The struggles and the victories!
What were the circumstances that led to your c-section?
I was induced at 39 weeks for suspected big baby due to diabetes (despite several negative tests results). For three days I got prostaglandin pills and membrane sweep but never went further than one cm dilation. The medical staff decided to try with the balloon catheter. What happened next is apparently very unusual.
As soon as they reached my cervix with it, I started to bleed and the heartbeat of the baby decreased. I began to feel weak while the Gynecologist entered the room shouting “I want the baby out now!” The nurse asked me to move on a different bed but I fainted. When I could open my eyes again I saw different people rushing, they were undressing me but I could not feel it. I was looking for my husband but couldn’t find him. I had an oxygen mask and was asked if I had heart or breathing problems but I could not reply. I was sure I was dying.
After sometime I woke up and a doctor showed me a picture of a baby, he told me his name and gender. It took me a while to realize the baby in the picture was my son. I couldn’t believe I had just given birth. Alone and in shock, I had to wait to be fully conscious again before meeting him and my husband. These moments felt like ages.
What were the effects of the c-section on your well being?
(first two photo’s of the time after Angela’s first baby was born)
While holding my newborn after the C-section I felt incomplete and devastated. My instinct was telling me I was still pregnant and I could hardly believe I was holding my own baby. I would take care of him following my rational reasoning, not my heart. I felt useless and I thought my husband could raise our child without me. I couldn’t accept my scar. I did all I could to get back to the busy and active life I had before the baby was born, to prove to myself I was alive and nothing had changed. It took me a few months to realize how depressed and traumatized I was. Like a person that doesn’t want to drive anymore after a car accident, I was too scared of getting pregnant again, thinking I would die while giving birth. It was only after EMDR treatment for post traumatic stress disorder that I became open to conceive again.
How did you know you wanted to birth vaginally with your second baby?
The idea of having my scar opened again terrified me. I needed to see that birth could be different. Also, I was scared the recovery needed for a C-section would remind me too much of my trauma and would not allow me to take care of my newborn and my toddler as I so wanted to.
What was your greatest hope for this birth?
All I wanted was to see and feel the birth of my baby.
What was your biggest fear going into your VBAC?
To end up in the operating room for a life-threatening situation, loosing my baby and/or my own life.
How did you prepare for this birth?
I had to reprogram my mind for a positive childbirth experience. I had to force myself to believe that the baby would not be too big for me and that my body knew how and when to give birth.
To do that, I discussed my fears with my doula, midwife and gynecologist to put those in perspective. With them I also discussed my wishes and plan for the birth. Then I did a lot of autogenic training: Hypnobirthing and meditation turned out to be great tools for that. Moreover, I looked up successful VBAC stories, did lots of research and firmly rejected any negative experience or thoughts about childbirth.
What was your biggest battle during the labour itself?
Despite all my optimism during pregnancy and the part of labour done at home, as soon as my midwife told me I needed to go to the hospital, fear started to arise. Every medical intervention seemed to draw a path towards the operating room in my mind. Which one was going to cause my uterus to rupture or my baby to go into distress?
During labour my mind was constantly trying to figure out how this process could end up needing an emergency C-section. Even the positive things seemed often negative to me. For example, seeing that all the hospital staff were so religiously following my birth plan scared me: Am I risking the health of my baby because I so much want to have a VBAC? Will they go against my plan to save the baby if needed? Should I just ask for a C-section instead of becoming a “code red” emergency?
Your mind does strange things to you when you are scared.
What was the moment you realised your VBAC was successful?
Even after the birth I was still worried something could go wrong. I think the moment that joy and positivity became predominant was when the midwife and nurse congratulated me and left the room. Then I dared to believe I was successful.
What have you learned about yourself through this process?
That I can give birth, no matter how small, tired and scared I am! This might seem obvious to many but for me this was a
revelation, since for the past two years I had lost all faith and self-confidence with respect to giving birth.
Tomorrow: Angela names her top list of things that she is convinced contributed to her vaginal birth.