An Incredible VBAC Journey with HypnoBirthing

First a little background info

In 2010 I gave birth to my first child. At 2 weeks overdue I was induced and my labour was horrific. I now almost 100% attribute this to the fact labor was artificially induced and unable to occur naturally. In 2011 I fell pregnant with my second child. When I was just 8 weeks pregnant my partner tragically passed away in our home during an epileptic seizure, just 2 weeks after finding out we had conceived again after a heartbreaking miscarriage. Remembering well how traumatic my first birth had been I did not believe I would cope with going through all that again without my loving partner by my side. I made a decision I would spend the rest of my life wishing I could take back- I opted for an elective caesarean.

Fast forward to 2014

I gave birth to my first daughter after several more devastating miscarriages TTC. Early in the pregnancy my fiancée, Pete and I discovered a place that we now view as “The Gold Standard” in prenatal and postnatal care- My Midwives. I cannot speak highly enough of My Midwives and the pivotal role they played in our pregnancy, birth and postnatal care. Our chosen midwife was Rebecca Denny and she will always be a very loved woman in our household. Our student was Alice who is now a fully qualified midwife practicing at My Midwives Toowoomba. She too, was to play a very important role in our daughter’s birth and we love Alice to pieces!

My birthing time fell less than 2 years since my caesarean (1 year and 11 months to be exact- it was close!), which put me at a slightly higher risk of my caesarean scar rupturing during birth but even so, the chance of this actually happening is very, very miniscule. Having both a vaginal birth recovery and caesarean recovery to compare, there was no way in hell I was going back on that operating table if there was any way I could avoid it! Not only was the recovery tough but comparing my 2 babies, my first slept for 8 hours at a time from day dot, was breastfed exclusively for 5 months and was rarely sick. My second, on the other hand never slept for more than 2 hours at a time round the clock in the first few months, was severely lactose intolerant, seemed to be forever sick and at just 3 months old, even spent a week in hospital on a feeding tube and oxygen, battling Bronchiolitis and Human Metapneumovirus. It may just be a huge coincidence. Maybe all these things would have been the same if I had of allowed him to be a spontaneous natural birth. But maybe, just maybe they wouldn’t have been…… either way I knew exactly what I wanted and needed for many reasons for both myself and my baby- a VBAC and I was blessed to have Pete behind me and supporting me every step of the way. I truly believe I could not have done it without him.

At our first appointment at My Midwives I picked up a brochure on something else I had never heard of until this pregnancy- HypnoBirthing – The Mongan Method! It sounded amazing and I was intrigued by it! We almost immediately decided it was something we wanted to do and we booked in for the private couple classes. I was apprehensive at first. I suffer with terrible anxiety and lacked confidence in myself to be able to do this but right from the start Pete embraced the concept wholeheartedly and believed in me and believed I was more than capable of achieving my VBAC Hypnobirth. I read the book, we listened to and practiced the affirmations and Rainbow Relaxation every night as we were going to sleep, I hung the pictures and other handouts from our classes on our wardrobe so I could read and see them every day and Pete never missed a class.

The day before our baby girl was due to arrive she was showing absolutely no signs of coming. Fear welled up in me. Because of the caesarean scar they were not able to induce this birth if labor didn’t commence spontaneously. This would result in the operating table again. I had heard great things about natural acupuncture induction so made a booking with them for the following day. We went to bed early that night but it wasn’t to be for long! At 1am, I was awakened by what felt like period cramps. I couldn’t get back to sleep. Having never experienced natural spontaneous labor, I thought there was a chance this may just be nothing. After an hour or so I began timing and putting my hand on my tummy trying to feel if it was tightening. I was sure they were uterine surges I was feeling but was still reluctant to call anyone just in case it was nothing! By now Pete was awake asking who he should call to watch the boys. I kept saying, “no, no, it may just be pre-labor warm-ups. Let’s just wait a while and see what happens.” By now the surges were getting stronger and closer- about 5 minutes apart. I made a coffee and walked around the house breathing my way through the surges and finally at about 3am made the decision to call our midwife, Bec. I described what was happening and she said, “Yes, I think you need to head in to hospital. I’ve just got home from a birth and have to rest and go back soon but I will come up to the hospital with Karen (our backup midwife) and rest up there.” Pete began calling family to find someone to look after my boys. My mum who lives in Toowoomba (we live 45 minutes out of town) was happy for us to drop the boys off on our way so off we went.

I breathed through my surges in the car, HypnoBirthing like a champ. By this time surges were 3 minutes apart. “I’ve got this! I’m doing this! I can’t believe I’m doing this!” I kept thinking. By the time we got to the hospital my surges were less than 2 minutes apart and I began to fear that bub may be born in the elevator! We got into the birthing suites and put our HypnoBirthing CD on. Our backup midwife offered an internal exam to see how far I had progressed and against HypnoBirthing advice I made a huge mistake that would have catastrophic consequences on my birth- I agreed, sure that this would confirm bub’s entrance to the world was imminent. When she declared 4cm my heart sank. 4cm! That was it! I had been in labor for 4-5 hours, I still had so far to go! I tried so hard to get back into my Hypnobirthing zone but it was difficult. I couldn’t lay down or even sit down or my surges would stop completely. I sat down almost the whole time in the shower with my first, this time I had no choice but to stand in there or rest on my knees over the back of the bed. This made it really tough to relax and focus and with each further internal exam I became more and more disheartened at how slow I was progressing. Even after the first I should have realized my error and started refusing them but I didn’t. I will spend the rest of my life wondering how different things may have been if I had of refused all of them! I cannot stress this enough VBAC mammas! Actually all pregnant mammas! REFUSE them- trust in your body and your baby! I truly wish I did!

Sometime after the first exam our then student midwife, Alice arrived and she was truly a Godsend. She had been with us through the entire pregnancy and I was very comfortable with her. As lovely as our backup midwife was, she just wasn’t the plan and she later told us she could sense that and tried to hover at the back of the room unless she was needed. We loved Bec and not having her there was hard but Alice saved the day and we were so grateful for her presence. Bec was in and out many times, she did the best she could. The poor woman had many of her mums in labor at the same time but Alice was by our side the whole time which was an unmeasurable comfort to me. By 8cm I was screaming for the epidural. My biggest fear was that this would all be for nothing. That I would go through all of this only to end up on the operating table again anyway. In my terrified mind I was already there and I figured if I had the epidural at least I could get there painlessly (at least in the short term till recovery set in!). Converting pain to pressure was long gone, I’d given up and my fear was making my surges immensely painful. Pete went and spoke to Bec about the epidural. He didn’t know what to do. He knew our birth plan was to refuse the epidural and pethidine at all costs. He was desperate to stick to our plan because he knew that was what I needed but he was in tears seeing me in so much pain and all his attempts to bring me back to my state of calm with Hypnobirthing affirmations and breathing with me weren’t working. Being well aware of my surges coming to a standstill every time I sat or lay down Bec explained to him that if I had that epidural and was confined to my back I would without a doubt end up back on that operating table because I would no longer be free to stand up and use different positions, rotating my hips etc. to get things moving again. He made a decision that I will forever be thankful for. In that moment he chose to tell me what I needed to hear- that he’d spoken to the doctor and the epidural was coming. Deep down I knew he was lying but I also knew how truly grateful I was that he was lying! He was following our birth plan and it would save us from theatre.

He eventually succumbed to gas at the bare minimum and this actually turned out to be great because it helped me focus on my breathing again. I began breathing bub down up on my knees bent over the back of the bed and I was finally back in my zone. The room and everyone in it were gone! I was deep within with my daughter. The only thing I remember hearing was Alice saying, “I can see the head! Get Bec!” and “Whoa! Slow down!” I couldn’t slow down. I was breathing her down but she was in control and there was nothing I could do to stop her! Everything happened so fast! I was later told that the midwives were shouting at me that I needed to get onto my back but I can’t remember hearing anyone saying anything. Further proof that against everything I believed, at the paramount time I had returned to my HypnoBirthing zone! I didn’t even hear a beeping or a buzzing when they hit the emergency button, nothing! All I remember is the next thing I knew I was surrounded by about 10 different doctors and nurses, after someone had just reefed me onto my back, thrust a blinding light onto me and shoved both my legs back! I was stunned, I had absolutely no idea what was happening! I didn’t even realize my daughter was out and had been taken away.

Through the blur of faces, Bec’s came in front of mine, I remember shaking my head, in shock “What’s happening?!” I was sure my scar must have ruptured! “Your baby’s fine,” she said smiling at me, “She’s just over there! Can you hear her crying??” I couldn’t bring myself to look. I remember tearfully shaking my head again. I was in shock and confused. Why was she over there?? Why was her cord cut?? Delayed cord clamping was in our birth plan. Why wasn’t she on my chest nursing?? Immediate skin to skin contact was the plan. Why had a doctor cut her cord and not her father?? Bec calmly explained that she had suffered 2-degree shoulder dystocia and TTN. She had needed immediate medical attention and needed to be monitored in special care for a few hours. I was allowed a quick hold before they took her but I could tell she was struggling to breathe and I was so scared, I begged them to just take her and help her. I was heartbroken about not being able to feed her for a few hours but at least she was ok. She had responded well to the oxygen and they had screened the cord blood and it had plenty of oxygen in it the doctors had said, so this was another good sign. I birthed my placenta without a hitch and they examined me to see if I needed stitches. I had torn badly with my first and needed a lot and I now know this was due to “forced pushing” rather than breathing my baby down. After breathing my daughter down as taught in HypnoBirthing I didn’t need a single stitch and had no pain! I was amazed!

While our daughter’s birth wasn’t altogether how we had planned it, in our eyes we were happy. Pete was proud of me and I of him. Even the midwives marveled at how supportive he had been and how well he knew the HypnoBirthing cues and affirmations and birth plan. While the special circumstances that occurred during and after my daughter’s birth were scary, I don’t for a second think either her nor myself would have been better off with another cesarean. We got the VBAC we needed and my only regrets are not refusing all of those internal exams and not considering investing in a birth photographer! Birth photography was something I was absolutely against during my pregnancy. I couldn’t fathom having another person aside from our well known midwives share the sacred experience with us. I now look at photos of other births shared online and I am filled with regret! They are so beautiful and priceless and I almost wish we could have another just to have them!

Anthea Thomas
Anthea is a passionate health professional, an experienced Antenatal Educator, Speaker and Hypnotherapist supporting families in conception, pregnancy, birthing and parenting. Anthea is the Vice President of the HypnoBirthing® Institute. She is the Director of HypnoBirthing International in Australia, a Global Presence Ambassador for Parenting 2.0 and member of the leadership team of CAPEA QLD (Childbirth and Parenting Educators of Australia). Anthea is working with therapy based on the philosophy that our unconscious minds can heal our bodies, and control the delicate process of conception and birthing. She is focused on helping people find their unlimited potential in all areas of life, on helping women to rediscover their natural birthing instincts and works to provide couples with information about their bodies, the birth process, how their mind affects conception and birth helping to empower them to take control of their own journey. Anthea is married and has two children. She lives on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia.

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