baby

'I wanted a relaxed, epidural-free birth. I ended up with a traumatic vacuum delivery.'

Birth: there's nothing quite like it, and it's clear no two birth stories are the same. Which is why we're asking everyday women and some of our favourite celebrity mums to share theirs, in Mamamia's My Birth Story series.

This week, registered nurse Heather shares exactly how she brought her daughter Charlie, now one, into the world. 

I like to think of myself as quite a chilled person. 

For every list and to-do list I have for myself, I am equally as cool with not ticking anything off those lists. 

For example, I have a list of "Things to pack in Charlie’s daycare bag" sitting on my coffee table, and she has been to daycare four times and I haven’t looked at the list since I wrote it. 

Watch: Meet The Delivery Room, Mamamia's new podcast all about birth stories. Hosted by Jessie Stephens and produced by Emma Gillespie. Post continues below.


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So, when it came to birth plans, I was open to jotting down everything imaginable - from what breathing strategy I wanted to use to what colour I wanted my LED fake candles to be. 

HOWEVER, I decided to not have a birth plan. I didn’t even know what half of the birthing terminology meant, and as someone who doesn’t give birth a whole lot, I knew I wouldn't be able to plan something I had no idea about. 

I let super chill Heather take over and just “go with the flow”, and the baby would just slide on out while I drank a cup of tea and the time was right. 

Listen: Prue didn't realise she was pregnant until she went into labour. Post continues below.

After talking with one of my fellow pregnant friends about how capable we are and what boss b**ches we would be if we birthed without pain relief, I decided “you know what, let’s do it. Let’s go epidural-free”. So that was the jist of where I wanted to leave my birth plan.

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I went to every appointment with no birth plan, even when asked every single visit. 

I then became high risk due to my daughter’s lung lesion, and my scans and appointments became fortnightly, and I still maintained that I did not want a birth plan.

Pregnancy progressed, and I had invested in a TENs machine, Fitball, LED candles, a diffuser, essential oils and various creams. I also compiled a lovely and soothing playlist to get me in the mood. 

I was in the last weeks of pregnancy when my highschool pal/student midwife showed me a birth plan one of her other mothers and I thought, "Okay, I'll do a birth plan".

My birth plan was as followed: No pain relief except gas, no matter how much I begged. TENs machine on my back, getting in the shower, no episiotomy, no vacuum, no forceps, delayed cord cutting by dad, baby straight on chest and allowing the baby to find the boob on her own. 

With my increasing anxiety in pregnancy, now came my increasing anxiety about the inevitable birth and my ability to stick to my birth plan. I had put it in writing and sent it to my student midwife and I looked at it like a contract or a goal to strive for. 

I was so determined to stick to my pain relief free birth plan, and thought that maybe because my pregnancy was so horrid, my birth would somehow be a breeze.

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The night before my induction, my husband and I spent the night playing video games and eating our last supper as a duo. We climbed into bed at 8:30pm in preparation for the marathon we were about to embark on. 

Did I sleep? No. I was understandably nervous at the unknown of what the next day would bring, and the eagerness of finally meeting my very own person.

We called the hospital in the morning to get a time to come in, and they asked us to come in right away.

We were brought to our room, and after a few hours of in-and-out by medical professionals, we got a game plan. They were going to insert a Foley catheter into my cervix and hopefully that would dilate my cervix enough to break my waters. The whole process was meant to least 12 hours, then we would start the Syntocin drip, which would jump-start my body into labour.

With me I had my husband and Rachael (my student midwife) and my midwife from the hospital. The midwife had never put in a Foley catheter, so she asked a colleague to put it in and she would watch and learn along with Rachael. 

I would just like to side note, that up until that point, not a lot of people have seen my vagina. I suddenly had three women using me as a telescope and discussing what they were doing. 

The thought of having three women staring into my soul made me freeze up, and it was the most painful experience of the whole birth. The woman forced the Foley catheter inside my cervix so hard I thought it was going to poke through my stomach. 

After that ordeal was over, I had the sudden urge to pee. I got up, and I felt a warm liquid flowing from my legs and I thought “oh no, it’s too late” and was so embarrassed that I had just peed all over the floor. It was not urine. The midwife had burst my sack, and I was now walking the fluid all over the hospital floor on my way to the toilet.

We had skipped the 12 hour wait for my cervix to open before breaking my waters, so it was time to move rooms and get the party started. 

I set up my room with red candles and strapped the TENs machine to my back and sat on the Fitball. I was in for a huge shock when my afternoon shift midwife told me she had to stay in the room the entire time and also had her own student midwife to sit in the room with her. 

I was in for a further shock when they hooked me up to the cardiotocography (CTG) machine and was told that it had to stay on me the entire labour, as having an induction meant they needed to keep a close eye on both thebaby and me. 

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They started the Syntocin drip at 5pm, and now that I had an audience I was suddenly feeling the pressure.

So, here I am with these two midwives just sitting at a desk watching me bounce on this Fitball and breathe through the pain of the sudden contractions. I felt like I was on the show and I didn't want to look weak. I would whimper in pain and then ask if that was normal. 

I would ask questions and make jokes and put myself down. I turned myself into this comedy show of trying to make the midwives laugh, despite my immense discomfort. I could not get into the right headspace to prepare me for birth. 

Both midwives were at least five years younger than me and neither of them had given birth before, but I was still looking to them to tell me everything was normal. 

They were making me feel as though I was in over my head trying to do this without pain relief. 

Image: Getty

I kept talking about my fear of pooping and apologising for pooping, even though I hadn’t actually pooped. I apologised for being in pain because I thought I was a burden because of the way they were just sitting there with blank looks on their faces. 

Then came the uncontrollable farts.

Every time I tried to laugh it off, I just farted more and then made fun of myself. They told me not to have the gas yet as I probably wasn’t actually feeling that much pain, despite the feeling of my stomach trying to break free and start its own family. 

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I tried to push through the contractions that were coming every two minutes and lasting for a minute. Then came the sudden urge to poop. I waddled to the toilet and then had to sit on the toilet having a poo while three people were in the room of silence. Have you ever had three people just an earshot from you pooping? It was so uncomfortable. 

I waddled back to bed and asked if I could go in the shower. Then I needed to poop again. 

Round two. Again, I waddled back to my bed, hunched over in pain and asked if it would be difficult for me to get in the shower for some relief. 

"With all the attachments on you, it would be difficult to get you in the shower, but we can if you want to?"

Okay, scrap that idea, I thought. I didn’t want to be a burden. I asked for the gas.

The pain did not go, but my brain was fuzzy enough to not notice it as much. I then just started talking absolute nonsense, trying to make everyone laugh and take the mickey out of myself. 

The pain was now unbearable. Relentless. And as soon as I get over one contraction and got a breath, the next one started. I was tired, I had the runs and I was anxious.

I looked at my husband, who knew I needed to have the epidural, despite me telling him not to let me have it. I was an emotional mess, and I needed some relief. The midwives called in the anesthetist and when I asked for their approval once again, they made it quite clear that I wasn’t ever going to make through my labour considering I wasn’t in active labour yet according to their monitor. 

I felt defeated. I tried so hard.

Because I had the epidural, it meant that I needed a urinary catheter inserted. Cue two more people looking at my vagina. That brings us to five people in eight hours. I thought for sure I was going to poop everywhere as soon as I was given the epidural because I wouldn’t be able to feel it. I was so embarrassed. 

At 3am the midwife checked my cervix (six people had now seen my vagina) and it was go time. Time to push. And I couldn’t feel a damn thing. 

My legs went into stirrups. I was squeezing with everything I had. Three pushes and then I got to rest. I gave it everything I had and during my rest my head was flopping and I was falling asleep. I had almost been awake for 48 hours.

For an hour and 40 minutes, I repeated this. Three pushes, falling asleep and hysterically crying. The doctor came in and my vagina was open and facing the door. The only thing separating the public and an eyeful was a thin curtain that no one seemed to want to close. The doctor politely asked if she may feel for the baby’s head and I agreed (seven people). 

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Her head was sitting in my birth canal (the baby’s, not the doctors), and the doctor and my midwife were now at the end of my bed openly discussing the risks of where my baby was at in medical terminology as if I wasn’t even in the room. 

As a health professional myself, I could understand everything they were saying, and burst into a fit of hysterics at the thought of the worst. They needed to get the baby out because her heart rate was dropping and they couldn't do a cesarean because she was too far in the birth canal. They called in the troops. 

One more doctor and one more midwife to do my vitals (nine people). My temperature had hit 39 degrees and now it was time for two more troops. Two more doctors entered the room, but the last doctor didn't knock and just walked in, to which I screamed “COULD YOU PLEASE JUST F***ING KNOCK”, and then continued to cry and apologise for making her uncomfortable (11 people).

I want you to picture this: My husband is on one arm with a doctor taking bloods to check for infection on the same arm. On the other arm, I have my student midwife reassuring me and another midwife giving me antibiotics through my drip on the same arm. I have my night shift midwife and two doctors at the foot of the bed feeling the baby and deciding what to do, and another doctor at the desk looking through my notes and calling another doctor. 

One of the doctors states that she needs to give me an episiotomy to get the baby out because she is coming in on an angle and can’t figure out how to rotate to get out. That isn’t in my birth plan. They are going to need to vacuum her out because she is stuck. That is not in my birth plan.

She cuts me, puts the vacuum in and starts pulling with everything she has and I am pushing with everything I have. In walks the pediatrician (lucky number 12) and then suddenly I hear, “She’s here”, and I look over and from this vacuum device I see a little slimy alien just wailing about. 

Image: Supplied

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She is crying, but she is taken over to the baby doctor to listen to her lungs. This is not in my birth plan. After a check over they throw her on my chest and she is so warm and smells like guts. I yell for someone to help me move her because how on earth do you hold these things without breaking them? 

She proceeds to poo on me twice and my husband and I gawk at the size of her tiny little bum. She makes her way to breastfeed while my husband and I just look at her in disbelief and say, "She doesn’t look like a Chloe”, while the doctor is sewing me up.

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I still look back at this day and think that nothing went to plan. 

Despite my beautiful baby girl being healthy, I can’t help but feel like I wasn’t a boss b**ch. 

I tried so hard to give myself the opportunity to prove to myself that I could birth without pain relief, and in doing so I just let myself down. Everything I said I didn't want on my birth plan ended up being the outcome.

Birth trauma affects one in three mothers and is not generally spoken about. Some days I can look back and laugh, but other days it's hard to swallow. 

Each birth is different, and if you're pregnant and reading this, just know to keep an open mind and stick to your gut. And find someone to advocate for you if you feel you cannot advocate for yourself. 

My two best advocates were my husband and Rachael. Without them I would not have been able to look back on this story with love.

This article originally appeared on the blog Mummy Neutral and has been republished here with full permission.

To hear more from Heather, follow her on Instagram.

Do you have a birth story you'd like to share? Write to us in the comment section below.

Feature image: Supplied


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