Bennett 14th January 2016
VBAC BIRTH STORY ***TRIGGER WARNING*** TFMR, Extreme prematurity and neonatal loss (photo's at the end of our story)
This is going to be a long one.. buckle up! I guess I'd better start off with a bit of background history... I had an emergency CS in 2013 with my first son for Fail to Wait. I knew before our second child was even conceived, that I wanted a far different birth experience than their older brother's birth. So off to research I went, and came across you wonderful ladies before finding out I was pregnant in August. After being cleared with NIPT testing for a high risk Downs Syndrome result at 12 weeks, everything was going swimmingly.
We excitedly went into our 20 week scan the week before Christmas only to be told that our baby boy had a neural tube condition called Sacral Agenesis. It was very unlikely that he would ever walk. That was a tough blow... but hey, we could deal with this!! Our son would be the next generation of paraolympians right?! After further testing (Read: Amnio... eek!), we received the call to come into the hospital for an appointment on New Years Eve. Our son, who we had decided to call Bennett, had a rare and fatal genetic condition. It was extremely unlikely he would survive the pregnancy and with an increase in risk for my medical health, I was to be induced in a few weeks time. All plans went out the window then and there...
Thank God for our doula, Bethany, who kept us calm and helped us to prepare for what no one ever wants to do. And so we were admitted into Sunshine hospital the morning of 13th January 2016 to be induced. I would be 24 weeks pregnant the following day. At the time the birth suites were full, so we had an agonising wait ahead of us and didn't actually start the induction process until 2pm that day. With the situation being what it was, staff were amazing - so considerate and taking into account our wishes for a calm and smooth birth. We handed over our birth plan straight away, the only thing they queried was the insertion of a cannula, which I was happy to have provided they put it in my arm (rather than hand) and bandaged it up so it wouldn't get it in the way or distract me (which it didn't). First tablet was inserted vaginally along with a quick exam, which everything was to be expected - shut nice and tight. Bennett was lying in what they thought was transverse at the time, but the midwife wasn't too fussed about that, saying he'd move into position when the time was right. I was to be given tablets every 3 hours after that until I gave birth. While we waited for things to start we set up our room into a little safe haven... my favourite playlist playing quietly in the background, blinds down and lights off. It took a while for contractions to really get going, but once they did they came on fast and with little break in between - or at least it felt that way! (The midwife told me that this was often the case at this gestation as the cervix was so thick, and once it had 'thinned out' the contractions would space out a bit more...) Before long I was pacing the room with each contraction... I was getting a lot of aching in my back and walking helped 'stretch it out' a little.
I sent hubby off to call in Bethany before things ramped up too much. I eventually headed to the birthing ball at the side of the bed. With each contraction I rocked side to side or back and forth on the ball while leaning on some pillows on the bed. And as they faded I did my best to relax and drift off into my own little world. I figured it was going to be a long night so I might as well rest as much as I could in between. At some point night fell, shift change occurred, and with it a new midwife. My husband, Ian, was downstairs having a break and waiting for Bethany so I was up in the room by myself, doing my thing.. in a rhythm, when the new midwife loudly knocked on the door, came in and turned on the bright lights in the room. She made some comment about not being able to work without the lights on and some OH & S crap. She then went on to introduce herself and ask me questions, completely oblivious to whether I was in the middle of a contraction or not (I was). I was dragged out from my calm headspace and pulled back into her world, which consisted of her asking questions and making comments that completely hit me for six and made me extremely upset given the circumstances. She then left in a hurry saying she'd be back soon to check on me.
The panic had already begun to set in. The whole, "what the hell am I doing here?! I can't do this!! This will just end up like last time and I won't even get a chance to see Bennett!!" Had it have been only myself and my husband, I can see this as what could have been the turning point towards a potentially terrible labour. By the time Bethany arrived, I was upset and distraught that this midwife was going to make things a whole lot more difficult than need be. If I could only choose one reason to have a doula, it would be for this reason. An advocate. I was clearly in no position to push what I needed or wanted, and Ian really wasn't informed enough to take on this role for me. But Bethany was, and did. While I went back to my safe place and focused on what needed to be done for me and my son, Bethany made sure that me and my birth plan were respected at all times. That same midwife, came back and apologised to me then and there. She admitted that she hadn't read my birth plan but now that she had she would work with us to make sure our wishes were taken on board. I only saw her after that when she came in to check my obs. So, back into it. Contractions were going along well... each contraction I rocked on my birth ball while Bethany massaged my back, reminding me to relax through the contractions. They were really starting to ramp up a bit and I could hear myself breathing out heavier with each breath and then eventually starting to make more noise... which I kind of felt really stupid about to begin with... but hey, whatever works right?! Bethany suggested I get a bit of rest and lie on my side in bed for a little while, which I did and it helped take the pressure off my back, along with some heat packs on my Tummy. Before long that wasn't cutting it anymore, so it was back up on my feet leaning against the bed, until my legs felt like jelly and couldn't hold me up... and then I was kneeling on the ground while leaning on the bed. I was getting to the point that I just could not get comfortable. I was getting irritable and I couldn't even take having my back massaged anymore (??transition). I NEEDED to get on the ground. All fours... the floor was a killer on my knees so I climbed up onto a pull out bed while someone went off to grab a mat. It was getting too much.
If someone had've offered me any kind of pain relief at the time I would have grabbed for it straight away. I couldn't handle much more than this. I remember thinking "why the F*%! would anyone want to do this without pain relief?! If this is only the beginning bring me the painkillers!!" So I did the next best thing in my head to give me a break - I stuck my bum in the air and put my head down while I gathered myself and emotions together. I was eventually convinced to get down onto the floor... a much safe option than an unsteady bed I'm sure haha.. and it was there at some point that I actually felt (what I think was) Bennett drop down. And then the urge to push. And I thought a million things at once, some of them being: - I didn't want to ask anyone what was going on for fear of them saying "oh honey, you're way off that point, you're only 2cm dilated!" - "Please don't shit yourself, please don't shit yourself" - But my biggest thing was... "oh shit... I'm not ready for this. I'm not ready to have to say goodbye". We would never know until Bennett was born if he would be born alive, and if so how long we would get with him before we had to say goodbye. So amid sobs and cries, yelling at Ian to call my mum and tell her to come into the hospital, and mumbling other stupid comments and questions, I started pushing our son out. On all fours, head resting on Bethany's knee. The midwife copped a beautiful spray as my waters burst everywhere (so I'm told by my delighted husband!!) First the slight burn (holy hell that ring of fire must be hardcore for a baby with a decent sized head!!! Kudos to you Mums!), and eventually a release.. head was out? I thought yup, he should just slide out now. So I gave a big push and pop! I thought he must have been crossed legged or something cause that didn't feel right. Turns out Bennett came out feet first!! A breech baby
The midwife handed him to me from underneath... and all I could do was stare at my baby boy... waiting for a sign of life. Then his little arm moved the tiniest bit and he gave a little hiccupy breath... He was alive!! He was alive!! I was so unbelievably happy!! And so, little Bennett Wheeler Tonkin was born, 2.38am on 14th January 2016. All 590g and 30cm of him. He was such a fighter... his strong little heart kept beating for a whole 2 hours, long enough for him to meet his Mummy, Daddy and older brother, as well as his Grandparents. The room was so peaceful and completely full of love in that time that I'm sure Bennett left this world knowing just how much he meant to everyone in his family, and how much we loved him even though we could only be together for a short time.
While we will never get to see Bennett grow like his older brother, we did get to bring him into the world in a perfect, calm and loving way rather than being surrounded by cold rooms, theatre lights and medical staff. And to my doula Bethany... I've told you so many times, and I'll say it once again, you are an amazing woman, thank you.
I am happy to share some pictures of my beautiful boy with you
Love Karly & Ian