Let’s go back exactly 5 years. I was very pregnant, eagerly awaiting the birth of my first baby. I had planned my birth with the midwife and talked about it extensively with my husband. We both wanted a natural birth with minimal intervention and to enjoy the birth experience together. I was keen on a water birth and was set on making it through epidural free. I was healthy, had been practicing yoga at least 3 times a week, sitting on my Swiss ball instead of the couch, walking during my lunch breaks, keeping up my fitness. We had been seeing a dietitian to ensure I was eating well during the pregnancy. I was feeling confident and excited.
However, 2 weeks before my due date I was asleep in bed when I felt a popping sensation that woke me. My waters broke and the labour pains started in earnest. It was 3 am and my contractions were only 4 minutes apart. Skipping the nitty gritty and moving forward 12 hours. My contractions had been a minute long and 3 minutes apart for 8 hours and I was still only 4 cm dilated. My baby was in distress and I distinctly remember getting a deep seated feeling in my body that I was going to die. Like my cells and tissues knew what my brain didn’t want to admit. There was no-way my baby was coming out. My body knew he was stuck, no amount of pushing was going to get him free. I was overwhelmed by a huge wave of sadness for my baby and myself. I’ve never felt anything like this feeling before. At that point, almost an acceptance of my mortality, a sad recognition of the end when I should have been starting a new chapter with a new baby. To this day I still can’t listen to “lightning crashes” by Live without getting flashbacks of this feeling.
Skip forward again, almost 2 years and I was lucky enough to experience this feeling for a second time. The resignation of a body that accepts it’s failure to birth a child. I say “Lucky” because I AM EXTREMELY LUCKY. Fortunate enough to be born in a country with excellent health care and access to brilliant doctors, nurses and midwives. I am so grateful that not long after my body gave up, I was rushed into emergency Caesarean sections to birth both my beautiful boys. They suffered minimal after effects of a difficult birth thanks to the decisions of the medical professionals. I still marvel at the doctor’s ability to get these ‘stuck’ babies out and how quickly that feeling of death turned into a celebration of new life, thanks to the amazing medical teams at the hospital.
Sadly, this is not the birth story many mothers in the developing world could share. Many women faced with the same complications I had, will die. Those few that survive, face days and days of painful labour before the dead fetus eventually makes its way out, leaving a trail of terrible injuries behind. These women then face a life without their baby, which is horrific enough. However, most of them are also left abandoned by family and friends who see them as cursed or unclean due to incontinence occurring from the injury. Some even suffer lower limb paralysis due to their birth injuries. The physiological and psychological trauma is huge. It is estimated that 2 million women in sub-Saharan Africa suffer from obstetric fistula with a further 750,000 new cases each year. The sadness is that in most cases a $100 - $400 surgery could fix the condition and bring these women back to health.
I feel such empathy for these women as I can only imagine the devastation they would feel losing everything through the birth process, baby, husband, family, friends, home, fertility, health, dignity and hope.
I apologise if this has been a triggering or depressing post for anyone. However, I felt it was important to explain why the profits from the ‘Mums and Bubs’ class go to the Fistula Foundation. I am passionate about this cause because had I been born in another area of the world, I may have suffered with obstetric fistula.
I also hope that this article may bring awareness to some of the many reasons why Caesarean sections are necessary, and how traumatic they can be for mothers. I’ve heard it said that Caesarean sections are the ‘easy option’ for birthing mothers who don’t want to do it the hard way. Let’s start to bring more understanding and less judgement into our communication around birth experiences and realise that any birth, be it natural or with intervention is an absolute miracle of life.
If you‘d like to join me for a gentle yoga practice for you and your baby, and know that you’re aiding other women in need. I’d love to meet you and your miracle, Fridays 10.30 am at The Connection, 2157 East Coast Road, Silverdale.
Seeing my second son, Riley for the first time after a traumatic birth.