By Tess Bell
Here’s my story about Arlo Herbie Bell 6lb 6oz born feet first at home on 29th November 2019 at 4.08am.
A bit of history about me – I have the biggest hospital and needle phobia ever. As a child I spent 2 years in and out of Ipswich hospital, I was 4 at the time and had a cyst on my throat, it ended in 5 operations (because the hospital never removed it properly the first 4 times) and 2 years of my life in and out of the hospital and the doctors.
I was pinned down and forced to have all my hospital treatment, I used to beg and sob for them not to hurt me again but they still did, I had no trust in these people that forced horrible things onto me or my parents who allowed it to happen and pinned me down too, I felt so alone and lost, why were all these hospital staff and my mum forcing me through this hell? I fought with all my might with every needle, anaesthetic, plaster, ‘magic cream’, everything they were doing to me was a fight, a fight I never won! What are they trying to do to me? Kill me? No one explained what was happening or why, I just knew when we turned up at this horrible place everyone forced horrible things onto me and I didn’t understand why! I felt so helpless and afraid! It was torture and it has stayed with me forever, it’s something I’ve had to live with all my life, this horrible demon that follows me round and lives with me. Due to this I refuse all needles and refuse any kind of treatment I’m not happy with, the control was taken away from me as a child so I have to be in control with any medical situation now and I’m against any medical intervention if it can be avoided!
I tried to have therapy a few years ago but the memories and phobia were so bad that the therapist ended up giving up as she was getting nowhere with me.
I was diagnosed with a unicornuate urterus and 1 kidney during an ultrasound scan for a misscarriage, I’d had 1 successful vaginal delivery but I kept miscarrying when trying for our 2nd baby. I knew my urterus was efficient – it always miscarried early and fully without needing any medical intervention and the miscarriage was because the baby hadn’t stuck properly or in the right place. I’ve had 6 miscarriages in total.
We had our second baby, I went through the pregnancy refusing bloods as I had first time but because they knew about my uterus this time I was sent for lots of growth scans, everytime I saw the consultant they discussed why I’d refused bloods which bought my bad memories flooding back and ended in sobs of tears, at 37 weeks they said they will be inducing me as the baby is too small. I knew my baby was fine and I trusted my instincts so I refused induction and they were awful about it and had me sobbing yet again as they told me to come back next week and explained they would be persuading me to be induced and my home birth couldn’t happen, so I cancelled my appointments and never went back, I had the baby at 40+5 by myself at home in the bath with a quick, painless beautiful labour and he was 6lb 6oz and perfectly healthy.
Baby number 3 was a surprise, the pregnancy was the same with growth scans and constant tears everytime my past was brought up because I had refused bloods, I ended up writing a note on the front of my notes to say I do not wish to discuss bloods please respect my decision for my own mental wellbeing but this was ignored yet again. I had all my scans at Norwich hospital but due to where I lived had to have the Ipswich team for the home birth and after care. Baby was breech at the 32 week ultrasound but 2 midwives had said he was head down at 34 and 35 weeks (must have been thanks to the week of walking I’d done at Disneyland at 33 weeks).
At 36 weeks I was sent to Ipswich hospital to see the homebirth team to book the birth in. I was dreading this, I couldn’t even drive past the place without having awful flash backs of my childhood but I knew I had to face it to get the home birth I wanted. I was asked about my phobia yet again and then asked to go into further detail about it, I said I can but it’ll really upset me but she wanted me to go ahead so I did in floods of tears of course, she then felt my tummy and told me baby is breech so I can’t have a home birth or a vaginal birth, a c section is my biggest fear, putting my trust in their hands wasn’t something I could mentally deal with. I left the appointment crying, I got in the car and called my husband, I was an emotional mess, barely being able to talk through the sobbing, then it hit me, the panic, I had a panic attack, I couldn’t breathe! Hubby stayed on the phone trying to get me to breathe and after 20 minutes I started to calm down enough to drive myself home, I sobbed the entire journey then fell into a heap on my husband when I got home, I said I can’t do this anymore (I had been diagnosed with PTSD a few years previously due to my traumatic childhood experiences and I couldn’t let that dark place consume me again) my husband said ignore them, do what you need to do for you!
I booked a private scan the next day which showed the baby was footling breech, I told the home birth midwife the outcome and she said you can’t deliver a footling breech naturally. I cancelled my next scan to give me time to try turn him, I then spent weeks trying to turn him, moxibustion, pulsatilla, spinning babies, laying upside down on an ironing board, frozen peas on his head, sitting up right but nothing worked.
I put my phone on silent and ignored all the hospital calls, I cancelled all my appointments, I knew I could do this and I knew my body and trusted my instincts. I had to ignore them and concentrate on me for my own sanity, I had started having flash backs from my childhood and couldn’t mentally cope with anymore pressure from the medical staff trying to force things onto me.
From 36 – 39 weeks I was harassed, I was getting phone calls, voicemails and appointment letters constantly from both hospitals, midwives and my Dr’s surgery. The midwife that caused my panic attack even turned up at my house but I wasn’t in! They even tried making contact through Facebook by a mutual friend who happened to be a midwife! Then I received a signed for letter, it was Ipswich hospital (signed by the same lady that turned up at my house) stating if I vaginally birthed a footling breech my baby would die and if he was transverse we’d both die! I had no support so knew my only way forward was to free birth!
I did all my research online and read lots of positive breech birth stories, the more I researched the more I realised how possible it all was, I was totally prepared.
At 39+6 I went into labour, I kept active spending 30 mins at a time in different positions, laying on my side in bed, in the bath, on my birthing ball, on all fours, walking round the coffee table. After 4 hours I felt it was getting close, I got in the bath on all fours tried pushing but nothing happened, I told hubby that I think I’m ready to push before baby is ready to come so I waited an hour and breathed through my contractions, I stood in the bath and rocked my hips I kept getting the urge to push but nothing happened, I had read that breech babies can make you want to push too soon, I tried to resist the urge as much as I could, I knew when the time came I had to go for it so the head didn’t get stuck, I could feel it getting close but wasn’t 100% sure when the right time to push was as it was so different to the head down experiences. I couldn’t get in a good position so sat on the toilet and did a push, I could feel him coming, I jumped back in the bath and squatted, I felt for the cord in case of a prolapse but I could feel feet so I pushed and shouted hubby. I put my hands down and felt legs, I quickly pushed again whole heartedly and as hard as I could, I knew I wanted the head to follow the body. He flew out and I caught him in the bath and instantly pulled him up out of the water and he cried straight away. It took 2 pushes and about 10 seconds for him to be born, it was the most painful, intense feeling, 10 times worse than the previous two with the pain of him coming out but it was worth it to avoid medical intervention. I sat on a bin bag that was in the toilet and within 2 minutes the placenta fell out, we waited an hour and hubby sterilised a hair band and scissors and cut the cord. I wanted this special moment to be calm, I wanted it to just be us to enjoy, no rushing around and midwives turning up. I showered and got dressed while hubby dressed the baby, I made myself comfortable on the sofa then the children woke up, it was perfect as though this baby had just appeared, they instantly loved him. I text the midwife and told her he was here, she came out that afternoon to weigh him and register the birth, she checked us both over and said we were both perfectly healthy.
It was the best decision I made, I knew what I was capable of and I trusted my instincts, it was very painful and very intense towards the end but it was so worth it to avoid any more mental damage and a c-section.
2 days after birth a different midwife came to do the newborn checks, she was lovely and very old school and in previous years had been an independent midwife, she asked all about the labour and I discussed the whole story with her.
She was over joyed, she said she was so pleased I stood my ground, she said she wished more pregnant women were as assertive as I was and that breech is just a variation of normal. She said years ago she would deliver breech twins without a second thought and nowadays they just get every breech in for a section. She also said every mother has a choice and it makes her cross that they don’t stipulate that, they just say you have to have a section when they should be saying we can offer you a section but it’s your choice! She was so supportive and so pleased that I had ignored them and free birthed, she also said she would be taking the news back to Ipswich and passing it on so it gets back to the midwife that wrote the letter and upset me so much.
My advice is to trust your instincts, you know your body better than anyone, your body was made to carry and birth a child, it is your body, your baby also therefore your choice!