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Preparing for birth 2nd time around; a VBAC hopeful!

Updated: Aug 22, 2021

So, as I sit penning this blog (my first might I add) I am quite aware the inevitable due date is fast approaching.  I always thought during my first pregnancy that it must be so much easier for second time mums having already conquered the birthing experience, but I now realise that all depends on the experience they had first time around…. For me I have a lot of fears and worries to put to one side and the best way to do that is to become more informed and confident in my choices this time. In order to prepare for my VBAC it is vital to re-visit my emotions and choices made during my first pregnancy and birth experience and how I managed with my post-partum recovery. This will be a 3 part blog:

  1. Birth plan v reality first time around

  2. The postpartum journey

  3. My VBAC choice

Birth plan first time around – Hypnobirthing!

Living in Australia, I had my heart set on a beautiful calm birth. I was accepted on to the midwifery led programme at the local hospital with two of the most fantastic midwives guiding me through my non-eventful, smooth pregnancy. The aim was for a minimalistic medical approach and the opportunity to labour and birth in the water pool. Myself and my husband attended private hypnobirthing sessions and I really invested time and energy into learning the various techniques which I would be able to draw on once baby was ready to make their grand entrance. I remember talking to my brother in law on the phone prior to due date and he asked if I was having an epidural, when I replied I was going to breathe the baby out I could hear him laughing all the way from Boston…

Due date comes and goes….

This was a massive hurdle for me first time around. I was so sure I would go early and this set me up for a massive psychological battle every day past due date – 15 days to be exact!!! Hypnobirthing will say your due date it is a guess date (EDD), but from the moment you find out you are pregnant that date is boldly engraved in your brain and it is very hard to dismiss it. For those of you that have went overdue… you understand… the hormones are raging, your nervous/excited/longing to meet your little one and then on top of that you have the texts flooding in “ have you not went yet” “Jeez its gonna be a big one at this rate” (Yes someone did text me this!!) and “thinking of you” aka “any word”.

I truly believed baby would come when baby was ready… no sweeps, no medical intervention just the natural commencement of surges or membranes releasing to let me know baby was on its way… and still I waited… I tried all the natural remedies, from Raspberry tea leaf, to spicy food to squatting to I could squat no more… and still nada! Day 10 post EDD, doubt was beginning to set in, perhaps this baby did need a little kick start!? So, against all my hypnobirthing principles  I finally succumbed to a sweep…. and still I waited. Day 14 I was booked for an induction but overnight things began to happen! The contractions commenced and on assessment at the hospital I was 3cm dilated and no need for induction #result! Home it was then to labour it out…

The labour marathon

Labour is tough. First time around it’s the unknown. I remember thinking, how tough can it really be?! I mean, I’ve suffered many an injury on the football field and played with cracked ribs, surely it cant be that bad? …. All I can say is it’s indescribable.

On arrival to the hospital I was 5cm … fantastic…half way there… this wee miracle would be in my arms in no time…. or so I thought! I laboured in the water pool which was amazing and using my hypnobirthing music and techniques. I was in total control. I was in such a deep state of relaxation I actually believed my husband had turned into a leprechaun and I was laughing so hard. Yes laughing during labour! (If you know my husband you would have laughed too at the sight of him as a little ginger leprechaun!) Things were going to plan. My endorphins (our own natural pain blocking hormones) were clearly doing their job of providing me with the natural pain relief I needed to get through the surges …. I was doing great!

However as time passed, progression had slowed and after much discussion with my pro hypnobirthing midwife we agreed for my membranes to be released and from here we went down a slippery slope…. Old stained Meconium (brown in colour) in the amniotic fluid resulted in my transference from the hypnobirthing room to constant monitoring in a very medicalised labour room. Still, I remained positive! I just needed to keep on my feet, stay active and use the birthing ball…. The surges were coming strong and fast and despite breathing through them I could not get past 5 cm dilation…. What was I doing wrong?!

At this stage I was fatiguing and with the CTG monitor strapped around my bump it was showing fluctuations with the baby heartbeat. I was afraid. Afraid I couldn’t do this. Afraid the baby was in distress and afraid of failing this child I had nurtured so dearly over the last 9-10months…. I needed help! An epidural was administered together with the implementation of a syntocin drip, and so i was bed bound – Good-bye active Birth.

Oh how I was so far away from my birthing plan, but in that moment of sheer desperation for everything to be ok, you agree to anything.

A fetal scalp monitor was placed on the baby as the medical staff were concerned with the CTG readings. More intervention. More beeps and more noises to worry about. I was using gas and air at this stage on the transition over to the epidural and that’s when alarm bells rang out. I remember looking at the monitor and seeing the fetal heartbeat descend …59….40….32…27….10…0…  Medical staff were rushing in and pulling/pushing at me …I remember watching my husband in the corner of the room holding his head in his hands looking so helpless, and in that moment I remember thinking my baby was dying and there was nothing I could do… it was so surreal. After what seemed like an eternity the heartbeat began to climb again…there was uncertainty as to what had happened but we continued…. However after another episode of fetal heartbeat drop and medical staff rushing in from all angles I just begged for them to get my baby to me alive. Whatever they had to do.

15 hours into active labour with no progression past 5cm and a baby with a fluctuating heartbeat … there was nothing further medical staff could suggest other than a Caesarean section.

My birth plan had just turned on its head 360 degrees. From a minimalistic medical approach to every intervention under the sun. They talk about a mothers love being like no other and I truly understand the strength of that love as from the moment you become pregnant, you become a mother….at first to a small bundle of cells, then an embryo which grows into a foetus and finally into that little miracle that’s handed to you after birth. You will do everything in your power to protect your child but during labour and birth when things happen that are out of your control you place your trust in god and the medical team around you that they will do everything in their remit to save your child. Not you. Your child.

The beautiful calm birth

On reflection, I can honestly say I did get my beautiful calm birth. During the C-section, every single member of that surgical team were fantastic. They kept us informed of everything that was happening, reassured us that everything was under control and the anaesthetist even held my hand. The midwife photographed every key moment (see photos attached) so I wouldn’t miss out; from the moment Maggie Grace made her (not so pretty) entrance into the world, to the cutting of the umbilical cord and to the moment she was laid on my chest and I just sobbed with sheer relief … these were truly special moments that I will cherish forever.

No matter what delivery method your child enters the world, you must be so, so proud of yourself. Never, ever , ever feel inadequate or that you have failed because your birth plan didn’t go accordingly. We have to recognise that birth is one of the most powerful experiences that we will ever conquer and whether that be vaginally or via C-section, when that precious little human is placed in our arms we have all succeeded. Succeeded in bringing life and hope and wonder into this world. So mammas give yourself some love and embrace the postpartum journey of rediscovering your body and commencing the steepest learning curve you will ever encounter….

Kathy xoxo

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