Carley, of Karratha, WA, needed emergency caesareans for her other two children, Thomas, now 8, and Jacob, now 5, so she opted for what is known as a maternal assisted caesarean section.
“I would 100 per cent do it again,” the mum reveals after her surprising experience.
Following a textbook pregnancy with Thomas, Carley and her husband, John, 44, a supervisor at an engineering company, were shocked when her waters broke at just 36 weeks in September 2010.
While the mum had hoped for a natural birth, her labour barely progressed for two days. Fearing things were moving too slowly, posing a risk to mum and baby, doctors decided to perform an emergency caesarean.
“I was disappointed,” Carley tells New Idea. “I’d been excited at the idea of a natural birth. I never thought I’d be in the position of needing an emergency caesarean.”
Then in 2012, Carley fell pregnant with Jacob, and was once again determined to attempt a vaginal delivery.
She continued: “This time, I planned it all from the start. I found a doula – an independent midwife – and even a photographer, as I wanted a home birth.”
But in January 2013, when Carley went into labour, things again moved slowly after her waters broke. Twenty-four hours later, medics decided that the safest course of action was to whisk her to hospital for another emergency caesarean.
“My team were all gutted for me, but I made my peace with it,” Carley recalls.
“I knew that while I wasn’t sure I could handle another caesarean, it was the best thing to do for my baby. The actual surgery side of things didn’t bother me, but I wanted that moment where my baby is born and I pull them close to me right away. Of course, every woman must do what’s right for her, and I would never take issue with somebody else’s choice.”
During her pregnancy with Jacob, Carley had read online about maternal assisted caesarean sections – where the mum pulls the baby out herself – but, as her procedure had been an emergency, it had not been possible.
But, after he was born, the idea played on her mind.
Then, in 2016, Sarah fell pregnant again, sadly miscarrying at just 11 weeks.
Six months later, though, she discovered that she was expecting Leilani. “I decided this time I wouldn’t try for a vaginal birth,” she said. “I just wanted my pregnancy to be a nice experience and to know what I was expecting.
“I was worried that my waters would break early and I’d need another emergency caesarean – meaning it couldn’t be maternal assisted – so in the end I opted for an elective caesarean instead.”
Initially, Carley planned to have Leilani at a hospital in Perth. But, after discovering they didn’t allow photographers into the theatre, she found a private obstetrician instead.
“I want other women to understand their birth rights and feel empowered to ask for exactly what they want,” she says.
In March 2017, at 39 weeks pregnant, Carley arrived ready to welcome little Leilani into the world. Heading down to the operating theatre, she recalls being nervous – but her supportive husband John was by her side the entire time.
Doctors put up a screen as they made their first incision.
Around five minutes later, they lowered it to enable Carley to deliver her daughter.
“I’d had an epidural, so I couldn’t feel any pain – more pressure and a tugging feeling,” Carley recalls of the moment.
“I had surgical gloves on and the doctors guided my hands down, then I put them under Leilani’s arms and lifted them above my head. It was amazing pulling her out myself. I was smiling away and John was crying. It was incredibly emotional.”
Usually, doctors cut the umbilical cord very shortly after the birth – but in Carley’s case they delayed it, keeping her placenta in a bowl.
“With my other pregnancies it was all very quick and John wasn’t able to cut the cord, which dads often do,” she says.
“This time, though, he could, which meant the world to him.”
Carley, who loves being a mum to her three happy, healthy children, hopes that by speaking out she will encourage other women to ask for the birth experiences they want.