Birth story – VBAC.
Here I was holding my 1 day old son, sore and tired from a full night of active labour and a subsequent caesarean, with the doctor standing over my hospital bed “it may be the case that your pelvis is too small for birth and I recommend you opt for an elective caesarean for your next birth”. Those words glided over me at first. I had my baby. I was so happy. My next birth was miles away…
But in the months following, those words played over and over and over in my head late at night whilst breastfeeding. Memories of my birth replaying over and over while I lay in bed at night.
What had gone wrong.
What was wrong with me.
Why couldn’t I do it.
What if I had of just done this.
What if I had just done that.
It was a difficult emotion for me to deal with because I genuinely held no prejudice against other people who opted for caesarean but on the other hand I just couldn’t accept it for myself. I couldn’t articulate it to friends and family. Most often the response was “you have a healthy baby, that’s all that matters”. True, I would think, still incapable of letting go of the feeling of failure.
So when I fell pregnant for the second time, just 8 months later, all of those emotions came rolling back. I was googling vbacs at night, listening to Australian birth stories podcast on my way to work, following countless birth related Instagram pages, talking about trying for a vbac to friends, work colleagues, the lady at adairs….anyone who’d listen really. I started bouncing between a private obstetric GP and the public midwife program. I had no continuity of care which meant at every appointment I had to relay my first birth story to a new face. Each appointment I was told slightly conflicting advice but the constant message remained; “it’s a risk for you to attempt vbac – time between births is short and high likelihood of a big baby”.
One day, I was about 18 weeks pregnant, I listened to an Australian birth story on my way to work. This story featured a women who’d achieved a vbac. The podcast ended. A successful vbac. I parked out the front of work, sat in my car and cried for 30minutes.
I was overwhelmed.
That night my partner, Ben, and I decided no more googling, no more podcasts and Instagram follows, no more talking. Time to just enjoy being a family of 3 and my ever growing belly. And that’s just what I did. Until 34 weeks.
At 34 weeks we attended the hospital run vbac information session. Ben was the only partner there. Interesting I thought. It was such a positive session and I felt ready to start preparing again.
This time though no googling, no social media and I kept the talking to a minimum. Instead, we attended a calm birth course in Wagga. It was run by a qualified midwife who still worked at Wagga base hospital and we were lucky enough to do a 1 on 1 session. We spoke of birth fears, birth goals and my feelings from my first birth. The calm birth instructor/midwife really broke my first birth down for me and helped me heal. It was the first time I truly let go of the past and began to focus on the future. In the weeks following however, I was a very bad student because I didn’t once practice my calm birth affirmations or breathing techniques. I did listen to the calm birth recordings to soothe me off to sleep though.
By 36 weeks gestation, Vbac discussions ramped up at my antenatal classes. I was told my best shot at a successful vbac would be to go into spontaneous labour before 40weeks gestation. I was asked to get extra scans to monitor baby size and my amniotic fluid levels. Each scan told me different information. One week baby was measuring average, the next the baby was “a 10pound whopper”, one week my fluid was above average, the next within a normal range. Although I knew deep down scans were inaccurate, the extra information began to shake my confidence. The thought of a big baby began to play on my mind. Even still, the Wagga hospital did not recommend early induction and instead were happy for me to go 7 days overdue before talk of induction or c-section. Spontaneous labour was my best shot at a successful vbac. “I went into spontaneous labour for my first birth at 41+3….Surely I won’t go over again”…..
There I sat, in the antenatal clinic, at 41 weeks gestation. Time was up. Decisions were to be made. And I was well and truly over it. I had been to a private obstetric GP in days leading up to the hospital appointment who had reassured me that induction would be safe and encouraged me to try for induction rather than go straight for a c-section. He believed I had a good chance of vaginal delivery. Even so, my confidence to carry through with a vbac had began to waiver. My name was called out in the antenal clinic waiting room and we were greeted by a doctor I’d never met. He was friendly and would support our decision either way but again reminded us of the risks associated with vbac. I looked at my partner and he said “let’s try”. I opted for an induction.
So a few hours later I was in a birthing suite having a Balloon catheter inserted to help ripen my cervix, ready for my waters to be manually broken in the morning. At that point my cervix was still long and only 1cm dilated. That night I slept in the birthing suite because the maternity ward was so full. I still felt oddly calm and slept well.
The next morning I woke well rested and ready.
The doctors were late. So Ben and I spent 2 hours getting to know our midwife and casually chatting about our birth wishes. Who would have thought induction would work in our favour that way! The doctor arrived and assessed me. My cervix was unchanged from the night before but the balloon had pushed babies head out of my pelvis. Because babies head was high and I had above average amniotic fluid, there was a risk of cord prolapse after the waters were broken. Another risk! I looked at Ben. He said “let’s try”. It was 9am.
My waters were broken slowly to decrease chance of cord prolapse and I was asked to remain on the bed for 1 hour to let the water drain slowly and for baby to slowly reposition. The doctor would allow 6-8hours for contractions to begin. He waved good bye and left us with our midwives.
All was calm
The midwife had said nipple stimulation would help to bring on contractions. So here I was chatting away with our midwife, while Ben extracted collostrum (because I’m hopeless and can’t do it myself). I almost forgot we were about to have a baby. I started to have a few contractions but was able to talk through them so didn’t think much of them. After an hour I was able to get off the bed and prep the room for birth. We closed the blinds and lifted the bed so I could lean on it whilst standing. The contractions were strong. I looked at Ben between contractions and said I think I’ll get an epidural “but later… as it gets closer to pushing”. I began to sweat and had the urge to take off my clothes. Ben helped me undress as another strong contraction arrived. Two contractions later I mustered the strength to whisper to the midwife “epidural”! The contractions were really strong. Then all of a sudden I had an urge to push. The midwife checked me and said it was too late for an epidural, “I can see the head”.
The doctor came in ready. The heart rate
Monitor strapped around my belly (a requirement for vbac) kept slipping out of place so a clip was put on babies head to monitor heart rate. The baby had begun to go into distress – fetal brachycardia. This is where intervention really ramped up.
I was urged to get on the bed. Something I didn’t want to do and a mammoth task physically at this stage of labour. Contractions were coming fast with little break between, and I could feel baby move down with each push. Once on the bed they discovered the cord was wrapped around babies neck twice which was the cause for babies distress. The room was suddenly full of people. And when I say full, I mean full – at least 12 people or more. Our midwife looked me in the eye and told me to ignore all the people and concentrate on Ben, her and on our baby. The baby needed to come out straight away. The doctor gave me an episiotomy, cut the cord and after 2 big pushes she was out. A baby girl! But no cries. She was rushed over to the resus station and worked on. After what felt like a lifetime we finally heard a cry! She was brought over and placed on my chest.
At 11:24am Olivia Claire was born.
I had done it.