A bit of background to set the scene as to why the birth of my second baby girl was such a bloody big deal to me.
My first pregnancy was very wanted and very planned, and so of course it took quite a while to happen. Elodie was naturally conceived the cycle after we started looking into IVF. My pregnancy was great. I felt fit and was amazed at myself for growing a human. I was running, doing pregnancy pilates and was also very invested in my career and life at large. I drank raspberry leaf tea and I read all the pregnancy books and blogs. I was absolutely ready to fight any protocol-driven interventions, and to have a straightforward vaginal hospital birth. Naturally, I would the fit my baby into, and around, my life.
But when I went in to the hospital 48 hours after my waters had broken at 41 weeks, I knew I wasn’t progressing properly and was seeking a vaginal examination. This was denied due to protocols and business. So I laboured away in the hospital corridor and on waiting room chairs. When I was finally able to get into a room to see a doctor 4 hours later, the examination showed that baby was breech. Surprise! I was given no option but to have a caesarean section that night. I do know more about my options now but at the time my protests got me nowhere and I was unprepared for this scenario. The caesarian was actually fine overall. But the rest of the hospital stay was horrible due to being overly busy, staff errors and multipe communication blunders. Common but devastating issues seemed to come one after the other like latching troubles and hip dysplasia and then also some bigger heath scares for baby and I. Life was full of feeding, pumping, crying, appointments and never enough sleep or fun. We got through it but far out! What a tough first year.
Then the day baby number 2, Ivy, implanted herself (without any effort or planning) was the same day a dear friend of mine walked out of a holiday we were on and died. So this second pregnancy I was no longer feeling strong or invincible or naive. I was grieving but grateful for a focus. I was determined to give a vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC) my best damned shot.
By the time I was 41 weeks into my second pregnancy, I was so happy that I had signed up to a caseload midwifery program, and also booked a private midwife from MAMA to help me labour at home. This support meant that I was able to confidently decline the hospital intervention suggestions that start flooding in as the due date passed. But my inner confidence was shaking and I couldn’t help but urge my baby to hurry up. I felt the baby was fine but I wanted to avoid any unnecessary conflict. I was drinking raspberry leaf tea again but also eating dates, doing self hypnosis, inserting evening primrose oil, and getting acupuncture for induction. I had actually been seeing the same acupuncture therapist since 28 weeks when Ivy was seen to be breech – she turned at about 34 weeks.
What about the labour already?!
Well, I had a few big uterine sensations on the Thursday (41+1) but was able to sleep and rest and by morning they had stopped. I asked my partner to stay home from work. He took Elodie to childcare and then me to acupuncture at 10am and before the session had finished I felt Ivy’s head descend down into my pelvis. We randomly bumped into old friends so stopped for a coffee. I hadn’t had any contractions that day yet so our mates were oblivious to what was going on. My waters broke on the way to the car and straight away the contractions were 5 minutes apart and as strong as I ever felt with Elodie.
Our plan was to be attended at home by our private midwife and to stay home as long as possible before going to hospital to birth with my caseload midwife to maximise my chances of a vaginal birth. When I called the private midwife, she had just finished with a birth and needed a sleep so I went to her office for a blood pressure check, a Doppler listen, and to meet a backup private midwife. That was at 1:30pm. I had 3 contractions over 15 or so minutes whilst there and she said I was all good to go home and to call her when things were crunchy. So we went home and I sat myself on the toilet and basically couldn’t bear to get off it again! I made noises and groaned away and stared off into space while my body did it’s thing.
We called the midwife to come about 3:30pm and within 40 minutes she told me I should go to the hospital. I was saying I didn’t know that I was ready (contractions were irregular, very powerful but manageable) and that I wanted to get in the bath. I agreed to a vaginal examination to help decide and was shocked to hear I was fully dilated! Then I just couldn’t bear the idea of getting into the car. And I was afraid that I would actually have the baby in the car as it was all going so quick.
So… another midwife was called over and I got in the bath and we had a water birth at home! A Homebirth After Caesarean! When I got in the bath fully diated my private midwife told me that I was now like a first time mum as although I had experienced labour before (it doesn’t matter that I never progressed passed 5cm with the first), I had never experienced pushing. She told me the second stage would likely be less quick. I wanted to stay in the zone and let birth continue to just happen. I didn’t feel pushy so I just waited.
After about 40 minutes the fetal ejection reflex started. Second stage labour was about 90 minutes all up for me. It was the slowest part of all. The intensity of the contractions was very manageable and everything felt unrushed, safe and intimate. I asked for a compress on my perineum even though I was in the water. It seemed to help me with the sting as things got a-stretching. The third stage was the only time the private midwives asked me to push. By this stage I was on my couch birthing cocoon, wrapped in towels, breast feeding and feeling the post adrenaline weakness, wobbles and shakes. The feeling was just like after an endurance event and I was holding the prize. The placenta came out with two pushes when I focused on it. It was inspected and the midwives were at ease again. Giant toblerone and champagnes were soon passed around and the pets were given their own treats too.
That birth was such an amazing experience. I feel so grateful to the women and to my partner for supporting a home VBAC in a culture that is so judgmental and unsupportive of it. I did have a deep vaginal tear so we all ended up going to hospital (by ambulance) to be checked. I didn’t need stitching in theatre after all so I had my lovely caseload midwife do it under local and didn’t have to be separated from Ivy or have an epidural etc. and we were home again by midnight! The regular staff at the hospital were apparently full of attitude that I had had a homebirth but my team were there to protect me from them as much as possible.
I really hope it’s not too long before homebirth is presented as a routine and mainstream option for uncomplicated births in Australia.
I was, and am still, so happy and proud and grateful.
Details: Ivy born 41w+2d, 53cm long and 3.17kg.
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