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Interview 15

Age at interview: 31
Brief Outline: Confusion in early stages of pregnancy about whether or not it was viable. Unexplained abdominal pain. Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (pelvic pain) in latter stages.
Background: Children' 1, aged 11 months at time of interview. Occupations' Mother- academic researcher, Father- engineer. Marital status' married. Ethnic background' White British.

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The care and attention from the midwives was brilliant, especially from one who did her booking...

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My antenatal care was brilliant. What actually happened w-, as I said, we moved house. So I was actually moved to quite a rural practice, so there were two community midwives in the practice. So you had hospital appointments, I can't remember, you had the scan at 12 weeks and then, oh, yes, we had the fetal anomaly scan at 19 weeks. And then all of my other antenatal care was in the health centre, which was a rural health centre, which was absolutely brilliant because they have time for you. And the community midwives were brilliant and they all knew I was neurotic, so [laugh] they did take the time to make sure I was okay and explain things and like hear the baby's heartbeat and talk to you. 

And what was also brilliant about my antenatal care was, the woman who'd booked me in at the hospital, the midwife there, I told her how anxious I was and obviously with the start of my pregnancy being slightly uncertain. It was a Saturday afternoon I remember and she took about an hour just to sit and talk to me about it and things, tell me what to expect and just explain things, and she was absolutely brilliant. And then I didn't actually see her again until, I was overdue so I had to go back to the hospital. And she did my appointment there, because she was based in a different area because we'd moved and obviously everything, and she was at the hospital. And by this point I kind of had pelvic problems so I couldn't walk. And she was just great again, she was absolutely brilliant. So I had to be induced and they were sorting out a date for my induction and it was a choice between like ten days overdue or about sixteen days overdue. And she was like, 'I don't think you can wait that long'. So she basically got me in as soon as she could. And then what actually happened was, when I was in labour, which was overnight, she came on in the morning, and one of the nurses came in and said, 'There's somebody here who wants to deliver you'. And it was this woman. And she was fantastic, she was just great, so I love her to pieces, I think she's brilliant [laugh]. She just made it, she was so nice.
 
 
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She panicked if she couldn't feel the baby kick. She was especially anxious because her sister...

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I think my main fear about being pregnant was that something would happen to the baby and I wouldn't be able to carry her to term or something would happen to her immediately afterwards. For example, whenever she stopped kicking I would have a panic about that. I mean I got to the stage where literally I would try everything just to get her to kick, which is a shame [laugh]. I would lie down on the bed and see if I could feel her kicking. If I couldn't feel her kicking I'd turn round the other way and of course then I'd feel her move as she got herself comfortable again. I think I drove my husband to distraction with that. But I was, I was terribly anxious because obviously I couldn't see her. So when I felt her kicking I knew she was all right. But obviously she slept and things in the womb. And some days she wouldn't kick till - she had quite a, an established pattern - but some days she wouldn't kick till lunchtime, and so I'd spend all morning going, 'Is she going to kick?' [laugh]. The reason behind that anxiety was that my sister had lost a baby at 37 weeks. And my, until I actually saw my baby out safely I, whatever the midwife said to me, oh, that it wouldn't happen or that these things don't run in families, and the midwives were really good at trying to explain to me that the chances were it would be fine, until my daughter was actually born I was quite anxious about that.
 
 
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The hospital could not explain her severe abdominal pain. Her GP suggested it could be irritable...

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When did the pain go away?

It didn't actually [laugh]. I was back in hospital about four weeks later because it had - I went back to work in, the beginning of January and about two weeks later I was getting lots of pain walking. I went back to my GP who referred me straight back to the hospital and then they admitted me for three days and ran lots more tests. And by this stage I was 8 or 9 weeks pregnant so then they did a scan and it was all fine. But they couldn't do any more kind of invasive tests because I was pregnant. So then I went back to my GP. So they didn't really help me [laugh]. So I went back to my GP who decided that it might be something like bowel-related and gave me some anti, some stuff for irritable bowel syndrome which he decided that it might be, which helped. So then I just cut wheat and dairy out of my diet because one of my colleagues had said her daughter suffered from something similar and she'd done that. And that actually helped. But for the whole of my pregnancy I just ate no wheat and no dairy and - because every time I ate something like that and then it flared up again. So I really don't know what caused it to be quite honest [laugh].
 
 
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The experience of labour improved once she was given continuous support by midwives and taken off...

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And then about twenty past three in the morning I was really not managing with the pain any more so then I asked if, give me a bath to see if that would help, which it wasn't helping at all. So then I said, 'Look, I need to go downstairs for something stronger'. So they took me downstairs and I was in the delivery room. This is like nothing like what you expect your labour's going to be, because then you're basically strapped up, I was strapped up to the fetal heart monitor so I couldn't move. I think there were people coming in to check on me because they gave me a form to, to sign for consenting to a C-section if necessary. But, no, there wasn't anybody like with me, because I managed to just get completely out of it on gas and air, I mean really horribly out of it, like I did not know what was going on. It was horrible, I kept having flashbacks to it afterwards actually for about a month. And then I, there were people coming in to check on me but there was nobody with me constantly because it wasn't until the day shift staff came on and - by which point my husband arrived as well.

Where was your husband?

He was, he'd gone home because he, he couldn't stay overnight with me because I was still on the ward at this, until 3 o'clock in the morning. So he'd gone home about 8 o'clock because by that point I was only about 1 or 2 centimetres dilated and they'd said, 'Oh, nothing's really happening' and he'd gone home. But until, they, they didn't phone him until about half past four in the morning, so by the time he got there it was about half past five. I honestly don't know, because I can't remember. I didn't become conscious of what was going on about, for several hours. And then I honestly can't remember because I was so out of it on gas and air. He, I don't know if he was there before the day shift came on or whether, when the day shift came on. But the first thing the midwife on the day shift did was take the gas and air off me, which was great because then I knew what was going on. And she stayed and there was a student there by then, and then there was my husband there, and then the midwife that I knew came in.

So from having had nobody for several hours I then had two midwives, a student and my husband, which was, just transformed the experience. It was brilliant from then. I mean I, I know you don't normally think of labour in those terms but I knew what was going on, I was being told at, when my contractions were and what I should do with them. And it was just much better because - this sounds really silly - but because I had pelvic pain and back pain I honestly couldn't distinguish my contractions, and also they were coming very, very fast. So all of the stuff that I got told in my antenatal classes about breathing, well, apart from the fact that I had had too much gas, gas and air so I couldn't do anything anyway, it just didn't bear any resemblance to my experience at all.
 
 
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Other people told her breastfeeding would be hard, but she found it easier than expected. She had...

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I think it went, breastfeeding went a lot smoother than I'd expected, because I'd been kind of told by people around me how hard it was, how other people had found it hard to get breastfeeding, and how people couldn't breastfeed. And like even my husband who was totally supportive in every other way was like, 'I'm just going to buy some formula in case you can't breastfeed' which I was quite upset about. Which never got used [laugh]. It was a point of pride actually. And I, I was fairly determined to breastfeed, so I kind of felt that people weren't terribly supportive about that decision. The first 24 hours she only suckled twice for very short times, I was slightly concerned, and she slept quite a bit. Actually she didn't sleep quite a bit, she slept for kind of four-hour periods, then she was awake. But she was a terribly good baby, because I remember the woman on the next bed saying, 'Oh, your baby's so good' because her baby cried all through the night. She said to me, 'Your baby's so good'. And, you know, she suckled a few times and that. And then the third night when this other woman had gone home she like screamed the whole night through, because she'd realised she was hungry and my milk hadn't come in properly. And so I just paced up and down the whole night and she just couldn't get enough milk from me.

And then of course my milk all came in at once and I got mastitis and I had to have antibiotics. And the first ten days of breastfeeding were quite difficult because she was like feeding constantly every hour on the hour all night. And even like by about day seven the midwife was saying to me, 'Look you can give her a bottle, give yourself a rest, give her a bottle' which I was not going to do [laugh]. I was like, 'No, it's not happening'. 

But by about day ten she then slept, she went down about 9 o'clock and she slept, such that after about seven hours we phoned up the out-of-hours service and said, [laugh] 'Our daughter's sleeping. We're really worried about her.' And after that it was fine. She, she fed absolutely fine. She never had any problems latching on, she didn't have any problems taking the milk, she just didn't stop feeding until about three months. I couldn't like get serious gaps between her feeds until she was about three months old. And the mid-, the health visitor kept saying to me, 'She'll establish her feeding, it'll start spacing out'. And it didn't. But she would go down for about 8 or 9 hours a night so I think I was quite lucky that way.
 
 
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She was unprepared for the strength of her love for the baby. Parenthood has enriched their lives.

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What, what kind of impact has having a baby had on your lifestyle?

It's quite funny actually, because one of my friends asked me the same question, which was what, in slightly different words, was what kind of impact had having a baby had on my relationship? So my husband and I were discussing this last week. It's hard to explain the impact a baby has on your life. I think what I wasn't prepared for was the emotional impact a baby has, because the sheer kind of, I felt overwhelmed emotionally the first couple of weeks. It's a huge sense of responsibility. I wasn't prepared for the strength of the love that you feel for the baby. 

I think the practical side of things, I think we were both quite prepared for having a baby, we both wanted a baby so it hasn't been as bad as I had expected. We do different things, I mean whereas before we would have gone out for a drink or gone out to the cinema or gone out for a meal quite spontaneously, now we tend to do things where we can take our daughter with us. I work full time so I'm quite keen that we spend as much time apart from that with, with her and do things which include her. I, no, so I don't think it's made a huge impact, although it has made a huge impact on our lives, but in a very positive way.

Has it changed your relationship to your husband?

That's a question I was trying to say to my friend. I think it's probably enriched both of our lives. I don't, I don't think it's changed our relationship in, there's still the same affection, there's still the same love. I think it's probably, my husband has to do more around the house [laugh]. I think he's kind of had to help out more in a way that he probably didn't before. But I think we've been able to talk about things, we've been able to laugh about things. I probably have had to do quite a bit of nagging but he's the kind of person who'll just accept that and then be able to talk about it. And I just have to laugh at myself sometimes as well. So you just have to keep a sense of humour [laugh].
 
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