My birthing story starts 18 months prior to the arrival of our amazing little guy “William Sunny”.
On the 24th of June 2015, I delivered my first beautiful babe Amelia via a caesarean section. This experience was everything I didn’t want and plan for. I was prepared physically and mentally for a natural, drug free, unassisted birth. My husband and myself had dedicated a weekend to undertaking Calm Birth, we had worked out a birth plan and I had planned out in my head what the arrival of my first baby would look like. All of this was taken away when I went to my weekly regular check up with the Obstetrician.
At this appointment, the doctor initially expressed concerns about the size of the baby and my blood pressure was elevated. I was sent to the hospital for bloods, urine sample, blood pressure monitoring and a fetal heart scan. The fetal scan showed baby wasn’t as active they would have hoped and admitted me to hospital for bed rest. At 6pm when the doctor did his rounds, he indicated that my bloods were of concern and that he believed baby needed to come out sooner rather than later. I was 37.4 weeks. At this point my husband was not yet at the hospital and I started to panic. The doctor assessed me to see if my body for favourable to be induced, however my body was not ready. The only option was a caesarean. I was prepped for theatre; I still waiting for my husband to arrive and my anxiety was heightened. All that was running through my mind was “I’m not ready to have a baby yet, I still have a few weeks to go”, “this is not what I had planned.” At 8.20pm my baby girl was “born.” After birth the doctor diagnosed me with HELLP syndrome. A condition that is only associated to pregnancy, with little information about what causes it but can make you critically unwell very quickly.
The birth of Amelia was very traumatic for me; I mourned not having the natural birth I had wanted. I felt guilty that I could not provide my baby the best possible start in the outside world. Although I loved her, I did not bond with her immediately. At day three post birth the “three-day blues” kicked in and they did not go away. My anxiety was always heightened and everyday tasks were difficult, I had no joy in becoming a mum. I had post-natal depression. This took a long time to ease, for my emotions to become stable and life to become manageable again. About seven months later I was being to feel semi-normal again, and begun to become the mum I had hoped I would be.
A few months later I discovered I was pregnant again. This wasn’t a part of the plan. My body and cycle had not gone back to normal, so we did not think there was any chance of falling pregnant. This discovery was a huge shock. The timing was wrong. It was too soon between babies and I was about to celebrate my 30th birthday. I spent the first eight weeks emotionally eating and crying my way through first trimester nausea.
When I went to the GP to confirm I was pregnant, I decided I needed some emotional support. I was linked into an amazing Psychologist Cath Corcoran. I spent time with her working through my initial experiences, and she helped me find ways to begin to connect with my baby. Cath suggested yoga as a means of having time for baby and me. I was recommended to try yoga with Erin Mieszkowski from Womb 2 Move. From the initial conversation with Erin I knew this was what I needed. Erin listened to my story and empathized with my experience of post-natal depression and associated anxiety. During my time with Cath I decided I want to try for a vaginal birth after a caesarean (VBAC). After a chatting to Erin at yoga one night I asked her if she knew of anyone who would be suitable for birth support and was in favour of VBAC. Erin suggested Rosie Fitzclarence from Geelong Born. From the moment I spoke with Rosie I knew she was the right person to have on our team. She came out and spent time with my husband and myself. She actively listened to our hopes and desires for this birth, and her knowledge and experience was amazing. I was well supported in preparation for a success VBAC experience.
At around 37 weeks, I started to feel symptomatic of pre-eclampsia and I spent a bit of time at the hospital getting monitored. My anxiety started to heighten; I needed my body needed to make it past 37.4 weeks. Rosie’s support and reassurance during this time helped me to ask reasonable questions and logically work through my anxiety and decision-making. The hospital staff were well aware of my desire for a VBAC, and made me feel empowered and supported in working towards this. They made suggestions such as, a stretch and sweep at 38 weeks but were respectful of the decision I made which I declined. Through my work with Cath and discussions with Rosie, I knew that I needed to allow my body to spontaneously go into labour to ensure my chances of a successful VBAC. I had mentally prepared myself to get to 41-weeks, and if I didn’t go into labour I would be at peace if a caesarean was my only option.
At 39 weeks, I was feeling very, very over being pregnant and started to worry that my body wouldn’t be ready to birth my baby in time, before the hospital doctors would want to book a caesarean, Rosie continued to reassure me that my baby and body would know when the time was right. I started focusing on this. I used a mantra card that Erin had given us at yoga and played this over in my head “Just like my body knew how to grow this baby, my body knows how to birth this baby.” At my 39-week doctors appointment, I did decide to have a stretch and sweep, as it was the most natural form of intervention. However, at this appointment, the Obstetrician that completed the internal did not believe my cervix was yet favourable and suggested we try next week if I hadn’t already gone into labour. I was preparing myself for another week of being big and uncomfortable.
At 3am the next morning, I rolled over in bed to attend to my toddler, and I felt like I had wet myself… I stood up and realised my waters had broken. There was so much fluid I needed to shower. I rang Rosie immediately. She was so excited which immediately took away my fear of unknown. Rosie advised to call the hospital but encouraged me to try and rest at home for as long as possible, and to let her know when I was planning on going to the hospital. I called my mum to make her way to our place, I needed to know that my little girl was safe and happy before I could start to focus to delivering our little man.
About an hour after my waters broke, the contractions had commenced but they were very irregular. Once mum arrived I spent some time relaxing and preparing myself mentally in the bath. I played mediation music that I had heard weekly at yoga and began to focus on my breathing.
Around 9am we headed into the hospital, as I was classified as high risk, due to my previous caesarean birth and they wanted to begin monitoring me and baby closely. My contractions were very irregular and at this point the hospital did not consider me to be in labour… I was in labour… I felt every contraction, as infrequent at they were. During the initial contractions or “waves,” I focused on these waves helping to open my body and move baby down. I visualised a flower opening and focused on breathing down to baby, as Erin had taught us during yoga.
By about 11am I was taken to a room on the labour ward, Rosie helped us set up and make the room as comfortable as possible. During this time, I stayed very mobile. Walking, rocking, swaying my way around the room. We set up the TENS machine and I used it to support me during my contractions. Rosie left my husband and myself at this point, giving us some space and time together. After about an hour, my contractions were still irregular, the midwife decided to organise a room on the maternity ward for me, as no one knew how quickly I would progress. Once I went up to the maternity ward, my husband went home for while for a break, and my mum came and sat with me. At this point I was becoming tired and decided to lay down and rest. During that time my contraction went from being very irregular to 1minute on, 4 minutes off. Mum rubbed my arm and talked me through my breathing with every contraction. The intensity of the waves were increasing and it was becoming more difficult to breathe through the contractions. We waited for about an hour before calling midwife, she believed that my labour had now started and took us back to the labour ward. My husband came back and mum left.
For the next few hours I sort refuge in the shower, again we had the familiar meditation music playing, I swayed my hips between waves and used my husband as a physically support to hold me up during the contractions. After showering my husband was becoming concerned with the level of pain I was in, he wanted me to try and use “gas” to provide some relief. The midwife set it up, showed him how it was administered and left us to it. During my next contraction, he wanted me to try it however it needed to be breathed in and this was the opposite process to the breathing I had spent 9 months practicing at yoga. I couldn’t use the gas!
By 6pm Rosie had returned, the contractions were so intense I had reached the point where I’d had enough… a crisis of confidence. Rosie reassured me I was doing a great job and to continue focusing on my breathing. We decided that an internal examination would help determine the next course of action. I was 6cm dilated… I turned to Rosie and said “that means 4 more hours, I can’t do this! I need an epidural” Again she reassured me that I could and reminded me of my breathing. The pain in my back was too much to handle, and TENS machine was irritating me, so we took it off and Rosie directed my husband to massage my back.
I was still trying to stay as active as possible between contractions, swaying my hips. During the waves I was hunched over the side of the bed. I tried to visual some of the important and inspirational women in my life and their successful birthing stories. I kept reminding myself that my body knew what to do. I focused on keeping my jaw and shoulders relaxed. Erin had emphasized the importance to staying relaxed to ensure the pelvis would open up. My husband consistently told me how amazing I was doing and how proud of me he was. He played music that was familiar and of significant to us both.
The hospital midwife had been having some difficulty finding baby’s heart rate with the external monitor, as a result an internal one was required. By the time they had successfully attached the monitor and I became mobile again I felt very heavy.
Very soon after that I began to have the urge to push. During this initial pushing phase, I felt a very strong burning sensation and a little blood loss. Rosie helped me to remain focused on delivering my baby as I was so close. I used the proceeding contractions to guide me in pushing and I allowed myself to use my voice to be a strong “warrior Mumma.” After a short time of pushing, the hospital midwife requested I lay on the bed to deliver due to some blood loss appearing. It took me a while to find a position on the bed that made me feel as though I had enough power to push. Once I found that position, it was only a couple more almighty pushes, and our little man arrived into the world.
I did it! I birthed our baby, naturally, without intervention and drugs!
He was bought immediately to my chest. I had an instant connection with him. We had delayed cord clamping and my husband cut the umbilical cord when the time was right. The final stage of labour, birthing the placenta, took some time as I was really tired and the contractions were still intense. We spent time bonding with our little man. I required some repair after the birth however, my husband stayed with our little man, having skin-to-skin contact the whole time.
The birth of William was the most wonderful, painful, surreal, beautiful experiences of my life. I was very lucky to have an amazing team (Erin, Rosie and Cath) behind me and the on-going support of my husband who respected my desire to have a VBAC; because of the faith they had in me I felt empowered to birth my baby naturally.