In 2015, our first daughter’s entry into the world left me feeling helpless, anxious, questioning my body and womanhood and feeling cheated of a beautiful birth experience like I’d read and heard about so many times. I was induced at 11 days past my due date and after 12 hours of labour and many attempts to stabilise her heart rate, our daughter was born via emergency caesarean. I felt like I had failed her from the outset and I fell into a spiral of anxiety, fearing I’d ‘stuff up’ with her somehow and this time wouldn’t be so lucky. After counselling, support from my husband, family and friends, a lot of self-care and empowering myself through research, we decided to plan a VBAC when we fell pregnant with our second daughter. My husband and I attended VBAC workshops, worked alongside a student midwife and wrote a birthplan – including both VBAC and repeat caesarean wishes.
My main goal for my second labour and delivery was, that no matter how she was to arrive, I would get those first precious, goopy cuddles with her that I missed with our first daughter as she arrived struggling to breathe and required a lot of attention for what seemed like an eternity. She was all cleaned up and wrapped in a blanket by the time I got to hold her for the first time in recovery, and as precious as that moment was, I knew my hands had not been the first to be wrapped around her. My other main focus in my birth plan was that I wouldn’t be by myself in theatre. Of course, if it was needed (as with our first birth) my husband would go with baby so she was not on her own. This was a huge part of deciding to have a student midwife share our journey. I had hoped I would at least have her, should my husband need to be with baby. With our first daughter’s birth, I was left in a room of strangers, not knowing where my baby or my husband were or how my baby was. So, with these two main goals in mind, we waited for our second baby’s arrival.
I was pressured early on by the visiting obstetrician who performed scheduled caesareans, to book a date for a week before my due date. I was ok with having another caesarean if it came to that, but I was not ok with not giving my body a chance to do its thing. I declined at each appointment to schedule a date in. My due date was the 18th June and, on the 15th June, I reluctantly went along to my final appointment, knowing I would need to book in the following week for a repeat caesarean if baby had not arrived. I got out of the car as my husband pulled into the car park and as I stood in the hospital carpark and waited for him to join me, I felt a sudden pop and a gush down my legs. I looked down and my leggings were drenched through from top to bottom. My body had done it.
We were about to embark on our VBAC journey!
After a quick visit with the midwives to confirm my waters had in fact broken in the carpark, we returned home where I laboured, surrounded by my homemade birth affirmations, essential oils, my big baby girl and my husband. Into the late evening, my surges intensified and were getting closer and closer together. We phoned my student midwife who had been sitting exams all day and she suggested we meet at the hospital. We called my mum and she came to stay with our daughter. Little did I know that when Daddy had put her to bed that night, it would signify the end of our breastfeeding journey together – at 27 months she was still feeding to sleep most nights but that night began a new bedtime routine for her and her decision to not have any more milky cuddles.
Things went smoothly once we were settled in the birth suite and I continued to labour through the night and into the morning, with our impending bundle happily working her way down to meet us. Not once was there concern over her wellbeing, which gave me such fuel to ride each surge, knowing she was safe and coping well. At the morning change of shift, we got a beautiful new midwife and we discussed our birth wishes with her. She was so warm and nurturing and I felt completely at ease with her. I decided I wanted to have an epidural, hoping that it would ease the insane back labour I had been having for hours and it worked a treat. I could still feel my contractions but it took the edge off the back pain and allowed me some rest time.
Just after 10am, I suddenly got stabbing pains very low down. I was in more agony than I was with contractions and when my midwife came to check where the pain was, it was at my scar. My OB was called and after a quick check of what was happening, she said I was at 10cms and ready to push but that she feared I was having a uterine rupture. A Category 1 emergency caesarean was called. I thought my first birth had been a whirlwind when it came to surgery… it had nothing on this time. There were suddenly midwives and doctors rushing in and out of the room, loud machines were placed around my legs as we were being wheeled out (as there wasn’t time to put the very classy compression tights on) and before I knew it we were in the brightly lit surgery and I felt tugging and every single movement (not pain but so much movement, which I didn’t remember from the first time) while it was happening.
Because she was basically ready to rock, they needed to really dig around with forceps in my pelvis to get her out.
Very quickly, our beautiful midwife we had shared the morning with was suddenly up at my chest and her words ring so clearly as she cut my gown from me ‘I’ll probably get in trouble for this, but I don’t care!’ She pulled my gown down and at 10.19am on 16th June 2017, a goopy, warm and perfectly healthy little girl was placed on my chest! I was the first to hold her close at just seconds old and for the rest of my life, this precious memory will be etched in my mind. I continued to hold our daughter close and feed her when she went looking for a boob while the minutes ticked by and had no idea as to what was unfolding behind the curtain. They didn’t interrupt us for any measuring or checks, we just got to hold her close and take in the fact she was here and safe. Over an hour passed by and they weighed and measured her with my husband as we were getting ready to head out to recovery.
When we got back out to recovery we were told that my scar had thinned excessively, to the point of rupture and I had haemorrhaged during my surgery. I didn’t quite process it at this time, but I was very lucky. Recovery was not wonderful as my body had a lot to heal from but my labour and birth experience was so very different to my first and it was so healing in so many ways. I felt like my body had done what it needed to this time. I got to live out the labour I prepared for for months – labouring in and out of the bath at home, with my big baby girl by my side and surrounded by my positive birth space and despite the rush in the end, the whole experience had been relaxed and beautiful (well, as beautiful as labour can be!!)
And the hugest saving grace, was that skin to skin I got as soon as she was out. For my midwife to encompass how precious and vital that was for me, I cannot put into words. She gifted me so much healing in those moments and I’m eternally grateful for that. I’m also so grateful for the fact we have this life saving procedure and that my girls and myself are safely here today because I was able to have a caesarean. I don’t regret our decision to plan a VBAC. And we came so very, very close to fulfilling it. But in the end, the whole experience was a beautiful, healing and positive one and brought us the most perfect little Everley Kate.