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Interview 20

Age at interview: 30
Brief Outline: Single mother. First pregnancy miscarried. Second pregnancy was normal and straightforward. She planned to have a natural birth, but after a long labour chose to have a caesarean.
Background: Children' 1, aged 18 months at time of interview. Occupation' sales assistant. Marital status' single. Ethnic background' Black African. Read by an actor.

More about me...

 

Discovering she was pregnant unexpectedly made her reassess some aspects of her life, but she...

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Tell me about getting pregnant?

It was definitely an unplanned scenario [laughs], unplanned scenario. So yeah, it wasn't something that I'd planned at the time, in any form at all, so.

Right. And how did you feel when you found out?

I was pregnant? It was a bit of a difficult time personally, because I was kind of thinking about, I was unhappy in my relationship, which had been going for about four years and I sort of, the day I found out was the day I really had to say that things were not going too well, and so it was a bit of a shock. It was a bit - I mean, I was quite happy to be pregnant in a way but it was also like it made me feel more confused about what I was supposed to be doing and “Should I stay in this relationship or shouldn't I?” and things like that, which made it very, it was quite upsetting at the time [laughs] in a way.

Did you ever have any doubts about going ahead?

Only briefly, but not really, no. I mean, I figured that, you know, whatever happened, that you can still have a baby as long as you've just got to do what is necessary to, what is going to be good for it in the long term, in terms of its life and stuff, and how you interact as parents, as a parent towards it and stuff. 

So that was more my, more important to me. I was 28 at the time as well, and I sort of figured, well, I think you come to a - I, for me I think you can come to an age where, you know, having an abortion just seems like it doesn't feel like the right thing to do. If I'd have been younger maybe I would have thought about it, but I was coming up to being 30 anyway, and I sort of was thinking, “What am I actually doing with my life at the moment?” And I figured, “Well, I can have a - if I'm pregnant I can keep this baby. It's not - why not [laughs] keep the baby?” So yeah.

 

Previous experience of miscarriage made her more determined to go ahead with her next pregnancy,...

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How did you feel about that?

The miscarriage?

Yeah.

I didn't really have much time to think about it because we, I, the way that we were living we had like loads of friends come round quite a lot and things like that. We had people, friends staying with us from, after they came from travelling, so - not long afterwards - so I didn't really have time to think about - not think about it, but I think, you know

I was obviously going through, if I look back on it now I think it kind of made any existing depression feel worse, but obviously you're having to sort of keep on going a lot, so I don't think I gave myself, had enough time to really think about the aftermath of that properly, or to be able to act on the aftermath of that properly. So I think that might have, I don't think that contributed to the pregnancy, in a conscious way to the pregnancy but maybe, I'm thinking, maybe that's something that may have affected me getting pregnant again, I don't know.

In what way?

But I think it made me - in what way? I can't, it's difficult to say, really. But I think when I found out I was pregnant this time I just, I didn't really - that's why I felt quite happy that, about being pregnant. Even though I felt that, you know, my relationship was a mess and stuff like that, I didn't actually, I didn't feel upset about being pregnant, I think because I'd had that experience. So I think that's another thing that made me more determined that no matter what happened in the rest of my life, that if I wanted to keep the baby that it should still carry on, basically. I didn't really question it.

 

She noticed changes in her breasts in early pregnancy, and things began to taste strange. At...

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I kept on wondering if my boobs had gotten bigger. I sort of felt like a little bit, like I looked in the mirror and just thought, “My tits have gotten bigger. Have they've gotten bigger?” I was just feeling a bit like that. And I was asking, asking my partner at the time, “Is my -?” - you know, I asked him, “Are they? Do you reckon? Do you think they are?” I was feeling a little bit like that, really. And also because I usually do get PMT as well so - and I had sort of PMT symptoms which had disappeared. So that was another thing as well. I didn't actually, you know what I mean? I was feeling very stressed out, but I wasn't feeling as stressed as I had been a couple of weeks earlier, so I thought maybe that was something. I wasn't feeling particularly stressed. Things were tasting funny when I was eating. I didn't like, I mean I didn't associate it to be, associate it at the time and think I was pregnant, but if I had a drink I just sort of didn't feel like drinking it any more, it tasted a bit funny. And because I smoked at the time as well, cigarettes tasted a bit funny as well. And it was just the boob thing and the fact that I realised I'd had no period since quite a few weeks that I thought I'd better go and check this. You just felt that there's something going on here. So [laughs].

 

She did not rush to make an appointment with her GP. With hindsight more information would have...

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So this time around you found out at 6 weeks. What stage did you go to a doctor or midwife?

I didn't go until I was about 10 weeks, because... I get the impression they don't really sort of do anything before then anyway. They just tell you to go home and wait. So I thought there's no point going to the doctor's like straight away. I might as well wait until before they're going to do something [laughs]. So I just waited till 10 weeks to go.

And what happened when you got there?

I had, the midwife came round. The midwife came round and gave the interview, and then I was sent for a scan, for the 12 week scan shortly afterwards.

Was that just a dating scan or was it a -

The dating scan.

nuchal fold the, where they look whether the baby's got Down's syndrome?

No, it was just the, it was a dating scan.

Were there times in that first twelve weeks when actually you wished there was some more support or information or anything?

I think a little bit you do, because I think even if you just have something to read, like the pregnancy book or something like that, I think that might be quite helpful, especially if you go, I mean at, if you go quite early, if you've never had a child before and you're sort of decided you want to keep it, and say you find out at six or seven weeks, I suppose it can be good to know there's, what to do, maybe not to eat this, not to eat that. So that kind of thing is quite useful, I think, and knowing that the doctors are, are, to feel that they might be doing something about it or putting you on a list or something like that. I think that can make you feel like there's something happening. Because obviously things are happening for you, in your body and obviously in your life, but obviously, you know, no-one's there to - you get no reassurance from the medical people or anything like that. So I can see how it would be useful to have some, some information or contact with someone in those early weeks.

 

Her midwife was so busy it was difficult to book appointments in the last few weeks of pregnancy...

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Well, in my doctor's surgery they have a midwife come round once a week, comes in and does the clinic there. On the whole it was fine. I mean, the only times was, there was quite a lot of women having babies around the same time as me, so when we got to the 32nd week and you're supposed to go in every week for a sc-, to be checked, that she was booked up with people to see. And that happened even like quite, quite close to the end, like even when I was 38 and 39 weeks. I think there was one of those weeks I didn't manage to get to see the doctor, see the midwife. And obviously I did feel a little bit anx- - well, not really anxious, but it's sort of like, that's definitely the sort of time I think you definitely need to go and see someone a lot, whereas in the earlier stages you can perhaps miss an appointment and, you know, feel relatively relaxed. 

So that was the only thing for me, do you know what I mean? I felt maybe they hadn't prioritised well enough who they were going to see. Even though they were quite busy maybe they should put people who were at the end of pregnancy as a priority to be seen, rather than people who were just in the very middle of their pregnancy or something who can perhaps, do you know what I mean, miss an appointment or something like that. So that was the only thing if, if there wasn't enough, there wasn't enough health professionals in my, in my surgery to sort of - or they didn't have enough time to see all the women in the area, you know, which made you - I don't know. Yeah, I did feel a little bit [laughs] - how can I say? Yeah, it did make me feel a little bit - not neglected, but I did feel a little bit sort of like, “Oh, maybe she doesn't want, I'm not sure if she liked me very much. It sounds sort of a funny thing to say, but she was nice, she was a nice woman [laughs].

 

Having a written birth plan could be especially useful for people who do not speak English as a...

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I mean, again, if it's someone who keeps themselves well informed or, you know, speaks English and stuff like that and can - it's not so bad. But like obviously in this area, again, if she [the midwife] was doing that with other people - being that we have an area where lots of people don't speak English as their first language - if other people she hadn't made a birth plan with, that could make it stressful for them, do you know what I mean? If that's what's supposed to happen and doesn't happen. And you've got somebody who only speaks Urdu going with her husband, who doesn't speak much English as well. Or you get a Kosovan family who don't speak much English, and they go to hospital with no birth plan, that could be quite serious.

 

Pregnant women want a safe, supportive environment for their baby. Pregnancy made her think again...

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But I think I'm quite lucky that I didn't have really, really terrible symptoms during my pregnancy. I felt actually the happ-, the healthiest I've been for ages, and mentally I think it made me feel much more stronger than I would normally have felt [laughs]. So yeah -

Tell me about that, feeling stronger mentally, how?

Just like, I mean, for example I do think a lot of people say, “Women and their hormones”. And obviously because I was going through the whole thing of “Do I want to be with my boyfriend or not?” sort of thing, you know, a lot of people think it's just your hormones and stuff. And I do, I do believe that, yeah, your hormones make women more feisty - not feisty, but I think you, you're in a position, my theory is that women when they get, are pregnant, go back to cavewomen mentality. And it's not necessarily a negative thing. It's just that - because I believe that, because for most of the human existence we've actually been living in a kind of stone-age like way, and technology, a technological society for such a tiny time of our existence, that mentally we do revert to a sort of cavewoman thing. So, you know, you want have, you want things to be right. You want to know that when this baby shows up that you're going to be supported and things like that, you know. If things aren't very well in your life you want to make, you want to make sure that it's going to be well, basically. So I think, you know, so I think that's another thing that affects relationships with men generally. I think men are quite quick to say that you're having a “hormonal thing.” “Well, she's hormonal, your hormones are going wild,” and this and that. And it's not. I just feel it's that women actually know what they want more when they're pregnant, and they're quite happy to say what they want when they're pregnant. And instead of actually acknowledging that that's the reality, people are just prepared to say, “You're upset because of your hormones, don't worry”, to keep the status quo, when the reality is that maybe certain things need to be changing, justifiably and realistically, and people don't want to face that, so they just blame hormones.

 

Mothers may challenge their partner's behaviour and lifestyle. Some men may find the pressure and...

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I read about domestic violence and stuff when I was at university. I did quite a few things about that. And it's been shown that most women who experience physical violence, the first time they're actually hit by their partner is when they're pregnant. That's quite a big time for when a lot of the physical violence starts for women. And I think part of it might be because women do get a bit more feisty. If you're with someone and they're not working or, you know, they're just hanging out with their mates all the time, or something like that - or they're behaving violently or whatever, or they're drinking - you're perhaps more likely to say, “Look, this is the deal,” or whatever. And perhaps, and obviously I think your hormones probably do make you more emotional, but I think that maybe that's the time when women will say, “De, de, de” a lot more, and might - a situation may occur in which a woman gets hit, you know what I mean? And I think there's that. And also I think as well that for a lot of men who haven't had very good childhoods, I think seeing a woman pregnant is a, makes them feel more stressed out than they might do normally. Because obviously if you've got a bad childhood behind you as a man and then you're confronted with a pregnant woman having your baby and then all the pressures that means on you then I think that can make men maybe more aggressive, in their unconscious way. And might lead to stuff like that happening. That's my theory. It's not something that's [laughs] been proven in real life or anything like that.

 

She was unsure whether to make a birth plan and would have liked more discussion with her...

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I mean, it was probably just those last stages of anxiety. Also because like, because I did quite a lot of reading, yeah? I read quite a lot of books, like I read like, you know, all the books about natural childbirth and all this. And you're reading all the books and they say you should have a birth plan, and you should have this and that. And so I went and said, “Oh, you know, it says, it says you're supposed to have a birth plan” and they did have a thing in the folder, a page in the folder which said about, you know, a birth plan or something like that. And I hadn't got one, and I was coming up towards the end sort of - it was quite far in - and I said, “Oh, it says in all these places 'make a birth plan'.” And she says, “Oh, no, no, no, don't worry about that,” and stuff. And so I wasn't sure if it was like normal to, to not have a sort of a written down birth plan. I mean, in my mind, because I'd done quite a lot of reading and research and I'd read all the horror stories of people who had emergency caesareans, so I thought well, for me personally I'm quite - as long as the baby comes out hap-, in one piece - I didn't want to have too much intervention in my pregnancy, and I was doing antenatal classes and stuff, like yoga and stuff. So, so I knew in my mind that I was going to go for as long as possible without any intervention, and I was prepared to try and learn things to help me do that. 

But I think if you were the kind of person who didn't read books, and stuff like that - I spoke to a younger mother, actually, in the, when I was doing my washing in the launderette and she hadn't read anything about having a baby. And I think in that situation you might be, you, it might make you more stressed out in the birth if you haven't had someone sit down with you and say, “These are the options and this is what might happen” and stuff like that. I think other mothers who don't inform themselves would find that would make their, could ruin their birth [laughs].

So did you actually make a birth plan anyway, whatever she said, or?

I had in, as I say, I had it in my own mind, really, how I wanted things to go. And when I did the final, when I did the NHS antenatal class, and they talked of the different pain reliefs I knew which ones I didn't want to have and which ones I was prepared to have, in whatever, in the event of needing that.

So in my mind I kind of made my own, had my own idea of exactly what I would and wouldn't do, want in there. So I, I suppose I felt relatively prepared in myself, because I knew in my own mind, and luckily we've got a very good maternity unit here, where they actually will listen quite carefully to what you want. And you've got one midwife who stays with you for the whole of her shift in the birth, when you're actually in the hospital. So that made it quite easy to communicate with what you would want, sort of thing, and didn't want. So I think, so it didn't matter so much in the end, but I did sort of - yeah, I don't know. I wasn't sure if it was like standard that you have a birth plan with your midwife that you see every week, or if it was something that they just say in all the magazines and books, say, “Oh you'll be doing this and doing that”, but then it doesn't happen in reality.

 

She was so exhausted she wanted an emergency caesarean, but wondered if labour might have been...

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Okay, so who first broached the idea of a caesarean? Was that you?

Yeah.

Because you were so shattered?

Yeah, yeah. Yeah and, you know, they said, “Oh, you know, you don't have to do that,” blah, blah, blah. The doctor was like quite happy to do it, the doctor who was on duty. He said, “Well, you know, it seems like a sensible idea.” So I mean, so it's difficult, really. I think, I think it was more me that sort of was happy to go with that option really. I mean, and I'm quite happy because, in a way because I sort of feel I was so exhausted, and the thing is you can go for like hours in your birth, but then you've got the next day to face. You, it's not like you've got the next day of just, like, lying in bed and relaxing eating chocolates. You've got actually a baby there. So for me I can sort of see, “Well, he's come out healthy”, and yeah - but then I sort of think, “Oh, maybe I should have gone through the whole birth thing.” But I don't know if there's something in me that would have found that even worse [laughs] to go through or not, and so that's the thing as well. And I think maybe again, maybe being in a hospital - maybe in, if I think about it in hindsight, it was not, probably not the most comfortable atmosphere for me to be in. Maybe being, as I say, being at home for longer, longer would have been better for me in the long run, rather than being in hospital. Even though they were very nice. Because I think I'd have just been more relaxed. As a person, I think I feel more relaxed in my own surroundings, and around strangers and stuff I don't feel like so relaxed. I think maybe, again in a sort of subconscious way for me, that might have affected how I felt in my birth. That might have made it take longer. I don't know if that can happen.

Hmm. Or if these things happen on the, you know what I mean? Does a birth take a long time or are there problems because that's what's going to happen anyway? Or is there stuff that might be sort of happening - subconsciously that might make things sort of a bit more complicated or whatever?

 

It was demoralising to be told she was only just in established labour when she had been having...

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Well, I mean, my waters broke about 9 o'clock on the Thursday evening, and then I was in hospital from that night, all day Friday and it was like, I went down to the labour suite probably about one in the morning on the Saturday morning, and then I was there all day [laughs]. I was there, I was there all day. So it was like, I mean, he wasn't born until about five to six on the Saturday, and I had a caesarean section then. But I just dilated one centimetre. And I wasn't sure, I think I felt a bit demoral-, I think I would have felt happier, because from my perspective I was like in labour from the minute my waters broke, but I don't really, you're not in labour until you're three centimetres dilated, which they didn't tell me till, like, you know, five in the morning on the Friday. 

So - because I had all these contractions for like well over twenty-four hours - so I thought, “Oh well, I'm in labour now”, you know. And they said, “You're in labour now”. And I think that demoralised me a little bit, because I sort of felt like, “Oh my God, I'm only just now in labour. How much longer am I going to have to go on for? I've been in, having contractions for like, you know, thirty hours.” And then, you know, then I was in there for like another twelve hours, and they said, “ Oh, you've dilated by one centimetre - actually it might be slightly less than that,” and like, “How much longer are you going to be here for?” you know. So I think, I mean I do feel now I should have carried on for longer, rather than having the caesarean. And they did say, “Oh, have an epidural and go to sleep” and then things like that, and then sort of, I just thought, “Well, what's the point of having an epidural?” I mean, I don't know. I just, I was so tired, I was sleeping through all the contractions and stuff like that. So a bit of me now feels maybe I should have, like, had the epidural and gone to sleep, and then woken up and seen if I was more progressed. 

And I was worried about the risk of infection. They say after eighteen hours of your waters being broken you have a higher infection risk than if you, than if you have the baby sooner. So that worried me as well, like thinking, “If I have an epidural what would happen there? Go on for another twenty-four hours? Surely this infection risk they keep telling me about, you know, is going to be worse?” and things like that. So I sort of was happy to have a caesarean section.

 

Coming home from hospital and realising she was on her own now was quite stressful. (Read by an...

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And what was it like coming home with him?

Well, I hadn't, I was one of those people that was not, I mean, I'm a last, last minute person, so I hadn't got my steriliser out of the box and things like that. And I needed to use my steriliser when I got back because I was sort of half - I was breastfeeding, but obviously because it wasn't working out, it was quite useful to have a bottle available just in case, just to sort of take the edge off the hunger and stuff like that.

So I wasn't completely prepared when I got back, and obviously because I'm living on my own by the time I was having the baby, so, you know, unless you've got somebody who's actually going to come round and make sure that everything is put away - once you've left in a hurry to the hospital, if you come back and certain things aren't done, it's still not done when you get back. And if you're on your own you haven't got, you haven't got everything done for you, you know what I mean? So that was the only thing, I think, you know, coming back, it was a bit of a nightmare because he woke up, as soon as the front door slammed, and I was thinking, “I've got to get some bottles sterilised and I've got to get some breast milk pumped.” And so like he woke up and went, “Waah”, 

So I had twenty, him going for twenty minutes going “Waah” while I was breast-pumping and I was crying and stuff [laughs]. And it was generally quite a stressful thing coming home, but.

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