Part 24 - High Risk Pregnancy?
The sickness arrived earlier, at five weeks this time and I felt awful. It was all consuming and particularly challenging with a toddler in tow. There just wasn’t the opportunity to rest as there had been during my first pregnancy and I struggled with this.
At seven weeks’ gestation I bled. I felt pretty certain that I was meant to have this baby, but this experience certainly tested my faith. I could still feel the energy of the baby within me and my pendulum was also suggesting that all was well, but the blood made me think otherwise.
It was a nervous hour as we waited to see the doctor, who confirmed that while my cervix was closed, there was still a high chance of miscarriage. She referred me on to the specialist who managed to see me the next day.
We were due a seven-week early pregnancy scan anyway, and it was a relief to see the heart beating on the screen; our growing embryo was alive and well and my faith was strengthened. It was also a reminder that we are all heart. It’s a profound moment when you get to see this in play; that heart and love is all there is really.
However, I did have a clot in my womb that was significantly larger than the growing embryo so I was placed on bed rest for a week. This was a blessing of sorts as it provided me with an opportunity to rest, and helped ease me through this stage of the sickness as I was able to sleep and chill out.
After the week on bed rest, life returned to normal, well as much as it can when you feel dreadfully sick, and over time the clot was re-absorbed by my body. This whole episode did remind me of the need to take it slowly, and this certainly impacted on my yoga practice.
When I was pregnant with Elijah I continued with my active Vinyasa practice, making little allowance for the pregnancy. Yet now I felt very differently about the style of yoga and relished taking the practice gently. I adopted a much more feminine approach to my practice and was inspired greatly by the teachings of Uma Dinsmore-Tuli. I also made sure to incorporate Yoga Nidra and resting when I could to support the pregnancy.
The energy of this baby felt different than it had done with Elijah, which I found fascinating. S/he was less active, which concerned me at times, and encouraged me to dig deep and trust that all would be well. S/he felt much more grounded though and I had a sense that this was my healing baby.
I considered that perhaps this time I would be able to home birth and even though E was a little uncertain, I engaged the services of my doula, Anita, again. I wanted to have the spiritual birth experience that I hadn’t been able to have with Elijah and I wanted to do all I could to avoid having another Caesarean Section.
I was challenged therefore when I was scored by my midwife as being ‘high risk’.
“High risk, what on earth for?” I demanded to know.
“Well you’re over 40 years old, you’ve had a previous Caesarean Section and you’ve had IVF”, my midwife explained.
“But that’s ridiculous”, I tried to explain, “I’m fit and healthy and keen to homebirth”.
“Oh you won’t be able to do that”, she told me, “you’ll be under specialist care now”.
And with that the frustration began to set in again.
It didn’t help that when I saw the specialist for my initial consultation he was surprised I didn’t want a repeat Caesarean Section.
“Absolutely not”, I tried to tell him, “I had a bad experience last time and I certainly don’t want to repeat that again”.
With that he told me that my risk factors meant that there was absolutely no way that I could have a home birth. I was also not going to be allowed to go beyond 40 weeks without intervention and a Caesarean Section would likely become another reality.
I was incensed. The specialist was new to the Island and seemed super cautious and I didn’t feel that he was listening to me. E had come with me to the appointment and while he was pleased to hear that a homebirth was not going to be an option, he too felt that me being deemed ‘high risk’ was ridiculous.
There was another aspect to the appointment that also challenged me. I knew with certainty the date of conception, as the clinic had confirmed this to me, but the 12-week dating scan had given me an estimated due date three days earlier than the ‘real’ one. I have always been a little dubious of the due date thing, simply because babies arrive when they are ready, not the date that a machine has given to them based on the 12-week scan.
I was aware that the due date could play a significant role in one’s experience of late pregnancy and birth. And now with the specialist talking about not letting me go beyond 40 weeks, those three days of discrepancy in due date became increasingly important to me. I didn’t want the computer generated earlier due date, I wanted the due date given to me by the clinic, which was 2 December, just after E’s 50th birthday.
At the second appointment I got angry. The specialist was again talking about the possibility of a Caesarean Section being the safest option for delivery and I was trying to say to him that I absolutely didn’t want a Caesarean Section, nor did I want intervention at 40 weeks which may inevitably lead to a Caesarean Section, and I absolutely didn’t want continuous monitoring of the baby either.
He was trying to stress the fact to me that the health of the baby was the most important thing to consider in terms of delivery. I didn’t disagree with him but I did mention that my emotional and mental needs were important too, as I tried to explain how awful I had felt following Elijah’s birth and how I didn’t want to feel like that again.
He then asked me how I felt he should prioritise the health of the baby with my mental and emotional needs, which incensed me further. Of course he needed to consider the health of the baby, that went without saying, but asking me to prioritise this was ridiculous, in my eyes it didn’t have to be so black and white.
E was also tested by this. He appreciated my need for a vaginal delivery and didn’t understand why that was going to be so difficult to achieve. I was fit and healthy, so in his eyes my age as a risk factor seemed crazy. He challenged the specialist on this but the specialist wasn’t listening.
I was high risk and that was that. This meant growth scans throughout my pregnancy and a clinical birth. By the end of the appointment I felt disempowered, angry and frustrated. I didn’t want a Caesarean Section and I didn’t want the baby arriving earlier than it chose to arrive. Frankly I didn’t want any of this. I just wanted an empowering, joyful and spiritually enlightening homebirth.
It was a huge insight for me into how easily manipulated women are during pregnancy and how easily you can drop into a place of fear. I’d read extensively about birthing without fear and yet here I was, now full of fear. The specialist had tapped into my vulnerability and made me feel that my body was incapable of growing or birthing the baby without medical assistance.
I also felt that to choose an alternative birthing route would make me an incredibly irresponsible mother putting my baby and my life at risk. It didn’t help that E had also been affected by the fear pervading our specialist appointments and so I had the pressure of that too. While I desperately wanted to tap into and trust my body wisdom, the pressure to get it ‘right’ was now huge, trying for the birth of my choice seemed a massive undertaking.
I decided I couldn’t see the specialist again. His approach to my pregnancy was detrimentally affecting my experience of the pregnancy and making me feel sad and vulnerable. I cancelled my next couple of appointments with him and yet felt wayward even doing this, what if I did end up needing specialist care after all? I just wanted it all to go away and considered that my best option was birthing in a field on my own and seeing what happened!
My doula was aware how disempowered I felt from my specialist appointments and encouraged me to seek a resolution to it. As such I ended up contacting the Consultant Midwife here in Guernsey, and explained to her my concerns about the specialist led care and also the fact I was keen to birth at home if I could.
She was wonderful, a true angel. She listened to me, which is something the specialist wasn’t doing, and this in itself was hugely empowering. She also took action and arranged for me to see a specialist who would be more compassionate to my needs. She also confirmed that the midwife team would support me in my quest for a home birth.
I could have cried with the relief. All of a sudden I felt liberated and supported and with that I felt that I could enjoy my pregnancy again.
After the morning sickness eased at 16 weeks, I really enjoyed this second pregnancy. I’ve written about it before but morning sickness is so debilitating and it was a relief when it ended. Of course it was tiring, especially as Elijah was still waking at least once a night and wanted to be carried all the time, but it was a highlight in my life; I felt truly blessed.
I continued reading extensively on vaginal birth after Caesarean Section and homebirth. I felt comfortable with my decision to try for a homebirth and decided that I would delay that conversation with my specialist for as long as possible. In many respects I should have opted not to see the specialist, but when you’re in the system it is very difficult to get yourself out of it without being made to feel irresponsible.
I finally saw the new specialist, who was female, and much more appreciative of my need to try for a vaginal birth, but was adamant that I shouldn’t be considering a home birth. She stressed the risk factors in doing both, which was frustrating because I felt the fear rearing its ugly head and had to be mindful of allowing the medical perspective to disempower me again.
It’s really incredible how we have managed to populate the world as we have when birth is considered so dangerous. I appreciate there are risks. The initial specialist had been keen to highlight this to me, when he quoted birthing vaginally in Afghanistan as being a very different experience from birthing vaginally in Guernsey. Women and babies regularly die from childbirth in Afghanistan, yet they don’t here, and we have the medical world to thank for that. And I guess we do really. But all the same…
Still, there was still a high chance that despite all my efforts for a homebirth, this wasn’t going to happen because rather annoyingly here at 29 weeks, my baby was lying breech. I had already noticed this. I’d stupidly demonstrated a handstand in class the week earlier and whether that had been the reason I’ll never know, but it certainly hadn’t helped.
I was annoyed at myself for jeopardising the position of the baby. Elijah had been breech but due to the placenta previa it hadn’t really mattered so I had continued inverting during my yoga practice. But this time, I had been practicing yoga incredibly gently to ensure that this baby didn’t end up breech too.
Needless to say that the specialist was keen to point out to me (as it was her job to do) that if the baby remained breech at 36 weeks then we would need to discuss options for delivery. Sadly, breech babies are no longer allowed to be birthed vaginally and so a Caesarean Section would be the only option. Where was my luck?! I now had another hurdle to overcome and with that I took myself off to read all I could on breech babies and turning them around.