An amazing home birth after a c-section
My first labour, two and a half years ago, was fairly traumatic and certainly long – 44 hours in all, encompassing every intervention possible: artificial rupture of membranes, syntocinon drip, epidural, ventouse, forceps and finally a c-section. At the time, I didn’t realise how traumatised I was by the experience, it was only when I got pregnant again that I realised this. I couldn’t even talk about birth without crying. I knew I had to do something radical unless I wanted to go for an elective c-section this time round. I read up a lot on VBACs (vaginal birth after caesarean) and spoke to many people who had had a successful one, and it didn’t take me long to work out that I definitely wanted to try again to have a vaginal birth.
I decided to do everything I could to maximise my chances of success, so we hired a team of independent midwives, joined a hypnobirthing course, practiced self-hypnosis for months, attended ante-natal yoga classes and birth preparation classes. I also read everything I could about childbirth, including Ina May Gaskin’s “Spiritual Midwifery” and Grantly Dick-Read’s “Childbirth without Fear”, both of which worked wonders on my fears.
The more I discovered about natural childbirth, the more determined I became that I would have a VBAC. Unfortunately, the NHS were less than supportive of this choice (my GP actually told me that my baby would die and I could too, and that I would definitely not be able to have a home birth). I had a deep-seated suspicion that if I had a hospital birth, a similar road would be travelled as my last labour – they would be even more likely to intervene in a prolonged labour for fear of scar rupture. I began to consider a home birth, although my husband, Nigel, was very much against it. After visiting the local hospital, I was convinced that a home birth was the only option and was greatly relieved when Nigel suggested it first.
By the time my due date was in sight, I was desperate to put everything into practice and just get on with it – very different to the first time round when I was dreading the birth.
Shortly after midnight, the day before my due date, my “surges” began (I prefer to call them that rather than “contractions”). I thought I’d just try to get some sleep as it would take some time, but after half an hour, I could no longer lie down and got Nigel up to set up and fill the birth pool. I padded around, packing my emergency hospital bag (God forbid), calling my parents to come to look after our toddler should he waken and finally calling the midwife at about 2am. It was a relief not to have to worry about when to go to hospital.
I got into a great rhythm rocking on the birth ball and using a TENS machine. At 4.30am when Natasha (our midwife) arrived, my surges were coming every 3 minutes and were lasting over a minute, and I was actually enjoying every one of them. Nigel and I were pleasantly surprised at how quickly I was progressing. I was simply relaxing as much as possible and submitting to my body, although the TENS machine did a great job too!
Shortly after 6am, Natasha suggested that I might want to get into the pool and Nigel started getting the water to the right temperature. It was about 6.20am and suddenly, everything changed – my surges were now pushing downwards. It’s difficult to explain, but I just let out a big grunt and looked at Natasha across the bed in disbelief – my body was starting to push. What had happened to “transition” – the point where I was supposed to feel that I could no longer go on, that I was going to die? Could I possibly be fully dilated? After confirming to the midwife that I felt a huge pressure in my backside, she agreed that I must be fully dilated. I was so excited! I had been telling myself for months that I was going to have a 7 hour labour this time, and it looked like it was actually going to happen!
Initially I was afraid to take off the TENS machine to get into the pool, but after a little persuasion, I climbed in and it was sheer bliss. I leant over the side of the pool with each surge and moaned my way through. At one point I felt a huge “pop” and a gush and cried out in surprise and absolute delight, “my waters have gone!”. I was thrilled.
After a while, I started to get cramp in my left leg which was causing me more problems than anything. I climbed out of the pool and tried sitting on the loo for a while, then kneeling by the bed. After two hours of pushing, Natasha confirmed that although I was fully dilated, she still couldn’t see the baby’s head, I was making no progress. By this time, our second midwife, Carrie, had arrived. Despite lots of gentle encouragement, and different positions, after 3 hours of pushing, I was getting nowhere fast. Carrie suggested walking up and down the stairs to try to tilt my pelvis and turn the baby as it’s head was in a slightly awkward position – much the same as my first baby’s had been. So off I went, up and down the stairs, stopping every now and again to push. Meanwhile, my two year and his grandma were hiding downstairs, oblivious to what was going on!
Carrie and Natasha were now becoming concerned and suggested that it was time to call the hospital and consider transferring in. However, I knew that if we called the hospital, we would be whipped in immediately, and they would probably end up cutting me open again. So I blatantly ignored their suggestion and just pushed even harder. Finally at 8.30am some progress was being made – they could see the head and they could see that it was in a better position and coming down very slowly with each push – but sliding back again afterwards.
The strange thing was that I remember thinking that I’m not actually in pain. I never at any point considered the need for pain relief. I was actually thinking, “I really should offer the midwives a cup of tea, but I’m a bit busy….”. I was however, very frustrated. Between surges, I just kept saying “Come on, baby, come on”.
I tried every imaginable position to try to expand my pelvis, including the pelvic press – Nigel had to sit behind me and push my pelvic bones – squatting, one or other leg raised (causing major cramp again!), leaning over the bed…but nothing was working. By this time, Carrie was checking the baby’s heartbeat after every single surge to ensure it wasn’t in distress, and thankfully, it wasn’t. And I knew that I was fine, so I felt completely confident that we didn’t need to go to hospital.
Carrie then made a radical suggestion – lie flat on my back with my legs up, just like you see in Hollywood movies. And by God, it worked! The head was coming down. She held up a mirror and I could see it and I felt the soft downy hair and I pushed even harder. By this time, Nigel’s eyes were glowing – he could barely believe what he was seeing. He was giving me the encouragement I needed – I was using every single last ounce of my energy to push this baby out, but it was going to come out. The midwives were saying, “Don’t shy away from the pain, keep pushing even when it hurts”, and I remember thinking, “I’m not shying away, I just don’t have any strength left”. I was roaring like a lion, but was completely in control – I have tried to describe it to people as similar to being in the tug of war, channelling all your energy into pulling on the rope and roaring with the sheer effort of it.
Finally, when I was on all fours on the bed, after four hours of pushing and one final almighty push, the head came out. I could barely believe it. Carrie worked to get the cord untangled from around the baby’s neck. When she saw the size of the head, she admitted later that she was slightly worried about the shoulders getting stuck, so she got me to “flip” over onto my back – easier said than done, but, surprisingly to me, I had enough time before my next surge to take my time in doing it. And then, before I knew what was happening, another surge came, another almighty push, and Carrie flopped a baby onto my chest….
I was waiting for the rush of hormones and emotions I had read about, but I was just so exhausted that I just lay there clinging to this blood-covered, purple-tinged, wrinkly baby (who looked just as shocked as I felt!). I guess at some point, somebody said, “It’s a boy”, but I don’t remember it as all I could think about was the fact that the baby wasn’t screaming or making any noise at all. I remember thinking, “I haven’t gone through all of this for my baby to not make it – it has to be ok”. Sure enough, after Carrie and Natasha gave him a good rub with a towel, he came round and his mummy started shaking! We had done it – that’s all I could say.
Apparently, the bedroom looked a little bit like the remnants of a chainsaw massacre, and the midwives left me, daddy and baby to bond while they started to clean up. Twenty minutes after he was born, Nigel went downstairs to get Archie and my mum – they came in and met the new member of the family. As soon as I saw my mum I started crying. Yet still the rush of emotions never came – I was just clinging onto this baby and trying to keep him warm (and trying to agree on a name I seem to recall!). I let him find my breast and he started feeding immediately. Fantastic.
I was however, very uncomfortable, my head was almost hanging off the edge of the bed and I couldn’t move very easily – also, the umbilical cord was rather short so I could feel it tugging whenever the baby or I moved. After about 40 minutes, I told the midwives that I needed the cord to be cut and to deliver the placenta. Nigel cut the cord, and took little Hector away. Meanwhile, I was up on my knees on the bed and Carrie told me that I’d have to push the placenta out…I tried, but there was nothing left to push. Nothing. I tried blowing into a plastic bottle, but I simply had no strength left. So I part hobbled, and was part carried to the toilet. Nothing was happening, then suddenly I said to Carrie, “Oh, I really don’t feel well”, at which point I let out a groan, my body had a huge contraction, and out popped a rather large placenta!
I ended up having to sit on the loo for half an hour as every time I tried to move, I almost passed out (I had lost quite a lot of blood). So, there I sat. Mum brought in tea and bacon bagels and Carrie gave me a big cup of sugary hot tea. It was the best breakfast I’ve ever tasted. Finally, I was able to crawl back into a lovely clean bed – I could literally hardly walk. Sinking into my own bed was the most amazing feeling, and Nigel turned up with wee Hector looking adorable in a nappy and a blanket looking like the proudest father in the world.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I had quite a bad tear and the midwives were in two minds whether or not to suture. I clearly remember lying praying that they would decide not to – I had had enough! Thankfully, because they knew they would be providing all my post-natal care themselves, they decided not to. I was delighted!
Carrie weighed Hector and, because we were convinced that he looked smaller than Archie did when he was born, we were all astonished when she announced that he was 9lbs 4oz! After that surprise, Nigel, Hector and I all snuggled together into the bed, and the rest of the day is just a wonderful blur.
Having a home birth is not something that I ever would have imagined I would do, and especially not after having a c-section the first time round. But it is without a doubt, one of the best things I’ve ever done. The midwives both told me afterwards that if we had been in hospital at any point, it would have certainly been another c-section. When I look back on Hector’s birth, I just smile.
artificial rupture of membranes, syntocinon drip, epidural, ventouse, forceps and finally a c-section
ante-natal yoga classes
birth preparation classes
Ina May Gaskin’s “Spiritual Midwifery”
Grantly Dick-Read’s “Childbirth without Fear”