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Thread: First born, a labour and a c-section

  1. #1

    Default First born, a labour and a c-section

    It was 2.5 years ago now, but in writing my birth story for my VBAC I really felt that I needed to write out my first birth story. In the end the story came to 11 pages so I decided that it was a bit too much to put as one post . Be warned, this one is epic!

    Part 1.

    For me, my birth story is longer than just my birth. I started from a place of great fear when it came to birth, so much so that I was sure I would never give birth, never have children. I thought that giving birth was at best an agonising experience and at worst, a situation where a woman was out of her own control and would end in her suffering some form of trauma, psychologically or physically. I was struck by what I saw was a great deal of secrecy surrounding childbirth where women had to hand themselves over to medical care which did not always have a mother’s best interests at heart. I did not have faith in the human body to give birth and thought it was an incredibly dangerous thing to have to go through. I listened to the horror stories and dismissed the stories of natural childbirth as nonsense; I bought in to the cultural fear. Then I found myself ‘accidently’ pregnant at 31 and I was in for the ride of my life!

    I am a reader and a researcher so I started reading. I discovered very quickly that if I wanted to avoid intervention (I did!) I would be best to keep out of the private system and try to find a midwife led model of care. I booked in to a hospital under a Team Midwife care option and left it at that for about 6 months while I attempted to come to terms with the idea of having a baby. I realised that a BC was probably a good option, but I just wasn’t ready to take a leap into ‘way out’ birthing like that and felt that if I chose a middle road (not obgyn care/not ‘hippie’ BC) I should be fine. Oh how I wish I knew then what I know now!

    My pregnancy went really well and I read and researched little by little. I was thrilled to discover that growing a baby felt really nice! I was also pleased to discover as I read that giving birth was not necessarily at all as I had feared. Ina May particularly inspired me. She opened the door for me to the thought that birth was natural, fear was in the mind and it permeated through the body and held us back from birth. I began to feel excited about giving birth and dearly wished I had chosen to birth in a BC. I even began to think about how magical a home birth might be! I was learning about women’s bodies in a whole new way and I was inspired. Too late now, I thought. I was booked into the hospital labour ward and that is where I was stuck. Still, I felt that I was now well read and ready and I understood all of the traps first time mums can fall for that can lead to the ‘cascade of intervention’. In my opinion, I would be very unlikely to fall for all of the first birth interventions and would be delivering my baby naturally. Unfortunately, due to a few silly little choices and a few frustrations, it didn’t work out that way.

    For my first birth, I was at breakfast one morning (37+4) and just felt funny. I mentioned my funny feeling to my DH and warned him that I think today is the day. He looked at me as if I was mad! I didn’t have any contractions or such just felt weird, and then didn’t give it another thought all day. That night, I went to bed at midnight and got my first contraction. Shortly after, I had another, then another and when I timed them I realised they were 10 minutes apart. I decided not to wake DH as I knew that this early on things could slow down or stop. I knew that I needed to try to get some sleep, as I was most likely in for the long haul. Unfortunately, the contractions were too intense to allow me to sleep through them and they continued at 10 minute intervals. I decided to have a bath to try to relax, and so the night went on. Me trying desperately to get some sleep but unable to and getting in and out of the bath every few hours.

    Finally at 7am DH woke up and looked at me with disbelief when I told him I was in labour (I think he expected me to be howling in pain if I was!) He trotted off to work unfazed and left me to the business of dealing with pre-labour.

    I was enjoying it! Although the pain was quite intense, I was able to focus well during the contraction and then relax between them. I was amazed at the magical work my body was doing and really channelled a lot of what Ina May talked about – visualising opening up and giving over to the experience. DH stopped by a few times in the morning (he is self employed so can come and go during the day) but kept ducking off again before I had a chance to stop him. Because the pain was too intense to sleep through, I gave up on the idea of sleep and just tried to keep myself relaxed but busy between contractions to take my mind off it as much as possible. I managed to make it until about 11am before I felt I could no longer manage on my own. I just couldn’t concentrate on timing contractions at this stage and really had to concentrate on making it through each one. The timing was now beginning to move from every 10 minutes for about 20 seconds to every 9 minutes, 8 minutes, 7 minutes… as the afternoon wore on. DH finally came home at about 3pm and helped me into the bath again.

    We decided to call on our other birth support person, Tash, to come over too at this stage. I continued on like this – coping well with the pain and my labour was unfolding beautifully. By about 6pm I was at the stage where I was not coping as well. I could not get into a comfy position during a contraction and was desperately using the time between contractions to regroup. I was having trouble focusing. Tash suggested it may be time to head to the hospital and I had to agree, as I didn’t feel able to make a decision about anything!

    This is where the trouble begins! Firstly we had to travel right across town – a 40 min drive in good traffic and an hour minimum in peak hour. You guessed it, we picked peak hour! I really believe that the stress of that drive kicked up the adrenaline in my body and had a detrimental effect on the beautiful labour I had had to that point. I hated sitting in the car – it was so uncomfortable and was mortified to think that the people in the cars beside me, stuck in traffic would have a front row seat to my labour. Probably good entertainment for some poor person bored of drive time radio, but not great for a labouring woman who needs intimacy in a very primal way!

    Arriving at the hospital (phew!), I faced a few rude people when trying to sign in which once again, brought me out of my labour focus and distracted me. I just kept thinking, ‘as long as I can just get in there and be left to my own devices again, things will be fine’. I knew that I would be faced with the desires of the hospital to perform EFM on admission and as much as I did not want this, didn’t want to be tethered to the bed, I did not have the energy to argue or want to have to put up defences. I just thought, ‘if I can just get through this 20 mins I can get back to doing my thing’. Circumstances were against me though.

    Unfortunately we had arrived at the hospital on shift change. This meant things were a little all over the place when we were attempting to get back to labouring. The midwife who was about to leave for her shift hurriedly placed the CTG monitor on me and departed. I set about doing 20 minutes of horridly painful contractions on my back tethered to the machine and watched that clock like a hawk. Another midwife arrived to check the monitoring and much to my despair noticed it had not been placed correctly and was not picking up the heartbeat correctly. I think I nearly lost it when I was told I was stuck on that bed for another 20 minutes! Still again, I dutifully put my head down and went back to the business of labouring in pain until I was allowed back up to do things my way. A third midwife then came in half an hour later to check (notably, not one of those midwives were ones I had met as part of my ‘team’ during pre-natal appointments!) Once again, the machine wasn’t doing its thing. Arrrgh!! I made it clear I wasn’t handling this so this wonderful Middie suggested getting on hands and knees on the bed for the monitoring. Oh the sweet relief!
    What was really frustrating for me was that I just had that intuitive feeling that my DD was fine. I ‘knew’ I didn’t need the monitoring as she was strong and healthy – and I was right. Anyway, when I finally was ‘allowed’ off that damn bed I set about getting back into my labour with a renewed vigour and enthusiasm. I wanted to take back control.

    So, for a further 24 hours or so we laboured in that room. In and out of the shower, trying all sorts of positions, techniques, vocalisations, silence… Every now and again a VE was suggested. Again, I wasn’t fussed as I had faith in my body and knew that the rate of amount of dilation was not important. Dilation can take hours or can happen in a few contractions. I never got past 4cm at those examinations but I was not fussed, as I knew that women can go from 4-10cm very quickly when things finally ramp up.
    Because things were taking so long, the middies suggested an ARM to move things along. I trusted their knowledge and judgement (I have since learnt the error of this assumption) and agreed and once they had ruptured, my contractions increased markedly in frequency and intensity. I remember feeling really amazed about this and finding the ‘pain’ and intensity mind blowing and exciting! I also remember feeling incredibly ‘lucky’ that they were letting me continue to labour for such a long time. Still… after a few hours of this… I was still 4cm and some frustrated midwives were circling.



    By now, I was getting really, really tired. As was my support crew. DH and Tash were shattered and I was falling asleep on my feet – literally. I scared the pants of one midwife when I fell asleep while standing and almost fell on her! This is where the cascade of intervention that started with the CTG really began in earnest. Drugs were suggested. I was adamant that I did not want anything – I just wanted to sleep! I figured if I could just sleep for a little bit I would be re-energised. When the midwife offered a sleeping tablet and I refused (they have always made me feel out of control/insane/out of it, bleugh!). However, my DH stood behind the midwife and said in his ‘I’m really serious now’ voice, “I think you should try the sleeping tablet”. I realised he really needed to sleep so I conceded to the ‘inevitable’.

    What followed next was nightmarish for me. Overtired, contracting and stupefied on the sleeping tablet. The contractions continued to wake me and shake me but I felt as if my body was roaring along in labour and my mind was struggling to keep up. I kept waking up in the midst of incredible pain and did not have the mental resources to integrate it as I had been. I turned to the gas for help but could not wake up in time to suck in enough of it to have it make any difference.

    This is where things get funny. Poor DH was trying to sleep and kept being woken to me sucking down the gas like a woman possessed! Apparently it was quite a distressing sight for someone who didn’t understand how the gas worked and thought I was ‘overindulging’! I was too under the influence of both labour and the drugs to explain that I needed to suck as hard as I could at the beginning of a contraction for it to have any effect, but I tried my best to convey. I couldn’t understand it when his reaction, instead of the unwavering support I wanted from him was horror and “you are acting like a drug addict and scaring me, please stop it”. I was so distressed!! However, in defence to him, it turns out (from our debrief after birth) that although I thought I made perfect sense when I told him I was sucking the gas for good reason - to get through contractions, what I actually said was “I need to suck it all up before all of the other people in the other beds get it” while gesturing wildly at all of the ‘other people’ supposedly in the room with us! (We were of course on our own)
    So I had lost my mind and my ability to labour. I felt out of control and for the first time since contractions had begun 35 hours ago, I felt I could not do this.
    We managed to negotiate the use of the bath for pain relief and I still remember that blissful feeling of slipping into that bath and I even managed to fall into a wonderful sleep… until the midwife woke me up.

    It was the look on her face that told me that I was at the end of my control over my labour. Her words were quietly and calmly delivered. “Your labour is not progressing and every time you use water for pain relief it slows down. We need to start to consider other options”. I was just so damn tired and didn’t have the energy or the knowledge to argue or continue so I gave in and agreed to the epidural.

    So we slept. A relieved DH and friend got some well-deserved rest but a friend who works at the hospital coming in for a visit (!) woke me. Without much rest, syntocin was trialled but DD had other ideas and her heart rate would plummet when it was used so it was stopped. DD’s heart rate was still really strong and I still had that intuitive feeling that she was doing really well and I was pleased she was not having a bar of that synthetic hormone. But, I was still 4 cm, dog-tired and really not wanting to push my baby out lying down. I had lost my resolve now and was really battling that old fear in the back of my mind about birthing. It was a revisit of all of the stuff I had feared before I had even become pregnant. Maybe if I had managed to sleep, I could have dug deep and found some inner strength and courage but I couldn’t find it. When a c-section was mentioned I was resigned. I can’t really believe it now – now I know what I know, but I thought it was my best option. I felt as if I had given this birth every thing I could and had given it a really good go. Now, it was in the hands of the medicos.

    In hindsight now, I was quite removed from the whole operation. I had that same feeling of handing myself over to the professionals as I did when I entered the hospital. I didn’t have the energy or the knowledge to fight for what I wanted and just kept thinking, “just get it over with and let me get back to the business of doing what I need to do to look after my baby”. In the operating theatre it felt so surreal. I remember thinking “here’s one we prepared earlier” when she was held aloft over the sterile sheet straight after birth. I just kept thinking, how do I really know she is mine, maybe they pulled this one from a back room while we were on this side of the drape. I have since heard that this is a common feeling expressed by women who have caesareans.

    As much as I remember my labour positively, my memories of my daughter’s birth were not very happy. I remember being peeved that the medical staff got their gloved hands on her first and they poked and prodded her and rubbed all her beautiful vernix off with a rough towel when she should have been with me being cuddled. I was peeved that they cut her cord so quickly and wrapped her up so tightly before I got to hold her. I was completely uninterested in holding her when she was born – I could not see the point when she was wrapped up so tightly in foreign hospital blankets. I just wanted to get on with being stitched, do my time in recovery then begin the time with my child, unwrap her and put her to my chest.

    Unfortunately, I was held up in recovery, as my blood pressure was low. I tried to explain that I have low blood pressure anyway, but I was so tired, and I guess my position of not wanting to buck the system was unchanged. I kept watching the clock, stuck on that bed and becoming increasingly irritated at being held apart from my child. I ended up falling asleep and I think that they left me to rest there. It was 3 hours before I was released. DD was being transferred to special care nursery during that time as she had a temperature – most likely from my as I had an elevated temperature as a result of the epidural. Luckily, on the way to the nursery she was given some time with DH and Tash who had the good sense to unwrap DD from her bondage and give her skin-to-skin time with DH. (By the time the paediatrician returned, DDs temperature had normalised and she was free to come to me!) I still want to cry when I see the photos of DD trying to suckle at DH’s chest; I should have been there. But I am forever grateful to my friend for what she orchestrated.
    By the time I got to meet my DD, it was a debacle. I was like a zombie and she was past the alert – just born - wanting to suckle phase and was just dazed and confused and ready to sleep, sleep, sleep. So began our challenges establishing breastfeeding and, in hindsight, bonding.

    My caesarean recovery was a bit rocky with an infected scar and painful healing but we got there in the end. I felt relatively at peace with the birth as I felt I had power of choice along much of the way of my labour. I regretted that it got to such a situation, but it was too late to change now, I just had to learn from the experience. And learn I did.

    Part 2 - The VBAC can be found here!
    Last edited by jackrose; April 1st, 2013 at 05:09 PM. Reason: Fixing links that had stopped working...

  2. #2

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    Extremely well written birth story, its like reading a book.

    A belated Congratulations

  3. #3

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    Thank you for sharing. I'm off to read the sequel!

  4. #4

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    Thank you for sharing the story of your DD's birth, and well done on her safe arrival...... you have written it wonderfully well! I'm off to read your VBAC story now

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    What a fabulous birth story, so beautifully written, an absolute stellar effort

    I am sooo looking forward to Part Two... off to read it now xxoo

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    Sorry double post

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    I just read that and it sounds so similar to the birth of my DD. I am going to have a VBAC this time and read your VBAC story, it has given me so much hope that things won't be the same again this time!! Thank you!

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    Thank you for sharing your story, very well written!

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