In 1997 when I was pregnant with my first baby, a friend lent me a copy of Active Birth, by Janet Balaskas. This was the start of my journey to becoming informed and empowered .
The information convinced me a woman's body is designed for giving birth, without the need for medical intervention. I discovered the many researched benefits of giving birth naturally and the risks of obstetric interventions.
I realised that I would have to take responsibility for the kind of birth experience I hoped to have and not be a passive 'patient' in the hospital system.
At that time, I had never heard of anyone homebirthing and there certainly were no midwives in my hometown, so I opted to birth my baby at the local state hospital, where I had heard that very little interventions occur.
As a first-time mother, I also felt comforted knowing that someone experienced in birthing as well as medical back-up would be present, should any abnormal circumstance arise. (I had heard too many horror stories from friends to fully trust my abiity to birth free of interventions at that stage!)
All in all, I had a fairly good labour and birth experience. I was allowed to move around freely while in labor and my husband and I were pretty much left to our own devices most of the time.
However, by the end, I was tired and when the midwife told me I was fully dilated and must now birth the baby on the hospital bed, I gave in to her wishes. I did not want to alienate the person who was helping me, by insisting on maintaining an upright position. I thought it would be ok.
Well, ok, is about all it was. As the baby crowned, she would slip back as the contraction ended. This happened a couple of times and so the midwife decided she needed to perform an episiotomy to facilitate the birth.
She told me that if I didn't birth the baby soon, it would go into distress. With hind-sight, I believe this was a manipulative technique, as I have since witnessed births that took far longer from full dilation to the expulsion of the baby. I do not believe my baby was near to any state of distress!
Once again, although this was not what I wanted, I gave in and consented to the episiotomy, in the hopes that the birth would soon be over. It did work, but the episiotomy was performed live, without anesthesia. This was the most painful part of the birthing process and afterwards, the wound was most uncomfortable and I regretted the decision.
However, it was a lesson learned the hard way. One I would never repeat.
With hindsight, I realised that if I had been in a more vertical position, gravity would have helped the baby's descent and an episiotomy could definitely have been avoided regardless!
With my second baby, I could not find a midwife in the district, who would attend a homebirth in my town. None was willing to travel, possibly at night, so my only alternative was an unassisted homebirth.
After reading up and researching this option, we had a succeessful unassisted childbirth (or UC), but this too was a learning experience - that was affected by the experience of our first baby's birth. However, by the time our third, fourth and fifth babies were born, we had grown in our knowledge, experience and confidence and I had exhilirating, empowered birth experiences.
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