I can’t wait to tell you everything and show you the video!! The hypnosis was WILD and real and absolutely indescribable. We’re the talk of the Wesley! My only regret is I’ll never get the chance to see how I could have birthed vaginally in the same head space. I can only imagine it would be out of this world. Would never choose a c-section as my preferred model of birth!! Have been using breathing, music and affirmations during post op pain and am pretty much down to just taking pain killers twice a day and panadol… Can’t wait to down load soon another VERY thrilled customer to add to your list of successes!
Here is a beautiful account of Adia’s birth in an article that Elizabeth wrote for ‘Birth Matters’.
ADIA’S BIRTH STORY
After sustaining a 4b tear during the birth of my 2nd daughter and undergoing major surgery soon after her arrival, I was unceremoniously told at my six week check up that my Obstetrician would never support me in another vaginal birth and that I would struggle to find anyone who would. I drove from Nambor to Brisbane in tears and announced to my husband, Wally that two children would be it for us because I would never have a caesarean. Ever!
Fate clearly had different plans and in early in 2011 we discovered I was pregnant with our third baby and I was staring down the barrel of that caesarean I was never going to have. I did not like the view!
I spoke to four different Obstetricians, three midwives, a specialist physiotherapist and an extremely accommodating Doula on a quest to find someone, anyone who would tell me I shouldn’t have a caesarean. Their opinions were divided. So I read sketchy research until my eyes hurt and ingested so much personal opinion it made my head spin! After a great deal of soul searching I grieved the calm, fearless vaginal birth I dreamed of having and headed down the caesarean path I so dreaded.
I quickly learnt that despite the frustratingly slow pace of birth reform in Australia, vaginal births have come a great deal further than surgical births. Everyone I spoke to seemed resigned to the fact that having a caesarean birth meant checking anything remotely “natural” or mother/baby focused at the door. I was at the mercy of the ‘system’ it seemed. And because I was choosing to have a caesarean then I had no grounds for complaint. I felt this was the message from the medical fraternity but also from women who advocate for birth reform.
I refused to be railroaded into a horrible birth just because it was going to be in an operating theatre. This was the only birth this baby was going to have and whilst I could do something about it, it was going to be amazing. I made a list of all the things that were important to me in a birth of any kind and set about trying to find an Obstetrician who would help me achieve as many of them as I could. Dr Pauline Joubert was recommended to me by a friend and was everything I was looking for. The first test was that she didn’t treat me like a complete looney or with contempt when I proffered a whole lot of statistics and information and a copy of a ‘Natural Caesarean’ video with a post-it note on the front that said “this is what I want”! From the start Pauline openly admitted many of the things we wanted in our caesarean were a diversion from her usual processes but she was open to trying new things and had no problem challenging her existing ideas. There was no ego at play and at all times Wally and I felt like we respected and listened to.
At 32 weeks Wally and I met with Melissa Spilsted from Hypnobirthing Australia to do a half day private Hypnobirthing class, specifically designed for a caesarean birth. Melissa was integral at helping me address and work around my fear of being in an operating theatre to have a baby, and the associated claustrophobia, lights, noise and machines. Not to mention the needles! For the reminder of my pregnancy I practiced actively shutting down my mind and my body in deep relaxation and from time to time Wally and I practiced our hypnosis scripts.
At 39 weeks, one day before my surgery space was booked I started having contractions at my local shopping centre. I headed home, parked my 3 year old in front of the TV, went to bed and hypnotized myself out of being in labor! After months of hoping that I’d go into labor at home and have a baby in 30 minutes on my bathroom floor, here I was talking myself out of labor! Pauline and I had worked so hard to get a great team of people around us to achieve this great birth, there was no way I wanted to mess with that! By evening my contractions had disappeared and I spent the evening dancing my enormous belly around the lounge room with my big girls.
On the morning of Adia’s birth Wally dropped our big girls to school, we had breakfast together, I had a shower, put on a nice dress and my beautiful necklace of blessingway beads and we calmly drove 4km to the hospital (via our shop and the bank!). It was so very different (and much stranger) than the amniotic fluid, old t-shirts and manic 100km drive to the birth centre with our other two! It wasn’t until we arrived at the hospital that I started to feel nervous. We were shown to our room and given the run down on procedures. Our birth plan was of great interest to almost every nurse who opened our file and we received all kinds of comments, ranging from ‘wow I wish I was assisting with this birth’ to ‘you realize you won’t be able to do most of this’. Wally calmly explained to each one that Pauline, our anaesthetist and our paediatrician had approved everything and we just needed them to be aware of what our requirements were. About an hour before I changed in to my own gown, which was specifically designed for surgery with snaps down the back and access to the shoulders, but was pretty and smelled familiar! Wally began to read my preferred hypnosis script and I quickly fell into a deep hypnotic state. Things didn’t quite go to plan when Wally inadvertently bought me out of the hypnosis at the end of the script (perhaps a little more practice would have served us well!) and I ‘awoke’ a stressed screeching mess with only 10 minutes until we had to head off to the operating theatre. We asked Pauline for a little more time to gather ourselves and Wally (nervously!) set about re- hypnotising me. This time he didn’t wake me up! When it was time for us to leave our room and head to the operating theatre I was calm and alert but not at all afraid or nervous and not even a tiny bit stressed and screeching!
Hypnosis works differently for everyone but for me it acted like a buffer zone between my subconscious and my conscious mind. Hypnosis allowed me to acknowledge the things that frightened me and then use deep breathing to move past the fear (or pain).
When I walked into the operating theatre my first thought was “wow they actually turned off ALL the lights – that’s better than I expected!” I saw the bed (and thought there was no way I would fit on it, it was way too skinny!), the chair for Wally, an IV pole and Pauline. It wasn’t until I looked at the photos afterwards that I realized there were about 10 other people in the room and a myriad of equipment that I just hadn’t mentally taken stock of. I was relaxed and chatty and remember making a few jokes about everyone’s outfits!
When our anaesthetist, Mike helped me up onto the bed I was immediately quiet and fell into a zone which felt similar to being deep in labor when all you can concentrate on is relaxing before the next contraction (only minus the contractions). The lights were still low and Janet Rabin’s Birthnotes was playing. The familiar music helped breathe through any fear and keep my body completely relaxed. As various drugs were administered I rattled off my name and date of birth in a monotone and with my eyes closed. Wally says there were a few strange looks being passed between the theatre staff at that point! Especially as it looked like I was asleep at the point where most people start crying and shaking!
The spinal needle went in quickly and easily and as the drugs started to take effect Mike help me lie down and a low drape was put up around the level of the bottom of my ribs (low enough that I could have lots of space to do skin to skin with my baby). I’m quite claustrophobic and the idea of having high drapes over my face was something I was very afraid of. I’d initially asked for no drapes at all but realized as soon as I was in surgery why Pauline had insisted they be there ” it’s a pretty cozy work space down there! Despite the room being full of people, everyone was so incredibly quiet and calm and everyone was so respectful of our birth space. Yet at the same time the room was charged with an amazing energy. I felt that things were happening slowly and in progression and nothing was being rushed. The overhead operating light was switched on and as theatre staff prepped me Wally was seated behind me stroking my hair and speaking softly to me. Mike, our anaesthetist was quietly explaining to me what was happening and telling me what I could expect to hear or feel before it happened. I knew hearing the suction start, knowing the incision was being made, would be my first major challenge. I managed to take a huge breath and drop to a deeper level of relaxation. Pauline started to quietly describe what she was doing. As she made the incision a huge gush of amniotic fluid sprayed up into the air and was followed almost immediately by a bottom! We’d plan to have Pauline slowly ‘walk’ Adia out rather than pulling her quickly, that would allow her to be birthed calmly and slowly whilst encouraging amniotic fluid to be squeezed from the babies lungs, in a similar fashion to a vaginal birth. Adia had other ideas and was in quite a rush to get her bottom out into the world! Given her breech presentation Pauline was able to ease her legs out and then drape them over my right side, which enabled gravity to pull the rest of her body and head out very very slowly. I thought I would want to watch my baby being born but when the time came I felt so safe and comfortable in my ‘zone’ that I simply just stayed where I was, breathing deeply, listening to the music, with my eyes closed and one hand on the drape! The tugging sensations of Pauline helping her head out were strange but as soon as they stopped I knew my baby had been born and I immediately came out of my hypnotic state and opened my eyes.
The next few seconds happened in a blur. The drapes had been completely lowered and I looked up to see Pauline holding our (enormous!) baby curled up in her hands and smiling at me with tears in her eyes, saying “You did it! Your beautiful baby is here!”. I burst into tears and started sobbing ‘Look what I made. I made a baby…!’. I looked over to our student midwife who was taking photos and video and she was in tears. I looked at Wally and he was in tears. Mike was holding my hands to stop me from instinctively reaching down to bring my baby up to me! Whilst Adia had her cord cut and was handed to the midwife, Wally and Mike helped unsnap the shoulders of my gown down so she could be placed straight on my chest, skin to skin. Our paediatrician, David checked her on my chest and she was given oxygen and her apgar tests from there. Almost instantly she closed her eyes and went back to sleep (as if being born had just disturbed her for a moment!). No other weights or measures were taken until the next day.
Adia stayed on my chest the entire time I was in surgery and only went to Wally for a few minutes whilst they moved me from the theatre bed to the bed that would be my ‘home’ for the next few days. She was back on my chest in recovery where she had her first (text book, baby led) breastfeed and stayed for the next 24 hours or so.
I am keenly aware that most people don’t have the luxury of choosing to have caesarean birth with the benefit of time and resources to plan the intricate details of their birth. I did not end up in surgery by way of grief or trauma. I did not go in to a caesarean after days of labor with my baby or myself in a critical condition, afraid or in crisis. Both my baby and I were healthy. However there are a few things that I believe are fundamental to any birth that are glaringly absent from ‘standard’ caesarean births, be they planned, unplanned or an emergency; consultation and trust, respect for the birth space (quiet voices, respectful conversation), immediate skin to skin contact (unless medically unachievable) and the presence of more than one personal support person. Our “natural caesarean” birth showed that with very little effort, but a whole lot of open mindedness these fundamental things are very easy to achieve.
We change the face of birth one baby at a time. I hope Adia’s birth helps just one woman have a calm and empowered birth when they may otherwise have not. Pauline now offers many of the things on our birth plan as standard practice in her planned caesareans and when I last spoke to her was considering integrating some of them in her emergency caesarean births. My anaesthetist was fascinated at how hypnosis and drugs could work together to produce such awesome results. And our Paediatrician continues to advocate for immediate skin to skin as optimum for every birth.
When I picture the ‘perfect birth’ I have to admit I still don’t imagine an operating theatre. What I do imagine is low lights, quiet voices, respectful and trusted medical staff and support people, my husbands arms wrapped lovingly around me, my baby being gently welcomed into the world in an atmosphere of joy and love. I imagine feeling strong and calm and fearless. I feel so very blessed that I have experienced such a birth. I feel so very blessed that I found extraordinary joy from a place I least expected to find it.
Elizabeth and Wally, Ashgrove, Brisbane.