I was admitted into the Gold Coast University hospital on Christmas Eve, 2014. I was 40 weeks pregnant with a very large tummy and I was ready for my baby to be born.
By the end of the pregnancy, I had carpal tunnel syndrome in my hands and this nerve pain would wake me up most nights. Clearly my body was showing me I was not honouring it in how I was living.
Throughout my late teens and early twenties, I studied and became a qualified massage therapist and a doula.
Studies have shown that the presence of another female, an emotional and labour support person, decreases the risk of mothers having any intervention or Caesarean births, but I chose not to have a doula present at my birth.
This choice came from a number of reasons; the lack of trust I had in finding the right person, the financial stress we were under as a couple, not wanting to spend the money on one, and feeling I could be strong and go without one. Also, there was the expectation that my husband wouldn’t agree with it either.
I knew the benefits of having a doula, and how much it would have supported me, but there was a lack of communication and intimacy between me and my husband, and there were issues we needed to work through. For financial reasons, I continued to work until I was 37 weeks pregnant, and I did not make time to organise a doula or any other support. I knew that another woman would say that I need to rest more, to stop working sooner, to care more deeply for myself, and that this would expose the problems in my relationship and my own lack of self-worth and self-nurturing. I felt I just had to be strong and go for it. I can see now that the carpal tunnel syndrome was showing me this, the hardness I had gone into to cope with my situation.
The doctor who was looking after me suggested that I may have gestational diabetes that had not been diagnosed, as I appeared to have a very big baby and also a condition that creates excess amniotic fluid. I was tested for gestational diabetes during my pregnancy and it came back as negative. Even though I was 40 weeks pregnant, my baby’s head had not yet engaged into my pelvis.
They wanted me to stay overnight so they could monitor me for any progress. A midwife friend I spoke to suggested I walk sideways up and down steps to help open up the hips and help the baby’s head fall into the pelvis.
On the night of Christmas 25th December, 2014 my baby’s head finally popped into my pelvis. The midwife was very impressed about this and told the relevant head staff nurses and doctors that I was now in a position to try for a natural birth.
Prior to this, the head doctor spoke to me about the idea that they could support me to have a natural birth.
The midwives were really encouraging me to try and deliver naturally and so they started intervention with inserting prostaglandin gel (a synthetic drug, placed into the vagina, that brings about hormone changes in the cervix to make it more open and thin).
My partner was against this initial stage of intervention but I was very open to this and felt that this was fine for me, so I allowed for the gel to be inserted onto my cervix.
My husband and I both felt that a Caesarean birth was the best option for me but this was not something we could just choose. There are certain protocols and processes they would have to eliminate first before we could have a Caesarean birth. And this option is only considered for an emergency situation.
The doctor that was assigned to me that day said that a woman my size can easily push a 10-pound baby out vaginally and that she had seen hundreds of women do it before. My normal weight prior to falling pregnant was about 50 – 51kgs and by the end of my pregnancy I was about 75 kgs. I was huge!
Deep down, all I wanted was the best option for me and my baby. I was not attached to having a natural vaginal birth, I was very open to how the birth was going to pan out. My doula support days taught me this if anything, that staying open and surrendering to the process of birth was the best way to be.
A few of the woman I had been a doula for were very strong minded and very attached to having a vaginal birth and this mind set or way of thinking, or belief, led to long and hard labours where intervention took place and emergency Caesareans followed. This then was followed with feelings of disappointment, failure, lack of self-worth, and even depression.
Interestingly my understanding of the process of birth, the different interventions that can take place and how things can go from being smooth sailing to seriously pear shaped very quickly, left me feeling quite confident and content within myself. Deep down, I had a sense that I would be capable to face any challenge that came my way. I was left in my room alone to await signs of labour progressing. Within about an hour I had urges to go to the toilet a lot and at one stage, it felt like my waters were starting to leak. I was starting to have contractions but they were bearable in terms of the intensity and comfort level. I knew they were going to get more and more intense physically with pain, so I decided to go sit on the toilet and relax.
A midwife came in to check where my baby’s head was and it had popped back out of my pelvis. They instantly saw this as an emergency. I couldn’t be contracting without the baby’s head pushing down on my cervix because if an arm falls out, or part of the umbilical cord, this is threatening to the baby’s health. The frantic energy and anxiousness arose in the air around me in the staff who had to get me prepared for theatre. The sudden change in path got the staff in a bit of a frenzy.
My husband had left the hospital to get some food, shower and a bit of rest. I called my husband to get back to the hospital if he wanted to be present and make it in time for the birth of our son.
Preparing for Caesarian section
I noticed how hectic the staff were with having to prepare me and get all the paperwork ready and signed in preparation for theatre. I needed to be dressed in blue theatre robes with nothing else underneath my garments, no jewellery or underwear.
Caesarean birth involves major surgery in the tummy and pelvic area, and complications and re-admissions into hospital afterwards do happen. I was informed of all the risks in having a Caesarean birth.
- Pain and discomfort afterwards in my wound and taking longer to recover than a vaginal birth;
- Infection in the wound;
- Infection in the lining of my uterus (endometritis);
- Urinary tract infection;
- Blood clotting;
- Possible lack of fertility later;
- Spinal or nerve damage from the epidural;
- Admission into intensive care;
- Emergency removal of the uterus (hysterectomy), which happens 8 in 1000 woman;
- Injury to the bladder, the tubes connecting the kidneys to the bladder or to the bowel, happens to 1 in 1000 woman;
- In serious complications – blood transfusion is required;
- Possible breathing problems for baby;
- Difficulty in breast feeding;
- Post-partum bleeding;
- Post-partum depression in mothers.
Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine
In my mid twenties, I found Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine through a friend I was training with at birth school. We were both training to be birth educators, but didn’t finish the course, as the director of the college got seriously ill. Instead, I flew up to the Northern Rivers to attend courses with Universal Medicine and I haven’t looked back since.
My husband and I emailed Serge Benhayon during our time at the hospital for support and as always, he was there, giving freely of his time. He said that “he would be with us and that it’s important to have dignity.”
These words were profound because in that I got to feel how important it is to stay calm and not get caught up in the external panic around us. To not take on the stress of others, and to stay as present with ourselves as possible. By that I mean, to stay as centred, and non-reactive as possible. To observe everything going on around us and know that this was the best option for me. This advice can apply for any woman in any given birthing situation, be it a vaginal birth or a Caesarean birth.
As I was being wheeled into the operating theatre, the anaesthetist was telling me about what he was going to inject into my spine and how he would administer it into the fluid around my spinal cord. He had a great personality that kept the atmosphere very light. The doctor who had been pushing for me to have a natural birth was in the operating room. I could feel Serge’s warm loving presence and I instantly felt very calm and that everything would be just fine. Knowing that I would see my husband in the operating theatre was comforting also. I could also feel that I could draw on my inner strength and stillness, which was just there. Everyone in the operating theatre felt to be very co-operative and responsive to me and my husband. There was no more frantic energy but a steadiness, a stillness and a unified focus on the decision and choice of birth. It was just waiting time until we got to meet our baby.
Once the anaesthetic kicked in, they checked to see if I could feel the cold from an ice cube they ran up my legs to under my breasts. I could only feel that it was slippery and wet and I couldn’t feel that it was cold, by this they knew that the anaesthetic had worked successfully, plus I couldn’t move my legs. I thought this was amazing how the anaesthesia could do this.
Michael Benjamin Pash was born 8:42pm on the 26th December 2014, with a lot of black hair, weighing in at 4.2 kg or 9.3pounds. He knew how he wanted to be born and what a blessing we were all given by his presence.
Thanks to modern medicine and surgery, thousands of women’s lives and babies have been saved by having Caesarean births. Michael’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck when he was born, so a vaginal delivery would have been complicated and possibly obstructed, risking his life, and mine.
My post recovery from the surgery went very well, and my wound healed very well, I did have some discomfort but nothing that I could not bear with the support of pain killers. My breastmilk came through very well and I had plenty of it. Michael latched on like he had done it before and my husband and I were in complete awe of our beautiful son.
There is no right or wrong, there is just what is true…and a woman knows in her body what is true for her.
“We are all vessels, and as women, in this moment, we are vessels for another being to come into this world.” ~ Dr Anne Malatt
For further reading on Anne’s experience with birth, a very humorous one too, here is the link for Anne’s birth blog
By Leah Lavinia Pash