I had an emergency caesarean with my first baby Oliver due to fetal distress. I went in for my 41 week check up at the hospital, had an induction date booked and was then put on the fetal monitor to check how Oliver was going. He was fine the whole time until they were about to take me off, then there was a sudden dip. This happened a couple more times, so I was sent upstairs to be monitored overnight. However, not long after I’d been moved upstairs a doctor came and said since I was 41 weeks already, they may as well induce me. I was eager to meet my baby, so agreed. I had the cervadil inserted and started having a few contractions, but it soon became clear that Oliver was not happy – his heart rate was dropping and staying down – and I was rushed upstairs for an emergency caesarean. My recovery from the caesarean was pretty good, but as time passed and I started to debrief his birth, I realised I felt robbed of the experience of child birth. I knew that I wanted a Vaginal Birth After Caesarean (VBAC) next time, and as natural a birth as possible.
When Oliver was about 18 months my husband Travis and I decided we were ready for another baby and I fell pregnant soon after. The pregnancy passed smoothly. We went in for our 19 week scan, hoping to find out the sex of the baby. I really wanted a girl, so if we weren’t having a girl I wanted to have time to get my head around it and accept it. However, at the scan the baby’s legs were firmly crossed. We were going to have to find out the old-fashioned way!
Because I knew I wanted a natural VBAC this time, I decided to go through the birth centre. My midwife was so lovely and so supportive and reassuring throughout my pregnancy. This being a VBAC never felt like an issue – I was simply approaching this birth as my first childbirth, since I never really got a chance to labour with Oliver. I felt so comfortable with my midwife and between her and my friend Mel (who had already had a successful VBAC twice) encouraging me I never doubted my ability to do it. In fact, I was excited and looking forward to giving birth!
My due date came and went as I expected it to. The next night I went to bed about 10.30pm. I was just drifting off to sleep when I had a tightening that felt different. Another one came. As they kept coming I started wondering if this was it? Was I finally going into labour?! When Travis came to bed at around midnight I told him what was happening – that I was fairly sure I was having contractions, about 7-10 minutes apart. We decided I should just try to rest/sleep as had been suggested to do in early stage labour. I would almost drift off to sleep then feel one coming on. Lying in bed became too uncomfortable, so I went to the couch getting on the floor on my hands and knees and rolling my hips or rocking back and forth through a contraction. I was able to breath through them and was doing the ‘horse lips’ I’d read about in Ina May Gaskin’s book- it was a good distraction.
Next morning we called my parents who took Oliver out for the day. Travis and I went for a walk in the rain but contractions continued irregularly and just couldn’t seem to ‘kick in’. How frustrating! An sms to my midwife confirmed that I was probably still in the ‘pre-labor’ stage. She suggested I try a bath which would either slow things down so I could rest or get things going. The bath was nice; I felt I could really relax between contractions. My midwife called again at some point and said that my second midwife would be in the neighbourhood later on, and that she could come and check on me which she did. As I suspected, the baby was slightly posterior, which is probably why my labour hadn’t become regular yet. She told me to rest and eat – everything I’d been doing. She said it could still be 24 hours before labour really started. I felt really disappointed to think that these contractions might not be doing much – I was so tired and had been having contractions without a break for 18 hours already. I tried eating tea, but eating wasn’t overly appealing. I had another bath and again found it really good for relaxing between the contractions. At around 8pm I noticed there were some streaks of blood in with the plug I was losing. My parents brought Oliver home and he went to bed.
As the night wore on I was finding the contractions harder to cope with, and started really vocalising through them, rather than just breathing or using the horse lips. I also felt a few sharp bladder pains, which I hoped meant bub’s head was spinning around a bit.
By late Sunday night I was starting to wonder if it was time to go into the birth centre. I was really having to vocalise through the contractions now, and starting to feel quite shaky afterwards. I tried lying in bed (I was so tired, I’d already missed one night’s sleep), and when lying down the contractions were staying quite regular at 6 minutes apart – not all over the place like they had been all day. At 11.30pm I was ready to come in to the birth centre, so we arranged to meet there at midnight. By this stage I was still not sure if things had really ramped up or if it might still be pre-labour. I was worried that we’d get to the birth centre and things would slow down or stop. The drive to the birth centre was only short, the roads were quiet and it was really foggy. My midwife came out to greet us and watching me through a contraction – said something like “That’s right, great work” – so I thought ‘okay, this must be proper labour’. We went inside and settled in the bedroom at the birth centre. I paced the room a little while Travis sat in a chair looking tired. My contractions were still 5-6 minutes apart, but getting stronger and although I was really tired I needed to keep moving through them.
My concept of time and what happened from here on is pretty hazy. I kind of just kept doing my thing. Sometimes I tried lying on the bed, but as things progressed this was too uncomfortable. Sometimes I paced the room (very slowly), or stood rocking/swaying between contractions, and would then lean on the end of the bed, or hang off Travis through a contraction. Other times I was kneeling by the bed resting between contractions and having Travis or a midwife rub my back or apply heat packs to my back through a contraction. I didn’t really say anything in between contractions – I guess I’m a quiet labourer! Occasionally I’d ask for a drink of water or powerade. During contractions I kind of just vocalised – not really screaming, more of a low-pitched yell.
At around 5am I got in the bath. It was sooo nice for relaxing in between the contractions. Then I’d have to move to kneel through a contraction. During one of the contractions in the bath I felt a bit of bowel pressure, so thought I might need the toilet. I got out of the bath and onto the toilet, but nothing happened , just lots of pressure. At 7am I suddenly realised it was day light outside. I was so completely oblivious to time passing – I had no idea. By now I was struggling more with the contractions. They were lasting a lot longer, so I didn’t get as much of a break between them. I remember thinking at one point, ‘How on earth does any woman ever do this in a hospital!?!’ Going by my birth notes, I think it was around 7.45am when I was in transition. On my notes it says they were applying hot towels to my back and I remember feeling like I couldn’t go on much longer. My contractions were still about 5 minutes apart, but they were lasting a long time with double peaks, so I didn’t really feel like I was getting a break between them now. I was starting to feel a bit out of control through them – a bit panicky. My vocalising by now was more of a scream mixed with whimpering. The hot, wet towel on my back seemed to help somehow, not so much with the pain, but I guess it distracted me temporarily and calmed me down. When my waters broke I was so happy – finally it felt like things were starting to happen! (Travis told me afterwards that I apologised for wetting the floor!) That’s when I started spontaneous pushing – it was so strange – I just couldn’t stop it from happening! .Once it started, the pushing seemed to take forever, it was such hard work and so sting-y! At one point I looked in a mirror and could see the top of the baby’s head covered in vernix and black hair! Eventually the head was born along with the baby’s left hand curled into a fist next to the cheek. All in one movement the shoulders and then the rest of the baby’s body slipped out. It was 10.55 am. It was amazing to look down at this baby on the floor who had been inside me only moments before. We checked the sex – a beautiful baby girl! I had so wanted a girl! They handed her to me and I held her against me. With the next contraction I birthed the placenta… now that was a whole lot easier than birthing the head!
Our beautiful VBAC princess Adele Rose was 3.85kg (8 pound 8 oz). We are so in love with our gorgeous baby girl. I still can’t believe I did it – a long, completely natural VBAC. Not once through the labour did I ever think about wanting to go to the hospital or wanting drugs, and not once did the thought of it being a VBAC enter my mind. It was a fantastic experience and I am so proud of what I achieved.