When pregnant women talk about birth plans and the music they’d like to listen to as they deliver, they don’t often include a clause in their detailed notes about what they’d do if they require an emergency c-section.
Because nobody really believes anything will go wrong for them.
We are women. Our bodies are designed to grow babies and birth them. Those things happen to other people. My birth will be just like in the movies, panting and tears and cuddles and love.
The first sign something was wrong during the birth of my first child happened when my husband was out of the room.
Mum and I were sitting down, enjoying ourselves now that I’d been given an epidural and could no longer feel a thing. We were talking excitedly to each other.
Millie Hill from the Positive Birth Movement talks to Holly Wainwright on This Glorious Mess.
When a nurse came in to do a “internal exam” I spread my legs and lay back with a smile on my face.
The nurse left the room quickly and came in with a midwife. They then proceeded to whisper urgently to each other. Mum and I looked at each other and we just knew.
My husband walked back in and I said, “something’s wrong”.
We sat in silence, waiting to be told what was happening to the baby who was still in my body.
Nobody included us in any discussions. About 15 minutes later I heard my obstetrician shouting in the hallway, something like, ‘If she’s only four centimetres dialated why have you called me in!”
I then heard a whispered discussion and next thing I knew he was in the room, performing his own internal exam and then quickly informing us that my baby was in distress.
He was posterior (face up) instead of face down and due to my “abnormally small pelvic bone” I’d require an emergency c-section.
Minutes later I was “giving birth”.
In truth I was in shock and stunned at the turn of events. Afterwards as I lay back and did and said all the things I imagined women who’d just given birth would do and say all I could keep thinking was, ‘What just happened’.
And it took a couple of days to hit me. The lack of information, being treated like a piece of meat, the unnecessary trauma and pain. The lack of explanation about my recovery.
The complete disregard.
This incredible video shows a “gentle caesarean” birth. Article continues after this video.
Before my discharge – I couldn’t wait to get out of there, despite the incredible amount of pain I was in – my obstetrician came to see me and told me that I shouldn’t fall pregnant for at least two years as the incision needed to birth my baby was ‘L’ shaped and needed time to heal.
I waited four years.
And even then I clung to the hope that I may be able to give birth vaginally. After my second child’s head circumference was measured in utero during an ultrasound, I was told that due to his head size, I’d be better of having another c-section.
I was gutted, literally and figuratively.
It was inconceivable to me that the birth of my second child would even remotely resemble the horror of my first. I refused to accept that a c-section had to be terrible and violent and so surgical. I wouldn’t go through that again.
So I set about making decisions about the experience I wanted to have. I knew the doctors and midwives and nurses would do their thing and treat it as a surgery, but I refused to.
The first decision I made was for my husband to not be in the operating theatre.
My biggest concern was my son and how scared and unsettled my giving birth to his sibling would leave him.
I knew he would be happier with his dad. So I asked my brother – my closest friend at the time and the funniest person I knew – to be my birth partner. And he was perfect.
He cracked jokes the entire time, hugged me, held my hand and together we truly enjoyed the experience, the incredibleness of childbirth.
I knew what to expect this time. I knew it would be all business beforehand and incredibly boring afterwards. The other reason I wanted my brother in with me instead of my husband was because during my first birth my husband had stayed with the baby and I was left alone, bored while they stitched me up.
I must have asked a million times, “How much longer now?”
During my second experience my husband and son followed our new baby and my brother stayed with me, helping me to pass the time.
I accepted that my body would know how to heal.
Millie Hill is a mother-of-three and founder of the global Positive Birth Movement.
She encourages women to regain control over the "most momentous moment of their lives" by changing the way they see birth. Hill says it doesn't matter where or how women give birth, as long as it is where and how they want it to be.
"You are actually allowed to do whatever you want because it's your body." she told Holly Wainwright during the This Glorious Mess podcast.
"You can make any decision you like about what happens to your own body, and yet I heard so many people say, 'I wanted to do this in my birth but I wasn't allowed and they didn't let me'.
"I think there's a real problem with the dynamic of power in labour and birth which means that women are kind of like the permission seekers if you like, in the labour room when in fact they ought to be the permission givers."
Hill says women who are tramatised by birth will talk less about the loss of control and more about they way they are treated. She says the recent viral video of a women giving birth using a "gentle c-section" menthod resulted from the mum contacting a doctor through the Positive Birth Movement website.
"I don't know if you saw recently that went around on social media the baby being born really slowly, kind of when really viral, this film of a caesarian.
"Well that was somebody who found a doctor through the Positive Birth Movement and that was really wonderful for me to hear. The different birth experience she had up until that point - it was her third baby...she knew she had to have a caesarian for that third birth but she really wanted to have a different kind of caesarian.
"She looked around and found a doctor who was prepared to do this gentle caesarian with her and it was a really amazing experience for her."
After my first c-section I felt and acted as though I'd been in a terrible car accident, feeling sorry for myself, scared to move and too shocked to ask any questions. This time I knew better.
I had faith that my body knew how heal.
The wound was secure, I could move around whenever I was ready and that the c-section didn't have to be a barrier between me and my new baby.
I did everything for him and the midwives soon learned that they didn't need to remind me to feed him or change his nappy. I limped around doing it all myself and feeling pretty awesome.
I embraced the medicalness of it all.
I went into it this time knowing it would be like surgery, except at the end I'd be holding a baby. I'd be poked and prodded and sliced and diced but in my mind I marvelled at how modern medicine was facilitating me in giving birth to a healthy baby. I asked lots of questions about the procedure, my recovery and the wound as well as how best to heal and my doctor was happy to share the information with me.
I shared as many photos of the c-section as I would have of any other birth.
My brother proved to be a wonderful photographer and even during the birth he was snapping photos of the procedure - curtain be damned - and showing me what was happening.
It was truly incredible and my family and I poured over those photos afterwards, basking in the joy that was my second son's birth, regardless of the method.
I took control of my second, and my third (my daughter was born via c-section 16 months later) and I can truly say they were incredible experiences.
The lessons from my first, terrible experience were not lost on me.
Read all of the incredible birth stories posted on the Postive Birth Movement website.
Listen to the full episode of This Glorious Mess hosted by Holly Wainwright and Cameron Daddo and featuring Millie Hill from the positive birth movement.
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