My birthing journey started long before my labour. In fact, it started before my pregnancy. My first daughter, ‘Moosh’, was born via emergency cesarean after a long labour and traumatic set of circumstances. My grandfather (who I lived with for 15 years) passed away three days before my ‘due’ date, and surges started almost instantly. Six hours later my membranes released, and my daughter was born 42 hours later via emergency cesarean after a huge spiral of intervention: Syntocin, gas, epidural, attempted vacuum before losing her heartbeat and rushing in for a cesarean… and for almost four years I relived the labour and birth with fear, regret and disappointment, and worked my way through motherhood clouded by birth trauma and post-natal depression. So much so that I thought I wouldn’t be able to face the idea of birthing again, and my partner, Michelle, agreed to birth the next baby – we tried to conceive for a few months in 2011 but after a lot of heartache from both of us we knew it wasn’t what we wanted. She didn’t want to birth, and I desperately wanted to.
So we took a break, and started again in 2012. It was meant to be, and we were pregnant first go! WOW! And OMG! And … what have I done? Now I’ll have to birth. What would I do? My options as I saw them were – scheduled cesarean or VBAC. Initially, I told Michelle I thought I wanted a repeat cesarean I wanted some control. I thought that a cesarean scheduled by me, planned and orchestrated exactly as I wanted it to be, would be my healing birth. Could I really face the prospect of the same labour as Moosh and then just have it end in another cesarean? Could I deal with that disappointment again?
I knew a VBAC was what I wanted though. But I was so fearful. I was so fearful that I would try and fail, like the first time I tried so hard for the perfect natural birth I wanted to have for myself and Moosh and failed. I tried so hard to justify my choice of a scheduled cesarean to Michelle, who saw right through me and knew it was not what I wanted. It was not what she wanted either; last time, my recovery was long and my depression was deep. I have a lot of friends who have had a VBAC, and so did my mum, and with their support I began planning my VBAC…
I spent a lot of time online, researching the guidelines surrounding VBAC in hospitals in Queensland, Australia. I consulted a private midwife who gave me independent advice, and I also read almost every VBAC story possible on the BWF webapge and also on Birthtalk, a Brisbane support group for mums with birth trauma.
A friend (Cass, who would become my birth support and awesome birth photographer!) had done HypnoBirthing for her two VBAC’s, and that’s where my journey really began. I rang the instructor, Leanne Jackson (www.hypnobirthing.net.au), often with my fears and she eventually (and probably with some frustration and concern that I could truly hold so many fears about birth!) told me that I needed attend the first class NOW, at 20 weeks, because I would not be able to properly plan my calm birth experience until I let go of my first birth. We attended the class and came out of it energised. I felt an instant connection with Leanne and our beliefs aligned perfectly so she was able to talk me through my first birth and explain it in such a way that I felt infinitely better. We continued with the classes two months later, and Michelle and I worked together on the exercises and meditations. The classes were in Beachmere, right on the water, and it felt very peaceful – like my fears could be washed away by the salty breeze and I would be left cleansed. I listened to the birth affirmations often. We were able to be open with each other about our fears and it brought us closer. My birth expectations moved from ‘VBAC’ to ‘calm birth’, and I released my fear of another cesarean because holding that fear would be silly since it was always a possibility with any birth, although I unfortunately held my fear of not being able to birth. The affirmation I felt strongly drawn to was the one I struggled with the most – ‘I trust my body to know what to do’. How could I trust in this body, that couldn’t even dilate past 4cm without drugs last time…?
My pregnancy was not without a little bit of unwelcome excitement. I got to visit the birth suite multiple times through 2nd and 3rd trimester. I had a small leak of fluid at 24 weeks, which the Ob attributed to an infection, and was told all the worst case scenarios, like pPROM or a uterine infection. I had another fluid loss at 28 weeks. And a bleed at 34 weeks. I had the support of the hospital for my VBAC until 28 weeks, when I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes and they decided that I probably had undiagnosed GD last time. And then when they saw the weight of my first baby (8lb 6oz – 3790g) they started talking about probable macrosomia and that they would want me to birth by 38/39 weeks. When I went on insulin at 32 weeks, they sent me for a scan and mentioned “delivery around 37/38 weeks”. I worried about the scan, knowing how notoriously inaccurate they are in the third trimester. The whole saga of infection, fluid loss and diabetes made it really difficult for me to embrace my affirmations and trust that my body knew what to do… I mean, quite clearly my body was struggling with the pregnancy. Would it know how to birth when the time came…?
Maternity photo shoot on Bribie Island – 33 weeks
Photos by Jane Gilbey Photography
My family of three, soon to be four
But my body was not defective – the 34 week scan worked in my favour, showing a perfectly healthy and average baby on the 63rd percentile. I was tested and had no infections at 34 weeks. After 4 weeks on insulin and weekly acupuncture, my body got its act together and at 36 weeks I was able to come off the insulin, just in the nick of time too! The Obs were happy with it all after that and were generally easily placated at appointments, and I just kept travelling in the direction of my VBAC. I was also having some really good pre-labour that allowed me to practice my HypnoBirthing breathing and meditations.
At 37+5 the Obs at the hospital wanted to do vaginal exams and strip my membranes. I declined, but consented at 38+5, mostly because I was curious as to whether or not all my pre-labour had amounted to cervical changes. I still had not embraced the trust I needed to have. I was more than a little disappointed with my ‘Modified Bishop Score’ of 1… The strip did nothing, not even any cramping. Little Jellybean was very comfortable. I had another exam at 39+5, my score this time was 3 however my cervix was so high and posterior that this doctor couldn’t even do a stretch and sweep – she could barely do the exam. Ugh! I resigned myself to being pregnant forever, which was unnecessarily dramatic considering I wasn’t even ‘due’ yet… lol
My mum came up the next day – 39+6 – she had taken 5 days off work to come keep me sane. I had asked her, back in April, if she would be one of my support people. Not only because she was my mum, but because she had a successful VBAC in 2001 and having people around me who knew that VBAC was possible was important. She had taken on a lot of work in November and we all worried she wouldn’t be able to be up for the birth, the only time she could get off was these five days… not only that, but my other birth support, Cass, was unavailable at 40+1-40+3… so I had the smallest and most unlikely window of opportunity to birth this baby with both of my support people around me…
My body had sent me lots of signals that I needed to trust that it knew what to do. It grew a perfectly healthy baby, kept the diabetes under control, my blood pressure and weight gain was perfect throughout the whole pregnancy… and at midnight right on 40 weeks my body went into spontaneous labour – only 12 hours after my mum arrived! It’s like my body was saying “HEY, TRUST ME, I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!”
Labouring at home
I had felt some niggles the evening before (39+6), starting at around 8pm. They felt slightly different to the pre-labour I’d been having, but nothing worth getting excited about. We were watching Finding Nemo with Moosh when I said to mum that I felt a bit funny, and she said I was probably dehydrated and that I should have a big drink of water and go to bed. I joked that I was going to wake her up really early and pretend I was in labour, and she said she wouldn’t get up if I did that… I went to bed exhausted (having mowed the lawn that morning, haha!) and slept through what was probably a little bit of early labour until just before midnight when my first intense surge woke me up. I laid in bed, breathing through it, a little shocked to be woken. After another one, I decided to watch the clock for a bit and I had 6 over the course of an hour – 10 minutes apart, all consistently 40 seconds long and a very deep squeezing and pulling sensation that I knew was *it*.
At around 1-2am it was getting uncomfortable to stay in bed so I got up, and messaged Cass because I was excited (although I probably should have just let her sleep!). I woke Michelle up to let her know and she got up with me until 3am, when I sent her back to bed. I sat outside with our gorgeous Labrador Sasha, who sat with me through each surge. It was so peaceful on my rocking chair with my iPod on repeat and my dog-doula at my side. I watched the sun come up and took myself down into a meditation and tried to harness the energy of the new day. Once the sun came up at around 4.30-5am Sasha started to get a bit sooky and whiney and protective, and wanted to sit ON me through the surges, so I went back inside, tried to lay down in bed to rest for a bit but it was quite uncomfortable. Michelle got up with me and we had some ‘together’ time, just hugging and smiling and she massaged my back. The surges were getting a little closer together, coming around 8-9 minutes apart at 6am. I could breathe through them easily without any support or cues, although they were taking a little more effort to focus on the breath rather than the sensations. When I felt one building I felt restless, and I would seek out a quiet spot, a wall or a corner, and close my eyes and go into myself. I remember thinking that I was acting like a labouring cow – literally! – who was trying to find the most isolated and safest part of the paddock to birth in.
At 6am I messaged Cass again, and Michelle and I made pancakes. I woke my mum up, telling her I was in early labour and that there were pancakes if she was hungry. She opened one eye, said “yeah right”, and rolled back over. HAHA! I said “no, mum, I’m serious…”, but she wasn’t convinced. I heard Michelle laughing in the kitchen, and I called out “I don’t know what I can do to make her believe me… maybe if I just have the baby right now…?!”. Mum eventually got up after my next surge, still not fully convinced! We ate pancakes between surges, and Michelle called her sister to get her to come and take Moosh.
Things frustratingly slowed down when Moosh got up, and then again when Michelle’s sister arrived to take Moosh at around 7-8am. I needed them out of the house, and Michelle could sense this, so she sent them away quickly. Things stayed around 10-15 minutes apart for an hour or two. I got cranky and had a cry, thinking it was all just pre-labour, doubting my body again. I walked around the garden, and then had a nap. Michelle sneakily messaged Cass and told her we needed her to come, even though I kept saying that I wasn’t ready to have anyone else here. Things picked back up around 10am(ish) when I got on the treadmill and did a slow walk for 30 minutes. The surges were getting more intense and I needed the physical cue of someone’s hand on my neck – my HypnoBirthing cue to relax and breathe. Michelle or my mum would jump in as soon as they noticed a surge coming on and keep their hand on my neck until I was ready for them to let go.
Cass arrived and things were getting faster again. Michelle, mum and Cass made spinach and fetta pie for lunch and things were going quickly at this stage. Cass kept saying that we might need to go before lunch was ready, which made me excited to think I might be close to birthing. Things were getting more intense but not difficult to work through. I remember being like a restless cow during this stage again, and retreated to various parts of the house during a surge. Cass had her camera and was taking photos; during a surge I was oblivious to the sound of the camera, but if I was coming out of one and I heard the shutter I would have a little giggle and feel self-conscious.
Lunch time, and me in awe of the changes my body was going through
– as labour progressed, the top of my belly got squishier and squishier as my baby moved down
Mum supporting me through a surge as Shel looks on
We were still home when the pie was done, and I ate even though I wasn’t overly hungry, knowing it was important to keep my energy up. Things slowed down again. I was worried about the position of the baby – it felt like she was pushing down on the front of my pelvis and I worried she was stuck at the top. It reminded me of my labour with Moosh. I chucked a little tanty, and had a cry because I thought maybe my body wasn’t going to let my baby move down and out. I got cranky, then Cass got cranky that I kept comparing this labour to my last labour. I had another little nap, cranky and frustrated. Not a long nap, because I’d told everyone that I needed them to make me stay upright and active.
Things picked up very quickly after my nap. I vaguely recall vomiting a few times and moving around the house a lot, between midday and 4pm, and at around 4pm-ish I had ate again. Things got really intense from there and I didn’t have much of a concept of time, as I stayed inside myself. I was quite vocal, and found that focusing and visualising the sound moving down and out through my cervix helped get through each surge. I used an affirmation card that a friend made for me as a focus point, and that helped a lot.
Sarah made this affirmation card for me from a photo she took
I had planned to stay quiet and calm, because last time when I got vocal I actually ended up hysterical and losing it emotionally, but it was different this time – vocalising felt like a natural response to the surges and making the low ‘ahhhhhhhhh’ moans made me feel more grounded and connected, so I just went with it. I needed a lot of touch and cues to breathe, relax, shoulders down. Cass said I was like an octopus, and they knew I was having a surge when I threw my arms around trying to reach for someone. I felt like I was in a safe bubble when I was near Michelle, and burying my head in her shoulder during a surge was where I felt safe and relaxed. I think at one point everyone thought I’d have the baby at home, and Cass actually whispered to me “do you plan on having the baby at home” and I laughed although I’m sure it was a totally serious question. I didn’t plan on it, although she knew I wouldn’t have minded!
My mum behind me with hands on my shoulders (HypnoBirthing cue to relax)
and Michelle in front of me holding my hands and my iPod
Safety in my partner’s arms
There came a point, around 8-9pm where I went through my ‘crisis point’. I was convinced I wasn’t in ‘real’ labour. Hilariously, I also decided that I had had enough of being in labour, because it was too hard. Transition is very funny in hindsight! The surges were tight, and stretchy, and pully, and lots of pressure. I felt movement down, and fullness. I lost it for a bit, vomited a few times, cried, and decided I wasn’t in labour, that if I went to the hospital they’d say that nothing was happening. I had a split second where I was squatting next to my bed in between surges and I contemplated just going to the hospital to have another caesarean because I didn’t want to do this anymore. I remember saying that I was going to crawl under the bed and hide. Then I wanted to hide in my walk-in wardrobe. It seemed totally logical to me that I could just run away and hide from it all in a dark corner!
A few surges were painful as I battled the thoughts in my head and let fear and tension take over. I dreaded each of those surges and fought the build up instead of relaxing and breathing. I am grateful that I was able to use the Hypnobirthing techniques and my whole labour wasn’t like that!!! Except for the few times when I resisted a surge and tensed up, the rest of my labour was very intense and pully and crampy, but not painful.
I’m not sure how long that lasted, maybe an hour or two, but once I had recomposed myself I remember knowing that now was it. I knew I needed to be in the place where I was going to birth. I was ready to get in the car and go to the hospital. In fact, I said I was ready to go, and then I was sitting in the car with mum wondering why Michelle and Cass were taking so long. Luckily they didn’t tell me why they were taking their time – Michelle had rung the hospital and the midwife said since my surges weren’t very close together then it was probably a bit early to go to the hospital. That would have definitely shattered my confidence and Michelle knew it.
Labouring in the hospital
The drive to the hospital was bliss. I was expecting an excruciating ride but with my iPod and holding my mum’s hand I enjoyed the bumps and turns and used them to focus on instead of the power of each surge. The drive was so easy I was worried that maybe it really was just pre-labour, or at most early labour, and I contemplated telling Michelle to just drive around for a bit as I was so comfortable. We arrived at the hospital and I had a surge at the car, and another in the lift. I stood in the lift as someone held the door open until I was done.
We got to the birth suite at about 10.30pm, and I felt nervous. I smiled at the midwife and felt suddenly very self-conscious that I wasn’t wearing a bra! Bit silly considering how much she would see eventually… The midwife showed us to the birth suite, and had a quick chat between another surge. She stood and watched a surge, and I felt ‘watched’ and quite uncomfortable… where was my dark corner!?! Last time I could barely find a midwife when I needed one, and this midwife was in the room, sitting and watching us, more often than she was out of the room! She took my birth intentions sheet, and told us she’d be back in a bit. She read it, and it was evident in everything that she did. After the birth another midwife on the ward told me I had “hit the jackpot” with that midwife, apparently she was a bit of a VBAC queen and had no fear of the Obs, and it showed! It was around 10.30-11pm when she did an exam. We had on our birth intentions sheet that Michelle would be the only one to tell me the results of any exams, so they went out of the room and then came back in and they both had massive smiles on their faces so I knew something was right! I cried when Michelle told me I was 8cm, that her head was “right there”, and that there was a lot of pressure and my membranes would probably rupture very soon. MY BODY WAS WORKING! I felt renewed strength, pride and a bit of awe at the amazing work my body and baby had done. And the emotional work I had done to get that far.
Relaxed at the hospital @ 8-9cm
Initial monitoring showed a happy baby, and the midwife was happy to allow me to be off the monitoring and go to the toilet. The monitoring didn’t bother me like I worried that it would – I didn’t even notice it and the sound of the heartbeat was a good focal point – and they were happy for me to stand and move so I agreed to go back on. I didn’t really want to move around, I just wanted to be up and off the bed, and the midwife brought the birth stool over and I had a lovely little corner set up for me.
My waters released a little bit after and there was meconium in there, so the midwife told me that there might have to be a slight change of plans. I waited for her to say that I would need a caesarean, but she just said that the baby would need suctioning at birth by the paediatrician, but that she would just be across the room and she would be brought back to me straight away. I worried for a bit about if she would be ok, but both mum and Cass were quick to reassure Michelle and I that it wasn’t all bad, and that both of them had dealt with VBAC bubs born through meconium liquor, and all had turned out ok. The midwife also mentioned that the monitors showed that she was still happy inside so we were right to keep going for the VBAC. I felt a bit better after that – knowing she was ok on the monitors and knowing that the midwife was really working with me to help me achieve my VBAC.
A short time later the midwife noticed that the baby was having decelerations after each contraction had finished, which is a sign of distress. The midwife told me that she unfortunately had to inform the Obs about the decelerations (I think she actually used the words unfortunately – she was a pretty awesome midwife!). I was on the (space age) birth stool which was quite comfortable, but she encouraged me to change positions which seemed to help a little so it seemed bub hated the birth stool. With the position change the decelerations seemed to go away, and I remember hearing the midwife say that to the Ob, and I think they were a bit happier knowing that.
I stood for a while and then my body felt very, very pushy about two hours in, and with each surge I could feel myself bear down with a force that was almost unstoppable. It felt good, and right, and seemed to work with the intensity of each surge so I went with it. I remember the pressure, and my legs going shaky. I really wanted to be on the birth stool, so a close second was having someone behind me supporting my weight under my arms while my body took over to try and get this baby out. It was two hours after my initial exam and the midwife asked to do another exam, which I let her do, and she took Michelle outside and told Michelle that I was only 9cm and if I kept pushing my cervix might swell and stop dilating. Michelle came back in the room and just said “you have to stop pushing”.
HOLY CRAP? Are you serious? Stop pushing. I don’t think I have ever done anything so difficult in all my life. Everyone coached me through breathing away the pushing feeling. Cass was across the room for one surge where I found the pushing instinct almost impossible to stop, and she yelled at me “LEASH! BREATHE!” and it echoed in my head, it was all I could hear. I screamed back at her “I’M TRYING!”. That seemed to help actually, as I forced the energy up and away with my voice instead of down and out. Oh my goodness I was trying. I was trying to focus on my breath, and I was repeating over and over “Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.” It felt like hours and hours, but apparently it was barely 20 minutes before the Ob came on the check me.
The Ob did the exam… I remember screaming at her to stop about a million times. I considered kicking her away. Then I seriously considered kicking her very hard in the head. Whatever she was doing HURT. I growled “affirmations. AFFIRMATIONS!!!”; Michelle turned on my HypnoBirthing affirmations and I focused on the voice coming through the iPod and tuned out everything else… I didn’t know at the time, but she thought she felt an ear presenting, and so that warranted an exam that felt like she was poking me with a million red hot irons for hours. I’m glad I didn’t know that she thought it was an ear, because the caesarean birth was the result of asynclitic presentation, and I didn’t need that kind of déjà vu. In reality, the exam probably only took a minute, but it seriously HURT. But the good news was that I was 10cm, and it WASN’T an ear presenting, and we were good to go.
The midwife told me that even though she knew I wanted to birth gently and use Hypnobirthing techniques to breathe the baby down in our own time, that the Obs were starting to get antsy and were putting us on a time limit of an hour. I had one hour to push her out. She said “I want you to really push. You will push this baby out”. To be honest, I was happy to push, my body really wanted to push, and I wanted this baby coming out of my vagina. We had an hour. “Tell me what to do.” I said. And so we began…
1.20am, 40w1d, I started to push out my baby girl. It felt awesome, and terrifying! The midwife watched the surges, reminding me to breathe, to push down and out not up and away, not to use my voice. I could feel my baby inside moving down, making teeny tiny progress with each wave. The midwife said “pushing is like two steps forward and one step back” which frustrated me because I felt like I was giving it everything but only making tiny steps, and then hearing that afterwards it was going BACKWARDS! Ugh! I was still also only have surges every 4-5 minutes, and I was pushing from very high, which apparently was going to make it a bit more challenging, plus the fact that we were on a time limit. I remember Lyn mentioning the ‘2 in 10’ surges, although another midwife just said “I’ve seen that done before”, and it made me feel better and it wasn’t mentioned again. I decided to merge the coached pushing with Hypnobirthing, in between surges I relaxed and focused my energy at keeping her where she was so I didn’t feel like I was starting back at square one every time I started pushing. It seemed to work because the surge after I started doing that Lyn got excited and told everyone to look, and there was a head.
Pushing, while listening to affirmations
Resting between surges, using Hypnobirthing breathing to try and keep the baby from going back up
Lyn told me to reach down, and I touched her head. It felt familiar; as I reached down to touch the smooth hard bones of her skull, something in me knew what it would feel like. It was exactly like a dream I had during pregnancy: of a VBAC, where I had reached down and was the first one to touch my baby. In between a surge the midwife ran out and came back with a mirror, and I saw the weirdest sight I’ve ever seen. There was a tiny flash of white emerging, the head I had touched a moment ago. It was white, covered in vernix, and pointy, which in hindsight was obviously her skull overlapping to fit down. I told everyone that it looked wrong, and I asked if the baby was ok – she was fine, of course. Lyn looked at me and said “no going back now, this baby is coming out of your vagina!” and I don’t know if I smiled at the time but on the inside I was wearing the biggest grin in my life! I reached down and touched her head, it was smooth and hard, and again I felt renewed energy. A VBAC! My VBAC! I was going to birth my baby! She said the exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right time.
Michelle whispering “you’re going to do it, you can do it, you’re going to have a VBAC”
The Obs were getting itchy fingers around now I think, but it felt like the midwife had built a wall around me, to protect my birthing space. She said to me very seriously “Alisia, I need you to look at me, I need you to hear what I’m saying.” She told me she wanted to do an episiotomy. On my birth plan I specifically stated that under no circumstances could they cut me without good reason and my explicit permission. She explained what she was seeing as I pushed, a colour change which indicated that I would likely tear. She also said that I had been pushing for a while (I think around an hour), the Obs would come in soon and they would want to use the vacuum to pull her out. I shut my eyes and thought. I could feel I was being held back, there was something I couldn’t push past and this time it was a physical barrier not a mental one. I trusted her judgement; everything she had done was with respect and with reference to my birthing intentions. I felt like she wouldn’t have done anything that wasn’t necessary for me to have this VBAC… she said “Alisia, I need you to tell me what to do.” I answered: “Ok. Yes, ok.”
I felt relief after the cut, and I knew it was right. Cass got a photo of it, fascinating but cringe-worthy. The Obs came in and asked how long I had been pushing for, and the midwife said to me “this contraction Alisia, she is coming out in this contraction, use the pain and push her out”. I pushed so hard, and made some good progress, but she wasn’t coming out in this one. I opened my eyes and said “sorry, I’m trying!” and then I saw the Ob holding the vacuum. The midwife said “THIS ONE! Alisia! Do it! Don’t let the doctors steal your thunder! We’re having a baby right now! Do it!”. I gave the biggest push I’d ever given, with power I didn’t even know I had, and I felt her move quickly down and at the time I was sure they were using the vacuum because I didn’t think I had that much power in me to move her so quickly. The midwife told me to stop pushing and breathe like I was blowing out candles. And then I felt it. I stretched. I was fairly sure I was splitting in half in all directions. The midwife supported my baby, and I felt her turn – I think the midwife helped her turn – and then heard her say “another big push now”, and I did and I felt suddenly empty, and an intense rush of relief and exhaustion and exhilaration. I breathed and sighed, and I knew it was over.
And then I heard it. Her cry. And I looked down, and there was a baby, laying there on the bed. A beautiful bloody vernix covered little mess, arms out, fists clenched, eyes closed, practically bald, and making the most beautiful sound in the world. And it hit me. I did it. A baby! Look what I did! I did it! And I birthed her! I pushed her out! No vacuum! No pain relief! No drugs! Just me, and my body! And there she is! My baby! Making the most amazing sound in the world! I did it. She just came out of me! I got her out. I JUST HAD A VBAC! Nothing else existed, and it felt like hours that I stared at her, but it was a matter of seconds. They quickly moved her away to suction her, and all of a sudden I had everyone on me, hugging me, and all I could hear was her little newborn cry and everyone around me saying “you did it!”. I could feel Michelle’s hand on my head, I felt her kissing my forehead, tears in her eyes. I heard my mum cry and say “Leash, you did it, look what you did!”.
The moment I saw my baby for the first time
I came back to reality as I heard Lyn tell someone else not to give me the Syntocin injection because I wanted a physiological third stage (as per my birth intentions). She looked slightly concerned. “Do you think I need it?” I asked her. She said yes. I sensed some sort of commotion, and told her to do what she needed to do. I looked for my baby, thinking the commotion was for her and I felt sick thinking that something was wrong, but there she was across the room, looking amazing and crying perfectly on the resuscitation table. It was a few seconds before I realised the commotion was surrounding me. I was bleeding, a lot, and it wasn’t slowing down. I was told later that the Ob was scooping blood off the bed with her hands and into a bowl, there was quite a bit. They gave me the injection, and worked at getting the placenta out; it was difficult to get out. There was a rush to get it out because apparently the bleeding would stop or at least slow once it had fully separated and been birthed.
And they brought my baby back quickly, and we had skin-to-skin. She was there, on me, and it felt amazing and awkward. She was calm, so calm, with her eyes wide open. I wanted to hold her forever but I told them I needed someone to take the baby because I felt dizzy. Apparently that created panic stations, and people jumped out of cupboards (not really, but it seemed like people came from everywhere). I had lost a lot of blood and the placenta still wasn’t coming. They hooked up a bag of oxytocin to a cannula in one arm, someone putting another line into my other arm and hooking up something else. There was pushing on my stomach. The Ob was being a bitch again and sticking things in awkward places to stop the bleeding, and I protested half-heartedly by crying out “OW” every time she came near me. I think she apologised, but I’m sure she enjoyed torturing me. I lost 800mL of blood but the haemorrhage eventually stopped and the room was calm again. I started to feel better, and they brought my baby back to me.
The Ob told me I had tore a little beyond the cut and that it was now considered a third degree tear and they wanted to repair it in surgery under spinal anaesthetic. She was going to repair the tear herself, and I remember thinking that she probably would have preferred to do it without any anaesthetic because at this stage I was fairly certain she was an extreme sadist…
I breastfed as they did their preparations for surgery. She latched on so perfectly one of the midwives told me they could use her lips in an ad for Special K. I felt proud that she had got it so right first go. They asked a million questions getting things ready for surgery, things that I honestly couldn’t have cared less about. Yes, knowing if I have ever had a reaction under anaesthetic is important, but didn’t they know I just had a baby? Half the time all I could hear was noise coming out of their mouth and I just nodded as I stared at my wonderful baby and enjoyed the moment with Michelle. I couldn’t believe how much she looked like Moosh, except that she seemed so much smaller! They said they were ready and Michelle took the baby, unnamed at this stage but very much loved already. The wheeled me in, and gave me the spinal. I kept doing my HypnoBirthing breathing, and it helped during the surgery. They thought I was asleep and were talking about whether my stats reflected that I was asleep – it surprised them when I opened my eyes and said, “no, I’m just doing my HypnoBirthing breathing” and closed my eyes again.
I stayed in recovery for 20 minutes, and they brought me back to the room. I could hear my baby crying as I was wheeled up the hall and I had tears in my eyes hearing her cry, and the intense need to hold her was overwhelming. It was almost 5am, and I could see the sun was already coming up. What a beautiful day! I was wheeled past the visitor area where Michelle and mum were waiting, and into the next room. They followed in after, and the midwife gave me my baby and all was right in my world again. Michelle told me that she was born at 2.34am, 4 hours after arriving at the hospital, and was a gorgeous 7lb 9oz (3438g).
Michelle with our baby while I was in surgery
Moosh meeting her little sister
I’m so thankful for the HypnoBirthing, which helped me stay calm and in control, even when unexpected twists and turns popped up. People ask how the birth was and I just say “perfect”. I was respected, I was supported, and I was safe. I had a support team who were responsive and knew exactly what I needed at every step, I had a midwife who respected us and worked with us through the different turns birthing took. I had a body that worked perfectly. I worked so hard for so long to prepare for this calm birth experience. I am so happy. I am so proud. I am healed.
My family, now complete
Maternity and newborn photos were taken by Jane Gilbey Photography
Labour and birth photos were taken by my great friend and birth support person, Cassandra Hoffmann.
Article written by Alisia Cameron, wife and mum of two.