Following my first birth, I got curious.
I heard so many women recount their births through mothers' group (pre-covid) and general chat with women I'd meet (as all mums seem to do a lot of straight up sharing all personal details with wild abandon once you've birthed- its like nobody cares and nothing is off limits anymore!)
It seemed that only the odd one here & there had ended with caesarean like me, and I also noticed that the vast majority were satisfied with their birth, or indifferent at least, so I then started to explore why I felt slightly "ripped off' (for want of a better word) about my own.
I had mixed feelings about how my body hadn't been able to cope with induction, confusion as to why my baby ended up at 9cm dilated but 'stuck', a little trauma from the actual procedure, and also sneaking suspicions that his early induction and birth could be related to some of his gut issues in the first few months.
So I started to read, and listen to podcasts, and follow midwives' social accounts and finally started to get a much better understanding of the birthing process and the medical system and its own processes in Australia.
Through this information I was able to get a clearer picture as to what happened to us during our first birth and how and why I might choose a different plan if I was presented with the same situation a second time. So the seed was then planted, and began to prepare myself for the possibility of a VBAC for this birth.
We began trying to conceive in early 2020 after Covid lockdowns had started in Melbourne, and we had missed our planned big family trip to Europe. We figured since we were staying home it was as good a time as any, and I was already 39 years old.
We were incredibly lucky to become pregnant within 8 months after experiencing what we thought might be a case of secondary infertility. Just as we were preparing to go through some screening for IVF, I tested positive in December 2020.
In a sheer stroke of luck I had met a midwife prior to falling pregnant, who told me to try for Midwifery Group Practice at the local Hospital that I hoped to attend for my VBAC(I had requested to be referred to a different hospital for this birth) and she had let them know I'd pop up in the future. I can't thank her enough for the role she played in getting me a place in the MGP at approximately 16 weeks pregnant.
My partner and I also hired a doula this time who was absolutely instrumental in supporting me holding my ground when challenged at any of my appointments and for debriefing after, and she helped support and educate my partner throughout as to why I wanted to birth the way I did and how to be the best support to me through it.
I really enjoyed having the care of my own midwife through the latter stages of the pregnancy especially, as I experienced some trauma coming back to haunt me as I attended the appointments.
My Midwife was aware of my birth plan and helped me navigate hospitals' protocols with my birth plan in mind. She, along with my doula also helped me work to though some doubts I had in my own bodies' ability as I come from a family of only ever caesareans (mother and sisters' births and my own).
There were times where I became quite uncomfortable & upset when stating what I wanted for this birth which was: intervention free as much as possible, no induction at all, no 'just in case cannula' and no continuous monitoring, to allow me to be free in movement and birth as simply and naturally as I could.
I got quite upset by a senior OB who told me matter of factly that if I went to 40 weeks I would be induced - after I had already been informed that any VBAC candidate would not be induced (due to uterine rupture risk-which I was very pleased to hear). She also was the first person to weigh me at any time during both of my pregnancies and I found this quite odd and unsettling, only later realising it was probably with a view to building up a case for me to have a repeat c-section.
I had broken down during that appointment with the OB and it couldn't be finished, so my midwife went above & beyond, later getting a lovely alternate doctor to give me a phone call appointment for ‘counselling’ prior to birth, just to discuss my plan and the risks, and to discuss how I would like to proceed post-dates. Her whole caring manner and respectful approach put me at ease and she agreed that I was well informed of the risks, and would note it all on my file and that they would support my wishes.
From then on it was just a waiting game. All was well as we waited for labour to begin.
36 weeks -2021 Covid Lockdown DIY Maternity Shoot
Throughout the second and third trimester I had been doing Chiro, Osteo, Acupuncture and then all the dates, raspberry leaf tea I could consume. My Chiro and Acupuncturist were both certain labour was close but I squeezed in a few more visits before my body just decided it was ready at 40+4wks.
I woke to very mild contractions at 3:30am 31/8/21
Having not experienced these spontaneously before I was unsure if they were anything and snoozed in bed with my toddler until they were undeniably rhythmic but not yet painful at around 7am. I called my partner back from work, made plans for care of our toddler and called the doula at around 8am.
Around 10am they were beginning to be painful and taking some concentration, and the baby sitter and doula came at around 10:30 to collect my son and stay with us for the birth.
I had a shower & lost a little mucus plug in there followed by a sit on the toilet and had a small break in waters.
From there it all intensified and we called the midwife and did the 10 min drive to the hospital with me bellowing loudly the whole way and all through the hospital to the birth suite. Thankfully the hospital was allowing my Doula to attend at this stage and I was so pleased she could be there with us.
It took a little for me to settle into the room, I felt the pain was getting on top of me and was encouraged to take a few deep breaths and try to calm myself down but the contractions kept coming quite strong at this stage.
I think there was a very quick Vaginal Exam as I was admitted and I believe I was 6cm when I arrived. I was uncomfortable in the room and around the bed area so I moved to the bathroom and began to have gas and a shower to deal with the contractions.
The first moments in the birth suite trying to find a comfortable position
For the next 6 hours I remained in the bathroom, alternating between toilet sitting, squatting-hanging from the handrail, to rocking/swaying hips in the shower, to child’s pose on a mat on the shower floor only being interrupted minimally for doppler heart readings every 20 minutes or so.
Our midwife kept herself very hands off as she could see my doula and partner had me covered in terms of dealing with pain, positioning and taking me out of my doubts. I did beg for an epidural on more than one occasion and a c-section a few times too. The only real contact I had with my midwife was to check Bub's heart rate and one VE that I requested to know where I was at. I was fully dilated and ready to go!
After what seemed like forever, (I believe it was around an hour) baby crowned while I was on all fours. I then began to struggle to push her out due to a slight shoulder dystocia, and the midwife came in to speak to me, telling me I would need to get her out quickly, so they helped me change position and I finally mustered everything I had and bought her into the world side-lying on the bathroom floor.
Unfortunately she came out not breathing correctly, and I was asked if I minded them cutting the cord as a code blue was called and the room was filling with doctors ready to take her to the Special Care Nursery. She was also suspected of having a fractured clavicle so needed X-rays once she was breathing okay. I moved to the bed and talked them into letting me hold my baby for a few moments which they allowed before they took her.
First Hold 31 August 2021
I sustained a second degree tear from the birth and some internal grazing so I was left in the room to be stitched with my doula, while my partner went with our little girl.
The two of them were able to communicate and keep me informed but amidst it all I was strangely calm given the situation, (I had seen enough births where babies needed help to breathe and for some reason my intuition felt that it would all be okay-or it was the last of the gas taking effect!)
Thankfully after being stitched up, I was able to go see her and try a breast feed and she was released to me a couple of hours after birth, breathing well and no fracture was found.
We were sent home the next day after a full check over and a last min jaundice test that I requested as I could see she was a little yellow.
A long story short, we ended up spending five more days in the nursery for severe and life threatening jaundice that escalated so quickly. We were very lucky to present back at hospital in the nick of time, she was treated in an emergency situation and thankfully responded amazingly.
My recovery in itself was in some ways a lot better than my caesarean, but in other ways more difficult. My stitches were pulled a little too tightly and I had to deal with the subsequent healing that didn’t go as planned.
Almost two years on now things are much better although not 100%
You can learn more about Sian and her flourishing business at Her Keeper x