The back story
Giving birth. It is a truly personal thing. It is a beautiful, awe-inspiring, spiritual moment in a family’s life. When pregnant, I longed for information about labour and the birthing process. To begin with, birth seemed pretty scary. If you speak to women about it you might hear them tell tales that make your toes curl and hair stand on end. I have come across many women however, who have had an immensely positive birth experience or who have overcome the fears created from a first, less than favourable experience to show great strength. My experience was wonderful. I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single moment.
Before I continue to write, I need to make sure that any woman reading this post understand that it represents my own personal experience. As i write about this incredibly intimate moment in my life it is with the up most respect for every single woman’s individual experience. I write it because I know how valuable reading the positive stories of other women was for me. Their stories gave me strength, confidence and inspiration to enjoy the experience. The strength that they had shared in their own stories helped me to achieve as natural a birth as was physiologically possible for Tristan. I know that not all birth stories run as mine did and I really am NOT casting any judgement, what so ever, on anyone who chooses (or has no choice) to experience things differently. This is a personal process, I want to share it because mine was so positive an experience that I hope that this story might help someone else who is preparing for the same, wonderful experience.
If you read this blog you’ll know that Tristan’s conception was as a result of a highly medicalised process. When we found out that we were pregnant we were so incredibly grateful that our prayers and wishes had finally been answered. My pregnancy went really well and I was generally a happy, healthy (if a little tired) mum to be. Towards the last few weeks of my pregnancy my pre-diagnosed blood disorder (ITP) played up and my platelets went down to just above 50. This meant intervention (for me) to boost my blood platelet numbers to make labour safer. Particularly if there were any complications.
With platelets below 80 I would not have been allowed an epidural and if I had needed an emergency C-section it would have resulted in my being knocked out using general anaesthetic. Matt and I would have missed the whole thing and Tristan would have been born in an operating theatre without me being conscious enough to experience any of it. That terrified me. There was no way I wanted to be absent at his birth. I agreed to having Intragam infusions for two days to get my platelets up. Medicalised…. again.
What’s interesting about being pregnant is that it is almost automatically managed medically. When I asked my GP for advice about the next steps (once pregnant), we were advised to follow the route of a private obstetrician in a private hospital. Why? Because the baby was conceived by IVF and because I had ITP. My GP was concerned that I ought to have the opportunity to see the same practitioner throughout my pregnancy so that they might keep and eye on me and monitor my progress carefully. What he didn’t do was ask me what my philosophy of birth was, what I hoped to experience, what kind of support I might need. In fact, had he done so, i don’t think I could have answered him. I had no idea, at that time, what the answers to those questions were. I certainly had no idea how I had already started walking the path to a medicalised birth.
There is nothing wrong with a medicalised birth. There are a lot of women who find that route incredibly empowering and prefer to deliver with the maximum pain relief and the option of a C Section. There is nothing wrong with that. What I discovered was that I found myself fighting for a ‘natural’ birthing experience. I wanted to give birth vaginally, without pain relief and I needed to have people around me who truly believed that I could do that. In hindsight, my obstetrician choice was wrong. To start with she said all of the right things about how pregnancy was not an illness, it was something that women do all the time etc. She made me feel like she believed in me. In reality she was (in my opinion) too quick to run to her policy and procedures and was very keen to control every step of the way. Regardless of what my body wanted to do naturally.
The result? Well, I still had a vaginal birth, without pain relief (I took gas and air for about 5 mins to help me not to push…). The only issue was we had to fight hard for it. We delayed her, challenged her, bought more time, had to ask the midwives to advocate on my behalf…. and I had to give birth all at the same time.
Now, this might sound negative! It’s not meant to be. I still had the most amazing experience and I will share that with you shortly.. The reason that I mention this is because, if you’re still at the beginning of pregnancy and you have the option to consider what you want from birth then make sure you think carefully about what it means to you. Read books, watch birthing DVDs. Learn about what a natural birth looks like, understand what a C Section is and empower yourself. This is the only time you’ll be in hospital when you’re NOT ILL. You’re not there to be fixed, you’re there to be supported to achieve something wonderful and you will be the most powerful person in the room. Be ready to use that power if you need to If I’d have know about private midwives or better understood what a birthing centre was I reckon I might have challenged my GP’s knee jerk reaction to a medical pathway. IVF babies are not more special at their birth than any other. IVF does not equal complication. It was only my ITP that was of concern. I could have had that monitored by a haematologist and kept that separate as much as possible. As it turned out I ended up doing just that any way. An obstetrician is not a blood specialist.
After 2 days in hospital getting my platelets up, I was allowed to progress to the next stage. Labour I desperately wanted Tristan to choose when he came but my Dr was really not up for that. As soon as she knew my platelets were up she took me to the delivery room to attempt to convince me to be induced.,… RIGHT NOW. I was already one cm dilated so I didn’t need any hormone gels (prostaglandins). After a short discussion with the Dr, we said no. We’d already asked the haematologist how long the platelets would last and knew that we could buy one more night. We hoped that it would make a difference and tried all sorts to get the labour started. I did start irregular, very light contractions but they didn’t go anywhere. The important thing though, was that we were happy we’d done everything we could (within the medical time limits we were facing) to give him the option. As it was, I was slightly more dilated so some progress was under way . just not enough to convince the Dr to let me wait any longer. We agreed to be induced and at 8am on Tuesday 9th January my waters were broken artificially. I was told I had 18 hours to get the baby out…. (sigh).
Armed with a tens machine, my birthing ball, the knowledge of a set of Yoga classes, my training in Antenatal Hypnothearapy and some essential oils (mostly Clary Sage) I set to work! Our doctor only wanted to give me an hour from her having broken my waters to see 4 strong contractions in 10 minutes. Our midwife was great here. She thought (as did we ) that this was a little too quick and so she advocated on our behalf, managing to extend the period we had available to start on our own to a little over 2 hours. I was contracting regularly but they weren’t strong enough. So, sadly, we had to agree to take some hormones in a drip (syntocinon). Starting on a very low dose to see if we could get my body to respond with as little interruption to my normal hormonal patterns as possible. The midwife empathised with my disappointment that we had to take this measure. I knew though, that if I didn’t get bubs out in time, Dr would send me for surgery. That was definitely NOT what I wanted so I begrudgingly agreed. At this point intervention was inevitable, It was simply a case of minimising the amount of it.
Thank fully, the syntocinon was the last intervention I needed. It took a few hours, and the dose was slowly raised as those hours ticked by, but I made progress. To start with the contractions felt a little like when you wear one of those muscle toning belts. A tingly, electric feeling in my uterus that grew in intensity. Then they grew stronger and stronger and I was well on my way. The midwives did an internal at about 3:30pm and I was only 3 cms dilated, up went the syntocinon again. By 6:30 I was 5cms… the Dr announced that she though the baby would be born between 10pm and midnight and that she would be back later. Before she could get very far my body started responding very differently. I was cowling like a wild animal and my body was experiencing a different type of contraction. The only way I can describe it is that I started to convulse. It’s a bit like when your muscles contract as you violently vomit (lol) except it comes in three parts. It really is like a wave! (lol – i know that some people hate that idea from the hypnotherapy) It started at the top of my stomach and rolled down in three stages. I started baying like a wild animal and began to realise that my body wanted me to push! The Dr came back in and told me not to. She thought that I would slow labour down. I tried hard not to… i did… but my body had a mind of it’s own. (in hindsight, i should have listened to it not her!) at this point I agreed to take some gas and air. Just so I could concentrate on that and use it to give me a chance to stop pushing. I tried hard for 5 minutes but the urge was so strong and panting just wasn’t cutting it. She checked me again. In 20/30 minutes I had gone from 5cms to fully dilated. Your body really does work to its own time frame.
The pushing part was the best because, once I was allowed to push, I could do something with that energy that was surging through my body. I could use it to get Tristan into the world. When we did the birth plan, I was a bit grossed out by the idea of having a mirror so that I could see what was happening ‘down there’. During the birth I requested one and I am so glad I did. I got to watch his little head slowly appear (and go back in and out a few times), I got to see Matt grab him under his arms and pull him out so he could pass him to me. I pushed him out and Matt delivered our baby to me Wonderful, beautiful, perfect. That mirror meant that I missed nothing and was spurred on. I could see and better understand what was happening and although I was pretty tired, I was very motivated to get him into my arms!
After eight hours of established labour Tristan was born! Apart from that 5 mins of gas and air, I did it without any pain relief. I had my wonderful, strong and brilliant husband by my side coaching me along and a button on a tens machine which helped me to move the pain away. I loved it. I really did. Yes, I would have preferred for Tristan to have decided when he arrived but my blood platelets put paid to that. Next time, i hope to experience my waters breaking spontaneously, my contractions moving at their normal pace and another beautiful birth with my beautiful family there to support me.
It was such an empowering experience. Something that I will treasure always and hope that all women (who choose to have babies in this way) get to experience for themselves. I had to fight far to hard to safe guard the birth I wanted but it was totally worth it in the end. I am grateful for the help and support of our Doula Helen who helped us get educated by lending us videos and books and taking the time to have the conversations with us that the Dr was always too busy to have. Although Matt and I were on our own a lot during the labour. Hearing Helen tell me that I shouldn’t worry about the dilation, that it was just a number, that often first time mums have to fight for the first 4 cms and then it melts away… helped me to visualise that happening… to make that happen so that we could avoid any other intervention and safe guard little T’s birth She helped us to get the information and confidence we needed to have an informed opinion of the way we wanted the birth to go and to fight for what we believed in. With the fabulous midwives help we did it!
Matt was also amazing. He was left with me a fair bit during the process as the midwives Drs and Helen popped in and out. I know at times it was overwhelming for him but he really was an amazing support and I know he is an amazing father already
Tristan wasn’t bothered by the experience at all. The cord was around his neck as he came out but it wasn’t bothering him. The Dr simply pulled it back over his head before Matt dived in and grabbed him His heart rate was steady and calm and he was happy to finally have a look at the people who’ve been talking to him for the last nine months, playing chase the feet (he was always sticking them out at us) and telling him how excited we were to meet him.
After I gave birth, one of the mid wives confessed that she had gotten out a C Section birth plan. I know that our Dr was expecting to swoop in and save the day with some surgery. I knew and I fought it – as do many other women. I am lucky that I won my battle. Choosing this medicalised route, right from the start, set us off on the wrong path. Next time, (and there will be a next time – I can’t wait! I will use my new knowledge to choose something a little more different.
Remember that you were made to do this. That every single person you see walking around had a mother who gave birth to them. There is a collective wisdom out there that we should make sure we tap into. If it was hard the first time then use that wisdom too. Use it to make the next time better, that was the story of many of the women in one of the books I’ll mention below. Stories … the reason for writing this post!
Books I read, resources I’d recommend
I had the What to Expect when you’re Expecting and Up The Duff books. Helen also leant me “Spiritual Midwifery” and “Having a great Birth in Australia” both were great. The later was particularly good to hear different Aussie women’s experiences. The good and the bad.
I watched countless birth DVDs including a very interesting documentary, produced by Riki Lake, called the “Business of Being Born”. Very interesting…
Giving Birth – Unveiling Birth, The Wisdom, Science and Heart,The Big Stretch and the strangely titled “Orgasmic Birth” were wonderfully empowering DVDs (again, leant to me by Helen) which give a clear message about the power each woman has
Natal Hynothearapy. All those years of training to relax and work with my subconscious mind (with Collette, my life coach back in the U.K.) might have helped me to tap into this resource. One friend recommended it to me, another hated it. It worked for me and so I would say give it a go!
I bought the complete 4 box set. Starting with learning to relax then preparing for birth, music to play during birth and then finally, the CD I’m on now, post natal recovery. I listened to the preparation CD every day from 32 weeks . I used to fall asleep a lot when I did but I thought that that was just a bonus!
During birth, the music CD meant that my body tuned back into what I had learnt without me having to listen to the words on the preparation CD. I loved it and it really helped me to ‘zone out’ and move the pain somewhere out of reach. I didn’t need pain, I didn’t really feel too much of it Honestly, I knew it was coming and then I breathed through it. I was never in immense discomfort. I was in some but it was never unbearable.
Going Hard Core. If you need to get the facts about the hospital’s policies and procedures. One’s like, “If I break your waters you have 18 hours” then you might like to flick through this. It’ll give you the information you need to point out that it just a guideline and that there are other ways to view things… if you want to that is