We know that labour rarely goes according to our birth plans – it’s kind of up to nature what happens, where it happens and when it happens, at the end of the day.
But sometimes, it’s hard not to take it to heart when our babies aren’t born in exactly the way we’d hoped for, right? Maybe you wanted to be drug-free, but ended up on every pain med going, or perhaps you wanted to give birth vaginally, but were given a C-section for safety reasons?
TV presenter Anna Williamson knows the feeling all too well. She gave birth to baby Vincenzo in 2016, and found that nothing on the day was as she’d prepared for or planned.
After a traumatic labour, Anna sadly couldn’t remember a lot of what actually happened. There are bits, she says, she still can’t recall to this day.
What she could remember, though, left her feeling let down, like she was “cr*p at giving birth”.
“I was online too much [in pregnancy], I needed to come off it,” she tells MFM in hindsight, 16 months after little Enzo’s birth. “When I gave birth, everything I’d read up on didn’t actually happen.
“I was in a super-long labour, and my body never properly dilated. I had a back-to-back labour with contractions, which I wasn’t expecting.
“I never felt what you’d call a traditional front period pain, I just had this horrendous, crippling back ache. Everything I’d read was completely pointless.
“I didn’t feel shame – I just felt let down that I couldn’t push my baby out by myself, and in my head, he had to be dragged out with forceps. I felt that I was cr*p at giving birth.
“Even though I gave birth vaginally, I don’t know what it feels like to have my baby come out of me,” she admits. “I was so anaesthetised I have no recollection.
“I was obviously grateful that he came out, but I was p***ed off, basically, that my birth hadn’t gone the way I wanted it to go. It was the birth I’d been fantasising about for donkey’s years.”
Anna, who recently wrote Breaking Mum And Dad: The Insider’s Guide to Parenting Anxiety, was also battling with perinatal anxiety and PND in the early weeks and months of motherhood – which, naturally, played a role in how she viewed her birth experience at the time.
“It was a real let down,” she continues. “It took me I’d say 7 or 8 months to let that go, and the reason I let that go is because I had a birth reflection at my hospital, and talked through my birth.
“I found out why decisions were made, and it made me come to terms with the fact that, actually, I really did do my very best, and I let it go. I let it go the day I walked out of that hospital.
“I do a whole chapter on that [in my book]. A lot of people don’t know about it, and a lot of NHS hospitals do have birth reflections, sometimes called ‘birth thoughts’ or ‘after thoughts’.”
Anna’s birth reflection wasn’t just useful for her – but also her husband, Alex Di Pasquale. It turned out there was something abut Enzo’s birth that neither of them could recall from memory…
“I lost pockets of my birth, and the pain, because of how things had happened,” Anna explains. “There are so many women out there who don’t actually have a bloody clue what really happened in their birth.
“I was watching One Born Every Minute about 4 months after I had Enzo and I suddenly saw on the telly that the dad had cut the cord. And it dawned on me that I couldn’t remember whether my husband had cut the baby’s cord.
“In that moment, it felt like the most important thing for me to know. I rushed into him in a different room – he must’ve thought I was absolutely mad – and said, ‘Did you cut his cord?’ and he said, ‘Yeah I think so’. I said, ‘What do you mean you think so?’
“I got really cross, I was like, ‘I don’t know what happened during my birth. It’s bloody terrible.’
“In my birth reflection, [they told me that] because of the way Enzo was delivered, the obstetrician had cut the cord, but they took the baby and the placenta with the cord still attached to the resuscitation unit and then my husband was able to give a cursory cut so to speak.”
We reckon this ‘birth disappointment’ is totally a ‘thing’, and that there’ll be a fair few women out there who can nod along to everything Anna’s saying here.
But it’s important to note that she’s parked those negative feelings about her birth now, and made peace with it, which is what we like to hear ?
Feeling disappointed when something doesn’t go your way or to plan is a natural reaction, but we just want to say that however you gave birth, whether you planned it that way or not, you’re a superstar in our eyes, no question.
Anna’s latest book, Breaking Mum and Dad, is out now
Share your story
Did you feel ‘let down’ when your birth plan didn’t go off without a hitch – or did everything go smoothly for you? And did you consider having a birth reflection at your local hospital?
We’d love to know – in the comments below or on Facebook!
Images: Instagram/Anna Williamson