Looking at my 10.5 week old baby girl Aisha sound asleep, I am struck by a sense of familiarity. It is like she has always been here, always been mine and we were merely introduced again through the process of birth. It's hard to believe I carried her for one day shy of 43 weeks. She almost didn't want to come out.
When I fell pregnant 8 months after my son's emergency cesarean, there was no doubt in my head that I wouldn't or couldn't have her vaginally. I plunged myself into research, I read birth stories and scientific publications. Most of all, I supplicated to the Almighty to guide me towards what was best for both of us.
My pregnancy was uneventful. By that, I mean I was besieged with the typical pregnancy niggles but nothing so bad as to make me never to want to become pregnant ever again. Nevertheless, I was put under consultant care because of my previous cesarean - I was considered high risk.
At my 24 week appointment, my consultant was understanding of my intention for a VBAC. She explained the pros and cons of a VBAC vs repeat cesarean all the same. However, when I saw her again at 36 weeks, she mentioned that a VBAC was too risky and that she attended one recently where a rupture occurred and the baby died.
I was too shaken by her revelation and left the hospital deflated. It was not at all what I expected to hear 4 weeks to my due date. I chucked it down to her being still shaken by the awful experience of witnessing a baby dying. In hindsight, I realise if it had been a mother who had died from a cesarean under her watch, she would not have used it as justification for encouraging me to have a VBAC!
I know ruptures are rare. Statistically they occur in roughly 1 out of every 200 spontaneous, unaugmented VBAC births. So I was not under any illusion that I was 100% safe. It was around this time when I was researching the rights of birthing mothers under the NHS that I came across the statistic stating black women were less likely to be successful at a VBAC than white women. I thought to myself, hell no, this baby is coming out of my vagina and that was that!
I saw my consultant again at 38 weeks. She checked my cervix and declared I was just 1cm, barely effaced and labour was, to use her words, "not imminent." Again she tried to coax me into a RCS but I reiterated that the only time I will consider a cesarean is if it was an emergency. I then whipped out a giant notepad with questions and it shut her down immediately.
Well, by 40 weeks my due date came and went with nothing significant happening. My midwife gave me a membrane sweep and signed me off her care. Besides Braxton Hicks which were irregular and unpredictable, I was just your garden variety pregnant woman waddling from point A to B, thoroughly fed up with being pregnant and eager to meet her baby.
I checked into hospital around noon at 40+12 weeks for an induction. My plan was to wait for spontaneous labour, but hubby and I decided the anxiety of waiting and possible stress of daily fetal monitoring with a 17 month old toddler in tow would be too much to handle.
In triage I was strapped unto the monitor which showed baby was moving but not as much as it was expected to. By 8pm I was taken to the delivery suite. I went through my Birth Plan with the midwife which was to be minimal interventions, delayed cord clamping, skin to skin, no offer of pain relief unless requested and most importantly we did not want to be told the gender; we wanted to find out ourselves.
Around 9.30pm my membranes were ruptured, baby had passed meconium but they weren't too concerned. I was about 2cm, my cervix had thinned out but baby's head was still a bit high. I was allowed to walk around for 1 hour to get things moving. Hubby and I went to pray and afterwards headed downstairs to grab something to eat. We had to hurry back to my room because I underestimated how much fluid leaks post waters breaking.
At 11.30pm, syntocinon (pitocin) was administered starting from the lowest dose and an increments every half hour. I was contracting every 10 minutes on my own prior to this and still strapped to the monitor but was sat on the exercise ball. I was able to bounce up and down and wiggle around to help baby descend.
I remained mobile and upright for most of my labour, either rocking gently on the ball or leaning against the edge of the bed. Every 30 minutes the dose was increased and my contractions got more intense. I was coping well with gas and air. It made me so high I was giggling in between contractions yet it did absolutely nothing for the pain itself. Contractions were coming hard and fast, I was having one every 3 to 4 minutes.
5 hours later I had had enough, cue screaming for an epidural. Nothing helped with the pain, plus I had a weird pushy feeling at the end of each contraction. I would scream at the beginning and then grunt against my will towards the end. I can't remember telling the midwife I had an urge to push, but if I did, nobody took me seriously.
The anaesthetist took forever to arrive and forever to insert the epidural, all the while threatening me with paralysis if I didn't keep very still. As soon as it was in, I heaved violently and nearly passed out from low blood pressure. When the epidural kicked in, hubby and the nurse piled my numb legs unto the bed. Just at that moment, the Dr was doing her rounds. She wanted to check my progress only to see a head of hair peeking out.
She says to the midwife, "deliver her." Those were the most beautiful words I had heard all day. I was ecstatic. I couldn't believe it was finally happening.
I tried to push but felt nothing. Darn epidural! I was completely numb waist down. I KNEW I was bearing down but the Dr said I wasn't. Then baby's heart rate began to drop. She told me baby was stuck and needed to come out ASAP and to push really hard. I pushed and pushed but baby wouldn't budge. So she said she was going to do an episiotomy and then use a ventouse to help baby out. Two assisted pushes later with a lot of coaching and and encouragement from hubby, our precious baby slid out. A screaming 3.589kg (7lb9oz) wriggling red lump of a baby.
She was immediately placed on my tummy, with her back to me, while they waited for her cord to stop pulsating. I was too giddy with emotions to check if it was a boy or a girl. Then hubby told me and it was as if I had always known.
While stitching me up the Dr said she was born with a nuchal hand and I received a second degree tear. If you ask me, it was all worth it. I felt and still feel incredibly blessed. It was my ideal birth, despite the pain from induction, despite it not being as intervention free as I has envisaged, despite getting an epidural 10 minutes before she was born, despite repeated warnings that I will be wheeled away for a cesarean if I didn't progress, I would do it over again in a heartbeat. I thank Allah for His Mercy and Compassion and for the wonderful blessing He bestowed on us.