Updated: Dec 30, 2022
Photo Credit: jenniferreynoldsphotography.ca
Previously, I wrote about overcoming my birth trauma and about my empowering subsequent pregnancy experience. This is the continuation of that story and the outcome of that experience. To read the first part go to: How I Overcame My Birth Trauma and Planned an Empowered Pregnancy and Birth
*Trigger Warning* This is a positive story about an empowering birth experience.
PREPARING FOR THE BIRTH
Once I was over my trauma and had decided to have another baby, I created a very clear image of how I wanted my birth to unfold.
I wanted to experience the physiological process of birth with absolutely no interventions. I wanted a “hands-free” VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), and I wanted to labour without medications.
I wrote my birth plan. Then I made contingencies that addressed all of the things I was concerned about, and all the things the doctors were concerned about.
With that out of the way I did a very powerful mindset exercise:
I wrote out my birth story in past tense, as if it already happened the way I wanted it to happen. I was careful to use positive wording and talk about what I wanted to happen and not what I didn’t want to happen. Then I closed my eyes and imagined it, focusing on the way it made me feel.
To take it even deeper, while I was in that head space, I recorded myself reading my birth story out loud. I listened to that recording on repeat as I was falling asleep at night. Sometimes I even listened to it the whole night while I was sleeping. The story went into my subconscious mind and my body got the message.
The result was beyond my wildest dreams!
The week before my daughter was born, I informed the nurse at the NST clinic and my prenatal doctor that I told my baby to come on Monday. My sister was going to arrive on Saturday to stay with us, and I knew there was limited staff on Sundays and so that was the day I decided she should be born. I made all the last minute preparations to get ready for her and then I relaxed and let it go.
Sunday at 4pm I felt what I thought was my water breaking. We went to the store so that my sister could pick up some things she needed for her stay. While there I felt like I was leaking and urgently wanted to go back home.
My early labour contractions started up within the hour. It wasn’t long before all of my amniotic fluid was out. I had good strong contractions and I texted my doula to let her know what was happening. Then I went into my room, turned down the lights and listened to a playlist that had music I liked. During each contraction, as it came to a peak, I imagined my baby already in my arms and the pain would immediately subside.
At midnight I transitioned into active labour. I started to shake and then had a strong contraction. I told my spouse, Tony, to call my doula and the hospital to let them know. Imagining my baby in my arms was no longer enough to manage the pain and so I went into the shower and aimed hot water onto my lower back.
After labouring in the shower for a couple of hours I was feeling done with the water, and tired from standing for so long. I felt that I needed a rest and tried to go onto my hands and knees on the bed. The new position, however, made me immediately throw up and I realized that I needed to remain upright as much as possible. It was just then that my doula arrived. I decided to try labouring while sitting on the toilet so that I could remain upright but still get a rest that way. I started off facing backwards.
The active labour contractions were the most difficult. During each contraction I was questioning everything: Why did I choose this for myself? Why is birth so painful? How do we even exist as a human race? How do I even exist? Then as I felt the contraction come to an end I told myself, “No I can do this, I can do this”! Between contractions I felt totally normal, like I wasn’t even in labour.
The contractions started to become really challenging to get through and my doula did some counter pressure which helped a lot. She talked me through the contractions, helping me to slow my breathing and let go of each one once it was over. After a while sitting backwards became too uncomfortable and so I turned around. But once I was facing forwards on the toilet my doula was no longer able to help me with counter pressure. Instead I managed the pain by pushing against the wall and the countertop with all my might.
At 4 am I had my first pushing contraction. I told Tony and my doula that I wanted to go to the hospital then. My doula gave me a Tens machine for the car ride. I could tell that she was going to be born soon, and I knew that when we arrived, the nurse would have a number of things she would want to do. So, before we left I told my doula, “I don’t want them to do anything to me”. I knew that at this point I didn’t need anything to be done. During the drive I used the Tens machine to manage each pushing contraction and then fell asleep in between.
We arrived at the hospital at 4:30 am. My doula got me into a wheelchair and then ran, pushing me to the maternity unit. I was having a contraction and I was screaming with my eyes shut tight. It was a loud, guttural scream, and I felt like I was riding on a roller coaster, but the noises I was making were ones that I had never heard myself make before. When we arrived upstairs they were ready and waiting for me.
The details for the last part are a bit hazy as I was fully occupied by my contractions at this point.
I remember standing in the room and my doula asking me if I wanted to go into the bathroom because at home I was most comfortable sitting on the toilet. I said yes.
The nurse wanted to do a vaginal exam. The answer was no. I didn’t need one. I also needed to stand so there was no way that was going to happen. My doula told her that we were declining vaginal exams and there were a number of things we were going to decline. Tony tried to give the nurse an updated copy of my birth plan, but she just said “I read it already” and didn’t take it.
I went into the bathroom and my doula had already set up some battery powered candles. She let the nurse come in to try to take my blood pressure. She said she needed to turn on the lights but my doula instead offered to turn on the flashlight she was holding to help her see. She tried to take my blood pressure during a contraction, which was useless and then gave up.
The nurse then came back with a doppler and said she needed me to stand so that she could get the baby’s heart rate. My doula helped me to stand. The nurse tried and failed to get a heart reading. The baby was already too low.
She also asked to draw blood for a blood test and I told her to wait until after. I was already in the process of pushing the baby out. I understood that she was trying to check off her boxes but I also didn’t understand why she seemed to be unaware that the baby was about to be born. I don’t think she believed us.
My doula asked me if I wanted to sit back down and I said no. The birth was imminent at this point and I was going to birth her standing. The nurse left the room to go talk to the other nurse.
I had a contraction and pushed twice and then I felt the baby come down. Then Tony said “Is that the head?”. She was crowning. I said I was going to need help catching her because I wasn’t going to be able to catch her on my own. Tony was sitting on a stool by my feet and all 3 of us positioned ourselves to catch her. Then I felt another contraction coming. I pushed twice again, raising my right leg as I did so and she came flying out with all three of us catching her!
She was born at 5:15 am on Monday.
I immediately held her to my chest and said I wanted to go sit on the bed and waddled over to it. Once I sat down the contractions continued without any break. Again I felt that I needed to push, stood up a bit, pushed twice and my placenta came flying out. My placenta was born at 5:25 am.
The nurse came over to clamp the cord. My doula asked me if I was okay with them clamping the cord. I asked if it was white. She laughed and said “It’s flat! Your placenta is not in your body anymore!” I looked down and saw that this was true and said it was okay. The nurse put two clamps on the cord and Tony cut between them.
Afterwards I laid down continuing to hold my baby on my chest.
The doctor on call finally arrived. She said that I had a tear and she needed to check it to see if she needed to call the obstetrician. She did. The tear was classified as 3A. The obstetrician came in to do the repair. He said that he could do it there or I could be brought down to the OR and be put under, but I would be out for three hours. I decided to have it repaired there and agreed to an IV with fentanyl and antibiotics. He said that I had lost quite a bit of blood but it was all from the tear. I had Advil, freezing and gas and air as well, but it was still very painful. The obstetrician talked me through the procedure as he was doing it, was very empathetic and acknowledged how painful it was. It was the best experience I have ever had with an obstetrician. At the same time, I was also having postpartum contractions that were as intense as my active labour contractions with shivering and pain.
Despite the tear, this was my absolute dream birth experience:
An unassisted VBAC in the hospital.
It was not my intention to have an unassisted birth. I wanted it to be “hands-free” but I imagined that my doctor would be there in the event that I needed him, and that I would spend part of my labour supported in the hospital. I wouldn’t change a thing though. The way things unfolded led to what was my absolute dream.
My favourite birth stories are the ones where birth just happens, accidentally, without the need of a medical professional. And these stories make me especially happy when they happen in the hospital, right in front of the people who believe that birth can’t happen without their help.
I had many things going against me:
41 years old
Previous Cesarean Section
Chronic High Blood Pressure
Group B Strep +
I had also recently sprained my ankle.
I did it anyway. Despite all of it. I had days where I received disappointing test results. I had appointments where I sat through being told about the really scary risks. I had difficult days, where I was so overwhelmed I had a meltdown.
But each time I reminded myself of what was true about me and my birth. The truth was that I could have anything that I wanted and that included my dream birth experience. The truth was that a doctor’s idea about how the birth was going to go, is not the same thing as how the birth is actually going to happen. And the truth is that the standard medical recommendations are just that, recommendations and not necessarily what is best for me and my baby.
I took each challenge head on and stayed in my power.
My traumatic cesarean was labelled by health care professionals as “normal”, and my empowering, intervention free, physiological birth was labelled as “unusual”. There is something wrong with this kind of thinking.
I share my story, not to brag about my birth. There is nothing about me that makes birth particularly easy compared to other people. My first birth experience was horrible and traumatic. I share my story because I want other people to know that despite everything, anything is possible! Your dream birth is possible!