First time pregnant
I am pregnant for the first time and I live on a small remote island. This is my story.
Part 11: Birthing options - a decision finally made
It’s mid-July and the world, including us up here in Orkney, seemed to be going through a heat wave. We were lucky that we still had the lovely cool breezes from the North Sea, but at times that created a horrible sticky and humid environment instead of bringing us respite from the warmth. Mid-July also means the peak of cruise ship and tourist season for mainland town so as the days in July went by, I was becoming more and more anxious about my trip to Kirkwall for yet another simple check-up with the midwives.
For weeks I tried to put it out of my mind or convince myself that this is for my own benefit and that they were, after all, just doing their job! But I felt fine and the baby was strong and active so I really didn’t feel like spending a whole day in scorching heat waiting around for the boat back home after a quick blood pressure check at the hospital. I am sure that if I had an actual ailment and needed to attend the hospital regularly for any reason, the trips to town would make me feel even more ill - it’s really that bad! James must have sensed my reluctance because he phoned the midwife and asked if she was able to come to us instead. Amazingly, she agreed!
The midwife came to our house on 18th July accompanied by a local nurse from Eday surgery. She spent a couple of hours with us, measuring my blood pressure and listing the signs of labour that we should be watching for. The meeting felt a little rushed, however, as the local nurse had her own appointments to attend to, so a lot of our questions received pretty generic answers and we were directed to turn to Google or YouTube for a lot of the things that we were wondering about. The midwife also advised that they hadn’t yet managed to sort out the accommodation in Kirkwall and that it was proving difficult to rent a dog friendly house or apartment, as we had previously compromised. When they left, James and I couldn’t help but feel a little upset, deflated and confused about our options.
That same afternoon we started a really long conversation about what we really wanted and what was really best for us (and not the service providers). We momentarily decided that perhaps taking dogs with us to Kirkwall wasn’t the best idea and that we should instead get somebody to house and pet sit our smallholding whilst we were away in town giving birth to our first child. That way we didn’t need to worry about dogs at all - this led to us having set up a couple of house sitting profiles which received great number of responses in just a couple of days, opening up yet another option for us to look at.
But something still niggled at us. A house birth is not a home birth - the hassle of relocating for two weeks, uprooting our lives, moving to a busy town, leaving our beloved puppies in the care of somebody else - it just didn’t feel like the right thing to do. James then raised a point that if we were to move, why not move closer to Aberdeen or Inverness on mainland Scotland - both of which have been mentioned as final destinations should we need serious medical intervention! That made sense - bypassing Kirkwall altogether and eliminating all possible risks associated with living remotely sounded like a final solution, not just a halfway compromise.
That is when we realised that we have now gone too far from our initial wishes and plans. We wanted to have a home birth and now we were considering moving some 200 miles away based on the wishes on the NHS staff. A home birth was right for us from the start because it promises comfort, privacy, peace and no need to travel back home with a newborn. All this was taken away when we started to consider other options.
We started going over the real pros and cons of all options, paying especially close attention to our first and strongest preference - a home birth! We revisited a lot of NHS publications about the risks involved, looked at statistics and evacuation options specific to the island of Eday.
A few interesting articles that we found during our research spree:
- National Health Service article: "NICE recommends home births for some mums"
- British Medical Council article: "Transfer to hospital in planned home births: a systematic review"
- National Health Executive article: "New NICE guidelines recommend home births for low-risk pregnancies"
Here is a quote I especially liked, taken from the NHE (the last article highlighted above): “Some women may prefer to have their baby at home or in a midwife-led unit because they are generally safer - that is their right and they should be supported in that choice. But, if a woman would prefer to have her baby in a hospital because it makes her feel ‘safer’, that is also her right. Giving birth is a highly personal experience and there is no ‘one size fits all’ model that suits all women."
We felt that we were making an informed choice. In our mind, we converted the chance of medical complications to a chance of winning a lottery and asked ourselves - would we uproot our lives for a minute chance of something good happening? No! So why were we doing just that for the same minute chance of something bad happening then? That is when we finally realised that we have unknowingly and, I am sure non-deliberately, allowed our midwives to place us in a state of fear. There were a lot of risks associated with living on a farm, with living on a remote island, with living in general - yes, anything can happen at any moment - but one doesn’t go through life fearing the worst case scenario, so why were we spending months doing just that! Many elderly people live on Eday - but they are not evicted to live close to a hospital just in case they have an injury or develop a medical complication, but for some reason, despite being fit and healthy and having no medical concerns with my pregnancy that was what was happening to me. I decided that living in fear was not the way - it simply isn’t a part of our philosophy - and whatever happened we would do our best to deal with it, instead of preemptively trying to eliminate phantom risks (i.e. not based on any tangible medical advice).
After days of going back and forth between risks and benefits and debating the subject of home birth option at length, James and I finally made up our mind to stay at home. For the first time in months we felt great, very calm and relaxed - the sort of peace that one only feels once a decision is made and the mind can finally be at rest. We phoned the midwife and told her that this is what we had decided to do. She then quickly advised that they had now booked the accommodation in Kirkwall, but we told her that our minds were made up - we were staying put!
Now we could finally start formulating an actual plan, what tools, equipment, items, foods did we want to have? We had very little advice on things like that from the midwife - she only mentioned an option to use a Yoga ball for managing contractions on her last visit - so we did what anyone would do and turned to Reddit - a great internet community, always full of wisdom and advice. Now we feel more ready than ever for welcoming our first child into this world!
A quick side note - there is still a chance that we may need to evacuate. You see, my Nan had given birth to my Mum when she was 7 months pregnant and then my Mum gave birth to me at 7 months too, so if these things are hereditary than I might be due this week - however, they lived in post-war or post-independence Lithuania and there was very little food or medicine available, which is not my story at all - so, I’m guessing them delivering prematurely was more to do with the external environment and less to do with our genetics. I remain hopeful for a full term pregnancy as on 29th July I entered week 31 and am officially in my 8th month of pregnancy.