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The problem does not lie in whether a woman is educated or not in birth. Jess shares her story.

"My story begins 5 years ago, when we first started trying to conceive and the years that proceeded - failing, in that time I’d gone through the grief of accepting that we may never have a child of our own. Until last year our beautiful little cherub decided to choose us. Wow was pregnancy a wild ride. I was high risk for miscarriage up to the third trimester due to adenomyosis and endometriosis, high risk for pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, high risk for pre-term birth, a baby measuring small, subject to weekly CTG scans, blood and urine tests, multiple growth and wellness scans - you name it.

I’m a naturally anxious person but to be honest, all of this didn’t worry me because I’d longed for this so I was grateful to be pregnant. This journey however, changed me from a “go with the flow” type of mind frame to an “educate yourself” mind frame. I came across a wonderful podcast called Nurture Hub and signed up for hypnobirthing - To which I am extremely grateful for. I was able to educate myself to advocate for myself along the 9 months, saying no to unnecessary vaginal examinations, being able to really understand what the OB and midwives were suggesting, understanding their language and coercion and being able to make informed decisions.

Unfortunately in the end, I was still subjected to a birth I didn’t expect, a birth that was long, a birth that resulted in a cascade of interventions, a birth that has resulted in perinatal anxiety, a birth that has resulted in a beat up and battered mind and body that will take months or years to recover from. After learning about induction and what it entailed, I was HARD against it. I was adamant this would not be how we met our baby. I’d never mentally prepared for it because I was told that I’d never reach my due date as the baby was coming early - until I’d found myself in the 40 week midwife appointment being booked for an induction due to GDM. I was ready to go into battle with the hospital, I was prepared to walk out of there having declined the induction as I didn’t tick any of the boxes to be induced. My glucose levels were normal, my blood pressure was perfect, my CTG scans, blood and urine results showed a happy and healthy baby - so there was no reason I couldn’t just do expected management. Here we were sitting in the hospital with our induction nurse, having a lengthy conversation - going through the benefits, risks and alternatives. The nurse even tries to tell me that I’m there because I have a “big baby” which told me she hadn’t even bothered to look at my case, which would tell her that our baby was measuring small. In comes a doctor that clearly had no patience for us and said “your placenta will stop functioning and you will put your baby at risk if you wait any longer” - this was something I had no time to properly process or research. So with that, I was fear mongered into accepting something I never wanted.

My labour lasted 3 days, I was subject to multiple vaginal examinations (to which I have an extreme emotional response to each one due to past trauma). I had zero sleep, I was vomiting and had diarrhoea, couldn’t eat, I wasn’t progressing fast enough and both baby and I were fatiguing. After 2 days of working through intense contractions, being told to possibly prepare for emergency cesarean, we finally entered the birth suite and I had an epidural and they broke my waters, here I was able to get the little rest I could manage. Active labour was still a long process and by the time it came to pushing, my epidural had worn off and the pain had returned. I pushed for 2 hours - Myself and our baby had become so fatigued we needed assistance. In come multiple people, the room was suddenly full - people were talking to each other and at me but I couldn’t talk back, I’d disassociated, my mind had left the building, I was traumatised, I was done. As the doctor was giving me the information about vacuum or forcep assistance, I asked if my husband could consent for me as I’m not in the right frame of mind to take in this information or make decisions. They wouldn’t accept this so, in my state of desperation I consented to forceps and an episiotomy as I had nothing left in me to go on. My girl was still so far up in the cervix, nearly the entire forceps were inside me, it took 5 pulls for her to come out and the episiotomy meant losing 20% of my blood.

Finally, after 3 days - Penelope was here. Laid on my chest but I had no emotion. My husband was crying, my midwife was talking to me, the baby wasn’t breathing, my placenta was being pulled out, antibiotics were shoved up my butt and I was being stitched up. But my mind was nowhere to be seen, I was numb. Penelope took her first breath after being CPAP for 1 minute and she was right on the breast, a new midwife was handling my breasts helping her latch, boom - nipple trauma due to improper technique. There was literally no time for me to process what the hell just happened, instead I was wrapped up in a puppy pad, catheter and wee bag in hand and wheeled off to a room where we would stay for another 2 days and where I’d later learn that not only am I swollen, nipples bleeding, stitched, and losing alot of blood, I’m completely and utterly incontinent. I cried in the shower as I looked down at a body I didn’t recognise. What have I done? Not only have I let myself down by having an induction, I’ve completely ruined myself. Will I piss myself forever? Will I be able to breastfeed with these damaged nipples? Will my husband still find me attractive after I’ve been cut open? Has he also been traumatised by what he has seen he won’t want to touch me again anyway? What do I look like down there? How am I supposed to keep my stitches dry if I have to wear a nappy? All of this mental and physical work I have to now endure whilst also navigating a newborn, something I had no idea how to do. And so we go home, sleep deprived, brochures about breastfeeding, formula feeding, physio, child health nurses, lactation consultant appointments, midwife appointments, doctors appointments and so on in hand and my perinatal anxiety goes through the roof.

I find myself not being able to sleep, I can’t handle her cries, I’m a slave to the pump, I have meltdowns whenever I’m left alone, I fear the night times. Was this birth? Was this motherhood? Why had nobody been truthful? Why had nobody told me how hard this was? How can I possibly go on. I’m now nearly 5 weeks in, and doing a lot better. My anxiety has levelled, my sleep has improved, my incontinence is still there but I’m working on that. I’m trying to give myself the grace of time to heal mentally from the birth. My problem is the system around induction - women are not given ALL of the information, even down to how long it can be, to mentally prepare and to properly make informed decisions for themselves and their babies. Women are not given the adequate time to process this information, women are not given the chance to make a decision that isn’t emotionally driven out of fear. Once you become pregnant, you literally hand yourself and your power over to the system and it needs to change. Here’s to hoping we can change that for mothers to be."

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