Positive Birth News

birth stories, news and articles to encourage and inspire


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A Positive Caesarean Birth

If you wish to emerge from your baby’s caesarean birth feeling positive then it is wise to take ownership over your baby’s birth. This means speaking up for what you want and do not want and placing yourself in the hands of people you trust and feel safe with.

Consider what your wishes would be for a caesarean birth when you are doing your birth preparation and planning. Then you will have the opportunity to communicate your most important desires for a caesarean birth with your place of birth and carers ahead of time. This doesn’t mean dwelling on the possibility of a caesarean, it just means considering and documenting what would make this type of birth as positive as possible for you, your partner and your baby.

Most of us like to avoid conflict. We are used to being told what we should or shouldn’t do by health professionals and we are in the habit of giving over our power and ownership to others in medical situations. Although it may be very challenging for you (it is for me!), your baby’s birth is an opportunity to begin advocating for yourself and for your unborn child. Through your experience of birth you can set the scene for future interactions with doctors, dentists, health nurses and teachers where you are a strong advocate and an expert in your needs and the needs of your children.

There are options for a caesarean birth that may not be offered to you as they are not standard care in most hospitals. Although a caesarean is surgery, it is also the birth of a baby, a mother and a father. Even in an emergency, this surgery can be performed with gentle and respectful intentions, with consciousness that this is a birth and it is a special day.

Based on many women’s stories and the work of retired US obstetrician, Robert Oliver, MD, board of directors of APPPAH, the Association for Pre and Perinatal Psychology and Health, these are my suggestions for turning a necessary caesarean into a positive and beautiful birth.

Not all of these are going to be possible for a mid-labour emergency caesarean or in every individual situation, but they are possible and achievable. Reading positive caesarean stories and asking questions of other women will help you to discover that the smallest things can make all the difference to your baby’s birth.

Robert Oliver MD writes about his experience with positive caesarean births: “It is our intention to maintain the mother’s control of the events. She must at all times feel she is important to and guiding the birthing, regardless of the emergency and the operative procedure.This also goes for the baby in a spiritual and metaphysical sense. Ideally the obstetrician and labor room personnel will honor these two people most strongly.”

Preparing for Caesarean Birth
It is OK to feel disappointed, sad, or angry before and after your baby’s birth. Seek an empathetic listener (eg, your doula or midwife) who will not dismiss your feelings, ‘jolly’ you along, or diagnose you with depression before you even have time to grieve the birth and meeting with your baby that you had hoped to experience.

If you feel ready and you have time to prepare for your caesarean birth, read positive caesarean birth stories so that you are familiar with what will happen and what the birth may feel like. These stories will also give you confidence to ask for what you want. Talking to other women will also help you to find out what products there are that may make your recovery easier. (There are three positive caesarean stories in the Birth Journeys book.)

Meet the surgeon and anaesthetist beforehand with your midwife and/or doula to discuss your birth plans and hopes.

Ask that your baby be placed on your chest before weighing, cleaning and paediatric assessment, unless absolutely necessary. Weighing and cleaning are not emergency procedures that have to happen the moment your baby is born – they can wait – but we tend to accept that they take place immediately after birth. There are many possibilities like this that are not widely discussed or offered.

Ask for delayed cord clamping so that your baby receives all the cord blood and oxygen from the placenta while they adapt to life outside the womb. A recent review of studies showed that delayed cord clamping provides longer term health benefits for your baby as well as supporting them as they begin to breathe. A lotus birth is possible with a caesarean birth and it ensures that your baby is not taken away (although baby may be held rather than placed on your chest) before the placenta is birthed.

Ask for the lights to be dimmed and the surgery to be a little warmer than usual for your baby’s birth. This is achievable and it will make your baby’s first moments in the world easier and the birth environment more pleasant for you too.

Ask for talking to be quiet and gentle with attention focused on you, your baby, your partner and this birth. One common complaint couples have after experiencing a caesarean birth is that medical staff carried on with their own conversations ignoring the presence and the feelings of the key people in this important event. Perhaps some surgeons and theatre staff have this habit because other ‘patients’ would not be listening in and they may not be aware of how it makes many couples feel.

Discuss your intentions for breastfeeding and how you will be supported after the caesarean birth. Identify how will you be helped to breastfeed, especially if there is a reason why you are unable to breastfeed your baby for the first few hours. Remember that skin to skin contact and allowing your baby to explore and find your nipple by themselves is a wonderful way to initiate breastfeeding and reconnect with your baby after a separation.

Caesarean births are sometimes linked to difficulties in establishing breastfeeding so consider finding the supportive friends and professionals now before your baby is born. It is easier to reach for support if you have already made contact before the birth.

You may wish to discover your baby’s sex for yourselves. You may like the doctors to welcome your baby by name. Ensure you make your wishes clear so that this special moment meets your wishes.

Use honey not vinegar to get what you want. If you are worried about dealing with potential conflict, try words like these: “It is important to us that… How can we work together to…” Eg, if you are concerned about your baby being taken away immediately after birth you could try words similar to “It is important to us that our baby is not separated from us. How can we do things so we have our baby in our arms straight after the birth?”

This may seem to be giving the power to find a solution to the doctors, but you are actually telling them what your concern is and what outcome you want. I’ve not had to use this method in maternity care, but I have used it in the operating theatre and recovery ward with my children to get what I knew they needed and it really works! Honest and respectful communication with the right person goes a long way.

On The Day
Have your partner place their hands on your belly or speak to your baby in the time before the caesarean birth begins. Your baby knows their daddy’s voice and this can help your partner to feel involved and connected with your baby and the birth.

Before the birth begins, ask to take a moment to welcome your baby and give thanks for their life and the wonderful care and the gentle hands of everyone in the room that will receive your baby into the world. If you would normally pray or say a few words before something momentous takes place then surely the caesarean birth of a baby fits this category. I believe your wish will be respected if you frame it as a need to give thanks, say a prayer or a blessing before your baby’s birth.

If saying something aloud is all too much, then ask for a everyone to share a moment’s silence to give thanks. Taking this small but very personal action will send a very clear message about the way you want this birth to be – respectful, gentle and calm. I have not read of this in any birth stories so you may be pioneers if you try this – be sure to let me know what happens!

Focus on your baby and visualise sending them reassurance and love. Let your baby know that it is safe for them to be born this way and that you are in control of what is happening. Talk or sing to your baby in your head or quietly – keep focused on them and their wellbeing and imagine them coming out into the light and the air. This will help you to feel involved and in control of the birth of your baby. By keeping calm, you support the wellbeing of both yourself and your baby. If this is not for you, use other methods such as counting backwards to help you keep calm.

Have a doula or familiar midwife in the theatre focused on your care and wellbeing. You’ll benefit from having someone there for you and your partner.

If you prepared for birth with hypnosis or meditation methods you may find these are still very useful during the birth. If you have prepared using breathing techniques or counting methods these amy also be helpful for you. (See the links below for hypnobirthing specifically for caesarean birth.)

If you are unable to hold your baby post-birth, your partner can hold your baby against his bare chest with a blanket over them both, or even inside his shirt. Your baby will be kept warm and will love this close contact with daddy.

Remember it is your birth and your baby’s birth not just an operation. Every aspect of this birth may be performed with an intention to help, to care and to show respect for you, your baby and your partner. You deserve this.

Some links you may find helpful before and after a caesarean birth:
Caesarean birth plan: http://www.birthtalk.org/PlanaPosCS.hhtml
Hypnobirthing for caesarean birth: http://www.hypnobirthingaustralia.com.au/preparation-for-caesarean-birth-cesarean-c-section/
What a caesarean is like: http://www.birthingfromwithin.com/cesarean
Birth Rites on positive caesareans: http://www.birthrites.org/caesarean.html
Love letter to mothers who have birthed by caesarean: http://thestir.cafemom.com/baby/131563/a_love_letter_to_csection
Words that heal – why language matters: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brandy-ferner/words-that-heal-cesarean-birth_b_3722185.html

20130826-213350.jpg No matter how you birth or how your baby needs to be born, you deserve this treatment.

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Breastfeeding in Pregnancy, Labour and Beyond

This is an information piece in published in Birth Journeys,  by Leonie MacDonald

Often mothers who become pregnant wonder whether they can continue to breastfeed their baby or toddler throughout pregnancy. In most cases, it is perfectly safe and even beneficial.

During pregnancy, your milk supply may remain unchanged, diminish, or change to colostrum, especially towards the end of pregnancy. Colostrum is the first milk a newborn baby drinks. It is a clear yellowish liquid, very rich in vitamins and antibodies. It will do no harm to your breastfeeding child, although it may have a laxative effect and they may dislike the saltier flavour. Your supply of colostrum will not be used up by breastfeeding during pregnancy.

Your baby or toddler may wish to continue breastfeeding for comfort regardless of your milk supply. There are also immunological benefits of breastfeeding that continue even if your breastfeeder is not feeding very often or receiving much milk.

You may, however, experience sore nipples ranging from tolerable to very painful. Limiting the length of feeds or spacing feeds out can make this pain more manageable for some mothers. Heat or cool packs held to the breast before feeding can reduce the discomfort. Heat packs can also encourage the flow of milk. Sometimes the pain is only present at the start of the feed and then disappears.

Breastfeeding during labour is also possible and safe. Stimulating the nipples (through breastfeeding or through manual stimulation) can increase oxytocin and strengthen your contractions. It can be used to move your labour along in a natural way.

Some mothers will decide to tandem feed after birth. This means breastfeeding a baby and their sibling. The two do not have to be at the breast at the same time – any combination can work.


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Preparing for Breastfeeding – setting yourself up for a positive experience

This is an information page published in Birth Journeys, written by Leonie MacDonald

breastfeeding Trey

breastfeeding Trey (Photo credit: sdminor81)

Many women wish to breastfeed their baby. After birth, 92% of Australian babies are breastfed[1] but by 6 months the figure dwindles to just 14% and continues to decline. Beyond 6 months, very few babies are fully breastfed. Clearly there is something amiss when so many Australian mothers have been unable to keep on breastfeeding when it was their intention and their desire to breastfeed at birth.

Breastfeeding is a skill that often needs to be worked out by mother and baby together. The majority of women are able to breastfeed their baby, and the majority of babies are able to breastfeed (no, not all, but most). However, breastfeeding requires support and encouragement as well as patience and time. Personal and societal factors often make it very hard for new mothers to keep breastfeeding. Women may experience grief, guilt, or anger if they are unable to continue.

Just as with birth, a good understanding of how breastfeeding works, surrounding yourself with positive breastfeeding stories, and finding women and health care professionals who are supportive of breastfeeding is important. Attending a breastfeeding education class run by your local Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) or a qualified lactation consultant will provide you with the most recent evidence-based information on breastfeeding. This will help you prepare for breastfeeding and put you in contact with a community of supportive women and health professionals.

Your chosen place of birth should be breastfeeding-friendly. Your carers should be up-to-date with the latest breastfeeding information and provide consistent advice. Even so, if you are in a maternity ward, you may come into contact with many staff and a variety of approaches to supporting early breastfeeding. Many women find this experience confusing and discouraging. Your preparation for breastfeeding may include researching and choosing the carer or carers you will trust and call on for breastfeeding and post birth support.

Far from excluding your partner, breastfeeding is an area where your partner can do a great deal to help: looking after you with a glass of water and a nutritious snack while you feed, helping you relax with a shoulder and back rub, setting you up with a feeding pillow and supportive cushions, burping baby and keeping them upright after a feed, dealing with unwanted interruptions, fielding unwanted advice from well-intentioned observers, and making supportive, encouraging comments about breastfeeding to you and those around you. A supportive partner (and family) makes an enormous difference to your breastfeeding journey.

You may find that there are people who do not understand or value breastfeeding and those who hold outdated and unhelpful beliefs. As with birth, what was common practice in the past is not always the best choice for you and your baby today.

You may be encouraged to feed to a clock-based routine or limit the time your new baby feeds. However, reducing your baby’s time at the breast by spacing or limiting feeds will diminish your milk supply (unless carefully managed).

Concerned family or friends may suggest you offer a bottle of artificial baby milk to help your baby sleep through the night or give you a break. There is actually research to suggest that young babies are supposed to wake throughout the night to breastfeed and regulate their breathing and body temperature*. The misconception that all babies ‘should’ sleep through the night before a certain age often undermines breastfeeding (and a mother’s confidence).

You may be told that you do not have enough milk for your baby because they are unsettled or feeding often. If you breastfeed to your baby’s cues then this is unlikely to be the case. Babies do feed frequently as they have tiny tummies. They may also breastfeed more often when they are getting sick, teething or having a growth spurt.

It is sensible to seek reliable, up-to-date advice from the health professional you have chosen and trust, a breastfeeding counsellor, or lactation consultant before you act on the advice of well-meaning bystanders.

As we know from birth, when we are surrounded by negativity, misinformation and discouragement, it is much more challenging to keep focused on the positive outcome we want and to find the help we need to achieve it. To feel confident in your ability and your right to breastfeed your baby or toddler, it is very helpful to have support, encouragement, and access to advice you can trust.

The Australian Breastfeeding Association is a community organisation that meets this need around Australia through local groups in the community, a free government-funded counselling hotline, an informative website and an online forum. Visit www.breastfeeding.asn.au for more information.


[1] Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA), the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

* Sleeping with Your Baby, Dr James McKenna (2007).


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Guess what? You’re a Mammal!

Are you ready to admit you’re an animal? A mammal like a chimpanzee, a dolphin, a giraffe, an elephant or a cat?

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We have become so civilised and socialised that we go through the day forgetting we are mammals. Birth is a great leveller, because labour asks us to let go of self-consciousness and tap into our inner mammal.

I was confronted, horrified and mortified by the birth video shown in the antenatal classes at our local hospital. I don’t know why this video was considered appropriate to show a group of nervous and inexperienced adults who had never seen a real birth before – only dramas on TV. The only birth that looked like something I could handle was the one where the woman had an epidural and I had already decided I didn’t want to have a needle in my spine or risk the effects of an epidural on my labour.

Even the birth described as a ‘nice, gentle water birth’ was way too much for me. Labouring women looked sweaty and messy, their bodies were heaving, their sounds were animalistic and almost sexual. I felt like I was prying on some very private moment that I wasn’t meant to see. I certainly didn’t like the idea of behaving like this myself! It was terrifying to think of losing control like that in front of other people (this should have been a clue that I needed privacy!).

No matter how much I prepared for my first birth with reading and learning, I was still uncomfortable with the raw, animalistic nature of birth and I couldn’t imagine myself in this state. I needed to feel completely safe and unembarrassed before I could really immerse myself in labour.

During my second birth I was able to trust, relax and let go completely. The experience was powerful and pain free for me and a straightforward, safe and much faster birth for my son. I didn’t need to rehearse or learn how to give birth. It was instinctive. This is how it is for other mammals – most of the time. And this is how it may be for humans – most – but sadly not all of the time.

If you want your baby’s birth to be natural, normal and safe, then it is wise to understand and accept the nature of birth. Birth is raw, physical, animalistic and instinctive. Your mammalian body does know what to do but it needs the right conditions. You need to make sure your human self-consciousness doesn’t get in the way. To birth your baby, you need to feel safe enough and comfortable enough to let yourself move instinctively, to feel able to tear off your clothes, to moan and groan, to be loud, or to be inward, withdrawn and private, and to do whatever feels right for you. The hormones that drive labour have evolved to work when you feel safe, unobserved and willing to give yourself over to birth. The bottom line is you need to feel comfortable with being a mammal!

If you are uncomfortable watching a DVD of a woman in labour then don’t avoid them. Watch a whole lot more, but do choose your viewing wisely. Gentle natural births that show women moving around, making labour sounds, or entering into deep states of relaxation, and being supported and nurtured by carers and partners can give you a positive and realistic image of what labour can be like. Water births are probably the least confronting to begin with. Animal births may be a good way to ease yourself into watching births too.

In contrast, viewing frightening, stressful births and emergency scenarios do more harm to you than good. Don’t imagine that reality birth shows will help you prepare for an emergency, just in case one happens. The only thing that will help you in an emergency is knowing that you can trust your carers and that you will be treated with love and respect as well as medical expertise. Focus on ensuring you have that relationship of trust, respect and nurturing with your carers and supporters instead. This will serve you well, no matter how your baby is born.


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Failure to Progress or Failure to Wait?

Failure to Progress and Preparing for a VBAC

For most mammals birth seems to be fairly straightforward. They seek a safe and private place to birth in the middle of the night. Some choose to birth alone and others have ‘midwife mammals’ by their side. If there is danger they either have a speedy birth or stall labour until there is another safe opportunity.

For humans, it seems far more challenging. We have to feel safe in our environment, safe with the people around us, and safe with the physical and emotional process that is taking us over. We have learnt to fear birth with our minds and hearts, yet nature requires us to feel safe in order to give birth. Sometimes ‘failure to progress’ is the result of this struggle.

‘Failure to progress’ is one of the common reasons given for a caesarean during labour. This label is a blanket term for times where contractions have slowed or paused, dilation has gone backwards, or contractions are continuing but the baby is making no further progress towards birth. Women’s stories suggest that the label ‘failure to progress’ is often used when their labour has taken several days, or simply longer than expected or allowed by policy.

There are many variations in labour and doctors and midwives face the task of judging when medical assistance is needed and when all that is needed is patience. No one wants an adverse outcome, however in the rush to keep birth safe, some mothers and babies are hurried into treatment for an emergency that just does not exist. Some caesarean births due to failure to progress are actually caesareans due to impatience and failure to wait.

“After 50 hours of intense labour, I had a caesarean.

I haemorrhaged and my uterus collapsed requiring manual internal manipulation to contract it back down again. I had to have the caesarean under general anaesthetic because of my previous spinal surgery – I was unconscious for the birth of my baby.

My husband was allowed into surgery to be with our baby. I’m glad of that, because I wasn’t ‘there’.

The last thing I remember was being pregnant. Next thing I knew, at least a couple of hours later, I was being wheeled up a corridor past a baby in a clear plastic crib and someone was saying, “That’s your daughter.”

It was a very surreal and disjointed experience. To this day, I still feel a gap. I don’t feel like I birthed my daughter, yet she’s gorgeous and I love her like I’ve never loved anyone or anything before.

It should not have happened this way. It was an unnecessary caesarean performed due to medical impatience with my long posterior labour. Neither my precious daughter nor myself were at risk during labour except when they intervened.”

From Jo’s VBAC story “Triumphant Birth”, in Birth Journeys – positive birth stories to encourage and inspire

The alternative response to a labour that seems to be failing to progress is to ask what obstacles are there to this birth. If a mother feels frightened, threatened, nervous, embarrassed, angry, unsupported, alone, disempowered, violated, exposed, worried, overwhelmed or any other negative feeling then this can slow her labour down and even stop her labour from progressing.

Women’s birth stories show that there are many ways to help a birthing mother to move through or let go of thoughts or influences that have made her feel unsafe or threatened if this is the cause of a slowed or stalled labour:
– a change in environment (can she leave the room, open or close the curtains, change the atmosphere if not location)
– a change in activity and pace (get moving if she has been still, be still if she has been moving)
– a challenging question (eg, what is it you are frightened of? What are you avoiding? Is she intentionally avoiding the intensity of labour mentally or physically by avoiding certain movements or positions that make her contractions more intense and more effective?)
– the removal of an unwelcome person in the room (is there an uninvited or irritating presence in the room? If it is a midwife or nurse, can you ask for a different one or buffer her from this person’s impact)
– or the inclusion of a loved and longed for person (is she missing someone special?)
a few simple encouraging words (you are made to do this, you are bringing your baby into the world, positive affirmations)
– a description of what her body is doing or needs to do (open up and let your baby come down)
– a cry (release the built up stress so she can feel ready to birth her baby)
– a reminder of the skills she has learnt and the strength she has to give birth and to be a mother (has she forgotten the birth skills she has learnt? Or is she worried that she doesn’t have the ability to be a mother to this baby?)
– some time alone (maybe she needs some quiet space to reflect and gather herself. A trip to the toilet seems to work well according to women’s experiences!)

Preparing for your next birth

It is important to understand the factors that contributed to the path of your last birth and to consider the possible impact your feelings (whether you felt safe or unsafe) had on your labour. It is wise to discuss your previous birth in detail with your chosen doctor/midwife for a birth after caesarean. Pay attention to the way your chosen carers talk about your past birth as this will tell you what you can expect from them.

If your doctor seems to blame you and your body for a failure to progress, then be wary of both the doctor and the truth of what they are saying. Keep in mind that a very, very tiny percentage of women actually have a physical reason why they cannot labour and birth vaginally and statistically you are unlikely to be this woman.

If you hear words like “Your pelvis is too small and your baby got stuck. Luckily we saved your baby’s life just in time. You’ll never be able to have a vaginal birth of course” then you can thank this carer and start looking for another! They have just revealed that they are unaware of or insensitive to the emotional issues around birth and they already believe you and your body ‘failed’. You could enquire about the evidence for their verdict or you could simply put this energy into finding a more supportive and respectful doctor first. There are ways to discuss a ‘failure to progress’ that would be more supportive, caring and respectful.

One doctor or midwife’s ‘failure to progress’ will be another’s call to action: how can I help you to feel safe enough to give birth?


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Positive Birth Story: Choosing Support

Renae’s story illustrates the power of allowing ourselves to be supported during pregnancy and labour. Renae shares her journey from a difficult first birth to a beautiful, powerful second birth. Renae had wanted and prepared for a natural first birth. She had a positive outlook, she had done the birth preparation and she was realistic, but not frightened. However her plans and expectations evaporated as she was overwhelmed by the pain of an intense induced labour. Renae opted for an epidural and experienced a damaging forceps delivery, under the threat of a caesarean.

Before she even became pregnant with her second daughter, Renae decided that she needed and wanted more support next time. She decided that a doula would meet her needs. Renae’s doula was a source of supportive friendship, informative discussion and beautiful encouragement during Renae’s pregnancy. Renae’s second birth was empowering and drug-free with a natural third stage and ‘delayed’ cord clamping. It was everything Renae had hoped for.

My First Birth
I went into my first birth with positive expectations. My sister-in-law had two natural and positive births so she was a great influence on me! My husband and I did a Calmbirth course which I loved (but he thought was a waste of time). I did a heap of magazine reading and read a few books. So I wasn’t scared, but realistic. I thought labour would be natural and instinctive.

I was five days overdue and my doctor was concerned with my blood pressure. I went in for my 41 week appointment and was sent straight to the hospital from there. It caught me off guard! At about 7pm the next night my doctor put in the gel and the machine picked up that I was having ‘tightenings’ but they weren’t considered contractions. They weren’t too painful and I was able to sleep that night. The gel was repeated the next morning but it still wasn’t bringing on labour so I had my waters broken at about 1pm. When that didn’t start labour I went on the syntocinon drip at about 2.30pm.

It took about an hour and then the ‘real’ contractions started. I breathed through them and by 6pm I was at 4cm. I was doing OK but would have done better if I could have moved off the bed, had a shower, or walked around but I was continually hooked to the bed! Then all of a sudden I had this huge long contraction that just didn’t stop! Oh my, it was so painful! I lost my focus. I had the gas and I’m not sure if it helped or hindered the situation. The drip had caused the long contraction so they turned it off to give me a little break. My doctor came back and checked me. I was 7cm (9pm). I was over the pain so I chose to have an epidural. The next two hours were pain free and I progressed to 10cm by 11pm.

I pushed for about an hour and frankly gave up. I just wasn’t getting anywhere and I was exhausted. So my doctor called another doctor who did forceps deliveries and I got a huge top up of epidural. The new doctor said “If this doesn’t work you’ll have to get a c-section!” so I pushed as hard and long as possible (with him pulling!) and with that my baby Eloise was born.

I had an episiotomy, and her head tore me down the middle, to the side, and her hand got me inside too. Thank goodness for epidurals! They put my baby on my chest and it took so long to stitch me up, she was pretty much screaming the whole time. I was shivering and not well at all. I didn’t feel the instant relief or a flood of love. I was so overwhelmed by what had happened.

Soon after my first birth I felt positive. I believed that everything had happened how it had to happen and I was OK with that…for a while. But then I got talking, thinking and did more reading. Now I realised I wasn’t really happy with how things went at all.

I didn’t feel I was strong enough to speak up or question the midwives or my doctor. I went along with what they said even if I was uncomfortable with it. The pain seemed to overtake my will to labour my way. At one stage, when they were putting the drip in my arm, I asked if I had to be hooked up to the drip the whole time. The midwife had said “Maybe, we will have to see how it goes.” Now I know that once you’re hooked up, it stays that way!

Choosing a Doula
Before my next birth, I decided to hire a doula. The idea mainly came from reading the Birth Journeys book. Hardly anyone around my area had even heard of one and I had to do a lot of explaining to my friends!

I felt I needed someone with me who knew what I wanted and would speak up for me. My husband was there for me but he is not the type to question a professional. He was very supportive of my decision to have a doula. He felt that his job would be a lot easier on the day too. I think any pressure or worries he felt from our first birth were relieved knowing we would have a doula there.

Sophie was a student doula and I knew her through a friend. We were pregnant at the same time (but only saw each other once during this time) so we had the basis of a friendship already. Then we bonded over our mutual feelings towards birth activism on Facebook and got talking about our births. Her birth was awesome and empowering. Mine was not! We had our first doula meeting at a play café with our daughters and we found we had an easy friendship. Sophie is so different to me in her parenting style but we agreed on some fundamental points and that got us talking.

For a while I considered going in for a planned C-section. I thought it would be easier and at least I would get the baby with no damage to that ‘sensitive’ area that was so hurt last time. However talking to people and reading Birth Journeys (again!) helped me to want a positive natural birth. My mum is a very positive person and said from her experience (6 births) the first one is always the hardest! She helped a lot. I also had a miscarriage between Eloise and Charlotte and that seemed to change my perspective.

Sophie was always only a conversation away with positive words and support. At one stage the baby was posterior and I was so worried about birthing a posterior baby as I had heard so many bad stories. Sophie sent me links to read to help baby get in a better position and every time we talked she would remind me to do the exercises – I was lazy at doing them!

Sophie helped me to feel excited about birth. Just knowing that she would be there with me made me look forward to it! She gave me two books to read (one by Ina May Gaskin) and they were both a bit out of my comfort zone as Sophie is a lot more of an ‘earth mother’ than me! But I loved Juju Sundin’s Birth Skills. I read it when I was 36-38 weeks while on holiday and it got me in the mood to have a baby! I had lots of conversations about induced labours compared to natural labours. I also talked about being in control and having delayed cord clamping, a natural third stage and allowing my waters to break naturally. My friends couldn’t understand why I would want any of these or that they had that choice.

I also talked to my doctor about my thoughts and my fears and she was wonderfully supportive. The midwives however, had never had a doula, rarely did delayed cord clamping and never did a natural third stage! I was told that delayed cord clamping is dangerous, a natural third stage can cause a haemorrhage and that my doctor wouldn’t do it! It shows they were misinformed! I just said “OK” and went ahead and wrote my birth plan with my doctor’s support. My doctor understood that I was well read and wanted the things I wanted for a reason! I never knew which midwife I would get so there was no point in challenging them.

My Second Birth

I was sure Charlotte would be late like her sister and I was determined not to be induced this time. I decided I was willing to go two weeks over. I decided to go to one last movie in Adelaide (100km from home!). I decided not to waste my time at home and go and enjoy myself. Whilst at the movie (10.30am, Life of Pi) I had a few niggles but wrote them off as braxton hicks – I was in denial from that first pain!

I had lunch with a friend after the movie at 1pm and kept getting slight pains. At one time I had to sit down instead of going to get a drink as I couldn’t walk! But once again, I decided it was nothing. After lunch and a walk around the mall, I went to Bunnings to buy a hose (It was suddenly very important to buy a hose!!) but I left empty-handed as the pains were getting stronger and more frequent. I also had a headache so I bought some water and panadol and decided to drive the hour long trip home.

On the way home, I called my husband and told him that I thought I might be in labour, but probably not, as it felt too easy. I called my doula Sophie and explained what was happening. She confirmed that it sounded like early labour and suggested I have a rest once I got home. During the drive the pains were bearable, coming every 15 minutes or so.

When I got home, there was a lovely surprise from my husband (Matthew) – a beautiful clean house. He must have had the nesting urge instead of me! Instead of relaxing, I ran around the house packing my maternity bag. I was still in denial. With each contraction I would think ‘Yep, this is definitely real’ then when it was over I would think ‘Nah, it didn’t hurt much, so it must be braxton hicks’. I thought I should time them properly using an app on my phone and it turned out the contractions were 10 minutes apart and lasting about 40 seconds but they were still completely manageable.

I decided to listen to Sophie’s advice and I went to bed. It was the best decision because I fell asleep in between the pains and I’m sure they slowed right down. I felt very refreshed after my sleep. The next few hours were spent having a nice long shower, texting Sophie (we were both very excited!) and watching TV. I held a heat pack to my lower bump and paced the kitchen during contractions. I focused on not clenching or holding on during contractions but letting go and relaxing. In between I rested on the fit ball with my eyes closed. It was quite enjoyable!

At 8pm Sophie arrived. She was a lovely, calming presence (like I have often read about doulas) and she helped me to accept that this really was happening and I would meet my little girl soon! By this stage contractions were five minutes apart, still around 40 seconds long and not that painful. I continued to pace and added in counting my steps. I handled the pain quite well this way. Sophie had brought with her the best contraption, a stretchy belt to hold a heated wheat bag in place on my tummy and one on my back. It was a wonderful addition!

Packed to the Rafters was on, and as it is my favourite show, I watched it in between the contractions with both Matt and Sophie sitting on the couch. It was a very calm and enjoyable time. During the ads we talked about our children, about Sophie’s labour, my previous labour and worked on convincing Matt that this was the real thing.

I called the hospital at 8.30pm and told them what was happening. I told them I wanted to stay at home as long as possible and they were happy with that as their midwife started work at 11pm. I also called the on-call midwife who delivered my first daughter and she reminded me that the second stage with her was quite fast, which I didn’t know. I also had to factor in the 30 minute very bumpy drive to the hospital.

By 11pm the contractions were closer and stronger, so I decided to leave for the hospital. I had so many contractions in the car and I dealt with the pain using strategies from Birth Skills by Juju Sundin. I pulled myself up on the roof handle, tapped my foot and counted the taps to distract myself from the pain – it worked so well.

We arrived at the hospital at 11.30pm and I said to Matt that our daughter would be born the next day. I thought we still had hours to go. It still wasn’t as painful as I thought it was going to be. I was contracting frequently but they were short and once again pacing, breathing and counting helped.

My midwife Marlene wanted to check the baby’s heartbeat but only managed two short readings as I needed to move around to manage the contractions. Marlene then checked my dilation, (which was horrible as I was lying down). She knew I didn’t want my waters to be broken so she just did a quick check and found that I was 8cms but my baby’s head was still high. As she removed her hand, something made me gag and I started to vomit. This somehow triggered my waters to break! Stuff was gushing out both ends, and my poor doula had to hold a bag for me to vomit. She was amazing and cleaned me up a bit before helping me to the shower. My husband had gone to get my birth plan and decided to also bring our bags in (as it was going to be ages until the birth) so he missed all the messy stuff!

Once in the shower I felt overwhelming pain and I squatted and held onto the rail. It was a completely instinctive movement. I let out a loud moan. I had been quite silent until now. Matt later told me it sounded very animalistic. I experienced immense pressure through the constant contractions. I didn’t quite ‘get’ what was going on and I put my hand down and right on my baby’s head. I yelled ‘I can feel the head!’ Sophie was behind me the whole time holding the water on my back and telling me how well I was doing and that this was all natural.

Marlene instructed someone to call the doctor and asked me if I could get onto the bed. I said ‘NO!!’ and got on to all fours. Marlene somehow got in behind me (a very small space!) and did her thing as I did mine with a lot of noise. I hardly remember pushing but instead seemed to ‘moan’ my baby out.

It was incredibly intense and then BAM! There was my little girl! I was in shock and just stayed there for a minute, speechless! As I wanted to delay the cord cutting, Marlene had to follow behind me holding Charlotte, while we went to the bed and waited. When the cord stopped pulsating Matt didn’t want to cut the cord and neither did I, so Sophie did the honours.

Charlotte was handed to a stunned Matt as I wanted to deliver the placenta naturally. It happened quite quickly and easily. I only had a slight tear which didn’t need to be stitched. From the waters breaking to Charlotte’s arrival it was only about seven minutes! We had only just made it to hospital in time. We don’t even know the exact arrival time as it happened so fast and everyone forgot to look at the clock!

My second birth still makes me feel great! From moments after the birth I couldn’t stop smiling! I was in shock that it was so good. I feel like I’m amazing for doing it exactly how I wanted it – and it makes me feel proud. I feel that birth is so instinctive if you just let it be! As I’ve read – birth is not a medical problem – it’s a natural part of life.

I bonded with Charlotte so much quicker and she is an easier and more settled baby than Eloise. I actually thought I hated the baby stage, but turns out I don’t!

I had a positive birth experience because I believed I could have one. I was in control and made the necessary changes that I needed to make to make it happen. I looked at birth as something natural not medical and I did the reading to back it all up.


What do you want other women to know about birth?
That knowledge is power and if you don’t get the answer you want from your doctor or midwife – go to another one until you find one that supports you! To be strong – it’s your body, your choice!!

What do you think your journey from your first birth to second birth shows or offers to teach other women?
One bad birth doesn’t mean they will all be the same. You can make small changes to help you be in control and get that positive feeling. Talk to women and read about positive birth experiences because how you feel about birth starts in your head!


Renae is 29 and she lives on a sheep and cropping farm in the near the Clare Valley in South Australia with her husband Matthew and daughters Eloise (2) and Charlotte (5months). Renae is a kindy teacher but she is focusing on being a stay-at-home mum until her kids are all at school. Renae loves to read and still gets to do a lot of it as her girls have been wonderful sleepers!

Sophie is a doula who has studied with the Australian Doula College.