KAREN & STAN
My first child Daisy, was born 8 weeks prematurely. It was completely unexpected and super traumatic, an emergency c-section and both of us poorly afterwards. I wasn’t able to see her for over 24 hours and I struggled physically and emotionally, suffering with PND for a year afterwards. Subsequently I became completely obsessed with having a perfect birth, VBAC (Vaginal Delivery After C-Section) with my second child, Stanley. And most importantly that whatever the eventual means of delivery, he would be given to me the moment he was born.
My pregnancy with Stan was perfectly normal, but as 31 weeks approached I found myself unsurprisingly, becoming more and more anxious. I had quite powerful Braxton Hicks which landed me in hospital a couple of times with suspected early labour again. Thankfully everything was fine and his due date came and went uneventfully. The day after his due date started normally, but from lunchtime I was pretty certain labour had started. The contractions were very gentle and manageable. At around 6pm they became more regular and a little stronger so I started packing Daisy up for an over-night stay and called Dick, my partner to come home from work - we were on! Because of my history we were told to get to the hospital once things started going properly so we dropped Daisy at a friends and off we went.
It was extraordinarily busy on the labour ward and we were asked to wait in a side area for a while. I despatched Dick to the local eatery and we settled down to eat. A couple of hours later things were still progressing slowly when suddenly I felt a ‘pop’ inside - like someone had flicked an elastic band on my cervix, ouch! And my waters broke with a huge gush. At the same time a hugely powerful contraction came, much stronger than before, I felt like I was going 0-60 in a sports car. It was all very fast and terrifying. Dick ran to get a midwife and we were moved straight away to a delivery room. I don’t remember how far apart the contractions were, but they were regular and very painful. I quickly realised that I was terribly unprepared for this whole adventure. I’d missed all the ante-natal classes with Daisy and hadn’t thought to attend them while pregnant with Stan - Life was busy, I already had one child, it didn’t occur to me that I might not have a clue what I was doing. Even though this was my second child - it was my first labour. I was really scared and in lots of pain. An epidural was given to me but it failed to work properly, concentrating all of the pain onto my right hip area… I used a lot of gas and air as well.
After several hours I was checked to see how far I had dilated and was broken hearted to learn that it was only 3cm. Stan’s heart rate was by now also erratic and the doctor came in to explain that it would be much safer to prep for an immediate c-section. I have to admit that by this point I was physically and emotionally quite wrecked. Labour was definitely not all it was cracked up to be and I was ready for the pain to stop! I was also however, suddenly gripped by huge fear again. What if Stan was taken away? What If i didn’t get to hold him? I agreed, but only if he could be delivered straight to my chest the moment he was checked over. The midwife understood and promised me she would make that happen. We were prepped to go to theatre.
The moment we went into theatre I felt much more peaceful. I have no doubt that this was because I knew what to expect and there was a finality to it - whereas in the delivery room it felt like it might go on forever. I was given a spinal - which worked! And Stan was delivered quickly and calmly. 7lbs and 6oz’s, he popped right out without incident. The midwife helped to get me ready by pulling my gown down my chest and Stan was placed there - I was allowed to hold him while they stitched me up - It felt like I didn’t let him go for hours afterwards - though I’m sure it was only minutes.
I didn’t get the VBAC I so desperately wanted. The ‘natural’ birth I thought I should have. That I had talked myself into. With hindsight I know now that I had an unrealistic and damaging (to me) ideal that if I didn’t have a vaginal birth I would somehow have failed. Neither of my births were empowering or particularly positive experiences, which makes me sad. Its taken a long time, but i’m coming to terms with that. My amazing children make up for their less than ideal beginnings every day… and without the incredible midwives and hospital staff my children and I wouldn’t be here today - and for that I will be forever grateful.