Lots of my friends and family would tell me to stop thinking about it, all that mattered was that in the end we had a healthy baby and a healthy me…I could see their point but always thought that they didn’t really understand where I was coming from. After Madelon’s birth (an emergency caesarean) I felt like I had made the wrong choices and I had reacted poorly to sensations of labour. I had been induced with Prostin gel and Madelon was born due to foetal distress after a few hours if intense contractions that I didn’t cope with at all.

I was determined that this time would be different! So before we had even started trying to conceive I contacted Vickie – a certified Doula – and asked her to share this journey with me. I needed to know that I had good strong support that would help me prepare in every way for this birth. From the very first email I received from Vickie I felt that she was the right person to share this time with. She was empathetic towards my feelings and oozed hope and joy about this pregnancy and birth.

Dimitrie and I were fortunate to conceive straight away and were lucky to gain a place on the midwifery program at The Canberra Hospital (Madelon was born through Canberra Midwifery Program – CMP, as well). This was another blessing as even before we conceived, I was anxious about the possibility that I wouldn’t get a place on the program. I believed that the support and continuity of care I would receive from CMP was an essential part of making this birth a positive one.

At 13 weeks Dimitrie and I started private tuition with Tracey. The five week program with Tracey was the beginning of an amazing journey for us both. It allowed us to explore our feelings about Madelon’s birth and made us realise that this pregnancy and birth would be different and that whatever the outcome would be it wasn’t something that I could control. We realised that what we learnt about staying calm and surrendering to what comes our way, were skills that we could apply not only to this pregnancy but to all aspects of our life.

I had now made the term VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean) an everyday part of my vocabulary and was determined to be one the success stories!

So right up to 40 weeks I was feeling empowered and positive about this birth. It was at this stage of my pregnancy that I was able to borrow a couple of Ina May Gaskin’s books about pregnancy and birth. I had really wanted to read them before I went into labour and managed to do that in just a few days. These birth stories highlighted for me the importance of “head space” – about not having any hang-ups in any areas of your life – and how this would help child birth take its natural course. I honestly felt that I had achieved this and was now ready to sit back and wait for our baby to arrive.

At 41 weeks my confidence was wavering and I thought that perhaps something was holding me back. I had my appointment with the obstetrician at the hospital who asked me how I was and went straight onto asking me when my caesarean was booked in. I hadn’t booked a caesarean – because I 100% believed that I wasn’t going to have one! That appointment only lasted a few more minutes. This was followed by a very reassuring appointment with Denise (one of my CMP midwives) who found my cervix to be closed and posterior. Anne Snedden (obstetrician) asked to see me before I went home and made me realise that I wasn’t as prepared for our baby’s birth as I thought and that a caesarean was looking most likely. She pointed out that I had a whole page of birth preferences for my VBAC and only 4 points “in case of a caesarean” – she told me to go home and come up with my ideal caesarean birth. We negotiated to come into the hospital every 2 days for monitoring and that I would see Anne again at 42 weeks to either break my waters or have a caesarean.  I was totally shattered and felt like I had already failed myself and our baby.

It was time for some serious action! I was grateful for the time that Anne had given me, so Dimitrie and I began trying everything (most of which we’d been trying for the previous week already) to “naturally” induce this baby including acupuncture, acupressure, aromatherapy, yoga, massage, the “right” foods, sex, relaxation, reiki, walking up and down the curb – you name it, we did it! With no luck. At 41+3 I had dilated to 1cm and was having pre labour contractions which sometimes I thought were the beginning of actual labour but never progressed. I began to think that something was holding me back so I rang Tracey, who reminded me to surrender and if there was something I needed to let go of or realise to just let it be – that’s all I needed to do. I just remember feeling so sad that this wasn’t working out the way I had wanted it to. I wanted to know why – so I could fix it. Surrendering isn’t as easy as I had thought and there are some things that just can’t be fixed.

At 41+6 I had finally reached this place of calm. I’m not sure how I got there but I’m sure that the support that I had from my midwives Denise and Debbie and my doula Vickie were the main reasons.  I realised that we had done everything to ensure a healthy pregnancy and to try and get labour started naturally. There wasn’t merely a thought or belief that was keeping this baby inside of me. A caesarean wouldn’t be a mark of failure as I had previously believed. I still had the power to create a beautiful birth and actively birth my baby.

So on September 12 when Dimitrie and I went into the hospital we knew everything would be ok. There was still the possibility of being able to break my waters but our baby hadn’t engaged so Anne told us to hang around to be called up to theatre for a caesarean. Her and my midwives had gone over my caesarean birth preferences and approved them all except allowing Vickie into theatre with us. Dimitrie and I felt excited about meeting our baby so soon, empowered about being able to negotiate with our midwives and Anne the type of birth we wanted and relieved that we had made it to today and felt ok!

Everyone helped to create a quiet, calm, peaceful birthing environment for us. Our music was playing, no one was talking unnecessarily. I felt totally at ease. There were a few difficulties administrating the spinal block and I was grateful for all my practice which helped me manage to keep it together.  Dimitrie came in and had a chair right next to my head. We were able to keep the IV line and all the monitoring equipment attached to my right arm which left my left arm free to receive my baby! Instead of being fully gowned Denise had only draped the gown over my chest so that I would be able to pull it aside and have direct skin to skin with my baby. The screen wasn’t up as I had requested and I was surprised how little I could actually see! I think I forgot that there was going to be my big belly in the way! It was only a coincidence but all but two of the theatre staff were female and I felt like I was surrounded by wonderful strong women who knew how much this birth meant to me and Dimitrie. There were a few times when my blood pressure dropped and I started to feel dizzy and overwhelmed but Michelle (anaesthetist) who was at the top of my head, did an amazing job at reassuring me and keeping me calm.

All of a sudden it all started to happen and Anne asked me to push. I remember doing a double take not really comprehending what she had said – I didn’t think that pushing and caesareans went together – but I gave it a go. I think Anne may have smiled and told me I could do better – it’s a strange sensation trying to push a baby out of your tummy with a spinal block! This simple gesture was the greatest gift. Even writing these words brings tears of joy to my eyes! By Anne asking me to push I felt that I had birthed Elia – and that second push did pop his little head out! I remember hearing him gurgle; I was crying and laughing all at once – I was so overwhelmed with these feelings of love and triumph and joy and accomplishment. Even though I couldn’t see much without the screen I was able to see those first moments where our baby’s head was lifted above my belly followed by his body.

Then he cried and Dimitrie said it was a boy. His cord was clamped and my beautiful warm, wet and slippery baby boy was placed directly onto my bare chest for our first cuddle. That is a moment I will cherish all my life. With Madelon’s birth, by the time I got my first cuddle she had been towelled clean and was wrapped up. For Elia’s birth I wanted to experience that moment where my baby had just been born and no one had done anything to change him…I was the first to hold him and greet him into our world. I loved being able to smell him and feel his warmth and wetness. It really made me realise that he actually did come from within me – that this was the baby I had grown for nine months. This was so different to Madelon’s birth where it felt surreal holding her and it was hard to believe that she had come from me. Another great difference to our last birth was having one arm totally free of IV lines and monitoring equipment. This meant that I was able to easily hold Elia without getting tangled up.

I was able to hold Elia continuously right through to recovery other than when Dimitrie had his first cuddle in theatre to cut the cord which had been left longer for this reason. Elia had tried to attach for a feed in theatre but it was a little tricky lying on my back. Once in recovery he attached wonderfully and feed well for about 10 or so minutes. I remember the recovery nurse trying to clean me up – I had blood from Elia and meconium on me but I thought that it was the greatest! They were my marks of an amazing birth!

We received excellent care on the postnatal ward and went home on day 4. Elia was welcomed into our family by his doting big sister Madelon! As I’m finishing this story he’s now 10 weeks old and such a calm happy baby. He feed well right from that first feed in recovery and has continued to gain weight. He settles well and started sleeping 5-6 hours overnight from 2 weeks and is now sleeping most nights for 8-10 hours straight. I remember after Madelon was born feeling so blissed out on motherhood and didn’t think that it could get any better.

Now I feel all the same feelings but they’re so much more intense – for both my children! I definitely think that Elia’s birth has played a role in this. Now that I have my happy and healthy baby I can understand why people were telling me that the birth is not important in the scheme of things, but I have learnt how empowering and rewarding a wonderful birth experience can be. It’s not something that should be denied or trivialised. I will always be grateful for the support and guidance that I received that helped me create this experience and to realise that a caesarean birth can be just as amazing!

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