Birth Story – VBACs[i] are achievable
A note from Alison:
Both Natascha’s babies were born posterior, which is an example of how a baby and mother work together as a team. There is no ‘ideal’ position, as all women and babies are different. Techniques like Optimal Maternal Positioning are aimed at aligning the pelvis and making space for baby, as well as posture and general comfort. Rather than encouraging baby into a particular position, they encourage alignment, so baby can move into the birth position best suited to their mum’s individual pelvis. Posterior is simply a variation of physiology. Most important in this story is how differently Natascha felt about her birth experiences, and the impact on her emotional well-being during and after the birth.
Our first pregnancy was beautiful and mostly trouble free after some early bleeding. I approached it with an ignorance is bliss attitude. Millions of women had birthed before me, so there was no reason I couldn’t as well. We did the hospital antenatal classes but that was the extent of my preparation. I was never particularly worried or scared about the pain of labour and was determined to have a natural, drug free water birth.
It didn’t quite work out that way. Although labour started spontaneously, it did not progress and after hours of labouring I was only 3cm dilated and the baby was tachycardic. As time wore on it was clear my dream birth was not going to happen, and eventually I consented to a caesarian.
I was devastated, scared and felt like I had not been heard in my concerns.
When the baby was delivered she was immediately taken away to be cleaned while they stitched me up. Recovery was awful. I was in worlds of pain, and unable to move or pick up Elouise. I felt emotional, traumatised, and unable to bond with my girl for the first few weeks of her life. I felt robbed and like a failure.
Not educating myself or preparing myself mentally for what may go wrong was my downfall. I blamed myself and I struggled to come to terms with the way Elouise was born for a long time. Afterwards, I did lots of reading and research, to educate myself on my choices, options and the effects of interventions on childbirth. I knew if I ever fell pregnant again that I wanted to try for a VBAC, which meant doing everything in my power to prepare my mind and body, but it took more than a year before I was ready to try for another baby.
Our second pregnancy was very similar to the first. I had early bleeding again, but it stopped after a few weeks and the pregnancy progressed beautifully.
We decided to hire a doula to help support us through the birth and met with Alison a few weeks before Christmas. From the moment we met her, we knew she was the right fit.
We discussed Elouise’s birth and my wish to have a VBAC. Emily, the midwife, and Alison were extremely supportive and said there was no reason why I shouldn’t try, but I would have to have discuss the risks with an OB.
The OB was arrogant and apathetic. However, he did provide a lightbulb moment. I asked if he had any thoughts about our failure to progress with Elouise. He suggested it could have been her positioning. At that point it came flooding back to me that Ella was posterior. The midwife had mentioned it, and told us about spinning babies, but that was it. No one told me how important the positioning was to the outcome of the labour. Only that posterior would be more painful.
Suddenly it all made sense. I finally had an explanation for what had gone wrong. I could stop blaming myself for the failure. He agreed we could go ahead with VBAC plans, but we would have another appointment further down the track to assess baby’s size and position and confirm whether we could go ahead.
Alison came to our home twice, loaded with information. On the first visit she showed us the Spinning Babies/ Optimal Maternal Positioning exercises and I could feel the difference it made to my growing body. She also had a Yoga programme for me to do, which also helped. I also saw a woman’s health physio for internal pelvic muscle release, a physio for glute and shoulder release and had acupuncture from 38 weeks. I kept up with the gym to stay as strong as possible.
Alison gave us her Motherhood Bible, which is full of everything you could think of about pregnancy and postpartum, and a fantastic workbook to develop and fine tune our birth plan. It was invaluable knowledge about what can happen in a hospital situation.
We did a Calm Birth Course, watched the Birth Time documentary and I had a session with a birth trauma counsellor who Alison referred us too. We listened to hypnobirthing and calm birth relaxation tracks, and I listened to VBAC birth stories Australia every minute I could. I also joined VBAC Support Groups on Facebook.
Alison suggested we create a birth playlist and a vision board with affirmations and pictures of my husband and Elouise. The affirmations were fantastic. I heard a VBAC story from Amberley@maternalinstincts that made me laugh and put a positive vision of taking my daughter swimming in my head – my vagina is a waterslide. I repeated this daily and envisioned my baby being born. I also repeated an affirmation Alison sent me, FEAR- feeling excited and ready. Elouise and I would talk to the baby and she would say, ‘down, down, down, and out baby’.
Alison also gave us a beautiful raspberry leaf tea that I drank everyday from 32 weeks, I expressed colostrum daily from 36 weeks and ate all the dates!
At the next midwife and OB appointment, we went through the birth plan we had made with help from Alison. A water birth was not an option because of hospital policy and I would have to have continuous monitoring and a canula. The OB was very dismissive. He didn’t introduce himself, slouched in his chair and was very blasé. When Emily told him giving syntocinin was not done in VBAC mothers in this hospital, and he said our chances of success were very slim, which shattered my confidence and left us feeling very disheartened.
After the appointment, I called Alison and we discussed it at length. Her calm support gave me confidence to stay on my VBAC journey.
My labour started with what I thought were back-to-back Braxton Hicks but by the following afternoon I knew it was on. Contractions were now coming hard and fast, along with intense pain in the bottom. I couldn’t sit down just before or during each one. I felt a strong urge to poo and went around 5 or 6 times due to pressure in my behind.
I tried to get comfortable, with a shower, TENS machine and yoga ball but nothing seemed to help. The only comfortable position was standing leaning over the bench.
About 10pm Jono called the midwife who told us to stay home a while longer. I wasn’t feeling movement from the baby so was starting to get anxious, so we left for the hospital around 10:30pm. We called Alison on the way and she said she’d meet us there.
When we arrived at the hospital I was put on monitors and had a VE. I wanted to know what we were in for, given Elouise’s labour went for 3 days. I was so happy to hear I was already 5cm! With the knowledge I now had, and the support of my husband and Alison I was able to stay calm and focused from the first contraction which really helped.
The baby’s heartrate seemed to be dropping with each contraction and the monitor kept falling off. On a big contraction my mucous plug came out, then my waters broke spontaneously with a gush. I was in so much pain until Jonathan put my vision boards in front of me, and I felt I could focus again.
I wanted an active labour but because the monitor kept falling off, I had to say in bed because they were quite concerned about baby’s heartrate. I was so proud of my husband as he was remembering everything Alison had told us in her visits and used the B.R.A.I.N acronym. He was asking all the questions, what if we just wait? what else can we do? We wanted as little interference as possible, but we were scared for our baby’s health so agreed to foetal scalp clip, which meant I could be mobile. They were finally able to get a good reading & baby’s heartrate was still dipping.
I got in the shower and Alison kept the hot water going on my back, I had an enormous amount of pain and pressure pushing down into my bottom with each contraction. At this point I was screaming for epidural, but Jonathan, Alison and the midwives knew that I really didn’t want one, so they talked me into having the gas instead.
I didn’t want the gas after my bad experience with my last labour, but Alison suggested I just try it on low, increase as needed, and stop at any time, which ended up being the best thing for me. Jono and Alison worked well together as a team, Jono was so amazing, telling me how much love he had for me and keeping me inspired, even though I yelled at them. Alison kept up with comfort measures which really helped.
The midwife, Eliza, suggested doing a VE. My confidence was down again, and I felt at this point that we were going to end up in another emergency caesarean.
I couldn’t bear to get on the bed, so got down on a mat on the floor. The VE showed I was 10cm with a slight lip, but Eliza wanted a second opinion from the OB. By the time the doctor came the lip was gone and they were happy for me to push. I was elated!
I stayed on all fours to push but not much happened. They moved me to side lying, which was more effective, but the baby was not coming down. Baby’s heart rate was still dropping with contractions and the midwife was concerned so I was put on the bed with my legs in the stirrups.
The doctor was concerned about the baby’s heart rate and wanted to get the baby out quickly. I needed a little help so they did a small episiotomy and then a little tug with the vacuum. When the baby’s head crowned the doctor looked surprised as she announced it was a posterior baby!
She manipulated the baby to turn around and with one more push, baby’s body was out. Everyone was so excited and one of the midwives announced it was a boy!
He was placed straight onto my chest and we were able to have delayed cord camping until it stopped pulsating, which Jono and I were able to feel, and skin to skin contact. The midwives took a beautiful placenta photo.
Being able to enjoy that skin to skin for so long was really magical. Alison really supported me through getting stitched up, whilst Jono held the baby.
I got straight into the shower with Alison’s help. It was such a good feeling to be able to get up and walk straight away, which I couldn’t do after my first delivery. Alison made sure we were breastfeeding and settled as a family before she left.
We did it! I achieved my VBAC, in less than 12 hours from the first contraction. Although there were a few hiccups, it was an immensely healing and empowering experience to know that it wasn’t my body that failed, it was a lack of knowledge, support, and education. I can’t tell you how much difference being this support made to my experience of Childbirth.
If you would like information on how to have a successful VBAC, or just want to chat about education and support for your pregnancy and birth, please give me a call on 0422 258 771 or contact me:
[i] A VBAC is a Vaginal Birth After Caesarian