Choice: Real or Myth (Part 1)

Two years ago, I was sitting on my hospital bed alone, eight months pregnant. Unaware I would need an emergency c-section 3 hours later, I started thinking about choice and wrote this:

‘It’s the night before my third son will be born. Nearly four weeks before his due date and three weeks ahead of schedule.

Once again, I’m on the brink of tomorrow. 

Today, the hot muggy air of the hospital ward has laid heavily around me. I’ve fought the feeling of being 90-years-old whilst passing fluid every time I move. My waters broke at 3am this morning – a very long time ago. Today I have waited to see if I creep into active labour. As random contractions have become more uncomfortable, they have neither progressed in length or depth. So we wait. A second steroid injection has been given, to give my little man’s lungs the best chance of working on extraction. 

It’s times like these I slip back into the familiar pattern of autopilot.

All the things I was fretting about a day ago now have neither purpose nor force. With each breath comes the next moment and with it a host of possibilities. Few of which I have any control over. 

I had an interesting discussion today about choice with a student midwife. She was passionate about the right of a woman to choose how she gives birth. The right for her to have a choice about having her birth at home. During our chat, I expressed my fear that our determination for choice in the ‘natural’ and unmedicalised, actually wraps us up in a straight-jacket of expectation and false control.

Sometimes we have a choice but sometimes life is beyond our control.

There is a drive to assume the natural process of birth is best served when left to nature. And as much as this is true, nature comes with complications. Many complications which can now be overcome with medical advances. As soon as a delivery becomes high risk, our choices remain but they come with risks. Risks beyond our control. 

One of my friends died in child birth.

She was young and healthy but she delivered her baby in a country where her choice was limited. She didn’t have access to the medical care that has been afforded me. If she had delivered her baby in the UK, she and her baby are likely to have survived. But she lived in Kampala, Uganda. Although she had access to western medicine, many of the ‘choices’ I am given were not on offer. 

Many women across the globe don’t have many choices. As a result, 830 women die every day of preventable casues related to childbirth and pregnancy. With 99% of all maternal deaths in child birth happening in developing countries.* Many women have one route, one option and maternal and foetal death rates reflect this. As much as my anxieties have swamped me during pregnancy, I know I have received better care than the many women around the world. I have had the choice of blood tests, monitoring, scans and consultant care.

Choices not afforded to many women.  

For all the choices women in the UK can make about home births and water births, whale music or Red Hot Chilli Peppers, we must remember that each one comes from the luxurious foundation of having other options.

I accept there is a real risk of over medicalising a natural process.

But let’s not forget it is only because we are offered medical options that we truly have choice.’

That rant sat on the notes section of my phone for two years. A blog was supposed to come from it, along with a donation to a Pregnancy Twinning charity. But neither of those things happened.

A couple of hours later, I started having more regular contractions. My baby was monitored and found to be in distress. So I phoned my husband and woke him from his sleep for the second night in a row. He rushed to the hospital, just in time to see his son born. (That’s the short version of what happened).

Well they say better late than never.

So, we have just celebrated my amazing little boy’s 2nd birthday and I am so grateful for the choice to have him in hospital. I’m thankful for the wonderful boy he is today. The Pregnancy Twinning website states that women in Malawi are 60 times more likely to die during child birth than a woman in the UK. And I have finally made my donation – 2 years late.

If you know anyone who’s pregnant and don’t know what to buy them, maybe consider twinning their pregnancy or just donate because the choices we have in the UK saves lives.

Did you get your birth plan?

How important was it that you got to choose?

*WHO Maternal Mortality November 2016 (I looked this up later – not on my hospital bed).

The Skies I'm Under

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