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Interview 55

Age at interview: 33
Brief Outline: Persuaded to have induction in first pregnancy; felt unsupported by staff. Labour was long and painful. Second birth, refused induction, insisted on additional checks instead. A better experience, with a doula (birthing attendant). More of this interview can be seen on the DIPEX antenatal screening site as Interview 02.
Background: Children' 2, aged 3 and 18 months at time of interview. Occupation' teacher. Marital status' divorced. Ethnic background' White British.

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Continuity of care is fine if you feel comfortable with your midwife, but she did not find her...

Continuity of care is fine if you feel comfortable with your midwife, but she did not find her...

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And what kind of care did you have, was it midwife led, GP led or..?

Midwife-led both times. First time, first pregnancy it was a midwife team. I can't remember the name of it. It's a midwife team and they basically are in the community and in the hospital, and they follow you within it, which is supposed to be quite good because it's consistent, maintains the personal contact, history etc, and that, I can really see the advantages. However, if you get a duff midwife they follow you everywhere and you can't get away from them, and you can't get any other opinions, and they're scuppering it all. So not so good for me.

Tell me a bit more about what the issues were with her and why you felt that way?

There were a few different issues. Basically she was a very nice lady, very chatty, affable. I think she genuinely wanted to help and meant well. Her personal skills, her interaction skills were good. I just think it was basically a lack of knowledge, a lack of, either a lack of training or a lack of ability to retrain, retain the information and training that she had had. So that was an incompetence area, really. 

What sort of things?

She, also I think she was too, she didn't really stick up for you enough. She was too easily swayed by if a doctor said, 'I want to do this,' then her role is really to support the woman, and she didn't really. She sort of tried to persuade the woman to do what the doctor said, because she felt very subdued by the doctor. I don't think she was very confident within her role.

 

The midwife did not recognise how much pain she was in from symphysis pubis disorder (pelvic...

The midwife did not recognise how much pain she was in from symphysis pubis disorder (pelvic...

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And I remember walking around for my thirty-eight week check, walking around to the surgery, which was literally normally a less than a five-minute walk up the hill, and down the hill - slight hill, slight slope, not a huge hill - and it taking me a huge length of time, taking me fifteen minutes. I had to keep stopping and resting, and it was causing me huge pain. I'd just given up the car because I'd felt, it was financial, partly financial - I just put it off the road rather than actually deserting it entirely - partly financial and partly - and my husband couldn't drive - and partly to do with the fact that I really didn't feel safe because my bump was now actually literally touching the steering wheel. 

So I just didn't feel it was safe for me to drive, so there was no point keeping the car on the road. But if I had still had the car and felt safe to drive, I definitely would've driven round. I was almost on the point of, you know, going home and calling a taxi or something, or getting them to come round to me. It was, it was excruciating pain. I had to keep stopping. And I went to this appointment, and now it was the different midwife, and I told her about this pain. And she just, she just sat there and she went, 'Mm, yeah, mm. Oh well, yeah, mm. Oh, everything seems fine.' And I said 'Well, what about this pain?' and she's like, 'Well, it's late pregnancy.' You know, and so consequently - 'mm' - and I thought, "Oh well, obviously" - it's the first time I'd been pregnant - "obviously this is just another one of those aches and grinds of pregnancy about which I knew nothing, and I've just got to put up with it till I have the baby', you know. And that's what she'd indicated to me. 

And I had a good look through my sort of text book, couldn't find any reference to it. I wasn't quite sure what I was looking for, mind. And just decided to put up with it and, and carried on, and was in quite a lot of pain at times. You know, I had to keep sitting down. They kept saying, 'Well, exercise is good for you,' and I'm, you know, walking was excruciating, and I just wanted to sleep all the time and not put any weight on my feet. It caused quite a few problems as home as well, which is not really of relevance to the pregnancy, but I did find that, you know, I didn't want to do, stand up and do washing up because it hurt. I was leaning over at an angle and it was hurting my bones as well, and a distinct lack of support about all of this.

 

She felt under pressure to have an induction when she wanted to wait. If the baby was at risk,...

She felt under pressure to have an induction when she wanted to wait. If the baby was at risk,...

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So I went along, saw this first registrar, who felt my baby and said, 'Ooh, you've got a big baby here. He's at least 9lbs 5. How tall are you? 3, 5 foot 3. You know, you really should get - first baby, untried pelvis - really should get this baby out as soon as possible before it gets any bigger. How, how overdue are you? Nine days. You should come in for an induction tomorrow. Ooh, need to get it out. Ooh, placenta could break down.' And I'd sort of asked the various risk factors - refused to comment. 'Oh no, you know, caesarean's very bad. Don't want a caesarean.' Fair enough, huge problems with caesareans. But in the, she actually said to me, 'Right, this baby needs to come out of you, and it needs to come out of you within the next forty-eight hours. Induction or caesarean, your choice.'

I went away and I thought, 'Right. Well, if you're, if you're actually so concerned this baby has got to come out and you think it's going to get stuck because it's so big and I'm not a big woman, well, caesarean it is. I'm not messing around with induction if you think there's going to be problems anyway and it's a big baby and it's going to get stuck.' And I did some more reading about it, and I didn't like the sound of the Syntocinon drip, and I thought, 'I don't want to go down this route at all.' [Coughs] 'Oh right, okay,' says the midwife. 'Well, if you're sure you'll have to go in again and talk to anther doctor.' So I went in the following night, bearing in mind all this time I didn't have a car, and I'm in a rural area, it would be an hour and a half on the bus or I had to get my parents to drive me over each time, ten miles away in the dark in the middle of December, great. Lot of stress that I really didn't need, I just wanted to hibernate at home and just wait for it to happen naturally. 

And I kept saying to all these people, I said it to the midwives, I said it to the registrar I'd seen that day, I'd said it to the other guy, 'Isn't there anything else you can do to check this baby's alright, rather than just saying, 'Oh, it's late. The placenta might break down at any moment, could be still born, have to get him out of you.' Isn't there anything else you can do to check that everything is fine? Because I think everything's fine, and surely I'd have some inkling that things weren't fine if they weren't fine? And every time you check his heartbeat's beating fine.' 'Ah yes, but that just checks at that moment.' 'And every time he moves he's moving the same amount, for the past four weeks.' 'Ah yes, but that just checks at that moment, and it could change the next moment and it could happen at any time. The placenta could break down at any time, and it's really unsafe because you're, you know, you're so late.' 

 

Her husband was not allowed to stay with her overnight after labour was induced - she felt...

Her husband was not allowed to stay with her overnight after labour was induced - she felt...

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So I was really traumatised, really upset, felt completely bullied, completely powerless. Everything I'd said they directly bare-face lied to me on numerous issues, weren't being supportive, had told me my husband could stay through the whole procedure and now were kicking him out, totally by myself. Went on this ward, and my waters broke after only about half an hour of me being there by myself. And she'd already given me a couple of sanitary towels in case my waters broke. So I went, I called the midwife and I got her, and I said, 'My waters have broken.' And she lifted up my skirt, said, 'No, they haven't,' and walked off. I was, 'I think I know. I've just been to the toilet, I've sorted myself out already. I'm not in a mess because I've just gone to the toilet and sorted myself out. I think I know.' 'No, they haven't.' So I waited a bit, and I rang the bell again and I said 'My contractions are starting and I'm in quite a lot of pain. Can I have a TENS machine?' 'Oh no, they haven't.' Oh no - before my waters broke my contractions started. 'No they're not contractions. We'll give you this. It will help you sleep and it will stop the contractions happening.' 'Hang on a minute. Haven't you just been interfering with me completely against what I wanted to get the contractions to happen? Now they're happening at night time, which is exactly according to the schedule that you said they were likely to happen, you're now telling me that you'll give me something to stop them happening and let me sleep so that it will happen in the morning because that's more convenient for you? Thanks very much.' 

Anyway, I realised I wasn't going to get any sympathy from her. I asked her to call my husband. 'No, it's not really proper labour yet. We'll leave him to sleep. You can't call your husband now.' And at this point I didn't want to take whatever it was she was giving me. I felt imprisoned, and I literally was. I couldn't have walked out without getting past them. I hobbled along with my pubis symphysis pain, couldn't get anywhere very fast at all. So I couldn't leg it, which is what I wanted to do, and phone him. And I was literally imprisoned, with no help whatsoever. And they wouldn't even let me call my husband to talk to him on the phone, or anybody, for that matter. 

So they'd, they'd given me a TENS machine when my contractions had started but she didn't really show me, she fitted it on me and then just sort of - obviously I was getting in the way of their chat or their magazine reading or their television watching or whatever - very sort of cursory, 'This is what you do, OK, bye.' You know, no comfort, no 'let me stay with you for five minutes', nothing. 

Nobody else was on, in the ward. I was absolutely scared. I was scared of the whole labour process, I wasn't very positive about, about having labour. I was very, I thought the whole thing was very daunting, and it would just be excruciating pain and I, that just had to be something I went through in order to have children, but I wasn't very positive about it begin with. And then obviously this whole escapade and this whole psychological bullying and complete lack of support wasn't helping. I think if, even if I'd been positive to begin with, I now would've been completely negative. Which, I mean, all the an-, all the evidence, you know, says, you know, that this is really, really important, that pain is a psychological experience thing as well as a physiological thing. And that if one is given support and information and emotional support and guidance, and, and somebody's physically there with you, then that really helps. And it just stands to reason that it does, you know. Just for general life experience, if somebody is rubbing your back and saying, 'There, there,' then it makes it feel better than if you'
 

With her second baby she employed a doula. She went into labour spontaneously 15 days after her...

With her second baby she employed a doula. She went into labour spontaneously 15 days after her...

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On day fifteen after official due date, I just came into natural labour, went into natural labour. And it was just so much better, so - obviously second babies will be easier, but I just, it wasn't something to get worried about, went into labour, got my TENS machine at home which was much better than the one the hospital gives you, much better, that I'd bought. And 

And did your doula come to the house or..?

She didn't, because she was coming from the opposite direction so she met me at the hospital. She was actually quite concerned I was going to make it in time, because it all kicked off quite quickly. And it, it, just the whole process made me, I was, it was actually very therapeutic for me to have my second child so quickly, in a way, because it confirmed what I had thought all along. My gut feeling and what I had really sort of known, that my body is actually very healthy at pregnancy and childbirth and knows exactly what it's doing, and can do it perfectly well with manageable pain - obviously with bits, you know, of help from a TENS machine and stuff - and my child can breathe perfectly fine, thanks very much, when you don't cut the umbilical cord, you know, literally sort of abortively, almost. And, and you just leave nature to its own devices and my body's fine. Now I know some people's bodies aren't very well suited to childbirth, and you need to have that intervention. You need to help, or else naturally speaking some women would, if we were completely left to our own devices, die in childbirth. But, you know, one should be left, you know, nature should not be interfered with unless there's a problem with it. And the whole process with the second baby was, was great.

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