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Calm Birthing Thomas

however I can now say that the course not only helped Geoff and I to achieve the exact birth we had dreamed of but thought was not possible for us, it also gave us a space to explore our anxieties about parenting. I credit Calmbirth for our beautiful birthing experience as well as enhancing our marriage and making us far better parents. Thomas says thank you!!!!

 

All our love and appreciation, Kate, Geoff and Thomas ox

 

 

 

Calm Birthing Thomas

I have to preface this story by saying that Thomas is our little miracle and a fight right from the start. Before falling pregnant I had 11 lots of surgery, 2 gynaecologists tell me to have a hysterectomy as I had no chance of ever conceiving and IVF. However, I trusted my own body and my instincts told me that I would be a mother one day so I persevered and Thomas was conceived.

Upon referring us to a specialist high risk pregnancy obstetrician our IVF specialist told us that due to my history I would need to have a caesarean delivery. Neither my husband nor I were too keen on a Caesar but we were happy to go ahead with it if given evidence that a vaginal delivery would be dangerous for me or our child. At our first consult we tried to discuss this and were told we could “try” for a vaginal but we would “talk about it at the end of the pregnancy” and this “wasn't something  I should worry about now”.

Following this consult I was left feeling very powerless. I felt like I had been very patronised and had not been  listened to however this was the best thing that ever happened as this inspired us to go looking for another alternative and we found Calmbirth.

I was approximately 22 weeks pregnant when my husband and I did the course. The course offered brilliant education about the psychology around birthing, the physiological process of birthing and the role of partners. It also offered us a safe space to explore our anxieties around birthing and parenting but also what that meant to us as individuals and our relationship. I walked away from the course feeling empowered but a little bit like it was all too good to be true…. What it did make us realise was that our baby was more important than anything else is our lives so when I had cramping and bleeding that same week I stopped working the next day.

Over the next 7 weeks I enrolled in prenatal yoga, listened to the meditations about 4 times a week (I want to say I was the model student that did it every day but between pregnancy and working full time sometimes sleep prevailed!!!) and I read Ian May Gaskin “A guide to childbirth”. I am grateful for  my diligence so early in my pregnancy because at 29 weeks I went into threatened preterm labour.

I was so grateful for the teachings of Calmbirth as this did not turn out to be a scary experience. I quickly recognised what was happening and calmly went to the hospital. I was given medication to stop the contractions and spent a week in hospital on strict bedrest. Even after that experience the Calmbirth course was worth its weight in gold.

Unfortunately, this seemed to given my obstetrician a further reason to suggest that a Caesar was the best way to go although to this day I have never been given any solid evidence as to why this was the case. All she would tell me was that my baby was going to be very big and she couldn't understand why I would ‘put myself through that”.

Despite all of this my husband and I were very determined to try for a vaginal birth. We had accepted the fact that it may not happen for us but we were committed to at least aiming to go into spontaneous labour and from there we would just go with whatever happened.

To get ourselves into the headspace of birthing we went to do a tour of the hospital we were booked in to birth our baby at (we were unable to go to this hospital the first time I went into labour as they did not have the facilities to take a 29 week baby).  The midwife that ran the tour was revolting. She was impatient and nasty. I asked if the number of days suggested for hospital stay were negotiable (I was concerned about a delay in the milk coming in as Thomas was an IVF conception and quite honestly I am a first time mum!!! 3 days didn't seem very long…) The midwife informed me that I had to understand that I had booked myself into a private hospital and private hospitals were businesses, so no my stay could not be extended because if I stayed I would be taking up a bed from another woman the hospital could be making money off….  I was gutted.  I had an appointment with my obstetrician the next day and felt that her and I were now not only not on the same page, we were at opposite ends of the book!!!!!

I spent about 3 days crying. My husband and I talked for hours about changing hospitals and care providers but couldn't get past the guilt about not having the “best” specialist just in case something did go wrong.  I felt so defeated and guilty. As much as I wanted to protect my own space and defend my own body I wanted my baby to be safe more and I was willing to make that sacrifice. However I needed to get back into that good headspace around birthing so I did the only sensible thing – I went back and did the Calmbirth course again.

At 34 weeks and having experienced threatened preterm labour I was in a much different headspace the second time around. The biggest thing that I got out of that day (and the fabulous one on one lunchtime session) was that I could choose to ‘birth my baby with love or with fear’.  I walked away that day empowered again. I felt like all the pressure had been taken away because it did not matter what my birthing outcome was, there were some things that were simply beyond my control, and I could make it beautiful no matter how my baby came into the world.

I came home and discussed all of this with my husband. Although the temptation was still very strong we decided against changing our care provider and hospital at this late stage of my pregnancy. We felt confident enough that we could protect our own space and make birthing our child a positive experience. We were happy to trust my body and our baby. And anyway, what were the chances that “that midwife” would be our midwife….

Once we had reconciled our feeling around birth we enjoyed the little time we had left of the pregnancy. I always knew that he would early so I was not surprised when after making love to my husband on a Wednesday night (State of Origin – NSW lost another series-maybe that upset me a brought it on who knows???) that my contractions started. They were very gentle and I had no sense that our baby was coming any time soon so I did not tell my husband – however somehow we both knew that that sex would be the last for a while!

I had very gentle and irregular contractions all of Thursday and I knew that this was really it! (Im getting the same goosebumps of excitement writing this as I was at the time!). Thursday night the contractions got a little more intense but I knew it was only pre-labour and it would still be a while– besides I still had a few things I needed to do on Friday morning and  friends to catch up with for lunch! Although he protested I made Geoff go to work on Friday (I figured he needed to wrap things up, I knew he wouldn't be going back for a month!). We had lunch with our friends with me holding Geoff’s hand under the table and squeezing firmly during contractions. Our friends were none the wiser – even when they asked me what we were doing for the weekend and I told them we were having a baby (they thought I was crazy as I wasn't due for another 4 weeks).

Following the lunch we called our obstetricians office to see if she was on call that night (being a Friday so the weekend). I spoke to a midwife who told me not to get too excited as I was only 35 weeks (and 5 days!!!) but she was on call.

I got home and finished packing the bags. I had a long hot shower, (much later that night I seriously regretted using that hot water….) went and stood in the nursery and had a good cry and then got into bed to “get some sleep” as I knew that I needed my rest as I would be birthing our baby that night. I got into bed at 3pm and within 5 minutes my contractions got serious. Still about 15 mins apart but it was as if all I had to do was relax and tell my baby I was ready for him to come out now. My poor husband was ringing me every half an hour a little panicked and wanting to come home but I didn't want anyone to know I was in labour so I wouldn't let him leave early as people would work out what was happening.

Geoff got home at about 530pm and was very surprised to find me with joggers on our dog Charlie on the lead wanting to go for a walk. I don't know what he expected to come home to??? This had never been what I had visualised before going into labour but I just felt the need to move to help ease our baby down into my pelvis. (Ok so we only got around the block – I decided pretty quickly that I was much happier on the ball on our lounge room floor with a heat pack on my back!!!). But it was nice to do one last thing as a family (we got our dog Charlie when we thought we couldn't have children). It was just another part of the process of letting go and allowing the labour to progress.

Over the next few hours I just tried to get some rest. I went from the lounge room floor, to the lounge to the bedroom. I kept thinking about the videos we had watched in the Calmbirth course and  visualised myself telling my Calmbirth story after birthing our child. At one stage I was even reading the birth stories at the beginning of Ina May Gaskins book (people say this really is a testament to how “calm” I was – just thought I would catch up on some light reading while in labour!!!).

At about 9pm I called the hospital to tell them I was having a baby that night and the midwife suggested that I should come in. I said that I wasn't ready for that yet and that I was just letting them know they would be delivering a baby later on. I knew the lady didn't believe me but she was kind enough to humour me anyway!

By this stage my contractions were quite regular and starting to intensify. I started to really appreciate the benefits of the breathing techniques I had practiced and with each contraction I mentally praised myself on how well I was breathing. This gave me the confidence stay at home and stick with our plan not to be in a hospital environment any longer than we had to. Geoff had been rubbing my back between contractions at this point but I really just needed some time to myself so I went and had a long hot shower (until the hot water ran out…. This was a sure sign it was nearly hospital time!).

Between contractions I told Geoff we needed to go to the hospital soon because I didn't want to leave it too much longer and have to have bigger contractions in the car. At midnight I called the hospital and told them I was on my way.

The car trip was the part on the whole experience that really painful. The positioning was all wrong and my contractions were only a few minutes apart at this point. Im sure we get every red light on the way to the hospital!!! The details of the trip are a big hazy but I know I was struggling!!!

We got to the hospital and rang the buzzer (it was 1240am) and who should come to the door but “that midwife”.  At the time I was swinging off Geoff’s neck having a contraction – I saw her and my whole body just froze mid-contraction. She obviously didn't remember us but I felt my labour slow right down. She took us to a birthing suite and attached a foetal monitor. She asked us very few questions and then left the room. My heart just sank… I knew my labour had slowed but I also knew our baby was coming soon and I didn't know where I get the strength to overcome my fear of labouring for the first time with this woman as my “support”.  After about half an hour of monitoring (which was only intermittent anyway as the sensor pads kept slipping off and she was having a great deal of difficulty using the machine) the midwife told us that I was not in labour and suggested that we should go home. I tried to explain to her what had been happening before we got to the hospital and that I really was in labour and wasn't it normal for things to slow down when you got to hospital with a first baby? She seemed quite annoyed by my protests but finally allowed us to stay. The most defining moment for me was when during this discussion I requested a vaginal exam. She refused saying that it would be “too intrusive!”. She turned off the lights and told us to get some sleep (this was at about 130am – a bit of a concern seeing as though Thomas was born at 257am)..

At that point somewhere deep inside I knew that I was going to have to birth our baby without much support. And so just like I had when I was told to have a hysterectomy and when I was told I needed a Caesar, I trusted my instincts rather than the advice of the medical practitioner and got on with birthing our son.  The person I felt the most sorry for was Geoff! He had me telling him that she was wrong and that I was having a baby tonight – but then the health professional saying I wasn't even in labour.

I remember thinking about the teachings of the Calmbirth course and I had Tracey the facilitator in my head saying “women birth the most effectively in environments where they feel loved, protected, safe and supported”, at this point  the midwife was making sure that I felt none of these things! But then I realised that Geoff wouldn't let anything bad happen to me. I was thinking that he would love and nurture and protect me through our birthing experience. I can’t remember if I said this to him out loud but I do know that as soon as the threat of the horrible midwife was taken away those big beautiful contractions came back just as quickly as they had left us!

All it took was for me to feel relaxed and loved again and at about 145am my waters finally broke! I have never been so relieved and excited!  Geoff went to get the midwife and she finally came in and did an internal exam at about 2am (even at this point it felt like doing it was a total inconvenience to her). She told us that I was “only” 2cm dilated. I told her the contractions were coming back quite strong and said that ‘this was only pre-labour and it was going to get much worse’.  She made me lay back on my side (this was the only way she could get the foetal monitor to work) hooked me back up and told me not to move. When she returned to look at the paper print out from the monitor (which Geoff later told me had big blank patches on it when it wasn't getting any readings because it wasn't attached correctly) she finally conceded that I was in labour. Geoff asked her how much longer it would be until we delivered our baby and she said that I was ‘fighting my labour’ and it would be at least ‘another 18 hours’.  Once I heard her say this I knew I couldn't handle anymore of this woman and I wasn't going to let her ruin my birthing experience.  The only way that I could block her out was to close my eyes as tight as I could. I know it sounds so simple but all I did was close my eyes and breath. I have vague recollections of her saying other things to me including that I wasn't ‘breathing properly’, ‘I was being silly’, ‘there is a long way to go yet’ – there was nothing too positive so I simply didn't take it on board.

About 15 minutes before Thomas was born I remember rolling over onto my back and announcing that my baby was coming.  The midwife once again didn't believe me and tried to leave the room. I calmly told her again that I was having my baby (maybe this was my greatest mistake – because I wasn't screaming the hospital down obviously I wasn't in labour….) and my body started to push. This was met with her telling me I was “being silly”, I was “only 2cm dilated and wasn't ready to push” and I was “going to do damage”.  I just ignored her and went with it and pushed when it felt right. She finally decided she better examine me again and of course it was FAR too late to call our ridiculously expensive obstetrician at this point as Thomas was nearly here!

When it was happening I had no concept of time but I do remember Geoff asking for a update of how much longer it would be and the midwife saying “if she sneezes this baby will fall out”, she then suggested to me that I should stop pushing and try to keep the baby in until the obstetrician arrived (I later found out that she hadn’t even called her to tell her I was in labour). I remember her saying something about setting up for a vacuum (Geoff told me later that she was still persisting with the foetal monitor she clearly couldn't use and thought Thomas’s heart had stopped beating).

With each push I had Tracey’s voice in my head saying ‘birth him with love and not fear’ (2 thing are funny about this a) I didn't know I had a mantra and b) I had no idea I was having a boy!).  I knew I had to get him into the world quickly to protect him and myself for unnecessary intervention so I just wanted to get him out as quick as possible.  And while the pushing felt amazing (once the pushing started the rest of birthing him really was painless) I was waiting for “the burn”. I remembered a girlfriend saying her baby crowing felt like someone had ‘put a blowtorch on her vagina”. As I was mentally preparing for that challenge I felt a weird change in pressure in my body and this weird slimy thing on my chest. I opened my eyes for the first time in about 45mins to see my beautiful baby boy!!!  Now it was my turn to be surprised!!!!Thomas

Geoff and I only got less than 2 minutes with our beautiful little man before he was taken away to the special care nursery (as he was a premmie) but that was the most magical 2 minutes of my life. Geoff went with Thomas Geoffrey when they took him away and I was left to explain what happened to the obstetrician. Imagine my delight in telling her that it was not only vaginal, it was also drug and intervention free!!!

Over the next few days I came to realise that I was a hospital celebrity. I had many midwives come to my room to discuss my amazing birth. They couldn't believe that I had birthed my baby so quickly (I had to tell them I had actually been in labour for quite a while) and that it had been intervention and drug free. This was obviously a VERY rare occurrence at this hospital. It made me quite sad – at what point did a woman using her instincts and her body rather than a scalpel and some drugs become abnormal?

I know this is an extremely detailed account of my birthing story but I think it is important to show how much Calmbirth has changed my life not just helped me for the few hours I was in labour. It taught me that I had resources and an inner strength I had no idea I had. And I have no doubt that it has influenced the relationship I have with my son and has made me a better mother.

I have recommended the Calmbirth course to my friends and they have undertaken it with fabulous reviews! Geoff and I tell our beautiful birthing story to anyone who will listen and credit Calmbirth for our ability to achieve it. I have said many times I have no doubt that if that midwife had sent us home that night that Geoff would have delivered our son on the lounge room floor and I think we would have been ok! Its such a powerful thing to be able to tell such a positive birthing story – especially when we were faced with difficult circumstances but were able to achieve a beautiful result. Everyone always asks how much it hurt – and I never thought I would say this but it really wasn't that bad! The only way to describe I can describe it is that my labour was painful and pushing him out was intense – but neither of these sensations were at all traumatic.

 

As a final confirmation of our love of Calmbirth, we have told all of our sisters that as soon as they fall pregnant we will be sending them along. I think that is the ultimate recommendation.