Thea, Goddess of the Sun, Moon & Stars
What a crazy ride. The whole time I was pregnant with Thea, I was wondering what her story would be. Would she be another Caesar baby? Another marathon labour? It was always at the forefront of my mind, possibly because Henry’s story on how he got here was a bit complex. Theas birth story took us all by surprise, in the most beautiful, swift and redemptive way possible.
On Saturday morning, the 27th of March, at 6am on the dot I woke up to a contraction. I don’t remember waking up through the night with any pain, and even the pain I don’t wake to just felt like a dull ache that only lasted about 30 seconds. But I knew what it was.
I stayed in bed, snuggled into Henry who was sandwiched between Josh and I like usual. 6:13, another pain. I decided after two more by 7am to just get up and start our day. In my head, I thought this was just the start of a few day marathon of early labour. I said to Josh ‘it could be days yet!’ So we went about our morning and we all had some tea and toast, and then I jumped in the shower to wash my hair. The contractions were getting a little more bitey, but still not too excruciating that I couldn’t do anything. I got through a hair wash, even did some winged liner, just pausing every 8 or so minutes by this point to ride and breathe out each contraction.
My mum arrived by 9:30. I felt the most comfortable in our bedroom bouncing on my ball so that’s where I decided to stay. I was having a conversation with my mum between each contraction and tried my best just to stay calm, reminding myself that every pain was doing something productive. My found my contractions were getting a really odd pattern to them: I would have a big one, and then a few minutes later a smaller one that would still be painful, like an aftershock. I didn’t experience this with Henry. It was getting hard to track them by 10:30 because of this weird pattern, and I was starting to not even be able to hold conversation between the pain.
Mum and Josh broached the idea of just heading into hospital to get checked. I was hesitant because I didn’t want to be sent home like I was with Henry. I had only really been labouring for a few hours and I wasn’t confident of my dilation, but I also didn’t want to leave it too late where the car ride would have been horrific with the contractions. I liked the idea of gas and air to help with the pain relief especially with the strange timing of the contractions so I agreed to leave.
By the time we drove to hospital (I had 5 strong contractions between our place and our hospital) pulled into a car spot and got wheeled up to birthing unit, it was around 11. I went straight into room 7, and were treated so beautifully and calmly from the get go. Unfortunately my caseload midwife wasn’t on, so I had a few others who were amazing who came in and got to know us. One brought a fake candle and dimmed the lights for us (and she also asked me for winged eye liner advice between two contractions – it was hilarious!) and the midwife who was covering for my midwife calmly and gently asked a few questions about the pregnancy and asked me how she could make me more comfortable.
I was checked for dilation around 11:40 and was told I was 3-4cm. Part of me was annoyed we’d come in too early, but one of the midwives assured me this was a great start point as a second time mum. She was so lovely! She took my last bump photo with josh and just made the whole experience so positive and exciting. I had my waters broken, and I got on the birthing ball and then it was on: things got intense quickly. Time was passing so quickly and I was sucking on the gas for dear life as a doctor put a cannula in just in case I needed another section.
I was riding each contraction with hardly a gap in between them. I remember a few times the gas knocked me out in a good way, and I said to josh we needed a machine for home in a weird daze. I had to try and empty my bladder and that’s when I felt like transition was happening. I felt like we had just got there! I came back from the loo and felt insane pressure to push. This would have been around 2pm. The midwives just let me move how I wanted though – they didn’t check me or examine me, just went with what I was feeling. It got the point I felt like I was having hardly any relief between the contractions. I almost asked for the epidural but I just had a feeling I was close, and I wasn’t confident I could stay still for them to insert the needle in. I was on the bed and my main midwife checked me again. I was fully dilated! I remember saying and crying to Josh, ‘I’m doing it!!’ And I was so excited to see the tools being brought out. I knew I was close and I knew I was going to push this baby out.
Thea was a tiny bit stuck. She was trying to come down but her head was just a tiny bit stuck and in a funny position. We had to get my cervix over her head. Luckily my midwife along with me bearing down could get her out of this position by ourselves. At that point the urge to push was strong and I had 3 midwives and in the room cheering me on and holding my feet to give me some resistance. They told me baby was starting to get a little tired, and I know that’s code for baby isn’t happy. Something clicked in me and I just decided I needed to get this baby out now. Just before her head came out when she was crowning, the midwife asked if I wanted to feel her and I’m so glad I did! It gave me the drive and confidence that I could birth this baby how I intended. 13 minutes and around 4 pushes later, she was out (and Josh saw everything! What a guy?!) She was purple and needed a few seconds of rubbing and encouragement, but she was here, and she was ours and she was perfect. I could not believe I had a daughter.
Thea ended up having true knot in her cord. My midwife told us this was probably the cause of her heart rate dropping towards the end. Josh cut the cord and I snuggled my fresh baby girl on my chest as I was getting sutured for a 2nd degree tear.
It was honestly such a momentous moment. A moment I was hoping for for my entire pregnancy, and one I was looking forward to. I wish I could relive it over and over again.
Two babies, and two very different births. I wouldn’t change either of them because they were so unique to each of my children, and there is something so valuable in a story. Having now experienced both a Caesarean and a vaginal birth it’s helped me understand what a mother goes through for each type of birth. Neither was easier, neither felt more or less like birth and neither made me feel like more of a mum. But I didn’t realise how much having a vbac meant to me until I felt Thea coming out. I don’t know if I would have been disappointed or not if Thea’s birth was a section, but I can say her delivery and how my labour progressed with her healed something in me I didn’t quite know needed healing.
I believe baby’s health is paramount in birth, but when mum can come out of labour and delivery happy and fulfilled that’s a big bonus and is valuable. Any birth is an accomplishment, that goes without saying. Any birth is worth being proud of, but I have been letting myself be extra proud of myself for how Thea’s birth turned out, because it was an accomplishment for me personally and something I really felt I wanted to experience.
There is totally an element of luck when achieving a vbac. I know that sometimes it doesn’t work out due to scar tissue from the previous Caesar or baby’s positioning and probably a thousand and one other scenarios where a vbac would be that much harder to have or could even make it impossible. I don’t mean to take anything away from these mothers because this is not something they can control and I have so much love and empathy for these mums. I just feel super grateful that for us, it worked out and I’m allowing myself to recognize it as something I am proud of. I couldn’t have done it without supportive family, friends, and of course my birthing team through my pregnancy and during my labour and delivery.