The Story of Madeline’s Birth
My first pregnancy was picture perfect. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I did what most people I knew did, got an obstetrician and settled into my regular check-ups and planning for a natural birth.
At around 38 weeks, my OB did an internal examination and explained to me that I was “still carrying very high” and started discussing the possibility of an induction. I didn’t really understand at the time what this truly meant although it subconsciously questioned my body’s ability to go into labour spontaneously, and my hopes for a natural birth started fading. I hung on as long as I was allowed, and at 10 days past my due date I was induced.
I went into hospital in the afternoon where I received gel and then stayed overnight. Labour did start, briefly, and then stopped. The next morning, the OB visited me and then I was hooked up to syntocinon and an electronic foetal monitor (EFM). My waters were also broken.
The labour pains I experienced were excruciating. I had full intentions of a drug-free birth, however within an hour or so I requested pethidine. The pethidine did very little to ease the pain, and the contractions continued very intensely and with little time to recover in between.
Without checking my dilation, the level of syntocinon was increased; the pain increased and I ruefully asked for an epidural. I simply couldn’t handle the pain and was shocked at the intensity of the contractions and how quickly everything had progressed. I was administered an epidural. Within minutes, my baby went into foetal distress.
The OB checked my dilation and I was at 9 cm (I had dilated to 9 cm in 3 hours – if someone had told me I was at 9 cm, I probably wouldn’t have proceeded with the epidural).
The OB explained my baby was in distress and an emergency caesarean was required. I was rushed to the operating room and within minutes my beautiful baby girl was delivered.
I had a very quick hold of her and she was rushed off to be under a heat lamp. I didn’t see her then for an hour or so until she was delivered to my room. I felt disappointed in myself for not having a natural birth, but somehow felt guilty in admitting this to anyone, as after all I did have a healthy and happy baby….
The problem with my first – I didn’t know what I didn’t know:
- I assumed that the private health route would be the best care for me and my baby.
- The ante-natal classes are structured around your pain relief options, the majority of which are drug-related, and don’t teach breathing exercises or alternative methods of pain management
- I thought my OB would do everything to fully support and facilitate a natural birth;
- My “research” based on commonly read books didn’t prepare me for the reality of OB intervention
- My OB did not voluntarily provide me with information on what inducing may lead to; I was unaware that inductions can frequently lead to a “cascade of intervention”:
- Inducing you increases the chance of requiring syntocinon, which increases the chance of you requesting an epidural which increases the chance of you requiring an emergency caesarean.
- She also didn’t volunteer her success rate at delivering babies naturally after intervention
- Ultimately, my due date became a dead-line, not an estimation.
When I fell pregnant with my second child, I quickly found myself an OB (I had moved cities). In selecting an OB I questioned whether they would support a natural birth after a caesarean (trial of scar in their terms, VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) in more friendly circles).
The OB I selected did say he would support a ‘trial of scar”, going to great lengths to list the risk statistics associated with a uterine rupture, however he didn’t volunteer the list of conditions I would be subject to as a result.
Fortunately (!), I contracted Giardia during my pregnancy. Sounds odd I know, however it was as a result of this that at 28 weeks gestation I went to a medical practitioner who supported natural therapies.
I discussed with her my intentions of trying for a VBAC, and my concern for my scar rupturing (the OB had made it such an important consideration!) and she suggested I see Heather, an acupuncturist specialising in fertility and pregnancy support to aid with healing the scar.
On my first visit with Heather, we discussed my first labour and my hopes for a natural birth for my second.
We discussed the pros and cons of going through the private health care system, where you are under the care of an OB versus the public health system where you can choose can have more control over your care options.
She helped me realise that there was a viable alternative to the private system, and being a VBAC I may have a more positive experience if I went public with a doula supporting me.
I quickly found myself a doula, and started doing an enormous amount of research about VBAC’s and the private health care structure and I started to question why I had an induction with my first pregnancy, and felt that perhaps without the induction and subsequent intervention (epidural etc) I would have had an excellent chance of delivering naturally.
I started to get angry with the OB and the private system I had been subjected to. I realised I had blindly trusted the system to give me a natural delivery.
I hadn’t taken into consideration that the system and OB’s today are structured primarily around mitigating litigation. They see labour and birth as a risk and in their attempt to control the process (be it through inductions, pain control and the like), they often either consciously or sub-consciously promote caesarean births.
How was I to know that this was the way things were done? Why should women wanting to have a natural birth in a hospital be up against the odds? Why is birth considered such a risk and major abdominal surgery seen to be less of a risk? It simply doesn’t make sense!
At 33 weeks gestation I went to my OB armed with a list of questions that I had compiled through copious amounts of research. The most critical of these (for me) were:
- Did I have to wear an electronic foetal monitor (EFM) (answer yes)
- How long could I wait to go into spontaneous labour (past my due date) (answer 10 days maximum)
- If I were required to have a caesarean (emergency or other) could I keep my child with me immediately after being born? (answer no)
All of these answers were unacceptable to me.
- I really wanted the option of using water as my primary pain relief, and the EFM made this impossible;
- I knew I had gone over with my first, so I couldn’t be certain that I wouldn’t go over again with my second and I didn’t want to be forced to have a caesarean; and
- finally I didn’t see why babies had to be rushed off to heat lamps after being born by caesarean, when my body warmth could provide heat as effectively, and I would have those precious first moments bonding with my child.
At 34 weeks (and after paying my management fee which wasn’t refundable), I fired my OB and went into the public system. He didn’t even ask why.
At 36 weeks I had an interview with the public hospital I had elected.
Hospital policy was that I was required to wear an EFM, however I discussed with the registrar at length the research I had done, and my understanding of the associated risks of being a VBAC and had it documented that I wouldn’t wear one, but that I would submit to intermittent doplar monitoring. I also recorded with them my birth plan which addressed other issues important to me.
The remainder of my pregnancy I surrounded myself with knowing women who truly believed in the body’s innate ability to give birth naturally. I had an acupuncturist, my doula and a cranio sacral therapist. By the end of my pregnancy I was no longer a VBAC, I was quite simply a normal labouring woman.
My labour did start spontaneously at 10 days over, at 1 am. I called my doula and settled into the contractions which were intense but very manageable.
She instructed my husband on pain relieving massage, and when the contractions proved too intense for this, I hopped into the birth pool, which I then used for the remainder of the contractions, to great effect.
The contractions were much less painful than what I had experienced with my first child, and at 5am I could feel that the contractions had ceased and the urge to push had begun.
We drove to the hospital, arriving at 5:30am. I jumped into the shower in my labour room and stayed there until my beautiful baby girl was born without complication at 7:13am.
I have never been so proud of the journey I have taken to birth my daughter naturally – seemingly against the odds.
What a tremendous feeling it is to birth your child naturally. I can’t believe that I was deprived of this with my first and could have been deprived again had I not researched, questioned, and pushed back against the system.
I truly believe this is the most empowering, beautiful experience that a woman can ever go through. The negative publicity about the pain of child birth is incredibly misleading.
There should be more education focussing on the positives of natural childbirth and the many natural ways to manage the pain (and ultimately avoid intervention).
What I know now, and will advocate to anyone that will listen:
- Your due date is simply an estimation, do not let it become a deadline. Do not succumb to an induction simply because you are over your due date.
- Do your research about:
- Inductions. Avoid syntocinon at all costs. The pain with artificially induced contractions are so much stronger than natural contractions
- Private system versus public. If you do go private with an OB, question everything (great lists of questions can easily be found on the internet, which include things such as EFM, due dates, positions you can deliver in, how long you can labour for before intervention etc) do not assume that they will volunteer information to you.
- Surround yourself with knowing, supportive women experienced in childbirth who can be with you throughout pregnancy, birth and afterwards.
- Take control of your pregnancy, do not hand the care of it over to someone else and assume they will facilitate your choice of natural birthing.