I really hope my birth story can help other belly birth mums to have empowered births following a traumatic or unexpected birth previously. For that reason I have briefly touched upon my first belly birth, Wilfred and then compared it with Peggy’s to show that positive birth after C-section is possible!

Wilfreds Birth- January 18th 2018

When I fell pregnant with our first baby, I was so excited, not only because we had been trying for a baby for a little while, but birth is something that I have always been in awe of, and I couldn’t wait to experience it. I never approached it with any fear.

We took antenatal classes, and I felt completely prepared for birth. Well, for an uncomplicated one at least.

My due date came and went, and by 7 days overdue I was pretty frustrated. We tried it all, sex, curry, I even ate the core of a pineapple! I also wet myself and trotted off to the triage at hospital just to be told that!! But at 41+2 my contractions started coming and at 6pm that evening, my waters broke in the bath (convenient!)

I laboured at home until midnight, when I really needed some pain relief! Thankfully I was 4cm so could be admitted! The gas and air was as wonderful as I imagined. Time went on and on, and after a few examinations and lots of hours, at 7am I was still 4cms. I was exhausted and had an epidural to get some rest. After another 4 hours, I hadn’t progressed and had a hormone drip. I pretty much drifted in and out of consciousness until around 7pm when I was fully dilated.

But Wilfred had gone back to back and had his forehead facing forward and despite a few pushes, forceps couldn’t be used (he was too high). Additionally, I developed a soaring temperature and he was born via C-section weighing 9lbs 5oz!

We both needed treatment for sepsis but I recovered pretty well, I think adrenaline with your first baby can help with that. So what’s the trauma in that story you’ll be thinking?? I wasn’t prepared for it. At all. Even being told it’s a possibility with every birth, I didn’t think it would be my birth. I was active in labour and not at all frightened. I felt like I had failed. I was also deliriously tired from 30 hours or so of labour.  I also didn’t hold him for what felt like hours, and he had a drip for suspected sepsis which made my heart break

I was also told no pregnancies for a year. Having struggled to fall pregnant it hurt to be told that, and to have my choice taken away.

Peggy’s birth- 15th May 2019

You’ll read this birthday and think ‘well hang on that’s 16 months later!’ And yep it was.

On 14th September 2018, I discovered I was pregnant again, 8 months post C-section.

My initial thoughts were excitement again and then fear

Fear of how safe this pregnancy would be and fear of another C-section where I felt numb.

I didn’t want to feel any of that. So I looked into hypnobirthing, which came from a comment from a mum I met in my community who taught hypnobirthing and mentioned it to me. I replied with ‘ah I had a C-section so I don’t think it would help me?’ HOW WRONG WAS I?!

Hypnobirthing is for EVERY birth and changed my outlook on the impending delivery. For me, it was the wording and affirmations, teaching your brain to trust your body and the path of birth for that body and baby. To put in context, words like ‘contractions’ become ‘surges’ and my language as I detail Peggy’s birth will be noticeably more positive.

I was seen by my midwife and never once was a repeat belly birth forced on me. It was so reassuring to feel I had a choice! I planned for a VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section) and felt supported and informed by the health care professionals looking after me. For myself, I consented to continuous fetal monitoring (as it made me feel more relaxed) during labour, and it felt right for us.

At 20 weeks, we discovered our baby had suspected renal pelvic dilatation and would need to have repeat scans at 28 weeks and 36 weeks.

Our plans for VBAC remained unaffected, following advice from our consultants that our baby was well.

In preparation, I also had researched ‘gentle C-sections’ and how many of the ‘natural’ birth elements can be applied (where safe) to belly births, in case this situation arose again. I approached birth with excitement and when my due date came and went I didn’t feel frustrated and just enjoyed the last few days of being pregnant (you truly miss that bump!)

At my 40 week appointment (2 days after my due date) my midwife measured my bump and I was measuring small for dates. Having had a larger baby before I thought this was a bit odd!! It was also the 3rd time I had measured small and so we were sent in for a heart trace and potential scan to make sure baby was well. I was advised to be induced going post dates alongside her kidney condition. However, I was given a few more days to see if things would happen on their own (I was already 1cm dilated) as baby was moving ok.

This decision to agree to induction came from an affirmation I had been taught ‘I make informed decisions that feel right for me and my baby.’ With her issues with her kidneys, I couldn’t risk she might have been unwell. That date came and off we went to be induced. I was in for a trial of ‘cooks balloon catheter’ but when they examined me I was already 3cm! So my waters were released instead, it was 4pm…

The labour ward was packed and so I stayed on the antenatal ward, but my surges were coming quick and fast! However, I zoned out, kept the lighting low (helped it was evening) and listened to my affirmations, I couldn’t even hear the other women. At 10pm I was moved to the labour ward and again created our birth space in the room. We had soft music, I took Wilfred’s bobble hat as an anchor and I felt totally relaxed (despite very intense surges)

Another 4 hours and little progress. It was the first time I felt scared and frustrated, but I had learnt to not let that emotion in and thought logically to get an epidural and at least rest until my next exam and conserve some energy.

Despite this logical thinking, my epidural only worked on one side so I was battling surges for a couple of hours before I moved on my side (by advice of my lovely midwife) and it took effect at last! Another exam, still 5cm. Again frustration crept in. Our obstetrician suggested we try a drip… and I initially agreed.

Then I heard – ‘I am preparing for the birth of a calm baby and a confident mother’ and I decided my body had done enough, and I didn’t want an emergency situation where I couldn’t hold my baby or worse. I also was informed that risk of rupture could increase with the drip.

I burst into tears, and the release gave me the strength to know our baby needed to be born by belly, so she was calm and safe.

At 7.46am Peggy arrived weighing 8lbs. She was placed onto my chest and we had immediate skin to skin and she fed about 20 minutes after her birth. It wasn’t uncomplicated, and I suffered a post partum haemorrhage on the operating table but knew I was in the safest hands.

In recovery, our OB who delivered her came to see us and reassured us about what had caused the blood loss. He said it could have been scar tissue (from the previous section) or that I was on the border of rupturing.  I was so proud I had listened to my body and my baby at the time I did, and not had the drip or I may not be holding my baby in my arms as I write this.

I don’t like the phrase ‘unsuccessful’ and so I won’t say my VBAC was that. Unsuccessful would be if I didn’t feel in control, which I did.

Despite a really heavy blood loss and abdominal delivery, Peggy breastfed well and actually lost no weight at her day 5 check (when babies can lose up to 10%) in fact she gained an ounce!!- ‘My breast milk is just right for my baby’

I want every woman preparing for a VBAC or a repeat C-section to know there is no ‘failure’, your body is amazing, and birth can be beautiful, even when the unexpected arises

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