Another healing birth story from Rachel and her journey to her VBAC.
Van's Birth Story
The back story for me was two births that didn't feel like I was hoping for. My first son was born vaginally, but with much trauma. The midwife seemed nervous with the amount of noise I was making, and kept asking me about using pain relief (despite my birth plan and the Calmbirth strategies I had learnt during pregnancy). I needed to be monitored every half an hour as there was meconium in my waters, and this was absolute agony. I had to stay in one spot for five to ten minutes while I was monitored. I ended up feeling very tired and defeated after being awake for over 24 hours, and asked for an epidural. When I was fully dilated, I began pushing and continued to push and push. Nothing was happening (I would later find out that my son was posterior through my labour and pushing stage) and I was prepped for a c section. Nobody told my husband, Tim, nor I what was going on and I felt completely out of control, and extremely scared. There were about 10 people in the room and luckily, after 2.5 hours pushing, I managed to push him out safely. Unfortunately, I had a bad third-degree tear which required surgery and was quickly taken away from my newborn baby due to a large amount of blood loss. That was the hardest time of my life. Throughout the surgery and in recovery (about 2-2.5 hours) I was sobbing and just asking them to take me to my baby, I hadn't even had a chance to hold him.
After this experience, I was scared when I fell pregnant 14 months later about going through everything again and immediately opted for a c-section. Tim and I were both so traumatised after what happened the first time and I sat in my first midwife appointment in tears. Attempting another vaginal delivery was completely overwhelming, but I knew that I might have to jump through hoops to have an elective c-section as I would be delivering my baby in a public hospital again. Luckily, the OB agreed and I am thankful that I was able to have a choice. Getting ready for a c-section was a completely different experience for me, and I stressed to the doctors and midwives that I wanted skin to skin with my son as soon as he was born. I got to hold him for hours after his birth, and the midwives allowed my husband to stay with me during recovery. It was beautiful, but I still felt like this wasn't the type of birth that I really needed. When my son was diagnosed with a number of intolerances and allergies during his first year of life, I strongly believe that this was due to his birth and I began looking into natural therapies to heal his gut and help him overcome these intolerances.
When I fell pregnant with my third son two years later, I already knew that I wanted and needed some extra help, beyond what Tim so excellently provides. I enlisted the help of a doula, and knew that her support with Tim would give me the best chance of having a birth I desperately wanted (and needed).
Tim and I met with Julia MacLeod, and I instantly felt at ease after telling her our story. I knew that this is what we both needed and that she would help us to be informed, aware and confident going into the birth. During a chat with Julia later on in my pregnancy, I realised that my first birth traumatised me dramatically, and the fact that I wasn't able to hold my son after delivery was torture. The birth I had always pictured and wanted didn't happen and I was extremely disappointed and I felt guilty. I felt like I deserved one of these 'magical' births that everyone talks about. My births felt surgical, scary and overwhelming.
On Sunday, June 12th 2016 at 4.30pm my waters broke unexpectedly at 40 weeks, 5 days pregnant. Because of the fact I was having a VBAC, I was asked to come to the hospital, so my mum stayed with the older boys and off Tim and I went. It was confirmed it was my waters and I was told that I would need to stay in hospital now just in case. This was a decision I was okay with as we don't live 5 minutes away from the hospital and I felt safer knowing I was in there until the birth. Tim stayed as well and we were given a private room, with Tim getting a lovely mattress on the floor. That night we didn't get much sleep as I spent most of the night vomiting. Needless to say, we were exhausted on Monday.
We asked the beautiful Julia to come in the morning on Monday to try and get labour started as I was told that if I wasn't in labour by Tuesday morning that I would be induced. We went for a walk, did some aromatherapy and tried to get things started. We had a nice lunch and then Julia left so Tim and I could have a midday nap.
At 9pm Monday night I started to get some contractions. By 10pm they were 3-4 minutes apart and lasting a minute so we asked Julia to come back to the hospital. The contractions were this way until about 5am Tuesday morning, increasing with intensity. I then asked to get moved to the birthing suite as I had had enough of being in the maternity ward and trying to keep quiet amongst all the newborn babies and mothers. During this stage, I was sick again as well, so needless to say was very dehydrated despite Julia and Tim's efforts to give me water and ice.
At about 6am we went to birthing suites. On the way there I heard a baby crying from another suite and I was in tears, I was very emotional. I was put into the room with a bath and was so happy as I felt like everything was falling into place.
Unfortunately, when my cervix was checked I wasn't progressing very well and my contractions were starting to taper off. I think I was too dehydrated. The midwife said that the doctor wanted to start me on a drip and I was beside myself. That was the last thing I wanted. I started to question how I would cope with the contractions as I was so exhausted having been awake for 2 nights. I started crying as I was extremely disappointed, this is not what I had planned! Yet I decided to go with the syntocinon drip as I knew I couldn't labour all day as I was so exhausted from being awake for 48 hours. When they put the drip in I remember looking at Tim and sobbing. I said to the midwife that it is so unfair I am not going to get the birth I wanted as I 'knew' I would need an epidural after hearing horror stories of the drip. I had lost all faith. Julia reassured me not to think too far ahead, we would get through it.
The drip went in at about 7.45am on Tuesday 14th June. I was put in a nice warm bath after it was put in, attached to the monitor (procedure with the Syntocin - I had previously decided against monitoring because of my VBAC) and also given some IV fluids and Maxalon to counteract the vomiting. After about an hour the contractions were ramping up and were pretty intense. Julia and Tim sat next to me while I was in the bath and I started to doubt myself, the pain was out of control. I used my voice to cope with the contractions and also had birth affirmations on the wall that I focussed on. Julia also gave me stress balls which I squeezed and hit on the bath. At this stage, I had an absolutely beautiful midwife who was like an angel. She stayed in the room the whole time and took note of my contractions as the machine wasn't picking them up. She was gentle, reassuring and calm. Just what I needed. She never mentioned pain relief and never made me feel like I wasn't doing a good job. The room was quite dark, calming and nice to be in. Nothing felt surgical like my previous births.
At about 9.30 I was in 'active labour' and my contractions were crazy intense. The baby's heart rate kept dropping so I had to get out of the bath and the midwife asked if she could check me. I said that was fine but told everyone I will probably only be 3cm and knew it would break my heart. When checked the midwife said I was nearly 7cm dilated and I was in shock. It was about 10am. The heart rate was really good while out of the bath so I decided to stay out for a while and focus on getting gravity to help me push him down. I leaned over Tim and Julia used acupressure on my back and counting through the contractions to help me. The pain was unbearable and the contractions were 30-35 seconds long but as I was on a drip they were so intense. The midwife said she was just popping out for a minute and I knew I was nearly ready to push. I felt different and a bit 'spaced out'.
Not long after the midwife came back and Julia suggested I get back in the bath. I instantly needed to push. I had to adjust how I was sitting so Tim hopped in the bath too so he could support me. This was at 10.30am. I held onto Tim's neck and pushed my feet against the side of the bath. I visualised a coffee plunger pushing down, which is a visual used from Juju Sundin's book, Birth Skills.
20 minutes later I delivered my son, Van, into my arms in the bath. It was extremely emotional and I was overcome with a sense of achievement and I said, "I did it!" I couldn't believe it. I was so sure that I would end up with an epidural and have issues because of the drip, but it really just helped me to speed things up a bit.
I got to stay in the birthing suite until 4pm and have skin-to-skin, feed Van and have a bit of a nap. Nothing felt rushed. I didn't see one doctor during my labour or Van's birth, which was completely awesome. I did have another tear but it was stitched in the room with my son in my arms, very different to my first birth.
It's still a bit unreal that we did it, and that I finally got a birth I could be happy with. I have now experienced so many different birth outcomes but understand now why it is so special. We were so lucky with the supportive midwives we had, especially the one we had during my labour. I felt supported, understood and respected during my birth. I truly believe that without the unwavering support of Tim, Julia, and the midwives at Gosford Public Hospital that I wouldn't have gone into the birth the way I did. I felt confident and had so many birthing skills to use during labour to help me cope. My birth was so very healing, and thinking about my first two births doesn't fill me with sadness anymore. I feel like without those two births I wouldn't have had such an amazing experience this time around. It was an out of the body experience, filled with nothing but love and affection.