I’ve been meaning to share my birth stories here for some time now, but I’ve been procrastinating about it. I think it’s because I feel a weight of responsibility over what I say. While a lot of aspects of my labours didn’t go exactly as I planned, I don’t want to portray them as horror stories, because they weren’t. In fact I found both of them empowering experiences and they ended with a healthy Mum and babe; which is the main thing, right?
I’m not going to go into all the details, just a summary really. Actually I can’t remember all the details anyway – obviously I wasn’t too traumatised, then!
My birth plan when I was pregnant with Noah was that I wanted a natural water birth, however my midwife while very encouraging and supportive of this, said “Hope for the best – have your plan A, but prepare for the worst as well.” She was trying to make sure that I could still be flexible, go with the flow if things didn’t go exactly according to ‘my plan.’ I was grateful for this advice.
My due date came and went and Noah never really dropped down. In the end I went two weeks overdue and I was booked for induction at Wellington hospital, where we were living at the time. My induction was postponed a couple of times due to lack of beds and I found that quite frustrating.
When I finally was admitted they said I was contracting a bit already, but wasn’t really dilated or anything yet. I was given the gel overnight and woke up pumped and ready to go. Soon after I was put on the syntocinon drip and my waters were burst as soon as possible. My midwife continued to gradually ramp up the intensity of artificial contractions using the drip, but every time I was checked no progress had been made. In the end I never managed to get past 3cm dilation.
Eventually it was suggested that I was given the epidural and the contractions increased even more, I agreed to this. At the same time all this was happening my midwife expressed concern that the CTG was showing that Noah’s heart rate was dropping with each contraction (something I believe they call ‘foetal dips’). She went and discussed this with the specialist and the specialist said to me: “How would you like to round off this pregnancy and have a caesarean?”
This was the first mention of this. “Excuse me…” I said … “What do you mean by that?” It was explained to me that I needed an emergency c-section due to the concerns over the foetal dips and because of risk of haemorrhage to me as by that stage I had been on the synto for the maximum recommended time. I found this to be a better explanation and of course we agreed with the medical professionals’ judgement.
And if in the same situation again, I would make the same decision.
At 11.20pm, 13/12/08 my healthy baby boy Noah James Young was born weighing 7 pounds 3 (3.26 kg). (Note the time on the clock in the top photo).
He was perfect (albeit with a temporary cone-head – it had been hard work getting him out and 2 midwives had to dive in to retrieve him using the forceps!)
I remember this moment so clearly, the moment they placed him in my arms. It was magical and my eyes welled with tears of joy.
Breastfeeding was quickly established and I recovered well from the surgery. While it was, of course not the birth I had planned, I didn’t feel bad or remorseful that it had resulted in a caesarean. I was just glad that both Noah and I had given the natural path the best shot we could and that he were both healthy and well at the end of it.
When I fell pregnant with Isabelle I hoped to try for a normal delivery (also known as VBAC). My midwife didn’t think this would be a problem and a specialist appointment confirmed this. However I was still surprised when I spontaneously went into labour a few days before my due date. The contractions started about 5pm on Monday night and were increasingly strong through the night so I couldn’t get much sleep. By 5am they were regular and reasonably painful and I was getting 1 about every 5 minutes so I texted my midwife and she came and told us to go to hospital. The contractions increased in length, regularity and intensity – but once again I was not progressing. After initially being told to move around a lot to get things going, I was then told to try and relax and settle things down to see if the contractions slowed so I could go home and give myself a better chance of achieving a natural birth. The specialists said that if I kept contracting as I had they would want to perform a caesarean as they were worried about my scar from Noah’s birth rupturing. (They kept reminding me that it wasn’t the completely healed and faded external scar that they were concerned about, their main concern was what I couldn’t see. The scar on my womb.)
While of course, this made sense to me; I couldn’t help but find it confusing and frustrating; but I did what they said and the contractions slowed a bit. I was sent home. Not long after returning home everything ramped back up again and my midwife sent me back in, this continued once I was back in hospital, but at every check I was found to be no more than 3cm. I was once again given the ultimatum that if no progress was made by the next check then I would have to have the Caesar. The time came for the check and it was performed by a new doctor. He had different views. It was late by then and they didn’t have a full team to perform the surgery, also he had research to suggest that the risk of scar rupture at my current stage was less than we had been previously told and that we could continue on. While this was what I wanted to hear, it was also very difficult to hear – I was so tired and drained that the thought of the surgery was almost a welcome relief.
He suggested I have some pethidine so as to try and sleep through the night so I would have energy for the next day. I didn’t really like the idea of pethidine, but upon his advice I took it (my current midwife says she personally wouldn’t have recommended this.) While I was unable to sleep, it did relax me somewhat and the next morning brought the good news that I had progressed a little – I think to 4cm. At this point my waters were burst and I think I also had the synto. As soon as my waters were burst my contractions very suddenly became completely unbearable. Despite wanting to avoid the epidural I yelled for it now! The doctors were all busy with some emergencies so I was not given an internal exam before the epidural was given (I now believe I was probably at least 7cm if not more when this happened.)
When the specialist came around about an hour or so later she first felt my tummy. “Baby’s still very high ..” she said … “It’s looking like a caesar, I’m afraid.” And then she did the internal exam. “Oh my goodness… 10cm and baby is already coming down!” (This now makes me think that with my short torso I just carry high and perhaps my babies only drop at the end?)
Andrew was hurriedly called back from the hospital cafe and I prepared to push. They removed the epidural but I was still somewhat numbed and couldn’t feel much. I knew that this was the stage where they were most concerned about damage to my scar and as such they would give me limited time to push before they intervened with forceps or ventouse. With that in the back of my mind I pushed for 20 mins and at 3.30pm on 19/11/10 Isabelle Jocelyn Young was born weighing 6 pounds 13 ounces (3.09kg). I had been in labour for 3 days and had had a total of 7 hours sleep over those 2 nights.
The first thing I said to her was “I pushed you out myself.” I have to confess that I didn’t have the those same exact magical feelings that I had when Noah was born. This time around I felt a lot more relief and exhaustion. Of course those magical feelings came soon enough.
So what am I trying to say in all of this? I think I’m trying to show that although labours might not always go according to our plan, they can still be positive and empowering experiences. I’ve sometimes had people look at me with pity when I mention that I had a caesar with Noah or a prolonged labour with Isabelle. But I’m grateful for these experiences, they’re my birth stories. Yes, Noah was a caesar, but he was healthy; yes I laboured for a long time with Isabelle, but I managed to have a VBAC.
We are trying for another VBAC this time, and perhaps this time I might also get my water birth with no drugs. But we’ll see – ultimately I believe God is in control and He already knows my next birth story. That is the most comforting thing of all.