My beautiful baby girl Maggie Sofia is my second child. Her birth was a calm and healthy VBAC. Her story starts when my first child Mateo was born.
Mateo was born by emergency caesarean section, after a 36 hour stop – start labour. Hospital staff told me I was failing to progress, interventions were required to speed up labour and as a consequence my baby boy went into distress. I was told that possibly the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck causing his heart beat to drop each time there was a contraction. Wanting only what was best, I agreed to an epidural and an unplanned, emergency caesarean section. After his birth I felt that my body had failed to deliver my child. Surrounded by positive family and friends I did not deal with the emotions that came with the feeling of failure. I simply blocked them out and got on with being a mother. I focused on my healthy baby and the joy of being a mother and was grateful that there were no post-operative complications to either of us.
Three years later we joyfully discovered that we were pregnant with our second child. I immediately knew that I wanted a different birth outcome and that outcome could only be achieved by adopting a different approach to the management of my care during the pregnancy as well as educating myself about birth.
After some research I decided that a private midwife who would care for me throughout the pregnancy and on the birth day itself was what I needed. From my first conversation with my midwife and throughout my pregnancy I always felt that she was there to help me be informed about birth and my birth choices but she never pressured me or suggested one option over another. My midwife supported the decisions I made and answered the questions I had along the way. She made available a wealth of resources including articles, books and dvd’s which I read and watched. Step by step I arrived at the mental space where I could deliver a baby without intervention, without drugs and without fear. I delivered my baby girl naturally, as Mother Nature intended. My body did not fail. My body did what it was made to do.
I did not adopt any particular physical regime or attend birth classes; I did not adopt any particular diet other than to rest when I felt I needed it and eat healthy. Nothing really changed in what I did physically in my day to day routine. What did change was my understanding of child birth and my perception of my body’s ability to give birth.
First; I chose VBAC. In choosing VBAC I inevitably had to talk about Mateo’s emergency caesarean birth. During the first conversations about his birth I could feel my eyes well up and I pushed the tears back. I discussed all the things that had made my labour with Mateo uncomfortable and what I wanted to change. It was not until a morning tea more than three years after Mateo’s birth with other young mothers and pregnant women who I’d never met that I finally let the tears run. I expressed my doubts that I didn’t believe the umbilical cord had been wrapped around my baby’s neck as had been suspected at the time and that I felt I had failed for no good reason. My suspicions about the umbilical cord were confirmed when I obtained my medical records and my gorgeous second midwife so aptly described my experience as a failure to wait on the part of the hospital. She was also the first person to tell me that I had not failed.
I then started reading successful VBAC stories and then more healthy natural birth stories. I also began to understand the “Business of Birth” thanks to Rikki Lake and then I began watching births. Water births, home births, natural births and even animal births. This process of education and healing continued throughout my pregnancy.
Initially I found it challenging to visualise myself giving birth. During the last month of pregnancy, baby’s head was down and I could feel her. In the second last week prior to her birth I read Ina May Gaskin’s book, “Guide to Childbirth” and it was probably in the last week leading up to my baby’s birth that I finally began to visualise. I took the quiet time when I was putting my son to bed and waiting in the dark for him to fall asleep to meditate on what my body could achieve. In that last week I had an epiphany about child birth. I realised that giving birth was just one big period only this time instead of the uterine wall falling away with the unfertilised egg, the egg was fertilised and being pushed out. This realisation really helped me to understand and visualise what my body would do at the time of birth. Our periods are just like labour only on a much smaller scale, training for the big event!
The day before Maggie was born, I carried on with our usual routine taking Mateo to swimming, only that day I had period like cramps all day and I asked my husband Julian to come along because I was feeling nervous. I’d been experiencing period cramps fairly regularly for about 3-4 weeks but they usually only came after eating. That day was different as they carried on all day. By 1.00am the next morning, I had a show and knew our baby girl was going to be born. I knew that I was in early labour and that I should take this time to rest as much as I could between contractions. I was expecting a long labour.
At 6.00am I called my mother and asked her to help get Mateo ready for pre-school. When my mother arrived at 7.00am contractions slowed down and that was an opportunity to rest. However, when I lay down the time between contractions was longer but the contractions themselves were more intense. I decided that lying down was not worth it and preferred to be active. I changed position from rocking on all fours to sitting on the bed leaning on the exercise ball. My “cruise” mode position was resting back in an arm chair between contractions and leaning over the exercise ball during the contraction while listening to some very peaceful relaxing tunes. Julian catered unquestioningly to my every need and hugged me with each contraction. This carried on until we left for the hospital. I had a couple of showers in between and regular visits to the toilet. I also took sips of tea, pumpkin soup and water throughout.
At 12.30pm contractions were intense and longer. We messaged my midwife, she had attended a delivery at 4.00am so I wanted her to rest and I still thought my labour would be long. She didn’t reply to our text. Julian was getting concerned so we called her. On the phone she could hear where I was at and said it sounded like I was in active labour and to meet at the hospital. I was determined to shower and change before going to the hospital so that took some time. Meanwhile, labour was speeding up. By the time I finally got in the car it was around 1.40pm I could feel baby’s head bearing down, contractions were minutes apart. Julian drove with one hand on the wheel and held mine with the other while I was saying, “Slow down baby, slow down” and “Everything will be alright, everything will be okay.” When we got to the hospital I checked the car clock it was 2.15pm. I couldn’t get out of the car. My midwife met us at the entrance with a wheel chair and took me up to the birth unit. I could see in her eyes that I was well advanced but I could also hear in her step and her voice that she was confident and knew exactly what to do. I remember saying to her on the way to the birth unit, “Thank goodness for the rest between contractions!”
We had pre-booked into the hospital so I was able to go straight into the birthing room where my midwife already had the bath running.
My second midwife met us at the lifts on the way up. Her presence was like a calm evening breeze. She didn’t say much but she knew what to do and she was very gentle. At times she coached me through breathing, not by telling me what to do but by breathing with me.
We made our way over to the bath between contractions, it was dimly lit and I felt very comfortable. They helped me into the bath and I sat in a relaxed position back against the bath.
I soon changed my affirmations to, “I can do it” and was reassured by my midwives and my husband that I was doing it!
My midwife told me that it was time to push my baby out. I was surprised and scared that it was already time to push. I told her I was scared. She asked me why. I asked her if it was really time to push. She said it was and asked if I wanted her to check. I did because with Mateo I had only dilated 4-5cm and was not sure where I was at now because no-one had checked. She confirmed it was time.
I tried pushing but it didn’t feel quite right. She said I was pushing the wrong way, I was drawing baby up instead of pushing baby out. I think I had started doing that in the car on the way over as I felt like I was sitting on a bowling ball and wanted to make it to the hospital hoping that baby would not pop out in the car. I focussed on pushing outward, I started roaring. I’d say it was two medium strength roars and pushes. My midwife said, “You need to push this baby out,” that baby was on the way and she could feel baby’s head above the bag of waters. At that moment I decided that I was going to push this baby out and that there was no way in the world that forceps or a vacuum were going to touch me or my baby. That thought scared me into what I needed to do. I rolled over to the edge of the bath with my arms leaning over the side into Julian’s arms and I pushed, this time it was a full strength roar that drowned out any fearful thoughts that came to mind; a roar that focussed on pushing baby out and would not stop until she was out. Suddenly, a baby appeared in the water, my baby, our beautiful baby girl! “I did it! I did it!” I kept repeating. Hello Baby. It was amazing, she was so little and gorgeous and curled up, a little cry and then skin to skin. She felt so calm and at peace and that calmness has remained with both of us.
Maggie Sofia was born at 3.12pm just under an hour after arriving at the hospital.
The birth day went amazingly well and according to my birth plan, but it was not just what happened on the day that made it possible but it was everything that happened during the pregnancy that helped me believe that step by step when life called on me that I would be as my midwives had prophesised; transformed into a beautiful roaring woman bringing her baby into the world.
I will be forever grateful to my son, my husband, my midwives, my mother, my beautiful baby Maggie and life itself for this wonderful experience.