My first child was born in hospital, me aged 24, and 10 days overdue, I was anxious with the pains and so admitted overnight, 10 hrs before contractions really started (I didn't realise this at the time), I was given Mogadon, which made me hallucinate. The really sad experience was that were some women on the same ward who were miscarriaging (and not for their first time) and it was so upsetting for them to see us waddling around really healthy but just waiting for our natural time to come. During the labour 10 hrs later, I was bedbound strapped to vaginal/foetal monitors on the baby's head, and other equipment. This meant I was completely immobile and lying flat, I tried to cope with the pain through gas and air, but in the end I succombed to pethadine. The midwives were amazing and very supportive and I felt safe in their hands, I had an episiotomy which was not a problem and healed quickly, but had lots of salt baths. In those days everyone was in hospital for 10 days, which was the norm, it sort of reassured me, but it also made me very reliant on 'experts' and I almost became institusionalised and for the first 5 days at home I was so scared of being on my own with my little baby, but of course I coped. I remember the Ante natal classes with the local clinic were ok, but dependent on the community midwives, who could be a bit fixated and a little bizarre at times. I also attend NCT ante natal classes, which sort of helped but also made it rather 'middle class cosy' and didnt seem to help when trying to do the breathing, it still hurt like hell and I still panicked!'
With my second baby 2.5 years later, I felt more relaxed yet anxious about the pain. I attended the same hospital, again I was overdue, and at the last ante-natal clinic, there was concern about the baby's weight and heartbeat, but after being placed on a monitor for a few hours I was sent home. I tried to delay my admission to the hospital the second time by staying at home longer, and was in the labour ward at a shorter length of time. Still I was bed bound by monitors, I remember being annoyed by the male consultant who breezed in at one point and appeared to dismiss the expertise of the midwife and seemed to be there for his own end goal rather than relating to me, my personal details and the pain I was experiencing at that minute, I remember cursing his patronising manner as he left in between the contractions. My labour was thankfully uneventful, again I had pethadine and an episiotomy. The midwives were marvellous. I was only in hospital for 3 days this time which again was normal practice. Experienced mums made use of this and went out on night 3 with their husbands/partners knowing that this was probably going to be the last night they would have free baby sitting for a while(obviously older siblings were looked after by 'grannies' at home). I didnt make use of this. I think I was very conscious that there was a lack of female obstetricians, luckily I didnt have complications so didn't rely on male Obs, but related much more favourably to female midwives and would have preferred a femal obs had I have been given the choice at the time. It would read that options are much more available now, but at the time I felt the only way to give birth was horizontal and wired up, after reading since then, I wonder if I would have enjoyed my delivery better if I could have walked around and let gravity take its course with the support of the experts of course.
My husband attended on both occassions. He was born in the 1940s so has a different experience of the NHS from mine. He has commented that he was made to feel very welcome during the birth of both our babies and was so glad he attended he felt part of the whole birth experience. He says that he was encouraged to participate as much as he wanted and wasn't made to feel uncomfortable if that wasn't for him. He bonded with his children straight away. He commented that it was such a more positive experience since his experience as a child in hospital for 9 months in the early 1950's and not allowed to see his parents more than once a week, and when his mother and father were seriously ill in the mid 1960's and he wasn't allowed access nor information.