This is what I presented at the ACM Conference on the Gold Coast to Midwives and mothers from all over Australia. Many of the midwives from the hospital where our journey took place had the opportunity to reflect on their care. The focus of the conference was about Change in Midwifery care. I hoped to spark thought, reflection and understanding in midwives and how they care, support and nurture women.
~A Birth Story~
In the spring of 2008 I was preparing for the birth of our 3rd child.
I’d experienced 2 traumatic Cesarean births before that so this pregnancy, although a complete surprise was an opportunity for me to learn, to adjust and to discover what it was I really wanted, needed and believed in.
We all have the story of how we became so birth obsessed or passionate as we’d prefer to call it. This journey through pregnancy was mine.
It was about understanding birth for what it was. Understanding what works and doesn’t work. Understanding who’ll support you to achieve those things.
When I knew I would potentially be presenting my birth story I wondered how on earth women as passionate as ourselves could possibly put such an intimate, powerful, life changing event as birth into a few minutes, when we really want to describe every detail from poo scooping, amazing stretching vagina's to the first breath of a child.
So I wont drag this out for hours, I’ll try to put those 12 amazing intense life changing hours into a few minutes.
It’s epic. All birth is.
It doesn’t matter where, who, why or how the birth unfolds it’s the experience we take away from that. For everyone involved.
Most of us here understand that a birth story is not simply the announcement of a new baby. It long lasting.
So for me this is my story.
It’s about sisterhood.
It’s about sharing.
It’s about honesty and passion.
It’s about the choices we make.
It’s about caring and understanding
It’s about being with woman no matter how a woman finds herself in your care
It’s about life and it’s about death.
Both my previous labours we 36 hours plus and posterior. I was prepared for that again although strongly hoping it wasn’t going to be the case!
I had two very active boys. An 18 month old, a 6 year old and was 42 weeks pregnant on the school holidays. I’d take posterior labour over that any day!
Labour began with the usual niggles here and there, a general discomfort. Like most we put it down to being huge and uncomfortable. After a day at the beach with my doula I headed home for some raspberry tea and dinner. By the afternoon the contractions were gaining and I thought perhaps we’d better get the pool filled.
I remember that feeling of excitement. Something I had never experienced with other labours. I was prepared. I was comfortable at home and life carried on around me as normal. This included many episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine. There was no rushing, there was no clock checking. It was life mixed in with birth. It just was.
By the time darkness fell and the children we sleeping labour continued and the pool became a new kind of heaven. I had support around me. Fanning here, water there, Bliss. Who knew birth could be this good? I certainly hadn’t expected it.
Early into the morning I decided I simply would prefer an epidural. Oh my that’s what transition is! The point where you think enough already. It’s not as simple as jumping off the treadmill though I discovered. My partner grounded me and I went back into labour land.
Not long after the begging ceased time seemed to stand still.
I went within and I connected with my baby.
I knew I could do this. I knew my body would birth my baby.
Those moments of silence were important. Those are the moments of my connection with my baby that I’ll remember forever. Those were the last moments we had together as one.
Not long after that I remember feeling into the water to discover a “fuzzy walnut”. Oh my, a head with hair!
I’m actually having a baby! I’m really pushing a baby out of my vagina!
Time swirled. Energy flowed.
I rallied my strength and pushed out the most beautiful amazing chubby little person.
I’ll never forget reaching down to scoop up my daughter.
My only daughter, in my arms for but a second.
My daughter wasn’t breathing when she was born.
I quickly went into shock and we transferred separately to our nearest hospital via ambulance.
I was informed that I had a potential Uterine Rupture. I’d sustained 4th degree tears and I was potentially bleeding internally.
I was left alone without support from any of my carers and was asked to sign consent for the repairs and investigation into the uterine rupture. It was a good 45 minutes before I was wheeled into theatre.
I was quizzed by the surgeon how many other children I’d had and he decided that my uterus wasn’t needed as it wouldn’t sustain another pregnancy anyway. All this moments before being placed under general anaesthetic he informed me that he felt it was necessary to perform a hysterectomy.
I awoke briefly in recovery without a uterus, a baby or anyone that I knew.
My daughter was flown with her dad to Townsville where they were better equipped to look after my daughter.
I was left with a printed out photo and a beanie that she wore.
It was 3 or more days before I could get a RFDS flight to be in the same hospital as my daughter and my family.
It took the power of just one midwife who called persistently to explain how important it was for me to be there with my baby. It took her understanding and care to get me there.
I was extremely unwell. I spent 12 hours in Emergency waiting for a bed that was already waiting for me due to miscommunication between hospitals. It took that dedication of the same midwife to explain that no one knew if this baby was going to make it and she deserved to have her mother by her side.
This same midwife took my whole bed into the NICU so for the first time in 4 days I got to see, smell and hold my daughter. If it wasn’t for that care I may not have had that opportunity at all.
Those midwives went out of their way to ensure that our family had every opportunity to connect with our daughter. To care for her. To be her parents.
The guided us through the shock and trauma of what was meant to be a joyous birth. They offered advice, they cried and they loved her just as much as we did.
Those same midwives prepared a beautiful bath and beautiful photos. They encouraged simple yet important things like skin to skin. Things we wouldn’t or couldn’t have thought of.
They created beautiful memories in the saddest of times.
They didn’t judge our family; instead they nurtured us and cared for us as a family.
11 days later after a day in the sunshine and gardens we said goodbye to our daughter, Yuna Jane.
I guess the message I’m trying to convey by sharing this is that despite working within a system with policies and rules and guidelines there’s nothing more important than the effect you have on a family, no matter how that family came to be in your care.
I only offer this information because I’ve experienced the other side of this.
In the first couple of hours our family were judged and torn apart as a form of punishment for our birth choices in a time where life and death were critical. In a time where we needed to be together. Where we didn’t need to be told we were terrible parents and that we’d have this burden to bear for the rest of our lives.
Words and actions stick when you are experiencing trauma. They replay in your mind over and over.
You may not approve of a woman’s choice but you need to remember how you affect them. This event may leave you at your lunch break or when you return to your family but for the woman and her family it is forever.
It shapes those memories.