An amazing healing hospital VBAC story of Sandra Maria Carstens 18/04/2013

This isn’t just the story of a vbac, it’s the story of a journey, a journey to more knowledge, a journey to the most amazing experience I could ever have imagined, a journey to the most healing birth of my daughter, Sandra Maria (Sanmarie) Carstens on 18/04/2013

It all started with the birth of my son, Nicolaas Mertiens Carstens. His birth was a very traumatic experience, filled with a lot of unnecessary interventions. It started with my water breaking, a rush to the hospital, a lonely night bound to a hospital bed with no contractions, a forced induction and after 5hrs of labour, being scared shitless, an emergency csection at almost 5cms due to “failure to progress”. That day I made a choice, never again would I get a csection unless it was really necessary, and I wanted to be informed enough to know when it was necessary.

Until that day I never even knew about vbac’s, I just accepted that you could have a natural birth again. But, when I started talking to people I heard differently. Then on a facebook forum I met a lady, now my friend, who have had 3 natural births after a csection and this I started researching vbacs. And then I learned about water births, home births, midwife births and so much more! Things that we thought were “old aged” but that were coming back!

My dreams was focussed on home birth after reading several home birth stories and as I was so scared of another medicalised birth with a doctor in a hospital environment. So we started searching for a home birthing midwife. However, soon we were to find that in the small town we lived in NO doctor would support us for a home birth, no midwife would help us unless we had a doctors support and there ALSO were no midwives in our town! I emailed many midwives, talked to many doctors and I wasnt even pregnant yet! Finally we found one midwife who would help us, we met with her and liked her, then we got her price rates! Shocker! We could NOT afford her and as she didnt use medical aids, there was no way for us to pay her at all and we started searching once more. After months of searches our General Doctor told us he would help us, so we settled on him, we trusted him and thought he would be a great choice, but it would have had to be at his offices one block from our home, which was OK with us.

When Mertiens was 21months old one night when hubby (JP) got home I told him I really wanted to get pregnant. It was a Saturday evening, I knew I had the perfect cycle and was ovulating the Monday, so we started trying and when I tested 10days later we had the BFP in front of us! We were pregnant! On our way to having our next baby!

However our journey wasn’t over yet, when we talked to our GP again he told us, that seeing as he wasn’t getting any clients for births anymore, he had cancelled his birth insurance the previous year, he couldn’t help us anymore, he wasn’t registered to do births anymore! So the search started all over again!

Finally at 8wks pregnant we found a gynaecologist in another city who was reputed for doing natural births and the secretary told me he would allow a vbac, so I made an appointment. He could only see me for the first time at 15wks, but I was OK with that, having learned from my research to rather not have a lot of scans early in pregnancy.

So while discussing with the doctor after first meeting him he asked how my son was born and I mentioned it was an emergency csection his reaction was “O OK, so we will do a csection again”. When I however told him that I wanted a vbac he immediately got upset and started about how dangerous it is. I told him I had the facts, even got out my research and handed it to him, so his reaction was we’ll talk about it later. Next up, he wanted to do an internal exam, which I also refused. Another fight, according to him he needed to do internal scans with EVERY visit to ensure baby was healthy. I said NO! So we did a normal scan, but according to him he couldn’t a) say what sex it was without an internal, b) look for any birth defects without doing an internal and c) he only gave us the approximate weight at that stage, didn’t check lengths of the femur, head circumference or anything els! After the scan I brought up the vbac again. His answer “I will do an internal check at 36wks and then I will decide IF I will MAYBE allow you to do a vbac, else you will have a csection between 37 and 38wks”. Next fight, I refuse to have a csection early, want to go into labour naturally, and again he refuses, and told me to come back in 3wks so he can do an internal scan to look for defects. I walked out super sad and felt beaten. After 2yrs of waiting for this, everything was falling apart. Finances didn’t allow for me to get a midwife homebirth and the doctors refused to help. And so another 2wks of phone calls started, calling every and any doctor that I could find, fighting with the medical aid in emails and on the phone and searching, searching, searching.

And then my miracle happened! Jp and I drew a bank statement of our savings, it was over R7000! And when talking on a facebook group a midwife mentioned, if I could come to the city my parents lived in she could help me with a birth AND a payment plan over 6months! Wow! We started making sums, but I couldn’t finalise anything until end of November when I got my bonus and knew how much we had available. When my bonus came it was very much smaller than expected, BUT we decided to go for it anyway. I also really wanted a doula as well and have met one during October, but finances would just not allow for hiring one. Then a facebook friend heard of my problem and being a doula herself she said she would help me for FREE! I was way past happy!

However, there were a few glitches. Nr1, seeing as the midwife was over 2hrs drive away I would only be able to see her MAYBE once a month; I would need someone closer to home for more visits. Nr2 if an emergency arises I had to have a doctor near our home that could help. Nr3 because of our financial situation a home birth at my parents place was out of the question, we needed the medical aid to pay for the birth, so another round of fights started about the hospital I should birth in, some of the operators stating the medical aid will pay and others stating they will

only pay a certain amount and even more stating they won’t pay at all. So I got the promises to pay in writing via emails. So we planned, we budgeted and we planned some more. What was clear was I HAD to birth at a hospital els they wouldn’t pay at all, and after some more research we found out that due to my medical history with Myasthenia Gravis and epilepsy I had to have a paediatrician on standby in case my baby had breathing or heart difficulties, we never even knew this with my son!

Finally at 22wks I went to visit another GP in our town who did do births (mostly csections though and he refuses all vbacs) for another scan and at 23wks we saw our midwife for the very first time!

I loved Heather from the very first time I met her. She had this way of just making you feel confident in yourself and in her. But she also had a softness and kindness that made me feel at home. But most of all I loved the way they did the examinations. It was so much softer, kinder and more intimate than at the doctors. Instead of feeling like just another number I felt accepted and for the first time I wasn’t scared anymore of going for a check-up! And this it was settled, we would use Heather and any of the other midwives that works with her for our birth and we would pay financially as we could, when we could.

I couldn’t see her in January, but saw her again first Friday of February, March and April. My due date according to ovulation was 15 April, but menstruation was 18April, so we met her 3 times in April, the last on 15 April. On the 15th baby was still not engaged, although she was very low already, but no other signs of eminent birth, so we decided to wait. I didn’t want any interventions, preferably NOT stretch and sweep and most definitely NO breaking of water or induction, so we decided to wait 2wks before doing anything. My doula, Anina, suggested that I start looking into using pressure points for induction and gave me a site to visit for help. So that evening hubby started using them. We also started with evening primrose oil and several other non-invasive natural induction methods, including sex, bouncing on a birth ball etc. However the days still passed by without anything happening. Every morning I would get Braxton hicks and every evening I would have prodromal labour, contractions being 10-12mins apart lasting 30seconds from 6pm till around 9pm, but as soon as I hit the bed they would stop. So we waited.

My other birth companion was to be my best friend, Erika. On Wednesday 17 April she came to visit so we could chat one last time before the birth and she would know what I expected from her. 3 Times during the day she and Jp did some pressure points and that evening I ate some pineapple and drank pineapple juice, joking with my mum that I hoped it would induce my labour. Then Jp went to drop off Erika at her home and I put Mertiens to bed. The prodromal labour was worse than before and my mum was getting worried, she kept saying I was going to go into labour. I however didn’t want to get my hopes up, after days of prodromal labour I was just not hoping anymore and thinking my body is failing me. So I went to bed and Jp stayed up watching a movie. I was sad.

During the night Mertiens woke we just after 3am to go to the loo, I wasn’t feeling well but didn’t want to wake hubby for “not feeling well”. At 4:15am I woke up again, my tummy was hurting and I

thought it might want to go as it had woke me the 2previous nights so I went to the loo, nothing, got back into bed and it started hurting again, went to the loo again, still nothing and back to bed. When it hurt for the 3rd time I looked how late it was 4:35am so I started timing. Every 7mins, lasting 30-40seconds and I was resting??? This was different. So at 5:30am I woke hubby telling him I think I was in labour and we decided to rest some more. I stayed in bed till 6:10, the contractions moved to 5mins apart still coming for 30-40seconds. I went to tell my parents and called Heather. My mum got stressed, wanting me to go to the hospital, saying her contractions was like that with my brother and he was born shortly after. However Heather said to wait till they are regular at 4-5mins and lasting over 1min long. So I helped my mum to leave for work and then crawled back into bed trying to sleep as the contractions weren’t really sore, just uncomfy. We 3 dosed till just after 8am when I got up and started breakfast and washing some clothes. I wanted my son to be sorted with clothes while I was in hospital.

Hubby decided to go take a shower while he still had the chance and I was making breakfast. While he was away I was hit by a contraction and while breathing through it my son decided he wanted to drink some of my mum’s cleaning agents! When I opened my eyes I saw what he had done and rushed to him, smelling the cleaning agent in his breath and I hit stress! Thankfully for me a friend phoned just at that moment while I was trying to figure out how poisonous it was and what to do, she said she would help and get back to me. During this stress my contractions came every 2-3mins! 1hr later we had finally learned that it wasn’t terribly poisonous but to watch him for vomiting and nausea, however, this stalled my labour and my contractions was back to being 7mins apart and lasting less than 30seconds. My mum, a crèche teacher decided to pick him up and take him with her to crèche, thankfully and hubby and I went for a walk, hoping this will help get things back on track. However instead my contractions went to every 10-12mins and almost non-existent in length! Just great!

Told hubby labour was gone and I wanted to take a nap. It was 10:30am by this time and I was feeling unsure of what was going on. So hubby again went to watch a movie and I rested. I woke at 11:15am to a hard contraction! We were back on track, every 5mins lasting 30-40seconds once more. Unable to sleep some more I got up and went to watch a movie with hubby and bounced on my birth ball, breathing slowly through the contractions, enjoying the new sensation of it. They still didn’t really hurt and I was in heaven knowing my body was working to birth my baby. My doula send me a message asking how I was and suggested I took a bath, it sounded like a great idea so we pored my bath and at just passed 12pm I got into the bath tub. Immediately my contractions increased, and by the time I got out they were 2-3mins apart and lasting up to 1minute.Hubby got a little worried at this time, so I decided to get out, eat something and see where it goes. I ate some wonderful leftover carrot soup, but the labour slowed down again. Anina phoned and suggested I phone Heather around 2pm and update her and said she’s on standby whenever I wanted her. However, the contractions still didn’t really hurt, I used hubby to breathe through them and I was just enjoying it, so told her I’d let her know later. Erika also asked when she should come and we decided its better if her mum dropped her off before work rather than us having to pick her up while rushing to the hospital.

By 2pm my contractions were 4mins apart lasting just under a minute. I phoned Heather who suggested waiting another hour before we decided what to do. I wasn’t worried yet, was just enjoying the ride and was sure itll be some time still. Then suddenly I felt a change, I could sit still

during a contraction anymore. I had this peculiar urge to kneel and sway my body during the contractions and they felt stronger, harder than before, however I still didn’t feel like they hurt. I had 3 very close together like this and at 2:45pm told hubby I think it’s time to leave, something had changed and I wasn’t so sure it’ll be a long time anymore. We phoned Heather and Anina and got into the car to leave. Heather told me that she was in another city and would be some time still to get to the hospital but she will get a colleague to meet us there and make sure everything was OK. The car drive HURT, a LOT. Sitting still in one place was sore, I couldn’t kneel and sway, couldn’t bounce or anything except breathe through the contractions and they were coming over and over on top of one another.

At 3:15pm we stopped at the hospital. While getting out of the car I had another contraction and the security guard rushed to my aid while Erika supported me. She immediately wanted to fetch a wheelchair but I said it wasn’t necessary. Inside I booked in with the hospital and another security guard got super upset that I didn’t want a wheelchair, telling me that if I fell I will get hurt. Erm, your SUPPOSE to walk during labour. Erika luckily just brushed them off and we went to the midwives birth unit at the hospital.

When I arrived I was met by Christel, the other midwife and within moments Anina also arrived and while hubby fetched the bags Anina supported me during contractions and Erika took photos. First I sat on the birthing ball bouncing while we all chatted and Christel put up the monitor (CTG machine) to look what the contractions did and how it affected bubs. My labour had stalled after the car drive, but I have stopped timing them from here so no idea what they were doing except that it was very slow. After a while of bouncing we went for a walk through the parking lot of the hospital, stopping every while for the contractions where I would hold onto hubby and breath through them.

Anina encouraged me to sway my hips during the contractions and would put pressure on different parts of my back to help with pain, although I can’t say that it was hurting at all but I did have to concentrate and breathe through them. I was envisioning these circles in a water pond that were opening up growing bigger and bigger.

After a nice long walk and some chats and laughs we went back inside. Anina suggested listening to some music and that hubby and I dance to get some oxytocin flowing. Hubby put up Celine Dion’s cd which immediately got me into tears and we were swaying together, holding onto each other. We have been through so much lately and it just was too much for me. Again it was Anina that made the suggestion that I relaxed a little in a warm bath. However Heather arrived and asked to do a doppler check first before I got in the bath. The baby’s

heartbeat was doing great so there wasn’t any worries so I undressed and got into the bath where I just relaxed and chatted some more while holding onto hubby during my contractions. Still it didn’t really feel like I was in labour, I didn’t really find the contractions painful and was enjoying it.

After the bath Heather suggested some stretches to help with bringing baby down into the birth canal and we went for a walk. Every time the contractions hit I would sway and bend my legs pushing down, breathing through them, concentrating on baby coming down and in between contractions I would do the stretches. I was surprised to find it was dark outside; I had lost all sense of time.

When I re-entered the birthing rooms I was tired, so tired, just wanted to sleep. Anina helped me down onto the birthing ball resting on it with my head and swaying my hips with the contractions. I wasn’t resting very long when Heather asked if she could do an internal exam, it was almost 7pm and she felt it was necessary to know how far I was as I was so relaxed. This was the one part I had been dreading, after my son’s birth I was scared of internals and I was also scared of what it would tell us! I was scared I wasn’t dilating enough and would have to go in for a csection. Heather knew this and she was so kind and helped me to relax and breath. Hubby helped me down onto the bed and to lie back, another contraction hit and Heather waited it out with me. When it was over she did my internal. And told me I was at 8cm, almost a 9cms! WOAAA!!! This was really happening! I burst into tears! After the hard long road, I was birthing my baby! What a feeling!

When I got of the bed I felt something shift and change again, suddenly the contractions was so much longer, more painful, more intense and I was feeling different. I can’t describe it, but it was as if I was there, but also not there at the same time. Heather went to get a hot water bottle and pored my bath and Anina helped by applying pressure on my hips. Heather returned and stood behind me, hubby sitting on the bed in front of my. I was bending, swaying and doing things without thought, without thinking about it and I was moaning! Heather applied pressure with her hands on my rectum pushing upwards and at the same time pressing on my back down, both was definitely helping and next thing I knew I felt this bursting sensation! My waters had finally burst! I remember thinking “o no, I just messed myself as well!” But I hadn’t, it was just the water. Everyone was exited, but I felt this rush of tiredness. It was as if all my energy had drained away and I could barely breathe.

Anina asked if I wanted to get into the bath, but I was so exhausted, tired, I couldn’t even answer. After her asking for the 3rd time hubby made the decision to get me into the bath. Between him, Anina and Heather they almost carried me to the bath tub which was only a few meters away. The relieve of the pain was immediate.

At first I sat hunkered forward on my knees. But this caused a problem. Seeing as just 15mins ago I was only 8-9cms dilated but my waters have broken, my baby’s head was pressing down so hard that I immediately felt the urge to push and push HARD, but I wasn’t fully dilated yet and was hurting myself. Hubby and Heather both kept asking me to try and stop pushing, which I just couldn’t do! My contraction wasn’t even 1minute apart and they hurt a LOT.

After a while of this Heather suggested that I rather turn around and sat leaning a little backwards against the bathtub. I didn’t have the energy between the contractions to do it myself, so they had to basically lift me up and do it for me. But it brought immediate relieve. The urge to push was gone and the contractions didn’t hurt as much anymore. I was so grateful to have a little breather.

After a few minutes of more contractions Heather announced that baby’s head was moving down the birth canal and that I should start pushing when I felt the urge. I followed her instructions and I was LOUD, making lots of noise, sometimes almost screaming with the pushing. Everyone was encouraging me to push harder, push more and in between Heather asked me to not scream as loudly as it interfered with my pushing downwards. Suddenly Heather realised I couldn’t concentrate through all the noise and asked everyone to just keep quiet and told hubby that he was to tell me when to push and how to push. He sat, holding my hands, lifting me up when the contractions hit and talked to me into my ear, encouraging me. In between contractions everything was quiet. Sometime, someone had put up Josh Groban’s music and I heard him singing. It gave me the courage to go on.

Baby started crowning, and damn that hurt. It felt like my clitoris was on fire and I instinctively wanted to close my legs and shut out the pain, but then I couldn’t push. Hubby leaned over me and held my legs open while I pushed. Heather encouraged me to feel her head crowning and took my hand and guided it to feel her. It felt soft and I could feel a little bit of hair. However every time, just when she crowned her head would pull back in and I had to push it out again! It felt like ages passed that I had to keep pushing. Heather suggested that in between the contractions, instead of relaxing totally I kept pushing just enough to keep her head crowning. Again she guided my hand down. I could feel her entire head now and could feel my perineum stretched over it and I pushed, but it didn’t want to come out. I really didn’t want to tear or need to be cut, so I started praying, asking God to help me, and in between I talked to her, encouraging her to come out.

Then the next moment I felt her head popped out! Wow, she was there! Then with the next contraction her body just slipped out and after a few moments Heather lifted her onto my chest, covering her with a towel. I was in ecstasy, I had done it, I had gotten my vbac! When every doctor, every person I talked to had told me I can’t, not with my history, I had proven them wrong! My baby was there and I had birthed her myself! At 8:30pm, after about 30mins of pushing, she was born weighing a nice 3.3kgs!

No words can describe how I felt, minutes later the placenta was born and I could join hubby and baby on the bed. I got to breastfeed her immediately and my parents and sister could see her moments later. My son however had fallen asleep while waiting for us. And I only had 3 very tiny

tears on the inside of my vaginal wall, no tears on my perineum! It was the most amazing and empowering feeling ever!

I am so greatful to Heather, Anina, hubby and Erika. Every wish I had expressed in my birth plan was followed by Heather. Every dream I had I had achieved and I could never forget how amazing that felt! Thank you to everyone and mostly thank you to my Lord Jesus for helping me! I am a woman, I have given birth and I am a mum!


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