When it comes to giving birth, women need to be empowered with all the information and support they need to make the right decision for them. AASMA DAY talks to Lesley Roberts who chose to have a home birth with her second child after a negative experience with a hospital birth
WHEN Lesley Roberts gave birth to daughter Erin in hospital, she felt cheated that something that should have been so amazing ending up being so negative.
Erin was born at Royal Preston Hospital and I found the birth a very negative experience
Lesley, 36, who is married to Matthew and was living in Fulwood, Preston, at the time, explains: “When I was pregnant with Erin, I had a wonderful smooth pregnancy.
“Erin was born at Royal Preston Hospital and I found the birth a very negative experience.
“As it was a conventional hospital setting, I don’t think it was the right place for me to have my baby.
“I did not feel very well supported or educated about the choices available to me.
“As a result, I don’t feel I made the right choices for myself.
“It was quite a long and exhausting labour and I felt it was unnecessarily long.
“My waters were broken for me, my legs were in stirrups, I was attached to a monitor and there were a team of doctors hassling me.
“The labour took about 20 hours and was long and painful. I managed to give birth naturally, but it was not what could be called ‘natural’.
“I had wanted a home birth, but I was not really brave enough to go through with it because it was my first baby.
“So I ended up having a reluctant hospital birth instead.
“I felt I was in the wrong environment to give birth.
“I believe births should not be medicalised unless something goes wrong and it is necessary.
“If you are healthy and having a normal pregnancy, there is no need for doctors to intervene.
“I felt cheated that I had such a negative experience for something that should have been so amazing.
“The midwives were under pressure because they were looking after more than one mum so I was not getting one-to-one support.
“The worst thing for me was that everything was in such a clinical environment instead of at home where you are in your own environment and feel more relaxed and in control.”
When Lesley, who works at Royal Preston Hospital, became pregnant with her second child, she was determined to have a better experience.
By this time, she and her family had moved to Lancaster and, while in a cafe, Lesley spotted a notice about Lancaster and Morecambe Birth Support Group, which meets monthly and offers women support and advice and decided to go along.
Lesley says: “The group was an invaluable help for me and my husband. We both felt much better informed and prepared.
“They helped by giving me the information and encouragement that I could have a home birth.
“I talked to people in the group about what they had done. Not everyone wants a home birth and the group is about empowering people to make their own choices whether they give birth at home or in hospital.
“The group also hire out birth pools so I hired one and bought a hypnobirth CD and read up on how to try and help position the baby correctly for an easier labour.
“My son Aden was born two weeks before his due date at home and in the pool.
“I was in labour all day but I recognised this and just carried on. I took the dog for a long walk and then we came home and put Erin to bed and then my waters broke.
“We had a calm environment with fairy lights and music and my husband filled the birthing pool with water.
“Contractions started soon after and by the time the midwife came I was already dilating well.
“I began active labour at about 9pm and my son was born just after 11pm.
“The labour was quick and easy and it was an amazing experience.
“I was totally in control of what was happening and, because I was at home, I felt completely relaxed.
“The midwife was there to support me if I needed her, but I was the one in control and she let the natural birth process happen without interfering.
“It was how a birth should be and was a really positive experience.
“A lot of people don’t feel that way and view a birth as something they have to get through before getting the end result of a baby and see it as pain that they have to endure.
“But if you are calm and relaxed, you don’t get excessive pain and it becomes a positive experience instead of a negative one.
“I felt empowered and as if I could do what I wanted to do rather than be dictated to.”
Lesley, whose daughter Erin is now four and son Aden is almost two, says that women, especially first time mothers, need to be educated about the choices they have in pregnancy and labour.
“You have to feel like you are the one in control as otherwise things escalate and get out of control.
“You can do a birth plan and try to stick to it.
“It was a completely different experience from the hospital birth and I felt proud of myself and much more empowered.
“I had my birth my way. I chose what I wanted and I knew I could do it.
“If I had been better informed first time round, I could have done it then, too.
“I want all women to feel as informed as I did the second time round so they can have an amazing experience, too.”
Lancaster and Morecambe Birth Support group is an independent network of women who are interested in learning and sharing experiences about labouring and birthing.
The group meets on the first Tuesday of every month at the Gregson Centre in Lancaster and provides information and support to women who are pregnant and considering their options and rights in childbirth.
Jean Anderson, 64, who lives in Morecambe, founded the group three years ago after being a midwife for 30 years.
Jean says: “Our aim is to let women know the choices they have in pregnancy and labour.
“The worst thing you can do is go with the flow because that means you are vulnerable and have no choices.
“The group is about women supporting each other and sharing their experiences.
“We don’t tell them what to do but provide them with the unbiased information they need to make the right choice for them. We meet once a month and offer 24-hour telephone support. We discuss things like homebirths, waterbirths and the role of the birth companion. We also hire out birthing pools cheaply and have a library of books and films. The group is led by the women and they get to meet other mums and talk to them about their experiences.”
l Lancaster and Morecambe Birth Support Group meets at the Gregson Community Centre at 33 Moorgate, Lancaster, on the first Tuesday of every month. The group is run by volunteers and the cost is £1 to contribute to room hire. Partners, grandparents and children are also welcome.
For more information, visit: www.lmbirthgroup.org.uk or search Facebook for Lancaster and Morecambe Birth Support.
For further details, contact Jean Anderson on: 07913 389009.