I felt fantastic after her birth, my recovery was good and I could still care for my new baby, and my two year old son. I didn’t feel as tired, or affected by strong painkillers as I did after my c-section. Most of all I felt happy that the decisions I made during pregnancy and labour allowed Juniper to have the best start possible. My ability to make decisions, and my belief in my own strength and ability has increased since she was born.
We were very excited to find out that we were expecting our second child. The pregnancy was easy, and a lot less stressful having experienced it all before. Despite this I immediately felt anxious about the birth. Despite our best hopes and wishes to have a natural, low intervention birth with our first son, it didn’t quite go to plan and we ended up with an emergency c-sections, following a classic cascade of interventions. My conversations with obstetricians and midwifes about how I intended to give birth second time around were dominated by the risk of uterine rupture, it all seemed very scary and I was really worried as I would not decide whether to have a repeat section, or attempt a VBAC. I’m not exactly sure why, but at around 27 weeks I all of a sudden knew I wanted a vaginal birth. After lots of research I decided that for me, the benefits of a natural birth outweighed the very small risk of rupture. I knew I could do it, however not without a lot of support. Having learned from my previous birth experience that not having the right support during labour can be detrimental, I immediately started searching for a doula. I was very excited to find Erika, as I wanted someone with lots of experience, particularly VBAC experience and Erika sounded perfect.
After our first meeting I started getting really excited about the idea of having a vaginal birth, although I was very worried that the OB we had chosen at the beginning of the pregnancy may not now be the best match for us. I had spoken to him briefly about having a VBAC and although he was happy to ‘let me try’ I had a gut feeling that he was not fully supportive. I really did not want to deal with the stress of changing care providers or hospitals at that late stage in the pregnancy, I knew from previous experience how important it would be to have a care provider who I could trust, and who would really support me on the day. I discussed the situation with Erika and she helped to inform me of the various models of care available. I ended up finding an amazingly supportive obstetrician and was confident I could have a VBAC under his care. For the short weeks left before my due date I spent as much time as I could preparing for the birth. I did yoga, regular walking and exercise, meditation, relaxation, massage, aromatherapy, acupuncture and osteotherapy. I read books on natural childbirth, joined online VBAC support groups, and made an appointment with an independent midwife to debried my previous birth experience. Erika taught my partner and I various positions ideal giving birth, and breathing exercises which we practiced so that they would be familiar on the day.
As I was induced with my first pregnancy, I had not experienced spontaneous labour before, so we talked at length about how it might happen, so that it did not seem scary and unfamiliar. I really felt like I had done everything I could to prepare. I knew that if things did not go to plan there was nothing more that I could have done, and that no matter what happened, this birth would be more a positive and empowering experience than the previous one. My due date passed by uneventfully. I started to get a bit worried once I got past 41 weeks, as I had not had any of the common symptoms of labour starting. I felt fine physically, and I was happy to wait until the baby was ready to come (as was my OB), but I started stressing that my chances of having a successful VBAC were getting slimmer each day.
One evening after an acupuncture session I had a feeling something was going to happen soon. I woke up at midnight with contractions, about 45 seconds in duration, and about 5 minute apart. I was really excited! I started getting a bit nervous when I realised the contractions were quite regular, and starting to get closer together. For some reason I imagined that things would happen slowly, and that I would have plenty of time to relax at home in early labour. I started to panic a bit so I called Erika. She suggested I have a shower, which felt great. Once out the shower The contractions were still regular and closer together than I felt comfortable with, so we decided to make to 45 minute trip to the hospital. Erika met us at the hospital and helped us get settled in. I had my first vaginal examination by my OB at 7am and I was 6 cm dilated. I was very happy because I never made that sort of progress during the birth of my first baby. As the day progressed, I felt that the contractions were slowing down and becoming to less intense, I started to get worried.Erika was encouraging me to be very active, in and out of the shower, doing deep squats and rocking. She encouraged me to rest at one point, and I felt like I actually slept in between contractions. Erika also gave me honey to eat, which I hated the taste of, but I felt noticeably better after having eaten it. My contractions still had not picked up. My OB felt strongly that I should have my waters broken, but I decided to carry on labouring to see if things picked up. I was reluctant to have them broken because I felt like I was handling the contractions well, and that breaking my waters would cause them to become more intense than I could bear, I was terrified of having to have an epidural. Late in the day I felt like things were still slowing down. I asked for a vaginal examination which revealed I had progressed 1cm in about 6 hours so I asked the OB to break my waters. At that point my OB made negative comment about me not allowing him to break them earlier, as he had suggested. Usually I am quite sensitive to criticism, but in that moment I felt totally confident in my decision to labour as long as I did, so luckily it did not affect me.
The contractions immediately became more intense, but I felt like I could manage then, and I was relieved that things seemed to be heading in the right direction again. I started making lots of interesting noises, and I felt hot during contractions and cold in between them. I spent most of the time hanging off the end of the bed, squatting during contractions, or on the toilet. Sometimes I pretended I was during yoga during contractions, that that seemed to help. When the pressure in my back was feeling strong, Erika did this magic hip squeeze massage technique and the pressure disappeared. I also had amazing support from two excellent midwives. They were very skilled at of giving me space and leaving me to labour, while providing me with encouragement and support when I wanted or needed it. Eventually my body started feeling like i wanted to push.I remember feeling worried about pushing in case I was not at 10cm (I didn’t have any vaginal examinations after my membranes were ruptured), but the midwives encouraged me to just let my body do it’s thing. I tried pushing in many positions, but none seemed as effective as lying on the bed on my side.I found the pushing stage quite frustrating and it seemed to be taking a long time (close to two hours). I was getting worried I wouldn't be able to push her out. I was physically exhausting, and having everyone tell me to push was not particularly enjoyable, I felt like I was failing and I just wanted it to be over.
Eventually the OB suggested an episiotomy, as he thought I might tear. I consented, and my Daughter, Juniper, was born immediately and placed on my chest. She was born at 6:30pm (18 hrs since first contraction). I felt very relieved, and I couldn’t believe that I had done it! I was surprised to learn that she weighed 3.96kg, I expected her to be smaller. Overall, I felt I had an amazing birth experience, supported an excellent team. If I were to do it again, I would consider not birthing is a hospital, because it was not the most comfortable or pleasant environment. I felt fantastic after her birth, my recovery was good and I could still care for my new baby, and my two year old son. I didn’t feel as tired, or affected by strong painkillers as I did after my c-section. Most of all I felt happy that the decisions I made during pregnancy and labour allowed Juniper to have the best start possible. My ability to make decisions, and my belief in my own strength and ability has increased since she was born.