Realising that I was expecting my third baby was a moment tinged with both elation and anxiety. While the birth of my first child was a positive experience, my second child’s birth story began with the baby having reduced fetal movement. My consultant was away and my son’s birth was a series of interventions culminating in an emergency caesarean section. To be honest that night remains one of the scariest experiences of my life and the whole experience left me feeling confused, traumatised, and disempowered. I knew that this pregnancy would be my last and so I wanted to reclaim the experience as my own and give myself and my baby every opportunity for a positive birth.
With my consultant, we decided to plan for a VBAC. I wanted to actively prepare for it and so I looked into hynobirthing and found Mary’s course. My partner and I weren’t sure what to expect but we both really enjoyed the weekend and I left feeling that a positive, gentle birth was possible for us. I suppose one of the big things I took from the course was to be prepared but flexible. Through the course, I realised that for me, understanding what was happening and why it was medically necessary was vital. You can’t get answers if you don’t know what questions to ask and the course gave me the questions to ask. At each prenatal appointment I would have a topic for my birth plan ready to discuss with the consultant and I found that talking things through really reduced my anxiety. I had two birth plans prepared, one for the VBAC and one for a gentle c-section.
Given how difficult my second child’s birth had been, I realised that I needed some help to process what had happened two years before. I sought out some counselling and I realised that I was holding myself responsible for not giving my second child the birth I had wanted for him, even though what had happened was largely out of my control. I began to focus on all the love, care and attention that give my son every day since before he was born and I was finally able to let go of the guilt I felt about his birth and move on.
My daughter’s birth started on a similar note to my son’s in that she had reduced fetal movement and again my own consultant was not available. The difference was that this time my partner and I had the knowledge and language to be empowered to ask for the birth we wanted. We met the on call consultant and he was very supportive of the VBAC and was generally very open and positive. Given the reduced movement, my waters were broken to see if labour could be induced. The staff didn’t suggest continuous monitoring and I was allowed to walk around the hospital. Despite walking up and down the stairs a thousand times, my contractions never really became regular. The consultant then suggested that we try a low dose of the drip to see if that would help. At that point, we went through the gentle c-section birth plan and the consultant was very open to everything I asked for. I opted for the epidural at that point.
My midwife was fantastic. I had my own playlist playing and lemon and lavendar essential oils in the room. I also used the peanut ball. Even with the drip, my labour never became established and there came a point four hours later when the baby became distressed and I asked for a c-section. Things did get scary but I found I was able to cope much better and even though I got upset, I stayed in control and held on to positive thoughts.
The team were great, I was allowed to have my own music playing in the theatre, and they agreed to milk the cord. The drip etc were all placed in my non-dominant arm so that I could hold the baby. The biggest difference between my son’s birth and my daughter’s was that they lowered the drape as the baby was being born so that I could see her and that was just an amazing moment. At times we had to be assertive in insisting that my partner could stay with me and once I got the baby I insisted in keeping her with me. I didn’t get to do skin to skin immediately as they wrapped the baby up in a blanket in the theatre but once I got to the recovery room I did it and also fed her myself there.
I kept the baby with me all the time in the hospital. The Midwives offered to take her on the first night and on the last night but there was no way I was letting her go! I was lucky that I felt physically and emotionally able to keep her close and breastfeed her as much as possible during those early days.
Even though I had hoped and prepared for a VBAC and my daughter arrived by emergency c-section, I have no regrets. I felt informed, empowered and prepared. I always understood what was happening and I feel that I adapted to the change of plan as well as possible. My partner and I were very much on the same page and he was a rock of support. Because he had such a clear understanding of what I wanted he was able to advocate for me and look after me. My strongest memory of my daughter’s birth is a very joyful one of the blue drape being lowered and seeing her enter the world. Given all of my previous history, being able to hold that moment in my mind that means more than words can say.