Nine Month Sober. Giving Birth in London.

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“This is your first baby…. There is no way that it is coming at 37 weeks. Put a hot water bottle on your back and get some sleep.” (Midwife in chief. Bath Royal United Hospital. July 20th, 2008)


Yeah…. Thanks for that advice “Senior Midwife “‘Ronda’ Midwife not only told me that I was not in labour, but went on to refuse me treatment when it was clear to all that I was in the final stages of the process/ordeal.  By this point, and after three fruitless calls to the maternity suite I made one last desperate attempt, having heard Ahmet (husband) insult both the ambulance service and all the local taxi companies with his predictable and recognisable cockney barrage of abuse. It became clear to me that no one was coming.
I need to explain stuff at this point…
My pregnancy was ‘text book’ perfect. I was in labour for two and a half hours from start to finish.
Having a baby afforded me the most confidence that I had ever felt. I felt myself swelling to the womanliest proportions that I had ever known. I have never in my life felt that I fitted my body or that my body suited me in such harmony as during the later months of pregnancy.
But now I still had two more weeks to go. Or so I thought. I wasn’t mentally prepared to become a mum that night. Don’t get me wrong, with hindsight I realise that the likelihood is that I would have been equally unprepared had Xavi gone to term. But the truth is that I got pregnant at a certain age when my biological clock started calling to me and this calling coincided with my determination to leave an abusive relationship. The fact is that I was so terrified during early pregnancy that my body would eventually fail the infant I was carrying- and that I would forfeit all the euphoria and the sense of fulfilment which had given me (for the first time in my life) PURPOSE.
Thus, from the moment that my son Xavi was conceived up until I had to face the world again (only this time as a mother!), I experienced a true partnership with the earth that I had never been aware of before.
I didn’t go about things in the most traditional way in terms of becoming a parent. I had hit my 30’s having been in a bad relationship that I had finally out-grown. Yet (old, familiar story, huh?) a misguided sense of loyalty and ‘better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know” made it hard to leave altogether. So by the end of my pregnancy, I had not only forgiven ‘Arms’ (my term of endearment for this bastard), but I had welcomed him back into my home. My theory at this point was that even though he was a rat’s ass as a boyfriend, he had, in the by-and-by, become my best mate.
As a teen, I had always had this little sticky-outie gut. I was as thin as a pin, but had developed these porn-star amosite boobs overnight at around the age of fourteen. I never developed hips, and the proximity and the weightiness of my uber-boobs made me hold myself awkwardly and draw attention to both my boobs and my tummy. The slouching exposed stretchmarks that had developed on my breasts. As a result, I was bullied and humiliated throughout senior school. Although as I grew up, I developed a little more confidence about myself and my looks, I had never ever rejoiced over my body until I saw it in all its naked pregnant bloom. Gone was the tummy, replaced by a reason. Not a paunch to be hidden, but a new life to be admired. Shoulders back, head high. Standing proud.
That’s not to say that the actual event filled me with as much confidence….
As I said earlier, I was at my grandparent’s event. I didn’t feel any Braxton hicks, I wasn’t due for 2 and a half weeks. NOTHING to indicate that I was going into labour. I got home that evening. My husband was in Turkey awaiting his visa. I had my ex-boyfriend camped on my sofa in the event of an emergency. I laid down on my futon bed and felt a thud within my lower tummy. It didn’t hurt. The only way I can describe it is like when you hear someone punch a gym bag. But it happened deep inside my tummy. I felt, rather than heard it. Being a first-time mum, and feeling neurotic, I was never convinced that I could produce another life, that my body could endure such strain without complication given the lifestyle that I had had before I got pregnant. I immediately went to the bathroom and checked to see if my waters had broken. This physical action would have confirmed to me that I wasn’t imagining it or ‘crying wolf.’ Disappointingly, when I reached the bathroom there was nothing but a mild stream of dampness on the tissue that I held questioningly between my legs.
Before waking and disturbing my ex from his slumber on the sofa (which in fairness would not have been the first false alarm in the last terrified weeks of my pregnancy!) I called the hospital.
By this point I was in pain. It was a constant dull throbbing within my lower back.
I was told that there was no way that I was having my baby yet. Their rationale was based upon two considerations.
Their medical genius determined that: 1) As I couldn’t record or tell them how far apart my contractions were, I could not possibly be in labour. And 2) And I quote; “This is your first baby…. There is no way that it is coming at 37 weeks. Put a hot water bottle on your back and get some sleep.”
I was carrying the baby of my Turkish husband that I had (let’s be honest) married as an escape from my former boyfriend who was an abusive but somehow lovable drug addict. (Don’t laugh -- shit like this could happen to YOU.)  I separated from Arms and rushed into a marriage to escape his abuse.
But Arms belatedly recognised that he was accountable for his proportion of blame, and so, after a time -- with my husband absent-- a serendipitous friendship had replaced a warlike ‘love’ story.
Arms was resident on the sofa in the weeks leading up to Xavi’s birth. We had a bond that was unique. It stood the test of time, and I had cried wolf in the previous week or so; at one point I was on all fours ‘mooing’ like labouring cow. All I heard from Arms was unsympathetic catcalls.  I begged him to stop. I figured, my car was outside. If I COULD MAKE IT AROUND THE TWENTY RAILINGS THAT SURROUNDED MY HOUSE, THAT I WOULD GET MYSELF THERE.
When I realised that I couldn’t do it, and having woken up the whole street. I saw with clarity that I had to sort this out. I called the maternity suite back. By some stroke of miracle, I was answered by a different midwife. She asked the same questions as the previous one. The difference with her was that whilst I, a newbie to the whole giving birth thing, she apparently heard within my speech a pause and retract. She asked me immediately whether the pauses in my sentences coincided with a pain?
I stand by the fact that I never felt contractions until the final push. But that lovely nurse that heard what I had been trying to explain…. She had got it right: contractions every 5 minutes….
By this point, I had lain down on the bed, like they said. Realised quite quickly that (A) a hot water bottle wasn’t going to cut it. And, B) I couldn’t get off the low-rise futon that I had positioned myself on.
My situation had got real.
At length along came a licensed (to carry passengers) paramedic smart car. Thanks again Ronda for the fact that I had my baby with one leg still in my legging’s. And a final thanks to you personally for the fact that because of you, not believing me when I told you that the baby was coming and you still refused me an ambulance (as by this point it was 2am and you explained to my birthing partner that the ambulances were prioritised for city centre drunken brawls)
I HAD MY BABY WITH NO PAIN RELEIF. NOT EVEN GAS AND AIR. Labour for me was from start to finish… Two and a half hours. It was the most ‘text book’, ‘tree-huggy’, untraumatic ‘for the baby’ delivery recorded…. BUT WHAT ABOUT ME????????
Whilst my baby entered the world unscathed and without the interventions of such modern-day familiarities as forceps, vontuse or pain medication…. I felt like I had time travelled back to the stone-age. My only comfort being the ever present, authoraitive voice of ‘Rhonda’.
I hated that bitch from start to finish, let me make that clear. She persistently called me Danielle, I am known as Dani and I did tell her this between the agonising (without meds) final stages of labour. I remember distinctly that immediately after Xavi was born, she cleared the room. I had put on my birth-plan that I wanted Ahmet and my two best friends there. The only part of my birth-plan that could have been respected by ‘Rhonda’ to have observed these simply requests. BUT….
SHE WITHDREW THAT RIGHT FROM ME. INSTEAD…. SHE UNCEREMONIOUSLY PLACED THE BABY ON MY TIT AND A PIECE OF TOAST AND A CUP OF TEA OUT OF MY REACH!... Let me tell you. I would have done anything for a taste of that toast. Also, I would have learned better and quicker how to nurture my cub had I not been abandoned. That horrible, nasty, witch of a midwife then returned, telling me that my friends had left and demanded that I get into the bath. This bubble bath alongside the welcome break from the intensity and insecurity that my unexpected arrival had procured upon me seemed like a beckoning and rewarding rest bite. Unassuming as I am, it wasn’t until I lowered my anaesthetised nether regions into the bath full of bubbles, that was insisted upon by what I now recognise as a sadistic, controlling and judgemental sociopath, that I was finally able to exhale and breathe a sigh of relief…
I wonder if my Russian audience had different ideas about how we give birth to babies in the UK. Maybe you imagined state-of-the-art hospitals with TVs, toilet paper, and decent meals?  OK, perhaps we do enjoy a few more basic ‘creature comforts’ than what I hear about Russian realities – and maybe for wealthy people the production of a plump ‘bouncing’ baby is smoother and gentler.  But for a single mother without means in the UK, the process is no bed of roses, I assure you.  At least not in my case. Eventually hubby Ahmet turned out to be a porn-obsessed lay-about. And down the road he went. But this time I didn’t pick up a drink, because I now had something better to do with my life. Xavi and I survived, even flourished, in the aftermath of it all. And that’s what counts.

===Danielle Le Roy===

One thought on “Nine Month Sober. Giving Birth in London.

  1. However, it is clear that the trauma of being denied proper care during such a pivotal moment in her life will leave a lasting impact. The breach of trust and the failure of the healthcare system to provide timely and compassionate assistance is a sobering reminder of the urgent need for reform and accountability within maternal healthcare.

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