It had been six years and eight months since the brutal c-section that left me with what I now know to be ‘birth trauma’. I already had a 2-year-old daughter that came into this world horrifically after induction, 24 hours of torture and an instrumental delivery and I’d lost my left tube due to an ectopic pregnancy in between babies so it was safe to say I was absolutely done reproducing, never to carry or birth another baby again.
Without going into too much detail, my c-section, was performed by a medical professional in the public system that severely mistreated me. He took away my choice, he crushed me as a woman and he left me with what felt like years of physical, mental and emotional pain. But life went on, and after all, shouldn’t I be glad and grateful that ‘Mum and Bub are safe and alive’ and that I now have ‘a girl and a boy’. Anyway, they’ve since been put out of practice and I’d since moved along, blended a family with my beautiful Husband, and gained my third child a wonderful Step-Son that I love dearly. Together a happy family of 5.
My Husband had a vasectomy performed after my Step-Son was born well over a decade ago and this bought me great peace and comfort and meant that I could get off contraception comfortably and let my body regulate again. My body regulated for the next 5 years and for the first time in my life my period became like clock work and the anxiety of unplanned pregnancy was a thing of the past.
Life was set. We had all we ever THOUGHT we wanted.
So, I need not explain why my heart stopped beating and I forgot how to breathe when the Doctor explained that vasectomies in some cases can naturally reconnect and that I would need to go for a scan right away. Sure enough, the scan revealed that two sneaky little eggs made their way down one tube to meet and greet these sweet little ‘used to be’ blanks. Yes, we were pregnant with twins.
Twin Baby Girls. Dichorionic-Diamniotic twins which means they both have their own sacs and their own placentas and are likely to not be identical. There’s minimal medical explanation to such things. Mostly you hear people say ‘it’s just meant to be’ and it surely was.
So after a few days and numerous panic attacks, I knew I had to action this differently. The force within me was unreal. I absolutely entirely refused to have similar pregnancy and birthing experiences as before. The first place I started was a consultation with a Doula. A friend of mine had one and I knew I needed all the support I could get. Of course, I connected with her right away. She had a knowledgeable Mum vibe that I really needed. One thing that got my attention immediately during our first conversation and something that I’d never heard spoken of before is the ‘birth culture’ in our country.
We spoke about how women in tribes all over the world birthed and how they birthed in their villages, in front of the other children and how normal the whole process is for such people. Worlds away from my perception of birthing. But I held tight to that. I may not be in a tribe or village somewhere but I am most certainly woman and I can most certainly do this.
This also gave me a strong desire to consciously focus on normalising pregnancy and birth with my older children, in particular, my now 9-year-old Daughter. Knowing that one day when it’s her turn she will reflect back on this time. Crucial stuff.
The thing that really made our Doula most invaluable is the way she helped me to understand my natural capabilities, she helped me to understand the true meaning of consent and the rights that I hold. She wholeheartedly believed in me and my body and she was there to support whatever it was that I wanted. She was completely fearless and she helped me be fearless too. Knowledge is power and I needed power. Informed consent became one of my new favourite things. I wanted to be informed and decide on absolutely every little decision. None were to be made, in fact without it. I became all too happy to say ‘I’d like to go and learn more about that before I make my decision please’ and I said that a lot.
It was certainly wise to have my first home session with my Doula and introduce her to my Husband, who also connected with her right away, prior to my first Doctor’s appointment. I could prepare myself a little better. Because sure as anything before my bottom even touched the seat in that office the words ‘high risk’ were being thrown around like tomorrow was never coming. Twin VBAC had jaws hitting the floor.
The general procedure for twins, VBAC or not, is Caesarean section. Going through the public system (with the knowledge that they cannot decline my care) I was lucky enough to see a different obstetrician each time, and each time I got to hear their own perceptions of the levels of risk that I am wanting to undertake. I dreaded these appointments, I didn’t want to fight for support but it is what it is. I understand that they’re trained to think this way. They are medically minded. I’d speak to my Doula after every appointment and get my head space back in check.
Throughout the pregnancy I declined numerous offerings. I declined the extra blood tests, the extra GD tests, I insisted on midwifery care alongside the obstetrician’s care and I did not accept the extra appointments in between. Nobody ever actually said it but I’m sure in my notes somewhere I’m labelled as ‘difficult patient’.
The thing was as time was passing, my babies were growing, and I was growing too, in thousands of different ways. I was learning so much about this magical time of life and what our bodies and minds are truly capable of. I was looking after myself, mind, body and spirit. My instincts told me that everything was ok and I was following them. After all, these babies were absolute miracles, they had their own little forces within them, they knew what they were doing. I really held tightly onto the affirmation ‘I make my decisions based on facts, not fear’ in fact affirmations became a big part of my overall experience. I was well and truly beginning to believe that I could and would do this. I was calm, healthy and in control.
My Husband jumped at the opportunity to get us into a HypnoBirthing (Mongan Method) class, another huge factor to our success. I certainly benefited greatly from it and adopted many of the affirmations/relaxation techniques along with all the great education of knowing exactly what my body and babies are intended to do and are doing during labour. I connected with the lovely lady running the class. I looked forward to seeing her each Monday night for those 5 weeks. She was yet another great support person who I could share my previous birth trauma with and move forward with encouragement. But mostly HypnoBirthing helped my Husband help me. He was so unbelievably on to it. He wanted nothing else but to support me in all the ways I wanted and needed support and he couldn’t have done a more magnificent job.
A lot of thought and planning went into it all and my Husband played a huge role, he kept me safe and nurtured and made my environment stress-free despite still running a household with three children and a full-time job. Absolute champion.
By about week 30 we were writing our birth plans. One for our VBAC and one for our Unplanned C-Section, God Forbid. Our layout involved sub headings that stated ‘we do consent to’ and ‘we do not consent to’ I always called my birth plan a plan. I didn’t like preference. It wasn’t a preference however in saying that, on the condition that I am fully informed and there are evidence or facts that need to change my plan my full cooperation would be given. I maintained that attitude the entire time.
I also understood, that saying the words ‘I do or I do not consent’ are binding, and nothing can be done to me or for me without my consent or against my consent unless in the case of a true medical emergency in which case nobody would give a second thought to my plan or consent or informing me, they would act accordingly to get my babies out safely and under those circumstances I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The third trimester came with some challenges. I had to tune in to my body like I never had before. Carrying two babies is not easy. I decided to deactivate my social media and focus on ‘having a calm and gentle birth’ my birth plan displayed our absolute desire to have the calmest, most natural birthing experience with minimal interventions. I couldn’t afford to let any of the fears creep in. In reality, anything could have happened, I guess maybe it is a risky business. Especially given the fact that my c-section records were unattainable due to current major lawsuits from other brave women.
Sure, rupture had spent some time on my mind. I knew my recovery had been very poor and who knows what damage was really done. But I chose to trust my body and my babies and focus my energy on that. These were all risks that I was willing and prepared to take. I needed this, after what I had been through, this was my opportunity to be reborn, as a Woman and as a Mother. I desperately required the healing and so I stood strong even when the vulnerability was well and truly alive.
So as expected towards the end of the third trimester the pressure was on. By this point, I’d established rather unique relationships with my medical team. They knew how badly I wanted a VBAC and I knew how badly they’d like a c-section. Or at least an epidural. They often looked at me like I was crazy for taking the risks that I was. They had their concerns, at one stage they thought the babies were ‘too big’ and then later they thought that they were ‘too small’ we weren’t worried about their gestational weights. The sonographer had told us measuring twins in the third trimester was a difficult thing to do.
By 36 weeks the discomfort was getting pretty real although I was still maintaining good health. We went for a scheduled scan at 36+1 that revealed both babies were head down, such good little girls. Following that scan we had an appointment in maternity, the Doctor that was on I was familiar with. She had what felt like a particular distaste for me and my ‘bad decisions’ she sat down with me and explained that they were concerned about Baby A’s growth, they think she’s experiencing growth restriction and that on top of that today for the first time there is protein in my urine and my blood pressure is a little high. She told me the babies would need to be delivered within the next two days and I’d need to consider a foley bulb induction or c-section, the two things I did not want.
My instincts told me if these were my choices that I’d just opt for a c-section. The thought of induction I hated. I felt as though if I chose induction I’d loose control straight away and the interference would only become more and more and most likely lead me to a c section anyway. All of a sudden there was evidence of risk which was my cue to be flexible with my plan. What happened next was quite miraculous. Just as I’m accepting flexibility and having a negotiation session with the Doctor about the things I want out of my c-section, my only tube tied, delayed cord clamping, skin to skin, etc, much of which she’s explaining she can’t do, my uterus starts to contract! And before long the monitor reveals that they are increasing and becoming more regular.
How proud my Husband was to walk to his girls from triage to the birthing suite. Within a few hours our Doula was there, the sun was going down, the room was set up dark with fairy lights, my acoustic playlist was playing and my maternity photos with our other kids was displayed right next to me. It was beautiful. My Husband later mentioned a Midwife whispering to him ‘I wish all women who birth could have this’.
The Doula presented my plan to the Midwives and they were happy to oblige. The Doctor that took overnight shift desperately wanted me to have an epidural just in case the second twin flipped after the first was born. I remember telling her. ‘I trust my body and I trust my babies’ I had made this decision in a far better headspace than this one so I’m sticking to my decision. That was of course until 14 hours into labour when dilation was slow and my contractions were lasting 90 seconds 60 seconds apart.
I apologised to that Doctor and told her to get the anesthetist up ASAP. She was thrilled about this change of mind and so was I. It was the right thing to do for many reasons. Firstly, my body would’ve worn out if I had of kept going like that and secondly it gave my Husband and Doula a chance to have a nap, it had been a long night and they were exhausted too. The epidural really isn’t as bad as I anticipated. I presumed that it would make you feel numb and foggy but it didn’t. I was very clear headed and super aware of my surroundings. I still had strength in my legs to lift my bottom to help change pads underneath me and most importantly I could still feel my tightenings in my uterus.
Throughout the entire labour, the girls’ heart rates stayed almost identical which whilst very sweet and cute it’s not what the Midwives who watched those monitors like hawks wanted to see. After the epidural two Midwives and the Doctor spent an hour and a half trying to be convinced enough that they had two babies heart rates and not one. But they weren’t confident. This is when the Doctor asked me if I could please reconsider the fetal scalp monitoring for the presenting baby. My plan said I did not consent. But it was time to be flexible again. One hour and thirty minutes is a great effort, I could appreciate that, and the babies need to be monitored so we went ahead and did it. I happily spent the next several hours chatting away to the Midwives feeling only pressure and tightenings.
It wasn’t the all nat-ural that I’d planned but it wasn’t bad. My body and my babies were still working hard and I was feeling super excited knowing I’d meet them soon.
The sun was up and I could smell the coffee my Husband and Doula were drinking. Slightly envious after being NIL by mouth now for about 18 hours. But nevertheless I was happy for them that they’d had a rest and something to eat and drink. They were better able to support me after looking after themselves a little too. As the morning was passing by I was getting close to 10cm dilated, but I was also getting really tired. Like no food no sleep for 22 hours kind of tired. I really felt like maybe it was time for me to have a big nap. But I’d missed that boat.
Handover with care providers had happened again and the day Doctor had done a back to back. My friend from the night before. The one that told me if I elected a c-section we could do it immediately and that I’d have by babies before the sun went down. The look on her face when she saw me resembled pity. As if I’d put myself through all this while she’s gone home, showered, slept. For a split second I almost entertained the thought that maybe she was right. But then I jumped straight back to focusing on my calm and gentle birth. My Husband was right beside me literally injecting belief into me making sure he got my eye contact. He was so emotional and so ready to meet our girls. I so badly wanted to bring them to him, gently. I just wasn’t sure where I’d find the strength.
Shortly after, the Doctor declared ‘it’s time to push!’ It appeared that our presenting twin was a star gazer and her little head was in a really tricky position. I pushed for about thirty minutes and no baby was coming. After all this. My confidence was decreasing. I didn’t know where to dig for the strength they were telling me to dig for. Just as I was preparing to accept defeat within myself the Head Consultant came in. He stated to me that I was in prolonged labour. He wanted me to go to the theatre. He claimed my babies were at risk and if I decline theatre, he will be putting in my notes that I was aware of the risks and I declined.
That was it. I thought. Until.. my pity Doctor decided to jump in my corner. Right out of nowhere! She asked the Consultant who is above her to step aside and she yelled to me that she believed I could do it. She changed the energy of that entire room which was now filled with people, two of each – nurses, special care nurses, children’s doctors. It was all happening. I remember that big rush of the belief that rushed through me and looking back now it just goes to show how important the energy, belief and support of the team and care providers are.
I pushed out my first baby within minutes of her encouragement and despite all the people and potential chaos, despite her previously telling me I can’t have this or that, she at the last minute followed my plan. My Husband was called down to lift the first baby to my chest and the cord clamping was delayed. Now it was time to go again and I wasn’t wasting any time from here. My fierceness rised and I was not going to theatre for one baby, no way. If it was oxytocin that I needed looking at my Husband’s face, tears rolling, pride beaming out of him it almost felt effortless to push out the next baby exactly 5 minutes later. She too was put on my chest by Daddy with delayed cord clamping before Daddy cut cords.
The one thing that I’ll never forget in all my life is looking down at the end of the bed. To the woman who thought I was crazy and risky and unable, and seeing tears flow down her cheeks and past her smile. I don’t know what happened to that woman in that room. But it moved all of us.
I looked around the room and there were tears everywhere. Nobody had a dry eye. Even the most artistic person couldn’t find the words to describe the feelings. It was magic. I did it. We all did it. Within 10 minutes the room was almost empty. I laid in awe watching my Husband shirtless with our two sweet baby girls on his bare chest listening to his heartbeat. They were calm and gentle as could be.
Two hours later I was out of that bed. My Husband had showered me and we had Our Girls in a twin bassinet proudly pushing them down the corridor to the maternity ward where our close friends and older children were waiting for us with take away pizza, just what a new starving Mama needs. 30 hours later we took our beautiful healthy 6lbs11oz & 6lbs daughters home.
Reflecting on it all, I’m just in so much awe. I wouldn’t change a thing. I got more than what I needed, the healing, the transformation, the empowering feeling of accomplishment. I feel so strong. They got a calm and gentle birth and I got a calm and gentle entrance into motherhood with them.
*Positive birth story by Talia Lana