Renae Coleman was really looking forward to giving birth to her first child. She’d been with her sister when her sister had a “beautiful” water birth.
“She walked away with a wonderful experience, which is important, and a healthy baby,” Coleman remembers.
But the birth of Coleman’s first child didn’t go the way she’d planned.
“My first one was a failed induction because they thought that the baby had to come out a bit early, at 36 weeks,” she tells Mamamia.
“My body wasn’t ready and I didn’t respond to what they were trying to do, so they had to give me a caesarean for that. I didn’t really understand at the time. I was only 23.
“I never got to experience something that I’d really planned for, emotionally and physically.”
LISTEN: If you’re overdue, when is it time to induce labour? Post continues.
Coleman wanted to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) for her second child, but that didn’t happen.
“I was told that he would be too big, right at the end. That ‘Do you risk your baby to get something you want?’ card was dealt in front of me. Obviously you think at the time, ‘Oh, I don’t want to be selfish, and I want a healthy baby.’ But I think he probably would have birthed fine.”
Her third child was born in the same way as her first two.
“They said they wouldn’t do a VBAC after two caesareans.”
Coleman had been working as a preschool teacher. But after her three caesareans, she began training for a new career as a midwife.
“I didn’t feel supported and I didn’t feel like I had any of the birthing experiences that I wanted,” she remembers. “But after reflecting on those experiences, I knew that there was another way for it all.”
Now, as a midwife, Coleman chooses her words very carefully when talking to women and their families.
“If things do go wrong, I think it’s important that the woman does know it’s not her fault, or that she’s a failure in any way,” she says.
“And I think the biggest thing of all is to let the woman know that people can recommend things to you, but your birth is your birth. It’s okay to ask more questions, it’s okay to have an opinion about things and it’s okay to speak up about things and make your own choice.
“Informed consent is the big thing, I think.”
Coleman is now getting to share in the joy of other women’s births.
“We had one lady that had lots and lots of boys and she got a girl – I think it was her sixth baby or something,” she remembers. “And I always love the dads crying. They always cry right at the birth, and that’s the best part, I think.”
She sometimes has to remind herself not to get too wrapped up in the joy.
“You’ve got to remember that you’re not there just going, ‘Oh, wow!’ You’ve actually got other things that you’ve got to consider.”
Coleman still wishes she could have had a natural birth.
“But you’ve just got to learn from things,” she adds. “I just try and use that experience to make things better for other people.”
May 5 is International Day of the Midwife.