When the opposite happens – Evangeline’s Birth

Words by Lala McCarthy
Photos by Hannah McMaster


What happens when what you have hoped and planned for your entire pregnancy, does not come to fruition? Sometimes, for any number of reasons our babies or our bodies, declare the need to be born not just in a hospital but surgically as well. Sometimes this can mean we have little to no time to get used to and process this information, we can have no choice. When this occurs, it can be scary, and you can feel out of control. This is where our midwives and trusted support people can step in and help us to feel safe in the moment.

In 2018 I was pregnant with my fifth baby. This pregnancy I was healthy and was planning my second homebirth. I dreamed of my older four children being present along with just their father- my husband Dan, and maybe our midwife- but this birth was going to be fast and easy…right!

At just over 33 weeks pregnant I had awoken feeling a little off. Nothing I could put my finger on but my instincts were pricked. My midwife was out of town (of course) so I called a midwife friend and asked her opinion. We decided to test for a UTI. The next morning was our monthly homebirth support circle that was to be held at my house. I had a funny feeling that my waters may be leaking slightly so decided to postpone our circle and get checked out. After calling my backup midwife Jo, catching up with her, running some tests and fast forwarding a day, I found myself at 1am in my local maternity unit on a CTG monitor and, ever so dramatically texting my birth photographer Hannah to say I wouldn’t be needing her services any longer. I knew my baby was not ok and that they needed out asap!

By 8am I was being readied in Rotorua hospital for an emergency caesarean. I was not ok mentally with any of this but something inside me kicked in and I knew what I needed. Dan was with me and thankfully Hannah had decided to come and check out what was happening. I just needed my midwife, or my backup midwife- someone who knew me and my wishes.

After previous traumatic caesareans with my first two children, I knew I needed this time to be different. I needed to take some control back in a situation I felt was choiceless. I began explaining my previous experiences to the staff, my previous traumas and together we made some compromises and plans to help me feel better about everything. I asked for low lighting, little noise, a calm atmosphere. I was desperate for a lotus birth pleading for one, this was something they felt couldn’t happen for me as baby was just 34 weeks, but I do know that lotus birth is possible in some situations with caesareans. I compromised by asking for delayed cord clamping as long as possible. I also felt I needed to know exactly what was happening at every step of the way- clear communication. I so desperately needed to hold that baby when they were born. This was a non-negotiable for me. One way or another, even for 10 seconds I just had to have that baby on me.

As my baby was only 34weeks gestation, in what we thought was an extremely poor condition, everything was tentative. Everything was dependant on whether my baby needed help once born or not. We would not know until it was happening. The staff at Rotorua hospital were so thoughtful and understanding. Despite their protocols and guidelines my birth photographer, my midwife and my husband were able to be in the OR with me. I cannot tell you how valuable the photos from this baby’s birth are for me. I highly urge anyone having a caesarean to still look in to having a photographer present.

My baby was born and after a few seconds let out the most beautiful peep in the world. She, our fourth daughter was able to have a minute of delayed cord clamping and her cord was then milked before being cut. The plastic clamp was quickly changed to Muka by lovely Jo and Dan. Instead of a full exam being performed away from me, she was given the all clear and was promptly tucked deep inside my gown on my naked chest. The feeling still brings tears to my eyes, something indescribably unlike anything else in the world! There she stayed, under the watchful eye of Jo for a full 14 minutes! 14 minutes! Amazing for a 34weeker. When the time came for her to head to SCBU (special care baby unit) Dan and Hannah went with her and Jo stayed with me. I knew my baby was in good hands and although I was now separated from her, I was never left alone with strangers. Jo stayed with me, her hand on my shoulder and stroking my head. She explained everything to me, reminded me to breathe in the painful bits and hand expressed colostrum for my baby. She walked out of her clinic in the morning, got to me in the OR and never left my side until I was back with my baby in SCBU. This is why women need midwives.

My whole experience was not what I had planned but I still got my home birth. Remember that home birth is not a destination, it is a philosophy. It is something born in your heart. You may not get the birth you had desired, but you can still have choices and options. You still have a voice. You still matter. We do the best we can in the situations we are in with the information we have at the time.