Hear my voice | My birth story & lessons learned, Part II

Our Maternity Patient Partner (MPP), Rachel, returns as a guest blogger to share her journey of pregnancy number two and the importance of personalised care. Click here to read Part I of Rachel’s story.

My second pregnancy went by in a flash. With an active toddler to contend with, I had no time to “take it easy” or even think about it. My pubic gridle pain started around month 3 and it was so much worse this time. I started seeing a chiropractor, which helped a little, but the pain was still constant. My ante-natal experience was very standard, the usual urine test and checking the heartbeat. I did a glucose tolerance test at week 32 and the results came back positive. This was when my experience got a bit more complicated, but at the same time, better. I was assigned to a diabetes midwife, Marjorie, who was amazing.

For the first time, I felt like I was being listened to and cared for, but having gestational diabetes meant that I was a “high-risk” pregnancy and the idea of calm and positive birth started to feel further away. I had explained to the midwife and consultants that I wanted a water birth, which was at first at a ‘No’, but then I felt confident enough to explain that unless there was an indication that would make it risky for me to do so (such as the baby showing any signs of distress), that I wanted to have the most positive labour for me, which I felt was a natural birth with water as a pain relief. I know myself and I know how my body responds to situations. I did the research and knew the risks, so I felt confident that in my case, I would be better following my instincts.

I was told by several consultants (my main one of whom I never met), that I had to be induced before my due date as this was again protocol for someone with gestational diabetes. I kept pushing back and, in the end, I went into labour naturally on my due date. Thanks to my wonderful midwife, I was able to have a water birth and it was an incredible, empowering experience. From the moment I arrived at the hospital, everything felt calm and the midwives were great at letting me labour without interruptions. I was given gas and air when I needed it and was able to get into the pool when I was getting closer to delivery. The environment was perfect, it was the hypnobirthing dream – complete with calming music, low lighting, and aromatherapy. I remember telling the midwife that I felt like I needed to push but I was trying not to. After my first labour, I didn’t imagine that I would be able to push until I was examined and told I could push. The midwife told me to do what I felt like I needed to do, and so I did… and my son was born shortly after. The midwives who delivered my son were amazing and I felt totally looked after. We went home the next day and I recovered so much quicker than the first time.

My second experience proved to me that with the right information to make safe, informed decisions, by listening to my own body, and with the support of the health professionals, I was able to have a positive birth – the way I wanted it.

I hope that everyone is able to have the second experience I had. It isn’t so much about how I gave birth because I know that things don’t always go to plan and we all just want to come out with healthy babies, it’s more about having the right information to make my own decisions, and feeling supported and empowered. Each woman is different, and she knows her body, therefore it’s crucial that every person is listened to and treated not as a tick box category, but as an individual and receive personalised care.

I feel privileged to be a MPP, and part of such a great cause. Childbirth is a magical time and the experience we have from our maternity service has such a big impact on that, especially post-natal when we are all at a bigger risk of mental illness. But it’s not just about women, men are also affected by this and it’s important to address this issue too!

In my experience, the biggest things we need to address are:

• Listening to women and their choices, taking their feelings and worries into more consideration, and understanding the impact that this can have on them physically and mentally.
• Support for partners as well as the patients, and ensuring patients aren’t left alone at such a vulnerable time.
• Continuity of care.
• More consistency across the different hospitals.

If you would like to share your story and experiences, click here to see how you can get involved or become a Healthwatch Essex Ambassador.