I wanted to share my birth story the second time round, as I was very passionate about having the opportunity to give birth naturally and not via Caesarean section, like I did electively (planned) with my first born who was breech.

Here is my journey about my preparation for an ideal birth.

My second pregnancy was a lot easier than my first. Our baby was head down and in a great position, left occipital anterior (LOA) – the optimal position for a baby to be in for a natural birth. So I was in great spirits that this time my birth would absolutely be me and my body birthing this baby out.

To help me prepare for a natural birth, my husband and I went on a hypnobirthing day course with the wonderful Mia Scotland from Mindful Mamma. Her own business is called “your birth right” and she was a fabulous teacher and really empowering. We left that day feeling confident of our birth choices and very educated about our birth preferences and what we could actually achieve.

I personally love hypnobirthing and I’m a huge advocate of it. I always end my pregnancy Pilates classes with exercises from Mindful Mamma as its such an important part of birth preparation.

The mind is a truly powerful thing and I absolutely believe that your birthing experience can be completely different if we take away the fear factor and believe that our bodies are designed to give birth, it is a completely natural process with an incredible purpose. This was my mantra moving towards birth.

My thoughts mimic this: labour pain is for a purpose. Labour contractions are meaningful. Waves or surges are powerful and bring your baby closer to you. They are not to be fought or something to be frightened of.

Unfortunately in today’s society any form or sign of “pain” especially in the medical model needs to be reduced with pain relief and managed/controlled. The birth process is a natural one that I believe has been micro risk modified and managed which means that most women are not experiencing natural births that are empowering, but more likely lots of medical intervention that is quite often traumatising for many.

Here is my birth story this time round…

I felt like my third trimester was a battle.

This was mainly against the medical system and the way modern society views giving birth and managing it. Having worked in the NHS for 12 years I truly believe I’ve seen it all – the great, the good, the bad and the ugly.

For those of you who know me I was aiming for a VBAC delivery which means vaginal birth after Caesarean section. Physically I was fit and well, mentally I felt strong and so well prepared, but emotionally – I was on a rollercoaster.

I educated myself regarding my birth options and read some fantastic empowering birth books that outlined my birth choices clearly. I highly recommend “The Positive Birth Book” written by Milli Hill for any pregnant lady.

Marie Fell - The Pilates Physio

I’ve reviewed evidence of hospital procedures and the pros and cons of practically every procedure as outlined by Denis Walsh. I felt overall really positive about giving birth and strangely I couldn’t wait to take on the labour challenge.

Marie Fell - The Pilates Physio

Being in hospital for scans and consultant appointments for up to four hours was extremely draining. I felt completely frustrated by the medical model of child birth and every hospital appointment felt like a battle or a fight. Despite being very well educated medically and aware of my options, I still felt after every visit I was being labelled as the “awkward patient” and my choice was falling on deaf ears.

It’s hard to remain positive when meeting so much resistance.

My thoughts about birth were this… It is a natural process that’s primal and instinctive. The female body is designed to give birth to babies and has done for centuries. The body needs quiet, peace, space, love and time to allow the hormones to do their job so that the body can respond and birth exactly how nature intended it to. This was reiterated in the books I read and the hypnobirthing course I attended and made complete sense to me.

In a hospital environment we get the exact opposite; bright lights, noisy spaces, machines beeping, deprivation of privacy, constant chatter, people coming and going who you don’t know, time pressures, everything BUT that serene, calm environment.

That terrified me.

Increased medical management leads to more pain relief, due to your body producing more adrenaline, your body protects itself by dampening down your labour rhythm which leads to more panic and the label “failure to progress” which leads to further medical intervention and by this point you are completely terrified they can’t get the baby out so you end up in theatre with a C-section!

The word “DOOMED” springs to mind before you even get the opportunity to try.

This leads to the question – surely this can’t be right?

I actually felt more scared to go into hospital and give birth and would have preferred to give birth at home. Equally I recognised the risks and wanted to keep me and my baby safe, so it was a catch 22 situation.

On the Tuesday before my due date, I had a meeting with the head of community midwives (who was a man) and my consultant (a woman) to discuss a HBAC – home birth after Caesarean. It was decided that I would be safer in hospital following my previous C-section and I could have wireless monitoring in hospital but this would have to be on labour ward and not on the midwife led unit which was my alternative preference.

During this meeting, I got to discuss my birth preferences in detail – the midwife listened and actively looked at them and was genuinely interested, the consultant did not look at them or take them from me.

Marie Fell - The Pilates Physio

I then had a routine midwifery check up following the meeting and that’s where things took a sudden unexpected turn.

It was found that my fundal height had not grown since my previous midwife check about 3 weeks before. I honestly thought it’s a different person, so they’ve got a different measurement, I’m not concerned.  However, I did agree to go back that afternoon for a scan.

Arriving at 5pm not thinking anything of it I was shocked to see and hear that my placenta had calcified and the fluid around my baby was very little. There was concern that my baby was not being nourished anymore and was clearly showing signs of this. I was told to stay in to see a doctor but 2 and a half hours later I was ready to self discharge to see my little boy before he went to bed.  I was told I would need to book in for an elective C-section (again) and thought I could do this from home.

I was dismayed that I wouldn’t get my VBAC but at the same time I wanted my baby out safely and in good health.

As I was about to self discharge a midwife encouraged me to have the heart monitor on which I didn’t realise would take 20 mins to do. During this time I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions but thought nothing of them as they were not troubling me. However, a couple of these contractions on the machine showed my baby’s heart rate dropping – cue the doctor arriving and informing me I needed an emergency C-section that night!

Obviously I was in complete shock and quite upset by this news as I was not mentally prepared for surgery that night. They agreed to give me some time and put the monitor on again and review my baby’s heart rate. I got my hypnobirthing tracks on and focussed on my breathing. I did my best to relax and my baby’s heart rate became normal during these “contractions”.

I saw another doctor who at midnight admitted me to the antenatal ward to be monitored until the next elective C-section slot was available on Friday.

I ended up on the monitor three times a day as my baby’s movements started to reduce. This was probably because I wasn’t on the school run twice a day and doing my normal daily tasks, like washing, cleaning, cooking, etc. Ironically this was exactly what I didn’t want to happen – the complete opposite to my birth preferences in fact.

Already I was in the cycle of the medical model washing machine.

I decided to try and get my labour more established to see if I could VBAC before my elective C-section date. My body was starting to get ready so I agreed to a sweep the next day. This helped a little but the bright lights and noisy ward atmosphere didn’t allow it to gain momentum.

I asked my husband to bring my birth board in, my LED lights and I started to follow birth guru Ina May Gaskin’s suggestions on how to get my oxytocin birth hormones flowing. I watched funny Facebook videos, concentrated on my breathing, dimmed the lights, blocked out external noise to name just a few things. I hypnobirthed regularly and listened to some music on my phone that felt empowering and helped me get in my zone.Marie Fell - The Pilates Physio

By Friday, I had lost my mucus plug, was starting to contract regularly and was getting into a rhythm of waves. I felt positive that I might actually still birth my baby naturally.

However, my consultant gave me another sweep and said I hadn’t progressed and should still proceed to theatre. I had eaten some toast that morning on the advice of my midwife, so wasn’t allowed surgery until the afternoon. I laboured all day, nil by mouth, and by lunchtime felt dreadful.

I spiked a temp and had a chesty cough. There were a lot of people on the ward with coughs and colds and I later learnt that many midwives were off sick with a bug too. My theatre was delayed and I ended up cannulated with IV fluids and IV antibiotics to bring my temperature down.

By tea time I felt better as I was rehydrated, so I was due to go to theatre but then an emergency case came in and so my turn came round at 7.30pm. By this point my contractions were lasting up to a minute every 8 minutes or so. I was pleased I got to experience this first stage of labour at least and I used my hypnobirthing breathing techniques with great effect and was not in “pain” as such but just riding the waves.

My baby was born by Caesarean section at 8.44pm. I had a brilliant theatre team. My midwife, anaethestist and consultant all listened to my birth preferences and although I couldn’t have a gentle Caesarean I did get all my other requests fulfilled completely and for that I was thankful.

Marie Fell - The Pilates Physio

Plan B birth preferences

I gave birth to a very calm and content baby girl who was very healthy. We had immediate skin to skin contact and I managed to breastfeed her in recovery with ease. She is doing amazingly and I am so pleased she was well and safely with us after an eventful last few days.

I used my hypnobirthing tracks throughout and repeated birth affirmations in my head that were suitable for theatre. I had the best birth experience I could and I was thankful that I had got to experience the start of labour and control it with relative ease.

Introducing Sophie Willow Anne Fell. She was 6lb 100z and perfect in every way.Marie Fell - The Pilates Physio

We are so thankful and grateful she came to us safely regardless of how she arrived. I journalled my experience as some events were traumatic and it wasn’t smooth sailing but I feel at peace with it all now.

And so commenced my fourth trimester. More on that next month as I discuss the trials and tribulations of managing a newborn, breastfeeding and the school run!