Tracy shares her birth story… Listen to the podcast above, or watch her tell it below.
Dr Tracy Flowers (of Médecins Sans Frontières) shares her birth story. Here’s an excerpt… “”As a doctor, I always imagined I would want a caesar, but then I fell pregnant and everything changed. There’s no doubt that the Relax Into Birth course and the preparation really made it such a wonderful event for us. We went into the birth feeling confident, calm and peaceful despite doing all this through Covid-19. Relax Into Birth helped me to normalise birth through daily listening to the hypnobirthing tracks. When I was in labour, I used the tools I had learnt about breathing, relaxation and visualisation, which all helped me keep calm. The surges felt so manageable and the techniques helped us both so much,” says Tracy.
Her husband Ryan Flowers, adds; “As a very inexperienced dad, the course gave me ultimate confidence and preparedness for the birth. I found the partner tracks handy, which helped me know what was to come and I enjoyed learning massage techniques too. I also used the course as a resource I could go back to anytime. Speaking to other dads who hadn’t done the Relax Into Birth course, I realised they had quite a different mindset on birth than me.”
When planning for your birth, you must consider your options; an attempt at vaginal birth, which may or may not result in an emergency caesarean, or choosing to have a caesarean, also called a Caesarean Delivery on Maternal Request. Charlene Yared West spoke to Dr Jacky Searle, an obstetrician-gynaecologist at Life Vincent Pallotti about the risks and benefits of caesarean section.
Reasons for a planned caesarean include:
Placenta praevia (a low-lying placenta)
Previous caesarean section
Previous shoulder dystocia
An elective caesarean delivery, also called Caesarean Delivery on Maternal Request (CDMR) in the absence of a medical or obstetric reason for avoiding a vaginal birth.
Reasons for an emergency caesarean include:
Cephalo-pelvic disproportion (baby’s head does not fit through the mother’s pelvis)
Congenital malformations of the baby
Infection of the mother
Situations where labour isn’t recommended such as; eclampsia (seizures resulting from high blood pressure) or prematurity of the baby
BEFORE: Preparing for a Caesarean
“For a scheduled caesarean, a protocol is followed, which includes not eating or drinking for six to eight hours before surgery and shaving the bikini area where the incision will be made.” Says Dr Searle. “On arrival at hospital, there are forms to fill out and the anaesthetist will meet you and make a pre-operative assessment before surgery. You will also meet the attending paediatrician shortly before the procedure.” Dr Searle adds that women may choose to have a doula to accompany them for their caesarean. “She will often arrive with you at the hospital and pamper you before going into theatre. This can help a mother relax and connect to her baby and the imminent birth.”
In the case of an emergency caesarean, the surgery is usually done within 30 minutes of the decision being made. The mother will be accompanied by her partner, and her doula, if she has one. “This can be stressful, and even traumatic for the parents, but an adequate explanation of the necessity of the caesarean should always be provided, enabling them to understand and process the experience. All pregnant women should understand that the outcome of labour is unpredictable, but a caring team can support her through the process of childbirth and help her to feel cared for and held throughout.”
DURING: In theatre for a caesarean
In theatre, the mother will have a drip inserted and anaesthesia is almost always regional (awake) – either spinal or epidural. A urinary catheter will be inserted once the anaesthetic is working. “Women, especially those who have not chosen a caesarean, are often pleasantly surprised to find that caesarean birth can be a truly beautiful experience for a mother and her partner,” says Dr Searle.
A gentle caesarean
A ‘gentle caesarean’refers to minimising the medicalisation of the process where possible and enhancing the gentleness. “I am proud to say that this is routine at Life Vincent Pallotti,” says Dr Searle.
A gentle caesarean includes;
Limiting unnecessary noise and chatter
Dimming the lights, playing the mother’s choice of music
Not removing the baby from its mother after birth
Early skin-to-skin contact and early latching
AFTER: Post-recovery form a caesarean
A regimen of analgesia will be prescribed to ensure that any post-operative pain is manageable, explains Dr Searle. “Mothers generally recover well post-caesarean, as they are motivated to get up and moving, and are distracted from post-operative discomfort by their baby! Breastfeeding is encouraged and assistance is provided for all new mothers in the maternity wards at all Life Healthcare hospitals. Mothers usually stay in hospital for four days/three nights after a caesarean section,” she says.
VBAC: Vaginal Birth After Caesarean
“It is appropriate for any woman who has a single pregnancy, with a baby in the head down position, and who has had one previous lower section caesarean, to consider a VBAC,” says Dr Searle. “A successful VBAC is more likely in women who have also had a previous vaginal birth, taller women, women less than 40 years old, where labour occurs before 40 completed weeks, and where birth weight is less than 4kg.”
Sam Suter’s empowering emergency caesarean
I had always wanted a natural birth, although I am hesitant to use that word now, as no birth is unnatural. A birth is birth, no matter how a baby comes. At 39 weeks pregnant, I was induced to attempt a vaginal birth, because my blood pressure reading was climbing and continued to increase to dangerous levels. This was around at 10am in the morning and at 10pm at night, although contractions had begun, they were ever so slight and my blood pressure was rising. The decision to have a caesarean was made because of the risk of a stroke.
I believe all birth experiences have an element of trauma, and this is all part of it – but for me the euphoria and the memory of seeing Tom for the first time, far outweighed any trauma. What I didn’t know is that even if you’ve had a caesarean, nature takes over and the ‘love and bonding’ hormone oxytocin is released – in both mom and baby. I was definitely feeling the oxytocin and looking back, the experience is such a happy one. Happy is in fact not the word to describe it… It was the most incredible human experience I have ever had.
The whole birth experience was not ‘perfect’ or how I had envisioned it, but I had to go with the flow, what was best for my baby and I, and I think that is a huge learning for parenthood overall.
Pregnancy Awareness Week takes place annually and this year’s theme was about empowering parents for their journey to birth. I was there representing Relax Into Birth, talking about doula care and relaxation techniques. Many thanks to Sister Lindsay Donnachie, Carline and Vaughanine for arranging such an inspiring event.
Sister Lindsay Donnachie opening the day’s Pregnancy Event.
Sister Donnachie reminded women about their invisible bejeweled crowns on their heads and that no matter how their births turned out – or what turn they took, natural or caesarean, that they would still, no matter what, be the queen of their own births. She emphasised that what really mattered was how the mother viewed her birth and that in order to have a positive experience, she needed to empower herself with information and to know her options. She welcomed all attendees and speakers to the event.
Sister Donnachie reminding mothers to wear their invisible crowns.
Sister Emma Numanoglu of Breastfeeding Matters was first up and is a lactation consultant extraordinairre. Her talk focused on debunking myths around the subject of breastfeeding. Emma’s heart and soul is in her teaching and consulting and those who have been touched by her kindness can attest to that. Nothing is too big or too small – Emma will help you! Did you know that you don’t have to cut out any major food groups while breastfeeding? You don’t have to go gluten free or dairy free (unless medically indicated)! And, did you know there is science behind the use of cabbage leaves for sore, engorged breasts? Also that Jungle Juice is not helpful for anything except a sugar overload and does not help with supply issues… only a good latch can ensure that baby is getting milk… and milk being extracted from the breast helps to increase milk supply. Emma shared these titbits with us and more…
Sister Emma Numanoglu presenting a breastfeeding talk.
Next up was Dr Jacky Searle. One of the most gentle, aware and intuitive doctors in Cape Town, her talk focused on choice and birth. She made attendees aware of the choices available in pregnancy and birth and how to navigate the landscape of those choices in Cape Town and within the limitations of medical aids. Practical and always so encouraging, Dr Searle empowers women daily in her work life and beyond. Births with this fine doctor are always Beautiful.
Dr Jacky Searle presenting a talk on choices in the birthing landscape.
I was next in line and my talk was entitled “Empowering women through doula care and relaxation techniques”. Doula care is often misunderstood and so my talk opened with an explanation of the doula role through pregnancy and birth and how it differs from that of a midwife. I also shared some tools for relaxation, excerpted from the Relax Into Birth course.
Attendees trying out some Relax into Birth breathing techniques.
Next up was Liesl Hansen from Johnson and Johnson, who spoke about the benefits of massage in pregnancy, labour and the postnatal period in her talk; “The first touch of love.” When it came to baby massage, she handed out dolls for the parents to practice on, which was just so much fun and so informative! Who doesn’t love a good massage and these parents left feeling equipped to give their babies some extra tlc through massage. She was assisted by Lisa Townend of Holistic Baby – Baby Massage Classes, a certified infant massage instructor.
Liesl Hansen and Lisa Townend share their learnings around baby massage techniques.
Last but not least, Jenny Spiro of Nurture One delivered a very interesting talk entitled “Start out right… And sleep tight.” She emphasised the importance of catching the sleep wave to assist your baby to sleep as best as possible. She also showed parents a very clever way of using the amazing Nurture One nesting pillow to put baby to sleep. The pillow cleverly mimics a womb-like environment and gives newborns much comfort.
Jenny Spiro shares info around baby sleep methods to help new parents also get more sleep!
Here are some other pics from Saturday’s fun event:-)
And here’s one of my son and I; my inspiration to do this work in the first place… Dearest Leonardo… Funny face selfie 😍:
See you at the next pregnancy event! Wishing you a wonderful birthing day, no matter what turn it takes ❤️❤️