Thought it would be interesting to send my two birth stories as they are very different!
My waters broke with my first baby at 35 weeks so following a completely healthy and straightforward midwife led pregnancy, I was straight into hospital and into consultant care for a premature baby. I had thought lots about how I would ideally like the birth to go in the months before and whilst I felt I was quite realistic about how unpredictable labour might be, there were a few things I really wanted and that I thought there shouldn't be much need to be compromised. One was an active, mobile labour and another was positioning. I really, really didn't want to deliver on my back. From the moment I arrived I was hooked up to monitors and whilst I completely understand that was important for baby, it made the labour so restricted. I lay flat on my back for the first 3 hours before asking if I could move but then it felt like every time I tried to, the monitors slipped, they had to come to pick signal up again and I was told to try and stay still. I fully dilated pretty quickly once it started (about 3 hours from 2cm to 10cm) but the pushing was very difficult. The gas and air was taken off me from the beginning of pushing, something which I now realise was really unnecessary. In the fog of excruciating pain with absolutely zero pain relief I pushed for nearly an hour and 45 mins, being put on my back in stirrups at some point, having an episiotomy and baby turned manually as he was back to back before I finally delivered him. The result was a 3rd degree tear which took me about 18 months to recover from with the support of the incontinence team.
For my 2nd pregnancy I was consultant led because of this previous tear. I thought a lot through this pregnancy about my first experience and was determined for it to be better. My gut feeling was that I would have an entirely different experience with a midwife led birth as I believed that the consultants had their own agenda about how my birth should ideally go in a way that would work best for them, not necessarily for me. I just didn't think midwives would take this approach. During prenatal appointments I challenged my consultant on the reason for having a consultant led birth and asked if I could be transferred to the midwives instead. She very reluctantly agreed after admitting that the risk was only 10% of another similar tear, there was nothing they could do that a midwife also couldn't do to prevent it happening and it was really just a convenience for them that I'd be on their ward if I needed treatment post delivery. She made a comment that I would be putting 'the poor midwife who was looking after me under massive pressure given my history' which I felt was a big guilt to lay on me. I was lucky enough to have a further conversation with a good friend of my mums who is a very experienced midwife and based on everything I explained she said that personally and professionally she would 100% recommend that I have a midwife led birth so that's what I decided, against the preference of my consultant. My second labour was AMAZING. I look back on it as such a fantastic, life changing, positive, empowering experience. I remember that it was quite painful at the very end but not that it was in any way unbearable and I really would have done it all over again the next day. I went into labour at 38 weeks this time, arrived at hospital 8cm dilated, had a fantastic midwife who listened to all my anxieties about positioning and my previous tear and helped to ensure I was in a position which was comfortable and what I wanted, let me have gas and air the whole way through and I truly felt like superwoman! I delivered him an hour after arriving at hospital with a minimal superficial tear barely worth stitching.
My feelings and thoughts since....
I'm no medical expert and I was in the fits of intense labour so obviously not abreast of all the facts but I don't think decisions were made 100% in my best interests first time around. I think it was sometimes for the convenience of the consultants.
I feel quite certain, after reading and discussing, that there is a possibility baby might have turned himself naturally during labour if I had been better positioned throughout and therefore the pain and damage would have been significantly reduced.
I truly believe I should have been allowed to have gas and air whilst delivering my first. I see no reason whatsoever for them withholding that and it certainly lessened my ability to think straight or manage the situation. I ended up agreeing to things I really didn't want because of the level of pain I was in and the desire to just have it over and done with.
I felt that I had no control over anything that happened the first time, even with small things like position that I feel would have made the pain and management of the experience better. The second time around I was totally the boss and every time I said something about what I wanted to happen I got an immediate response and reaction to make sure it happened. I felt very in control, empowered and therefore rational in my thought process throughout.
I feel sadness and a pang of guilt that I have such a positive connection and memory to my second child's birth when the memory of my first's is so fraught.
I'm confident that the main difference between the two experiences was my knowledge and my assertiveness, both of which were driven by my gut to make it right after the disappointment of the first birth.