Story by Andrea Kristin
Like so many I believed that the best care during pregnancy and birth was only with an obstetrician. I had paid the crazy amount to up my health insurance to cover a private hospital but I got pregnant sooner than I expected and fell just 2 weeks short of the 12 month waiting period – my insurance wasn’t going to cover it!
So I started to look into my options. Even with my cover I had to still pay out of pocket the obstetrician which was about $6,000. Now with no cover, I would also need to pay for my hospital stay which was at least another $4,000 and that’s not including if I had any complications, needed any surgery, C section, etc. Besides this being a crazy amount of money that I didn’t have I also didn’t want to be in labour and be worried about how much it was going to cost should I or my son need any special care, it’s a layer of stress I didn’t need added.
I did so much research to see if I could pay for an obstetrician but deliver as a public patient, it ended up as a no – obstetricians are only allocated private beds in a hospital and cannot take public ones. I also wasn’t keen on the $6k for an obstetrician either. So with a brand new hospital opening up in my area I started to read up about the public system, there were lots of mums saying how bad it is but I also found these mums all went private… so how did they really know?!
During all this research I found a large Australian published study that looked into women’s satisfaction of their birth experience. It stated that the key factors to determining how women felt about their experience was dependent on how much they felt heard, how much choice they had, and the amount of intervention used such as vacuum, forceps and C sections. Because of these factors, it found that the private hospitals were the worst performers and the birth centres were the best as midwives were better at meeting these key factors compared to obstetricians.
As someone who has never been to hospital let alone experienced labour, this was really eye opening to me to read these statistics, but the verbatims of women in this study about what exactly made their experience either positive or negative hit home with me. The recommendations put forward was that there should be more continuity of care, more midwife lead care, more availability to water births, and of course much more respect, choice and improved bedside manner to women during labour. This gave me confidence to go public with Midwives.
When making my first appointment with the midwives, I found out about the Midwife Group Practice (MGP) program, where you see the same midwife throughout your entire pregnancy instead of whoever is on that shift. Since I have read about the importance of continuity of care I was keen to get into this program. I was advised that you have to be okay with leaving the hospital within 4 hours of birth ifeverything is okay and that most first time mums don’t go for this. Although that sounded a little scary I still signed up for it, knowing that you can stay as long as you need if you were struggling with anything.
As the MGP program is quite popular, it can be full and you miss out, so when I got the call the midwife said she can fit me in but the only catch is that she was also pregnant and due when I was. This meant that I could have her through all of my pregnancy but just not my birth. I thought it’s better than the standard program as I would have her for almost all of my appointments and decided to go ahead.
I soon learnt the importance of continuity of care, I had the direct mobile number of my midwife that I could call up at any point to ask and check anything between appointments and it was encouraged to do so, so I never felt like I was a burden. However continuity of care wasn’t just the main difference with MGP, they also have a much more holistic approach to pregnancy and birth. They are focused on birth being a natural experience where they learn your preferences and advocate for you when other doctors get involved. From talking to other new mums I found they were checking and teaching me things that other midwives and obstetrician don’t. They gave me a lot of information on breastfeeding, showed me how to express colostrum and explained that doing it from 36 weeks helps with not going too far over due, and told me about perianal massage to help with reducing the tearing during labour.
I also learnt that while I would leave the hospital earlier, I would then have home visits every day with my midwife for 2 weeks and have also them on call 24/7, so it would end up a longer and more personalised aftercare in your own home than it would be through the standard hospital program. It was strange that no one seems to tell you this when you sign up to the program, as it is really an amazing service.
A friend of mine had done her birthing classes with Calmbirth and highly recommended it to me. Calmbirth is all about not only giving you a wealth of information about the process the hospitals and doctors have but also what rights and options you have, and all of the knock on and possible disadvantages that various interventions and drugs have on you, your baby and the labour process. They give you the tools and skills to not only get through labour without any pain medication but also how to feel empowered, respected and heard. It was by far the best thing I did in my whole pregnancy journey, it totally changed my labour outcome, my health and my sons – I am deeply thankful to Janine O’Brien from iBirth for teaching us Calmbirth.
Some of the eye opening things I learnt in Calm Birth that every woman should be taught in order to make an informed decision was;
Exactly what an epidural entailed and the side effects. I originally thought that I didn’t want one, but if I changed my mind and found it all too painful in labour that I would have it. However I learnt that it meant that you are stuck on your back in bed (the worse position to give birth in), have a spine block connected, a catheter inserted, your pushing stage of labour can be longer, you are more likely to require forceps/vacuum, more likely to need an Episiotomy as you can’t push as efficiently, and your baby is effected by the drug and more likely to have latching issues on first feed.
That an Induction involves pumping a synthetic version of your Oxytocin hormone to create contractions which like the epidural effects your baby’s ability to latch on first feed, it can mean the contractions jump straight to the faster and more painful ones quickly and don’t always line up with how much you are dilating meaning it can prolong your labour and stall.
Delayed Cord clamping. When your baby is born it has 1/3 of it’s blood in the placenta, waiting until the cord stops pulsing (under 90 secs) allows this to enter back into the baby. This means a third of their oxygen supply and a third of their iron supply is re-entered into their system – two important factors in a new baby’s life. Unfortunately western hospitals are geared to clamp the cord as soon as the baby comes out, for the only reason of making sure they tick that process off the list. Do yourself a favour and watch this to learn about it:
What you can say No to. I thought that the way the hospital is and what the doctors say, is what you need to conform to. I didn’t realise that you have so much more flexibility than this. You can say who you want in the room and who you don’t, you can have the lights off, move the bed, play music, have an oil infuser, ask what it means when a doctor says they need to do something, refuse the injections that your baby gets when they first come out, etc. I learnt that I truly did have all the power over what happened to me and my baby and that I could ask questions and find out alternatives instead of feeling like I need to just agree and regret it later.
The importance of uninterrupted skin on skin time. I learnt just how incredibly important it is to have at least 2 hours of uninterrupted skin on skin time with your baby immediately after birth, not only for the super important bonding process, but for getting a successful first feed that also helps for setting yourself up to be able to breastfeed, and to get your baby’s vitals in check – just by being on you their blood sugar level and blood pressure will come into the correct range. I learnt that you can and should say no to having your baby washed, weighed, measured, pricked, or injected until this has happened.
It is possible to get your labour back on track if you stall without the need for intervention. As labour is the perfect balance of sensitive hormones working in sync to correctly progress your labour, these hormones are effected by your external environment. You must feel safe and comfortable in your environment in order to progress correctly. As a hospital is not a natural environment to make you feel safe and comfortable, I learnt that you can decorate the room and have things like music and smells that help you to relax, doing things like have your partner do soft touch message, visualization and guided meditation to get you feeling good and get your contractions back on track and ramping up again.
Choices you can make if intervention is required. C sections and Inductions are there are as a safety net, that should the baby need to get out quickly, you have these options to ensure you and your baby remain safe. So should you find yourself in a situation where you need to do one of these, you can request things to make it as natural as possible. Request the skin on skin straight after birth, delayed cord clamping and asking for some of the fluid in your birth canal to be collected and given to your baby (Babies lick the birth canal all the way through birth as they come out and this is very important for building their microbiome and immunity.)
I learnt so much more than this but I feel these basic things, all women should have the right to know so they can correctly choose what is right for them and their baby rather than being pushed into doing what the doctor or hospital finds convenient and what doesn’t get explained in full to them. So after my birthing classes I was feeling super empowered and no longer afraid of labour, I felt ready. When I spoke to my midwife about my birth plan I found out that the delayed cord clamping and uninterrupted skin on skin time is standard practice within the Midwife Group Practice. It was so nice to know that what I wanted aligned so perfectly with them.
Then my due date came and went. I was waiting and waiting!! I felt every day was the day as I could feel he was engaged. I had a couple of friends go through an induction and told me to avoid it if I can, once you are a week overdue they like to book it in as they recommend not going over 2 weeks past your due date. So I was feeling anxious to be able to go into spontaneous labour before it was too late. I bounced on my ball every day, had raspberry tea, ate spicy food, none of it worked!!
At this point I had my new midwife and she did a stretch and sweep to find I was 2cm dilated but also found she was feeling a bum not a head.. he was breech!!! I was in shock as my previous midwife had checked and felt a head down in my pelvis, now we know she was feeling his hips instead! I was 5 days overdue and there I was getting rushed off to an ultra sound to confirm his position – yep he was breech.
The doctor who was on duty came in and began to tell me that I had 3 options which boiled down to 1 very quickly. Firstly you can try to turn the baby but he was too big to do it now and he had his bum engaged, he was too low and ready to go. Then she explained I could deliver breech however I can’t at this hospital as it’s not taught and it’s very dangerous, and thirdly I could have a C section that very day. She made the effort to explain all the risks and downfalls for the first two options but when it came to a C section she said there was no risks, no disadvantages. Which I had learnt from Calmbirth just isn’t true. She just kept talking and talking and I could feel my eyes well up, I really didn’t want a C section if I didn’t have to for many different reasons. She didn’t even respond to how I was feeling and tried to get me to agree then and there to a C section that afternoon, pushing me by making it my only choice. My new midwife Lucy interrupted and asked the doctor to give me a moment to have a think about it. I am so thankful she gave me the opportunity to take a breath. But then Lucy explained that she knows of a doctor who delivers breech at Randwick and is known as the best in Australia. She explained that she could see if I could go see him and then I can at least get his opinion and make an informed choice. I felt relieved to be able to at least take some time to find out more about a breech birth before I sign up to a C section as only an hour before I had not idea about a breech birth. Lucy then organised everything for me, she called the doctor and got me an appointment that afternoon, transferred all my documents and got me a full scan ready for the doctor. Not only did I have someone on my side advocating for me but also going above and beyond to make it so easy for my husband and I.
So off we went to Randwick to see Dr Bistis. In the car I decided to call Janine, who ran my calm birth course to get her option on what I should do. She knew Dr Bisits very well and said that she wholeheartedly trusts him. That he would assess me and know whether it was a good option for me. She said that he is very honest, so if he thinks I can, that I should go for it.
I didn’t know what to expect but he is this very calm and relaxed man that instantly put me at ease. After my experience with the previous doctor it was like chalk and cheese. He went through the entire breech birth process in detail with me, he gave me all the pros and all the cons of it. He confirmed that I was the perfect candidate for a breech delivery as my baby was bum first not feet first, he was not too big or too small, and I was young and healthy. He explained that it must be an active labour, no epidural – I was glad that I did my calm birth course! He then gave me the website of the latest medical study done on breech births and told my husband and I to go off and read it then come back and let him know what we decide. I was ready to say yes to trying a vaginal breech birth with him then and there but he wouldn’t let me, he wanted us to take the time to read the unbiased findings before deciding, what a breath of fresh air after the last doctor. The study confirmed that it must be an active labour, usually delivering on all fours or a birthing stool, which from my course I had learnt is the best way to deliver. The risk was that for a head first delivery 1-2 births out of 100 have complications, and breech it’s 2 out of 100. It also detailed the importance of if its a mother’s first baby or not. As opting for a C section on your first child will mean that you will most likely have to have C sections for all other children that you have and that it was an important factor in the decision. My husband and I concluded that we wanted to give breech a go, we felt that we were in the best hands. So we went back in to see him and I said that so long as he will put my son’s and I safety first that I want to give it a go, that if anything seems off that he can make the call for a C section and keep us safe. He instantly confirmed that of course, like any other birth, if things change we will get the baby out safely. I also said that if he feels confident doing it, that it doesn’t seem risky to him that we want to do it. He almost laughed, he said he is more than comfortable with it and said he knew from when he first saw me that I would be up for birthing this baby vaginally and that I can do it.
I then checked if I now see him for appointments instead of my midwife, it was a Friday night and he said that I wasn’t going to make it to Monday, that this baby was coming this weekend! He gave me his mobile number and told me to ring him not the hospital when I start contractions.
I later found out that he had the day off but came in just to see me. That he has a reputation of making an effort to be available to give the option of a vaginal birth to any breech women and that’s why he works in the public sector. This actually makes my heart melt and I am so grateful to him for giving me choice and allowing me to bring my boy into the world in the most natural way possible.
Well Dr Bisits was right, my boy came that weekend!
My birth story Part 2: Birthing Breech Naturally
On Sunday morning at about 2am I woke up from what felt like a contraction. I had never had a contraction before so I didn’t really know if it was one. It felt like sharp period pain, I laid in bed waiting to see if it would happen again and it did, about every 7 minutes I had one. After the 4th one I woke my husband up and told him, I was so excited that it was finally happening, but he quickly burst my bubble – he didn’t believe me! He finally got on board that it was happening but still didn’t want to call the doctor as it was so early in the morning. ‘Are you sure its contractions, maybe we should just wait’ he said.
Throughout the entire pregnancy we were told by the midwives that you don’t come into hospital until you are in active labour, contracting about very 1-2 minutes as you pre-labour better at home making you less likely to stall or need intervention. So since this had been drilled into our heads my husband was hesitant to call the Doctor. However Dr Bisits had explicitly told me to call as soon as I felt a contraction as we lived so far from the hospital and because I was breech – so I had to beg him to call the doc!! As I expected he told us to calmly come into hospital. It was the perfect time to travel all the way across town, in the peaceful dawn with no traffic at all.
As my care had been transferred to a different hospital my midwife Lucy would no longer be at the birth, but she asked if she could come anyway as it’s not often you get to see a breech birth. Her boss explained that she would have to come as my support person and not a midwife as she wasn’t insured or allowed to work under the hospital I was at. After all she had done for me, she then wanted to come and spend her Sunday with us, essentially doing unpaid work! I was so taken back that I of course wanted her there.
When I arrived everyone knew I was coming and had everything all set up for me from the hospital reception to the birthing unit, they all knew me as the Breech girl and had everything ready so all I had to do was walk straight through to my room. It was incredible service.
From my Calmbirth course I had learnt the importance for setting the room up right for labour – one that made me feel relaxed and safe. So my husband strung up fairy lights all around the room and turned to main lights off, he set up my oil infuser and hooked up my music. We had used some essential oils in an infuser for months each night leading up to my birth so that in hospital the smell would remind me of home and relaxation – a top tip we get from our course. I had also searched labour playlists in Spotify beforehand to get some good music, I found one called ‘Fuck I’m in labour!’ and had to check it out as the name was too good, turns out the music was right up my alley and we used that the whole way through labour! (To whoever made that list – thank you, it was the best and even all the medical staff commented on how good the music was!!)
We had a sign on the door stating it was a calm birth and to please knock before entering and to not turn on the lights. All tricks we had learnt from our course. We also had printed out all the methods to help with pain relief for my husband to refer to if things got hairy and didn’t know what to do, as well as our preferences of cord clamping, skin on skin and injections. I highly recommend having what you want printed out as I had 3 different midwifes over the time I was in labour and I didn’t need to explain a single thing to them, they all saw it in my file and knew what we wanted.
As I had been warned all long, my contractions slowed down after arriving at hospital, they went from been consistently every 7 minutes to more like 20 to 30 minutes apart. The midwife suggested that we go walk the fire exit stairs as that helps keeps the contractions moving along. The problem was that I got way too into stair climbing (like I was in a boot camp session!) and totally wore myself out which only slowed down my contractions even more… my body was probably thinking ‘What the hell are you doing!!’. So we went back to our room and decided to turn on Netflix and watch a show on my laptop, the only problem was that we were in the middle of watching the series Dirty John, which in hindsight really isn’t the most pleasant vibe for labour! The midwife came in and said that my contractions are not progressing and they no longer have any more spare rooms, so if someone else comes in I may have to be sent home.
The thought of going home was horrible, I knew it would majorly disrupt my labour and then having to come all the way back in again later would be stressful. This really gave me a wake up call to get focused and get my labour back on track. It was time to use everything I had learnt in my course to keep my contractions progressing. We turned off Dirty John, put on some music, and did soft touch massage and calm breathing. Before we knew it my contractions we back on track and continuing to speed up. By this point the midwife came back in to let me know she spoke with the doctor, he would be in soon and insisted that I keep my room, this was a relief.
By about 11am the contractions started to be quite strong and I was using a rotation of heat packs on my lower back that Chris was warming up for me. I was moving between the bed, the bouncy ball and various chairs to find a comfortable position, but the thing with labour is that nothing is comfortable! Dr Bisits had came into the room and was really loving the calm vibe we had created, in all his years he had never seen anything like it and thought it was great. He wanted to check how dilated I was but first took so much time to explain why he wanted to check, what he would do and asked for my consent. He did this every single time – the most respectful and kindest doctor I have come across. He told me to keep doing that I was doing and that everything was tracking perfectly. It was music to my ears to hear that all as going well with bub and that I was slowly getting somewhere, it gave me the boost to keep at it.
Sometime in the afternoon Lucy turned up, we had a good few hours of getting to know her talking about all sorts of things, where I would have moments where I went quiet and distracted during a contraction then be back to listening to the conversation. She knew I was a while off as I was still able to smile and talk between contractions!! Chris brought his camera and Lucy offered to be the photographer, so Chris gave her a crash course in how to use his camera! I always thought I never wanted to photograph or film my labour but now that I have these images, I am so glad that we did. Of course I will never show most of these pictures to anyone, there is so much of the birth that I didn’t see so been able to view these images was really lovely.
By about 3pm I hooked up the TENS machine as the contractions started to feel like someone was trying snap my back in half like you would a stick and the heat packs weren’t cutting it anymore. The TENS machine has a base setting and a contraction setting so when you click the button for a contraction the strength goes up until you click it again when the contraction is over. This thing was literately the best thing I had in labour, there is no way I could have done it completely drug free without it. What was also great about it was that everyone in the room could see when I was contracting without me having to say a word. You may have heard how having your baby in the posterior position (their spine is against yours) is not as common and far more painful. My bub was not only breech but spine to spine with me so the back pain was out of this world!
Here is me during and after a contraction….!!!
My contractions got so powerful all of a sudden I had a really intense one when I was standing by the bed and I couldn’t help but yell, at that point my water broke! It was the biggest relief as there was so much pressure building up. I didn’t care that water just hit the ground and went everywhere, I felt so much better!! The midwife then swiftly cleaned it up, took off my underwear and put on what was essentially an adult nappy!
It was about 6pm where my contractions where back to back, I was barely talking, I was standing hanging over the bed in just my adult nappy! It was hot and hard work. Dr Bisits came in to check on me, did an examination and excitingly told me that everything was tracking nicely, the baby was happy and that I had now just entered active labour! I was like wait….it’s only active labour now?!!! Chris and I had just been looking at the clock and thought he would be born at about 8pm. But now that I knew active labour has just only started I had more like 5 hours to go, oh god!
At 7pm another change over of midwives happened, this was my third one since I had arrived. I remember been in a world of pain, I had my eyes shut and they stayed that way pretty much until it was all over. So I only saw her maybe once or twice before my son was born! I remember she was so lovely introducing herself, asking a bunch of questions and asking if she could remove my adult nappy, I couldn’t care less, so from here on out I was completely naked with a bunch of people in a room with me. If you would have said that I would be undressed (which in the classes Janine said I would be) I really didn’t believe it, I am a very shy person, and I am also not a happy to be nude kind of person – I like clothes! So if you too cant imagine to be completely naked in a room full of clothed people and someone taking photos of you, then I am proof that you never know!
I was so in another world, I had no idea who was in or out of the room, what people were or weren’t looking at. I could just acutely hear everything and everyone, so what people said was very important. I am very lucky to have had such a great midwife for the back end of my labour, she was so kind, respectful and positive. She was also a MGP midwife at this hospital, so we were aligned in how we wanted things to go. I had learnt in classes that getting your partner to squeeze the side of your hips helped with pain when contracting as it opens up your hips. As this point I had Chris doing this for me for everysingle contraction, as when he didn’t do it I was in unbearable pain! So while I was the one in labour, no one worked as hard as Chris in that room. The poor guy had to squeeze my hips so hard back to back for 4 hours and also count my breathing of 4 in and 4 out for every single contraction, such a super star! I couldn’t help but hold my breath during a contraction but that is the exact thing you shouldn’t do, getting Chris to count for me made sure I did my breathing and helped so incredibly much. Lucy was also working so hard for me, constantly swapping out cold cloths on my head and neck, giving me water, and looking after Chris since he couldn’t even leave me for a minute.
By about 9pm I started to involuntary push when contracting and along with it the involuntary screaming and yelling began!! Again, I am not someone who screams or yells at anything so I never thought I would be one of these labourers.. but here I was! Losing my voice by the second!! I remember I could hear the woman in the next room screaming and Chris joked with the midwife that it was a tennis match and I was Sharapova! Chris made a lot of jokes through labour which I actually really enjoyed inwardly but on the outside I honestly could even crack a smile let alone a response or laugh! Chris and the midwives even started work shopping our boy’s first nickname and came up with ‘cannonball’ which they thought was too funny for little mr ‘bum first’ ! He assumed I didn’t even hear any of this banter, but you really do hear everything around you vividly.
At some point after pushing began, Dr Bisits was back in the room. They got me moving to different positions to see which would be best for pushing, on the bed, off the bed, on the floor on all fours, on the birthing stool. Every time they asked me to move I dreaded it, the contractions were so, so close and so intense that it made moving around horrible. It had been a hour of pushing and I remember feeling like I couldn’t do this anymore and I remembered from my classes that when you feel like that, that you are close so it did help me to carry on knowing it wasn’t long to go.
I had also learnt in the Calmbirth classes that you shouldn’t feel embarrassed if you poo as all women do and midwives like it as its a sign that the baby is coming soon. I was standing, hanging over the bed and I had felt like I had pooed a little, I said to Chris, I know it’s ok that I have pooed, but can you please get rid of it, I can feel it there and its gross!!! Then the midwife removed it and told me, ‘that is your sons poo, not yours!!!’ I couldn’t believe it!! It felt horrible!! Because he was breech and his little bum was right there, the contractions were squeezing his poo out!!! What!!!!
I then started to feel like I really cant keep doing this any longer, I felt like jumping out of my skin. The best way I can describe it was the same feeling you have just before you vomit, that moment you know you need to, and you know that once you do you will feel better but you have that horrible wait until it happens. I had asked the whole room a number of times is anything coming out as each push felt like he was coming out, and no one was answering me. So I said to Chris can you please tell me and he said, nothing has come out yet. I was so disappointed! I felt like everything had stalled at the most unbearable moment. The Dr said to me “remember when I explained to you how he will come out and there is a point of him going in and out, not making progress for a little while, this is where we are at”. Ok, this made me feel better as I remember him showing me with a doll and pelvis model how a breech baby comes out, and there is this ‘one step forward, one step back’ point.
Another half hour or so goes by and we still aren’t there, I hear someone mention that I seem to have stalled and should we intervene and the Dr said no she just needs some more time, she is close. I was so grateful for Dr Bisits who unlike many doctors was willing to wait and trust in me before using intervention. Not long after he told me that I am ready and to get on the birthing stool (he had previously told me it was the best way to deliver breech). He was kneelingon the floor in front of me and told me to push my leg into his chest!! He then asked the other midwife to get down on the other side and told me to push my other foot into her. He is isn’t a young guy and I felt so horrible pushing my foot into him as he kept telling me ‘harder’!! I honestly have never heard of such a hands on doctor!!
I had learnt that you have a number of sphincters in your body and they are linked so its important to open your mouth and yell to open your sphincter both in your throat and down at the birthing end. When I got to the real pushing it came from such a deep and strange place inside of me, I sounded like a weird wild animal but this pushing didn’t hurt anywhere as much as the last couple of hours as it was productive pushing – but it was seriously hard work! In my course we also spoke about mantras we can say, and we laughed about the mantra ‘I am huge’ for when the baby is coming out in order to help open up, relax and avoid too much tearing. I remember that this was the only thing going through my head a this point!!
After a few big pushes his bum came out and soon after his legs flipped out. He then told me to hug me knees in like a ball and squeeze tight when pushing, that was some really tough pushes that hurt quite a bit. I thought oh yes, he is out – that was the head and took a sigh of relief that it was over. Then I heard the Dr say quietly to his trainee doctor ‘okay good job with the shoulders and arms now we just have the head’ What?!!! We still have the head to go???!!!!! Before I could think about it they are yelling at me to do a final push and out he came… yep that was the head, that hurt a hell of a lot more!!
I was just so happy that I did it and it was over that I hadn’t moved or opened my eyes. The Dr said ‘Andrea! open your eyes, look at your son!’ And there he was lying on the floor with his hands above his head looking so long, the first thing I could think was wow, he is so long, how did he fit in there!!! The Dr wanted to clamp the cord straight away to shock him into breathing but my husband asked that we give him time as it was important to us to wait for the cord to stop pumping before we clamped it. So the nurses instead rubbed him quiet strongly with a towel to shock him into taking his first breath and he did, they popped him straight onto me and he did his first big cry (this exact moment caught on camera with my cover image above!), everyone was relieved. It was explained to me that with a head first birth their lungs are compressed on the way out that helps them to take their first breath, with breech they cant take their first breath until the head is out so they do need a little more help to realise that they need to do it.
After a couple of minutes they clamped the cord and told me its time to birth the placenta. Surprisingly it was easy and done in no time, I really don’t have much memory of it. They checked me and said I barely lost any blood and that I had the tinniest tear and I didn’t need any stitches – they were amazed, I guess all that work the midwife told me to do paid off!
As none of the other midwives or doctors knew that Lucy was a midwife (they thought she was a friend), they said to me at the end that my friend was so helpful and knew exactly what to do, not to mention knew all the best photo angles!! I then let them know the story of how she was my midwife! They confirmed that I was so lucky to have her.
I had my boy with me skin on skin for hours. It was magic and just what we both needed.
He was born at 11.17pm so by the time we were both cleaned up it was about 2am that we were told we could sleep in the birthing unit rather than move to the maternity ward. My husband slept on the floor with our little boy between us in his cot.
The next morning we had to get ready to go to the maternity ward to get all the sign off and checks that we needed before we could head home, as I could continue my care with my midwife at home. I felt so faint standing up that I had to get a wheel chair to get to the other ward! I went into this birth quite fit and strong but that was a serious workout. Every muscle in my body hurt for days, even down the tinny muscles in my forearms. I learnt that active labour for me was really active! Everyone in the birthing ward knew me as the breech girl who didn’t use any medication, they were all so proud of me and it did feel nice that I was able to achieve what I wanted to thanks to so many people helping me. I had joined the club of billions women before me that experienced child birth.
It took most of the next day to do all the things I needed to check off such as my sons hearing test and the pediatrician check over. In that time I went to the breastfeeding drop in to get help with it as I was struggling to get him to latch and had to express into a syringe or to feed him up until that point. They were incredible at teaching both of us on how to do it that I felt comfortable going home now that we could breastfeed properly. At the time I didn’t realise that most other hospitals don’t operate this way. The Royal Hospital for Women was a registered breastfeeding hospital, so they helped you to breastfeed at all costs and you are always with your baby 24hrs. I didn’t know that all other hospitals that are not registered will give your baby formula if you cant breastfeed straight away instead of helping you express and then feed to your baby via cup feeding. I feel so lucky to have been at a hospital that took the time to help me get it right and give me confidence that I can do it and help my milk come through. By 5pm that day I was on my way home.
MGP Aftercare was incredible. My midwife came over every day at a time that best suited me, sometimes to watch me feed and help me with it, or to do my first bath with him, we even had her stay over for lunch and we are now actually friends! She would stay as long as I needed and really helped me adjust to my new life and answer my billion questions! It was so good to get into a routine in my own home and still have 24hr support from my midwife.
I guess if I had to sum up how labour was for me I would say yes, it was incredibly hard at points – mentally more than anything. My body was designed to do it, my mind had to accept the challenge and rise to the occasion. But with having the right information and the right tools to guide me through it, it was the most empowering and amazing thing I have ever done. In a world where we are constantly trying to separate ourselves from nature, it is humbling, grounding and purifying to be able to birth your own baby your way.
I feel just so incredibly lucky to have had the birth experience that I did. To have a healthy baby without any intervention or medication as I wanted is a blessing. If it wasn’t for my friend telling about calm birth, Janine from calm birth, the MGP program, my midwife Lucy, and Dr Bisits all being there at the right time giving the right advise and support it wouldn’t have happened this way.
The main reason I wanted to write this story is for more information to be out there that vaginal breech births can be perfectly safe and we need more doctors trained in it in order to give more women choice. In a 2015 Australian report on birthing it found that ‘almost 9 in 10 babies (87%) presenting in breech position were delivered via caesarean section, with only 13% delivered by vaginal birth.’ I could have so easily been in the 87% and that is worrying to me. An orgainsation called Breech Without Borders is trying to change this statistic by having these two main goals as their mission:
Ensure that every birth attendant can safely and confidently attend a breech birth, knowing when to be hands-off and when to assist with maneuvers, with the mother in the birth position of her choice.
Ensure that every woman, everywhere, has the option of birthing her breech baby vaginally.
I couldn’t agree more with this mission. Even if we put aside the importance of choice, there are undiagnosed breeches coming in for labour in hospitals around the country where its too late to do a C section and no one knows what to do. With a head first birth once the head comes out the rest of the body follows easily. With breech the baby comes out in stages where its important to allow time for the baby to make a series of rotations at each point to come out safely. Our professionals should all be trained in how to deliver breech as its important that no instruments are used and the baby is only guided when needed.
I honestly have zero judgment to how anyone births their baby, I know what is right for me isn’t and shouldn’t be right for everyone else. I just hope other women can not only have all the relevant information available to them in order to make the choices that suits them but also to have care from people who listen and respect them the way I did. As these key things allow me to look back at my birth experience with so much joy and happiness and that feeling its really important and empowering for women.