Looking back on my whole pregnancy and birth, I can honestly say it was such an amazingly positive experience. I actually get really emotional about it, especially how the last 4 weeks panned out.
I always knew that I wanted a water birth, after all I felt so at home in the water, having been an ex Aussie swimmer and owning my own Swim School. My husband Ben supported this, and we decided to birth at John Flynn, travelling from Brisbane for OB appointments. We attended hypnobirth classes with Melissa in Brisbane, which just confirmed all my beliefs in the bodies ability to birth.
At 20 weeks, our scan showed I had a low lying placenta, and another scan was needed at 35 weeks. I knew that this was common and was sure it would move. In the meantime, I was religiously listening to the Hypnobirth CDs and practicing my breathing and affirmations, as well as attending Preggie Belly classes, swimming and walking daily.
Come 35 weeks, my placenta was still 16mm posterior. I researched using Dr Google, and found some women were able to birth naturally and some were not. I still held high hopes that I would be ok to birth naturally.
However, my OB at 36 weeks had other plans. To start, it was suggested I book in for a General Caesar at 37 weeks! Not what I had even considered an option, especially due to the fact that I had a previous reaction under General. Given my reaction of sheer horror, this was changed to a spinal Caesar at 38 weeks. It was made clear a 5cm clearance was needed, which to me was very conservative. I requested another scan at 38 weeks and he merely said it was not worth doing ” nothing would change.
I left the OB’s in a daze, and was very upset. Ben was more accepting of what just happened, and reminded me that these things happen for a reason and as long as we had a healthy bubba, that is all that mattered. I couldn’t accept that.
I emailed Melissa to let her know what was happening and to get some support.
Melissa’s response calmed me down, and reinforced to me that my birth will take on its own path, and provided some links to the website of hypnobirth mums that had scheduled caesareans. I actually knew one of the mums through the Swim School and contacted her to touch base and chat about her experience.
I came to the realization that I may not be having a natural birth, but I could bring aspects of a natural birth into a caesarean. I researched about the ‘natural caesarean’ and lifted my spirits.
With newfound hope, I phoned my OB and spoke to the midwife at the clinic. I was excited to tell her about my findings and the aspects I was requesting to have as part of my Caesar.
Her response was not welcoming, telling me that ‘there is no such thing as a natural caesarean’ and ‘you wouldn’t be able to see anything even if the drapes were lowered’ and lastly ‘it was not in the best interest of my baby to have skin to skin contact directly after his exit from me ” it would be too cold!’
Needless to say I was devastated. I picked up the phone and rang Melissa. After I had verbally spewed my conversation I had with the midwife to her, I asked her for a recommendation for another OB, to get a second opinion.
I contacted the office of an OB who was open to Natural Caesareans, having assisted another hypnobirth mum. I literally begged the receptionist for an appointment, and she said she would reiterate my story to the Dr and contact me.
Within the hour I had an appointment booked for that Friday at 37 weeks. I was glad just to be getting another opinion and didn’t expect anything to come of it, especially as the OB operated out of the Wesley, which was in shutdown due to health reasons.
The minute I met Dr Pauline I knew she was someone who I had of wished I had been in the care of from the onset of my pregnancy. She was calm with a quiet manner, and made me feel comfortable from the beginning.
I reiterated where I was at, and Dr Pauline just listened. After I had finished, she said she was happy to take me on if I wished to change OB’s, which I did.
Dr Pauline then promptly booked me in for a 38 week scan, right there and then. She ran me through the scenarios ” if my placenta moved beyond 2cm, she was happy to let me birth naturally. If it hasn’t moved, I would be induced and allowed to attempt to birth naturally, however if I bled at all, would be in for a Caesar, which she was happy to do with all my ‘natural caesarean’ requests. She also told me that as the Wesley was currently closed, her patients had been transferring to the Mater, where there were birthing pools. Even though she had not delivered a water birth, she was happy to give it a go! Champion!
The relief was enormous, not only because of the outcome, but because I felt that this is the level of care every woman should experience during her pregnancy.
At the 38 week scan, the placenta had moved to 27mm, and seeing our happiness at this news, our Radiographer phoned Dr Pauline to give her the news there and then! Her cheers could be heard through the phone, and later that afternoon when we saw her, she was still over the moon for us.
Dr Pauline did have concerns about the size of our bubba though. The 35 week scan revealed the abdominal cavity was in the 110 percentile, and this recent scan had bub weighing 3.5kgs already. She was worried as I am only a small frame, but I said I was not concerned as my body wouldn’t grow something it couldn’t push out!
Back in Dr Pauline’s clinic a day before my due date, we discussed the option of gel or a stretch and sweep and decided to leave it another week given I was comfortable and happy to continue our merry way.
At that stage I didn’t feel like I was even near labour. My husband, a typical accountant, informed us it was a given that bub would come that Sunday, 30th June! We had a laugh and Dr Pauline said she hoped not, as she was not rostered to work the next 3 weekends.
Back home that afternoon, I finally finished tying all the loose ends for the business and breathed a big sigh of relief. It was a good feeling. I took the dog for a long walk and slept really well that evening.
Little did I know that the next day I would be in labour.
The Friday 28th June (my due date) started normally. We were staying at Ben’s mums place, as our house had not finished being renovated. Mid morning I started getting mild back and tummy aches, and upon telling my mother in law, Sue, she said that I must be in early labour!
The aches continued all afternoon, and I rested as much as I could. The minute Ben returned from work (around 6pm), I had my first surge.
After dinner, I decided to get into the bath. Ahhhh! The water was devine and assisted with relieving the pressure. I can’t recall if I slept or not, but that night I believe I spent about 6 hours in the bath, dozing between contractions. Both Ben and Sue spent time with me throughout the night.
At 9am the following morning, we contacted the Wesley and was told to come in to be checked. In hindsight, I wish I had of insisted I stay longer at home, but the hospital had said I could go home if I was not past Stage 1.
Arriving at the hospital just after 10am, I was 3cm and therefore required to be admitted. I dilated to 5cm by 1pm, however was finding it difficult to get comfortable, as sitting was not an option (most likely due to the fact bub was posterior, which we found out at 9cm), so found myself standing in the shower (wishing I was still in the bath at home!)
At 5pm I was still 5cm, and the OB rostered on suggested we either break my waters or pop me onto a drip. Reading my file, she was concerned about the size of bub too, and the option of a Caesar was mentioned but I quickly dismissed it (little did I know that this was the first of many mentions!)
I gave permission for them to rupture my membranes, as my mum had told me her 3 labours had not started until her waters were b
Big mistake!! My surges came strong and fast ” back to back ” and I was not in a happy place, feeling the urge to push even though I was still only 5cm!! I was concentrating so hard on my breathing but found the pain unbearable.
Breaking my membranes started a chain of intervention. I asked for an epidural.
Once the epidural took effect, it was a god send. I finally was able to get a break physically and emotionally, and my body, which had been labouring for nearly 30 hours, could get some rest and sleep.
Throughout all of this, the OB was pushing me for to go into theatre, and Ben even hinted at it too. I also had begun to 2nd guess my ability, which I suppose isn’t unusual with any Mum to be in their first labour.
However, at the 11pm change of midwives, our new midwife appeared, who changed the course of what I felt was a downward spiral. I attribute the outcome of the rest of my labour to Midwife Ann, who as almost instantly she appeared, altered the mood in the room.
Ann told me that she had read my birth preferences, had done a hypnobirth course before, and ‘wasn’t leaving here until she sees the whites of that baby’s eyeballs coming out of me!’
It was the laughter and relaxation I needed ” and gave me the confidence to continue on. I returned to focusing on my breathing, even though I could not feel a thing.
The OB at that stage had informed me she needed to see me progress to at least 7cm at 1am, otherwise there was little option but to head to theatre.
I met this, being 7cm, and the next benchmark she set me was to be fully dilated within another 2 hours. I felt like this Obstetrician was pushing me, challenging me, and every time I just managed to meet her expectations.
Ann had gotten a mattress for Ben, who was catching some sleep, and my mother in law was sitting with me. I kept thinking how much I wanted to labour naturally, for me a caesarean was just not my belief.
At 3am, I measured 9cm. I was thinking I was going to have a fight on my hands, when the Dr said she was happy for me to start pushing.
She then left the room, and Ann quickly turned to me, told me how she wanted me to push and said ‘we are going to start pushing and do as many cycles as we can before she returns!’
It was when she returned that she discovered bub was posterior, and needed him to turn within 4 cycles of pushing (about 3-4 breaths each). A ventouse was placed on him to assist turning him, which he did on the 4th cycle of surges (of course!)
Another benchmark was set for bub to be pushed down the birth canal, which was also assisted using the ventouse.
The next stage was for bub’s head to come out, which, for me, came relatively easily around 445am.
Throughout this whole time, nearly 35 hours of labour, bub’s heart rate had been fine, something I attribute to the relaxation techniques and breathing I had been practicing.
Bubs shoulders became stuck, and it became urgent we get bub out. At this stage, there were 3 midwives in the room assisting me, as well as the OB and Ben. A midwife called to let Special Care know bub would be coming.
It took 8 minutes to get bub out. When he did come out at exactly 5am on 30th June 2013 (like any good accountants child!)…they whisked him off after about 10 seconds.
I told my husband to go with him, but he insisted on staying with me.
I needed approx 9 stitches as I had a 2nd degree episiotomy and had also a small tear internally. Once this was completed, I was wheeled down to see my baby boy in Special Care.
Oliver was enormous compared to the other little bubbas there ” weighing 4.5kgs (9 pound 15) and 56cm long! He was so calm despite what he had been through, and as soon as he was put on my chest, grunted his way across to latch on and commence feeding! It’s something he still does to this day when hungry!
We stayed there for about 6 hours and it was one of the most beautiful moments. The Wesley midwives that came in and out over the next 5 days always did a double take when they saw his size, and this was normally accompanied by a ‘ahh! So you’re the one!’ Which I didn’t know if that was a good or bad thing! However, I received amazing care from every single one.
It was no wonder everyone was telling me just how big I was during the last few weeks of my pregnancy. I just put it down to the fact my small 52kg pre-pregnancy frame would look funny with a big belly!
I told Dr Pauline that despite everything, I was enormously proud of getting through it and looked back on the labour as only a positive experience, and next time I will be determined to stay at home longer and know not to have my waters broken!
Looking back nearly 10 weeks later, my pregnancy and labour wasn’t a straight forward event, but had its share if twists and turns. I only shake my head at what it could have been, and am so grateful for the recommendation and guidance Melissa provided, outside her regular call of duty!
Two other people I now hold in such high regard are my OB of 3 weeks, Dr Pauline, who drastically changed the course of my pregnancy and took me on at such a late stage, when many told me I had no chance. I only wish I had met her sooner.
The other lady was Midwife Ann, a pillar of strength and a barrel of laughs when I needed it most. I can only imagine she has been other labouring women’s saviour too over the decades.
I have the utmost respect for these women, who have given me my faith back in the medical system.
Everytime I read or hear that someone has given birth, I get teary and a well of happiness rises in me. I only hope they had a positive experience like I did, and they are happy with how things went and wear their labour story like a badge of honour.