For a while there, I was considering having no birth partner. I know what I am like and I worried that I would be stressed about the other person not sleeping, missing out on work, having to renew the ticket on their parking and so on (those of you who have gone through labour are probably laughing, knowing that I won’t care about anyone or anything other than Getting. That. Baby. Out). Plus, when I’m in pain or sick, I usually prefer to be alone and not touched – in the same way that animals go off on their own when they’re in pain, I suppose. Probably most people are like that but it’s different when you have a partner, as they are invested in the whole thing and you can behave badly and shout at them for having got you in this mess.
At the same time, I realised that I’ve never done this before and it would be nice to have a bit of support, preferably from someone who has been through it themselves. Various friends offered, which was very nice of them, but I felt bad at the thought of putting them out, particularly those with kids.
My SMC friend N decided to go it alone. Two years ago, she had a miscarriage at 12 weeks and unfortunately had to go through labour with that baby, as a D&C would not work. Her intended birth partner, a female friend, let her down at the last minute, so N had to endure that horrible experience alone. As a result, when she got pregnant again, she felt invincible enough to approach labour on her own and did so in March last year, giving birth to healthy boy/girl twins. She said labour itself was a doddle – but no one noticed that her placenta had not come out. N ended up being shipped to a high-dependency unit after the resulting infection spread to her brain, and remained there for nearly two weeks. I don’t know if having had a birth partner there would have prevented this but it did make me think. As I’ve said before, the public maternity hospital suffers from terrible overcrowding at times, which puts a lot of pressure on the hard-working and talented staff, leading to oversights at times, I’m sure.
Parallel to all this, my sister, who has had four kids, some naturally and some by section, asked my mother what I was planning and offered her services. She is the teaching principal of a school, so this is a big deal, as she would have to use up scarce and valuable personal days and arrange cover at very short notice to accompany me. My brother also offered, but I suspected that was a line neither of us wanted to cross.
So I’m going with my sister and will be very glad to have her there. If I pop a few days early, my labour could even fall within her two-week Easter holiday (downside would be that someone else would have to take my car for its annual obligatory roadworthiness check at the end of March, but every cloud…). I suspect this experience is going to bring our relationship to a whole new level and it will be interesting. We are a close family but I don’t think she has seen me naked for nearly 40 years (she’s four years older) and we don’t share that kind of ‘stuff’.
I am really lucky with family support. My other sister, who lives nearby, has offered to drive me to the hospital, as ‘birth partner sister’ lives on the other side of the city. My parents have been on board since my very first consultation at the fertility clinic back in July 2012 and have suffered the ups and downs of this whole process with me. Indeed, while I was quietly contemplating going the SMC route four years ago, my Dad, unbeknownst to me, actually asked my mother if I would consider using donor sperm from a friend of mine. I’ve mentioned before how supportive my Dad’s siblings, who come from a conservative generation for whom single motherhood was a terrible shame not so long ago, have been. I feel blessed with all this love and support from family, not to mention the friends who have listened to me bending their ears about trying to conceive for the last four years and those who have been so happy to learn my news only recently.
All part of the Village to come, I guess.