Our story begins many weeks before Oliver's "birth day". We had a wonderful pre-natal experience with our midwife Ali from the Ryde Midwifery Group. She was incredibly supportive and informative of our many questions and varying anxieties and challenges throughout the pregnancy. She informed us without pressing her opinions and was always willing to do more research or find further information on a topic if we needed it. Having the same midwife throughout this experience was so important to us and finding Ali was the best possible outcome!
Ali and the birth centre were more than happy to accommodate our wishes for a natural water birth and we excitedly planned the big day, including buying a portable spa to birth in. I practiced Hypnobirth techniques, to allow me to be relaxed and calm during labour and to enjoy and be open to the birthing experience.
My pregnancy went incredibly well, with very few ailments or illnesses along the way. Our biggest challenge occurred when Ali palpitated me at week 34 and said she suspected Baby was breech. I truly couldn't believe it, as i knew what this meant (caesarean at 39 weeks) and felt my dream for a natural vaginal birth slipping away. The scan confirmed Ali's suspicions and while i was devastated by this news, I knew there was still plenty of time and techniques to try and turn our Bub. So over the next 4 weeks, I tried many methods including burning moxa sticks on my little toes, acupuncture, inversions, swimming and headstands in water and even scrubbing the kitchen floor! In week 37 I also had an ECV, which doesn't have a great success rate and some risks for early labour, but we didn't want any option to go untried. This was also unsuccessful.
During this time, we were also very aware that perhaps our babe was in this position for a reason and who were we to try to move him or her. Also, the more research I did, the more I discovered that outside Australia and even outside of Sydney, there are doctors and many midwives who will support women to have vaginal breech births and that breech is not abnormal, just an alternative to normal. This made it all the more frustrating to discover that having a vaginal breech birth in Sydney was next to impossible.
My pregnancy went incredibly well, with very few ailments or illnesses along the way. Our biggest challenge occurred when Ali palpitated me at week 34 and said she suspected Baby was breech. I truly couldn't believe it, as i knew what this meant (caesarean at 39 weeks) and felt my dream for a natural vaginal birth slipping away.
With the support of Ali and the other midwives at the birth centre, we started to discuss natural breech birth with several senior doctors at Royal North Shore Hospital (RNSH). The information we were given was that while we cannot be forced to have a caesarean, there were only 3 or 4 doctors on staff that would "allow" vaginal labour to proceed and it would be "luck of the draw" on which doctor would be on when I went into labour.
So, we refused to have the 39 week caesarean and compromised with the doctors that we would wait until week 41 and hope for labour to start naturally and to hopefully have a natural birth if one of the supportive and experienced doctors was on. If not, it would be a caesarean.
Ali and the other midwives from the birth centre completely changed my pregnancy and birth experience. From feeling completely disempowered and helpless when we first discovered that babe was breech to being supported, listened to and to have experienced advocates in our corner meant that we had the confidence to stand up for what we believed in - natural breech birth.
Just after midnight on the night of mother's day, 9th May 2010 my waters broke and we called Jez and Ali, who advised us we should go to the hospital to ensure I didn't have a prolapsed cord, which is a possible complication with breech bubs.
Surges started about 15 minutes after my waters broke and weren't severe but were coming regularly 4-5 minutes apart. When we arrived at the hospital, Leonie one of the midwives from the birth centre, pulled up behind us and we entered together. When the hospital midwives met us and Leonie explained who I was, one of them said "oh, she's breech, so you'll be going to theatre?". Leonie replied stonily "No, we need a birth suite!".
Soon after we were settled into a room, I asked Jono to call Jez and ask her to come in. The reception we received at the hospital had me worried that we could be taken for a caesarean sooner rather than later and i wanted her to be with us. The obstetrician on duty then came to see us and said "I see from your file you've been speaking to all the big-wigs here at the hospital. I'm not a policeman, so if you want to labour and see how it progresses, I'm happy with this. Warwick Gilles will be on at 8am and it will then be up to him." Wow, we couldn't believe this - with Warwick coming on in the morning, we really could do this - have a natural breech birth.
Jez arrived soon after we heard this and we were all so relieved that a caesarean wasn't imminent. I said to Jono "I'm just so glad I've experienced some of labour" - the relief that baby was coming on his/ her terms was overwhelming. The contractions were still coming every 4-5 minutes but weren't intense, so we decided to try to rest. I managed to snooze between the contractions, but woke up when each one began. At about 5am, I couldn't lie down any more, so we all got up and I started having to focus through the contractions.
Time became a blur for me as i moved between being on the ball, leaning over a bean bag on the bed and having a shower. I was using the hypnobirth cd's and techniques and was breathing and internalising through the surges, trying to be as relaxed as possible. Ali had arrived and was quietly monitoring us but taking a back seat to allow the labour progress naturally. We made it to 8am and soon after Warwick Gilles came to see us and was pleased with how things was progressing.
After I’m not sure how long but several hours for sure, I had a second shower and found it more and more difficult to maintain the hypnobirthing techniques – it was getting really intense now. When I came out of the shower Jez suggested I get down on the mattress which was on the floor, as she could see it was close to the second stage and she felt it would be less likely to have intervention if I was on the floor. Soon after moving to the mattress I felt an overwhelming urge to push, which scared me as I’d been told that with breech babies this feeling could come early before the cervix was ready. I said to Ali “ I need to push!” and she did an internal examination and told us excitedly that I was 10cm dilated – it was time to meet our baby!!!
During this time I felt overwhelmed with the urge to vocalise, groaning and almost screaming. Ali encouraged me to internalise this urge and to focus on pushing down rather than letting this power escape vocally. I was on my hands and knees on the mattress with Jono close by rubbing my back, with me squeezing his hand through the surges. It felt like soon after this, Anne (another midwife from Ryde) suggested that I get up on the bed, which I complied with in a daze. On the bed, I remained on my knees leaning over a bean bag. By this stage, the room had become quite full, with Warwick returning with another OB, there was a paediatrician, a couple of nurses, Anne, Ali plus another trainee midwife I’d met previously. I wasn’t aware of this until Ali suggested I lie on my back, which I wasn’t thrilled about and later found out that there was pressure from Warwick to do this. It felt against all my instincts to be lying on my back in this way but I also knew that Ali, Anne and Jez were doing everything they could to help me have this natural birth with the restrictions that Warwick was putting in place.
This time was incredibly intense for me and I didn’t think I was going to be able to push my darling baby out into the world. At some stage Anne (or was it Ali) said “feel between your legs” and while I wasn’t really motivated to do this, I followed her advice and sure enough I could feel a part of my baby. But what part? I was perplexed – it was too small to be the bum, but what else could it be? Anne said to me “the baby is telling you what it is!” and it still took me a moment before it dawned on me – “It’s a boy” I said to Jono with tears in my eyes. Even though I always knew in my heart he was a boy, I still couldn’t believe it. We were having a little baby boy, oh my gosh!!!!
I was unaware of the time passing but the extreme pain of each surge and with all my supporters saying “push, push” was again against my instincts and the bearing down position I was in just didn’t seem to be working – I wasn’t progressing. The pain at this time was almost unbearable, I truly didn’t think I would be able to push this baby out, it felt so overwhelming, I had thoughts that I was going to die and I said to Jez “I can’t do this”, but she, Jono, Ali and Anne just continued to encourage me. Warwick said to me that he was getting concerned about the lack of progress and that if he didn’t see some movement in the next half an hour, we would have to go to theatre. In my mind I thought “ok, bring it on, I can’t push this baby out!” but I didn’t vocalise this. Perhaps something subconsciously kicked in because somehow, after an hour or so of not much progression, with several good surges I pushed the bum out. And with the next contraction or two, Warwick manoeuvred Oliver’s legs, then shoulders out and finally his little head.
Our baby was born! He was so white as he was put onto my belly for a moment while the cord was cut (they wouldn’t allow it to finish pulsing as they were concerned about the health of Oliver and wanted him on the resusitaire). I touched him for a brief moment with tears running down my face before he was taken to the table to be looked after by the paediatrician – this was the hardest time, it was heartbreaking having him taken away. Jez went over with him as Jono kissed my head and held my hand as Warwick was looking after me. I kept saying “is he ok? Is everything all right?” and Jez said “yes, he’s just getting some breaths of oxygen”. After I don’t know how long (felt like forever!), our little boy was brought over to me and put on my chest….ahhh, heaven. I can’t explain the feeling of having this perfect little human finally in my arms. We'd waited so long for him and to now finally meet him it felt like everything was now right in the world. There was suddenly no one else in the room except us and i couldn't get the smile off my face. To my gorgeous Oliver Knowles Hall - welcome to the world, you've certainly changed it for the better for me and so many other lucky people xoxo.