Nicole's Birth Story
A BIRTH THAT DEMONSTRATED THE ADAPTABILITY OF MAMAS.
Often we assume that if a woman has had a baby before, she’ll find the 2nd easier and less challenging. But we so often forget that every baby is unique and every birth is unique. There is no guarantee that you will have a similar experience or a “easier” or “quicker” experience. At an individual level, mother’s usually find themselves evaluating their previous birth experience and going into their 2nd birth more informed and knowing exactly what choices they want to make. There also is an element, of knowing that birth is highly unpredictable and that one of the most important things to take away from your first is the ability to adapt to that baby and that birth’s unique journey. Finding a balance between knowing what you want and allowing the process of birth to happen organically is challenging.
For Nicole, when I first met her, she was confidently sure of what she didn’t want in her next birth. In her first birth, Nicole found herself in an unnecessary induction at 38 weeks, which lead to an emergency caesarean and separation from her daughter in the first few hours of birth. Once pregnant again, Nicole was determined to avoid induction, let her body and baby decide its due date and attempt a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). With confidence and a clear mind to what she needed to support her in her next birth, Nicole chose to utilise the Community Midwifery program (CMP), booked to attend Hypnobirthing Australia classes and hired me as her doula at just 13 weeks.
The thing about birth is it isn’t just about the actual birth day. Everything leading up to that eventful day, adds to your birth story. For Nicole, her pregnancy was filled with challenges. Challenges that proved her strength and willingness to adapt to the cards she was dealt. Her pregnancy itself wasn’t the challenge, but it was a number of external factors, completely out of her control. Firstly, her husband broke his leg, meaning he would be in a moon boot during the birth. Secondly, her 2 year old daughter had her fingers crushed, resulting in one being amputated. So Nicole was left to provide special care for both her husband and daughter, whilst also being pregnant. Lastly, Covid 19 hit for the second time in WA, with a sudden and devastating 5 day lockdown that left many mother’s ready to give birth, alone, scared and without their support network. To Nicole, I know this felt like the last straw, as I (as her doula) was an integral part of her support team for birth, and suddenly she was no longer allowed to have me there. Before lockdown happened though, I had one of my natural induction sessions with Nicole, focusing on surrendering to the uncontrollable events around her. Control what you can control. What will be will be. Everything will work out in the end. Trust! These were the mantras we brainstormed together. After this session, Nicole’s husband printed out these as affirmation cards, that they ended up taking into the birth. Affirmations are just affirmations, unless you resonate with them. Coming up with your own unique affirmations, has so much power.
Fortunately, things did eventually fall into place, with the lockdown ending and me being allowed back in to support birth, and her husband getting the all clear to drive (moon boot still in tow). Her daughter also proved how adaptable children are, greeting me with energy and delight with every visit I made to their house, despite just having surgery. With the universe on her side, Nicole was finally feeling ready to meet her little boy. Unfortunately, like many mothers before her, she had to endure the endless focus on “due dates”. Determined and informed, Nicole stood her ground and discussed with her care providers that she wanted to wait till after 41 weeks, and that induction won’t be considered until then (unless it was medically necessary). There was no rush. Baby boy was moving, growing and she felt normal, albeit a little drained and tired.
At a check up appointment, Nicole was told that she had suspected low fluid, which posed some risk for baby in terms of him being able to cope with birth. Discussions of induction became stronger and stronger and Nicole and her husband found themselves having to make a tough decision. After a quick appointment with me, and looking at all the different statistics, research and evidence available, as well as trusting her gut instinct, Nicole decided that she would agree to regular scans and that if things changed, they would assess the situation again. That is the thing about pregnancy and birth, things may change, whether for better or worse. Adapting is part of the ride of birth.
After her next scan, it was indeed evident that her amniotic fluid was reducing each day and the informed discussion was made to induce that very afternoon. With this change of events, and not getting the time at home to prepare, I suggested Nicole make the best of her situation by making her hospital room more homely. And homely she did. When I arrived at the hospital the next afternoon, I walked into a room that was dimly light, warm and cosy. Nicole had prepared her room with a “Hypnobirthing mum” sign on the door, affirmations lined the walls, battery operated candles flickered throughout the room and soft music was playing. When your original birth plan is thrown to the wind, then the best way to counteract all the sudden change is to have the mindset of “control what you can control”. And what Nicole could control, was her environment.
Before I arrived, Nicole laboured throughout the night, finding comfort in the shower and lots of light touch massage from her husband. When I arrived, I discovered that the baby had been having trouble with the Syntocin drip. Every time the midwife increased the dose, the baby’s heart rate dropped. Minutes before I arrived, a code blue was called, and Nicole’s peaceful birth space was flooded with professionals ready to help. Turning off the drip and deciding to give Nicole a chance to labour naturally for a while, the doctors and midwives left, with Nicole and her husband having to readjust and adapt again. When I arrived minutes later, I was shocked to hear of the events that had unfolded. You would never had known that Nicole had gone through such a scary and sudden change of events. Instead, she had her eyes closed, and was leaning over the side of the bed swaying her hips. Her face was calm and her voice was steady when she finally opened her eyes and greeted me. I always found myself in awe of this woman. Although she may not recognise it, the strength she had to switch off her thinking brain and go back to her primal one after such a moment of panic, is astounding. Again her ability to adapt was inspiring.
With the Syntocin off for a while, Nicole found herself rocking and swaying against the bed, or sitting on the birth ball. As each contraction came in, Nicole was supported by her husbands arms around her belly or my hands running along her arms or hair as light touch massage. Unfortunately, it was not long until the next hurdle was encountered - continuous heart rate monitoring. Although the concept of monitoring is good, it rarely seems to play out smoothly. With Nicole’s birth, she had to endure monitors that were continually faulty or malpositioned. Nicole’s midwife was consistently finding herself having to adjust the monitor while Nicole laboured. Then the wireless ones ran out of battery, and Nicole had to become strapped to multiple cords. Finally after hours of fiddling, her midwife suggested inserting the clip monitor to her baby (foetal scalp electrode). This was in the hope that she would no longer have to move or adjust the monitors wrapped around Nicole’s belly, and hopefully get a better read on how the baby was coping. By this stage the Syntocin was back on, and again Nicole had to make a decision that wasn’t a part of her original birth plan. Nicole decided to try the clip and as result had to endure being on her back for the procedure. During labour, most women will find instinctively that being on their back is not comfortable. Nicole was no different. Being on her back was extremely painful and she found herself focusing on her breath and making moaning sounds to counteract the pain she was feeling. After two attempts, the midwife finally inserted the clip and they could get a clearer reading of how bub was going. Standing back up, Nicole worked hard again to get back into her birth zone.
Unfortunately, this baby had his own plans, and was not enjoying the increased Syntocin. After 8 minutes of a low heart rate, Nicole found herself experiencing her second code blue. And this time things were more urgent. With the recommendation of a caesarean section, Nicole was whisked away to surgery. As I was not allowed in the surgery room, I later found out that baby’s heart rate regulated itself once in the room, and Nicole was given a few options - to return to labour and birth suit and continue labouring on Syntocin, or to have a caesarean now. Understanding the risks and following her gut in knowing her baby wasn’t happy with what was happening previously, Nicole made the brave decision to have a repeat c-section.
Waiting outside with her husband before this decision was made, I got a taste of what my role is as a doula for the woman’s partner. Although he had experienced a caesarean before, Nicole’s husband, was nervous and in shock. With the hope to distract him, I asked him about what names they had chosen for their little boy. We also discussed how exciting it will be for his daughter to finally meet his new son, and the smile that spread across his face was infectious. This is one of the reasons why I became a doula - for the partners. Countless fathers and partners have been through a similar ordeal, and often have to cope with it alone. So as her doula, although I wasn’t able to be with Nicole in her caesarean birth, I was able to be there for her husband, so that he could walk into the surgery calm, ready and able to support his wife through this sudden and extreme change of events.
With her baby boy born, Nicole and her husband met me in the postnatal ward. For someone who had just had emergency surgery, Nicole looked radiant. Her thick hair out and her new pink baby already on the boob, it was hard to believe the events that had just taken place. Sucking naturally and with eagerness, little baby Arlo was cradled warmly in his mother’s arms. From everything that had happened, from all the change and sudden adaptation that was needed, Nicole showed me that women are truly amazing!