Recently I overheard a new mum telling a friend that she felt she had “failed” in her birth plan because she accepted an epidural. Failed? Since when did childbirth come with a plan? It certainly doesn’t come with a reliable one! To feel guilty about birth – something most of us have little control over – is sad. How a woman gives birth to her baby is not a measure of her maternal performance. Just as parenting does not come with a manual, births and plans are highly incompatible.
I have given birth three times. As any midwife will tell you, every labour is different and this was certainly true for me. For my first labour I had a vague plan to manage the pain without assistance. I naively felt I was pretty good with pain. Little did I know my pain threshold would have a new barometer! I was induced a week after my due date and while the pain was immediate and intense, progress was slow. My labour lasted over 30 excruciating hours and resulted in a traumatic delivery, involving an epidural, ventouse, stirrups, and an almighty third degree tear. I took over six months to heal and had to undergo post-natal surgery to repair tissue damage. Emotionally, I felt wounded too. It wasn’t the experience I had imagined or hoped for….