Inspired by a Ghostwritermummy’s haunting post about her own experience.
The twins are nine weeks and one day old today.
This time nine weeks ago, my heart was still set on a minimal-intervention natural birth. We had meetings with the consultant midwife about it, and she was supportive of our requests. Barring actual medical necessity, there would be no touching, no disturbance. No invasion of my mental space, much less my body.
Then I developed obstetric cholestasis after going overdue, and allowed myself to be talked into an induction. The ward was extremely busy. After twenty four hours, in which I ended up having to be rehydrated by IV after the midwives were too busy to bring me water and the woman in the bed next to me almost gave birth in the induction bay because they were too busy to check her – much less administer the pain relief that she begged for – I demanded a caesarean section for fear that we wouldn’t make it out of the ward intact.
I wanted a low-intervention birth, but I wanted it to be safe. Watching the chaos unfolding around me in that ward, the disorganisation and the lack of attention to patients, it felt anything but safe. I wanted to know that if I felt there could be a problem, a midwife would be available to attend to me swiftly, but midwives were taking hours to check on their patients and halfway through one shift, I realised that I hadn’t even been introduced to who was apparently responsible for me.
I ‘chose’ a caesarean section based on what was happening around me. It seemed like a non-choice at the time. There was chaos unfolding in the beds around me – culminating in one woman, dilated to 8cms and still in the induction bay, being rushed away haemorraghing – and I had lost all faith in the medical system. It was not what I wanted, but it was the least terrifying option available at the time. The caesarean experience was one of relief, because there were competent professionals around. Finally, I felt that we were safe.
Because that ward was understaffed on that day, I chose to have my body mutilated. I chose a birth experience that was the opposite to what I had planned for and dreamt of. I signed up to potentially being denied my home birth with the next (assuming that it’s a singleton). Because I had no faith that we would get through my hospital birth safely, because every woman around me who was further along in the process was being failed right before my eyes.
My primary emotion on the day that the twins were forced into the world wasn’t one of love, it was one of relief. Relief that it was over. That we could go home. That I didn’t have PTSD, which was starting to feel like a real risk. It didn’t feel as though I had given birth at all, just that somebody had handed us two babies. Two random babies. In my head, I was still waiting to give birth.
Thankfully my partner bonded to the boys instantly and has been brilliant, but I do wonder what would have happened had I fought for my home birth, or else gone private. Would I still have wound up with a caesarean? Would breastfeeding have been easier? Would there have been that love-at-first-sight moment with the boys?
In the photographs of me with them on that first night, I mostly just look shellshocked. I have wild hair and big black eyes from spending the entire night before the caesarean weeping. I don’t look like me. I don’t look jubilant. I look small, squashed by the experience.
Physically, I had a marvellously easy recovery: Ibuprofen for three days, out running with the dog within a week. Mentally, I’m still repairing the damage nine weeks on.
And it’s unacceptable. It shouldn’t happen to any woman.
It won’t happen to me again.