When I was pregnant the first time around, I developed overwhelming feelings of vulnerability. I had suffered with anxiety on and off since my early teens and once my bump started to develop, I started to feel like a walking target, worried that muggers would see me as an easy target; someone who couldn’t give chase or fight back.
These feelings began to spill over into how I viewed my obstetric team too – my consultant brushed off my constant requests for a c-section, which I wanted for several health and mental reasons, and I was constantly on my guard with my midwives as they would ‘casually’ raise the issue of breastfeeding at every appointment, even though I had told them in no uncertain terms that it was something I wasn’t keen on doing.
My reasons for wanting a c-section, as I’d mentioned, were both internal and external. On the most simple level, as well as high blood pressure, all of the signs of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and a number of other health issues, I was suffering from SPD (Symphysis pubis dysfunction) a disorder which made it very difficult and painful to move from the waist down. This was back in 2008, before we were granted the right to choose a caesarean and my pleas were treated as a joke. I was actually laughed at at one point and told not to be so silly, every woman could handle child birth.
I won’t go over my birth story again, but needless to say it didn’t go well and my daughter ended up in the NICU unit, unable to breathe for herself, regulate her blood sugar or even suck. It’s taken me a long time to even consider the possibility of having another child, over four years, and I think I may finally have got to the point where I would like to try in the future.
After my last experience, I have absolutely zero faith in the people in whose care I have to place myself. I know that for me to even contemplate a second attempt at pregnancy I would need a written-in-stone guarantee that I would be allowed an elective c-section at the end of it and I just don’t know if I believe that they’ll allow that. Yes, I could threaten legal action like the woman in the story reported on the BBC, but I don’t know if I’m emotionally galvanised enough to go into a second pregnancy like a battle-ready warrior.
Something that I’ve said and stood by for a long time is that the reason that so many women fall foul of PND and post-natal PTSD is that they are overwhelmed by feelings of loss of control during the birth experience and quite honestly, I started to feel that about halfway through my pregnancy. It’s been a long road to mental wellness regarding the issues surrounding my daughter’s birth and the thought of someone’s reluctance to respect my wishes is enough to give me serious pause.
As much as I’m a huge advocate of our National Health Service, my experiences within the maternity system have left me jaded and unsure of how I would deal with future situations. Yes, I’m older, more assertive and more aware of what it is that I want and need but I have no faith whatsoever that I’d be listened to.
If you’re in a similar position or have been in the past and have gone on to have more children under the NHS, I’d love to hear from you.