My children were born in a hospital where midwives did the deliveries, a doctor was only brought in if there were problems.
We lived in a small town which could be cut off from the city in bad weather so pregnant women were sent to the city on their due date. I’d been in the hospital for ten days, getting out of bed at 7:00 so everything could be made spick and span before the doctors did their rounds. No sitting on the made beds until after the doctors had left the ward. The sheer boredom of the day was only broken by meals being brought in and chats with the other women in the same situation. Because of the distance none of us were able to have visitors everyday so I was excited when labour finally started. The excitement didn’t last, it was replaced by pure misery.
It was my first child and I had no idea how things would be. There were no antenatal classes where we lived and no pregnant women’s groups. Birth was just a natural part of life, thousands of women gave birth every hour didn’t they? It had to be simple but it wasn’t. After hours that seemed like a lifetime full of fear and pain I heard the midwife say to the nurse, “You’d better get Dr.Mackay up.” She sounded resigned to failure.
When the pains were really bad I’d tried to use the gas but I didn’t know how and my hands cramped into claws. I’d tried to do everything they said, to push when they told me to push but they’d said I was doing it wrongly and I was just going to burst blood vessels on my face. I’d moaned, “Oh God” and the midwife had sharply told me “We’ll have none of that!” It went on and on until I thought they could just have the baby if they’d let me out of there. Set me free of it all. I no longer cared that I’d carried my child for 9 months and endured awful morning, afternoon and evening sickness. I just wanted out. If only they would make it all end. Then I heard those words and I knew things were going badly.
From somewhere deep inside I found the strength I desperately needed. I pushed and pushed until my baby was born. The midwife said it was a girl and took her where I couldn’t see then I heard a tiny cry and relief washed over me. A white, porcelain doll with two little purple veins showing on her forehead was put into my arms. Like me she was fine, just exhausted. I felt I was the cleverest woman on earth.
Perhaps if I hadn’t overheard the midwife’s aside to the nurse the outcome would have been tragically different.