Faye, sjog murdoch, drug free vbac

"My first pregnancy and birth was a rather traumatic experience, ending in an emergency caesarean at 31+5 due to severe pre-eclampsia. It took my husband, Gareth and I quite some time to heal from the experience and for a while we actually weren’t sure whether we would have another child because of it. After seeking counselling, doing a lot of research and reading a wonderful book called How to Heal a Bad Birth, we decided that we would start trying for a second. Before I had even fallen pregnant I knew that I wanted a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) and Gareth was 100% supportive of my wish. During my pregnancy we did all we could to ensure we had the best possible chance of achieving a VBAC. We researched as much as possible, undertook a Hypnobirthing Australia course, had regular chiropractic care and women’s health physio appointments etc so we were feeling very positive.

Me with Faye and Gareth in the background watching a birth video during their private Hypnobirthing Australia classes.

Fast forward to the 9th December 2019 when I was 38+1 weeks. I lost a fairly large portion of my mucus plug in the morning. I went about my day as normal with no other symptoms other than small amounts of discharge throughout the day. I didn’t sleep very well that night, not due to any physical pain but my mind was all over the place contemplating the coming weeks, so I would’ve only had a few hours sleep in total. I noticed some coloured discharge in the morning of the 10th December and was experiencing mild period-like cramps. Our daughter went to my in-laws house that day around 9:30am and I went about my day as usual. I spoke to Gareth while at the shops around 12:00pm and told him about the symptoms I was experiencing so that he could start thinking about reassigning his work to his colleagues. Although for some reason I didn’t think anything would be happening right away. I’d heard of women experiencing these symptoms for days or weeks leading up to birth so I just thought that my body was in the very early stages of ‘getting ready’. I headed home after getting some groceries and felt like I needed to have a rest so laid down on the couch. Around 1:30pm while still laying down I felt a popping sensation in my pelvic region but didn’t realise what it was at the time. I continued laying down for a little while longer and as I eventually stood up about half an hour later I felt a rush of water. The popping sensation I had felt was my waters breaking! I rang Gareth to tell him my waters had broken and began to pack the last few things into my hospital bag. I also rang my Mother-in-law to ask if our daughter could stay there until my Mum could pick her up after work.

At this stage I was experiencing surges roughly 4 minutes apart lasting around 40 seconds. They weren’t too painful at this point but I used them to practice the breathing techniques I had learnt in our hypnobirthing course.

Gareth arrived home around 3:00pm and I decided to call the hospital and inform them that my waters had broken. They asked the usual questions regarding my surges etc and suggested that I come into the hospital to be checked because my waters had broken. I told them that I wouldn’t be rushing in but would head in once I had finished packing my bags, having a shower etc. My original intention was to labour at home for as long as possible however I hadn’t felt the baby move for quite a while, so I decided in the shower that I wanted to go to the hospital once I got out. I also felt like I just wanted to get to the hospital so that we could set up our space and get into the ‘zone’ mentally. On our way to the hospital Gareth called to let them know we were heading in and asked if there were any midwives rostered on that were trained in hypnobirthing to which they advised that there was. I had 3 or 4 surges during the car ride which were quite uncomfortable just because of the position I was in however I remember having my eyes closed the entire time and breathed through them (I actually felt like I had my eyes closed for the majority of the time from the car ride to the birth, it definitely helped me to stay more focused).

We arrived at the hospital around 5:45pm and was taken straight to the birthing suite where we set up our space (dimmed the lights, Gareth got out his notes and put our hypnobirthing scripts on the speaker etc). My surges were beginning to get stronger at this stage but were still around 3-4 minutes apart. I continued breathing through them while sitting on the fit ball. Our first midwife, Rhiannon, introduced herself after being there for around 20 minutes. She was very respectful of our wishes to use our hypnobirthing techniques and even joined in by providing light touch massage and general advice. Rhiannon began monitoring the baby for about 10 minutes, all was fine so she took the monitors off for a while so that I wasn’t being hindered in any way and left Gareth and I alone for a while. Our obstetrician came into the room around 8:00pm to insert a cannula (to which I had previously consented to) and to check how I was going. I ensured that I stayed as calm and focused as possible while the cannula was inserted so I didn’t lose my ‘rhythm’. He expressed how he believed I was still in the early stages of labour at that point and that he would be going home but the midwives would keep him informed. Not long after that I didn’t feel comfortable on the fit ball anymore so I changed positions to being on all fours on the floor. It felt as though the surges were getting stronger by this stage and I really needed to focus on my breathing.

It was shift change time (9:30pm) and I was so happy to see Cathy had been assigned to me. Cathy was my Obstetrician’s midwife who I had been seeing throughout my pregnancy and was the most lovely lady so this automatically made me feel more comfortable and safe. Because the surges were becoming stronger I was curious to know how far along I was so I asked Cathy to perform a vaginal exam which she did. This was quite painful and Cathy said she wasn’t able to get a clear indication but that I was still in the early stages of labour. This felt a little deflating but Gareth encouraged me to just keep pushing through. I asked what pain relief I could have (other than an epidural) and Rhiannon suggested the gas and air to which I consented. This helped me get through the next few hours, it wasn’t doing a lot for the pain but I found it was a great distraction tool. However it also made me feel very whoozy and tired (it didn’t help that I hadn’t had much sleep the night before) so around 11:30pm I moved onto the bed so that I could rest in between surges for a little while. It was not my intention to be on the bed for as long as I was however I was trying to listen to my body and I felt my body was telling me to rest. Around 12:30am on the 11th December I felt the surges ramp up a lot and was starting to lose control a little. Cathy and Gareth continued to remind me to focus on my breathing. At 1:30am I requested Cathy to perform another vaginal exam as I was hoping to hear that I was quite far along, I was 5cms at this point (although Cathy didn’t tell me this at the time, she just said that I was going really well for someone labouring for the first time). I didn’t have the urge to go to the toilet but Cathy said it would be a good idea so that the baby had more room to engage. This is when I had a large bloody show.

The next hour was really tough. I was having 2 or 3 surges continuously without a break and then would have roughly a minutes rest in between before the next few surges came along. This was really taking it out of me and I felt myself getting quite anxious and wasn’t doing very effective breathing at this point. It was around 2:30am that I found myself begging Cathy and Gareth to get me an epidural (which they both knew I was hoping to avoid to ensure the best possible chance of getting my VBAC). I just felt completely deflated and that I couldn’t keep going like this for much longer, I was so tired. They both continued to encourage me and told me I didn’t need the epidural. I remember pleading for it but I’m so thankful they didn’t give in and pushed me to keep going. It turns out this was my body going through the transition stage of labour and I wasn’t far from pushing. As a delaying tactic Gareth told me to try get to 3:15am and we could reassess whether I still wanted an epidural. I remember saying there’s no way I could make it another 45 minutes without an epidural but not long after this I began to feel the urge to push. Just before 3:00am Cathy contacted our obstetrician to come in and I felt the need to change positions in preparation for the birth. In between surges I quickly turned over, knelt on the bed and leant over the head of the bed. From this point Cathy just instructed me to go with my body and to push when I felt the urge. I remember it was the most primal feeling that was completely uncontrollable. I couldn’t stop my body even if I’d wanted to, it was incredible. I was also surprised at the sounds I was instinctively making. When I first started to push I remember feeling quite scared and hesitant as I was afraid I was going to tear but again Cathy and Gareth encouraged me through it. I’m not sure at what stage it was but at some point our obstetrician came into the room, although he sat back and let us continue as we were. I just kept going with my urges and Cathy occasionally instructed me to push or to pant as needed to prevent tearing. It took quite a few surges for the baby’s head to come out. I remember feeling it descend with each surge but then felt it go back up slightly once the surge finished. I can remember the ‘ring of fire’ as it sat there waiting to be birthed. It was such a relief once it came out completely. The baby’s shoulders also took a couple of surges to come out but once they came the rest of the body followed.

I couldn’t believe it, at 3:22am on the 11th December I achieved my VBAC and birthed our beautiful baby! And although I had the initial fear of tearing, I was surprised to find out I didn’t tear at all! Cathy instructed me to push back off the bed head so that I could pick up my baby and put him on my chest. I’ll never forget the moment I looked down and saw my little baby laying there waiting for me to pick him up. I quickly pulled off my dress so that I could have immediate skin to skin and brought my beautiful baby boy to my chest. As I picked him up I remember hearing him cry. I was feeling so many emotions in that moment, crying, smiling, the feeling of absolute relief that everything was ok. I couldn’t believe I had done it!

I eventually turned around on the bed and held my baby boy for over 2 hours. We were the only ones in the labour ward at this stage so we were left alone for a lot of that time. There seemed to be no rush to get us out which was lovely as we could rest and relax and take it all in. It was quite some time after being born and we hadn’t even thought about looking at whether we had a boy or a girl. Cathy accidentally made a reference to the baby being ‘him’ and Gareth picked up on it and said ‘did you just say him?!’. We couldn’t believe we had a little boy! He started rooting around and found my nipple so we encouraged him to have a suck. Gareth was able to cut the cord once it had stopped pulsating and had turned white. Weighing and measuring was left for later and we were able to just sit there and take in our new baby boy. Gareth was able to enjoy a piece of birthday cake Cathy had brought him a little earlier as Arthur happened to be born on his 30th birthday! I eventually got up and had a shower while Gareth had a cuddle with Arthur and then we were taken to the maternity ward to stay.

I’m still on a VBAC high almost 2 months later. I’m just so proud of what my body and baby accomplished!"

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Renee Bradfield, Perth WA

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