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Jean Louise, mother of three (born 1965, 1967 and 1971), hometown Huddersfield

The first birth, the pains were like stomach cramps. I was given pethedine and gas and air, but it was impossible to use the breathing exercises as there seemed to be no pause between the pains. My husband was with me throughout (except during the shaving and the soapy water to empty the bowel). It was a very new concept at that time and it helped me deal with the pain and his wonder at our baby was just as great as mine. He was attending a different university from me and as the baby arrived on a Sunday morning he was home with me. I'd had to have an episiotomy and the pain from the stitches was terrible afterwards. Everyone in the ward had had an episiotomy and there was only one rubber ring. Whenever I sat up in bed to feed the baby, the pain from the stitches was dreadful. I could feed the baby perfectly well lying down, with him beside me, but the matron wan't having any of it and being young and new to it all I didn't want ot do anything 'wrong' in case it harmed my baby.

The second baby was born at home. This again was the norm. Again it was quick, but the gas and air ran out almost immediately so there was no pain relief. My husband helped by rubbing my back, but the midwife sent him out and then there was no relief. It felt as if someone had a hold of some vital organ and was pulling it out. If I'd had the means I would have killed myself as the pain was so terrible. It did end, however, though those 4 hours felt interminable and my husband was present when the baby was delivered. And it was wonderful to be in our own home and to be ''in charge' of the baby from the word go. The midwife had been determined not to let me tear and so I had no pain afterwards. She also called in or was available if I needed her for quite some time afterwards.

When I discovered I was having a third child I was really terrified. I didn't feel I could cope with that terrible pain again. Epidurals were very new and not available on the National Health Service. My mother rescued me. She paid for me to have my baby in a private maternity hospital where I was able to have an epidural. This allowed me to look forward to my child's birth. Labour pains started when I was at a friend's house scraping off wall paper. My husband was out on some other DIY errand, so my friend's father ran me to the hopital. My husband arrived soon after. The GP who was to deliver me took longer; I don't know what caused the delay. What I remember is that when he arrived they said he must hurry to give the epidural as my pains were really quite strong. I couldn't believe my ears. What they called strong labour pains were as nothing to what I'd endured with the other 2 babies. It was, however, bliss when the epidural began to work and all pain ceased. It was a problem that I couldn't push properly when the time came and there was huge anxiety as the cord was round the baby's neck. The staff all dealt with this, however, and I didn't realise until later. My husband was present throughout the birth. I don't think there was any shaving or soapy waater and there was cerainly no episiotomy. I think I stayed in for a few days; it was not like today when the mother is out within a few hours. I am sure the rest helped me cope with my new baby and the two boisterous boys when I got home.