I didn’t get my VBAC – ‘Resident Blogger’ Susanne

mummy and elsieResident Blogger Susanne did not have an easy time of her fourth pregnancy. Suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum (severe pregnancy sickness) in the early weeks, she endured the uncertainty throughout the third trimester of whether her baby would have to be born prematurely due to IUGR, a condition fortunately picked up through the use of customised growth charts and extra scans.

IUGR, which stands for intra-uterine growth restriction, can be indicative of a problem with the placenta which prevents the baby from receiving the nutrition it needs, and is one of the biggest risk factors for stillbirth. Babies suffering from IUGR often have to be delivered early and can experience problems associated with being born very small.

Susanne’s emotions were further complicated by her desire for a VBAC, a vaginal birth after caesarean, which became less and less of an option as the pregnancy became more complicated. Having already undergone three previous sections, Susanne knew from the start it would not be an easy road. Here you can read about Susanne’s difficult journey, which happily culminated in the safe delivery of little Elsie Rose at 37 weeks.

Susanne blogs at www.ghostwritermummy.co.uk where you can read more about her experience with HG, IUGR and the subject of VBAC.

Back in May, I decided I wanted a VBAC. Since discovering I was pregnant, I always kind of knew this was what I wanted to do when it came to the birth. But I remember consciously making up my mind and speaking it aloud.

There.

It was out there. My intentions were known. No going back. I wanted a VBA3C. A vaginal birth after three c-sections. A ‘natural’ birth. A ‘normal’ birth.

susanne bump 20 weeksThis was met with mixed responses. Sensible responses from people such as my mother (“Just wait and see what happens. I’m sure it will work out the way you want it to in the end.”); positively positive responses (“Of course you can have a VBAC! Your body was made for it!”); horrified responses from people such as the first midwife I saw (“After three previous sections? There isn’t a doctor around who will support you in that!”); and vaguely amused responses (“Why would you want to do that? Don’t you know the risks?!”).

Yes. I knew the risks. I joined a Facebook group filled with women who advocate VBAC and natural birth. Women who were successfully getting their VBACs after 3, 4 and even 5 previous c-sections. I knew the risks of scar rupture existed, but I also knew they were very small. So I weighed it up and weighed on in.

In the group, lots of women speak of ‘not being allowed’ a VBAC, according to their doctors. These women routinely reply with the standard mantra

            Your body, your decision.

and it kind of stuck throughout my pregnancy. Whenever I was faced with the question over whether or not ‘they’ would let me birth my baby the way nature intended, I told them the same thing. This was MY body and MY choice.

My choice was to deliver my baby myself. To hold her against my skin moments later and to finally finally understand what it was all about when women spoke of feeling empowered, head over heels in love and like they could conquer the world. To be able to carry a baby to term and to deliver that baby without medication, medical assistance and sterile lighting. To do it the way my body wanted to. That was my choice.

Another regular line heard in the VBAC group came with birth announcements. Babies are born, eventually, after much discussion over how and when and with what interventions, and they are duly announced in the group. We are all waiting to hear. Did she get it? So the opening line of most announcements are either I got my VBAC! followed by wonderfully uplifting words of encouragement to the rest of us still waiting and hoping; or I didn’t get my VBAC but… usually followed by details of whether or not the surgeon ‘allowed’ skin to skin, or whether or not the lady laboured before the decision was made to perform a repeat c-section. So here is my announcement.

I didn’t get my VBAC.

BUT.

But I wanted to. I really, really wanted to. The decision was taken away early into my third trimester and to cut a long story short, my VBAC was pipped to the post by IUGR. Growth restriction meant my baby was too small for a ‘normal’ delivery. Growth restriction meant that my pregnancy had to end early, and a c-section was the only option since my body (scar) wouldn’t be able to handle an induction. Growth restriction meant my announcement in the group wasn’t written the way I’d intended it to be written back in May.

BUT.

elsie rose first 25 hoursBut I got my baby. And she is well. And we love her a lot. And that really does matter, but it is not ALL that matters.

It matters that I didn’t get my VBAC, because I went on a journey to get it. Self-acceptance. Self-awareness. Confidence. I actually, after all these years, believed I could do it. Birth my baby. Scans showed that she was head down, facing the right way and ready to go. During surgery I was told that there was practically no scar tissue at all after my 3 sections. My surgeon was amazed, and told me that my body was in perfect condition for carrying and delivering a baby. And, strangely, that was the nicest thing anyone ever said to me in a long time.

I didn’t get my VBAC but I got something else instead. I got to the end of that path and saw that I could do it.

Follow Susanne on Twitter @Ghostwritermumm

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A Midwife’s Birth Plan – Roxanne Stanyon

SONY DSCRoxy is a lovely mum-to-be and midwife I ‘met’ on Twitter, and she offered to share a post with us about being pregnant from the perspective of a health professional who knows more about the whole process than most of us! Here she tells us how she is preparing for the birth of her baby – with some tips you could certainly benefit from if you are expecting. Roxy introduces herself:

“I am a midwife who has been qualified for 5 years and am now expecting my first baby. I am 24 weeks now and looking forward to motherhood with the same excitement, fear and expectation as any other mother. I enjoy promoting normal birth for women and providing women centred care and feel very privileged to be surrounded by colleagues who will do their best to facilitate the same care for me. I enjoy photography and I am looked forward to plaguing Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with daily updates of my newborn!”

Roxy blogs at midwifebecomesmum.wordpress.com

I’m generally a planner. Some may call it procrastination but I am the woman who likes to at least try to plan for every eventuality in life.

I meal plan, I write a shopping list, I pretend that I adhere to a cleaning schedule drafted on Evernote (in reality I spend far more time altering the schedule and printing it off in pretty colours than carrying it out), I could map out the holidays I plan to go on for the next 20 years…the list of lists I own could go on.

So have I planned my birth?

This is one element of my life that I feel cautious about ‘planning’. Planning for me usually means that I could become set on a list of ideals and therefore a preset list of requirements that I will either pass or fail at. I just don’t feel entirely comfortable with the idea of failing. The very fear of failing in itself could hinder my birth experience so from now on I am going to use the phrase ‘birth preparation’ instead.

As a midwife I have the benefit of experience and knowledge of birth. This includes experience of the highs and lows that childbirth can bring, the reality of the transition to motherhood, the beauty of the moment when the precious bundle arrives and occasionally the heartbreak involved when losses happen.

It is a matter of opinion whether this knowledge is a help or a hindrance to a midwife’s own transition to motherhood and their personal journey of childbirth. I also think that to each individual midwife this prior knowledge can have very different effects on birth ideals, preparation and fears. I certainly feel privileged to be involved in childbirth and I am thankful for the opportunities to learn that this has given me.

Knowledge can be empowering, midwifery has given me midwives as close friends, links to local pregnancy services, an addiction to midwifery related reading material, a Twitter feed obsessed with all things birth, bonding and breastfeeding. It is however worth acknowledging that whilst all of this gives me a support network and an above average knowledge of the process ahead, it certainly does not promise me ‘the perfect birth’.

Ideally in labour I will be hoping to disassociate myself from my ‘midwife brain’ and get in touch with my ‘monkey brain’ (see Bump: how to make, grow and birth a baby for further explanation of how your inner primate can help). Knowledge and using the ‘thinking’ part of your brain does not always allow for ultimate relaxation and therefore can hinder the physiology of birth. Part of my birth preparation therefore will involve switching off the thinking process, which as a midwife I admit may be challenging.

My Birth Preparation:

  • I intend to use hypnobirthing techniques and have my first session booked at 26/40
  • I will express colostrum from 37 weeks for the following reasons: to have a little colostrum stored and ready if needed, to help boost my lactation and to try to avoid going overdue
  • I will take a short walk (if I feel well) every day from 37 weeks to help myself maintain fitness and remain active
  • I intend to set up a birthing pool at home to use when any tightenings start
  • I intend to give birth wherever I feel most comfortable when my labour commences, whether that be at home or in hospital (I do not have a local birth centre unfortunately)
  • I hope to have the time and opportunity to read Ina May Gaskin’s books from cover to cover whilst on maternity leave
  • I will write a list of positive pregnancy and birth affirmations so that I can begin to repeat them daily
  • I will surround myself with positive people when I labour
  • I intend to use aromatherapy oils to assist my journey
  • I will keep well hydrated and fed when my tightenings start
  • I will have familiar and relaxing music available to use if I wish
  • I will adopt any position that feels natural
  • I will follow my natural instincts

 

If something happens that I wouldn’t have hoped for I shall try to remain calm, composed and be kind to myself. I am a midwife but I am human. Being human does not mean I have failed.

As mothers-to-be we can prepare ourselves for the best chance of success but we cannot control our destiny. We all try our best with the circumstances we are given, and I intend to do just the same. Best of luck to any other mothers out there who are also expecting. How are you preparing?

Follow Roxy on Twitter @Roxy_xxxx