HEALING BIRTH STORY - PAULA'S VBAC JOURNEY

Here's Paula's beautiful story about her experience of her overwhelming, unexpected outcome with her first born, to a vaginal birth after caesarean at home with her second bubba.

"15 hour induction failed. 'We're taking you for a cesarean right now. Your body isn't coping and if you want future children she has to come out right now'. Cold. Fear. Shock. Can't stop shaking. Tears running down my face. Pain. Yelling.. 'I can feel it!!', but they won't listen to me. 'Be quiet or we'll knock you out and you won't see your baby'. Fear. Shaking. Pain. Yelling out again.. 'I'm in pain. I feel it!'. 'Calm down or we'll put you to sleep'. I scream, I shake, I cry.. I'm feeling threatened. They won't listen...
My baby! She's here! I hear her cry, but I don't see her. She's then placed on my chest. 'She's healthy, weighs 4.51kg' they say.


She is perfection. 'Welcome to the world, Grace'. All I see, hear and feel is her and I. What a big love. 'I love you already!'.


They take my baby from my arms... Sharp pain returns. I want my baby back. I start to yell out in pain. I feel many hands pushing and pulling all over me.. My baby is back but I still feel the pain. Daddy takes our baby girl.. I see them together.. Then I black out. I come too as I'm being wheeled to recovery. I have no idea how long I was out for or why.. but my husband told me I was never asleep.


On the surface, I feel so happy and in love with my new baby girl, she is more than I could have ever imagined. Just under the surface I feel.. sad, numb, ashamed, guilty, angry, confused, cheated.. I'm not a woman. How can I be? I've failed. My body has failed me and I've failed my baby. 'She was too big, she was never coming out any other way. She was too big and got stuck', is what I'm told.
I'm not enough... I couldn't even birth my baby....

My daughter, Grace was 18 months old when we conceived her baby brother. We loved her so, so much and we couldn't wait to give her a sibling. I had been dreaming of this moment for 18 months.. I was finally pregnant again and I was certain that I was going to birth this baby vaginally. No matter what it took, I would have a VBAC. I would not be a broken woman anymore! I had acupuncture on my scar and used healing essential oils in the months leading up to my second pregnancy, I lost 35kg, I completely changed my diet, I researched all things VBAC, I joined Facebook support groups, I read my hospital file over and over to understand more of what went wrong.. I then decided my best chance was a home birth with an independent midwife and I knew I absolutely needed and wanted a doula to support me during my second birth.


At 6 weeks pregnant I contacted a midwife. I did not expect to get turned down.. But I did.. Over and over again, I heard 'Sorry, you're too far away'. I was crushed. My dream of home birth and my VBAC was becoming harder to grasp.. I told myself I couldn't go to hospital to birth. My labour will stop as soon as we leave the house, just like last time. I will not be induced again.. I can't go through that again. This journey WILL be different.


I reached 16 weeks and still, I couldn't find anyone to support me at home.. I was a mess. I felt as though I was going to have to prepare myself to free birth my baby on my own, at home, with no support. Shaun (my husband) was not okay with free birth, but he too desperately wanted to ensure that I got a chance to have a healing, supportive birth this time around. We felt we were out of options and were just stuck.. I decided to contact some of the midwives again and PLEAD.. BEG them to help me! One asked us to come and speak with him, as he cared so deeply about my experience. He wasn't sure if he could help, but wanted to chat. Daniel was a perfect fit for us, we could tell after that one visit that he was who we needed to help us.. He believed in me. He wanted to help, but felt he was too far from us. He told us to wait a few weeks, see what he could do and he'd be in contact to let us know if he could support us.


I was just over 20 weeks pregnant when I received his phone call to tell me that two other women in my area also wanted his care, so he was more than happy to support us on our journey. I felt so relieved that I didn't have to free birth my baby and I was going to have amazing support this time. I was planning a home birth!!!!!


We booked in with our beautiful doula, Lauren. I was so thrilled to have her support!!
We found out we were having a boy and we were so thrilled! Everything was going along perfectly.. Things were falling into place, finally. Thank you universe!


Suddenly I was hit with this feeling of "I'm not enough". It came out of no where.. I cried so much. I'm not enough of a woman to do this. I don't deserve this experience. I had no idea where this was coming from.. I spoke to Lauren about it and she asked me, 'Can you recall your first period? What was it like? How did you feel?'. I had not been expecting such a question.. but I answered, 'Bad. Horrible. I had no idea it was going to happen and I denied that it was happening to me for months on end. I felt like I didn't deserve that to happen to me every month, why do I have to go through this?'.


I felt a huge shift within me.. Lauren was amazing. 'It sounds like these feelings of not being enough and not deserving this experience are coming from your passage into womanhood being negative and not being prepared or honoured in the right way.. It is very connected to how you feel about your path into motherhood'... It made perfect sense! She told me to speak with my Mum about it all to acknowledge it and come to acceptance/forgiveness and then honour that time in my life by doing some writing around it and then taking a nice bath with candles etc. to nurture that past part of myself as I began my journey into womanhood. The feelings and thoughts of not being enough and not deserving a positive experience shifted and I felt lighter.


I also wanted to birth this beautiful baby myself, with no one else touching me. I felt I needed to birth my own baby to fully heal from my daughter's cesarean birth, but at the same time I knew in my heart that I wanted and needed love, support and encouragement around me. I was struggling with allowing others to help me on this journey.

Lauren organised a Mothers Blessing for me with two very close family members and a friend. They showered me with love, support for my upcoming VBAC, nourishing food, flowers for my hair, lovely beads for a birthing necklace, beautiful words/energy and I had some awesome henna done on my belly. It was an amazing afternoon and it helped me start to be okay with allowing others who care to do things for me. The energy I felt afterwards was big and I felt so happy/loved up.

I continued to reflect within myself for the rest of my pregnancy.. Things arose and lessons popped up for me in all different ways... They all had the same message, to 'let go'. To accept that I can't control everything, all of the time. To allow others to help and feel okay with receiving it. I needed to allow things to come into my life - thoughts, feelings, situations, people.. whether I liked it or not, and allow them to just be there. To sit in the uncertainty, to sit in the energy that surrounded me (good or unpleasant) and know it is okay. I was okay. Just allow it to be, acknowledge it and then let it go. I also decided to withdraw myself from Facebook, to really connect to my body and my baby. This was all part of my preparation for the birth journey that was about to unfold before me..

I had many chats with Lauren leading up to my birth.. I was 40 weeks and 4 days when she came to see me. We worked through and confronted many things that were coming up for me in my thoughts as she did a Reiki session.. It was so freeing. I cried and I felt so cleansed of my thoughts and energy. I felt so ready to go on this birth journey. 'You've got your birth face on' said Lauren as left. I went into labour 16 hours later.

At 2am on the 9th of June, I woke up to quite an intense contraction.. 4 minutes passed and another.. and another.. It's happening. This definitely is not pre-labour this time!!
I tried to rest, but it was uncomfortable to lay down.. so I got up and pottered around the house doing a last minute tidy up.


Around 5:30am things were getting much more intense.. so I called Lauren to let her know 'It's happening!!'. I rang our midwife, Daniel and he said he would get his things together and be over about7am. I messaged my Mum and she too got here around 7am.
Lauren arrived some time after that.. I got in the pool as I was feeling the energy all in my back and I then lost all sense of time...

At first, the raw energy of the contractions was overwhelming me and I found myself trying to push up against them. I had fear that I would scare my daughter, Grace.. So I was holding back.


I was thinking. I couldn't stop thinking, though I desperately wanted to stop thinking. I couldn't stop my thoughts from going around and around in my head.. I was over thinking all of it. What I needed to do was switch off and let go. I managed to get to that place of nothingness in my mind after a while.. I saw Grace was happy and okay with her Daddy and this helped me relax a little. I was just allowing myself to feel each contraction, letting it come, letting it stay and then letting it leave. I rested between each one as best I could.


Each time someone spoke to me or I heard voices.. I lost that control, the thoughts started to come back and I'd have to find that place in my mind again. It became easier to do with time.. I wanted to stay in this place of not thinking. It made everything much easier.
I don't know how long into labour I was, but Daniel felt it best if he checked my progress as it had been quite some time now. I was extremely nervous about this.. this was where my body had "failed" me previously in my first labour. I had only ever reached 4cm in 15 hours with Grace.. I agreed to check how things were going, but asked him not to tell me how many cm I was dilated as it may discourage me. He checked me and with a big smile asked if I'd like to know as he felt it would help me.. I nodded and I heard 'You're 6cm dilated!'. Oh my gosh!!! This is further than I got with Grace, I can absolutely do this!! Shaun and I were so thrilled I was making such good progress.. I was doing it!!!


I fell back into labour land rather quickly and things really started to pick up.. I had let go even more now. I was roaring and being very vocal. I felt a really intense urge to pull. I had to pull on something!! Lauren set up a sarong for me to pull on and everyone took turns holding it as I pulled. It felt so good.. I started to push a little with some contractions, which was helping my baby turn into a better position for birthing and move down further. I envisioned this in my mind.


However, hours later, I remember coming out of labour land, looking up and seeing it was now night time.. I started questioning myself. Can I do this? I'm not sure I can.. How much longer is this going to go on for? My whole body aches. My legs hurt and feel heavy from squatting and my arms are tired from pulling. I. Am. Exhausted.


Daniel checked me again and I was then at 8cm.. I was doing this and I was almost there! He told me, 'You have more in you than you know'. Those words I heard many more times, at exactly the right moments that I needed to hear them.


I was back in the pool and continued to pull on the sarong.. If I wasn't in the pool, then someone had to press on my back as it was so intense with each contraction. I had noticed that if I stood up and was out of the water that everything was much stronger and felt I made more progress.. So, we decided I would hop out of the pool and see how I went.


It was hard for me to get comfortable and I felt really irritable. Lauren suggested that Shaun and I go into our bedroom to kiss/cuddle and just be alone together to encourage oxytocin to flow more. Once we reached our room I had to crouch down on the floor with my arms up on the bed in Shaun's lap.. I couldn't move. Lauren came in with my Mum and said she'd like to try some acupressure points to help me dilate that extra 2cm. After a few contractions doing the pressure points I felt such an intense urge to push with my whole body.. So I began really pushing now. His head was right there, I could see it in the mirror but it kept going back up.. He was trying to turn the right way as he was slightly posterior.


Pushing felt amazing.. I didn't feel the need to push with every contraction, but from that point I didn't really feel the contractions anymore.. All of my energy was focused on pushing and a heavy feeling in my legs.


I don't know how long I pushed for.. but all of a sudden I saw lots his head in the mirror and I suddenly got fearful. 'I can't do it'. Lauren was telling me to go with the feeling and allow it to come.. but I started to be fearful of pushing because my back was hurting so badly with each push and I was frightened after hearing he looked to be a "decent" sized baby. I squealed and yelled and roared.. His head was finally out. A few minutes passed and I didn't feel like pushing again just yet.. but my midwives got concerned it had been a few minutes and nothing was happening. They saw he was slightly stuck with his left shoulder and needed some assistance.. so I was flipped over and laid back to birth his body.


He was out! Our precious Leon was earth side.. All 4.57kg of him at 11:06pm on June 9th. He was placed right onto my chest and into my arms. The relief I felt was incredible! I remember asking 'Is he okay??', as he wasn't crying.. just laying there peacefully. 'He's perfect!' exclaimed Daniel... I was happy with that. I was propped onto pillows and laid on the floor at the base of our family bed.. relieved, resting and enjoying my new baby!
I was so tired. My mind was all on Leon.. then I hear Lauren whisper to me "Paula... You did it!! You got your VBAC". It hadn't completely sunken in yet.. but I was so thrilled to hear those words. Grace had watched in awe as Leon was born, she crouched down to see him for the first time and I felt whole. I birthed my baby the way nature intended.. I got to hold him for hours whilst he was still attached to the placenta, I got to birth and see his placenta, we burned his cord (which Shaun and I did together (I never saw Shaun cut Grace's cord at birth), but most importantly.. I was with my family in the comfort of home. Surrounded by people I loved and whom loved me, they believed in me and supported me through one of the biggest and greatest achievements of my life to date.. the birth of our son. I just needed the right people around me who believed in me and would hold space for me as I laboured and birthed.


I am woman. Hear me roar! Grace now tells everyone 'Mummy is a lion!! Roar!!'. I have power and strength in me that I never knew I had! This birth experience has helped show me so many things about myself and it has changed who I am as a mother, as a wife and as Paula. I feel whole as a woman and I've found closure in my previous birth experience.

If there's one thing that I could tell all beautiful mothers to be... I'd say, 'You have more in you than you know'."