The first book I co-authored was called Labours of Love, which involved many interviews with women about their experiences of giving birth. The idea was inspired by the birth of my first daughter, nearly 28 years ago. I attended the classes, read the books, listened to people, but no one ever told me quite how difficult it could be.
My daughter presented posteriorly, and became stuck in the transverse. She was in distress for some time (the outcome could have been horrific) and was eventually born with the aid of forceps. My episiotomy extended, my vaginal wall tearing from top to bottom. I was repaired under general anaesthetic. She was a mere 6lb 6oz, marked by forceps, yet beautiful and deeply loved. The birth was badly managed.
Apologies to anyone eating their breakfast as they read this, but nothing prepared me for that. That said, no one probably prepared the mother in the book who suffered the terribly reality of post-puerperal psychosis either.
I went on to co-write a book about stillbirth and neonatal death, Love, Labour & Loss, which involved heartrending interviews, many of which I still recall to this day. My researches actually helped me during my fourth pregnancy (yes, reader, I was repaired and went on to have 4 more children). I was alerted when my baby stopped moving. He was later induced, born with the cord around his neck which had inhibited his movement in the womb. Another interesting delivery which I’ll spare you the details of.
My third book on the subject related to women who struggled to have babies at all, including one amazing IVF pioneer, Marcia, who was a patient of Patrick Steptoe; it was called Infertility and IVF. Given I had no problems becoming pregnant, it was hard for me to empathise with those who did, until I heard their stories, and the still overwhelming sadness in Marcia’s eyes/voice as she told me her story. I was fortunately able to use some of the interview material for features in magazines which reached a wider audience at the time.
However, in my own reproductive career, I also experienced two miscarriages between my second and third babies, and at one time, I thought about writing a book on this subject. However, it was way too close to home. I felt too involved and too emotional. Miscarriage is distressing; it is the loss not only of a baby but of the hope that accompanies it, and I can still, even now, be reduced to tears thinking about it. That said, I received excellent care from my GP, a man who was incredibly compassionate.
Whatever form of loss it takes, losing a pregnancy/baby is big deal for a woman (and often her partner), so to hear that 20+ years on, not that much has changed, is sad and shocking. It’s worth reading this article from The Conversation, about the importance of communication, grieving, care and support.
My books are out of date now and I’ve moved on; my wonderful children are virtually all grown up. As a mother of young children, I was very keen to get the word out in magazines and books about this major aspect of women’s lives. Now I’m no longer involved in all that, but as my daughters reach ages where they may have future children, I’m very glad that others are doing the work instead.