I didn’t know if I could do it. I just knew how much I wanted it. I spent the hours after my first birth crying. Devastated, hopeless. Like I failed somehow.
I talked myself out of it. My mother talked me out of it. The midwife talked me out of it. The consultant talked me out of it. My aunt talked me out of it. I had a healthy baby. NCT pushes a natural birth at all cost and that is UNrealistic. We were lucky to be alive.
It’s true. And I was grateful. And talked out of it.
Until five years later. Pregnant again and it all came flooding back. Why didn’t I get beyond 4 centimetres? Why did 1 centimetre feel like death stretching merciless fingers through my back? Why did I give up at the first contraction? Why wasn’t I strong enough. Why. Why. Why. Why?
“Just have an elective caesarean”. My mother said it. People who had done it said it. Ok. I told the hospital to book me in.
But I felt loss. “Don’t let them tell you that if you have one caesarean you have to have another.” It was my grandmother with unsolicited advice but how welcome it was. A little glimmer of hope. Maybe. Maybe I could.
I asked a WhatsApp group for help finding a doula for a V-Bac. The same name came up again and again. I called her. She listened. Then she told me so much. My baby had been posterior. Labour is expected to be longer. The baby needs time to move around. Syntocinon drip and being on my back would have stacked the odds against me - it was almost inevitable for it to end in a caesarean. And where was gravity to help? My environment had too many interruptions. I had laboured and that had still helped my baby. She heard me. I met her. I didn’t mean to but I cried telling her my story. It was the first time somebody accepted my grief for what had been lost. She took me on and I felt safe. I felt maybe it was possible. That I was justified in believing that I could do it.
But no one else really thought it would happen. They didn’t say it to my face but I felt doubt shaking the ground beneath our feet. I tuned out. I only needed one person.
Yes you can have a VBAC. It’s great you’re trying. Let’s book you a caesarean date just in case. We don’t recommend the birth centre. Let’s do the labour ward. It’s the same. There is a pool. You should have a canula in just in case. If your scar ruptures and you’re in the birth centre, your baby might die in the time that it takes to get to the labour ward. Vbac is great. Good for you. Meet the obstetrician to discuss your plans.
Shaky ground. Risky. Frivolous for wanting to do this. But I have someone I can count on. She believes I can do it. I will try. I tell my husband the plan. No epidural?! Are you sure? Yes. I will try.
It’s 38 weeks. The ticking clock haunts me. I went till 41 last time. There was meconium. Please God, no repeat performance. I’m working until Wednesday. I have a late work dinner. On Thursday I begin the routine I did before my son was born. A walk in Kew gardens. A swim. We cook a huge feast for my aunt who is fasting.
At 3am there is a gush of water. Pink. I put a pad in. I tell my doula but no-one else.
I made very different decisions the first time around.Then, I trusted others more than I trusted myself. Then, I found myself in a terrifying environment with a student who couldn’t figure out how to plug in the monitoring machine, a hesitant midwife, meconium, a two hour wait in triage, a full moon, a drip, an epidural, an emergency caesarean 7 days in a high risk ward.
Not this time.
I will not start the clock on my first contraction. Nor will I let anyone else. I tell no one but my doula. Not my husband. Not my mother. I want no Whatsapps. I want no concerned family. I sleep.
I take each contraction as it comes. I’m on the tennis court with coach K. Hit the ball. Swing my arm to follow through. One ball at a time.
It’s 7am and my son is awake. Moanna. I can get through this. No one knows. Two pm and I can’t hide it anymore. My mother has to take my son to the playground alone. I breathe. I paint. I go to the toilet. Hello jelly. A massive mucous plug. I’m cold. I’m teary. I tell my husband. Don’t get your hopes up. It still may be a day or two. I will not get ahead of myself.
It's seven pm and I need her to come. Please come. I can’t relax till my doula is here. She comes. I need my mother’s nervous energy out of the house. My husband takes her with my son to drop them to my aunts. The door shuts.
Peace. Dark. Camomile tea. Child's pose. Hot water bottles. Back massage. One at a time. I will not think of eternity. I will not think of what happens next. I will not think about things stretching out. I am here. I am here. I am now.
I’m scared. What if it happens again. I am where I was last time. What if I release into a squat and it’s brown. Sit on the toilet. I try but no…. Let’s have a bath she suggests. She pours water on my back. It’s good for your maternal line, she said. It is good for my maternal line. I think of them. I think of others. I think of those who have done it before me. Those who have come before me and those who are now. They’ve done it. They’ve felt this pressure. They’ve pushed this watermelon, no this kettlebell — out.
Is the baby going to come? Is this working? Only you know she told me. And you are telling me things are changing. Ughhhhhhh. You’re pushing she says. Are you pushing? It seems early. I’m pushing. I want to take you into the hospital she said. Did they reply to your birth plan email? Are you getting the birth centre. They never replied I tell her. I want to cry but I push the feeling away
I’m angry now. Why do we have to go through this. This is insane. This is painful. Don’t be angry she said. Its your little girl. She needs you to hold her hand.
My husband's eyes are in my face. Let’s go to the hospital. I don’t want to move. I can’t. Please he begs me. Beseeching eyes. Petrified. I can’t. We will help you, they tell me. I have to accept their help. I don’t want to. I hate needing anyone. But I need to trust they will take care of me.
I don’t know how long it takes me to get out. It’s contraction upon contraction getting up the stairs. I sink down every time.But when we get out, the cool air feels good. The car feels good. The radio sounds good. I stretch out. My foot pushes against the window, my hand pulls on the handle above the window. Extending.
We’re in the parking lot. I get out of the car and sink into the first proper squat of this labour. I am released and I feel her move down. I feel safe. She puts my blanket on the ground. I’m on all fours and I feel great. We laugh.
A car pulls up. How long have you been making these sounds. A lady brings a wheelchair. I’m on it backwards, on my knees.
I’m scared. I don’t know what will happen next. What If I’m only 2 cm. What if I need a caesarean . We’re at the hospital now. Should I just get the epidural? Should I ask to go directly into the birth pool? I need counter pressure under me.
Triage. When did your waters break? I don’t know. Your heart beat is fast.
I’m crying. I’m sorry, I can’t go on. This is too much. Make it stop. Let me check you. Get on the bed. You have no cervix, you’re 10 cm. This baby is coming. Get off the bed. Get on the wheelchair. Let’s go to labour ward.
I get on the wheelchair. Ice chips keep me going. Backwards on my knees. Labour ward. Get on the bed.
Why. This baby is coming on this wheelchair.
Ice chips. Where is my hot water bottle. I have ice chips. But where is my hot water bottle.
Get on the bed. It’s better for your knees.
How many times can I ask them why. Ok I can do it now. I’m on the bed. My doula ties a shawl to the bars behind the bed. It's what I need. I need to pull. WHERE IS MY HOT WATER BOTTLE. GET THIS OUT
LOOK AT THAT HAIR. Baby’s head. Do you want to feel it.
NO I don’t want to feel it. I WANT IT OUT. PUSH
’Two steps forward one step back’. ’Tearing and stinging’. What is she saying????
I feel it. Stinging…I stop entirely. Freeze. What now?. It’s ok says my doula. She puts her forehead on mine. Puff breathes. I do it. S l o o w w w w w l y . As much as I want this baby out , it is not worth going fast. Pause. Long pause. One more push. Slippery. I think she’s out!
I’m cold? I don’t know
I m wet
I can’t take it in
Give her to dad
They put her between my legs and under my chest
I can’t take it in
I want to keep her warm
THERE'S STILL SOMETHING IN ME. THERE'S STILL SOMETHING IN ME.
I turn to my side
They examine me
One more push it won’t hurt
Ok one more
Back on hands and knees
Squeeze out the jelly
EW. Easy plop
Grossss. Its not gross.People eat it.
Cord out. A cut. He takes her
I can walk.
My doula take me for a shower
I can walk. I just had a baby and I’m walking to the shower
I’m in tears
I remember last time
How long could I not walk for.
I get in the shower she soaps me. Dries me
I’m back on the bed. They give me tea and toast. Chocolate.
We shuffle to the birth suite.
We did it.
I don’t have words
I don’t have concepts
I don’t have thoughts for this
I’m so grateful
I feel so good.
We did it…