Birth story: How I coped when my ‘birth plans’ went awry

My first pregnancy was classified as ‘high risk’, with elevated blood pressure and gestational diabetes. Still, the majority of my pregnancy was relatively straightforward and uneventful. That was, until week 37.

Although both my blood pressure and diabetes were borderline, I was monitored very closely. I didn’t require any extra tests or medical intervention but I took my blood pressure at home, I checked my sugars and my diet and exercise regime changed. I saw an endocrinologist and a diabetes nurse.

Of course, this meant that our birth plan was very much in the hands of the professionals.

When we first saw our obstetrician, while labour was preferred, we were all of the belief that whatever needed to happen to keep the baby and me safe was fine by us – including a caesarean section.

Our aim was to get beyond 36 weeks. Because of the elevated blood pressure, there was a high possibility that the baby would need to come early. For 36 weeks, my blood pressure remained stable. There were even times when it dropped below normal. Winning!

High blood pressure and a false alarm

At the end of week 37, my blood pressure reading came back sky high. The second and third readings (taken two and 30 minutes later) were also high. I called my obstetrician. The result: head to the hospital.

Off I went, advising my husband to be on call should the doctors decide it was time. I was monitored for a few hours and, luckily, sent home. All was right with the world again.

But it did give us a very big scare.

Getting ready for induction

At our next appointment with our obstetrician, the decision was made to get the baby out to avoid him going into distress.

Imagine my husband’s face when our doctor said he’d see if he could get us in that night. White as a feather!

Rather than surgery, and under our doctor’s advice, we chose induction. We were still aiming for a vaginal delivery. By 10pm Saturday night I had been induced.

By morning, I had endured three unsuccessful and very painful attempts to break my waters. That was when the anaesthetist arrived. My lovely, caring, unbelievable obstetrician said if they were going to put me through that kind of pain again, I wasn’t going to feel it.

Following the fourth attempt, despite not feeling anything, the machine next to me said I was having strong contractions about 10 minutes apart. We were well on our way.

Four hours later everything went haywire.

The decision to have an emergency caesarean

With our final check, there was still too much fluid around my baby and things were getting a tad too dangerous. For fear of us both going into distress, my doctor said in a very calm and encouraging voice that we’d meet our baby within the hour. I was being prepped for surgery.

The anaesthetist returned to top up my epidural and within 15 minutes he and my husband were wheeling me down to surgery. No time to wait for a porter!

Bright lights greeted us. There were nurses, a new midwife and a surgical assistant to meet, people talking, beds moving. Everything was happening very quickly and yet, despite being classified as an emergency caesarean section, everyone and everything was calm.

My husband held my hand, our anaesthetist narrated everything, the surgical assistant told me to take a big deep breath, there was a push on my tummy, a few tugs, and then heavenly newborn screams. Within minutes, my son was in my arms.

Dealing with a ‘failed’ birth plan – 5 things that helped

1. We tried (and failed) to sleep

Our night was very disruptive with midwife visits and hourly checks. So, we rested. Regardless of how this was going to go, we both needed as much energy as possible.

2. We talked about our little baby

We discussed names (because we still hadn’t decided on a boy’s name). We considered how our life was about to change. Talking kept our minds off everything that was happening; it gave us some control.

3. We kept our families updated

While some couples choose to keep quiet, and others tell the world, we kept it in the family. We texted and called to include them in our birth, meaning we could give them information without numerous phone calls coming through.

4. We listened

The incredible medical experts around us told us exactly what was happening and why. When they said to wait, we waited. When they said to take the gas, I took the gas … and then spat it out. We wholeheartedly put our trust in the team and because of that, we were calm. Nothing was unexpected and we were prepared.

5. We laughed

A lot! In fact, within the first hour of being admitted my husband had me in stitches by accidentally brushing his teeth with Deep Heat.

While an emergency caesarean section wasn’t the birth we imagined, things ended up fine.

Some women plan to give birth naturally and end up under general anaesthetic. Some think they’re going in for surgery but their babies just can’t wait.

At the end of the day, my little boy is here and I have a scar just above my pubic bone. Regardless of how he entered the world, he’s a happy little Vegemite who constantly gets into mischief. And isn’t that the most important thing of all?

This post first appeared on Babyology.

Fed is best

Choosing to bottle feed my baby saved me from post-natal depression

I’ve never been that comfortable with my body. When my friends would be changing in the open locker room for sports classes, I would be hiding in the bathroom stall. This didn’t change when my now husband and I started dating. Being comfortable around him changed, of course, when I had our baby. There’s something about recovering from a c-section and not being able to even dry yourself after a shower (among other things) that throws all modesty out the window.

When we found out I was pregnant, my immediate reaction was ‘oh my gosh, I’m going to have to pull my boobs out in public’. The thought alone made me feel queasy. I know there are wraps and covers you can use to protect your privacy, but even that seemed unpleasant to me. I knew, deep down, that even in my own home, I would have to take myself out of social situations to go and feed in private. This is no way for a new mother to feel.

And, when it came to my emotional state, this was only one element that needed to be considered.

Taking stock after loss and grief

Losing my mum aged 57 and my nana, and falling pregnant, all within 18 months of each other meant a whirlwind of emotions. Having gone through such trauma in such a small amount of time, I knew that I was susceptible to post-natal depression.

Let’s be honest, while things are slowly changing, many people don’t talk much about PND. I, myself, have been very open about it, knowing that my circumstances could result in some very low days and knowing that I may need some extra help to get me through. I have been careful to acknowledge my feelings. I have let myself cry, and straight after my tears have fallen, I’ve peeked in on my sleeping baby and all seems okay with the world again.

Finding my feet without my mum

I have been very aware of the fact that my mum isn’t here to help me find my way through temperatures, vaccinations and everything else that comes with a child.

I have an incredible support network in my father, my sister, my in-laws, my extended family, and of course, a very doting husband. But, to be frank, when you’re that close to your mum, no one can ever replace the advice she would have given you.

I have also, however, been very careful to acknowledge my good days. And by acknowledging my feelings and allowing myself to wallow and feel sad, I’ve realised there have actually been far more good days than bad.

Breast or bottle? The choice was a hard one

When it came to feeding, I agonised over my decision for quite a while. My husband and I talked for hours on end about what was better – formula or breast milk, boob or bottle.

And at the end of the day, we both decided, that no matter where our child’s food came from, a fed baby is a happy baby. And a happy, relaxed mummy, is a happy, relaxed family.

I know breastfeeding comes with a multitude of difficulties. I’ve spoken to many friends about how hard it can be. I’ve also spoken to those same friends about how incredible the experience is, how close they feel to their children when they’re up at all hours feeding – just mummy and child.

Bottle feeding was the right choice for us

But truth be told, I’ve bonded just as much with my little boy. We talk while we feed, we smile at each other, we sing. I can see his beautiful little face light up when the bottle comes near his mouth.

Whenever people ask whether we’re bottle or breastfeeding, the subsequent question is always whether it was a choice to bottle-feed. Yes, it was a choice. I recognised that my emotional fragility could impact my relationship with my baby. I recognised that breastfeeding would make it much harder for my son and I. I recognised that the best thing for my little family was that I was happy, comfortable, and able to get out and about, ensuring my mental and emotional state was cared for. And I recognised that by bottle feeding my child, someone could help me look after my baby if I was ever feeling too sad to care for him to the extent he needed.

I’m fortunate that I was able to pre-empt these things

For many women, PND creeps up on them, like those little monsters your children are convinced are under their beds.

We need to talk about the impact PND can have on a family, and how the ‘breast is best’ message can sometimes hinder a new mum’s ability to enjoy the time with her child.

We need to acknowledge that while breastfeeding is great, it is not always best; fed is best.

We need to acknowledge that many mums cannot breastfeed. And we need to acknowledge that many mums choose not to – and that’s okay too.

We need to acknowledge that bottle feeding has its place.

I know I’m not completely out of the woods when it comes to PND. It can happen weeks, months, even years after giving birth. But I believe I’ve made the right decision in trying my best to pre-empt it and combat it.

My baby has had formula since birth and he is thriving, he is happy, and he is perfect.

This post first appeared on Babyology.