To start this story, I guess I have to go back to where it really started – which was with the birth of my first son, Kai.
Kai was born on the 4th of June 2009 via emergency Cesarean after my water broke spontaneously at home on the morning of the 2nd. I was totally naive about birth – which is ridiculous, really. I read everything I could on pregnancy, the development of the fetus, raising children, etc, etc, etc… but nothing, absolutely nothing on birth itself. I wasn’t interested. I figured if I went into it with no expectations, I’d be able to ride it out naturally and instinctively as it should be done – which isn’t completely flawed logic, it’s just very… naive. Trusting. Yes, I 100% trusted my doctor, trusted the hospital, trusted all the beepy medical machinery. I welcomed it, as it made me feel safe and looked after.
Well, that safe, medical environment turned my normal posterior labour into a medical emergency. At the 24 hour mark after labouring all night, I was given a vaginal examination (despite my water having been broken all this time! I had at LEAST 8 vaginal exams all up during my labour with Kai, despite having ruptured membranes. Um, infection anyone??!) and told I was fully effaced but I had barely dilated – I think I was around 2-3 cms. You can imagine how upset I was – I’d had back labour all night, been up and down to the loo all night having to… evacuate my bowels, I’d had to have Adrian rub my back almost constantly… I felt that if I at least had got half way, I could keep going all the way, I could manage.
So of course because I had barely dilated, they decided to augment my labour with Syntocin. Standard practice. I felt weird about it from the start and knew I didn’t want it – I couldn’t tell you why then, though, it was was just instinct telling me I didn’t want it. But I didn’t know I had the choice to say no. So I was hooked up. And with being hooked up to the drip, I was also hooked up to the continuous monitoring. On my back. With back labour. Yeah, not pretty. I somehow managed to disappear into myself and just rode the pain. It was all I could do.
When I got to transition, suddenly I couldn’t do it any more. I was incoherent (this had to be around the 30+ hour mark since my water had broken and contractions had begun), begging it to stop, I couldn’t do it any more… I was given Fentanyl which helped me relax between contractions.
So I got to 10cms. I started to push… the heart rate monitor went scarily quiet and all hell broke loose. Off I went for my section.
The brutality of that section still lingers with me. The nurses were panicked and nasty – shoving me about, forcing me down over my contracting stomach while the anaesthetist put in the catheter for the epidural. When he put it in wrong and I suddenly started to scream “I can feel it, I can feel it!!!”, I was told it was my fault because I didn’t lean forward far enough, and shoved further down. All this to a terrified, pushing-stage first time mother who had NO idea what was going on or why, no-one explained anything to me about the procedure or what was going to happen, I was just told the baby was tired and he had to come out NOW. Oh, and that it was “just” a 10 cm incision down by my pantyline. Yeah. Cos that’s ALL it is.
The bliss of the epidural taking effect and the quiet it seemed to bring was the best part about the whole experience. The nasty nurses faded into the background as they snapped and griped at me for not helping them put the stockings on my legs (apparently I was supposed to push while they put them on – with legs I couldn’t feel any more… yeah. Good one). Seriously, women – if you don’t like dealing with people, DO NOT WORK IN A HOSPITAL!
So yeah, that was the birth of my son Kai. Chaos, trauma, fear. I felt like livestock, I felt like property, I didn’t feel respected and I didn’t feel like I had a voice. I was powerless because I didn’t know any better.
It took around about 6 months for that niggling feeling to finally get me to start asking questions. WHY did my labour have to be augmented? WHY did things go this way when everything seemed fine before the drip was put in? Why had I suddenly gone from being able to cope with the pain to NOT being able to cope? WHY had my baby gone into distress?
I read ONE article about a woman who’d had almost the exact same experience I’d had, and I knew. That phrase “cascade of interventions” just stuck a chord in me. I knew at the time the syntocin was not a good idea, but I didn’t know WHY I felt like that. It all seemed to slide into place. I got angry, REAL angry. And I started to research in earnest.
I learned so much about interventions and the natural process of birth, and how interventions when used routinely cause this natural process of birth to derail in spectacular ways. I knew I didn’t want this for my next birth, and even before we had started to try to conceive baby number #2 I knew I wanted a VBAC.
I finally fell pregnant in September 2010, straight after an early miscarriage. I decided this time I wanted support – everything I had read suggested that a VBAC was attainable but only with education, willpower and good support. I hired a doula – Melissa Serafin, a lovely lady that I felt an instant connection to due to our very similar first birth experiences. Since she was just such an open, accessible person – I never felt like I was bothering her when I’d send her panicky emails worrying about this and that – she was always there to calm me down and speak to me honestly. After having miscarried already that year, I was scared and paranoid about everything. I knew I wanted all the ultrasounds and tests to make sure the baby was okay, even though I knew the more tests and the possibility of failing those tests would make achieving a VBAC harder.
So when I had my 20 week ultrasound and found out my placenta was not only anterior, but low lying – and it looked like a possible partial previa also – I totally FREAKED. My doctor was calm – he said 90% of the time placentas migrate upwards with the growth of the uterus, so mine probably would also… but on googling the issue I became absolutely terrified. What if it DIDN’T move? What if I ended up having a complete previa? The stuff I’d read about it was horrible, scary stuff – mother and baby dying in massive pools of blood, hysterectomies, dying on the operating table… And when I read that previa’s, placental adhesion’s and other more scary complications to do with the placenta have become more common with the rise of the Cesarean rate… well, you can imagine how I felt. I felt really ANGRY. And I also felt really GUILTY – my Cesarean with Kai was possibly not necessary, was shrugged off as “just a 10 cm incision under my pantyline” when really there were so many possible future complications I would have to face, including previas, possible fertility issues (was that why I miscarried previously??), it could have been the reason for my breastfeeding issues with Kai (we managed, but it was a huge struggle for months)… the list goes on and on and on and on. I knew, I KNEW the only way I would consent to another Cesarean was if my life or my baby’s life (or both) were in danger. And I don’t mean just because the doctor said they were, either – but because I KNEW they were.
So then began the long wait. I had to wait till at least 34 weeks before I could have another ultrasound to make sure the placenta had moved out of the way. It was nerve wracking. I had many late-night panics after reading about previa’s online, so much so that I had to ban myself from googling it entirely. And when I accidentally watched a movie (Puffball I think it was called) where a woman went into labour with a complete previa and nearly died, blood gushing down her legs… well I had nightmares, too. It was awful – I felt like I could not enjoy the pregnancy at all, I felt no bond with the life moving inside me, I just felt so incredibly tense and afraid.
It was around this time that I decided also that I could not give birth in a hospital. It all started with reading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth – the birth stories were so beautiful and intimate and powerful, I just knew that’s what I wanted for my next birth. It took one line from a midwife at the hospital I had chosen to birth at – “you have a scar, remember – trial by scar” – and I just knew I would have to fight tooth and nail to get what I wanted in a hospital. Did I really want that? The stress of having a possible previa was enough, did I want to have to argue the point with every single nurse, midwife, doctor I would encounter while in labour? I mean, I’d have my doula there who would back me up, but that fight would still be there, wouldn’t it?
The idea of homebirth had always been something unattainable. Why? Fear. I was afraid – what if something went wrong? Didn’t I have to be in a hospital? My best friend home birthed two of her 3 children, and I admired her so much for it – yet for myself, I felt I could not considering I had never had a vaginal birth before. But when I started to instinctively fear the hospital and their stigma surrounding VBACS (even though the evidence and research clearly shows vaginal birth after a Cesarean is not only SAFE it is SAFER than a repeat section! Unless, of course, there was valid reason for the previous Cesarean in the first place… more often than not, the actual reason for the Cesarean is unknown… which is to say, it was probably unnecessary), I just knew I didn’t want to have to fight every step of the way. I wanted to enjoy my last pregnancy, I wanted to enjoy my birth and I wanted peace, calm and gentleness surrounding my baby’s entry into the world.
So Melissa got me in touch with Julie, an independent midwife who was willing to travel to me in order to have a homebirth.
Once I’d started thinking about having a homebirth, the idea appealed more and more. The more I read Ina May’s Guide, the more I knew this was what I wanted, even though I promised Adrian that I would discuss this with my doctor first and make sure the obstacles in my journey to a VBAC weren’t just imagined… but after our first meeting with Julie, Adrian didn’t bring up the hospital any more. It might have also helped that I made him watch The Business of Being Born, too. And the fact that he knew before I did that I’d already decided – this baby would be born at home.
Of course with the placenta previa thing hanging over my head, the plan of home birthing could be moot. I was painfully aware of that fact, even though deciding on staying home helped me achieve some degree of peace and calm.
The day of the ultrasound, I was wound so tight you could have played me like a guitar. I was terrified, but I was aware also that my doctor wasn’t concerned and the odds were in my favour that all would be well. It just felt like there were so many possible obstacles in my way that I was jumping at shadows with my fists up, ready to fight all the time – even though I hadn’t encountered any opposition yet. My doctor didn’t know of my plans (and wouldn’t find out until I was in early labour anyway!) as I didn’t see the sense of telling him before I found out about the placenta. And no-one had dared to tell me I couldn’t do it – just that I was only “trying” to have a vaginal birth. In my mind, there would be no “try”. There would only be do.
So I’m lying on the table having my ultrasound, wondering what my fate would be… and then I see him. My wee boy and his darling little face – I didn’t know that 3rd trimester ultrasounds are so detailed compared to the earlier ones, which is silly because of course they’re more detailed! The baby is bigger, beefier and has more character! Seeing his little face and his little pursed mouth – I think he was swallowing amniotic fluid or blowing bubbles, not sure which… I was in love. I had that image printed out – the profile of his face, his mouth open in the act of gulping some fluid or whatever (I like to think he’s blowing bubbles myself :o) ) – it has to be one of my favorites of him to date, even now that he’s out of me. I decided whatever my fate, so be it – at least I would have my baby. To be told that all was fine, the placenta was clear of the internal os and even clear of my previous Cesarean scar was the icing on the cake. It was all finally real – I would be having this baby vaginally, and not only that, I would be having a homebirth!!!!
The weeks flew by after this. I gestated in peace, FINALLY. I was a little concerned about going past my due date because I knew I would be pressured into either booking my repeat section or having my membranes artificially ruptured, both of which I didn’t want – but I felt sure I would go into labour before my due date. What I did NOT expect was only a few days past 39 weeks that I would be given “the talk” by my doctor. The “we need to discuss how far we’re willing to let you go” and “maybe we should tentatively schedule your Cesarean a few days past your due date”…!! What the hell?? I was expecting this talk, but not before I’d even hit my due date! As you can imagine, that sent me into a whirlwind of panic. I felt so sure I would be having this baby really soon, but I didn’t want to have to feel pressured into performing! My previous child was overdue (and he was obviously overdue by the looks of him!), who’s to say this baby wouldn’t be also? The doctor was pretty good about it when I just said no to scheduling the Cesarean and agreed to discuss possible induction methods when I was actually overdue, not before… of course never intending to because I wasn’t going to be having my baby in the hospital, I was going to be having him at home. And to remove the pressure entirely, I cancelled my next appointment with him so I wouldn’t have to have the discussion at all (I was that sure I’d be having him that week, just wasn’t sure what day), because I would have already have had my baby.
Well, my water broke in the early hours of my due date (the 6th of July at around… 4am?) – I had a contraction that woke me up at the almost exact moment that Kai (my eldest) woke up and started hollering for me. I only noticed the fluid on the way to his room – it started leaking/gushing a little as I was walking. I thought I’d peed myself. On closer inspection, I noticed it didn’t smell like pee (it smelt kind of like chlorine), so I deduced my membranes had ruptured, so I went and put on a pad, texted Melissa and told Adrian we should probably think about getting the fire lit to warm the lounge room, just in case things happened pretty quickly. I’d had a lot of prelabour leading up to this point, and it really did look like once things got going it might be a quick one… but noooo, I should have known better. I am a slow labourer unfortunately.
Anyway, it seemed things were really happening this time, and I texted Melissa excitedly that maybe she should come around the time Kai wakes up because it looked like this was it. Well, of COURSE things started to drop off. Melissa arrived with the rising of the sun, the contractions started dripping off, getting further apart and less intense, and we were left sitting around the inflated birthing pool wondering what to do next. Melissa suggested I have a shower and we go for a short walk to see if that gets things going. I agreed, so we set off for a walk to the bakery to get something to eat. It was a beautiful sunny day, Adrian took Kai off for a round of golf with his grandfather and Melissa and I had a great chat while we walked. By the time we got to the bakery I really needed to pee – and noticed after I wiped I was losing a bit of mucus plug also. By the time I’d got home I lost a bit more plug when I went to the loo, but yeah, nothing more was happening. Disappointed!!! So, my midwife Julie advised me to rest up as it looked like it was going to be a long one, and things would probably pick up again that night. Melissa went home, and things went back to normal.
Waited around most of the day for things to start again, but nothing. I felt so close but so far! That morning my doctor rang me to ask why I hadn’t shown to my 40 week appointment – I told him I was in the early stages of labour as we spoke! He was a bit confused and asked me when I was thinking of going to the hospital – that was when I informed him of my intentions to stay home and that I’d hired a midwife. Well, he sounded really shocked, but was gentleman enough to wish me the best of luck and that he hoped to hear my happy news soon. Haha, good doctor, take it like a man! It was an excellent thing that he was like that, as it turned out – I needed him later.
So during all this time (it was now around the 7th of July – the details are a bit hazy), I was still gushing and losing plug, still getting irregular contractions. By night time they were getting a bit more intense, but nothing to write home about. I don’t think they really amped up again until around… 8-9pm? Around there? Adrian and I really enjoyed the peace and quiet – Kai was in bed asleep, we had the lights down low, the fire going (Adrian had spent a lot of the day gathering firewood for this purpose), it was really lovely and peaceful. After being on the phone with Melissa for a bit, she listened to me while I had some of my contractions and decided to head up. She advised I call Julie and get her to listen for a bit and see what she thought as well. Julie decided to make her way also, as she lives around about 3 hours away from me. By the time Melissa arrived, I was really in the groove of things but I was scared things would drop back again (I didn’t realize it at the time, but they had a bit). I was getting a lot of back labour AGAIN which had me worried that the baby was posterior AGAIN, despite working so hard to make sure he wasn’t. I was pretty sure he wasn’t, though, as I could feel his bum on my right side and his legs on my left. When Melissa arrived, we dimmed the lights, lit candles and got some music going (just digital radio). I couldn’t have asked for a more intimate atmosphere if I tried. Adrian and I felt so connected to each other, too – I have to say, this whole experience has really strengthened our bond and even he is glad we went with the homebirth plan, despite everything turning out as it did. The quiet before the storm was worth every cent. And Melissa was so brilliant through it all – I was so tuned into myself that I barely felt her presence except when I needed it, usually in the from of her cool hands on my back (she really does have healing hands!). Such a beautiful quiet labour!
By the time Julie had arrived, we’d started to fill the pool – just in case. I felt I was getting close to needing it, but didn’t want to get in too soon just in case everything dropped off. Mostly I was labouring on the fold out couch with Adrian supporting me from the front and Melissa supporting me from behind. I even had my cat climb up on my back at one point – I don’t know if she was trying to help or just trying to keep warm, but her weight was comforting. Silly cat. She thinks she’s people.
When I finally hopped into the pool, it was liquid bliss… ohhh, delicious heat and weightlessness! And it made me more flexible too – any position to help with the back labour which was getting more and more intense with each contraction. I’m not sure at what point I started to push, but I just felt it hurt less to kind of bare down with each contraction – not actually push-push, but kind of move the contraction down if that makes sense? I don’t know if I started to push too soon or what – but soon I was actually pushing and feeling him move down, and everything started to get really really intense. I tried every position I could to get him down – squatting, standing, kneeling, on my back… it became clear that something wasn’t quite right, so I asked Julie to check me to see what was going on. Turns out I had an anterior lip in the way – I could either rest and wait for it to move out the way (and risk labour dropping right back), or Julie could hold it out of the way while I pushed. Considering I’d had prelabour going on for days and days beforehand, not to mention early labour that day and the day previous, I was ready to have this baby! I asked her, practically begged her to help me! I knew that with my membranes ruptured that I was risking infection not only by consenting to internals, but also by labouring for so long, but I’d had enough. I’d started to feel the pressure of the ticking clock, and I was getting tired.
With Julie’s help, I pushed with all my might. He got so close, but just kept slipping back – I couldn’t understand it, he was so close, I could FEEL it! So close yet so far… Julie kept checking his heart rate and was happy with how he was doing (she actually said he’s the happiest baby she’s ever seen during labour, didn’t seem phased by anything at all, haha!), so we kept trying. We tried everything – I went to the loo to see if it was my bladder, but I couldn’t really pee much any more. Julie tried a drug-free pain relief technique that I practically begged her for – basically, she takes a needle and injects saline just under the skin on your back during a contraction in 4 places, and it’s supposed to stop the back labour completely for an hour. It hurts like a… well, I’ll try and keep the swearing out, shall I?!! It hurts REALLY REALLY BADLY, so much so that I screamed like a banshee right into Adrian’s face 4 times, one for each jab (even though she was mercifully quick and effective about it) – and even that didn’t work to stop the pain. That should have been a big warning sign for me, as Julie assured it it would work for one hour. It didn’t even work for one contraction.
Inevitably, my contractions started to back off in length, intensity and frequency, and we were faced with a dilemma. What do we do? Do I go have a rest and wait for it to ramp up again? Or… do we transfer? Julie was happy for me to stay if I wanted to – baby was doing well and I was fine. The thing that had us all worried was that the anterior lip had become swollen (probably from me insisting she hold it out of the way so I could push past), and I was starting to go backwards in dilation. I got her to check me one more time, and when she looked at me with a kind of resigned look, I knew it was not good news. I’d gone from fully dilated with a lip to around about 6cms…
Considering we were an hour away from the hospital, it was around about 6am on the 8th of July and I’d already been in labour since the 6th of July, I really could not put it off any longer. The baby was happy now, but who’s to say that wouldn’t or couldn’t dramatically change? It was better to go now while there was time to go than risk losing this baby. It was up to me, and I already knew I’d failed. It was time to face up – I’d tried and I’d tried bloody hard, but I’d rather have tried and failed than tried and kept trying and ended up losing my baby. I was in tears as we started to gather our gear as the last thing in the world I wanted was to end up in hospital for another Cesarean What would all the people who knew I was having a homebirth say? What about the people who would find out? It would make me look like a fool – and worse yet, it would make homebirth look risky and dangerous when it really isn’t. So many things were going through my head – I hadn’t packed a hospital bag or a baby bag because I was 100% convinced I would be having my baby at home, yet there was this nasty little voice inside me going “you knew you couldn’t do this, you KNEW! Somewhere inside, you knew you just couldn’t do it, and yet you tried anyway!” I felt absolutely defeated. We called my friend Claire to come and take Kai (thank GOD she was home and answered her phone! Luckily for us everyone close to us knew something was going on and were on high alert. Claire, if you’re reading this – you are a f**king life saver! Sorry for the swear, but she really did save our bacon!).
Off we went in a mad rush, even though there wasn’t really any need to rush. It just felt like it as we were having to face something we all dreaded – Transfer. And bloody hell it’s crap to be in the late stages of labour in a car! The Loxton road got my contractions amping up again, even though they were now only every 15 minutes. Oh my god but they huuuuurt! And I couldn’t do a single thing to help with the pain except breathe and squeeze the seat with my hands. Adrian kept trying to offer me a hand while he was driving, and I kept having to make him take it back so he had both hands on the wheel (didn’t want to end up crashing in labour or anything!!!). I kept thinking I didn’t have anything except the few clothes I had on (my dressing gown and undies), I didn’t even have anything for the baby! Nothing at all, not even nappies!!
Julie had rung ahead to the hospital and explained the situation – that the baby was doing fine but that they should set up the OR for a Cesarean as things weren’t going well in my labour, so we expected everyone to be prepared when I went in, and that all systems would be go. Well, things couldn’t have been further from that reality. In fact, you’d think I’d just got there with a couple of suspicious contractions that may or may not have been labour… oh my god, people, just give me my epidural! That was the only positive I’d managed to convince myself of for transferring – at least I would get my epidural and there would no longer be any of that bone-splitting back labour. It would all be gone and I could relax – maybe even have a sleep! But no, they hadn’t listened to Julie (too bad if the baby was in distress, eh??!) – they insisted on CTG monitoring first, then seeing how things were from there. No sense of urgency AT ALL. I bust into tears – I was in pain, I was scared for my baby, I hadn’t felt him move since we were in the car, I was tired, where was my epidural, where was that sense of emergency, why weren’t they taking anything seriously?? They left us waiting there for ages – they hadn’t even called the bloody doctor! I was actually pleased when they hooked me up to the stupid beepy monitor thingy – there he was, happy as larry and probably asleep… thank god for that! They gave me the gas wand thingy which I was dubious of – I doubted it would do much, but then again I’d never used gas before so I was willing to try anything at that point. Turns out the gas was pretty awesome! Don’t get me wrong – I’m a natural birth advocate and I do not use drugs in labour normally, but by this point I was past my threshold. My vagina was swollen to at least 5 times it’s normal size (a typical sign of obstructed labour Julie tells me), I was so incredibly tired and just over feeling pain, it just seemed to never end. I gave up any sense of being able to control what was happening and surrendered to being helped. Because I actually needed help. By the time the doctor had arrived, I was still getting contractions but I was so high on the gas stuff I had managed to relax into joking and laughing about it all. The funny thing about gas – you still feel the pain through it, but you’re so messed up in the head on it that it kind of tricks you around it; you’re just not able to focus on anything, and it’s like you’re swimming in soup. Lovely, fuzzy, warm soup. It all seemed SO ridiculous! Well, guess what – it was about to get MORE ridiculous!
The ride in the car down Loxton road had most definitely got things going again. I was 8 cms dilated and going well – I’d be hitting transition soon and would be having my baby any minute. WHAT??! I was amazed and horrified – AGAIN???!!!! I started to laugh and cry at the same time – what the hell, I was going through labour again in the same bloody day! I was here for my c-section, where the hell was my epidural and my section??!! Julie told the doctor I wanted an epidural even though my birth plan said NO DRUGS and definitely NO EPIDURAL (I’d written one up on the off chance I ended up in hospital instead of staying home), so off he went to get that organized. While he was out of the room, I started crying in earnest (this is my one of my really low points, I was really tired and fed up, I wanted it to be over already, so I apologize for my weak whineyness!), saying over and over again “why aren’t they sectioning me? I want my section!” and ranting and raving about doctors and how they always want to slice and dice, but when you really want it you don’t bloody well get it! Yeah, I was really really high on the gas, I was sucking it back like there was no tomorrow and I was in too much pain to feel ashamed of it. Melissa and Julie got on either side of me to try to talk sense into me – they told me to wait until I’d had the epidural and see how I felt then after having a bit of a rest; I’d really kick myself if I didn’t take advantage of this opportunity. I knew they were right, so I took my epidural and waited. At some stage during this, they also got me to void my bladder – which I couldn’t do, so they had to help me with the use of a catheter. Oh yummo. I did feel very very relieved afterwards, but it didn’t make much of a difference to my labouring.
The epidural was great – except that it didn’t work on one side. I had one-sided back pain (in my butt joint), it wasn’t as intense as it had been, but it was still there. So that sucked. But I decided I would try and get this baby out vaginally still, especially since this was NOT the normal hospital attitude I had come to know and love – I still really wanted to have my VBAC. During this time, Melissa and Julie went off to have a nap while I had a nap for an hour or so, because they were absolutely exhausted. I don’t remember much, except that I didn’t really get much of a nap because I was still experiencing some pain and I was still contracting, even though not as regularly.
As is typical with an epidural, my labour backed right off. I was told that because I wasn’t contracting as regularly that they were going to hook me up to some syntocin to get things going again. What?? Syntocin? For a VBAC??? Um, can you say UTERINE RUPTURE??! Quickly I got Adrian to text Melissa because I knew the risks associated with artificial induction and uterine rupture with women who have had a previous Cesarean I said to the midwife “But I’m a VBAC, I have a scar – what about the scar?” I actually wondered if she knew if it was there. This had actually come from my doctor, and I wondered if maybe he was a bit touched in the head! It seemed absolutely crazy to me that they would want to induce me! Not that I’d even given my scar a second thought throughout the whole labour – all the pain I felt was in my back basically, who had time to think of a silly old 10cm scar under my pantyline??!! So I was faced with having my labour stall and ending up with a section for failure to progress, or artificial induction via syntocin and increase the risk of uterine rupture, but up my chances of possibly having a VBAC. Oh decisions, decisions!
Well, they put it on such a low dose that it seemed it was a non-issue, and they monitored me continuously while it got my labour going again. I don’t know how long it took before I was fully dilated again and ready to push, but I remember hitting transition and starting to feel pushy – I burst into tears and cried out “It feels so good to puuuuussh!!!” and feeling so over the moon and happy about really FEELING that need to push.
I gave it everything I had. I tried every position I could – I knelt on the bed with a bar, I squatted with that bloody bar, I sat on a big plastic seat thing that was like a loo, I held onto Adrian’s hands, leaned back while standing and pushed… I pushed as hard as I could. I tried to poo, I tried to wee, I tried to fart (I did actually poo, I remember saying “Are you sure I’m not just pooing?” and Julie telling me “No, no you’re not” – but then I could smell it and I saw them trying to sneak away the sheet behind me… I thought it was so funny at the time considering there was my vagina for all to see, and now I’d weed, pooed and farted in front of heaps of people (yep, I was still sucking on that gas!)), he seemed soooo close yet so far – none of us could work out what the problem was as I was really working hard to get him down, but he just kept going back up. Julie kept saying I was pushing sooo well, was I sure I hadn’t done this before? But I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t coming – I’d visualized this moment so many times on the verge of sleep, and this was NOT how it was supposed to go!
Of course it got to the point where it was looking like it had gone on too long. The doctor had been really accommodating of my birth plan and of me trying to VBAC, even despite this being an attempted homebirth first (he could have been a right asshole about that, but he wasn’t which I REALLY appreciated), but this was getting ridiculous. This was the second time I’d been at this stage, and still no progress was being made – I was just getting more and more tired, and he was no closer to being born. Thankfully his heart tones stayed consistent, so he was still happy as Larry in there, but he was getting a bit tired here and there – understandable. There’s only so long you can push before there’s no push left in you.
The doctor was happy to try one more thing before opting for the section – Ventouse. So once again – they upped my epidural, which I was convinced meant I wouldn’t feel a thing, so I was happy to try this one last thing. The doctor assured me he would not give me an episiotomy and that it would not hurt my baby – he did not mention that it would hurt the bejesus out of me, though! Getting the thing in and attached to the baby’s head was uncomfortable and painful enough – but the actual attempt? I think that was probably the worst part of the whole ordeal (although there are a few moments to choose from!) – it hurt soooooo much!!!! And at one point I was absolutely convinced he’d cut me – I screamed “DID YOU CUT ME, DID YOU JUST CUT ME???!” and he assured me he didn’t… but oh my god it FELT like it! It went on for so long and I was just screaming and sucking on the gas and pushing when they all told me to… nothing. We tried everything, everything at home and everything in the hospital to get him out my vagina, but it just wasn’t going to happen. I realized then that it was all over, we’d played all the cards we had and the only option we had left – was with a knife.
Off we went. I actually remember being calm enough to go “weeee!” as they wheeled me along in my bed (gas), everything was calm and light instead of chaos and drama like last time. I think I did cry a little while they were getting everything organised, but it was a resigned cry rather than a fear cry like it was with Kai. I was just so tired and all I wanted now was my baby and the pain to be over. I’d never suffered so much pain in my life, and it just seemed never ending. Just when one bout finished, another one would start… I was over trying to be brave and trying to be strong – I just wanted it over.
The attitude in the theater was one of calm and professionalism, rather than panic. I felt safe, I felt like I was supported and I knew why this was happening. All the steps previously had led to this, so I had time to prepare myself.
I felt that familiar tugging feeling as they pulled my baby out of me – he was really wedged in my pelvis so there was a lot of tugging. Melissa excused herself to take pictures of him being “born”, which I really appreciated – I wasn’t sure if I’d want to see him being taken from me like that, but I wanted the opportunity to not look at them if you know what I mean? I could choose whether or not I wanted to see because the photos exist in the first place. I held my breath as I waited for that cry. And waited. And waited! Where was that cry? I started to cry and ask “is he okay? Is he out, is he okay?” I finally heard this weird little bleat and there he was – my little Rory, his head twice the length it should have been, quiet and calm and looking at me with big dark eyes. Melissa undid my gown so he could be placed on my chest, and I held him there for ages. I couldn’t see him because he was kind of under my chin and I didn’t have the room to hold him out to look at him, but to touch his soft little head and feel his skin on mine was sooo precious! I cried as I held him until he started to shiver a bit from cold, then I let them take him away to get dressed and then to Adrian for a cuddle. It wasn’t until after that that I realized they’d been taking a while and they were still working on me. I was told there was a small complication. While the doctor was trying to take Rory out of my pelvis, he was wedged down there so far (and his head was so swollen down into my pelvis also) that he’d had to put his hand down under Rory’s head and kind of flick his head up to get him out. When he had done this, a part of my uterus tore, like a vessel or something which wasn’t a big deal – it only bled a little bit. But as they were trying to stitch it up, it kept tearing and it was tearing uncomfortably close towards a large vein in my leg which would have been a BIG complication. So they called for back-up – another doctor from Berri who would have a better idea of what to do, even though they’d got the bleeding mostly under control (it was just sort of oozing a bit). It was after this doctor had come and they resumed work on me I think that I started to feel what they were doing. Initially it was just uncomfortable feelings, kind of weird pressures and crampy type feelings, but then as time progressed I could really feel what they were doing. I could feel them pushing my insides around and poking about, and it HURT. They kept upping my epidural, but I still kept being able feel everything, and the longer it took, the more I felt, to the point that I wasn’t able to keep quiet about it any more. Melissa was really worried (she told me this later) that they’d knock me out, but thankfully the anesthesiologist finally stumbled on a dosage of something that managed to stop the pain – and by that point it was all done. I was totally out of it and high as a kite by the time I was wheeled into recovery and given my son to finally try and breastfeed. I reckon it would have been around 5-6pm by this time. Rory had been born at 3:53pm, so it had been a long surgery.
So pretty much everything that could have gone wrong DID go wrong. It was a crazy, painful experience and the perfect example of how to use interventions – WHEN THEY ARE NECESSARY! If only every hospital would do everything they possibly could to avoid a Cesarean the section rate would plummet and there would be less mothers like me feeling like they’d failed and that the system had failed them. Through this birth I have been able to heal a lot from my first birth. I’ve also learned a lot about myself – that I could have done it if I had been able to, that I have strength in me I didn’t know was there and at the end of the day, it wasn’t my fault.
When I asked the doctor why it just didn’t happen, he was honest with me and said that Rory was not big, he was in the perfect position – there was no reason he could not fit as there was plenty of room for him to descend into my vagina. So it looks as though I have a funny shaped pelvis (would explain the persistent, agonizing back labour which could be felt through an epidural – yes, even during the Cesarean I still felt a bit of that, too), or maybe it’s a pelvis with a narrow opening. Who knows. Julie said it could have been my mother had a vitamin D deficiency or something. I could probably find out if I wanted to, but what more would it prove? I already know I did everything I possibly could. If I had managed to get his head out, he would most likely have got stuck at the shoulders, which would have been worse. I can think around it all I want – it didn’t happen because it wasn’t supposed to happen. So in this case, I am incredibly grateful for the hospital I went to. Not only did they step in when they were needed and do what was necessary, they also did it respectfully and treated me like a human being while it was being done. Never a nasty word was said about me attempting to homebirth, even afterwards. Everyone who dealt with me after Rory’s birth was very nice and kind to me – they all knew I had a rough time and did everything I possibly could to get him out vaginally, and I think they really respected me for that. I certainly feel proud of the fact that there’s no point during the whole labour/birth that I could have done differently that would have changed the outcome. Even the beginning – I have been wondering if maybe I started to push too soon and that is why I got the lip and the swelling… but if I hadn’t done that it wouldn’t have changed anything. It is what it is.
Rory was born at 3:53pm on Thursday the 8th of July. He weighed 7lb 10oz, was 51 cm in length and 34.5 cm head circumference. He’s absolutely delicious and squishy. He is most definitely my last baby!
I was transferred (at our request) to the hospital in our home town to recover, where I was later also given a blood transfusion due to being a bit anemic Explains why I felt so crappy – here was me assuming it was just because of being worn out from the whole thing! I’m recovering well now, though, my breastfeeding relationship with my son is going beautifully (he is a total boobie-monster, attaches really well and feeds like a champion – it’s wonderful to not have to struggle with it!) and all in all, I’m satisfied with how everything went. Every time I’ve wondered “maybe if we’d tried this?” I am lead back to the fact that it just wasn’t going to happen. Which is nice – there’s no unanswered questions, no doubts, if’s or but’s.
My lovely little family is now complete.
If you’ve read this far, WELL DONE!
Many people have tried to commiserate with me for not having a cozy “birthing experience”. I had two very high risk pregnancies that inv9olved two high risk babies. They were born vaginally, but quite early with induced labour (a horrid experience) and in the operating room. With my first I had eight IV’s running! She arrived clinically dead, no heartbeat, no respiration although she had been fine seconds before delivery. Because she was so high risk there was a team of intensive care specialists waiting in the OR, she was immediately whisked away and they revived her, she then went to intensive care. I eventually brought home a beautiful, live, healthy baby – it does not get any better than that.
Stories like this are why I love this blog. She had a plan, it went awry. When it came down to it, there wasn’t much of a choice in her options, but the staff was at least respectful of her original birth plan and they worked together for a healthy delivery. Kudos to them for that and to her for education herself and knowing her options. I’m glad it was a healing birth… and congrats on the little ones!
I did read it all the way! It’s a riveting story. I’m glad it all worked out and you felt so in control. Congratulations!
Wow. What an amazing story, hats off to you mama! I’ve delivered seven babies vaginally, and all that put together doesn’t compare to what you went through to bring your children into this works. Congratulations! You are a rock star 🙂
Wow – good on you mama! you did well <3
Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is most important for women to see the positive turns in labour, no matter what they are. It seems to me you had a most intense experience in so many levels and will stand to your benefit for the rest of your life in each turn of life. Wish you and your family good heath, love and many more empowering experinces!! Marisa