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An informed and empowering calmbirth experience despite it not going to plan….

Birth Stories

Completing the Calmbirth course with Amy was one of the best choices we made in preparation for the birth of our first child. It allowed us to get a better understanding of the ‘realities of birth’, while also helping us envision the birthing experience we wanted. After completing both sessions, we were able to sit down together to create our birth plan and discuss our desired outcomes and the things that we were willing to be flexible with. Thank God we did, because as my husband, Daniel, said – “You got the Elizabeth Banks style birth from ‘What to Expect When Your Expecting’”.

In other words, a well planned for birth, where MOST of the plans went out the window.

I had a relatively straight forward low-risk pregnancy, hitting the normal progress points each trimester, and maintained a generally calm mindset towards the impending birth. However, things changed for us very quickly when I hit 38 weeks pregnant. I woke up with period style cramps just after midnight and it didn’t take long to realise that these were real contractions, as the pain was coming in the rise and fall motion that Amy had described during our Calmbirth classes only weeks earlier. These contractions went on for a few hours, then they started to teeter off and I was able to fall asleep. Only an hour or so later, I awoke to a slight release of water, but again was able to fall back to sleep. The next morning I went to the toilet, where I felt a gush of water release into the toilet bowl and the overflow from my pad leak onto the floor.

I called my hospital birth suite for advice, as my contractions had not returned yet and although I had learned at Calmbirth that the first phase of labour can take many, many hours, I also knew that monitoring premature rupture of membranes (PROM) was important. I was sent to the sister hospital for monitoring due to my hospital being at capacity. There they established that my waters had definitely broken and monitored my contractions – which at this point had picked back up, but were painless. We were advised to go home and rest as they believed my contractions would increase on their own and I would likely go into labour later that night. However, they also advised us that an induction would likely need to be organised the next day if this did not occur. I was given a script for antibiotics to begin that night due to my PROM almost 24 hours earlier.

By the next morning I was still not feeling any contractions so we decided to call the birth suite again to find out our next step. At this point my waters had been ruptured for 28 hours. We were advised to head into our hospital to complete foetal monitoring. We put the last minute items into our hospital bag and headed in.

After I was hooked up to the monitors it was established that bubs’ heartbeat was dipping sporadically and the midwives were unsure of what was causing this. They monitored this for a couple of hours to see if they could establish a pattern, but just after lunch they decided that due to bubs’ heart rate, my lack of contractions, and my PROM passing 30+ hours that it was best that I be induced. We were moved into a birthing suite where we had plenty of time to set up the space – including candles, music, a diffuser, shutting the blinds, and turning off the lights. I was hooked up to an IV, given more antibiotics, and reconnected to the foetal monitor.

Due to the number of patients in the birthing ward, we had to wait until that evening to begin my induction. At roughly 5:45, (36 hours after PROM) my induction began. My contractions started up again, progressing very quickly. Daniel attached my tens machine and my midwife helped me to get more comfortable on the bed, by switching me from side to side every few contractions. At this stage, I was 4 centimetres dilated. After getting up to go to the bathroom I opted to stay on my feet and lean over the bed. While this somewhat helped with the contractions, it made tracking bubs’ heart rate difficult as the monitor kept confusing her heart rate for mine. This meant for some time we didn’t know what was happening with her heart rate, which had already shown to be irregular. My midwives (at this point my antenatal midwife began her shift) decided that monitoring through a scalp clip on bubs’ head was going to be the best way to continue monitoring her heart rate. They attempted to attach these with no success, and suddenly my contractions got stronger, longer, and closer together. At this point I still only had the tens machine on for pain relief, but when they made a second attempt to attach the scalp clip, the tens machine had to come off and my contractions went into overdrive. Phase one of my labour had lasted for 2 hours and 28 minutes, when one of the surgeons on duty came in to check on bubs’ condition.

It was at this point that they decided it was too dangerous to continue monitoring her heart rate and a Code Green caesarean was called. My waters were fully ruptured before they took me from the birth suite down to the surgical theatre. From here everything went incredibly quick, and from this point until bubs arrival I had my eyes shut just trying to relax my shoulders and to breathe through the pain – just as we had practiced in the Calmbirth course. Stage 2 lasted 6 minutes, and as they wheeled me out of the birthing suite I was 7 centimetres dilated. As they took me down to the theatre the doctor asked me if I had an urge to push – something I hadn’t noticed before this time. They advised me that the next time a contraction came, I should try pushing. I was pushing before we made it into the theatre. Once we arrived, I was promptly put onto the operating table and one of the doctors checked me over. Somehow I was now 10 centimetres dilated, so they decided that a vaginal birth was actually possible. They put me in stirrups, gave me anaesthetic, performed an episiotomy, and coached me through my last few contractions of forceps assisted birth. Third stage lasted 3 minutes.

At 38 weeks and 1 day, Piper came into the world at 9:49pm, weighing 2.5 kilograms. Although many things did not go the way we had planned, we are so glad that we attended the Calmbirth course, because it prompted us to know what our non-negotiables were – no epidural, ensure delayed cord clamping, viewing of the placenta, immediate skin-to-skin, golden hour breastfeeding – and those things that could happen if they had to happen – induction, reduced movement throughout labour, birthing on back, and unplanned caesarean. Thankfully these choices had been made and advised to our midwives who were able to advocate for us at a time when we couldn’t do this for ourselves. In the end, what could have been a pretty traumatic experience left me feeling empowered and most importantly listened to by the people who supported us through the birth.

Very grateful to Kendall and Dan sharing their informed and empowering birthing experience whereby the Calmbirth ethos, ‘with knowledge comes confidence’ really shines through. Congratulations! Wishing this family a gorgeous and gentle transition to family life.

Birth story and photographs shared with permission

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