Three very different birth stories

I’ve written about my three very different births before individually, but not all in once place. I share a lot from my own experiences when I’m teaching pregnancy yoga and I thought it would be interesting to compare them all, and talk about why I think they went the way they did. (You can either scroll to the bottom of this post to watch the video where I share this story, or read on if you’re a words kinda gal.)

When I was pregnant with my first I kept my head firmly in the sand when it came to birth.  I barely read anything about what would happen, instead I spent my time preparing teeny tiny baby clothes and dreaming about our idyllic life as a family of 3. (Ha!)

It’s probably no surprise then that my first labour and birth didn’t really go to plan (because I didn’t really have one!)

We were living out West at the time and our hospital and doctor was an hour and a half away.  We had private health so we chose to see an Obstetrician and birth at a private hospital. I assumed paying more = the best care. (Which is not to say I wasn’t cared for but I hadn’t done my research on how an obstetric view on birth is different to a midwife, simply because they are first and foremost surgeons.)  

I went in for my 38 week check up and was told that he would do an internal examination to check how far dilated I was.  I was of course getting excited to have our baby and didn’t know that this wasn’t standard (most women don’t get vaginal exams until labour has started).  

I was told that I was already 3cm and I’d probably have our baby sooner rather than later. So of course, all of the next week I was anxiously waiting for proper labour to start. At the time I didn’t realise how much the last few weeks of pregnancy are a total mind game, or how being told it will happen soon because I was 3cm is actually not all that helpful because dilation doesn’t happen in a regular pattern.

A week later I went in for my 39 week and 5 day appointment. He again told me that he would do an internal to check how far dilated I was. Again, not knowing any better I agreed to this. 

This time it hurt a fair bit more and I was bleeding quite a lot afterwards.  I was starting to have cramping so we went to a friends’ place for dinner, waiting to see if labour was going to get started or we should just drive the hour and a half home.  

In the end I felt like I wanted to go home but the cramps started increasing in intensity and I was still bleeding. I was feeling on edge.  I can’t remember how long exactly we ended up staying at home, but I don’t think it was long. Being a first time Mum and being so far from hospital (plus the bleeding) made me anxious and we drove back to hospital that night.  

By the time we got there though, my contractions has slowed and labour had basically stopped. They said I should stay the night and they would break my waters in the morning to get labour going again. 

Not knowing that there was no reason to do this (or all the reasons why I shouldn’t rush it), we did exactly that. 

At 8am the next morning they broke my waters and contractions came fast and strong.  I remember feeling like I wanted to escape my own body and not knowing how to manage the pain.  

They also placed a little monitor on his head at the same time they broke my waters. It pierced a little bit of skin on his head. They didn’t ask permission to do this (as far as I can remember anyway) and I was told it was standard practice after breaking waters.

I laboured on the floor with the tens machine until I could no longer even feel it working. Then I laboured in the shower until it was only hot water falling on my back but even that still wasn’t hot enough.

A couple of hours later they checked me. I was 5cm. 

They offered me gas and air which I gratefully took. This was probably the only time my yoga came in handy for this birth.  The midwife told me to take a breath in of the gas and breathe out for as long as I could. I did exactly that and because of my yoga training I had a really long exhale.

Something inside me also took over here and I started moaning into the gas mouth piece on my long exhale.

I remember all of a sudden my body started bearing down and pushing all on it’s own.  As it was only half an hour since they checked me at 5cm, the midwife told me to stop pushing as I couldn’t be fully dilated yet. 

I remember at that moment feeling really afraid. Remember when I said I’d kept my head in the sand about birth. I didn’t know that bearing down was exactly what my body was meant to do when it was time to birth my baby. Instead I felt afraid that something was going wrong. I felt out of control in my own body, scared and overwhelmed by the physical sensations of birth. 

The next part is blurry in my memory for a couple of reasons. Firstly because I was high as a kite on the gas around this time and secondly because the rest of my labour and birth was traumatic and scary. I believe the brain blocks out this sort of trauma to protect us. 

I don’t tell you this part of my story to scare you about birth. Instead I hope it serves as a reason why teaching yourself how your body works during labour and birth is the best preparation you can do.

Shortly after being told it was too soon to push, the monitor that was on his head showed he was in distress.  I remember the next part as a flurry of activity. They told Andrew to push the red button. They turned the gas off. All the people appeared, including my Obstetrician.

I remember them saying that bub was in distress and we needed to get him out now. I was pulled onto my back and my legs were put in the stirrups.

I remember people shouting “PUSH!’ 

I remember my OB putting his hand inside me and saying push HERE.

Things I don’t remember but I know happened. 

I don’t remember them giving me an episiotomy without any anaesthetic. 

I don’t remember them using the ventouse to get him out. 

I do remember them placing him on my chest and exclaiming ‘that’s my baby’ before bursting into tears.

He was looking a little blue so they took him to give him some oxygen. They wanted to take him to ICU so Andrew went with him while I was left in the birthing suite on my own to get stitches. 

They wheeled me to him shortly after and he was completely fine.  I found recovery from this birth hard – physically, mentally and spiritually. I felt traumatised by the experience because so much felt like it was done to me rather than me having a say in what happened. 

When I fell pregnant with my second I immediately dove head first into learning everything I could about birth so that I didn’t have the same negative experience. 

I read Ina May’s guide to Birth and countless books on Birth Skills. I did a hypnobirthing course. I looked into Grantly Dick-Read’s work and relied heavily on my yoga skills, most importantly meditation to train myself how to relax under stress. I watched hundreds of youtube videos about natural, calm, positive births. 

I hired a private midwife this time and had many conversations with her about how I ideally wanted birth to go this time round. She knew my preferences going before the main event (which was a good thing as we didn’t have much time to chat – it was a fast one!).

My waters broke at 5am as I got out of bed.  I had a shower and dressed while the rest of the house was still asleep.  My first contraction didn’t start until around 6am and I rang my midwife to give her a heads up that today was the day. 

Half an hour later my contractions started coming harder and faster. The music I thought I’d want to listen to now annoyed me. I could only focus on breathing through each contraction.

I messaged my midwife and she rang, suggesting that maybe we should think about making a move towards the hospital.  At first I thought ‘no way, it can’t be this quick’. I was wary of going into hospital too soon after our last experience, but I was glad I listened. We left shortly after and drove the half an hour to hospital.  My contractions kept coming hard and fast. I was focusing on the image of a wave to get through each one.

As we came into the hospital I needed to be on my hands and knees for each contraction. It took us quite a while to get from reception to the birthing suite because I kept stopping to kneel.  Eventually someone brought me a wheelchair but even then I couldn’t tolerate being in it through a contraction. 

I remember my midwives meeting us at maternity. I could hear their voices but don’t remember being able to see them. It turns out I was in transition at this point and I was so far inside my body that I couldn’t (didn’t want to) even open my eyes. 

As soon as they got me into the birthing suite I was on my hands and knees bearing down.  My midwives monitored his heartbeat occasionally with the doppler, but otherwise the only thing they did was encourage me and help me to kneel back and catch Rory as he was born. 

I brought him immediately to my chest and lay back on Andrew.  We stayed that way for about an hour (I fed my son in that time) until I started to feel uncomfortable. They encouraged me to sit up and I birthed the placenta.  

I remember feeling SO amazing after this birth. Proud of myself for what I’d done and just so happy with how it went. 

I think it’s worth telling you though that I did have a third degree tear from this birth.  My boy came out with the cord wraps around his hands on either side of his head and they think this caused it. 

I had to go to theatre for repairs a few hours after I delivered my boy and my husband stayed with him.  Recovery was a lot easier this time round, despite still having a significant physical injury. 

The birth of our third son Luca was another experience entirely.  The more babies you have, the more you realise that each birth is its own different experience.

Because of the third degree tear that I had during Rory’s birth, I was offered a Caesarian at my 25 week appointment with the hospital obstetrician.  This was standard procedure to avoid the possibility of another 3rd degree tear. I was warned that incontinence was a possible result. 

Prior to this I had been feeling confident about birth after such a positive experience with Rory, but being offered a caesarian completely threw me. 

Eventually I decided that the 5% chance of another 3rd degree tear was a better option than the 100% chance of an abdominal surgery.  

Again, my waters broke the morning of my due date. It was 2am and I was lying in bed next to Rory. I went and had a shower, expecting contractions to kick off fairly rapidly as they had last time. 

I had a cup of tea and while I had some contractions they weren’t overly regular or building in intensity.  We ended up going into hospital at around 6am.

As soon as I was admitted they wanted to do a vaginal exam to check how far dilated I was, but I declined.  Instead they hooked my belly up to monitors to try and get a reading of my contractions and bub’s heartbeat.  They needed a 20 minute consistent reading to take them off (policy) but Luca kept moving so they couldn’t get it.  

I ended up being on the monitor for over an hour and in that time my contractions weren’t really building or coming consistently.  

It wasn’t until a new midwife took over, adjusted the monitors, got the reading and took the monitors off me that BAM – labour was on.  My contractions starting coming longer, harder and one on top of each other.  

It was probably only half an hour later that my body started pushing.  

Because I’d previously had a third degree tear, my midwives coached me through pushing Luca out and used a warm compress against my perineum to avoid another 3rd degree tear.  The crowning phase of his birth was so slow and controlled and I felt really proud of myself for this.

He was born about an hour after active labour started (when the monitors came off) and I ended up with ‘only’ a second degree tear this time.  (I say ‘only’ because it is still a signifiant tear but in my experience it was far better than either the 3rd degree or episiotomy).  

Recovery after this birth was my fastest yet.  By one week postpartum I was already healed and feeling really good.  

I share my three completely different births here with you in the hope that it helps you to see that birthing is an act of surrender. 

You really do need to be able to surrender yourself over to your birthing body and follow her lead.  Surrendering to the process is very different though to surrendering to the medical system.  

I strongly believe that you need to prepare yourself with knowledge for birth. Know how your body works so that you can follow her lead in the dance of birth and have a strong supporting partner there with you in case you happen to miss a step. 

If you’d like to learn more about how to work with your body during birth I share all the tools that helped me in my online course Yoga Wisdom for birth. There is also an ebook version if you prefer to read.

It includes everything you need to educate yourself on how your body works and know how to work with it and the medical system. You can access the whole course via my Online Yoga Circle with a free 30 day trial. The Online Yoga Circle is also full of yoga classes for all stages of pregnancy including my Yoga for Birth three class series.

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