The only reliable fact of childbirth is this: you can never plan your labour or birth experience.
My smooth and low-risk pregnancy resulted in a series of hugely traumatic delivery complications, from which it took me many months to recover physically.
As delighted as I was to have a healthy baby, I found it hard to come to terms with what had happened to me. It was also so shocking physically; I think I’m still recovering from it emotionally!
This is not to say the experience was bad enough to put me off having another baby. I’m currently awaiting the arrival of number two (nature is sadistic isn’t it?!) although I have been very anxious throughout a difficult pregnancy.
After my last experience, I was determined to do this pregnancy my way, telling everyone else what I want and how I want to do it. So far, the midwives and obstetricians caring for me have been amazing.
They have all listened to me and are very sympathetic to my fears. I feel far more prepared this time round. I don’t expect to go home a day after delivery on a fluffy cloud of happiness with my rosy little newborn.
And if all that does happen (it can happen!) what a relief and pass the prosecco.
My tips on how to cope after a particularly traumatic delivery:
1. Rest up
It is so important that you try to get as much rest as possible to help with your physical recovery: If you need to sleep after a difficult delivery, baby can have a bottle of formula with Daddy. I was completely delirious with exhaustion, numb from the waist down, projectile vomiting and I didn’t have the strength to argue with the midwives when I’d just come out of surgery and they started waving the baby at my breast.
2. Let yourself be helped
Accept every offer of help you can: Don’t be too stoic. When people offer to pick some food up from Sainsbury’s for you they really mean it. And you can never have enough Gu Puds in those early weeks.
3. Be positive
Try to look on the bright side if you can. Very difficult to do, I know, but when my daughter was admitted to hospital for almost a week when she was five days old because she had lost too much of her birth weight (a knock-on effect of my complications), it was great to have so much support from the most wonderful team of paediatric nurses, day and night. I wouldn’t have had such invaluable advice and support had we been at home.
4. Understand exactly what has happened to you
Go over your notes with a medic at your maternity unit. I wrote a letter to the hospital expressing my concerns about my experience and was then given the opportunity to discuss each stage of my complications with the relevant clinicians, helping me to understand exactly what happened and why. It was a hugely cathartic exercise and helped me enormously.
5. Seek professional support
Talk to your GP/Health Visitor: I had a wonderful GP and Health Visitor, both of whom I’d see every week and were keeping a close eye on me. Talking to them was a Godsend because they had an understanding of the actual medical trauma I’d experienced, whereas my friends and family, as supportive as they were, didn’t quite ‘get it’.
6. Give yourself credit
Never think that what you went through wasn’t a big deal: It was. Don’t let anyone tell you “Well at least baby’s here safely, that’s all that matters”. Of course, that is a hugely important point, but it’s not all that matters. YOU matter too. A happy mummy equals a happy baby.