Finally I have found the time (and the courage!) to write about my three birthing experiences and share the reason as to why I decided to have an elective c-section for my third birth after I had successfully given birth vaginally to my second child. What was I thinking? I’m sure many of you would be asking, why? And that is part of the reason why it has taken me so long to write about this. I didn’t want to be judged. So, why did I choose to have major surgery when I probably could have had another natural birth?
Before we became mothers, we all had some idea of what labour and birth would be like. Right? And now hands up if it was nothing like you expected? But what if you had the choice? What if you were in a position to choose how calm your birth could be? What if you could choose to bring your baby into a world where there was no panic and uncertainty (of course there’s still always uncertainty with surgery).
Pic by Michelle Pragt
I truly believe I wasn’t designed to birth children naturally. Carry them in my womb, yes, I did that damn finely, but birth them, nope, I would have died without modern medicine (three times over!!). Here’s why I came to this conclusion;
ANNABELLE – Emergency Caesarean
My first labour and birth was honestly horrendous. I still feel traumatised thinking about it seven years later. I had grand plans of a calm labour where I would practice hypnobirthing and give birth in the water, Hubby crying with happiness while he cut the cord and we all celebrated. My best friend Helen had had a textbook labour and birth just four weeks earlier so why couldn’t I?
Of course, this wasn’t the case (although for about six hours of it I did manage to spend quite some time in and out of the bath and shower!). I tried the exercise ball, I tried walking/swaying/moaning/swaying/lying down/standing up. I got back in the bath, then out, then back in the shower and then when the midwife thought things were close, we headed back into the bath. Things intensified. It had been 11 hours.
We felt the head. Hubby kept looking at the strainer which sat beside the bath, hoping he didn’t have to see it being used. By this stage we all thought things were close. 13 hours. Pushing wasn’t working even though my body began to convulse and involuntarily push all by itself, determined to birth the baby on its own. They put me on the birthing chair, then in a squat position, then on a mat on the floor on my back, on all fours, on my side, leaning forward on a chair, but nothing worked. The pushing continued but Annabelle did not want to come out. I remember thinking, if someone told me I was about to die right now, I would believe it and would feel relieved. How could my body feel this pain and I not pass out?
I tried with everything I had to get the baby out naturally but to no avail. I gave it my all. I was spent, Hubby was spent, Mum was spent and the midwives were spent. And after 16-18 hours of intense labour, my body still convulsing every 30 seconds, Mum called it. “Get this baby out. NOW. She’s done.”
And so, I was prepped for surgery. I’ll never forget sitting on that theatre bed, an orderly (or maybe a nurse, I can’t recall) holding me upright, as I had to stay as still as still could be for the injection to be put in my back. An horrific contraction neared and I peed all over the poor man holding me still. None of this was calm, there was no beauty in it.
The reason I wasn’t able to birth Annabelle naturally? The shape of her head was quite large and she was posterior. The obstetrician needed forceps to pull her back out of the birth canal and out through my abdomen. Charming. None-the-less my little Annabelle was welcomed into the world with open arms and a whole lotta love. The recovery, however, not so lovely, but not as bad as I was expecting.
PENNY – VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean)
I can honestly say Penny’s labour (let’s just be clear for now – I said labour, not birth, not recovery) was a breeze compared to Annabelle’s. I had decided to have a VBAC for my second. After talking to MANY people, midwives, GP, obstetricians, Dr Google, I was determined to give it a go. I was high risk because of my previous caesar but doctors told me I probably had around a 75 per cent chance of birthing naturally because Annabelle’s head size and position was the reason I couldn’t do it last time. There was nothing to suggest this would happen again. That was good enough odds for me.
Contractions hit around 10am and by midday I was in hospital, pacing the corridor waiting for a room. Unfortunately I had to be monitored this time round and stay on the bed in case my uterus ruptured, so I felt a little trapped and uncomfortable. Of course the pain was again horrendous but things were moving quickly and pretty text book.
Three hours in I was 7cms dilated and I asked (begged) for an epidural. Which was the best thing EVER… for the pain and for my mental and physical state! I relaxed and the labour sped up, we jumped to 10cms in half an hour. But this was not a good thing as Penny’s heart rate dropped with each contraction. They suspected the cord was wrapped around her neck.
Quickly I was rushed to surgery again and I felt as if history was repeating itself. It was intense, it was panicked. People were everywhere again and I was, unfortunately, the centre of attention with bubs in danger this time. I was angry at myself for choosing to have a VBAC and putting this baby in danger (silly thoughts, I know now, of course). Then just as the scalpel was poised, the obstetrician decided we would try a few pushes and give a vaginal birth one more go (pushing with no feeling in my bottom half was one of the strangest things I’ve ever have to do!) and two chin to chest squeezes, a tear and an episiotomy later, she was out. And yes the cord was around her neck, she was rushed out of my peripheral vision, panic still in the room. Thankfully she soon let out a little cry. Phew. I was elated. I had successfully had a “natural” birth. Or had I?
My poor vagina had copped a beating (that sounds so raw and barbaric doesn’t it!) with the forceps used and I felt as though the stitches were too tight. For the weeks that followed I had two infections, had to pee while pouring water on my lower regions then dry it with a hair dryer, followed by placing an icepack on it. I was so depressed from my lady bits being ripped to shreds and I cried A LOT. Early on, I fed Penny on all fours or on my side because I couldn’t sit due to the pain and I remember Annabelle watching me in horror as I winced with every movement. It was a trying time for us all. I swore I would never do this again, put my poor vagina through this hell. My Hubby was grateful, he said he never wanted to see his favourite pub burning down ever again….
JACOB – Elective Caesarean
So, when I got pregnant the third time round, my mind – my poor anxious, over thinking, worried mind – began to immediatly weigh up the pro’s and con’s. I knew I had the power this time. I knew it was up to me. I knew, to a point, I could gain back some control I had felt I had lost. For six months I did my research. I asked doctors, nurses, midwives, obstetricians, student midwives, other mums, I Googled, I listened to my busy, terrified mind. What was I most afraid of? Was it the labour? The birth? The risk? The recovery? The episiotomy? The tearing? The uncertainty?
I decided it was all of the above. I decided I didn’t want to bring my child into a scary, panicked, emergency. I wanted calm. And how could I achieve that when no-one can ever know what their labour and birth will be like? How could I control just a little bit of how it would pan out? The answer, for me, was an elective caesarian. I knew the statistics showed a caesar was more of a risk than a natural birth, but was it more of a risk for me? For my baby? For my family? Probably, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind that it was the right thing to do. And I had to make a decision (something people with anxiety struggle to do without over-thinking!).
I bit the bullet and I booked. And I felt instant relief. The day before our booking I had my hair cut, coloured and blow waved. That special morning I put make up on. Today we were meeting our third child. It was very surreal and very exciting. I wasn’t nervous in the slightest. I knew what to expect. Hubby and I arrived at the hospital at 6.30am. We were met by our student midwife. I was 39.5 weeks pregnant. At 6.45am our student midwife took a pic of us, the last pic as parents of two.
Wow we were about to be parents of three. At 7am, the first caesar for the day, I was taken in. The atmosphere was calm. The anaesthetist was calm. The nurses were calm. The obstetrician was calm. I was told exactly how things were going to go. I didn’t feel exhausted, panicked, scared, spent. I felt relaxed and happy. I knew a natural birth was advised for obvious reasons, I knew my recovery would be tough, but I also knew what was to come and I was ok with it.
At 9:05am, our little man was cut out of me. He came into this world in a theatre room, yes, he came into the world unnaturally, yes, but he came into the world the way I wanted him to. The way I chose him to. He didn’t have to go through hours of stress, he didn’t have to listen to his Mama screaming for 16 hours straight, he didn’t have a cord around his neck and he wasn’t yanked out with forceps. He came into the world peacefully and calmly.
And then, just like I had specifically requested, because it was the first time I had ever been able to do it, (and thanks to my beautiful student midwife who made it happen) Jacob and I had skin-on-skin contact while I got stitched up. He even fed from me while I lay on the operating table (yes, I’m totally crying while I write this!)! It was beautiful.
Of course the recovery was not easy. I couldn’t walk for the first day and half, I struggled to lift him out of the crib, I nearly fainted getting out of bed for the first time and sneezing was the most terrifying thing I ever had the pleasure of doing. But… I feel so happy and empowered with the decision I made to have an elective caesar. My husband was grateful he didn’t have to watch me in labour again and my other two kids didn’t have to see me cry every time I sat down post birth.
It wasn’t an easy birth, sure, I chose to have major surgery after all, but the aftermath was manageable, it was expected. Above all I finally, third time lucky, birthed a child without it being a stressful emergency… it was calm… and that was my birth plan all along.