Birthrites: Healing After Caesarean.

My Journey.

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 to avoid.

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 been there.

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, posttraumatic stress.

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 delivery.

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 home.

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?

Birthing Beautifully,
Jackie Mawson.