<< Coming soon: Beth’s VBAC Story!>>
Our baby girl was due on 18 November, 2009. As with lots of first babies, her due date came and went. I was extremely large both in my bump and in myself, so I was very uncomfortable and impatient for our baby girl to arrive. Sleeping at night was impossible; I was only getting three hours a night, and I had very painful hips and severe reflux. I couldn’t walk very far and it wasn’t really walking, anyway — it was waddling! I was desperate for our baby to make an appearance soon, but it seemed she liked it a bit too much in there!
We had decided to have our baby through the birth centre at Flinders Hospital, as it was a midwife-based practice, encouraged not using pain relief and was a good way to avoid having an unnecessary Caesarean. We also hired a doula to help support Brian and me through the birth and to educate us on unnecessary interventions.
On our baby’s due date, we went in to get examined and have a stretch and sweep to get things moving. I was 1cm dilated, so we thought things would get going pretty quickly, but — as was standard — I was nonetheless booked in to be induced in ten days’ time just in case. In my mind there was no way I’d have to be induced – of course I’d have this baby before then!
One day passed, then two, then a week and still no baby! I was getting very tired and upset from being so large. The lack of sleep didn’t help; I would go to sleep at 10pm, wake at 12am, be up until 6am, and manage to fall asleep until 8am! We had another stretch and sweep, but still nothing happened. On Friday, 27 November, we were booked in to have my waters broken. Previously, I had been adamant that I would not allow myself to be induced, but by this stage I was so uncomfortable and tired I pushed those thoughts away. And, anyway, I was sure it would all go smoothly. I was so excited about meeting out baby that I had even more trouble than usual sleeping the night before!
We were all packed and ready to walk out the door when our midwife called to say that they had had a lot of admissions and wanted to wait until the next day. I was devastated and couldn’t help but cry. The thought of spending another long night awake alone was very distressing, but there was no other option. Although it seemed like forever, the time did pass and on Saturday morning we packed and left home with no problems.
When we arrived at the hospital, my midwife examined me and I was still only 1cm dilated. She broke my waters, which was not painful, and luckily they were clear so we didn’t have to worry about Bubs breathing in any poo. The thought that I would soon be meeting my little baby was amazing. While we waited for things to get moving, we drove to McDonald’s for some breakfast. No contractions had started, but my waters leaked so much that my pants and shoes were drenched! Luckily, I was wearing black pants so we were able to get back to the birth centre without getting any funny looks.
The contractions still hadn’t started by then (8.30am), so we went for a walk around the hospital. That was when I started feeling little niggly pains in my stomach. We went back and told our midwife, and then we headed home to get through the first part of labour in our own space. I went into our room, drew the blind and turned off the lights, then set pillows up on the bed so that I could lie in a forward propped up position.
The contractions became regular, but I was able to get through them by just lying there and groaning. I felt very sleepy and trance-like thanks to the good hormones my body was releasing to get me through. Eventually the contractions became more painful and I had to stand and lean against a wall, rotating my hips to get through them.
At this stage I was worried that maybe I was close to having the baby (ha ha!), but having not had one before, I didn’t know, so we called our doula for some advice. She came around and was concerned that Bubs might be posterior because I was getting lots of back pain, so we went for a walk to try to help her turn the right way. This involved walking (or waddling) along the bike track at Morphett Vale which was a bit of a trial for me! It was especially embarrassing when I had to stop for a contraction and hang off Brian while we were crossing Pimpala Road! It started to rain heavily, so we headed home. Our doula was confident I wasn’t close to giving birth, so she went shopping to give us some space.
Around 2.30pm, the pains were becoming really intense so we called our doula and, when she returned, I decided I wanted to head to the hospital. The contractions were around three minutes apart at this stage. We got to the hospital at 3pm and the walk from the car park to the birth centre took about fifteen minutes! I had four contractions on the way and, being daytime, there were quite a few people who had a look as I stopped to groan and moan! Brian ran also into an AFL player that he knew and stopped to have a chat with him, much to my disgust. I just kept walking and after he told Brian why he was there, he asked what Brian was doing there. When Brian replied, “My wife’s in labour,” he said, “Oh! I’d better let you go!” Brian quickly caught up with me, but I was too focused on the pain to tell him off and it made for a good story for afterwards!
Eventually we got to the birth centre and — not surprisingly — our doula had beaten us there. We went into the birth suite and my midwife examined me again; I was disappointed to find I was only 3cm dilated! I thought with all the pain that I’d be close to 10cm for sure. I asked to get into the bath, but it was thought that it would slow me down, so I did a bit of walking around and lay on the bed. Around 5pm they decided it would be okay for me to get into the bath and I thought it would give me a lot of relief, but unfortunately it didn’t.
Around this time, I remembered I was allowed to have gas and asked my midwife for it. They waited a little while because she was concerned it would slow down the labour, but when she did give it to me, the relief was tremendous! I was in love with the gas and thought that I was a bit of a comedian! It actually felt like a bit of a party, with me sitting in the bath tub and everyone hanging around listening to me. Around 6pm I started to feel a vague urge to push and my midwife told Brian to get the camera ready as the baby would be arriving soon. Little did we know…
Because it was the 28th November and my brother’s birthday was the 29th, I asked my midwife if the baby would come before midnight, to which both she and our doula replied, “Definitely!” I spent some time pushing and did a few poos in the water, but I didn’t realise I was so spaced out from the labour and the gas.
By 7.30pm, nothing had happened. Our midwife asked me to get out of the bath so she could check on things. I was fully dilated but had an anterior lip (a swollen portion of cervix, like a fat lip) that was stopping the baby from coming down. They took away the gas to help ‘speed things up’, which I wasn’t very happy about, refusing to relinquish the mouthpiece even though they’d turned off the gas cylinder! We tried me sitting on the toilet, squatting on the floor, leaning forward on the edge of the bed, but still no baby appeared!
By this stage I was exhausted and not coping with the pain very well at all. I felt like the pain was in control of me, rather than me in control of it. I asked for an epidural or Caesarean, as I didn’t feel like I could cope anymore. I didn’t really want a Caesarean; I just wanted to escape the pain. Anything to have some time to rest, rather than having to deal with wave after wave of pain without the time in between and or a chance to even breathe.
The doctor came in to examine me and recommended an epidural to try to stop me pushing and hopefully get rid of the anterior lip. A bit of rest for me was a good thing, too! By this stage I had been in labour for twelve hours and was definitely feeling it. I was moved from the birth centre to the labour and delivery ward which is equipped for epidurals and baby monitoring. It wasn’t as nice a room, but it was reassuring to see the baby’s steady heart beat on the monitor.
The anaesthetist arrived at 9.30pm to put the epidural in, and he was quite amused when I declared my undying love for him. Unfortunately, the epidural was patchy and didn’t give me full cover until 11pm; we had set a time limit of starting to push again by 12am, at which point the epidural started to wear off. I was examined again at this time and the lip had disappeared, so I started pushing with each contraction. It was a strange sensation as I couldn’t feel anything, but I gave it my all, as I was really hoping to get the baby out while the epidural was still working! I managed to pee all up my midwife’s arm, so I must have been doing something right, but by 1.15am bubs still hadn’t made an appearance, even though we could see the black hair on her head in the mirror when I was bearing down. So close, yet so far!
The doctor came back to do another exam, and — alas — the anterior lip had returned and bubs was still posterior. I asked if they could use the Ventouse, but she had a caput on her head which made that impossible and forceps were not an option with an anterior lip. I was feeling completely exhausted and beside myself; the contractions had ramped up again as the epidural wore off, they were back-to-back and I was pushing extremely hard involuntarily. The doctor recommended a Caesarean and I readily agreed — anything to escape the pain! By this stage I was becoming quite distressed and vomited on myself from shock and fatigue.
I then had to fill out the appropriate consents after hearing all the risks, which was very hard to do whilst experiencing back-to-back contractions. I still wonder how that can be considered ‘informed consent’. The epidural was topped up and again took a while to work, although thankfully not as long as the first time! We went into theatre at 2am and, as I was prepped, I lay there crying silent tears. The anaesthetist was wonderful and wiped them away without saying anything; just that kind touch meant a lot and made me feel that someone was watching out for me.
I was extremely afraid that I would feel the incision and surgery, but all I felt initially was the pressure of the scalpel. Around five minutes in, I started to feel strong sharp pain around my upper abdomen and cried out for the surgeon to stop. Thankfully, the anaesthetist stepped in and asked them to stop while he topped up the epidural. This gave me complete cover, and they continued. At 2.16am I felt some strong tugs and heard a beautiful outraged cry which caused me to burst into tears. Our beautiful girl had finally arrived and was happy to use her lungs! Prior to the Caesarean, I had asked the paediatrician if the baby could be placed on my chest, skin-to-skin if she was breathing spontaneously, so I was able to cuddle her straight away. My first thought was, ‘Wow, this is my baby!’ and my second was, ‘We are going to have to save up for a nose job for her!’ She was a bit squished up at first, but her nose is beautiful now, so no cosmetic surgery is required!
I cuddled her up on my chest and gave her a kiss, only to have my face covered in vernix. She stopped breathing, so I blew in her face a few times to get her going, but she wasn’t too keen to get started. I handed her over and watched as they rubbed her to get her breathing and checked her over. She was then handed back to me all wrapped up, although I would have preferred her skin-to-skin. I had thought I would feel more at this moment, but all I really felt was dazed and that the moment was surreal.
We headed to Recovery where, thankfully, the lights were dim and we could really look at our little girl. She didn’t really feel like ‘my’ baby, just this baby who had appeared and been put in my arms. This was one aspect of the Caesarean that I would have trouble processing later down the track, but at this point, I was just happy to have her safe and in my arms. We had our first breastfeed and then she got to have a cuddle with Daddy – in the photos she’s gazing up at him with wide, staring blue eyes as though to say, “Who are you?!”
After several hours in Recovery, we went to the ward and managed to sleep from 5-6am when the phone calls started, so that was the end of sleeping! Brian and I had decided on two possible names for our little girl — either ‘Reilly’ or ‘Ella’, and we decided on ‘Ella’. At this stage Brian must have felt sorry for me because he agreed to her middle name being Charlotte, even though that was one name that he didn’t overly like.
We had so many visitors in the afternoon and lots of cuddles and photos! Trying to shower that evening was a trial; Brian had to dry me off because I couldn’t do anything, but it was nice to just freshen up. Sleeping that night also didn’t work too well; I had sent Brian home to get some sleep and couldn’t walk myself, yet Ella basically cried all night and I rarely saw the midwives. The next day I told Brian he had to stay that night or else!
We were discharged on Wednesday with our little bundle; it felt so amazing to take our little girl home. It was as though we were only just starting to get to know this little person who had arrived in our lives with such a serious little face, and that she was our guest to entertain! Luckily, her idea of entertainment involved boobs, sleep and cuddles. What a life!
Ella’s labour and birth was the most intense, powerful, terrifying and beautiful experience I have ever had. I have since suffered from some major grief issues and post-natal depression due to the unexpected and traumatic aspects of the birth, which is how I came across CARES. I am really keen to try for a VBAC with my next child, and am so glad I will have their support on my next birth-journey!