For most of us having our first baby, we spend much more time contemplating the events ahead than we do with our subsequent children. We lovingly pack our bag for the hospital and studiously put together play lists which are going to see us through. Snacks are packed, baby-grows ironed, colostrum harvested and perineum well and truly massaged! We have gone to traditional antenatal classes are are ready to breath our babies out with each passing surge that hits us. Our partners are armed ready to do battle on our behalf and are even prepared to jump into the pool with us should the need arise. We have a full Swiss Army Knife of knowledge about the process in our arsenal!
There are some women who WILL go into the hospital after a few hours of strong cramps, be examined and, established labour declared. Hey Presto! In the pool they hop and a few short hours later they have their beautiful baby nestled in their arms, breastfeeding like a charm and go home a few hours later with an intact perineum having lost 100ml of blood. For those women the achievement is no less miraculous than for those who experience childbirth in a different way. Don't get me wrong when hypnobirthing works it can be amazing to witness and - truth be told, for those who's experience is just not compatible - just the same as when we encounter someone who is 5 foot 6 inches tall and a size 10 with an hour glass figure - we are just a tiny bit jealous!
But, what about the rest of us? Let's be honest ladies - it is not called labour for nothing. What happens when the pool birth we had planned for is no longer an option, when our baby is in a tricky position, when our blood pressure goes a little to high? We suddenly realise that our Swiss Army Knife has been swapped for a plastic party chopper! We suddenly feel we are taking our driving test without ever having had a lesson and it's too late to do anything about it.
STOP THE PRESS! IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY!
The first thing to remember is; Keep Calm - We have got your back! The people looking after you have a wealth of training, experience and expertise and are ready to keep you and your baby safe. They do this week in and week out. The most common source of sadness for those working in maternity is not that things have gone wrong - because they very rarely do - it's the knowledge that women and their partners feel disappointed with their experience or that they feel they have failed in someway because of having had a c-section or an epidural. Our biggest wish for couples is Gold Standard antenatal education which discusses and prepares expectant parents for all routes. So that when they hold their baby for the first time, how it came to be is the least important of things to think about! So, here is a whistle stop tour of a couple of the most common things that can take us to these unjustified thoughts!
We all have different tolerances for pain and our ability to cope with it can be influenced by many things. It may be that your body has niggled and niggled for days and actually, you are exhausted! Pain and tiredness are not friends. Is it time to give yourself a break and have an epidural? There is nothing stopping you letting its effects wear off a little later to allow you to feel your 2nd stage urges.
Your cheeky monkey is playing games and is not quite in the right position. Square peg - round hole! This situation can cause you to involuntarily push before time which, in turn can result in your cervix becoming swollen - Not Good! Now is the time when an epidural is clinically indicated to allow your body to do its work behind the scenes and allow your baby to move. You are less likely to have significant trauma if your baby comes our the right way! Someone call the anaesthetist!
Pesky blood pressure - for some reason (nothing to do with tiredness, pain and anxiety) your blood pressure has started an upward climb. This is not the only reason to have an epidural but it will help so, if you are tired, struggling with the pain and your blood pressure is up - lets get this girl the epidural top-up mix. An epidural will bring your blood pressure down. It will still need to be checked but even so it's another positive to this form of pain relief.
Ok so, birth plan has taken a flight out of the window and you are under the bright lights of the operating theatre. This is just a diversion! The likelihood is that decision has been deemed the best course of action to keep you and baby safe and well. Your partner will get to dress up like a medical God and you will be surrounded with people who have more brain cells than Stephen Hawking - you are in REALLY safe hands now! You will be made completely pain free by the anaesthetist and FYI for some reason they are usually really good looking (weird or what!) and they will chat to you throughout the procedure. After things are done and dusted you will be watched closely to make sure you are recovering well. In some hospitals there is an enhanced recovery protocol which aims to let you go home as soon as possible once all is well - no longer do we keep women in hospital for days on end. And, you should still be able to breastfeed. Remember though, just the same as for those who hypnobirthed and all went smoothly breastfeeding is only best if its best for you too!
The moral of my long tale - make sure you go to antenatal education that offers information for every eventuality because: What we want isn't always what we get but usually IT'S WHAT WE NEED! and You are all superstars - having your first baby should be a reminder of that, no matter how you get the baby placed in your arms.