The idea of giving birth is daunting enough for any woman, but Carla Moody, 36, from Brighton, has a long-standing fear of hospitals which made the experience even more challenging! Here she tells her story...
How long have you had a fear of hospitals?
Forever! As a child I was fearless and a bit clumsy - not a good combination. This resulted in numerous visits to A&E to get various parts of me stitched up. When I was four I cut my chin open. It took three nurses to hold me down. Another time I jumped from half way down a flight of stairs and landed on a glass. I needed five stitches in my foot and, because it was bleeding so much, the four injections of anaesthetic didn't have a chance to work.
To be fair, I don't actually have a problem with hospitals, I have the same issue with any doctor or dentist who might feel the need to stick a needle in me or cut me with something. (I'm not keen on opticians either!) I can just about stand an injection if I am lying down and have had sufficient notice to psyche myself up. My absolutely biggest issue is with a drip, I can't stand the thought of having a needle inserted into my hand. In fact, just seeing one in someone else's hand makes me feel faint.
Did you consider a home birth?
Yes, for a while that was my plan. I thought I would be calmer at home, and was even going to hire a little pool. But I changed my mind when I realised that if there were any complications I would end up in hospital anyway as an emergency and that thought really scared me. The equipment needed at home also freaked me out a bit - what's with all the plastic sheeting!
How was the pregnancy itself?
I had a difficult pregnancy and was sick for all nine months. I commute up to London for work, and every day I would pray the person next to me hadn't eaten garlic the night before or wasn't about to tuck into a bacon sandwich - the slightest thing meant I would be travelling to London in the loo! So when my due date came and went I started to get anxious. I had all my hopes pinned on an early baby and definitely wasn't prepared for her to be late!
How did you feel about going in to hospital?
I took the earliest opportunity to go in and be induced because I just wanted it to be over. (I was 10 days overdue and the fear had been building up during that time.) When I got there I felt relieved it was going to finally start but worried and absolutely determined there would be no drip or epidural.
What happened once you got there?
I was shown to my bed on a fairly empty ward and given a pessary and left to wait for something to happen. My partner hung around for as long as possible (I was dreading being left alone), and then left me to it for the night. I stayed awake looking up baby names on my iPhone, relieved something was finally about to happen. After a few hours I felt something a bit like period cramps. I had asked to be checked at 3am rather than waiting until the morning, which is usual practice, so that if it hadn't worked they could do another one. I really was that desperate to get out of there! I was delighted to find that I was 3cms dilated and smugly thought to myself that the contractions were actually fine and I would get through it with no problems. Haha!
What happened the next morning?
Well, my partner came back and we waited expectantly. The pain wasn't getting any worse and I hadn't even had an aspirin! My next assessment showed that I hadn't really progressed so the doctor came and broke my waters at about 11am. We then sat around watching TV, reading celeb magazines. The excitement was gradually replaced by boredom and finally irritation that nothing was happening. Nearly 24 hours after I went in we were promoted to the labour ward.
How were you coping with still being in hospital?
I was tearing my hair out at this point. I am terrible with hospitals (even as a visitor, I generally faint before I've handed over the grapes), so wasn't coping well with the incarceration. I was also getting concerned that I might have to go on the hormone drip which I'd heard could make contractions more painful. By the time we went up I just wanted a c-section to get the baby out and for it to be over.
What happened once you got to the delivery room?
The midwife, who made school nurses look positively timid, pointed out 101 reasons why I shouldn't have a c-section. Feeling like I had no control over the situation I decided enough was enough. While my exasperated partner looked on helpless, I got dressed, packed my bag and announced that I was going home. It's no mean feat getting into skinny jeans whilst having contractions - I don't recommend it. I made it as far as the lift before they caught me! It took them about 20 minutes to get me out. I don't know what I would actually have done if I had managed to escape!
How long did it take before you gave birth?
Things started to really progress after I went back to the labour ward and was persuaded to go on the hormone drip. That's when I experienced real contractions! Things progressed slowly but surely until about 5am the following morning when the baby started to get distressed. I was given a spinal block and prepared for a c-section and taken into theatre. Fortunately after a final big push she was delivered by ventouse at 6am, about 36 hours after I went in.
What was it like to see your baby for the first time?
It was amazing. I think because I'd had a rough pregnancy I hadn't really thought much beyond that and really held myself back in case anything went wrong. When she finally came and she was healthy and beautiful I allowed myself to let go and loved her instantly. It felt like we had really battled through something together and that gave us an enormously strong bond.
How do you feel about hospitals now?
After a difficult birth, a drip (in my elbow not in my hand) countless examinations, blood tests and a blood transfusion I initially thought that I would have cracked it but I haven't.
Although I still hate hospitals I was impressed with the excellent care we received, even from the overbearing midwife! I was also really surprised to get visits from the doctor and a trainee doctor when I was back on the postnatal ward.
So, would you do it again?
No! I was only ever planning to do it once. I am glad I did it, I have a beautiful baby and I think that I would always have regretted not having the experience. I look at her sometimes and think to myself - I grew that! It is amazing. Someone should really invent a better way of getting them out though - it's the 21st century!