I had a maternal request elective C-section for tokophobia

I’ve just posted this somewhere else but I wanted to mention it here too because I think there’s too much stigma surrounding Tokophobia (fear of childbirth) and maybe it will help someone else:

 

I have always had tokophobia and it put me off wanting children for years because I was so scared of childbirth. I thought we would adopt instead, and justified it because the world is overpopulated (and isn’t it the height of self-indulgence to be a Millennial in the position of being able to afford a child). I had so many little justifications but underneath it all, I wanted kids. Twenty of them. Enough to fill a minibus or a classroom. Smashing the Idiocracy, one baby at a time.
 
With my first (unsuccessful) pregnancy I got such bad hyperemesis and I think a large part of it was because I was so anxious about giving birth, despite desperately wanting a baby. I was sure I would die. I ended up in hospital on IV fluids because I was so scared of having a baby that my body stopped digesting food. At the time, maternal-request C-section was not an option in England. In many parts of England, it still isn’t, and I find that abominable while on the other hand we tell women to trust their instincts about reduced foetal movement etc.
 
With my most recent and finally successful pregnancy, I had all my antenatal care in China where a C-section is the norm, which took away 99% of the stress. I got “normal” amounts of morning sickness, which isn’t great, but it also made me realize just how bad my hyperemesis had been several years earlier, despite so many people dismissing it as part and parcel of pregnancy.
I finally allowed myself to learn all about pregnancy and childbirth, and the whole thing fascinated me. I think I talked about random obstetric facts non-stop whenever my husband was home. I found myself craving the British model of pregnancy – midwife-led care, with emphasis on normality. In China, a doctor makes all your decisions and they get quite offended if you refuse any tests they’ve recommended (and they loved recommending tests).
When I got to Northern Ireland, there was uncertainty about my due date so they wanted me to have an induction. This was something I hadn’t really read about because I didn’t like it as a concept. It seemed unnatural to fill the body with gloop to force a baby out when it wasn’t ready. It really didn’t sit right with me, but no one said I had any alternative, and the baby had to come out somehow, so I actually psyched myself up to go for an induction.
I think I would have been okay except I had a cervical sweep three days before the induction and it was agonizing, and it left me unable to walk very well (I suspect this is when the baby accidentally got turned). I still kept telling myself I could do this induction, but now I had a lot less confidence because if that was just a little membrane sweep, how much worse was labour going to be. I was resolved that I was going to try and have a normal birth though (in between bouts of crying and telling my husband I was going to die because I was completely terrified).
I tried practising hypnobirthing and meditation, and even wrote a birth plan about 2 days before the induction date. On the day, I spent 6 hours having the worst and longest anxiety attack of my entire life, convinced my baby would die and so would I, while the poor midwife in the induction bay was trying to calm me down because I was crying and shaking, blood pressure through the roof, and she ended up getting the registrar to come and go through what an ELCS would entail with me.
 
Until a C-section was offered, I’d been too scared to ask for one in case they said no.
 
The registrar then did a scan to look at my baby and said he’d shifted to an oblique lie so couldn’t have come out any other way. She drew a diagram in my notes and everything, but I still don’t know if she was just trying to make me feel better.
 
When I was going into theatre to have the CS the consultant-midwife asked me why I was having it and I said about the baby being oblique because I was too ashamed of how scared I’d been. Of course, she could see my notes so I should have just been upfront but anxiety isn’t rational.
 
My notes say “maternal request c-section” but that doesn’t quite cover the time I spent agonizing over this, feeling like I’d let my baby down because I was too scared to try and push him out, or the fact I still mourned the loss of my envisioned “perfect” birth, a waterbirth, surrounded by delicious snacks, with my husband in the water with me and holding my hand. It doesn’t come close to making me feel better about what happened, when I know what the statistics say about C-sections and the chance of babies developing respiratory issues and digestive problems.
 
I dreaded having to tell my family what had happened so I didn’t tell anyone I’d had a C-section for weeks before I finally admitted it, and everyone was fine about it. This is the first time I’ve openly admitted it was partly down to my own terror of childbirth.
 
It’s taken me months to come to terms with the fact I “failed” at having a baby the “proper” way but I know now that a lot of that stigma comes from within me, from the phobia of having a baby, not from other people’s genuine opinions. Literally no one has said anything nasty to me about having had a C-section.
 
I wish I’d been honest with my consultant about my fears and felt brave enough to ask for a C-section when I first got back to the UK instead of letting the situation go on for weeks with me thinking I was going to be able to try for a vaginal birth. But I know why I didn’t. I was hoping I’d just “get on with it” on the day. Within minutes of us arriving for the induction I’d been told I was too high risk for a waterbirth because of the baby’s size (because he was broad-shouldered), and that was when my anxiety got the better of me and everything fell in on itself in my mind.
 
I also wish I’d been honest about my history of mental health issues, but there is a lot of pressure on us as women to be fine when we’re not, and I was trying so damn hard to be ok with something I just couldn’t do. If the baby had been low-risk, I would have gone home and waited for labour (and maybe even freebirthed) but I was terrified of refusing the induction and putting my baby at risk of death so I got paralysed with anxiety.
I was also terrified of social services being alerted that I had a history of bipolar on my medical notes (we still don’t know what’s actually wrong with me, currently Autism, type II bipolar, borderline and ADHD are all being floated around) and taking my baby away. I was convinced they were going to take my baby and nothing anyone said could divest me of this belief. I might have had a teensy bit of psychosis over this but it seems to have resolved itself and I managed to keep enough of a lid on it that I didn’t get mental health sectioned over it (just C-sectioned haha) despite being sure at several points over the last few months that I was going to be an inpatient and separated from my baby (we don’t have mother and baby units in Northern Ireland so women with post natal psychosis or severe post natal depression get sectioned and put in a normal psychiatric hospital).
And despite at least 2 suicide attempts post-partum I am still at home and with my baby. Turns out NI don’t really intervene beyond community mental health teams unless you’ve set yourself on fire so that’s relieving because I don’t think being imprisoned in a mental hospital without my Jellyfish would help me to recover very well, and anyway I’d have to stop breastfeeding.
 
Overall, I am glad I had a C-section rather than a prolonged birth in a strange place where I couldn’t be myself because there were too many strangers, and where my husband would get sent home outside visiting hours. But I still really wish I could have had that water birth. I’m looking towards a second baby, and I’m pretty certain I want a homebirth (homebirth after C-section, or HBAC, is allowed in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK but as far as I know it’s not allowed in Southern Ireland) with a birthing pool. I’ve seen some beautiful videos on Youtube of vloggers who had natural waterbirths at home. 
 
The first mental health keyworker I saw said to me that it doesn’t matter how your baby came out as long as they are healthy. This effectively shut down the conversation about why I was there, lost in the depths of post-natal depression. While I do think a birth is just a means to an end, at the same time it is a part of our story and lived experience as a woman and for that reason we should respect each other’s decisions and hear each other’s words about birth, especially when that has deeply affected someone’s outlook or mental wellbeing. I don’t think dismissing this as unimportant actually moves anyone forward or helps them get over things.
If I am lucky enough to get onto a midwifery course (yeah I haven’t told the fam about that, either, because I might not get on a course), this is how I want to work for my pregnant ladies; I want to ensure they know their options and get the closest thing possible to the birth they want.

Waiting

I’m now signed up with two different ways of working in the health service and I still haven’t been deployed anywhere. Hurry up and wait seems to be turning the days into a miasma of ennui. Getting out of bed has reverted to being very difficult. It’s rare for me to manage it before 2pm and I don’t see that improving until I have a reason to get up. At 8 months old, Jellyfish is having a sleep regression. Every time he wakes up in the night for milk, he decides to spend an hour playing. Crawling. Making noises. My husband has just put him down for a nap and said it was like trying to tire out the Energizer Bunny. I’d  agree with that.

I planted some pea seeds. They have sprouted. They are in tiny pots.

I’m trying to put an application in for university, to retrain in a proper healthcare job. I want to be a dietitian, or a midwife. I’m going to talk more about that in an upcoming post because I want to get my head on properly before I apply.

Everyone is getting restless. It’s a brilliant sunny day today, and I can hear a cacophony of hedge cutters, lawn mowers and other such things. Staying indoors would be harder if we had anywhere to go.

Apparently, putting a couple of bits of gardening equipment outside the back door was a mistake. Like a dog marking his territory, the landlord and his adult son decided to use my back door (which is all glass) as target practice with a football. I know everyone is going stir crazy but it literally felt like the house was being invaded, like they were trying to say, “you can’t put things in the space around your house. That’s our house and we can do whatever we like with it. You have no garden. Not even that concrete outside your back door.” The ball kept hitting the gardening equipment and my back window as well.

Timmy, our last surviving rabbit, lives just inside the back door, where we have set up his hutch opposite the fridge and the tumble dryer. We leave the hutch door open nearly all the time, and just outside it, he has a little pet pillow and a pile of hay to snuggle in. I got quite hacked off about the fact the football was stressing out my beautiful orange rabbit, although I didn’t know how to go out and say anything without being confrontational so I just stayed indoors and seethed. I’m actually doing an anger management counselling course online at the moment so I’ll be able to help people through their anger soon. One big part of it is it’s okay to be angry sometimes.

So the house is basically an island surrounded by shark-infested water. We can’t go out, except to walk to the car and drive somewhere, which you’re not supposed to do right now.

The sun is an ongoing concern. I read in a reputable newspaper that a giant hole in the ozone layer opened up over winter, and apparently it circles over the northern hemisphere. It will be over us for the next month while it takes time to dissipate. On the map, Ireland looks so small compared to this circling threat of cancer and death.

I haven’t fully looked into the dangers of sun exposure without the ozone layer, but it worries me. There are three types of UV radiation that goes from the sun to Earth; UVA, UVB and UVC. The ozone layer usually protects us from the worst, which can cause skin cancer, blindness, sunburn and cataracts (although the cataracts presumably aren’t going to concern you if you’re already blind).

What I’m not sure on is how this will affect plants and animals. They’re outside all the time, and our ecosystem is already hanging in a delicate balance because of man-made problems like pollution and global warming. If species get irradiated and wiped out, the whole ecosystem could fall apart.

I’m worried. It would be easier not to worry if I had some work to do. I can’t write my books right now, because they just seem so frivolous and self-indulgent, like a complete waste of time, but I don’t have anything else to do because I’m waiting for the phone to ring to know which pharmacy needs my help. And then there’s the feeling, underneath it all, the one from the part of me that hates myself. No one needs you. You have nothing to contribute. Why did you even try and help? Like anyone would need you in a crisis. 

I’m glad I have my little jellyfish. Those sort of thoughts got really bad in the 6 months after his birth but generally, the fact he exists and is so dependent on me means the thoughts pass eventually. Someone needs me. Someone wants me around, even if he doesn’t show it. Someone is sad when I’m not near him.

The thoughts return after a while. They’re like waves. Sometimes the tide is high and I’m drowning, battered by wave after freezing wave of dark thoughts, clinging to a slippery rock, trying not to fall into the sea, wondering why I’m fighting it so hard. Other times, the tide goes out and there’s sunshine and a mile of golden sandy beach between me and the water. The less obvious danger then is when I forget how bad the sea becomes at high tide.

Is there such a thing as an Emotional Support Baby? [there would be a laughing emoji here if I knew how to get one on WordPress]

 

Joining the Front Line

Yesterday, I ventured outside for the first time since the lockdown began. At first it felt like when you’re a child doing something naughty. I was heading to the doctor’s surgery to collect my prescription scripts and then going to the pharmacy to get them filled, but it still felt like I shouldn’t be out on the street.

The way people have reacted to the lockdown says a lot. The vast majority of people have closed their businesses and are following government advice. But there was this one shop on the high street, it’s been a florist for as long as I’ve lived in Northern Ireland, and now they’ve covered over the “florist” sign above the door and written “hardware” then they’ve printed off a very self-important piece of paper claiming they are keyworkers and that their shop is an essential business. Now, I actually needed some hardware because our central heating isn’t working properly, so I stepped inside, assuming they had changed what they were selling in response to the crisis.

There was no hardware for sale in this shop. It was just flowers and decorative plant pots. The proprietor was standing 2 feet from someone having a long chat with them, completely ignoring social distancing rules. Honestly people like that are the reason this virus has spread so badly throughout Europe. “The rules don’t apply to me” types. I’ll have to get the thing to fix the heating from Amazon and increase the pressure on our postal workers instead (sorry Mr. Postman). It’s irresponsible of the florist to pretend they’re a hardware store though because it increased the time I was out mixing, it wastes customers’ time, and it means people who are asymptomatic have more unnecessary places to spread their germs.

Anyway, when I got to the pharmacy, they only let 3 customers in at one time so I stood outside the door, 3 metres away from the next person in line, until it was my turn. Then when I got inside, there was tape on the floor around the counter, with 1, 2 and 3 next to these lines, to tell you where to stand. Behind the counter was one of my usual pharmacists and someone in “civvy street” clothes, who it turned out was a pharmacy lecturer from the University who had been drafted into the front lines.

It’s a sign of the times that they couldn’t fill my prescription for my brown inhaler. Usually these are readily available and easy to re-order. But they had plenty of blue inhalers (relievers for asthma attacks). People’s priorities with the panic buying are just odd. Although I suspect that anyone with the slightest whiff of asthma is trying their best to take their inhaler correctly right now because asthma + coronavirus = baddddd.

So anyway, I could clearly see that they were short-handed and it occurred to me, I used to work in a pharmacy for 6 months about half a dozen years ago, I have a really good understanding of procedure and I know my medications quite well, and I could help with this coronavirus outbreak. I asked the pharmacist if she knew of any list of reserve pharmacy staff and she gave me an email to contact. So when my maternity leave ends next week, I am going to be an on-call pharmacy assistant. All GP surgeries are urging patients to nominate pharmacies to collect prescriptions for them now, instead of patients going to the GP to collect their own scripts, and that means a LOT more work for pharmacies. They have never been so busy. And that’s just the community pharmacies. Hospital pharmacies are also busy, and they will also need people to help.

My husband isn’t thrilled. He doesn’t think it’s very smart for me to put myself on the front lines, especially with my asthma, but someone has to, and I just feel like I need to do this. Honestly I think he just doesn’t want to be alone with the baby all day. It’s all hands on deck right now if our population and our health service is going to make it through this crisis. The infection rates are not very bad in Northern Ireland, yet, but they will be. We’re not being as stupid as they were in England at the weekend, but it’s coming.

The UK is in lockdown and it’s all Britain’s fault

That title is probably confusing if you don’t live in Northern Ireland. Basically, “Britain” (or Great Britain) is England + Scotland + Wales. The United Kingdom’s full name is “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.

Here in Northern Ireland we have only had 77 coronavirus cases and 1 death. Britain, on the other hand… well people are sick in the thousands and deaths are in the hundreds. Mostly it’s England. So we were all told to be sensible and cautious, and idiots in Britain went to the beach over the weekend and climbed mountains and went to parks so now we’re all on lockdown. Hopefully, because we’re going to lockdown at such an early stage of the spread in Northern Ireland, the disease should have less impact here. But I can’t help being annoyed that people in England couldn’t just be sensible and stay away from each other instead of going on camping trips to Scotland and other utter stupidity.

Now the whole of society is split between people going “But my dog NEEDS five walks a day” and people wasting police time phoning them to report that their neighbours are outside putting their laundry out to dry.

In other news, my sister in law sent me a “happy mothers day” card. WTF? That’s weird right? My mother has only been dead for 5 years and I think it’s really inappropriate. Seriously, who does that?

Okay I’m going to stop being a grumpy old lady now.

Everything’s out

So we moved to Northern Ireland where we have been for the past 9 months since leaving China. I’ve been trying to start blogging again since I got back but honestly I didn’t know what to write. I had so many ideas for articles but every time I came to write them I didn’t know where to start. I guess that’s writer’s block.

I have one extra tiny mouth to feed now – a side effect of moving to China was their healthcare was completely different to the UK and we finally got the pregnancy support and monitoring to make having a baby possible, after I was told we could never have a baby by doctors in England.

Today I don’t know why I’ve come back to my blog but finally it feels like the drought is over, the clouds have burst and the words are raining onto the page. I have no idea if anyone is still reading this but that’s okay. I just need to get started with the words again.

Here in Northern Ireland, the shops have entire empty aisles because of panic buying. We have two additional problems here, which are that our heating system is oil-fired, and only works when you fill up a tank with oil. Panic buyers are buying it all and we can’t get a delivery anytime soon and ran out earlier today. And we don’t have mains sewerage, so our waste goes into a septic tank, which… you guessed it, has to be emptied by a man in a lorry. So if civilization stays at home we will literally be swimming in it.

I asked a lady at the supermarket when they were getting more toilet roll delivered and she said she didn’t know. We aren’t getting as many deliveries as usual, here. I suspect they’re being diverted to England because they can charge more money for things over there. I guess I picked a bad week to not buy more last week when we could get it still. I’m sick of seeing stuffed shirts on the TV telling people not to panic buy because “the supply chain is fine”. How stupid are these people to not understand that if you tell people to self isolate with the slightest cough/cold, those people then cannot get to the shops so everyone is buying in advance of having to stay home.

Anyway, I’m feeling pretty upbeat in general and I will try and get some proper articles out in the near future. Over the past 3 years, I’ve changed, and so the focus of my blog is changing. I’m no longer really going to write much about beauty products, although I’ll still do that if the mood takes me. There will be articles on travel coming. In my absence I visited most of the countries in Asia. Overall, though, I’m going to focus more on lifestyle stuff. I think the world needs to live first, then make itself up later.

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