In my opinion, the word 'allow' in maternity services should be banned. I'm hoping this won't sound like a rant but I can live with it if it does!
Anyone who's read anything on this page or who is close to me will know the birth of my daughter was a terrible experience; one part of this was issues with pain relief.
During labour I asked to discuss pain relief and the attitude I got was 'what about it?' as if it was an odd thing to ask given the circumstances. I was genuinely shocked, in my mind you're in hospital, something is painful, you have pain relief, right?
I asked for an epidural and the response was 'we don't do them on the birth centre'. In the politest words I can muster, is that my problem?! I did not choose to birth here, you have decided that I will birth here.
The next response was 'we don't have enough staff' which at the time terrified me because what it meant to me was very different to what it actually meant to the midwifes. What they meant was there are no beds on the delivery suite and that's where you need to be rather then we are so short staffed if there's an emergency you're screwed.
I felt so embarrassed and ashamed about this part of my labour for a long time. Then I started to feel angry. I know how short staffed the NHS is and that sometimes things just can't be helped, I can still feel angry about it but there was nothing to be done at that time.
The attitude from many midwives towards pain relief in labour however is something in my opinion needs to change. A midwife told me 'you don't look in that much pain' during a contraction. At the time it made me feel weak and embarrassed, like I was less of a woman for not managing birth the way I should. Now? I know that it is her that should feel embarrassed and ashamed for making such a ridiculous horrible comment to a frightened woman in labour.
Society seems to cultivate an attitude that labour is terribly painful (which for some is true, others it isn't) but then when it comes to pain relief there seems to be an opposite attitude that should you need it you are weak or that the pain of childbirth should just be tolerated.
That is so wrong in my opinion.
I've listened to and read lots of birth stories in the last 2 years, some positive, some negative but a common theme that crops up time and time again is being 'allowed' to have something such as pain relief. It makes me very angry. I think this culture from maternity healthcare professionals disempowers women (and their birth partners) and gets them to believe that the professionals are correct 100% of the time...almost like the baby is there's to do with is they see fit. But mother's and fathers remember that it is the woman that births the baby. Even in the case of a C-section where you might say it is the professional performing the operation, nothing happens without the mothers consent and it is her body.
I've heard lots of women talk about when they were 'allowed' pain relief, usually when a midwife deemed it appropriate. Women have spoken about asking for gas and air and being denied because a midwife has said that they should hold on as essentially labour is going to get worse.
I understand advising women to try all other options before resorting to stronger pain relief for many reasons including effectiveness in later stages of labour and possible increased risk of interventions however, the bottom line is this...
Surely it is a woman's right to have pain relief when she requests it regardless of the opinion of a midwife.
In any other circumstance would you leave a person or an animal in pain? I can't think of any. So why is it expected during labour?
If a woman requests pain relief and continues to feel she needs it why should she not just be given it? If I am missing something here please, please correct me because at the moment it doesn't seem to make sense.
As I write this I am just over 2 weeks away from my due date. I cannot predict the type of birth I have, maybe it will natural, assisted or C-section, I cannot say at this point however, I will be doing everything I can to ensure I have an empowered birth. I have promised myself that this culture of 'allow' will not 'infect' my birth this time. If I wish for pain relief Goddess help the midwife who says I don't need it or comments on the level of pain I am experiencing.
I am the most important person in that room and my needs are a priority as well as the needs of my baby.
At a time where a woman's body is doing something so fantastically amazing and 2 peoples worlds are being changed forever no one should do or say anything to make them feel weak or not good enough.