Today is National Caesarean Awareness Day (NCAD).
An opportunity to encourage awareness and support for women whose birth experiences, either by necessity or informed choice, brought their beautiful children into the world as 'belly-born" babes.
It is a chance to celebrate ALL birth experiences, and to highlight the vast range of emotions that accompany a Caesarean birth, which can often be misrepresented as the 'easy' option.
To celebrate, I am sharing the story of my daughter's Caesarean birth, and I encourage any of you who have also had a Caesarean birth to share your experiences - either below in the comments, or by sending us your story to feature on the website.
We are all Birth Centre Mums - regardless of whether we birthed in Birth Centre, or our personal circumstances meant our journey included a Caesarean birth, we all have benefited from the fantastic Continuity of Care model, and Midwife support that makes the Birth Centre the amazing facility that it is!
Milla's Birth Story
I fell pregnant for the first time a few months shy of my 34th birthday. Due to some ongoing health conditions concerning my thyroid and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, we were not actively trying for a baby, rather we were aware that pregnancy may indeed not come easily for us when we did decide to enter the 'trying to conceive' phase of our lives. So, safe to say, finding out we were expecting was a surprise, but a very welcome one.
Once the news sank in, we were both incredibly excited and happy about what was to come, but my anxious mind immediately went into overdrive trying to process what this meant in terms how my health would affect the pregnancy.
My pregnancy progressed relatively uneventfully, and my mind was put at ease when blood tests showed that my thyroid levels were remaining consistent, which meant not only was my baby developing well, but my general health was good as well.
After researching all of my options for my Pregnancy Model of Care, Josh and I decided on giving birth in the Birth Centre, and after a tense wait of first seeing if we were successful in securing a place in the Birth Centre through the ballot (we were!!), I then had to wait and see if my obstetrician would sign off on my acceptance, wiht Birth Centre only able to accept low-risk pregnancies (my thyroid and PCOS issues could have me considered as high risk). Thankfully, after passing TWO 3 hour glucose tests with flying colours (not the most enjoyable part of the pregnancy, that bright green drink is the worst!!) I was accepted into the Birth Centre and met my wonderful midwives Annie, Corinne and Tania.
The middle part of my pregnancy flew by. I was doing a lot of research and reading regarding Hypnobirthing techniques and principles and was eagerly awaiting the moment I would welcome our baby into the world.
I wanted to try for a natural, drug-free birth, in a calm and relaxed environment with my partner, and trusted midwife by my side, and I was hopeful that with being in the Birth Centre, and armed with my Hypnobirthing techniques and knowledge, that this would be my experience.
Josh and I spoke many times however, that it was important that we be flexible in our expectations for the birth, and our birth plan, and that our ultimate priority would be to bring our baby into the world safely and healthy.
At 20 weeks, along with finding out we were being blessed with a healthy baby girl, our anatomy scan showed that she was comfortably settled in breech position, and that her head measurement was on the larger end of the scale. None of this raised any red flags for us, or my midwives at the time, and I happily marched towards my third trimester.
One of the benefits of the Birth Centre model of care, and one of my key motivators for wanting to birth in that environment was the continuity of care aspect. I had gotten to know my midwife team extremely well, and they informed and supported me as a first-time mother. I trusted them implicitly and felt incredibly comfortable with them and looked forward to our 'catch ups' at my appointments.
"The 'C' Word"
When I reached 32 weeks, it was recommended that I have additional ultrasounds to check the position of the baby, as she was still in breech position, with her head tucked up near my ribs, and facing towards my back. Scans at 34 weeks showed she was still comfortably tucked up in the same position, and measurements showed that her head circumference was still measuring big. This raised some concerns for a natural birth, with regards to the potential risk of her getting 'stuck' in the birth canal as she would be coming feet first, and her head measurement being what it was.
My midwives were incredibly supportive, and discussed all of my options with me, but the possibility of Caesarean was raised should my baby not turn into the correct position before birth. A Caesarean was something I wanted to avoid, as I truly wanted to experience labour and birth, and also, the idea of surgery just didn't sit well with me. My midwives guided me with information and suggestions including particular exercises to encourage her to move into position, chinese acupuncture and many other natural methods to encourage movement, all to no avail.
Despite all of this, there was the reminder of the additional consideration of our baby's head size - whilst in proportion, the size of the head posed a higher risk to me attempting birth naturally. Knowing my hesitation and concerns regarding a C-section, my midwives advocated for me with the obstetricians who were recommending a scheduled c-section, trying for as long as possible to hold out on a final decision to give my baby time to turn herself.
I cannot speak highly enough of my midwives, who were strongly advocating on my behalf for me to stay in the Birth Centre and try for my natural birth, but they were also ensuring I had all of the necessary information on the process for the c-section and were preparing me emotionally for the possibility that this would be my outcome.
At 37 weeks and 5 days, a scan showed my baby was still in breech position and the decision was made - a scheduled c-section was the answer, to avoid the risk of me going into spontaneous labour and risking an emergency caesarean.
"Happy Birth Day!"
The day our daughter was born was hands down, the single most wonderful day of my life. Despite my apprehension regarding the surgery, I was able to mostly focus on the fact that by lunchtime, we would have our baby girl safely in our arms. Josh and I arrived at the hospital at 6:30am, and after the checking in process, and some final ultrasounds and blood pressure checks etc, we were sitting in a waiting room, both in hospital gowns, waiting to be called in to the Anaesthesia room. Knowing that the epidural being put in was something I was super nervous about, Josh sat in front of me, holding my hands and looking into my eyes and telling me we would be meeting our girl soon, and before I knew it, the epidural was done! Hurdle one cleared, and I had survived!
The atmosphere in the operating theatre was so happy and positive - not what I had expected at all. Everyone was smiling and talking, and before I knew it, the surgery was started. Josh sat next to me, and because he could see the reflection of the surgery in the lights above me, he was giving me his own humorous description and 'commentary' of what was happening, in an effort to lighten the mood. As a result, we were both smiling, and laughing a lot, as were my midwife Tania and the nurses. A couple of minutes later though, the expression on Josh's face changed dramatically, and he was wide-eyed and serious - "She's here! She's here!" he called out, and his face broke into the biggest smile I have ever seen, just as I heard my daughter's cry for the first time, and they lifted her over the curtain for us to see. Josh kissed me and followed the midwife as they took our girl over to be checked over and weighed.
Our precious girl Milla had arrived, and we both could not be happier.
After all of my fear and apprehension regarding the c-section, and the disappointment of not having the natural birth I had so badly wanted, the reality of how Milla was born was actually incredibly positive. I had Josh, and one of my fabulous midwives Tania, with me, Milla entered the world to the sound of her Dad and I laughing, and I spent 45 glorious minutes in the recovery room after surgery, enjoying skin to skin contact with my daughter, and breastfeeding her for the first time - after I had to practically wrestle her out of her Daddy's arms because he didn't want to give her up! :)
My physical recovery was quick and relatively pain and complication-free, and we were surrounded by so many loving family and friends eager to meet and hug our baby girl.
I know I am lucky. Lucky to have been blessed with a healthy pregnancy, and the opportunity to be a Mum. I am lucky that I was supported through the challenges of my pregnancy and birth by my boyfriend, family, friends and midwives. And I am incredibly lucky and thankful that by having the c-section, we were able to bring Milla into the world safely, and not risk harm to her or myself.
But in those first weeks of motherhood, and even those first six months after, I experienced so many varying emotions regarding the caesarean. I felt cheated out of experiencing labour. My water didn't break, I didn't have a single contraction. None of the things that you associate with giving birth. I felt guilt that I should have fought harder to wait just a little bit longer to see if she changed positions on her own before scheduling the ceasarean. I felt like I have failed. Failed my daughter and failed myself by not being able to do something that we are told our bodies are made to do. In these moments I let myself simply feel the emotion - I cried, I wrote to get my feelings out, whatever it took, because my feelings are valid. It is natural to feel this way. Even now, as we prepare to celebrate our little girl's first birthday, I still have moments where I feel a flood of emotion regarding her birth.
But ultimately, what I keep telling myself is that I wasn't cheated. I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl. I don't need to feel guilty - I did all that I could to encourage her to change positions, I could do no more. And I tell myself that I DID NOT fail - we told ourselves at the start of the pregnancy that we would do whatever we needed to do to ensure she arrived safely, and that is exactly what we did.
To help me deal with these feelings, I attended a morning tea held by the Friends of the Birth Centre. It was a turning point for me.
The support I have received from this group, and being able to talk with other Mum's about their birth experiences has helped me immensely. Ultimately, I am a work in progress. When I think back on the day my daughter was born, the day I became a Mum, my overwhelming feelings and memories are those of happiness, joy, and more love than I thought possible. The way I felt is natural, and like all things, time and having the support of family and friends was what helped me to experience and validate what I was feeling, but also to realise that, in its own way, a Caesarean birth is just as beautiful and emotional an experience as an other birth.
The birth experience is different for every Mother and Child. Every pregnancy and every birth are unique, and most importantly, there is no right or wrong way to do this. The story of how Milla was born is our special story, and it is an experience I will be forever grateful for, as it is what made me "Mummy", and brought this wonderful little girl into our world.
Our FBC Committee Members will keep you updated on the various fundraising, consumer representative and information events they participate in during the year.