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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Same same, but different

Anyone who tells you the only thing that matters from a birth is a healthy baby has clearly never experienced a traumatic birth. My first birth was extremely traumatic. Instead of the calm, natural birth I'd dreamt of, I had the chance to labour ripped away from me with no notice thanks to an undiagnosed breech baby. I was whisked away for an emergency c-section amidst a flurry of fear, pumped full of drugs and felt like I had no control over the situation whatsoever. In the end I got a healthy baby, but I also got intense resentment, postnatal depression and anxiety which lasted for months. I felt like a failure as a mum from the very beginning and I had trouble bonding with my baby because of it.

So when I finally fell pregnant the second time I had huge fears of it happening again. I was offered an elective c-section from the very beginning, but there was no way I was ever going to agree to one. I wanted to have the natural birth I missed out on the first time. More than anything though I wanted the chance to at least try and achieve it. If something went wrong then I'd be fine with needing a c-section, I just wanted to be given the chance to attempt a vbac. Thankfully the hospital were very supportive of a vbac, I just had to dodge obstacles like gestational diabetes, a breech baby and the million and one other things that could derail my plan.

Apart from a minor blip where my little lady was lying transverse for a few weeks {just to freak me out}, I successfully avoided all the obstacles in my path. The final hurdle was to avoid needing induction. I honestly wasn't even worried about that because I was sure my baby girl was coming early this time. As the weeks went by though I started to get more nervous. It seems my lovely little ladies like to make me wait and wait and wait some more. Once I was officially overdue I felt like my dream of a vbac might be slipping away. In fact it got to the point I thought she was going to just hang out in there forever and I'd never go into labour at all {being overdue really messes with your head}.

40 weeks pregnant

We did have a few practice runs though with about 7 or so different periods of false labour. False labour is so much fun, its all the pain of real labour then after a few hours your body gives you the proverbial finger and says sorry just kidding, you wont be having a baby tonight. All pain, no gain. So much fun, not. Although her big sister put me through the same thing so I expected nothing less. After about the third time I stopped getting excited about having contractions and refused to even time them unless they went on for over an hour. I expected real labour to happen like the first time with a big pop and gushing of my waters. There's really no mistaking you're having a baby when that happens. Evidently this time was going to be different, I just didn't know it yet.

Early in the morning on Tuesday the 11th April I started having contractions, again. They were strong enough to keep me awake and by 4am I decided to call birthing suite. After hearing me breathing through some over the phone they told me to come in. So I called my mum and arranged for her to come watch bub, then went and told T we needed to go to hospital. He had no idea I'd been having contractions for hours while he was asleep because I hadn't bothered waking him. I'm considerate like that, and I honestly thought it would peter out as usual.

When we got to the hospital it was eerily quiet and calm. No screaming women in labour or queues of people waiting. We managed to skip triage and went straight to a birthing suite. I even scored a room with a birthing pool {not that I'd be allowed to use it}. It was going perfectly. Until it wasn't. My contractions started to fizzle out {as usual} and I had a panic attack thinking they'd send me for a c-section. I thought I'd totally blown my chance at a vbac.

Thankfully the midwives were amazing and instead sent me for a walk for an hour to see if the contractions would come back. So naturally we went across the road and had Hungry Jacks for breakfast because we were both starving by this point. My contractions slowed and were more like braxton hicks so after a few hours sitting around in triage we were sent home. I'd always feared being sent home, especially while having contractions, because we live an hour from the hospital and I was paranoid I'd give birth in the car. But, this time I was so happy, I felt like I'd dodged a bullet not being forced into a c-section.

I didn't have to wait long to visit my friends at the hospital again. The very next night at about 6pm I started getting contractions again. At least that's when I started paying attention to them and timing them thinking it might finally be the real deal. They kept intensifying and it got to the point where I couldn't talk through them. I actually had to stand and sway around in circles to get through them. After a few hours of that I called my mum again to come over. It was kind of surreal because even when she came over its like nobody in the room thought I was really in labour except me. It's probably my own fault because I have a high pain threshold, but I felt a bit like the girl who cried wolf trying to convince everyone it was actually real.

Even when we got to the hospital the midwife didn't believe me. She agreed I was having real contractions, but they weren't intense enough for me to be at the hospital so I'd probably be sent home. Her exact words "I don't think you'll be having a baby tonight". My response to that was something along the lines of fucked if I'm not, this baby IS coming out. Said completely metaphorically inside my head. I almost lost it. At nearly 5 days overdue after multiple cases of false labour I was done. If they sent me home I was staying there until my baby literally crawled out of my vagina on the lounge room floor. I literally started imagining being on the news because I'd had an unplanned home vbac and something had gone horribly wrong. Pregnancy hormones + the anxiety of a vbac + being almost a week overdue is a very potent combination.

I''m not sure if it was the stress of the situation, or my determination to prove the midwife wrong, but my contractions started ramping up instead of fizzling out. Hallelujah. After hearing me moaning through my contractions from the nurses station the midwife returned and decided that actually it was happening after-all. Suddenly I was getting a cannula and being moved to birth suite. Finally it was on like Donkey Kong and there was no turning back. I was having a baby!

Unfortunately I was having a baby very slowly. Despite consistent contractions 3 minutes apart from 10pm I spent hours in the birth suite pacing backwards and forwards, bouncing on a fitball and laying in bed pretending to sleep to pass time. Oh and peeing pretty much every half an hour the entire time. One of the things I was always intrigued by before having kids was whether or not you could/would be able to pee during labour. I honestly don't even remember if I did the first time around because everything happened so fast. but I can now categorically prove you can pee while in labour. And you can do it a lot! And it's super annoying because you have contractions the whole time. Thankgod for wireless monitors.

Anyway I digress...

After about 4 hours I had a VE to check if I was dilated and my cervix was still completely closed. So high and closed that they had trouble actually finding it. At one point I had the obstetrician, midwife and student midwife all at the end of my bed with the big torch light thing gazing deep into my nether regions all having a go trying to find it. Yep that was up there as one of the weirdest experiences of my life. You really do lose all sense of dignity while in labour. I'm just thankful they were all women. In reality they would see so many hoo-ha's every day it'd be a complete non event to them, but I certainly felt like some weird show and tell presentation. In the end it was decided I could have another 4 hours and they'd check again.

So I spent another four hours pacing, bouncing, rocking, swaying and peeing my way through contractions. And guess what T did? He fell asleep. Like all good birthing partners should, because clearly he was exhausted and had had such a long night sitting in a chair watching me go through so much pain. NOT BITTER ABOUT THAT AT ALL. I was debating whether to post a photo of him sleeping on Facebook so he could feel the wrath of my friends, buuuut that would kind of ruin the surprise of any birth announcement to follow, so I refrained. Still pissed about it though, just between you and me.

In the early hours of the morning {after T finished his beauty sleep} the obstetrician came back to check again and there was still no change. I thought for sure I'd be at least 1-3cm dilated by now. I mean hours and hours of contractions 3mins apart had to of been doing something. It's just cruel to go through all that and get nowhere. I wasn't worried though I thought ok so we'll move onto the cooks catheter and try and get things moving. Then she went to chat with her superior and delivered the blow. He said the best decision was to do an emergency c-section for failure to progress.

I was devastated. I immediately bawled my eyes out, but at the same time I didn't really fight it. I'd been awake for over 24hrs and in labour for 12 of those. I was exhausted and didn't really want to endure hours and hours of more contractions that could end up with the same result anyway. Maybe if I'd been labouring all day after a proper nights sleep instead of all night I might of had more energy and felt differently, but I was spent. I signed the consent forms amidst a stream of tears and then waited for them to come back and get me for surgery. For months leading up to this point I'd hoped for a vbac, but I always knew there was a chance I'd need a repeat c-section and I was ok with that. My tears were because I was petrified it would lead to postnatal depression again.

Being wheeled down the corridors to the operating theatre I was apprehensive, but it was different. Last birth I felt like I was being taken away because I was a failure before I'd even tried, but this time it was almost exciting. I was still clinging to some minute hope we'd get to theatre and I'd be magically dilated and push my baby out right then and there on the table, but if I didn't I still didn't feel like a failure. In an odd way it felt like a small victory. Things weren't playing out as I'd hoped, but I'd given it my best shot and I knew my body was ready to finally meet my baby. At that point it no longer bothered me how that happened, as long as it finally happened. I knew when I came out of that room I'd have my little girl.

The atmosphere in the room was so calm and organised, nothing like the fast paced chaos of my first emergency c-section. There was no rushing around, being pumped full of drugs and wondering what the hell was going on like last time. I requested they do another VE before they started the operation just incase there was a chance things were progressing {it'd been 2hrs since they last checked and my contractions had intensified, so I was hoping things may have changed}. As expected though there was still no change at all. Completely and utterly closed. This baby just did not want to come out, at least not the conventional way.

The anesthetist I had this time was so lovely and she took the time to explain everything she was doing. Everything felt so relaxed. The only time I was nervous was when she was trying to get the spinal in the right spot because the ob who was holding me in place said to me we're only allowed 2 attempts then you have to be put under. Umm I'm sorry why, why the hell would you tell me that at the exact moment in time I'm trying to grit my teeth through intense contractions and contort my body into the correct {highly uncomfortable} position for a big f@$* off needle to be inserted into my back? I'm petrified of needles as it is, I didn't need the added stress of thinking I was going to be unconscious for my baby's birth and miss it completely. Thankfully though the anesthetist was awesome and she got it in first time. I still remember the exact moment it worked because I started going numb and felt instant relief. It's kind of funny because first time around I was so scared of being paralysed and not being able to feel my legs, yet this time I was thinking thankgod and seeing it as a blessing. It helped that I knew my legs would just go tingly and warm instead of not being able to feel them at all.

During the operation I was speaking to the surgical nurse beside me about her grandkids and all sorts of things. It was like I was having a chat with old friends, not laying on an operating table being cut open. I honestly can't believe how vastly different both experiences were, even though they took place in exactly the same room.

Baby girl surprised them when they opened me up as she was posterior and her little face was waiting to greet them. Totally explains the excruciating contractions. She finally entered the world {screaming her lungs out} at 9:05am April 13th and they laid her on my chest. We both looked at each other and said wow she looks just like her sister. Like almost identical, except that she had brown eyes and brown hair. I had skin to skin with her until they took her away to recovery and it was just so magical and healing. I felt an instant connection with her. I felt like I already knew her. It probably helped that this time I got a baby that looks like me {her sister's blonde hair and blue eyes totally threw me when she was born}.

I really feel like this birth, even though it ultimately ended the same way as my first, was so very emotionally healing for me. After my first birth I spent months, years if I'm completely honest, trying to come to terms with what happened. Mourning the fact that I didn't get to experience a natural birth, feeling like a failure and feeling like less of a woman and a mum because of it. Thankfully 10 months on I still haven't had any of those feelings this time. If there's one thing I've learnt now I've given birth twice, it's that every birth is completely different, even when they end the same way. Also posterior labour really hurts.

Toni x

* for those interested, you can read about my first birth here.

Linking with Kylie

Would you like to comment?

  1. I have nothing to compare it to but 100% agree that posterior labour hurts ... the back pain, horrible. So glad your experience turned out to be healing, even if it wasn't exactly what you wanted. I think going in with the knowledge that you can't control labour or birth and the willingness to do whatever it takes to meet that baby helps. I had absolutely no birth plan other than I don't want an epidural unless I have to (they had been trying to push me into it for medical reasons for weeks).

    1. I think that's partially why I was so devastated the first time, because I was 100% certain I'd be having a natural birth. I never even entertained the idea of possibly needing a c-section. This time I knew what I wanted, but I also wasn't going to blame myself if it didn't happen.

  2. Beautiful story, Toni, thank you for sharing. You've touched on what I think is the most important part of your story and that is control and informed consent. There are so many women who have traumatic births where the trauma could have been avoided if the woman had just been treated like a human being rather than just a body in distress. When you're pregnant and especially in labour, there is so little you can control, and so being made to feel like you're able to make any kind of decision rather than having them made for you goes a long way towards helping lessen the trauma that a woman experiences. I'm so glad this birth was a healing experience for you xx

    1. Yes definitely! The first time I literally felt like I was another number to them and not a person because I was given no choice at all.