An ‘Indie’ HBAC
I have to start my story with the birth of my first son, Harley. We chose from very early on to use our private health insurance and go to a private hospital. Well, hey, why else do we pay all that money? I had a fabulous pregnancy, going to Coast Yoga every week where I not only learnt yoga, but also about the ins and outs of pregnancy and labour. They discussed things I had never heard about, like having an active second stage. I found it amazing how many books people were reading. I only had one book — What to Expect When You’re Expecting — and believed that birthing my baby would just be an automatic and natural process, so I didn’t bother researching anything.
At the time, my husband worked away but came home on a Thursday afternoon with three months of holidays up his sleeve; I went into labour the next morning — how’s that for timing? At about 2am, I started having to go to the toilet to empty my bowels and didn’t realise that I was contracting until I was too uncomfortable to sleep. I got up to watch some TV and began timing the contractions which were ranging from 3-6 minutes apart. I woke my hubby and asked him if he would like to count my contractions. He got up and when I told him how often they were coming, he quickly looked it up in What to Expect, which said to call the hospital if they come closer than five minutes apart. I wasn’t in pain at all, but we went to the hospital, anyway. We arrived there at about 4am and the security guard asked if I needed a wheelchair. I declined and casually walked to the labour ward.
When we got to the labour room, the midwife did a painful VE and said I was already 6cm dilated and baby would be born soon. I had already decided I didn’t want pain relief so I laboured on, now starting to experience contractions which took my breath away. The midwife discussed having my waters broken and said it would help bring the baby along quicker, so we decided that when the OB arrived she would break my waters. The OB arrived about 8am, did another painful VE and said I was 9cm. She broke my waters which were meconium stained. She said she had two Caesareans to do and would be back in an hour and that, if I wasn’t fully dilated, I would be having a Caesarean as well — what a production line!
During the entire time I laboured, I found I was most comfortable on all fours on the bed. But, when the OB arrived back, she made me lie down on my back so she could perform yet another painful VE. I had also ripped off the monitor they had attached to my belly as it was painful and uncomfortable; the midwife had let me get away with this. But, when the OB came back into the room, she yelled at the midwife (very professional!) and totally disrupted my birth space. I was still ‘only’ 9cm and had only been in established labour for about four hours; surely they could have given me some more time? I remember being so focussed on trying to breathe and getting through the pain that when she said that I had to have a Caesarean it brought me back to the real world and I said, “No! Can’t I stand up or do something?” Her reply? “You will be wasting your time and mine.”
Just to humour me, she said to try a few pushes to see if that helped. I was still lying on my back with my feet up on her hip and Hubby’s, 9cm dilated but with no urge to push; I actually had to ask her what I had to do to push! I was told: “Chin on chest and push through your bum.” Well, I did that twice and — surprise, surprise — no baby. Apparently he was ‘stuck’. The next thing I knew, I was being covered up, several strange men came into the room explaining things to me and putting in an IV, my hand was held to sign the consent form and I was wheeled through the hospital to the bright, overcrowded surgery room.
From when I left my room until they lifted out my baby, I lay still on the bed, not talking, and not feeling any contractions; my whole body had given up and I was dejected. When we arrived in the surgery room there was a sea of people, bright lights and everyone was so happy, asking me what names I had picked and did we know what we were having? I didn’t answer any of them — how could they be so happy when I was so sad? I just turned to face my hubby and ignored them. One man took the camera and I told my hubby I didn’t want any pictures of me. I was glad that they did take some once I had my little boy in my arms, and it was lovely even though I could barely feel anything and I had tubes everywhere. Well, my lovely boy was born with 9 and 10 Apgar scores; strong and beautiful — no surprise. We had a quick breastfeed and then he was whisked off to the nursery for tests and injections that I wasn’t even consulted about. Hubby went with him and I had to spend about two hours in recovery as the feeling wouldn’t return, so I got to lie and wait on a bed surrounded by a curtain. Luckily, Mum stayed to keep me company.
In the days following the surgery, I wasn’t allowed to eat proper food for two days as I had not yet ‘passed wind’. After that, it was just as bad, as the hospital food for a vegetarian is limited and void of any flavour. Thankfully, my sister-in-law brought me in some yummy food. I also found learning to breastfeed was difficult with the advice of about twenty different staff during this time, but one was brilliant and suggested using a nipple shield, which helped me through the cracked and bleeding stage. The nurses at Flinders Private were all lovely and helpful, though, and I am grateful for the help I received over the four days and I continued to breastfeed. A week later, I had lovely (not!) pus oozing out of my awful scar just as an added bonus.
I still believe that I could have birthed my baby. He would have come in his own time.
Well, Hubby and I had learnt a lesson and we were determined to put ourselves in a better environment for any future children. We had also decided to go to a new GP and, by fluke, happened across Kylie Booth (a long-time CARES member) whose surgery is just around the corner. She was so supportive of us having a VBAC and gave us information and resources. I went on the Homebirth Network webpage to read up on independent midwives and Wendy stood out for me. I chased her to coffee mornings, but she wasn’t there. I went to the Beautiful Birth Festival to hear her talk, but she wasn’t there either, so I finally called her and organised to meet her. Wendy was always so positive and everything that came out of her mouth was encouraging and supportive and I think Hubby may have been more excited than I was about our planned homebirth.
Antenatal appointments were at home over a cup of tea — we actually got to know Wendy and she was a fount of information. Every appointment she had a new book for me to read and I can’t believe I hadn’t read up before having Harley because there is so much to learn. The books were beautiful and put my mind at ease, making me confident in the choice we had made. My favourite was Birthing from Within, which is a must-read for any expectant mum. Towards the end of my pregnancy I watched some DVDs of births with my 20 month old and Hubby so we were all prepared for the big day.
I had my appointment with Wendy during the day of 15 June and Wendy said she thought the baby would come in a few more days. That night, Hubby had gone to bowling and it was one of those nights where Harley just didn’t want to go to sleep; I tried putting him to bed three times and gave up, keeping him on the couch with me. When he finally fell asleep, I lifted him up and felt like I had pulled a muscle all the way down my left side of my belly. It was quite painful, so I messaged Wendy who rang me back and advised that I have a bath or put a heat bag on. I didn’t do either because the pain subsided. I had started having really small cramping pains down low, but wasn’t too worried because this had happened a few times before and I put it down to Braxton Hicks. Hubby came home and we went to bed, but, of course, I couldn’t sleep and the pains were quite regular. We casually timed them and decided to get out of bed as they were getting closer together. Once I got up, I couldn’t really feel them and brushed them off and decided to go back to bed. We went to bed a second time and the cramps started up again. They were closer together this time and then one took my breath away, so we got up again and started counting, again. The contractions were coming every 3-4 minutes but they weren’t painful. I got the familiar feeling of needing to go to the toilet to empty my bowels and it was then that we knew it was really happening. We rang Wendy about at 1.20am to let her know, and we also rang my mum and aunty who were coming along for the ride.
Just before 2am, I had just been to the toilet for the last time when I stepped out into the hallway and my waters broke. They were lovely and clear and I was so happy as I didn’t get to experience it with Harley’s birth. As I was standing in my puddle, Wendy came through the door and gave me a hug and was the lucky one to clean up my mess. I then took my position kneeling over the exercise ball as each contraction became more intense and I had to breathe through them. My mum and aunty must have arrived shortly thereafter, meanwhile Hubby had been trying to get the pool to fill up. Of course, we ran out of hot water so my aunty was Mickey Mouse, boiling kettles and pots on the stove, running back and forth, the poor thing. I was in the pool by 3am in the kneeling position and leaning over the edge as I was so hot. Hubby was kneeling and facing me and supporting me; it felt wonderful having his strength and him being so close. All I remember is biting into Hubby’s jacket shoulder and worrying that I would ruin it, so they gave me a flannel to bite into which felt so great. Between contractions I remember singing parts of the songs that were playing; one was ‘Here Comes the Sun’ by the Beatles, which was our wedding song and made the moment even more special. At one stage, Mum took over from Hubby and then Aunty took over and I could feel the love and support coming off of them and was glad I chose to have them be a part of the birth.
It felt like it was taking hours and I wasn’t getting anywhere, so I asked Wendy what was happening and she told me to try and feel my baby. When I felt down there I couldn’t feel a head and thought I had gone through so much pain and I wasn’t even close. I told Wendy it wasn’t there so she had a feel and said my baby was right there. This whole time I was yelling so much my throat hurt; I was later told I wasn’t yelling, I was screaming, so it was no wonder Harley woke up. Mum took him back to bed and tried to sing to him to drown out my yelling/screaming.
All of a sudden I wasn’t in pain anymore and I needed to push, so I did; it felt so wonderful to be able to have some control and to know I wasn’t far from birthing my baby. At about 3.45am, I started pushing and I could feel baby moving down. Hubby had a great view down my back and said how amazing it was to see my hips spread with each contraction and push. At 4:05am, Harley woke up again and a smoke alarm went off because of the candles. Mum stepped in again and took him back to bed while Aunty got the lovely job of taking photos of my baby crowning.
I could hear everyone’s encouragement and, with all my strength, I pushed out Baby’s head. I rested for a couple of moments, Wendy told me to pant through the next contraction and — with that — the rest of my baby, Indie, was born, swimming into the water at 4.19am. Wendy handed him to me through my legs and I got to hold him between Hubby and me. The look on Hubby’s face was priceless and it was the most amazing moment shared between us. Mum came running down the hall with Harley to see her new grandson and we got a great photo of her excitement.
I got out of the pool at 4.30am and onto my own couch, holding Indie and breastfeeding straight away. A few minutes later, I birthed the placenta over a bucket while Hubby held Baby, then I got to cut my own cord. Hubby took Harley back to bed for a bit more rest while everyone else had tea and crumpets. I had an amazing banana milkshake and fruit toast and we sat around having some special women’s time, just Wendy, Mum, Aunty and me with the exception of my baby boy.
When Hubby woke up, we measured and weighed Baby — he was 8lbs 2oz, 54cm long and had Apgars of 10. Harley put his arms out for a hold and gave his little brother a kiss.
It was so easy and natural — I still can’t believe how quick and amazing it was. I didn’t tear, but the pains for the next few days were full on. Each day, however, they improved. The swelling reduced and I could fit back into my jeans after a week. Of course, the birthing pain was out of this world, but clearly the body can endure it and needs to for us to appreciate life so much more.
We attended the CARES ‘Empowered Birth’ evening when I was pregnant and I can now say I am an empowered woman. During Indie’s birth, I was only surrounded by people who loved and supported me and who believed I could do it. I got to birth to George Harrison’s music in a beautiful blow-up pool in my living room lit by scented candles. It’s an experience I’ll never forget and neither will the people who shared it with me. I thank them with all of my heart.