We had planned a homebirth, but as it turned out our baby had other ideas on how he’d like to be born!
In it for the long haul!
I knew from the very beginning of my pregnancy that I would go way over my assigned due date. I was still having long cycles due to breastfeeding my toddler and I also knew when this baby had been conceived as we had been closely monitoring ovulation. The month I became pregnant was actually the first month I had ovulated since having my first son! I knew that my actual due date was 12 days after the date that was calculated by the hospital using my last menstrual period. I was given a date in the middle of September, but prepared myself that it would more likely be late September, or potentially even into October.
I suffered terribly during my first pregnancy with pelvic and hip pain, leading to difficulty walking from early on and generally just made me miserable for most of the time. So during this pregnancy I kept active, trying to walk 10,000 steps a day, doing the Spinning Babies Daily Essentials yoga every morning and seeing the chiropractor fortnightly. I felt the best I’d felt for a long time. I was happy to be pregnant, and never really got to that fed up wanting it to be over stage.
Having spoken to an amazing consultant from another hospital, who had told me that if I were in her care, with expectant management she’d be happy for me to go to 42 or even 43 weeks without intervention, I was content to go with this plan for as long as me and baby were both happy with that arrangement!
Even though I was prepared to go way over the estimated date the hospital had given me, I became concerned that baby might actually make an early appearance a few times. I experienced pretty strong and often regular Braxton Hicks from around 34 weeks particularly when I was breastfeeding my toddler. This is very common when breastfeeding during pregnancy due to the oxytocin. Unless the pregnancy is high risk this doesn’t usually pose any problems.
At 35+4 weeks we had a bit of a false alarm following me drinking some out of date coconut milk at a local cafe. I started vomiting and this lead to me having some stronger than usual contractions, which led to panic, but ensured that the ‘just in case’ bags were packed if we did need to dash off to the hospital. Thankfully things calmed down again once I’d stopped being sick. Now just to wait for the crucial 37 week point when the community midwives would be on call!
My Doula Dilema
Once I reached that 37 week mark I began to feel like I didn’t mind going early, and I also didn’t mind going late. There was just one thing I didn’t want, I just didn’t want to go on time.
My doula had a family wedding abroad and would be away for a week over my due date. I was aware of this before we agreed that she would be my doula and for some reason I just knew that that wouldn’t be an issue. There would be 2 other doulas on standby just in case, but all the way through I just had a feeling that they wouldn’t be needed.
Nevertheless, in the weeks leading up to my due date, and my doula’s trip abroad I decided to do all I could to encourage baby to come if it felt the time was right. I kept up my daily yoga, walked 10,000 steps most days, bounced and rotated on my birthing ball, I hand expressed colostrum and used the pump, I smelt like a walking bottle of Clary Sage, ate 6 medool dates every morning and went for reflexology sessions (I’ll not mention the torturing of my poor husband for nature’s prostaglandins).
Nothing happened, so my doula went off on holiday and I took a week long break from my efforts! Of course I did have the two other lovely doula’s on standby and I would have been perfectly happy had they supported me, however I just knew that baby would wait for Anne to come home. True to my prediction that is what happened.
Going “Over Due”
A common misconception is that once you pass your “due date” you suddenly become “over due”. Actually you do not become “over due” until you reach 42 weeks and 1 day, but that doesn’t often happen!
Even when I went past my guess date I remained confident. Another expression of my surety that I would go over this date was the fact that I’d booked tickets for the Positive Birth Conference (which had been instrumental in so many of my decisions which lead me to this point) for 10 days after this date. I had (only half jokingly) joked that I might go into labour at the conference, or better yet give a live positive birth demonstration on stage! Sure enough at 40+10 I woke up excited to go attended the conference and even more excited to see that I had my bloody show! I was determined to wait for things to happen naturally… and they kind of did.
The following evening, on the Saturday night (41+ 4 weeks) I started to get some very strong tightenings. During the night I couldn’t sleep through or between them any more so we got up and started to time them. The contractions were coming anywhere between 6 and 15 minutes apart and lasting around 30-60 seconds, nothing regular, but sore enough that I needed to use my breathing techniques to get through them. However, by morning they had fizzled away to being very irregular and very mild.
On the Sunday night the tightenings were stronger still. I was beginning to think I’d be holding my baby very soon. This time, when we got up during the night I had to use the TENS machine and I took some paracetamol. As the contractions began to settle into a pattern of being 5 minutes apart I decided to call my doula, Anne. When Anne arrived she helped me to focus on my hypnobirthing techniques, reminding me to relax and focus on my breathing. This made everything seem so much more manageable. Anne just brings a sense of calm wherever she goes! She watched me as my surges rose and when I began to tense up she reminded me to relax my shoulders, hands or face and focus on my breathing. When I did relax the pain seemed less. My Hypnobirthing was working!
Anne stayed for a few hours helping me to relax. At one stage all 3 of us were lying on the sofas listening to the Rainbow Relaxation track and dosing between contractions. After a while we thought maybe I had relaxed a bit too much as the contractions had eased off a bit and became further and further apart. We decided that Anne should go home and we’d go to bed as we’d probably have a busy day ahead of us!
On Monday morning I awoke, still very much pregnant and starting to feel a bit fed up and deflated about the whole thing. I kept repeating my positive affirmations that I trusted my body and my baby. I took encouragement from all of the positive signs that I was seeing. Perhaps all of the contractions I’d experienced were just my body warming up, preparing for the main event. Something was happening, we were getting close to meeting our baby.
There is something about the night time, it’s when most mammals give birth, when it’s dark, safe and relaxed. I awaited my now nightly ritual of being woken by strong surges. Sure enough it was the repeat scenario again on Monday night, but this time I decided to wait it out in case it was another false alarm. My contractions once again were strong, painful, difficult to deal with using only paracetamol, breathing and TENS, but I’d been there before, I knew I could endure it, so I waited. Once they were coming at 5 minutes apart excitement started to build, but again, I’d been there before. We decided that if they kept at this pattern for an hour we would call the doula and then the on call midwives, however, just as we got close to an hour they began to space out once again and eventually eased up and I went back to bed, hoping once again that I wouldn’t be waking up to another day of being pregnant.
On the Tuesday I had my 42 week appointment. I sat in the waiting room breathing through contractions and struggling a bit as I had left my TENS machine at home. Each midwife that passed asked if I was OK, and I responded with, “It’s OK, I’m 42 weeks pregnant, baby can come if it wants to!”
I had decided that if I got to this stage I would request expectant management and go in for daily monitoring, so while I was there the fluid was checked and baby’s heart rate was monitored. Everything was found to be perfect although I was less than 1 cm dilated and a stretch and sweep was unattainable, so I went home, to again repeat the now nightly ritual of labour starting up only to stop again by morning.
That night, sure enough, my contractions ramped up as soon as bed time came. They were all quite irregular, but they were intense. This was the strongest they had been, I could no longer endure them while lying down at all, I had to be upright either on the ball or leaning over the sofa. At one stage they were lasting up to 2 minutes and I was struggling to keep relaxed and not to cry out. My legs would give way, I’d lose control of my body and struggle even to hit the boost button on the TENS machine. Truth be told, without my doula present we weren’t very good at using our hypnobirthing. I knew I had to relax, but in the moment I just focused on the pain. My husband wasn’t very good at using what he’d learnt either, but he has since told me that he was “saving it for later” as he thought I would need more help when the main event came around!
I text my doula saying that I couldn’t do it at home anymore that I needed pain relief at the hospital. She pointed out that I still had the gas and air to try at home once we decided to call the midwives. That renewed my hope.
However, as had now come to be expected, things calmed down again before morning came.
On the Wednesday morning we went to have the daily monitoring again. My contractions were mild and irregular, so we assumed it would just be a quick check and then home again. We didn’t arrange childcare for the morning appointment for monitoring so I went in on my own and my husband took our toddler out for the day. My sister was coming that evening to look after our son so that we could go out for dinner and have some much needed us time in an effort to give an oxytocin boost and hopefully launch full blown labour!
I arrived at EOU at 10:15 and from there everything happened very quickly.
Despite my tightenings now being so mild I was barely noticing them it was immediately apparent, even to me, that my baby was not coping with them at all. As soon as the monitor was placed on my belly things sounded very different to how they had the previous day. His heart rate dropped off to almost nothing with each contraction and took a long time to recover. I knew from my research that some deceleration was to be expected, but I just knew in my gut that this wasn’t normal. It was markedly different to the previous day’s trace. I knew instantly in my heart that he needed to be earthside ASAP and that that would mean another section.
I was alone and frightened. To make matters worse, my phone was not working properly. My microphone was broken and would only work if it was on speakerphone. I didn’t want to put my phone on speaker in the quiet EOU, so I had to text my husband to tell him that I was worried that things weren’t looking good.
I had decided that this baby needed to be here, and fast, before the doctor even arrived to discuss it with me. I had quickly run through all my birth plans and options in my head. I knew that even if induction were an option (which it wasn’t as I was still only 1cm dilated) it wasn’t a chance I was willing to take. If my baby was struggling with such mild contractions I didn’t want to imagine the outcome of attempting induction, with the intense and unnatural contractions that would bring. I knew that another section was the right thing, but it was the thing I was most terrified of and I was all alone!
I text my husband and my doula. My husband had to arrange childcare, so I didn’t know if he would get here in time. My Doula was a 30 minute drive away and they had said I would be in theatre within half an hour.
I had an amazing EOU nurse by my side as I was taken up to the ward to be prepped. She kept me calm, took me as slowly as she could to give a bit of time so that someone would hopefully arrive to be with me. She even made me laugh on the way. What an amazing thing to do for someone so alone and so frightened. (She even came back up to meet the new arrival later in the day, what a woman!)
I was brought into the room and striped of all my clothes and jewellery. Cannulas were inserted, checks taken and it was all very frightening, but another amazing woman, a midwife, reassured me and hugged me in the absence of anyone else being there to do so. I was so glad of that hug and I sobbed into her scrubs.
My Doula, Anne arrived as I was being prepped to go into theatre. She was like an angel coming through those doors. I felt a weight lifted immediately. Somehow I felt like it would all be OK now. She had the presence of mind to remind me that I had actually made a birth plan for this situation and asked the medical staff to read over it and support my wishes. That made a huge difference to me, just knowing that I had someone looking out for me and that I wouldn’t be alone. She once again reminded me of my hypnobirthing techniques. I wouldn’t say I was relaxed, but I was definitely calmer than I had been half an hour previous.
Thankfully my husband arrived soon after that, there wasn’t much time to fill him in on all that was happening before I was taken down to theatre. That was another blessing, that Anne was there to help him understand what was happening. He had no idea what was happening and was angry as he thought that perhaps someone had pressured me into having another unnecessary cesarean, but Anne was able to reassure him that it was the right decision, and more importantly that it was MY decision. She even gave him some hypnobirthing tools to take into theatre, including aromatherapy oils and breathing techniques.
In theatre all of the team who looked after me were amazing and accommodated my birth preferences as much as possible. I was given hugs, my tears were wiped away and I felt really cared for and respected. We were passed our beautiful baby boy onto my chest at 12:29 and we haven’t looked back since.
This was definitely not the birth we had in mind, but it was the birth my baby chose, at the time that was right for him. I had done all I possibly could to try to give this baby a natural and gentle vaginal birth, but in the end that just wasn’t how it was meant to be.
Everything happened just as it needed to and I’m so glad I was in the right place at the right time.
I’m grieving the loss of the birth I had hoped for, but in a healthy way, I think. I’m certain that this time a cesarean was absolutely the right way for this baby to be born.
After experiencing a previous traumatic cesarean, that was the last thing I wanted to happen, but in the end it was absolutely the right way for this boy to come into the world and I’m so grateful we were in the right place at the right time.