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Welcome to The Pretty Walrus (read the Hello page for an explanation on the name). I am Clare, married to David, and mother to Emily and Adam. The Pretty Walrus follows our journey from the UK to Malta to Dubai, and all our adventures along the way. Enjoy your stay!

Behind the Scenes - The Ongoing Battle

There's a lot I haven't said over the past few weeks. I can't and won't keep quiet any longer. Here goes. 

When I was an Emma's Diary blogger for a short time, one of my posts focused on the excellent maternity care I experienced at Medway Maritime Hospital in Kent. Here is part of that post.

Dear Midwives,

A short thank you note. For listening to my every request (coherent or otherwise). For taking the time to read through every word of my birth plan and discussing points you were unsure of with me. For offering advice, but not forcing it upon me. For speaking to me calmly and encouragingly. For our chats and jokes between contractions. For always being there and for explaining every little thing that was happening. For never letting me feel scared. For trying your very (very) best to honour my every request. For your caring, calming, smiling faces.

For my toast and tea once Emily was born. Nothing has ever tasted so yummy.

Sincerely,
Clare


[Full post here]

Reading that back right now has me in tears. It's nothing to do with hormones, sadly. And they're certainly not happy tears. My situation at the moment couldn't be more different...

This time, in Malta, I am dealing with a gynaecologist, not a midwife.

This time, my sheer mention of a birth plan has been smirked at. "Rip it up," I was told.

This time, I am fighting to be allowed the chance to labour naturally. Excuse after excuse has been crafted to push me into having a c-section. And when that failed, more reasons found, this time to attempt to convince me an induction would be needed. All still hypothetical of course but not exactly the start you want. (The first time my gynaecologist talked to me about the non-surgical childbirth procedure at the local hospital was yesterday, at my 36 week appointment - because I specifically asked her for details.)

Last time, I was relaxed and focused on what was about to come. This time, I am fighting what feels like an often losing battle simply to give me the chance to labour without unnecessary intervention.

Medicine is an amazing thing - but to support, and not replace, nature.

Sadly it seems that here in Malta childbirth has been turned into a production line, with surgeons waiting, scalpel in hand, for any little reason they can find to cut. I've spoken to so many woman over the past few weeks who have been pushed into c-sections for very vague (and sometimes unknown) reasons. It's shocking. Childbirth and nature are a beautiful thing, and so many women here are denied the chance to ever experience it.

These last couple of weeks, I have felt like a helpless, caged animal. I am full of despair and very much saddened. And the worst part is that because of everything they've tried to convince me will go wrong, it has begun to affect my confidence in my body's ability to do what it was made to do. Don't get me wrong - I'm not trying to be irresponsible. I am in no way trying to put my life and that of my son at risk. Should intervention be necessary, I will welcome it. But I want to know that the people making the decisions can be trusted not to be too scalpel-happy. I need to feel like I am in safe hands, which I currently don't. And to be told that intervention will happen regardless... that just doesn't sit right with me.

And to those who will still try and convince me that it doesn't matter, that all that matters is that me and my baby are safe (which is of course of utmost importance too, but still no reason to override nature for absolutely no reason), I only recommend that you read this: The Pot Plant Analogy


And if you want to argue that I am hallucinating or paranoid (as my gynae tried to do), remember that the C-Section rate in Malta in 2011 was 32.3% of births, and currently the highest rate of inductions in the EU. And here's some more light reading: 
Malta almost sees pregnancy as an illness (MaltaToday, 2012)
Induced births and high rate of births by Caesarean section (Times of Malta, 2011)
Malta's C-Section rate needs to be halved  (The Independent, 2009)


I should be able to be focusing on Emily during these last few weeks, enjoying our time alone - just me and her for the last time. Instead my every waking moment seems to be filled with research to find the information I need - information my gynae has warped, seemingly to support a different agenda.

Why was I told my placenta was low lying when it wasn't
Why have I been told I have an average amount of amniotic fluid, only to be told in the same breath that I'm carrying too much fluid?
Why am I being told that the baby not yet being engaged is a problem? Second and subsequent babies very rarely engage before labour begins.
Why am I being told I need to head to hospital at the first sign of labour and not be allowed to labour at home? The more time spent labouring in hospital increases the risk of intervention being necessary.

I've done the research, I'm no fool. I know this is all wrong! Why am I being treated like an idiot and told off for being informed? Why am I paying a gynaecologist to misinform, confuse, and upset me? My instincts scream bloody murder every time I think of all this.

So at this late stage in my pregnancy, we are looking into our options. As quickly as we possibly can. And there aren't very many options here in Malta. But we're trying. We have to. I will not sit back and take it. That's what created this mess in the first place.

And all the while, all I can think of is that brand spanking new midwife-led unit at Medway Maritime.... and the tears return. I shouldn't need to fight this battle, not at this late stage in the pregnancy, not at all, not when I had a perfectly normal delivery last time. I have to win this war. 

___________________________________
UPDATE, 08/03/2013
This morning I met a doctor who hugely supports natural birth. He rescanned me and could see no problem whatsoever with letting labour progress naturally. My placenta is very high and thus completely out of the way, the amount of amniotic fluid is perfectly normal, baby is in the position he needs to be and thriving. He also confirmed that engagement generally happens during labour with second babies onwards. We spoke the same language and were looking at things through the same lens. I will be continuing under his care and am now very excited about it all. 

I'll be clear - I am not saying that my previous gynae is a bad person. She probably has orders from above which she needs to follow. However, I firmly believe that patient and doctor need to be on more or less the same page about the way things are done in order for a patient to feel safe. I certainly believe that a patient should not be ridiculed or belittled for having certain opinions. A relationship like that will never work, in whatever scenario. 

So I'm glad I fought. I'm glad I found people to support me and give me the chance to have a second natural birth. They know who they are and I cannot ever begin to thank them enough. They have kept me sane throughout this. And Emily... well, I realised today just how awful I've been lately. Today I feel like a new person, on a new lease of life, and my relationship with her has already seen the benefits. Here's to the next few weeks until Baby A chooses to arrive, as naturally as possible.

I sit here writing this with a big smile on my face, celebrating with a piece of chocolate, while Baby A bounces with hiccups.

12 comments:

  1. That's appalling. Why mess with such a natural process. No wonder you have no trust or faith. Would a home birth with private midwife be possible? If not I would be driving back to the uk!

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    1. Not sure I'd survive the drive, but had I still been able to fly I'd probably be crashed on someone's couch right now. Homebirths are very rare here, people are very scared (no need to wonder why!!) and very few gynaes support them. I have been in touch with one of the few people who do support homebirths though and that is one of the options we are looking into.

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  2. I don't know what they do in Malta, but in Gozo a C-Section is only resorted to when a natural birth is not possible. I've had lots of friends go through the other side of the stick - they've waited and waited for a natural birth to deliver and the midwives and doctors were very reluctant to allow a c-section and only did so when there really was no other option. In fact my friends are slightly criticizing of the fact that the hospital kept pushing for a natural birth. My gynae had told me from the start that due to an op I had done previously, I would most probably deliver by c-section. Thankfully he was very optimistic that a natural birth would be allowed, and though not there during the delivery, it was possible. Can you change gynae? You do have to keep yourself calm but I understand that your issue and it is just not right!

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    1. Gozo does apparently have a much lower section rate. Will most certainly be changing gynae!

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  3. kle....have you considered changing your obstetrician? i can assure you, not all obstetricians in malta are scalpel happy. if there is no indication for an induction or a c-section, then you should not have one.

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    1. I will definitely be changing gynae, however after everything she's told me, and the "standard" MDH procedure eg being admitted to hosp when waters break whether or not contractions are happening, and waiting to be induced within a few hours - I just generally don't feel safe at MDH at this point. I don't know who will end up taking care of me, or what their attitude is towards natural birth. And I've seen the very smooth bullying techniques - who in their right mind is going to argue over the wellbeing of their baby if a doc tells you the baby is in distress? And yet I don't trust them to not throw that and other similar "reasons" around willy nilly, perhaps simply because they've gotten bored of waiting around for labour to end. I know it sounds absurd, I know it sounds like I'm being paranoid, but at my gynae appointment yesterday, it literally went exactly as I expected it to. She may as well have been reading off a script I had handed her. I wish she had surprised me, but between the misinformation and the blatant lying to my face, she proved me right yet again.

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    2. Having said this, there has been one name that's come up three times since this morning in recommendations, and he is my plan B. I only wish I had some more time to be able to get comfortable with my options.

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  4. I really hope this gets sorted out for you! I'm looking at the opposite when I have a baby in the UK. I already know that I need a c-section due to my medical history, and I think I'll have a real fight on my hands. I think the deeper issue is the lack of choice, wherever you are. Why are women still being dumbed down by medical professionals?? x

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    1. I remember you mentioning this. I'd say that if you are armed with information, they may pay more attention. Plus if it is due to medical history, they cannot (and won't) tell you otherwise. Though you can always claim to be super terrified of natural childbirth and they may be more lenient.

      As for women being dumbed down... ugh, don't get me started! God complex!

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  5. So sorry to hear about all this. I am Maltese and my first birth was induced pretty sure unnecessarily. Its a long story which if you care to know I will one day tell you :) I am glad that things seem to be sorting themselves up for you. It angers me how many women in Malta just let go without a fight or just leave it in the doctor's hands or refuse to see any different solutions for fear and many many more. but I do trust it will slowly change. Wish you the perfect birth full of love and calmness.

    I would appreciate if you can contact me on my email. I am just about to get certified as a breastfeeding counselor but would love to know also about the gynis in Malta and would love some info on your experience. Thanks and lots of love

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    1. There is a lot of trust in doctors here which seemingly gets abused. No one wants to be in a situation where they are being told their baby's life is at risk and they are calling their doctor a liar. Even I wouldn't have. But if the doctors abuse that trust, how do you know? It's a very sad situation to be in.

      Emailing you now.

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  6. I'm so sorry to hear of all your frustrations but really glad things are looking up for you finally.

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Penny for your thoughts, my dear...

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