Abbey Adamson with her son, River, feeding for the first time.
During her second pregnancy, Sage & Luna founder and designer Abbey Adamson felt an unspoken pressure to have a natural birth* that she hadn’t experienced the first time around. Unfortunately her natural birth didn’t go to plan and her feelings of regret and daily thoughts of ‘what if’ led her on a path of acceptance and healing. Abbey came to the realisation that there was no ‘right way’ to birth and is collecting the stories of women to show that every birth and birthing experience is different, and should be celebrated for those differences. If you would like your birth story featured on Sage & Luna’s blog, please fill out this form.
Double the family in one birth
My first pregnancy was a total surprise, especially when we found out we were having identical twins, and I was happy to go with the flow. When my amazing doctor advised that epidurals were recommended for twin births, as they sometimes have to intervene with the second baby - read pull Twin 2 out by their legs, I was more than happy to oblige. I didn’t have a clear birth plan though and my expectations were that it would be difficult, but I didn't feel stressed as I had the best team of doctors to advise me.
At almost 37 weeks I was induced and after an hour I was given my epidural. Unfortunately, the first two failed before they were able to get the third to work, which was a little stressful. Seven hours later, after 45 minutes of pushing Twin 1 and one minute of pushing Twin 2, I was a mother. Basically, the labour was exactly as I expected. It was probably more exhausting when I had to push, but the amount of pain I felt was pretty much what I thought.
The post labour was very underwhelming. My children were taken to special care as they were so little, and I was left by myself in the delivery room, eating a cold sandwich, wondering what to do. I ended up on Facebook because I was too tired to talk to anyone. It felt really lonely and I do feel it played a part in it taking a little longer for me to bond properly with the twins.
A week after my labour with the twins, I was adamant that I would never have another baby. My husband even has a recording on his phone of me saying that I would never do it ever again ... ha! It definitely was the hardest thing I had ever done at the time, and I had done a 200km bike ride with no training so I thought I was pretty hardcore *winkyface emoji*.
When I think back to the twins’ birth now, I feel really grateful that we have modern medicine. I don't know how I could have had a drug-free birth with the twins. I think it would have sent me mad! I'm super happy that I was able to have a vaginal birth with them, but I would have been fine to have a c-section too. I just wanted them to be healthy.
The best-laid plans often go awry
With my second child, I turned up to my first hospital appointment with a very clear birth plan. I was going to have a vaginal water birth with no drugs. I had visions of me lifting my baby out of the water like the warrior mother that I was. I wanted to have skin to skin as soon as I could so that I could really bond with my new baby. This was super important to me, given the difficulty I had adjusting to life with the twins. I thought skin to skin was going to be the answer to all of those previous problems. I was then going to go home as soon as I could to be together as a family. As I told the midwife my plan she smiled and told me I was wonderful.
I was invited to give birth in a birth centre that exclusively serviced women who wanted a natural birth. The newly-built birth centre had large birthing suits, with a double hospital bed so my partner could easily lie next to me during labour, a beautiful big birthing pool, and gorgeous Bori bassinets to place my baby in when he was born.
You stayed in the birth suite for up to 24 hours after giving birth and then return home with regular visits from your midwife until you were confident with your new bundle of joy. I was even told I was a perfect candidate for the new home birth program they were trialling, but the idea of having my baby in my lounge room wasn’t appealing to me.
I was fortunate enough that my pregnancy progressed without incident, and I went into labour naturally at 40 weeks. It took a number of hours for my contractions to get serious, but when they did it was on. The pain was nothing like I had ever experienced before. Each contraction left me so exhausted I couldn’t catch my breath before the next one arrived.
I felt like I had no control over my body, my instinct had completely taken over and no amount of ‘breathing’ could help me regain control. I kept asking the midwife “how much longer until it’s over?” but she couldn’t tell me. I felt like I could get through it if I knew how long I had to go, but when she couldn’t answer I thought I would have to go through the pain forever.
My mind starting urging my body to hurry up. I was desperate to get my baby out because I felt the pain would kill me. Suddenly I felt the urge to push, and I did. They told me to stop pushing, and I tried so hard to stop but my body just wouldn’t. River came rushing out accompanied by a gush of fluid and blood. We looked at each other in the eyes and I saw that he recognised me. It was beautiful.
Suddenly River was being pulled out of my arms. His cord had been cut by the midwife and he was placed on the resuscitation table. The emergency button had been pressed and a team of doctors came running down the corridor. River couldn’t breathe. He wasn’t dead: his little heart was still beating, his brain was still functioning. But he couldn’t take a breath. He was put on oxygen and lay for an hour, surrounded by doctors, until he could breathe on his own.
I was finally able to cuddle and feed him, but as he needed to be observed for five days we had to leave the birth suit and check into the ward. In the week following River's birth, I was just absolutely relieved that he was alive! My husband was very upset about what had happened, and he hardly left our side while in the hospital. I didn't feel upset at all, just really relieved.
Now I really regret the way I birthed River. I really wish I had gone in with the same attitude to labour as I had with the twins. The pain was excruciating. I felt so out of control during the whole labour and I felt that my body really rushed to get him out. I think if I had an epidural I could have slowed my body down and River wouldn't have suffered. Every single day I thank my lucky stars that I declined the offer of a home birth. I was the perfect candidate: until I wasn't.
I’m trying really hard to come to terms with my birth of River. Everyday I remind myself that he is happy and healthy. While I didn’t get to have skin to skin like I would have liked, my bond with River was instant. We knew each other from the moment our eyes met, and that is a beautiful thing.
I do think a little bit of me will always feel bad about the way he came into the world because I really feel like I put myself and, dare I say it, my ego, above my child. It was his birth too, and it was my job to advocate for him. I don't think I did a good job of this, but fortunately I have the rest of my life to make it up to him.
*More on this topic to come.