Birthrites: Healing After Caesarean.

Royston's Birth.

My son was a much awaited and desired baby.

After 2 years of trying and 2 miscarriages I was elated to discover I was pregnant again!The pregnancy progressed well and I loved being pregnant.

At about 30 weeks my blood pressure started to increase slowly. I had never had blood pressure problems before and was concerned. The obstetrician assured me that a slight increase was no concern but that he would monitor it closely.

I was very excited to give up work at 35 weeks - thinking I would have 5 weeks at home to get a nursery together (I know - I'd had nine months to do it!) However I found I was getting tired very easily and unable to do much. I was suffering from pre-eclampsia more seriously than I realized.

Thank God for family!My in-laws and my husband's sister came and stayed with us and did the nursery and all the preparations in one weekend, while I directed from my lounge!

By this time I was seeing the obstetrician every two days. The obstetrician sent me for blood tests and an ultrasound and I also went onto blood pressure tablets.

The tablets kept the blood pressure from rising any further and kept it stable (still very high!). The obstetrician was concerned at to the effects on the baby's growth but the ultrasound indicated a normal sized baby. We agreed to wait another week - with me resting at home - then we would induce the baby early.

So, after only 3 weeks at home, I found myself booked into the hospital for an induction. I was given the gel late Thursday evening and told to sleep. My husband went home and I tried to sleep (those beds are so uncomfortable). I wish I had, as it would have been the last full night's sleep I would have for a long time.

Even at this point I was adamant on a natural labour. I was more flexible about drugs as I knew I may have to have them to reduce the blood pressure during labour. But I was insistent I did not want a caesar and had not even read anything about them. I was na•ve and uninformed and I regret that.

The next morning I was getting back pain and a little bit of cramping but no 'labour' so they inserted the gel a second time. The nurse put a monitor on my tummy for the baby and we waited. Labour started within the hour - but quite comfortably. She had some issues with the baby's monitor and seemed concerned that it was slipping. Then her concern increased and she called for the obstetrician.

I was beginning to worry. My mother in law rang and she was concerned I sounded breathless (I am an asthmatic). I told her that was the least of my worries - my husband had not yet appeared and something was worrying the nurses.

The obstetrician came for another look and checked me over. He advised us to keep going and he would come back in a little while. My husband appeared and we moved to the labour ward.

By now contractions were about about five minutes apart but I had not dilated beyond 3 cm. I had a show and when the obstetrician checked my dilation my waters broke all over him. I thought it was all moving well.

However, every time I had a contraction the baby's heart rate would plummet - it was very erratic and they were concerned the baby would not survive labour. Being my first labour, and as my body had not been ready for birth they believed it would be about a ten hour labour.

So, having not even entertained the thought of a Caesar, I found myself being prepped for surgery. I had never had surgery before and was terrified. There was some debate about whether I should have a general anaesthetic or a spinal block - due to my blood pressure and asthma. But fortunately a spinal block was inserted so my husband could stay with me.

My husband is very squeamish and had said to me previously that if they mentioned the 'C' word he would be out of there!But in my hour of need he was there. He held my hand the whole time. He even took the camera in and took some photos. He was so excited and emotional.

They delivered the baby and the first thing the obstetrician said was "the ultrasound lied" - he was only 2.4 kg. My husband looked and me and said - "we were wrong - it's a boy" and then my son was whisked off and checked and wrapped.

They held him up to my face and took some photos - everyone exclaiming how beautiful he was!Only the other night (2 1/2 years on) my husband said to me that he was surprised how unemotional I seemed at that time. He was the one who felt all the emotions I should have. I could not get excited - I just felt numb and sad. I get upset even now thinking of it. That should have been the most beautiful moment of my life and I was just numb.

They explained that he had the cord wrapped around his head so he was losing oxygen - hence the distress!Aside from that and a tongue-tie they assured me he was perfect!

My husband took my little boy down to the nursery where he sat and held him for 2 hours until I appeared. I was in recovery for a long time as they were short of staff to take me back to the ward. I lay there in shock, feeling sick and upset. All the while the nurses kept commenting to me on my beautiful son - but it all seemed so unreal.

When I finally got to hold him - hours after the birth - I couldn't take it in. It seemed unreal and I felt so detached from him. We tried to feed him but I couldn't get him to take the breast properly. For days I struggled with him. He would seem to feed but was constantly hungry and would not sleep.

I was so out of it I did not realise the nurses had had to tube feed him and had to suck all the meconium from him as he had swallowed so much. For days he had black stuff coming from both ends - poor child.

I got up fairly quickly and was moving around the next day - surprising a lot of people. But my heartache was my inability to feed - I felt such a failure. I think it really added to my failure to bond with him due to the Caesar.

After a week I went home. By the time we left hospital he would not even try the breast and I was bottle feeding him. So I expressed every three hours to try and get weight on him and supplemented him with formula. It took me another month before I could breastfeed him and it amazed everyone that I persisted that long. I am glad I did as it assured me I could be a 'good' mum despite everything that had happened.

I look back now and realize I was closer to PND than I realized at the time. I was adamant I was just sleep deprived and could cope and everyone believed me.

I was not angry at the doctors for what happened. On the contrary I was thankful for the care and attention we received (under the public health system) and grateful they did all they could to keep me and my son healthy. However I do resent the fact that my birth was not a lovely experience and I still get upset when I think over how unprepared and unemotional I was. It took me a long time to bond with my son and I am sure a lot of our 'issues' with feeding and sleeping go back to those first few hours.

I have gone back to the same obstetrician for my second baby as I feel I can trust him. He kept me informed and always treated me like a person. He is monitoring me for pre-eclampsia and encouraging me to try a VBAC. However this time I am doing my homework and doing all I can to prepare for all eventualities! Hopefully this birth will be a different experience no matter what happens.

*Images of Royston's Birth