 cms I think so couldn't really push properly. By about midnight we decided I'd have to transfer in and this is where it got really really bad.

I thought I was transferring in for an epidural, but didn't realise it was too late for that. The next 3 hours in the hospital were the worst of my life. I wasn't allowed the gas and air as I was supposed to be pushing, but it was too late for an epidural, so I was catheterized, stuck up on the bed with my legs in the stirrups and pushed with everything I had. It was absolute agony and terrifying as I had no idea what was going on. The doctor finally arrived and decided to do a ventouse, so another catheter first, then the ventouse in, but it came off the baby's head. She then decided to do an episiotomy and forceps, with no pain relief. I can't really describe how bad this was but my husband later told me he felt it was like they were torturing me and he felt like he was 'helping' them as he was having to hold me down. It was so painful getting all these things 'in' that I didn't actually realise the baby's head was out!

Note from Angela: I cannot imagine how awful this must have been for Anna. A forceps delivery without pain relief sounds barbaric. Normally a local anaesthetic would be given before a forceps delivery or episiotomy, if the mother has not already had adequate pain relieving drugs.

Before the ventouse and forceps attempts, it must have been very difficult for Anna to make any progress with her pushing. Many women wound find it very hard to push when on their back with their legs in stirrups because, obviously, gravity cannot help the baby descend in that position, and the tailbone cannot easily flex backwards to increase the space available in the pelvis. It's interesting that at home, where women are free to choose whatever position works for them, it's almost unheard of for a woman to be lying on her back when her baby is born.

Back to Anna:

My wonderful independent midwife was still with me (having been with me for nearly 36 hours now) and she told me what was going on. Unfortunately at that point the hospital midwife told me I needed to push harder as the baby's head was out but needed oxygen. This was the very worst thing she could have said, as having lost my first baby I had been very very worried all through my pregnancy that I would lose this one as well, and all I can remember at this point is screaming 'it's going to die it's going to die'. Then before I knew what was happening a little slithery screaming ball of fury was put on my chest, I had a baby girl!

Isobel was checked by the paediatrician and was absolutely fine. She hadn't needed oxygen and I still don't understand why the hospital midwife said this to me.

Unfortunately I had a third degree tear due to the forceps and was taken up to surgery to be sewn up, so I had to leave my little girl behind with my husband and the independent midwife (nearly 40 hours in now); that was very very hard.

Anyway, we came home the next day, breast feeding went really well and we're still at it now, 5 months later. She's an absolute joy and has made my life complete but I won't be giving birth naturally again. My husband has said there is no way he's putting me through it again and I'm afraid I agree. If we were to have another baby I would be requesting an elective caesarean. I still believe in home birth and believe every woman should have the choice and the support. But those 3 hours in hospital (out of a 36 hour labour) were absolutely horrific and I could never go through that again.

Anna

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