Rosemari Bainbridge is a mum of two, aspiring midwife, and completing her PhD at the University of Cambridge. One Way or Another: An A-Z of Real Birth Journeys is part of her long-running fundraising project “672 Hours” with all money from sales being donated to Wellbeing of Women.
Rosie penned the book to conquer widespread fears of sharing birth stories and to start a conversation about women’s healthcare.
“In One Way or Another parents recall not just the physical events of childbirth, but their emotional journeys – how they felt from the twinge of that first contraction to those first hugs with their new arrivals. These stories explore – anonymously, honestly, and just for you – labour’s highs, lows, and everything in-between. Without considering what is or isn’t appropriate to share. Without interruption. And with a frank openness that exposes a kaleidoscopic snapshot of childbirth in all its crowning glory,” said Rosie.
“The “facts” of each labour are not the focus of each story. Instead, contributors recall the emotions that they experienced during labour and the effects of what took place. In short, they relive their birth journeys and how they felt, every step of the way.
“This book has three main aims. The first is to allow parents to share their birth stories uninterrupted. No quips of, “It couldn’t have been that bad!” or “My friend had that!” or “So you didn’t manage without pain relief?”… Or, for the ultimate guilt inducer, “At least you have a baby.” For some contributors, this piece of writing is the first opportunity they’ve had to share their birth journey in full. For some, their contributions contain those “hidden” emotions, those “secret” feelings that they believe (for whatever reason) they shouldn’t or aren’t allowed to feel.
“The second is to show just how unique childbirth is for every parent. Contributors boast an array of social, religious, economic, and cultural backgrounds, ages, routes to pregnancy, countries of birth, health conditions, and number of previous birth experiences. The variety of expectations, outcomes, and reactions is staggering and the scope of what “normal” childbirth can look and feel like is thrown into sharp relief.
“The third and final aim is to begin forging a language of childbirth – not just to list chronological, physiological happenings, but to describe how labour feels, at every stage, in all manner of circumstances. I wanted to shout from the top of the postnatal ward about what a huge achievement it is for a woman to give birth – whether the experience was loved, loathed, boring, underwhelming, overwhelming, thrilling, numbing, or any combination of these emotions and more. I want this book to lead the way in developing a language of childbirth in which we can all be fluent. And if, in the meantime, we can raise some money for a charity that supports labouring women, their babies, and their families, then so much the better.”
Extract from Birth Story T. This mother is currently in active labour with twins arriving almost three months prematurely.
I’ve spent a few hours with the midwife (one of two, the other’s at a computer… I think… Typing notes? Monitoring the three of us?… She’s a blur). My labour is now fully underway. In the midst of a contraction and pushing and inhaling gas and air, she tells me that it’s now a shift change and that she’s off…
WHAT THE HELL?!
In walks the most beautiful woman – my new midwife. I’m half-naked, sweaty, sleep-deprived, and this gorgeous young woman with immaculate make-up walks in.
“Hi! I’m Katy!” she says, far too sunnily for my mood. I barely say hello.
“Who the f**k?!” I think. “I don’t care who you are! I want the other midwife back! I’m in the middle of active labour and you bound in all chipper and ‘Nice to meet you!’” None of which I actually say out loud – I’m normally a nice person and fortunately still have functioning inner monologue. She seems like one of those millennials who are overly enthusiastic about everything. I feel like she should be serving me coffee in a way-too-trendy café in Shoreditch.
The pain of labour isn’t what I’ve anticipated. The contractions are like period pain that just gets more and more intense, and just at the point where you can’t bear it for a moment longer, it fades away. It’s like a sea of discomfort building to a wave of incredible pain that washes over you… And then it’s gone. What I wasn’t expecting was the pain that came with the active labour. Not the ripping, tearing, agonising pain that I was expecting, but the pain of sheer physical effort. That pain of burning muscles that are screaming at you with the exertion. With it comes the focus you get in a major workout when you’re pushing yourself to the limit. Just when you think you’ve given everything you have, when your muscles scream and you think you’ve got nothing left, your glamorous personal trainer Katy says to you, “Keep going, you’re doing amazingly, push push push!” and you go for ten more seconds than you thought you had in you. Then you collapse back for a couple of minutes, maybe you fall asleep (didn’t think that would be possible but that’s exactly what I’m doing!) I’m in a zone of concentration, effort, burning, pushing, and pain. All I can hear is Katy, my focus is completely on her instructions and the pure physical exertion of my labour. Katy encourages me, guides me, tells me I’m doing amazingly, congratulates me after every round of pushing. She’s transforming in front of me into my absolute hero.
Rosie lives on social media as @rosies672hours.
Rosie is donating proceeds to Wellbeing of Women.
She said: “Without the type of medical research funded by Wellbeing of Women, there’s a strong chance that neither myself, nor my children would be alive today. I chose to support Wellbeing of Women because the charity supports women and their families at every stage of life, focuses on life-changing as well as life-saving research, and is transparent about where their money is spent and the results achieved.”
You can purchase One Way or Another: An A-Z of Real Birth Journeys on Amazon.