I suffer from an anxiety disorder and had my first birth with an epidural as I found labour increased my anxiety levels. It was a really positive experience and I had a good birth with no help or complications.
In hindsight, I had to look very honestly at my first birth. It was a positive experience but I felt lucky that it was. I was lucky to have a really good midwife whose actions encouraged a vaginal birth without complications. I was lucky that the epidural did not affect my anxiety even more. I was lucky that the epidural didn’t cause me any complications. And I had to put my hands up that I really should have been more proactive in my first pregnancy to find ways of managing my anxiety for labour. (I have issues with hospitals and also in feeling I have no choice to be somewhere – can’t leave. It gives me severe panic attacks).
On my second pregnancy I decided that while I had a positive experience, I was going to take matters into my own control this time (epi was still there if I needed it) and try to manage the pain and anxiety on my own without medication.
I devoured information. We are so lucky to live in the generation we do – information is so readily available if you have access to the internet. Its mental that with the information available, that I didn’t bother to properly inform myself on my first. There’s that word again, HINDSIGHT! I suppose though, you can have all the information in the world, but you cant force someone to read it or take it if they aren’t in the right headspace. And I wasn’t, but I am NOW
I found several good parenting sites in Ireland and in the UK. I made some fantastic connections through these groups. I also decided to do the Gentlebirth homecourse. I spent my pregnancy reading, keeping active, and listening to my tracks at night (which always put me to sleep).
At my 39 weeks appointment (39+4) the doctor told me the baby was fully engaged and asked would I like a [membrane] sweep? I had a think about it and decided to go for it, assuming I was favourable. I know I wasn’t due yet but I had read up on sweeps and was happy to have it. I wanted to be able to stay at home on this baby for as long as possible and wanted to have some control, for me, the sweep and possibility of labouring at night gave me that control. I was prepared for something quite uncomfortable but it wasn’t sore at all. He told me I was fully effaced and 3cm already!
As I left the clinic and walked towards the bus, I was already getting cramps and show!
I got home an hour later, stopping at shop first for essentials, and Mik was giving our son Tom his tea. He told me that there was spag bol in the pan and looked over to see me standing, swaying, eyes closed and breathing. “Eh, Bren, whats up?” he asked. I’m having a baby, I said.
Mik brought Tom to my Ma’s and I ran a lovely hot shower while I played my tracks on the stereo.
I had no idea how often my surges were coming but I was feeling really positive and most importantly, no anxiety was able to creep in yet. I found I was able to climb over the waves of the surges with ease, to breathe freely, something that never happened with my first labour before the epidural.
Mik helped me get into a comfy tracksuit and we decided to go for a little walk. It was so lovely doing this. It felt like we had a secret, that I was about to give birth and no one knew, but us. It was such a magical time.
We got around the estate twice and I told Mik I thought we better got back for the bag and then head into hospital. I had a little wobble as we were heading into the hospital. Oh no, no no, don’t wanna go in. What if it changes everything? What if I lose control once I get there? We are doing so well on our own!
Got to hospital and admitted straight away. I was doing really well and while the surges were definitely stronger and closer, I could still get over the wave of each one without anxiety, pain, or fear. I could still breathe.
I was examined and was 8cm! I was brought straight to delivery and I chose to sit on the ball rather than go near the bed. I put the ball over to the window and opened it wide as I could. Breathing. About 10 minutes in delivery, my waters released and I felt pressure. I have to push, I thought, and didn’t realize but I actually said it out loud! Mik helped me over to the bed and I got on all fours leaning over the backrest of the bed. A few pushes and his head was out, and then one tiny push brought his body. I was barely in hospital and here he was! Only 4 hours after my sweep! No tears or stitches required!
Without the epidural I was able to shower straight away and we went home on early release. Tom’s birth had been positive but this was pure magic. Welcome to my little Alan xx