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

Coping with severe pregnancy sickness – ‘Resident Blogger’ Susanne

RB pic - SusanneIn her first post as a Blogs For Babies Resident Blogger, the lovely Susanne tells us her experience of severe pregnancy sickness, and gives her top tips for getting through what can be a debilitating and exhausting condition for lots of expectant mums.

Susanne is currently in the second trimester of her 4th pregnancy. Read more about Susanne and the other Resident Bloggers here.

Susanne blogs at ghostwritermummy.co.uk

I knew I was pregnant before I even took the test, and it wasn’t just a faint niggling at the back of my mind. It was a constant gnawing and nagging nausea that gave the game away this time. By six weeks I was a wreck, vomiting pretty much all day and suffering terrible nausea in between. I dragged my sorry self to the GP with the toddler under my arm and announced that I was with child, and not feeling great. At this point, I expected a little sympathy and a lot of empty advice, such as try some ginger biscuits, or suck some polo mints.

What I got though, was entirely different. I got a GP who listened. One who believed in prevention rather than cure. One who saw that I was very very dehydrated, tired of being sick, and unable to cope like this with three children, a full time job and a husband that works away.

My GP prescribed me anti-sickness medicine, telling me that I could either take the tablets, or I could spend a couple of days in the hospital. I took the tablets, promised I would return if things didn’t get better, and gritted my teeth through the last minute suggestion to stop at the shops for some gingernut biscuits.

And so my fourth pregnancy has been unlike any other so far. My girls were both born following incredibly easy pregnancies, and my pregnancy with my son had been similarly fraught with sickness, but I had never experienced anything like this. The days were so so long, especially on the first tablets I was given. These made me terribly drowsy, which meant I was unable to take any until bedtime. For most of the day I was literally on my knees, often in tears, and wracked with guilt at not being able to be a mum to the kids. I relied so heavily on my eldest to help with the little ones and by the time the weekend rolled around and my husband was home, I was broken.

The second set of medication that I was prescribed are the real deal. The stuff they give to chemo patients. Medication, I was told, that is usually prescribed after several hospital admissions. I will always be grateful to my GP for keeping me out of the hospital. Within a couple of days, the medication took hold and the fog started to lift.

Being so, so ill for a good ten weeks has given me lots of food for thought. I’m not usually one to take medication readily, but I know that these little white pills have saved me this time. I am not about to stop taking them (I tried that a couple of times, and found myself back at square one each time) but I am keen to find ways to reduce my dependence on them. These are the things I’ve been doing to try and combat the sickness, alongside the tablets:

A good vitamin tablet. My midwife recommended this to me, telling me that a pre-natal vitamin was a good idea for all pregnant women, throughout the whole pregnancy. Apparently there have been cases of rickets in the UK so the vitamins are recommended for this reason, but my midwife swears that they will also help with the nausea and sickness too. On the days where I am unable to eat very much, I feel reassured by taking my tablet… providing it stays down, of course.

Water (and Vimto). I drink as much as I can, but at first this was not easy. I spent a good few weeks feeling intensely nauseous at the very idea of water, and so a crazy addiction to Vimto kicked in. These days, water goes down a lot better than it did, but for the days where it makes my stomach roll, I suck on ice cubes instead. It’s so so important to stay hydrated.

Sleep. Some days, it is all that helps. Most days, it is impossible to achieve, and many nights have seen me hugging the toilet bowl rather than sleeping. But rest/sleep really does help. On the days that follow good nights, I have noticed a marked difference and so I do try to rest when I can.

Swimming. I read that it can help with the nausea, which is pretty much constant for me, especially during the evenings. I joined the local swanky hotel pool and I swim three times a week now. For me, it is a chance to have some time to myself, and to think and to connect a little with my body. I focus on my breathing, and I swim. It helps to calm me and on days where I feel less than 100%, that disappears in the water.

Pilates. This is another way for me to connect with my body a little more. It started in a bid to ready my body for my much wanted VBA3C but now it is certainly a little more spiritual. Each and every day now begins with 40 minutes of Pilates, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I started this at 14 weeks – it would have been impossible any earlier. It feels as though I have been doing it for a lifetime. Again, I focus on my breathing and when the nausea strikes at other times, I have been known to breathe deeply and stretch my way through it…

Loose clothes. This was one of the first ways that I found to ease the sickness and nausea. I was in maternity clothes at ten weeks this time around, despite having no bump at all to speak of. Looser clothes are essential.

Now at almost 20 weeks, I finally think I have a handle on the sickness, or ways that I can manage it, and I no longer suffer in silence. If I am feeling unwell, I ask for support. Pregnancy can be so so hard in so many ways and severe sickness and nausea is not to be taken lightly. If you’re suffering, try the above, but please please also speak to your GP. I found the earliest weeks of this pregnancy so isolating and very dark, to the point where some days I wished that the pregnancy was over. Now I am able to see things with a little more clarity, I just wish I had had someone to hold my hand back then.

Follow Susanne on Twitter @Ghostwritermumm

If you need help or advice about pregnancy sickness, check out the Pregnancy Sickness Support website or find them on Twitter @HGSupportUK

Our bumpy journey – Sarah Knott

Sarah Knott picSarah is our very first Blogs For Babies contributor! She is a 26 year old mum-to-be, currently 32 weeks pregnant with her first child. Sarah is originally from Scotland but grew up in the Middle East and Holland and now lives in London, where she works in the international division of a retail head office. She is married to a Royal Navy sailor and is obsessed with cats!

Sarah blogs at theknottbump.blogspot.co.uk

I decided to come off the contraceptive pill in September 2012, two months after we got married in August. If he’d had his way, the husband would have had us trying earlier – he was the broodiest man alive! I suffered from anorexia as a teenager, and into my early twenties, and had been made aware that my hormone levels might have been affected as a result. The fact I’d been on the pill on and off for ten years was in the back of my mind as I wasn’t sure how much of an effect that would have had too.

Even though I knew my hormone levels might be affected, nothing could prepare me for how messed up my cycles became. The first cycle was over 100 days and the symptoms of coming off the pill mirrored early pregnancy symptoms, which was bizarre – nausea, dizziness, sore boobs, etc. I had read that you should give your body a few cycles to get back into the swing of things before trying properly. My problem was I wasn’t really having cycles. They just went on and on with no signs of ovulation and it became the most frustrating thing trying to figure out what was going on.

I was reluctant to go to the doctors because of my age (25 at the time) as I felt that I wouldn’t be taken seriously. I investigated a little online and decided to try some herbal remedies – mainly agnus cactus and evening primrose oil. These didn’t seem to do much for me and I tried tracking my basal body temperature instead. That was all over the place and didn’t tell me anything either. I also invested in a digital fertility monitor from Clearblue but there was no pattern in terms of fertility readings.

After a couple more months I relented and went to my GP. He did blood tests to see if that brought anything to light and when that came back looking ok, he eventually referred me for an internal scan of my womb/ovaries. That was an interesting experience! Everything came back looking normal though which was a relief.

The doctors advised the next step was for Rob to get tested before any further testing would be done on me. After talking it over we decided that we’d give it another couple of months which would have meant almost a year of trying before we considered any further testing. We were tired of constantly monitoring and worrying about everything and to be honest I was getting exhausted by the disappointment of negative tests.

We went on holiday to Ibiza the following month, had an amazing time, came back, tried to carry on with things not thinking about trying for a baby and within a month I had fallen pregnant! The only thing I’d been kind of looking at in terms of signs of ovulation was my cervical mucus. It had gotten to the egg white fertile stage earlier than it had done in previous cycles – around day 25 – which made me think my period would come earlier than it had been. It didn’t come and I waited ages to test because I didn’t believe I could be pregnant…but I was!

Despite being absolutely over the moon at being pregnant, early pregnancy didn’t treat me well as I suffered from bad morning sickness until I was around 20 weeks. Nothing I did calmed the symptoms; I tried every trick in the book! I also had a bleed and had to have a scan to make sure that everything was ok at around 9 weeks. Next, I was told at my 20 week scan that my placenta was low lying and that it would have to be monitored to see if it moved up in time for a natural birth or not.

We carried on as normal and I started to feel a little better at around 22 weeks. Unfortunately, at 28 weeks I had another bleed and had to call the labour ward as instructed by the midwives. They wanted us to come in and it led to me being admitted for 4 days for investigations. There is a separate, more in depth post on this on my blog if you’re interested.

But after all this here we are now; bump and I are doing really well and I’m settling into the third trimester well. I love all the kicking and constant reminders that baby is in there and continuing to grow and thrive. We now just have to focus on the big house move from London to Portsmouth when I go on maternity leave and of course…the even bigger event…the birth!

Follow Sarah on Twitter @KnottBumpAndUs