I birthed my second daughter Matilda Rose on 24th June 2011 at 5.16pm via planned abdominal birth (caesarean) she weighed 9lb 12oz.
With my first child my pregnancy had gone smoothly but the birth was not so good. This time round my pregnancy was not great, I had bad sickness for months, and then developed SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction - a condition that causes pain in the pelvic area due to joins moving apart/unevenly) around 26 weeks which got progressively worse towards the end of my pregnancy, I remember the pain was excruciating just moving the littlest bit and I hardly slept due to the constant discomfort and I was housebound in the last few weeks of my pregnancy.
I had done some investigating into why I hadn’t been able to give birth vaginally last time and was told my cervix was too tilted back meaning my baby had a big bend to get round and due to the size of her and me being unable to push effectively she had got stuck, along with my low blood pressure it wasn’t safe to continue. Again this reminded me of my 'failure to deliver' but this time round I really wanted to have a vaginal birth and had taken up pregnancy yoga (which I had to stop due to the SPD) and did hypnobirthing also, I had looked into all the pros and cons of a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean) and was hopeful I would be able to have one. At a check up around 34 weeks I saw my consultant who very persuasively advised me against it, saying my baby was very big and after my last labour it would be unlikely I would fail to deliver again, and the risks were too high. This was very disappointing and I felt so sad, such a 'failure' again although I still had a little hope that I could do it. I was scanned at 36 weeks (a growth scan as baby was measuring big) and discovered my baby was transverse breech (laying diagonally), so I was booked in for an elective caesarean there and then and it felt the decision was taken out of my hands…….I was gutted. It might sound silly to some but I just wanted to experience giving birth and I felt like women are made to do this so why cant I?
The morning of my abdominal birth I was to be there at 7am – a very early start and had been nil by mouth since the night before. I was informed I was last on the list and it would probably be midday before I was taken down – great as if I wasn’t nervous enough I now had a long wait ahead of me. After my last abdominal birth and the long recovery, I was so scared and worried it would happen again this time.
There were a few emergencies through the day meaning I didn’t get taken down to theatre until around 4.30pm! I had had to be put on a drip for some fluid earlier in the afternoon and I was so hungry! As they started to administer my epidural I used my breathing techniques learnt in my hypnobirthing course to help me though it and keep me calm, my husband stroked my arm and fed me positive affirmations such as 'you are safe' – I remember a midwife in my ear asking my name/date of birth etc and my husband answering for me saying I was ‘in the zone’ this I found very annoying and its something that has stuck in my memory.
During the operation, the doctor said my scar from my previous caesarean was a mess and she burnt away a lot of scar tissue and tidied it up for me, I guess this was due to the infection I got. The whole time it was quite calm in theatre and it happened quite quickly. My baby arrived and I remember the doctors saying is wow what a big baby as she entered the world and them bringing up this blooded vernix covered baby arms sprawled out over the screen to me and then she was taken away to be cleaned up, we then had our first cuddles and photos together as a family, it was a much nicer experience to the last and I was fully aware of her arrival and got to see and touch her (almost!) immediately and she was with me the whole time I was being stitched back up (in my husbands arms), once back at the room I immediately did skin to skin which I hadn’t been able to do with my first. This time round I didn't rush my recovery, I really wanted to avoid any infection and took it easy as I could with another child at home. I still got a small infection - nothing like last time and although it still took a while for me to fully heal I found the recovery better this time.
Looking back now I think I was very harsh on myself in feeling like I had failed, as that is not the case, I was failed - there is a difference. I should have had more support in my wishes for a VBAC, all of my options should have been fully explained to me and more detail in the risks associated - what are the percentages of those risks? I should have had the opportunity to discuss all of this with my consultant/midwives and been involved in the decision making - so that I could have made an informed decision on what was right for me. Would I have changed it? No probably not, I feel an elective caesarean was the best option for me but its the fact that the decision was made for me and I was told what to do, it didn't leave me feeling empowered that I had made the right decisions for my birth experience, which had a negative impact. Again the language used 'failure to deliver' stayed with me for a long time making me devalue my status as a woman because I hadn't been able to have a vaginal birth - this is just so far from the truth and it makes me so sad that I held that belief for so long, that a healthy baby was all that mattered and my emotional wellbeing didn't matter. It absolutely matters more than anything.
Becoming a Doula and Hypnobirthing practitioner has healed me and filtered away any bad feelings I was left with about my birth experiences. I love the saying 'Don't punish yourself for the things you didn't know' you can only do what you can do with the information you have at that time. Working with women to ensure they are fully informed throughout every stage of their journey is something I am so passionate about as I don't want them to look back on their experiences with any negativity and see the importance in this.
"Whenever and however you give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body and your spirit for the rest of your life."
~ Ina May Gaskin ~