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The reality of birth – in your words

Labour and birth is not the same for everyone. It can be long or fast, in water or on a bed, spontaneous or induced, straightforward or more medical, at home or in hospital – there are similar themes but each one is individual.

I asked you to share your experiences and thoughts about labour and birth…

Reality of birth – your words of wisdom

“I didn’t know I wouldn’t be able to eat at all during labour so I was physically sick throughout with a mix of hunger, pain and exhaustion. It change the course of the birth because I had an epidural in the hope I would stop being sick but it slowed everything right down.”

“I wish pain relief was normalised – I had an epidural and I loved giving birth to her but I was worried I would feel like a failure.”

“It helps to communicate well with your midwife – the consultant I saw was quick to dismiss my birth preferences but the midwife advocated for me and told him she would call if she needed him.”

“Be prepared so you know what the interventions are and what your options are so you can be assertive – making decisions in the middle of labour is a real challenge!”

“Prepare for more than your ideal birth – I focused only on the waterbirth I wanted and that meant I was woefully prepared for the long, exhausting labour I ended up with when an epidural became my best friend. I was so disappointed and I felt like a failure for not achieving the birth I had wanted.”

What surprised you most about labour and birth?

  • how painful it was – each time I surprised me afresh!
  • not being listened to when I was in labour with my second baby – when I got to the hospital to be told I wasn’t dilated enough even though my contractions were close together. I gave birth an hour later!
  • I had an emergency caesarean and I didn’t feel prepared for how hard it would be to take care of my baby after my partner had to leave.
  • how intense the contractions were – they were really powerful and strong.
  • that labour and birth wasn’t gentle – my hypnobirthing prepared me for calm and gentle but the contractions were all-consuming and, at times, overwhelming.
  • my birth plan changed and that was okay – I felt safe and able to go with what felt right for me.
  • I thought I would have more control over my labour – but I just had to manage the contractions and go with it.
  • Not being asked if I wanted pain relief. The assumption that everyone wants it to be ‘natural’. 

What did you find most challenging?

  • getting comfortable
  • how tired I was
  • no break between contractions during my quick labour
  • a back to back labour
  • movement when I was exhausted
  • being touched in labour
  • the drive to hospital

A few words from me…

No two births are the same and your need for information, support and reassurance can vary. As someone who has worked with hundreds of parents, who has attended births and you has had three children, I know how individual birth is.

Only around 27% of labours are without any intervention so I am passionate about thorough birth preparation. It makes a difference to know more about where the challenges can be and how you can manage them. I talk about interventions and your options so you have a chance to think about what you can do and what you might need.

A proper discussion about how varied labour can be is important because it means you have more realistic expectations. Labour and birth can be euphoric and really positive, it can feel easy and it can feel totally overwhelming. And the reality of contractions is that they are – and need to be – strong and powerful, which can be intense and painful. There’s nothing gentle or soft about them and that’s okay – you just need to know what you are preparing for.

I would describe all three of my labours as positive and straight-forward yet I would also describe my contractions as strong, forceful, overwhelming, raw, demanding and exhausting.

There’s a lot of pressure to enjoy labour but that can be a big ask. You can feel in awe of the power of labour, it can feel incredible and instinctive but enjoyable may not be realistic for many women.

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Working with parents since 2002 | Janine Smith Practice – where you read and talk about pregnancy, birth, babies and early parenting

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An experienced specialist in pregnancy, birth & early parenting, I have worked with parents since 2002. I am based in the North East so I regularly work with parents from Newcastle, Northumberland, Gateshead and across North Tyneside. Face-to-face sessions will continue with North East parents but digital courses and online sessions means I can work with parents everywhere.