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Pushing out a baby ... or not

What happens when the baby does not follow the birth plan?

Birth centre

As a hospital doctor, I spent a fair amount of time assisting with deliveries and checking newborn babies. As a GP, I had treated many pregnant women, new parents and their babies. As new parents-to-be, my husband and I went to antenatal classes, watched birthing videos, and made a birth plan. Ok, the birth plan was more a vague idea that went like this:

1) Push the baby out through a tiny hole,

2) Hopefully won’t need any drugs but won’t say “no” to an epidural, and

3) Under no circumstances was hubby to go down the business end.

I thought I was prepared.

I was wrong.

The morning I went into labour, it took me a while to figure it out. I woke at 5am with some cramping thinking I needed to pee. But 5 minutes later the cramp came back. The vague cramping pressure kept coming back every 5 minutes for 1 hour before I realised that maybe it was more than just the baby pushing on my bladder. I am embarrassed to admit that I had to Google what contractions felt like. I’m sure in all the antenatal classes they told me I would “just know”. But I’d never had a baby, never had period pain, and my back was sore anyway because I had a watermelon in my belly. How the heck was I supposed to know?!? I even told my husband that he could probably still go to work that morning. This is one of those rare times where I am grateful he didn’t listen to me.

Fast forward 10 hours of contractions.

My labour had stalled. My cervix wasn’t dilating past 5cm (we should have been close to 10cm by then) and our baby was getting distressed. The obstetrician told us I needed an emergency caesarean-section. I felt an overwhelming sense of failure. I knew in my head that needing a c-section was not really a failure on my part. It was pure maths,

5ft mother with boy hips + almost 4kg baby = baby won’t fit out the hole

But in the back of my mind I guess I had thought I could pop out the baby with a few pushes and a sneeze. OK, I wasn’t quite that delusional but I at least thought a vaginal birth wasn’t going to be a parenting myth for me.

I recovered quickly from the surgery and was lucky not to have much pain. When we got home, I was too busy trying to deal with becoming a parent to think much more about not having that beautiful childbirth experience. But once that sleep-deprived haze cleared and we were coming up to D-day with our second baby, we decided to go for an elective caesarean. Partly because it was unlikely that number 2 was going to fit either, and partly because I no longer had a desire to have a vaginal birth. By baby number 3, it was a foregone conclusion that we would have another elective caesarean.

Do I wish that I’d had the experience of pushing out a baby?

Honestly, no.

Kudos to the women that have done it, but I’m perfectly happy with my knobbly scar and ecstatic that my pelvic floor still works.

NOTE: Recovery after a caesarean-section will vary but be prepared to need some help during the first 6 weeks. Some basic points to remember - it is ok to take regular pain relief (ask your doctor which medication is safe to take), gentle movement is fine but avoid strenuous activity (including housework!), avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby, you may not be able to drive until you have been cleared by your doctor, and finally ask for help! More information on recovery post c-section can be found at


Related Book

What to expect when you're expecting

This book is considered Australia's pregnancy bible - a must-have book for parents-to-be. The 4th edition has more on practical matters: an expanded section on workplace concerns; physical - with more symptoms and more solutions; emotional - more advice on riding the mood rollercoaster; nutritional - from low-carb to vegan, from junk food-dependent to caffeine-addicted; and sexual - what's hot and what's not in pregnant lovemaking; as well as much more support for the expectant dad. Overflowing with tips, helpful hints, and humour - a pregnant woman's best friend, this new edition is easier to use than ever before.

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