Birthrites: Healing After Caesarean.

Tane's Birthstory -
The Healing Beauty of Unassisted Homebirth.

Editor - Please note that Birthrites does not think unassisted Homebirth is the 'way' to birth your child. Our organization provides information about birth choices, in order to encourage informed decision-making. This is just an example of yet another choice that some women make.

-by Micklyn
I live in South Africa, where the c-section rate in private practice is over 50%. I think we are second only to Brazil. With my first child I had a bout of false labor at 37 weeks, and, thinking it was the real thing, went into hospital. The doctor told me I would have my baby in the morning. When it became obvious (to her) that I was not really in labor, she didn't tell me, instead she began to induce me, through my iv, without my knowledge or consent. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I ended up having a c-section after a long and unproductive labor. I thought the reason was failure to progress and only found out afterwards that it was actually failed induction when I checked my chart. I firmly believed that if they had just sent me home to wait it out, I would have been able to have a normal birth.

When husband said he wanted another child, I knew I didn't. He wouldn't quit going on about it, and now I'm glad he didn't. I gave in eventually and fell pregnant immediately. Only then did I realize how my previous birth had affected me - I was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. I forbade husband to even mention birth, if he did, I would start shaking or crying, I would want to throw up and I would go into a panic. I couldn't talk about it, all the feelings of humiliation, violation, helplessness and anger came back. At work, to torture myself, I would read birth stories on the internet. Doing so would make me feel incredibly nauseous, but it was as if I couldn't help myself, I kept on reading and reading.

One day I came across an unassisted birth story. I couldn't believe it. This was what I longed for, in fact, shortly after I fell pregnant, I said to husband, "If it was up to me I'd have this baby by myself in the kitchen." I had never realized that unassisted birth was an option. I had never heard of it. I began to read more avidly than ever, devouring every unassisted birth birth story I could get my hands on and reading every article or essay on unassisted birth on the net. I didn't tell husband anything, by this time I was determined to have a unassisted birth, even if it meant a solo unassisted birth. I was too scared to tell him, in case he tried to stop me.

Because of that, and because of my previous cesarean, we were seeing an ob/gyn- I chose a woman, because I thought I'd feel more comfortable with her. What a mistake! To start with, she insisted on an internal exam at every visit. She forbade me to attempt a VBAC insisting that I would have a cesarean 10 days early, and she picked up on my nervousness and claimed I made it stressful for her! Needless to say, we changed doctors.

Our new dr was supportive of our plans for a VBAC - in the beginning. Towards the end of the pregnancy, however, he had completely changed his tune. I think he would have upset me a lot more if I hadn't secretly already decided on a unassisted VBAC. He used to say things like, "They can't prove a natural birth is more safe for the baby than a c-section." and "What if you tear?" and "It's the safety of your baby I'm worried about." and "At the very first sign of something going wrong, I'm going to cut!" When I told him I'd been reading up on the internet about birth, he actually said, "The internet is all just lies!" Another time he admitted that a c-section would be more convenient for him, with a natural birth I would phone him at 3 in the morning and wake him up and he'd be grumpy.

I could see his growing frustration with me, and started to really enjoy my visits, just because it was so fun to stand up to him. For the first time in my life, I felt I had authority over the doctor, rather than the other way around. There is a real culture of doctor worship in this country, people are very afraid to contradict or disagree with their doctors. We're not very good at standing up for ourselves. (I'm generalizing, of course.) At my thirty-nine week checkup, he said he had to do an internal examination. I refused. He got really angry and said to me, "You don't even know why I want to do one! I need to check if your pelvis is big enough!" I wanted to burst out laughing.

I'd been talking to my husband about the things I'd been learning on the internet, about the complications caused by various interventions and the problems with hospital or medically managed births. I hadn't mentioned UC, not yet. It was only when I saw his growing impatience with the doctor (husband was very supportive of my wish for a VBAC) that I finally felt safe enough to tell him my plans. This was a week before the baby was due! His response was amazing, he said, "I'm right behind you, my love. Why didn't you tell me before? I trust you would not put our child in danger, I know what kind of a mother you are and I support you one hundred percent." Finally I was ready to have my unassisted birth. I was at peace, knowing I had his support and that he would be there for me.

I was woken by a fairly painful contraction at about ten to three on the morning of the 6th of March. I was at 41 weeks and 2 days (of course the doctor had been going on about post dates complications and still born babies- in fact, he wanted me to have a c-section at 10 days overdue to avoid complications. When I said that I personally viewed a c-section as a serious complication he said: "Well, I don't!")

I had been having lots of strong prodromal labor for the last four days. I read that one remedy for prodromal or false labor is to drink a glass of wine and have a warm bath before bed. (So that it doesn't keep you up and exhaust you before the real thing starts.) On the night before (Monday night) I had had a glass of wine to help me sleep and stop the prodromal labor so I could rest, but it didn't help the way it had on Sunday night. Also because my Dad had phoned and told me they were coming a day later than planned and I so badly wanted to have the baby before they arrived (because they didn't know about my plans for a unassisted birth) I was convinced that something would start in the night. Well it did. At about 3:30, I woke up husband to keep me company, although he dozed on and off and kept on asking me, "Is this really it? Are you sure?" Eventually I said that I would NOT wake him up unless I was convinced that this was it so would he please stop asking and start being supportive? I went downstairs and made him a cup of tea to help him wake up and then we chatted while I paced our bedroom, dealing with each contraction. They were coming between 5 and 10 minutes apart.

At six my two older kids woke up (we have a blended family) and I told them that when they got home from school, the baby might be here. My husband took them to school, all excited about the prospect of meeting their little sister. While he was gone my labor took a pause- it's the only way I can describe it- it was as if my body didn't want to continue till he returned. Sure enough, when he came back from dropping them off the contractions picked up again immediately. I could tell he was fidgety, with not enough to occupy him, so I suggested he get a video, so he did- Arlington Road. I remember saying towards the end of the video when it gets all violent and I was heading into transition (I think) that I was supposed to be in a darkened room with candles and gentle music, not witnessing terror and explosions- this was ridiculous!

Anyway, throughout the morning and the movie I found that the contractions came quicker if I was standing. If I sat down there would be as much as 10 to 15 minutes between them, although then they were much more intense. So I forced myself to stand, only sitting for 2 minutes after each contraction passed, and then standing up again, which would immediately bring on the next one. It took a lot of will power to stand up each time, knowing the pain would hit when I did! Some of the time I leaned against the wall, pushing the small of my back against the cool plaster. At the height of the contractions I would yell to my husband to put pressure on my back - and yell even harder if he wasn't quick about it. The baby had been lying posterior all along, so I'd been expecting back labor. In a way I'm glad because it gave my husband something to do.

I was dying to get in the bath, but thought that I better wait as long as possible. I'd had no show and was too scared to check for dilation - if nothing was happening I didn't want to know! I held out till the video was over and then got in the bath. I plugged up the overflow outlet so we could fill the bath to the top, and told my husband that I didn't care if it did overflow. He was so patient with me all day, I'd been ordering him around since the early morning and it was 1:30 now and I wasn't getting any easier to deal with.

I was shaking a bit by this time and I'm not sure how much the water is supposed to help but I think it did help a little, if only to relax into between contractions. I screwed up my courage to check myself at this stage and I think I must have been around 6 or 7, I could feel the membranes bulging- it was so encouraging.

The next 2 hours sped by, I remember telling my husband in the morning that I thought the baby would come around 2:30; she came at 3. I was starting to yell a little and after every contraction would say "wait wait, I'm not ready, let me have a break before the next one!" God answered my prayer, because the contractions never came one on top of the other, right till the very end I felt able to cope, just. Just before the end, for the first time I said, "I can't do this, what am I going to" and really meant it, but then it was nearly over.

I checked myself again around then and the membranes were right down and I was just dying for the waters to break. I was on my knees and husband kept urging me to try squatting, but during a contraction I couldn't move and in between I didn't want to. (Because I knew that the second I moved another contraction would hit. If I kept as still as possible then there was a little gap to breath.) Eventually, as one was starting I squatted and my waters broke. I yelled, "The waters broke!" and husband said "Did they?" And I (in agony) said, "NO NO NO NO NO!" so he thought they hadn't and didn't realize that they had until I said, "I can feel her head, it's right there!" Up until then I hadn't pushed at all. In fact, I never experienced an urge to push, I pushed voluntarily when I felt her head with my hand, because I just wanted the pain to be over. Also I had heard that pushing eased the pain. Well, that certainly didn't seem to be my experience!

I had expected the requisite twenty minutes to an hour and a half of pushing, but things went very fast after that and I remember screaming "I have never been in such pain in my life!" and "No, no, go back, go back!" but mostly I was saying "God help me God help me God help me" and then I felt like I was splitting in half and felt myself tear and then the head was out and half her body and I was checking for the umbilical cord and didn't at first realize I was checking around her ribcage! The rest of her emerged seconds later and I picked her up and husband was saying, "That's amazing, that's so amazing, I have never seen anything so amazing in my life" and I remember thinking "What did you expect?" because he just sounded so surprised.

She was pinky lilac and went red really quickly, she was breathing fine but her cord was very short and wasn't pulsing like I expected it to be. I couldn't get her to latch on, mostly because it was awkward and I couldn't pull her up high enough. I held her like that for about 45 minutes, just sitting in the bath while we marvelled, then husband had to cut the cord so I could move because I was very uncomfortable and didn't feel I could deliver the placenta in the position I was in, which was sitting upright in the tub. He took her for a while and wrapped her in a warm towel and I moved back onto my knees and the placenta came after about ten minutes. The placenta was intact and everything seemed fine so we set about cleaning up and went through to the kid's room with her after I washed off (our room is upstairs and I needed to sit on a bed).

My husband phoned his parents and then we phoned mine, only to find out they'd be arriving in about 2 hours just in time to help us with the older kids and give them supper. Talk about perfect timing! When they found out we were at home and had given birth unassisted I couldn't believe my mom's reaction, she said, "That's brilliant, that's so amazing, you wonderful, wonderful girl, I'm so proud of you!" And this was before she knew anything about unassisted birth or why hospital births are unsafe. I was so happy.

We weighed Tane and found she weighed 9 pounds, which was kind of what I was expecting. My husband fetched the kids, my parents arrived, and we all had supper. It was so good to be home. Later I checked myself and decided to do without stitches, because I really couldn't face going to the hospital. I was happy where I was. Five weeks later, my three to four centimetre tear was healed perfectly, all by itself. (About the tear, it was pretty painful for the first ten days, but that forced me to take it easy, which was probably a good thing and I suspect, is part of the plan. Also, I have a bidet, which was wonderful, and I used salt water to cleanse and heal but that was about it.)

Although Tane didn't sleep at all the first night, since then she's been an angel and is sooo good. My husband and I are so thrilled with our unassisted birth, husband delights in telling people just to see their reaction- and he's wonderful, whenever they congratulate him on delivering the baby he says, "No, I didn't do anything- Micklyn delivered the baby, I was just there!" We think it's funny how the first thing everyone says is "What about the cord?" as if this is the most difficult and dangerous problem, How Do You Tie the Cord?

This birth has made up for so much for me, I am so relaxed this time and I've found breast feeding a breeze unlike last time after an induction, and epidural and a c-section. I have no regrets. I know I would do it again.