Leopold's Birth Story
I got this birth story sent to me a little while ago... I was chatting with gorgeous new mumma and friend of mine, Lee-Anna about her birth and she didn't think that I would want her birth story... Boy was she wrong. It is such a beautiful birth. It shows how important it is to calmly accept any turn your birth may take as there are some turns in this one... Lee-Anna and Jason were complete hypno-superstars!! Enjoy this beautiful birth story... Nic xx
As a midwife I’ve always been fascinated by pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. When I became pregnant, I was ecstatic at the thought of being able to feel both flutters in my belly and kicks in the ribs. Furthermore, I looked forward to the feeling of labour, and the achievement of birthing my baby. But overall, what I looked forward to the most, was relaxing and being entrapped in my baby’s gaze as he suckles on my breast. This is my story about how I experienced all of these, but one.
My story begins in an unconventional manner; due to my husband’s recent diagnosis of testicular cancer and the subsequent reduction in sperm count, we began looking for alternative methods for conception. After quite a considerably short journey through the IVF program I fell pregnant, and despite the misconceptions surrounding the treatment, I was considered both low-risk and appropriate for a home birth with plans for my husband,
Jason to deliver our baby. This was the most comforting news I could have received, because my thoughts surrounding what comprised normal labour & birth was far from what I’d commonly seen in hospital. Contrary to common belief surrounding the fact that the hospital is safer to manage labour/birth and prevent an abnormal development, birthing at home, in a calm and relaxing environment was the best way for me to escape my anxieties of the horrors of what could go wrong. Better yet, being part of a midwifery-led team, be it with my close colleagues, fostered a genuine feeling of honest support. Supplemental to this team, Nicole Jackson, both a trustworthy friend and facilitator of Hypnobirthing Australia classes, was the physical representation of the word calm. In the initial stages of my pregnancy, while I outwardly gloated with anticipation, I secretly held onto a fear of a long and painful labour with a posterior facing baby. In revealing these fears to Nicole, she walked me through hypnobirthing and fear releasing techniques, fostering me to emerge confidently beyond my anxieties.
As I approached 40 weeks gestation, I patiently wandered around home, took long walks on the beach, and bounced endlessly on the yoga ball. The birth pool, exercise bands, and slings were set up and at the ready, and fairy lights and affirmations lined the walls. Daily I practiced my hypnobirthing techniques, focusing on my breath, readying myself for labour/birth, eagerly waiting to meet my baby. At this point, nothing could falter my strength and preparedness, until the diagnosis. Due in fact that this was an IVF pregnancy, my obstetrician requested that I have a CTG and ultrasound at 40 weeks to ensure that I remained low-risk and appropriate for a home birth. While the CTG showed that my baby was healthy and strong, midway through the bedside ultrasound my obstetrician stopped suddenly in a sigh. He turned looking at me, Jason, and then my midwife. My heart dropped as he uttered the words ‘your baby is breech’. I was beside myself in shock, as my mind scavenged through thoughts of ‘what now?’. I attempted to keep my composure as I floated in a feeling of disbelief; it wasn’t until my thoughts centred on my dream of a homebirth slipping away that I began experiencing grief in the situation. While inwardly my hope for a normal birth began crumbling away, I compartmentalised my feelings behind a front of being nonchalant and refocused my thoughts towards how I was going to fix this.
While rebozo technique, moxibustion, acupuncture, and the chiropractor can be effective in turning a breech baby earlier in the third-trimester, being both late in gestation and fully aware that my baby was well settled in my pelvis, I quickly agreed to an external cephalic version (ECV) as the only viable option. Lucky for me, the obstetrician that diagnosed the breech, was also known to be the best at doing ECV’s. During the procedure, in which they manually attempt to both disengage the baby from my pelvis and subsequently somersault them, I incorporated the hypnobirthing techniques that I had been practicing for weeks, focusing on my breathing and allowing myself to relax deep into a state of tranquillity. While the obstetrician applied increasingly more pressure to rotate my baby, my baby would not budge.
Subsequently, the decision had to be made if I would go for a caesarean section or attempt a vaginal breech delivery. Being fully aware that breech deliveries are a variable of normal, without hesitation I confidently proclaimed that I wanted to attempt a vaginal breech birth. This decision was further supported by my obstetrician confidently advising me that he was well versed in vaginal breech, and happy to be on-call for my birth. With this decision I refocused my attention away from the fact that I couldn’t have a homebirth, and toward my new ambition of attaining a vaginal breech birth. Due to my baby being breech, the only stipulation was that I had to labour spontaneously and within a week, elsewise I’d have to have an elective caesarean section at 40 + 8 gestation. So, I returned back to all methods I could fathom to bring on labour spontaneously.
Four days later, and deep within my feelings of increased hopelessness, I awoke early in the morning anxiously waiting to feel my baby move. Fearing the worst as minutes passed into hours, I went into the hospital to get assessed. Following both the redevelopment of fetal movement and a confirmation that baby was doing well, I was offered and accepted a stretch and sweep to encourage the onset of labour. As I returned home and attempted to catch up on the missed sleep from early that morning, very mild contractions began building and I smiled with anticipation. The surges were slow to develop, but I held onto each with two minds, hoping that they would both intensify with the progression of labour as well as lessen as I aimed to breathe through them. As the day transitioned into night, early labour pains transitioned into increasingly painful surges. Gripping onto each breath I sought to know, ‘how far along was I?’ While I initially shied away from attending the delivery suite, I was finding it difficult to find relief between the surges.
I attended the delivery suite in the early hours of the morning only to find that while my cervix had thinned well, it was only 2cm dilated and I was still in early labour. Coupled with the realisation that I had so much longer to go, I was finding it extremely difficult to rest between each surge. I initially scoffed at the thought that Panadeine Forte and Temazepam would have any impact of my pains, but as they began having an effect, I became increasingly comfortable to return home. For the next few hours I laid in bed in the silent darkness next to Jason, a light sleeper, consciously trying to muffle my moans for I knew that he was going to be my only support for the next few days. After very little sleep, and the ongoing heaviness of the sleeping tablet, I shuffled myself to the shower in the early hours of the morning to try and find comfort. There, amongst the pitter patter of the warm water on my back, and the hypnobirthing affirmation playing, I was able to finally focus my breathing and enter a trance-like state of consciousness.
As I embarked on day two of labour, Jason continued to try and meet my needs but faced futility in his efforts as the pains began intensifying again. Afflicted between attending my needs to his, he too sought some relief. Undenounced to me, he asked for help from our close friend Nicole, who came within a moments notice. For the next 6 hours, Nicole and Jason patiently sat with me and helped me to calm my thoughts as I transitioned from the shower to the pool to the yoga ball and sling, trying to find a position of comfort. By mid-afternoon, the group practice midwife Janelle attended my home to assess how I was progressing. While the baby continued to be strong, I was approaching utter exhaustion. In addition, my cervix, while fully effaced, was now 4cm, marking what was now considered the beginning of established labour. . . Ugh!
That night, and almost 36 hours since the onset of my labour, my contractions culminated in both strength and frequency which slowly withered away at my ability to focus on my breath. The drive to the hospital was a gruelling affliction as I couldn’t comfortably sit nor remain still. Upon arrival at the hospital I lurched my way up to the delivery suite and collapsed with complete exhaustion in bed, only to be woken with a vexatious onslaught of contractions. I opted for something to take the edge off and was given morphine. As the effects of it settled in, I felt like I was finally able to breathe, relax, and consider my options with a surprisingly clear mind. This labour was proceeding much longer than I had envisioned, and I was in desperate need for some sleep. With a repeat examination, I was informed that I remained 4 cm dilated due to the poorly applied bottom of my baby against my cervix. I contemplated my birth preferences and weighed up my options for pain relief. Prior to labour, I had developed a strong opinion against the use of epidurals due in fact that it often leads to an increased amount of intervention. However, after a long deliberation with my very good friends and colleagues Chelsea, Blane and Laura who were on shift, I decided to undergo an epidural with hopes to sleep, relax, and hopefully passively dilate.
After the epidural, the plan was that every 4 hours I would be assessed. After the first four hours, an artificial rupture of my membranes was attended, and we hoped this would encourage better application of my baby’s bottom onto my cervix, and with this the contractions would increase, and the baby would descend. At the next 4-hour check, it was now early morning and my cervix remained unchanged. While my baby’s heart rate remained strong and healthy, I was given the option to keep going through labour or have an emergency caesarean section. Now 42 hours into labour, I was determined to keep going. At this point my second group practice midwife Erin was called in to the delivery suite. Her arrival was a welcome relief as she massaged out the knots in my sore hips and repositioned me into the most optimal position to facilitate the decent of my baby. However, in one way or another my epidural began to fail, and the pain returned with a spiteful vengeance. My soul wilted and I wept as I came face-to-face with the unbearable labour pains and fatigue. In utter disappointment I submitted to have a caesarean section.
Entering the cold theatre room with Jason by my side, I floated on a fog of oblivion. Despite the surrounding commotion, I rested in the thought that it was all going to be over soon. At 09:35hr, approximately 45 hours since the first contraction, the drapes are pulled down and I am greeted with a beautiful baby boy with a disgruntled look on his face. From the outset of life, my son has reflected a calm state of vigour. He didn’t need any resuscitation and remained attached to his placenta and received an abundance of blood (lotus birth) for minutes after his birth. While lotus births are typically not facilitated during a caesarean section, this act was advocated for very strongly thanks to my wonderful midwife Erin. After photos of my tear-stricken husband cutting the cord, my son was placed skin-to-skin with me with-in minutes of his birth. As his warm body clung to my bare chest, I felt his first suckle at my nipple and relaxed into a state of euphoria. Barely able to keep my eyes open for the next several hours, my amazing husband ensured that our son continued to breastfeed without difficulty. Having lost 1.4 litres of blood due to a completely exhausted uterus, it only occurred to me after the fact that had I kept going, I would likely have been in dire straits.
Now weeks after the labour, and despite Jason’s relentless declaration of how proud he is of me, I still feel like I failed at labour. He proclaims that while I pursued a natural birth beyond what most women would have done given the circumstances, the most important aspect of labour and birth is having both a healthy child and wife in the end. I know it will take me several weeks to see it this way, but for now, as I gaze into my baby’s eyes as he suckles on my breast, I know that I am incredibly lucky. One thing that I’ve came to realise in this experience is that I can’t control everything in labour and birth, no matter how prepared or willed to do so. One thing I am extremely grateful for is the outstanding care and support I got from my husband Jason, Nicole, my group practice midwives Janelle and Erin, as well as everyone who cared for me at the Royal Darwin Hospital. Lastly, I am appreciative of the fact that every decision that was made, was made by me.