It is nearly two years since my second son, Noah, was born and perhaps time I finished his birth story. There have been some difficult times during the past two years when I have thought of his birth. Whenever I read about a happy homebirth or VBAC story I find it difficult as, whilst my story had an incredibly happy ending, the journey didn’t happen as planned.
I am passionate about natural birth and am always happy for people who are successful in delivering their baby naturally (especially at home). However, my passion is now bittersweet for me as I can’t help feeling envious that I didn’t get the natural vaginal birth that, as a woman, I so longed for. While discussing this recently, I was reminded that there are women out there who may get their natural, vaginal birth but are still unhappy with their experience or grieve for something that they didn’t get during their birth journey. So, what is it with women? Are we focussing more on what we didn’t get than on what we did? Isn’t it understandable that when we put so much energy — physically, emotionally and spiritually — into something we want, we grieve when we don’t get it? Birth is such a pivotal point in all of our lives, but I believe the importance of the birth process is underestimated by the majority of society which is why we think we are wrong to feel sad, angry or upset. I feel we don’t talk about birth enough to allow the emotions to pass through and heal like they would if only we were more open about it. After all, not only is a new life is created, but as a baby is born, so too is a mother/father/guardian. So, yes — in my opinion, birth and the birthing journey is a big deal!
Now, in order to get you up-to-date with where I’m at in terms of Noah’s birth story, I have to brief you on my first experience of birth.
Oisín was a planned homebirth. My husband, Patrick, and I studied ‘Wholistic Psychology’ and one of the modules was ‘Conception and Birth Influences’, so we knew the importance of a gentle, smooth transition from inside the warm, safe comfort of Mamma’s womb into the reality of the cold, bright outside world. So, we therefore planned a homebirth, water birth and lotus birth. (A lotus birth is where the cord is left uncut and placenta remains attached until such a time that it naturally detaches itself. This usually takes anywhere from 3 to 7 days to occur and there are great physical and spiritual benefits to this. A good book to read is Lotus Birth by Shivam Rachana.)
I laboured from midnight on the Saturday when I had my ‘show’ until late in the afternoon on Sunday. I got to 10cm at home and spent quite a few hours at the pushing stage. My midwife even had me doing frog jumps and bunny hops down the corridor to help the baby come down! Roughly around midday, I requested to go to hospital (despite drugs or a C-section being the last thing I’d wanted in my birth plan). We decided to wait a couple of more hours and keep trying at home. After all, this is what I really wanted. However, at 3pm I was an emotional wreck and I requested the same again. Patrick believes that it was my inner wisdom kicking in — bless him! — although, at the time, I felt it was the cheat’s and easy way out. (I have since changed my view to the same as Patrick!!)
After transferring to Mt Barker Hospital, a VE was done by the OB that we’d met once (we were happy with him as we were told that he only performed C-Sections when they were absolutely necessary). He advised us that Oisín was posterior. With his position and my ‘android’ shaped pelvis I was told that a C-Section was my only alternative. By that stage I was happy to go ahead with that plan. I just wanted to be free from the pain and have a safe and healthy baby in my arms. In hindsight, who really knows if I could have birthed him naturally? With some rest and a new mental/emotional outlook then perhaps I could have. I’ve done all of the ‘what ifs’ and they could go on and on. Acceptance, here, is really the key; what got me through it was believing that it was all meant to be the way it was. Our babies choose their own birth and as much as we try to plan what we may want, in the end — or beginning!! — it is their journey as well as ours.
When I got pregnant again I started going to CARES meetings to deal with my grief over not getting what I wanted as well as my thoughts of ‘failure’. I researched all of my options again and planned for a second homebirth. Although it is all a little blurry now, this is what happened…
On the evening of 25 June, I started getting period-like pains around 9.30pm. I was due (according to my calculations) the next day. I’d been on the phone to my doula, Helen, getting advice on how to avoid a cold that I thought I was getting. Little did I know, I was getting more than a cold (I didn’t actually get one – phew!). A couple of weeks earlier I’d also woken up in the middle of the night with strong period like pains which didn’t turn into anything more, so I wasn’t 100% whether things were happening or not. So, after dosing myself up with herbs and vitamins, I tried to go to bed but couldn’t manage to get any sleep as these sensations were too strong to sleep through, but not strong enough to call labour. I was pretty excited and nervous at the same time. I moved through the sensations in bed until around 3.30am when I didn’t want to lay down any longer and found that getting up felt a lot better. As we co-sleep, I also didn’t want to wake up Oisín (who was nearly two) and it felt right that I could walk around and make noise if I wanted to. So, that’s what I did. Helen was the first to arrive at sometime in the wee hours of the morning. It was great to have her there. She was a real help with getting through the sensations as she pushed on my back in all of the right places. She also had her stash of homeopathic remedies that could help me through. I texted my midwife at some stage to let her know what was happening but I didn’t feel I needed her there yet as I had good support with Helen. I also called my good friend, Michelle, to come as she was our carer for Oisín. She was amazing as she kept me topped up with fluids (including her homemade lemonade) and also cooked a curry for the support team (she’s an amazing chef!).
Another support person, Ruby Johnson, who attended our last birth, arrived in the early morning and was a fantastic support. Ruby is a friend whom we have known for many years now; not only did she found The College for Actualising Human Potential, and develop and facilitate the Cert. IV and Diploma in Wholistic Wellness, but she is currently also Adelaide’s leader in the psychology of Wholistic Wellness and accelerated personal achievement, and has her own private counselling business. Ruby knows me well from my participation at the College and the private sessions I’ve had with her over the years, so this, coupled with her extensive birth knowledge, meant I felt blessed to have her there. Throughout the day Ruby did little processes with me to help me through the sensations, sometimes even by intensifying them — it sounds strange, but if we take control of the sensations instead of them having control over us, it is a lot more empowering and easier to cope with! I also had Ruby reading to me from a ‘program for childbirth’ which I had been using prior to the big day; it was full of positive affirmations and reminders of how the birth process should unfold. I remember it taking Ruby ages to get through this as she would stop every time I had a contraction! She also had me blowing bubbles in the pool (yes, a bit like a 5 year old would!) which really lightened the mood and helped my mindset and Oisín thought it was funny, too! Oh, the things we do!
Our midwife, Leonie, arrived around midday. By this stage we had the pool set up and I was having strong contractions every few minutes. We discussed doing a VE which, after much deliberation, I declined. I felt that if I did have a VE it may excite or disappoint me, so did not want to risk it given that the foetal heart rate was regular and I was doing well. (In retrospect, I wish that I had had the VE as it could have changed the whole thing. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing! Read on for more…!) I also felt like I was handling this labour a lot better than my first which isn’t surprising given that Oisín was posterior and probably a lot more painful! I also had my ‘show’ around this time, too. At about 12.45pm I got in the pool. Ohhh, what relief! Patrick got in with me at some stage which was really nice. He was a great support. Leonie suggested we call our backup midwife, Marijke — who arrived around 2pm — as perhaps things were getting close. Leonie thought that we didn’t really need Marijke there given the support that I had, but I wanted her to come because I think, on one level, I felt like I ‘owed’ her the natural birth that we didn’t get the first time.
By the time she came I was feeling a lot more like pushing, and then it happened! With my hand, I felt the head coming out and I was elated, to say the least! I remember yelling something like, ‘I’m doing it….I’m going to have my VBAC….Yipeeee!’ Little did I know! We then discovered that it wasn’t a head but the sac coming out. Argh, was I frustrated! I was also losing energy by this stage, so Leonie did a VE. She discovered a hand up above the baby’s head, so no wonder this was taking longer than expected! I then got out of the birth pool and shortly after felt a big plop! The sac fell right out of me on to the floor, in tact! I got on the birth stool and tried pushing there. Everyone was supporting me. The contractions were so intense by this stage and I was screaming this loud primal scream through them. I felt like I was out of control. I remember being told (by more than one voice) to breathe, breathe which really helped me refocus. I lost some blood and had another VE. They felt the hand but no head. I also wasn’t fully dilated so a transfer was now on the cards. It was 5pm. We decided to go to hospital to have an assessment and some pain relief. Marijke asked where my hospital bag was. Hospital bag? I didn’t have one packed. I was going to have a homebirth.
It was a mad rush to get everyone into their cars and get on our way. People were going everywhere trying to get what we needed. I remember feeling quite alone and thinking, ‘This isn’t happening fast enough!!’ Patrick drove Marijke and me, and again I sat in the back facing the back of the car so I could move through the sensations I was having as comfortably as one can in the car in full on labour! They were incredibly intense. It was like déjà vu except we were in a different car and going to a different hospital. I didn’t have my music to listen to this time, which I think would’ve helped but — oh well. This wasn’t meant to be happening. Marijke talked me through my options for when we got to hospital, but all I had on my mind was pain relief. These feelings were out of control. I also thought I was bleeding but it was my waters that had broken and were dribbling down my legs.
When we got to the emergency department (ED) we got out of the car and passed an ambulance. They asked if I wanted (or perhaps they suggested – I can’t remember!) a wheelchair but I responded with a very clear, ‘No, thanks — I’ll walk.’ There was no way I could or was going to sit down. So, we went to triage where we were asked how far apart the contractions were. I said something along the lines of, ‘We’ve been going at it for hours and nothing’s happening. You need to get me up to the labour ward ASAP. We’ve rung ahead and they’re expecting us.’ The male triage nurse wasn’t happy with this response and repeated his question. I couldn’t believe it. He also mentioned how we had pushed in front of three people in the line. Did I give a …..?? NO. And, I actually think they moved out of the way when they heard me screaming through one of my contractions (I was being pretty loud!). The ED was packed and I felt extremely self-conscious on one level, but didn’t care on another! I’m not sure what happened to the triage nurse (I think he went off to do something) but I do remember another female nurse came by and asked if were we being looked after. Umm, no, not really! So, she got a bed and told me to get on and then we were off to Labour and Delivery, THANK GOD.
At this stage I was on all fours and moving through my contractions still thinking, ‘This isn’t happening fast enough.’ Next, I was examined by an obstetrician who really bloody hurt and was then told that this baby wasn’t coming out naturally as it was breech — ‘WHAT?’ — and it was a foot in my vagina, not a hand — ‘WHAT?’ again! The other foot, by the way, was still in my uterus up by the baby’s head and I was only 4-5 centimetres dilated. BUGGER. No wonder nothing was happening. My poor little baby was doing the splits and there was no way I could’ve pushed it out. It makes me sad to think of it now as I had tried sooooo hard to get the baby out when 1) my body wasn’t even fully ready, and 2) the position of the baby made it virtually impossible. I’ve been told the only way I could have tried to birth my baby would have been if I got to 10cm and the other leg was brought down. I had tried and tried to push and all I had done was bruise the baby’s tiny foot and testicles as they bounced up and down on my cervix and vagina.
The next thing I remember being prepped for a C-section and the anaesthetist explaining the procedure to me. I asked him for the mildest anaesthetic he could give me to therefore reduce the amount of drugs my baby got. I distinctively remember him telling me that they may have to give me a general anaesthetic. ‘WHAT? NO WAY!’ was what I very clearly remember saying back to him. He explained why to me, but all I heard was, ‘Blah blah blah blah blah,’ and I again responded, ‘There is no way I’m having a general anaesthetic. I want to be awake when my baby is born.’ I couldn’t believe it. What was even more appalling was his attitude. He was extremely rude about it all and I felt like I was just another number to him — ‘NEXT!’… (When I debriefed with Leonie about this after the birth, I was pleased to hear that she had had words with him about his attitude and that she also put in a written complaint about this incident — apparently he thought that she had done the wrong thing by me/the system by supporting my plans for a homebirth when I had previously had a C-section. Well, I have news for you, mister; if I do ever get pregnant again, I will be trying again for another homebirth. Hmph!)
So, in I went to the theatre room, feeling extremely grateful for modern technology and very much looking forward to meeting my baby. There seemed to be a thousand people in there and it was nowhere near as pleasant as my previous experience, the difference being a bigger city hospital versus a country hospital, in my opinion. There was no music, the room was brightly lit and it felt cold and impersonal. I also remember when I was having one of my contractions and making the screaming noises that I was making, that one of the theatre staff gave me a funny look, a bit like she was thinking, ‘Oh, would you listen to yourself!’ in a mocking kind of way. I felt very small, like a child and, even though I only saw her out of the corner of my eye, I quickly looked away and buried my head into Leonie’s chest for comfort. I couldn’t believe it. Where’s the compassion people?!
It wasn’t long before our second son was born. Only this time, it was more frightening. They took him over to another area to resuscitate him and this scared the sh!t out of me. Patrick went with our son so that he’d have one of us there; in our birth plan we wanted our baby to be put straight on my chest — no washing or cleaning — and we wanted for Mum or Dad to be the very first person our baby saw, not some stranger that Bubs will never see again. I remember looking at Patrick wondering if our baby was going to live or die. I really wasn’t feeling confident, but had no idea why this was happening. I didn’t even know what sex the baby was, but wasn’t thinking of this at the time. Leonie had been standing by me during the whole procedure and explained everything that was going on; for this I am extremely grateful. I think she may have said that our baby was in shock. It wasn’t the labour that had shocked him, but more than likely the being born that way in a bright, cold sterile room, as right up till the procedure his foetal heartbeat was fine.
At some stage, I think Leonie told me it was a boy, then I heard him cry and felt a huge wave of relief wash over me. They then bought my beautiful boy over to me. He was wrapped in a blanket and oh, so beautiful. I just wanted to cuddle him soooo tightly! Lying down with drips in my arm and other monitors on my fingers made it quite a challenge, but I soaked him up all the same. Before I knew it. he was taken away again – off to the neonatal unit to be monitored. Bugger. He would have better off with me, but I don’t think I had any say in it. I had to stay there and be stitched up. Not happy.
I was then wheeled off into Recovery where I met up again with Ruby and Helen. They tried very hard to get into theatre with me, but no go. It was a push just to get our midwife Leonie in, and thank God she was able to come in — she pushed for the obstetrician to not cut the cord until it stopped pulsating. Again, we wanted a lotus birth but, although we requested it, it was denied. So, the next best option was to let the cord stop pulsating before the baby was ‘shocked’ into this world by the cutting of its lifeline of nine months and its connection with Mum.
I was so happy that at least Patrick was able to stay with our baby as it was an hour before I got to see my baby again and that was probably only because Helen and Ruby pushed for me to go to the neonatal unit to be with MY baby. I tried breastfeeding him there where it was so impersonal with every Tom, Dick and Harry around. Nevertheless, I was with my beautiful baby boy. My folks turned up and Oisín also arrived. What a joyous moment! I have a photo of me and Bubs and in this photo is Ruby and Helen who also taking a photo — the paparazzi were there! At one stage I vomited (this didn’t happen last time), which was a result of the drugs, in my opinion; I found out afterwards that the anaesthetist had given me some morphine which I didn’t have the first time. I can’t say that I was happy about this!
Finally, around 8pm, we were taken to a ward… Where I threw up again — while Patrick was eating his curry! (Sorry, love!!) But, it was nice to finally settle in with just my hubby and our new baby boy. While it was a full on day with a few highs and lots of lows, the final result was just what we were looking for: a healthy baby and a healthy mamma.
We stayed in the hospital for roughly four days; we had to push to stay this long. I think because I had come in from a homebirth all of the doctors thought I’d want to go home again straightaway. (Umm, hello? I have just had major abdominal surgery and would like some recovery time, please!) I was also a little freaked about going home to deal with a newborn bubba as well as a toddler, but when we did go home it was beautiful. The house had been cleaned and tidied and there was a big bunch of flowers waiting for me from my beautiful husband and Mum and Dad, bless them. It was just gorgeous being able to watch Oisín adore his new little brother in our lounge room.
So, there it is — my second birth story. What a journey it was and continues to be! So, thank you for reading it! And lastly, a big thank you goes to my beautiful husband, amazing birth team and gorgeous boy, Noah, for choosing me to be his Mamma.