By Jackie Mawson.
Brody was my 3rd child, an attempted homebirth VBAC after
2 previous c/sections. I had tried desperately, during my
pregnancy, to find an Obstetrician who would support me in a
'natural' birth, but failed. Again and again (I visited at
least 6) they told me I needed continual monitoring, drips,
fasting, etc, and that I should only attempt the 'trial of
labour' at the biggest maternity hospital in our locality -
which was also a teaching hospital, something I was trying
Now, every independant midwife I approached was quite
happy to support me in a homebirth VBAC... Figure that! The
big problem was the cost involved, and the fact that I would
have felt safer/happier birthing near technology. I guess
some of what the Obstetricians kept saying had been
filtering through my armour. But I went ahead and planned
the homebirth. I, sneakily, also planned a hospital birth
with one of the Obstetricians (the only one really willing
to take me on, at the biggest hospital in Perth) and didn't
tell the Ob. I was planning a homebirth, though I did tell
the midwife what I had organised with the Ob. It made sense
to 'cover all my bases'.
Now if you read my birthstory you will know what
happened. I won't go into all the details here. Basically I
began to feel comfortable with the idea of homebirth, I
began to LOVE it in fact, and I loved labouring at home,
with my own shower, bedroom, kitchen, HOUSE. But after about
12 hours of labour my baby showed signs of bradycardia. We
left for the hospital.
When we arrived my Ob. was called (she was the 'high
risk' Ob. employed by the hospital) and she wasn't pleased
to know I had been labouring at home... Read about it in the
birthstory. I was given 2 hours to fully dilate (7cm's on
arrival), attached to the EFM, waters broken and left to my
own devices with a midwife standing guard over the EFM.
2 hours later I felt my baby's head 'right there' pushing
down on my rectum. 2 doctors trooped back in to check me and
I was sure they would say I was fully dilated (please note I
was expected to dilate more than average of 1cm/hour, and
this was my first real labour). But, "No, I was 9 1/2 cm's
with a lip to go, time for a c/section!" That was it. I
forgot to argue, in fact I started vomiting in a bowl about
this time, and I don't think it would have been possible to
argue... But, maybe, if I'd been reminded by my carers.
My midwife suggested they check me again just prior to
surgery, if I was fully dilated they could use forceps to
pull my baby out. I did ask them to and they told me I was
still the same. I wouldn't have wanted the forceps delivery
anyway, what I wanted was to push my baby out myself, not
have him pulled or lifted from me by someone else,
especially when I couldn't feel anything (I had had an
epidural). My midwife told me, after the surgery, that I did
everything but push that baby out. This didn't help that
much, but I hold on to it.
What did I feel afterwards? Traumatised (emotionally and
physically), letdown by my 'paid' midwife and my husband,
that the Ob. settled a grudge because I went behind her back
and had to be taught a lesson. I felt frustrated, sad,
depressed, angry, angry, angry and like something really bad
had happened and a cloud settled over me that shouldn't have
I allowed myself to grieve over this birth, over the loss
of a natural child birth experience for both my child and
myself. I cried everyday, and that was an okay thing to do -
more natural than bottling it up inside, and I knew that. I
thought I was depressed, but realised I wasn't when I went
along to a PND group and met those women who were hormonally
depressed. I was suffering from grief and, I believe,
I recognised the lack of support for pregnant women, the
women's lack of knowledge of birth choices and supportive,
empathetic midwives, GP's and Ob's. So I decided I couldn't
let other women go through what I had because of this lack.
Women needed to know what resources there were, and have the
knowledge necessary to become responsible for their births.
Hence Birthrites was formed, to give women back that
knowledge, to supply them with information so that they
could make choices, challenge their chosen carers beliefs re
VBAC safety vs c/section safety. Our organisation which has
grown worldwide and provided information to many women and
allowed many babies to be born the 'right way' whether that
be by chosen c/section or VBAC.
I realised, along this journey, that I must be tolerant
and accept the informed choice of c/section. Therefore I
planned a 'positive c/section page' on the website and I
urge all women to plan for this 'just in case' as having
experienced a caesarean once they must know that it could
happen again. So I urge them to plan a great c/section, put
it in their birthplans, then put it behind them and focus on
having a great VBAC. Then it's less of a shock if something
should happen during labour that necessitates a surgical
I encourage women to surround themselves with support.
Midwives, doctors, family and friends, and realise that they
deserve this support, not condemnation, for choosing a VBAC
birth for their child.
A lot of healing comes from being able to plan a vaginal
birth, and being supported in this choice. If something goes
wrong and a c/section becomes necessary, women still gain a
lot from the choices they were able to make, and the plans
they had, and the natural labour they experienced.
I was often asked "Don't you regret having all that
labour and ending up with a c/section" and this is often a
doubt pregnant mothers have... "What if I labour for 20
hours and end up with a c/section?" And I tend to say "But
what if you chose just to have the c/section without trying
for a VBAC, then for the rest of your life you wonder 'Maybe
I could have...'?" I am so glad I chose a homebirth VBAC,
laboured at home and did everything but push my baby out. I
will never regret those choices. I look back on my memories
with bitter joy. I have problems remembering anything about
any of my c/sections, maybe due to the drugs involved.
I KNOW I could have done it all with a little more
support and encouragement, if I hadn't had to fight the
system. I KNOW next time I would have the strength, the
knowledge and the support to do it fully, to completion, but
I also know there won't be a next time. Because I have
chosen to stop at 3 children. My family is complete. The
knowledge is all I need to feel healed. I have regained
faith in my body's ability to work 'normally', which seems
strange seeing it has never actually managed to fulfil this
circle of life.
Afterwards I felt shunned within the hospital. I really
did. It seemed that the midwives spent as little time as
possible with me, and I was often asked "How could you risk
that, why didn't you ask to birth in the birthcentre if you
didn't want to come into the hospital?" I tried to explain,
it wasn't that I didn't want to come in, just that the
policies were wrong and I couldn't find true support, then I
just formed a simpler (yet truthful) answer, "They wouldn't
let me". The midwives found this hard to understand and
would say "But surely..." Sadly, 'but surely' didn't work
when I was pregnant and searching. I was happy with my
choice in the end, just sad that I didn't manage to birth at
I basically needed information to know that my choices
were okay, that I wasn't going to kill my baby. I needed
support, from carers and family and friends. True support.
And I needed understanding.
I felt sad afterwards (PTS), but grateful for my chance
to labour. My child's first birthday was tricky. Wasn't sure
whether to be happy or sad, it was a time of reflection and
memories, this is very sad in itself. We should celebrate
the safe birth of our children each year of their lives...
Never look back in dread.
I believe all of my experiences were life experiences,
and each and every one of them gives me true empathy to help
understand other women. I will always grasp these sad times
and turn them around into positives, by using the experience
to provide others with what I needed myself during these
moments in my life. They may have been traumatic, at the
time, but now they have provided so many women with what
they needed in their own times of searching. For this I am
thankful to these experiences. Thankful for my initial
elective c/section (due to my naivety), my miscarriages, my
second c/section (prolonged labour with broken waters) and
my third c/section (failed VBAC attempt, with knowledge, but
not enough support). They have been valuable lessons, and if
I had been successful in my VBAC attempts then there would
be no Birthrites'. Life is tricky, I always seem to choose
the more difficult road, it makes my life more interesting
though, doesn't it?