My first baby was a Caesarean for breech. It was quick, easy, and stress free – a generally positive experience. Regardless, I knew that if I got pregnant again, I would like to have a normal birth, not another Caesarean.
Fast-forward a year later, I’m pregnant!! This time, from early on, my baby was head down. I discussed the option of VBAC with everyone I could. Doctors. Midwives. Friends. Family. Online resources. I could not get enough information in me. I was healthy, fit, and everyone agreed, a fantastic candidate for a normal birth.
My due date passes and I am still feeling well. Everything seems perfect and I agree to have a sweep. The sweep itself isn’t nice, its an internal with a lot of pressure and they stretch you, but it was quick. I was hoping it might set things off but instead it just gave me a few cramps and a show but no baby. At a week over I woke up feeling ropey. Almost like a hangover feeling but fidgety on top of that. I needed the loo quite a few times that day and stuck close to the house. As my first baby was a section, I didn’t know what to expect – if this was ‘something’ or ‘nothing’! But as the evening wore on, I started noticing that there seemed to be a pattern to how I was feeling. It started as a sicky feeling and eventually grew into tight feelings across the bottom of my bump and into my back. I felt better when I was moving about. I started panicking that I had to get to hospital, so we went in.
I got to the hospital and it was way too early. I was only 1cm and still not fully effaced. As a VBAC I was told I would need to be monitored during my labour and the belt was placed around my belly. The ctg meant that I could not move around much. It kept slipping down and the midwife would ask me to get onto the bed as they had to have constant contact with the baby to make sure everything was ok. It was hell. Being confined to the bed, not moving, on your back, all the while having strong contractions – it goes against everything your body is telling you to do. A few hours later I was 3cm. I was told they had to break my waters. This was something I felt really strongly about and I told them I didn’t want them to break them. They were broken during a rough exam 10 min later. With the waters gone I was climbing the walls. Flat on my back with the ctg. I asked for pethidine, which did nothing but make me sick. Somehow, I eventually got to 10cm. The doctor was called and I was told to start pushing. The doctor came in, walked over to the foot of the bed, had a quick look, and without a word, cut me.
I didn’t even know what was coming. She just cut me. The birth of my baby was dulled by the overwhelming horror I felt. And that was how I stayed, dulled.
For months. I cried all the time. I had a hard time bonding with my baby. I couldn’t describe what was wrong with me. I was me, but duller. My stitches became infected. I was in constant pain. I leaked when I walked. I no longer wanted to have sex with my husband. Why did she cut me? My GP couldn’t help me. My husband didn’t know me. My friends didn’t understand me. One evening, about 6mths after the birth, my husband came home to find me sitting on the floor of the bathroom crying. I was sent to the GP the next day. I spent the next year heavily medicated and numb. I had so many questions and no one seemed to know or care about the answers. I vowed I would never have another baby. I was done. I could never go through this again.
2 years later, I missed a period. I knew in my heart I was pregnant. I didn’t know how to feel. So many thoughts! A part of me was happy, I always wanted 3 children. Part of me was thinking this was an opportunity to change my experience, to make things different and move forward. All of me was terrified. I threw up, not from morning sickness but fear. And then something happened. I got angry. Angry for losing the last 3 years. Angry for myself, my husband, my baby, my child. Angry at the hospital and the doctor. Angry at myself for not doing anything about it. The anger turned me productive. I would never lose control like that again. No one would ever do that to me again.
At my booking with my GP I told him that I wanted the hospital to know that under no circumstances was the doctor who attended my last delivery to see me. I told him to tell the hospital my history and that I wanted to talk to lead consultant at my first appointment.
I also started seeking support. I got this online mostly. I read lots of positive stories and cried with women whom had been through similar births to mine.
My first appointment was at 12weeks and after my initial appointment I went up to chat to the lead consultant. I was listened to, my questions were answered, and I was reassured that the obstetrician in charge would be nowhere near me during my pregnancy. I was told that my complaint was taken seriously and that they were sorry for my experience. I immediately felt stronger. I was asked was there a consultant I would prefer to book in under, there was, and I was assigned to her team. I was then brought down to meet with that consultant privately.
At this point, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for the birth of this baby. Repeat section or another VBAC. I was very blunt with my consultant about this. She sat me down and asked me to tell my story, which I did in great detail. She listened, she didn’t write anything down the entire time but just sat and listened to me without rushing me. She then apologised that I had that experience and told me that she would ensure I felt completely in control. She told me that it was completely up to me if I decided to have a section or another VBAC. She would support me and that she would ensure it was a better experience for me. I decided on a VBAC and we ended the meeting with her saying “you can do this” with a big smile.
My pregnancy went well but I was still hugely apprehensive. I started collecting a few affirmations that I thought would get me through and help settle me. I taught them to my husband too. A few days before my due date I got a bloody show and a few mild contractions started. I took a deep breath and called my husband to tell him I think things are underway. He told me “you’ve got this. we are all behind you” and told me he’d be home in 1/2 an hour. I then rang my sister, who told me she’d be right over to look after the kids. I went downstairs and looked at my two gorgeous kids and gave them both a big hug. I felt so sad and scared at that moment, would I be whole again after this birth? I hoped for them this time would be different.
My sister came and took the kids for a walk and I went for a bath. I had a playlist I had made for labour and put it on. It was all happy music and I felt better bopping away to it. My husband came home a little while later and made me a light lunch. I got out of the bath and we had something to eat and then decided to go for a walk. It was a lovely crisp autumn day, my favourite time of year. I was having contractions but they were mild and we were not timing them. We walked home and there was a note from my sister that she had taken the kids to her house. We put on Dirty Dancing, my favourite film. Just before, “nobody puts Baby in a corner” things started to get more intense. I no longer felt comfortable at home, or sitting, or breathing for that matter! This was the part I was dreading, the decision to go to hospital and when. Paul looked at me and it was as if he knew what I was thinking “you’ve got this” he said to me. I nodded my head and we got the bags into the car.
We got to hospital and went up to admissions. I was 7cm! I went straight to the delivery ward. I walked the room listening to my ipod. The contractions were so strong but I felt in control. I stayed walking, avoiding the bed, having contractions every few minutes leaning against the wall. The midwife was talking to me but I just kept the ipod in, staying in my little safe world. What felt like an hour later (turns out was really only 15 minutes) I took one of the earphones out, looked at the midwife and said “the baby is coming”. My husband and the midwife helped me onto the bed on all fours, leaning over the back of the bed and I immediately needed to push. I could hear myself groaning, which made me a little embarrassed, but I just went with it “AGGGGGGGGGG-OOOOO” as I pushed down. I saw the door open and my consultant’s head pop around the corner of the screen “ah sure you don’t need me here” and she left with a big smile as my daughter’s head was born. I did it!! The rest of her body slid out without any effort and I held her to my chest sobbing. Within seconds, my consultant came through the door (turns out she was waiting at the door) and she congratulated me. It was an amazing experience and so healing.
I am not a professional, or a psychologist. But as a mum who was extremely traumatised by my birth, I would recommend to women in a similar position to look into your options, to take control back, to seek support (it is out there!), and to tell your hospital and others when they haven’t done a good job. How else are they to know what to do better? And also to tell your hospital and others when they have done a good job because the positive stories give us all hope, hope that things can be better, hope for mums like me who needed to heal. Thanks AIMS Ireland for those stories and giving that hope and for providing a space to do so.
All birth stories and images featured in 42 weeks have been generously shared by members of the public in Ireland. If you would like to take part and share your story, we would love to hear from you. Get in touch through the website http://www.42weeks.ie, through Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/42weeks or follow us on Twitter at @42_weeks.