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The power in the breath during Niki’s C- section birth

Birth Stories

Story by Niki Kalia

Despite Niki’s many challenges during the birth of her beautiful girl, Ellie, it was the support of her birth partner, her caregivers and her deep focus on the breath that got her through her C – Section birth. One of the questions we often get asked at Calmbirth when couples find out they may require a C – Section birth is if the Calmbirth program will still be useful for them. Here is what Niki had to say about that.

“The most stand out moment for me, was the breathing I adopted during the c-section procedure whereby I was able to refocus myself and go to a meditative state – all while I was cut open. There are no words to describe being awake while undergoing major surgery- but it was pure breathing that allowed my mind and body connection to be strong and sustain me through this remarkable experience!”

At 37 weeks I was diagnosed with cholestasis and informed by my birth team that an induction would be recommended. The induction was booked for Friday the next week. My husband and I did all that we knew to bring on spontaneous labour during that week. We were also mid a kitchen renovation (as you do) and we were doing regular trips to Bunnings. Late on the Thursday afternoon I experienced early contractions while we were shopping in Bunnings, so I went to my Mum’s house which was nearby and took a nap, preparing myself for what was to come. The contractions were irregular but felt intense at the time.

We went into the hospital on the Friday morning for our 630am induction appointment. By 8am the first step in this process, the Cervadil was inserted. My plan was to have an active labour, so we took a walk around the hospital grounds while waiting the required 12 hours for this first step.

During the walk I experienced contractions every 2-3 minutes, intensifying to the point that I had to stop and focus on my breathing.

It was a stop/start walk around the hospital grounds as I leant over whatever object was around to focus and get through the contraction. My husband decided to have a coffee at the café, while I attempted to sit down and get into a rhythm with my breathing. As it was during the morning rush, he had to wait for his coffee so I told him I would make my way back to the ward, as the pain continued to intensify.

Various people passing by me in the hospital (mostly women) were very encouraging and wished me luck as it was obvious that I was in early labour. By 10am back on the ward, I was experiencing 4 contractions every 10 minutes and both the midwife caring for me and my husband were coaching me through breath.  I was having difficulty maintaining my rhythmic breathing and was told to pant at the end of the contractions, so as not to push. Things picked up quite rapidly! I remained on my feet for as long as I could, and then changed position to all fours on the bed. The midwife decided that it was inappropriate that I remain on the ward and arranged for me to be sent to birthing suites. They wheeled the bed that I was on; up into birth suite as I continued with intense contractions.

The 4 contractions every 10 minutes continued…

I had specifically requested not be told how dilated I was. We were working in terms of whether there had been any change/ progress made. By this point, I was using a spiked cylinder that could fit in the palm of my hands for distraction, a Pilates ball for comfort and Panadol for pain relief. I was offered other pain relief medications, which I declined, until strongly encouraged to take Endone at about 4-6 hours into labour. The Cervadil was removed at 5pm and we progressed to the next step of having a balloon inserted as my Cervix was not dilated enough for the midwife or doctors to manually break my waters.

The Balloon insertion was a traumatic procedure for me, due to my cervix being posterior and the vulnerable position I was required to be in. The only pain relief I was offered at this time was gas. During this procedure, I had a negative experience using the gas, as I disassociated from the birthing room and had a mental health episode, flashing back to an experience from my past. My husband and I needed time to process this as we both felt fearful of what was to come.

The staff were amazingly supportive and gave us the opportunity to be alone and debrief. The midwife caring for me was incredible during this time. We were advised that another balloon would need to be inserted for my labour to progress and this time I was offered to undergo the procedure with an epidural due to the reaction that I had experienced.

As we were preparing for this next procedure to go ahead, I was experiencing typical labour symptoms whereby my body was “emptying out”. While I was going to the toilet, my waters spontaneously broke. This meant that (thankfully) I did not have to undergo the balloon procedure for a second time!

I had been experiencing regular intense contractions from 10am until 8-9pm, so my team strongly encouraged that I have an epidural. I did not want an epidural as part of my birth plan; however, my husband convinced me that it was probably for the best, given that we were both mentally and physically exhausted. I relented to having the epidural, after strong prompts from everyone around me. The anaesthetist was contacted and made aware of my need for an epidural, however, was unable to attend until they had completed a major life-threatening surgery.

Two hours later, they attended and gave me the run down on what to expect. This anaesthetist was another amazing person who supported us with thorough information and a step-by-step process as it was happening. By this stage, I was exhausted, and the episode played on my mind, so I stopped the procedure in fear of having a similar experience. The anaesthetist explained that this would not occur, as it works in a completely different way to the gas. I was reassured during the entire process and very thankful that I had taken the epidural as soon as it became active. The anaesthetist became my “best friend”.

My husband and I were able to sleep until approx. 4-5am on the Saturday. They commenced the Cyntosin overnight, with continual foetal monitoring. My husband and the midwife observed the baby’s HR dropping each contraction. This was closely observed, and another procedure was recommended for accuracy. It was decided that the best outcomes for baby and me would be to have an emergency c-section. I was given the opportunity to go under general, however (surprisingly to me) I opted to remain awake and have my epidural topped up. The same anaesthesiologist returned to prep me for surgery and the midwife that had been on over the course of the day before (while I had my episode,) also came back for continuity of care. We were extremely grateful for this!

Thankfully our student midwife was also able to be present for the c-section. It was decided by 6am that we would be in theatre once the 7am handover of staff occurred. By 7.20am we met our little girl for the first time!

I think it is fair to say that my labour and birthing experience was a rollercoaster! I owe it to the Calm Birth strategies we adopted for getting me through it, most of all the importance of breath!

We were not given the opportunity to set up our space as intended due to the intensity and frequency of my labour. My husband was able to coach me through every single rhythmic breath and offered great support by just being present and using words of affirmation. I am very grateful for having done the course and would highly recommend it to anyone going through childbirth. The most stand out moment for me, was the breathing I adopted during the c-section procedure whereby I was able to refocus myself and go to a meditative state- all while I was cut open. There are no words to describe being awake while undergoing major surgery- but it was pure breathing that allowed my mind and body connection to be strong and sustain me through this remarkable experience!


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