My first birth ended with a very large baby (with head size off the charts!) and a third degree tear. Interestingly, up until my second pregnancy, I’d felt nothing but pride at having eventually pushed out this big baby, and hadn’t given a thought to how the next birth would go. But the doctors had recommended at the time that, unless the next baby was ‘significantly smaller’, any subsequent births be by elective caesarean.

In the early stages of my second pregnancy I was very happy to go with the elective caesarean option. But as time went on and I talked to others (antenatal class, friends etc), it became clear to me that the caesarean didn’t need to be a default option - there were plenty of examples of women going on from a third degree tear to have natural, tear-free deliveries. I started to feel that I really wanted that - to ‘offset’ my first difficult delivery with a nice, natural second delivery.

At that point someone suggested a doula could help me work through the trauma of the first outcome (which was only really crystallising for me at that point - I hadn’t previously thought it would affect me until I faced doing it a second time). Anna was recommended and I warmed to her immediately.

Over the next few months Anna would help me talk about the intricacies of birth, strategies to avoid subsequent tearing, and tools to help me make peace emotionally with the first birth and start to prepare for the second. Her KGHypnobirthing and other resources - imagery, mantras, music, etc - all helped immensely with this and I started to feel ready to head into a natural labour. I had also engaged a private obstetrician (largely because I’d thought early on I’d have the caesarean by default), and thankfully (with support and suggestions from Anna), the obstetrician was also very supportive of me trying for a natural birth and of the methods we would try to avoid another tear (hot compresses, massage, etc).

However, as we got closer to D-day, the baby was measuring about the same size as my previous one (not massive at that time, but if she’d arrived late like the first, then...), and I had a change of heart. I told Anna I was starting to think maybe the caesarean was the best option for me after all. Anna swiftly moved into a different mode - firstly helping me work through the relative risks to me and baby of each option, and then, seeing I was leaning that way, empowering me to make the decision to have a caesarean. For anyone going through this decision, they’ll know it’s not an easy one to make and unfortunately for many women, one that can feel like ‘giving up’ (given the view among many that being able to have a ‘natural’ birth makes one, somehow, a better woman/mother - which I now see is dangerous, hurtful and oppressive). Anna really helped me with this, reminding me that it was my body, my decision, and that I’d done all the research I needed to make an informed decision. And that ultimately, and most importantly, either way I was going to welcome my beautiful baby into the world and be a great mother.

When finally I did go with the caesarean, Anna provided so many great resources (books, CDs) that showed me how to make an elective caesarean into a positive, magical experience, in contrast with the common view of it being ‘major surgery’ leaving the mother feeling scarred and incapacitated -and unable to form a bond with baby/easily breastfeed). The stories I read proved that it was possible to own the experience through things like insisting on skin to skin, and asking others in the room to contribute to a quiet, peaceful atmosphere).

On the night before, Anna sent messages of encouragement and empowerment and made sure I got a good rest. In the morning I went into hospital at 7am (as is the standard), and waited patiently with the couple of others who were also scheduled for caesareans that day. I’d had to fast since midnight the night before, so was feeling a bit hungry, but was mostly just excited and happy. There was a bit of a complication whereby I’d had low platelet levels, and these actually dipped again that morning, and for a while I panicked that I might have to have the caesarean under general anaesthetic which I really didn’t want - I wanted to be present for the procedure. Thankfully they weren’t too low and I was able to do it with only the epidural.

As I’d been warned might happen, I had to wait until about 11.30 until it was my turn to go to theatre - emergency caesareans and other procedures come first. We’d been given our own room to relax and wait in, and (with minimal interruption) spent those hours reading news about the leadership takeover in the Australian parliament! (Though Anna wasn’t able to attend the caesarean- you’re limited to one support person which was my husband- she was on call to come to the hospital as soon as we were out and ready for her.)

Finally the nurse came and said ‘you’re up’ and I walked into theatre, signed the forms, bent forward for the epidural, and lay down. Though there were a lot of people in the room, all in scrubs, it was a lovely atmosphere. We talked and laughed as the obstetrician and her assistant quietly worked away behind the screen. Within a few minutes the obstetrician held up our beautiful baby! She immediately cried so I knew there was nothing wrong with her, and after a couple of quick checks she was on my chest. Within minutes she had found my nipple and was breastfeeding happily, staring into my eyes.

Though I’d doubted if I would, given the different circumstances of this birth, I still felt the same overwhelming, incredible feelings I had with our first baby. I was crying tears of joy and had all the same strong emotions that I had had after my ‘natural’ delivery. I was also relieved that breastfeeding happened so quickly and easily just like the first time. A nurse took some beautiful photos of the three of us in theatre, moments I’ll never forget, and baby breastfeed happily while the obstetrician quietly stitched me up (I didn’t even notice this). The only thing I felt was the weird feeling someone aptly described as ‘like someone doing the dishes in your tummy’.

Afterwards in recovery I was brought a lemonade ice block (absolutely delicious, after being hungry since that morning), and we were left alone to marvel at our beautiful daughter. I was absolutely elated and apparently (in sharp contrast to the first time) said I wanted to do it again!

Recovery was easier and faster than I’d expected. Anna visited soon after with delicious breastfeeding cookies and shared in our elation, coming back the next day too. We went home after three nights in hospital (the third one being our choice), and I walked (slowly) up our steep path home and was off meds within about a week.

I wouldn’t ever say someone should go one way or another when it comes to deciding about a caesarean. That’s absolutely up to the individual, their doctor and their circumstances. But if you find yourself in a similar situation and feel a bit lost trying to navigate all the medical information, studies, online forums, etc, then I’d definitely recommend engaging a doula - especially Anna! I have no doubt it helped me come out of the whole experience feeling happy, blessed and with a very special memory when it could have felt quite different.