SARA & VERA
After having a caesarean and feeling traumatised and disempowered during the pregnancy and birth of my first daughter, I was determined to have a very different birth when I got pregnant with my second baby. From the beginning I began to think about what I wanted: a water birth at a birth centre, the support of a doula and midwife-led care. I was looking forward to experiencing a vaginal, unmedicated birth. I believed in my body’s ability to give birth and in my baby to be born when she was ready. Once again I prepared myself by doing pregnancy yoga regularly, practicing hypnobirthing and informing myself to make the best choices for my baby and myself.
The hospital I first chose to go to didn’t allow me to go to the birth centre because I was considered high risk, so after much consideration and a chat with a VBAC consultant from the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital I decided to transfer there, despite being almost an hour away from my home.
From the first antenatal visit with the midwife I felt listened to, respected and supported in my choices to have a vaginal birth after a caesarean at the birth centre. They never referred to me as being high risk. I met the Birth Choices and the VBAC consultants to make sure I knew the medical guidelines for a case like mine and to put a birth plan together. It was decided that from then on I would see the midwives at the birth centre.
Half way through my pregnancy I supported a client as her birth doula during the birth of her second baby. Like me, she had planned for a VBAC so it was very inspiring to be part of that beautiful birth.
However, things didn’t go as planned. I got to 40 weeks with no signs of labour. The guidelines recommended having an induction or a planned C-section at 41+5. At that point I saw an obstetrician who told me he didn’t think I would go into spontaneous labour considering I’d had a previous caesarean and how “late” my baby was. He suggested having a caesarean the following day but I decided to wait.
On Thursday at 42+1 I began to have contractions. They were very irregular, but as days went on they became stronger and closer together. However they would stop sometimes during the day, so I began to grow anxious and tired. On Saturday I woke up thinking that was the day. It turned out it wasn’t. Contractions stopped at 5.15am on Sunday morning and I woke up at 6.40am in distress because I couldn’t feel my baby move. My partner and I rushed to the hospital where the midwives were waiting for us. We called our doula. I didn’t take anything to the hospital dreading my baby had died. Thankfully everything was fine and baby’s heart rate was normal, but after the fright I decided to have a vaginal examination and a sweep. I was 2cm dilated but my cervix wasn’t fully effaced. Contractions resumed and at that point became quite strong and very close together.
We went out for a walk but had to come back. Despite not being in established labour, they gave me a room at the birth centre. Sometime in the afternoon they did another VE and told me I was still 2cm. I had a breakdown but after a chat with my doula and the senior midwife I decided to use gas and air and go on with my hypnobirthing and breathing practices. After having a hot shower in the evening the contractions slowed down again and I managed to fall asleep. At 3am my baby was monitored again and the obstetrician on duty came to talk to my partner and me. He recommended having the waters broken to see if there was meconium but once again I decided to wait for a bit longer.
As contractions picked up again I started to walk around and go up and down the stairs but by 5.30am I was exhausted so I asked the midwife to check how dilated I was to decide whether to have my waters broken and an epidural. She was happy to tell me I was 3cm dilated and my cervix was fully effaced. But the excitement of the news didn’t last long. When she checked my baby’s heart rate, it was so slow that she had to call the doctors and I was immediately taken to theatre to have an emergency caesarean. It all happened so fast from that moment on. As we rushed down the corridors, the anaesthetist told me they would have to sedate me in order to get my baby out safely and as quick as possible. I was devastated. The last thing I wanted was to be asleep while my baby was born. Luckily, her heartbeat picked up again and I was able to have a spinal instead. She didn’t get a delayed cord clamping; neither did I get her straight into my arms when she was born, as she had to be checked. But a few minutes later she was put on my chest and I got to hold her while they were sewing me up.
I was then taken to the recovery ward for a couple of hours. My baby had to be taken for a few minutes to be put under a lamp to raise her temperature but before then I managed to breastfeed, which was great. I was then moved to the postnatal ward, which to my surprise it was a lot quieter than I had expected. The midwives were amazing there too and took care of us for the next four days, as we had to stay because there were some concerns regarding my baby’s weight. Although stressful, staying at the hospital allowed me to rest and recover a bit after the caesarean.
Even though things were very different from what I wanted, this birth experience was very positive, as it allowed me to have my baby on my own terms, and only when it was a real emergency did the doctors take over. I do feel disappointed and at times like my body is broken and doesn’t know how to give birth, but maybe it is true what that say; that babies choose their own birth. I want to believe I did everything I could to give my baby the birth I wanted for her. At least I feel empowered by the fact that my body did go into spontaneous labour and I managed to wait until 42+5, which definitely required a lot of patience and trust on my side. For sure I couldn’t have made it that far without the support of my partner, my doula and the VBAC consultant I saw throughout my pregnancy. Thank you!