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

Not even a bag of sugar – Kylie Hodges

Kylie Hodges picBlogs For Babies is thrilled that the wonderful Kylie Hodges offered to contribute a post about the premature birth of her son Joseph after she developed pre-eclampsia in 2009. Kylie is an inspiring figure in the blogging world and is someone I have long admired for sharing her experiences so honestly. Her birth story below strikes a real chord with me as I had pre-eclampsia with my son – also named Joseph!

After suffering two miscarriages Kylie finally gave birth to her son at 27 weeks in May 2009. The experience completely changed her world view, and she started her award nominated blog Not Even A Bag of Sugar, and started working with charities and other parents touched by preterm birth. She now works for Bliss in Manchester recruiting volunteers to help support families with babies in hospital care.

Kylie blogs at notevena.blogspot.co.uk

On 7th May 2009 I went to the delivery suite, at 3am with my husband driving nervously. I was 26 weeks and 6 days pregnant. I had a headache. My midwife said if I got a persistent headache to attend delivery suite, so being a good patient that’s exactly what I was doing, expecting to be told I was being silly and that it was nothing.

M the midwife who met me there was reassuring, professional and caring. She ran some tests. My husband left to go to work, and I felt calm and safe. Then suddenly the room got busy. A young female doctor took charge “Mrs Hodges you have severe early onset pre-eclampsia” I felt like a guillotine was over my neck. All pregnancy I had been waiting for this. Something to go hideously wrong.

She went on “we don’t know when we will deliver your baby but it could be today or tomorrow”. I remembered my hypnobirthing and concentrated on my breathing. I was about to have the fight of my life and I needed to be strong. Everyone left and I was transferred to the antenatal ward. I rang my husband and suggested he come back. Before he could arrive I was assigned a locum consultant.

Dr K came in with a midwife. He held my hand and called me Dr Kylie. He treated me like a colleague, not a patient. He said I was amazing, that it’s rare anyone would act so early and by doing so I had bought them time. He had booked theatre for 9am the following day. First I was to have two steroid injections to improve the baby’s lungs, and an emergency scan. My husband arrived just in time.

The scan was the most awful experience of the whole thing. People awaiting scans are usually happy. There was another scared lady with complications, and we held hands and talked. I was taken down. The sonographer said “I’m sorry” and I lost it. Nothing she said made sense and I was sure the baby had died.

I remember so strongly a midwife, my husband and a random grandad in the lift going back to the ward and I apologised to the man for being a mess. I couldn’t stop crying. We finally go to the ward and I heard the midwife say to the consultant “she’s incredibly distressed I am worried for her”; no-one was more worried for me than I was.

Dr K came in and held me close. He explained the baby was alive but he was very underweight for dates, he was no longer getting nutrition from me and that without delivery we would both die. I looked at him “What do you mean, die?” He held me and said “pre-eclampsia is fatal, it’s estimated you have around 6 hours if we do nothing but we are doing everything to keep this baby in and deliver safely”.

Die. Deliver or die.

Joseph Hodges picThen he said words I never ever will forget – “you are a mother, right now. You need to protect your baby, believe in yourself, believe in your baby and stay very strong. You have no time for this”. That was the best thing he could have said and immediately I remembered the last words I read in “Up the Duff” by Kaz Cooke – if your baby is born at 27 weeks they have a very good chance of survival. Ok then.

The night was horrible. I had to be catheterised, I had to have magnesium sulphate and Hartman’s solution. I was not allowed to sleep. My husband went home, and I tried hard to keep focused, singing, looking at pictures and thinking about my baby. Reassuringly my baby was kicking me hard as if to say “it’s ok mum I know what’s coming and I’m ready”.

At 9am the next morning I was taken to theatre, my husband by my side once the spinal was in place. My baby was delivered at 10am. No one told me what the gender was, I didn’t catch a glimpse.

I did hear a cry and I was confused at first and then discovered it was my baby. My baby was crying! I was so so happy and reassured to hear that sound. Then I was stitched up, taken to recovery and it was over. My husband went to see the baby and accompany them to special care. He had the photo and toy to take that I had packed. And I was left with a midwife. Alone with no baby. And I didn’t cry. I knew if I did I would never stop. The anaesthetist came to see me “Hey did you see what I had?” I asked. “A baby?” He replied. “I mean what gender?” Finally confirmation “I think it was a boy”. That’ll do. Joseph.

Joseph was born weighing 1lb 7oz on 8th May 2009. He is coming up to his 5th birthday. He is at reception.

In the words of Wires from Athlete “looking at you now, you would never know”.

Follow Kylie on Twitter @Kykaree