My journey to a VBAC began ten years ago, after the birth of my first daughter. She was born at 31 weeks gestation via emergency C-section for a queried placental abruption. I had no labour, no warning signs that anything was wrong, and in fact was in hospital for something else at the time. They took my baby out of me and left me feeling empty and at fault for the early delivery.
When I became pregnant the second time, I knew I wanted a vaginal delivery. I went through the Flinders Medical Centre; I saw a different midwife every visit, had my blood pressure taken and was sent on my way. I was so worried my baby would come early again, and was especially anxious around the 31 week mark. I didn’t feel supported by the medical system whatsoever. At my 40 week appointment the midwife said to me, “You could still have this baby naturally, your body is just not doing what it is supposed to.” She then informed me that if I was still pregnant ten days after my due date, my baby would once again be taken from me. And so, ten days later — after trying every single thing I could think of to induce labour — I was once again in the operating theatre without having even felt one second of the birth process.
I went home after my second C-section feeling like I had failed. I had two beautiful children, yet I had never actually given birth. Adding to my feelings was the fact I had been told by the hospital that, having had two Caesareans already, any subsequent pregnancies would also be delivered via C-section. It wasn’t until my youngest daughter was four years old that I heard about one of my friends who was planning to have a home birth, and she had already had a C-section! She had hired an independent midwife (IM) and they were planning a water birth at home. I knew right away that was how I had wanted my daughters to enter the world, and I knew if I was ever going to have another baby, that was how I was going to do it.
When I fell pregnant again, I immediately started looking for the perfect midwife; someone who would understand that I wanted to be an active participant in my baby’s birth and who understood that having two C-sections in the past wasn’t going to stop me giving birth naturally this time. It wasn’t long before I found her; my IM came highly recommended to me, and after our first meeting, it was apparent she would be delivering my baby. Throughout the pregnancy she built up a friendship not only with my partner and me, but also with my two older children. They would look forward to her visits and would ask her questions about the birth. My IM was always patient and willing to answer all my questions, day or night.
My little man kept us on our toes, with me experiencing increased and intense Braxton hicks from 34 weeks, however, it wasn’t until 41+3 that my birth process began. At 5.50am, I woke up feeling a pop, followed by a rush of fluid. Could this be it? My waters had broken. I woke my partner, and we sent my IM a message letting her know what had happened… Then we waited! I made a plate of sandwiches, and waited for my daughters to wake up, and for my partner’s eldest daughter to get to our place… And we waited! I didn’t have very intense waves, in fact, if I didn’t have to have a towel between my legs I wouldn’t have believed it was really happening.
By 3pm, the waves were slowly starting to happen more often and get stronger, and I was needing to use the birth ball and stress balls to get through them. My partner was getting anxious, so we messaged my IM to let her know she could come anytime! She said she would be here within an hour, and by the time she got here, things just weren’t funny anymore! She helped to fill the birth pool, and showed my partner where to apply pressure to my back during the contractions. The lights were turned off, and the candles lit, music was being played and everything felt amazing. I was actually doing it!
I’m not sure how much time passed, but as soon as I got into the pool it really eased the pain. The waves were coming really regularly and were really intense. Having my partner to hold onto during these waves was amazing. My whole birth space felt amazing, I felt such intense love and happiness and felt really comfortable. I had lost all concept of time; at one point I started vomiting and getting tired. My IM suggested I get out of the pool for a bit and try a few waves in different positions. The waves were so intense, and I kept telling the baby to move down — I was so desperate to meet my little boy.
After a few waves on the lounge, in the bathroom and the shower, I got back into the pool. All of a sudden, things felt different. It didn’t feel as intense as it had. My IM checked the baby with the Doppler, and asked me to get out of the pool again and change positions. She also let me know she had called another IM to come as an extra support person. While I was lying on the bed, it became obvious that the baby was in distress, and my IM told me we needed to go to the hospital.
All the way there, I was looking at the panic on my partner’s face, so I kept telling everyone it was okay, if I needed another C-section, at least I would still know what the birth process felt like. It was almost as if I had given up, yet at some point during the car ride, the waves suddenly became so intense again! My IM had phoned her backup (who was only a street away from my house!) to let her know we were at the hospital.
I was taken into an emergency room where they put a foetal monitor on me and told me that if the baby was still in trouble, I would be given a C-section then and there. Amazingly, my little guy was fine. The nurses were still sticking needles into me, and I was taken to a delivery room where our backup IM was waiting. It was during this transfer with me on the bed that the waves changed, and I was subconsciously pushing at the end of each wave. The doctor started telling me she had concerns about my baby, that because I had had two previous C-sections, she wanted to do another one. I looked over to my IM and her backup (who had been bustled out of the way by pushy hospital staff) and they reassured me the baby was fine. The doctor did an internal and stated I was only 5-6cms, and continued to push for surgery. The waves were almost unbearable, and after me vocalising these thoughts, the hospital midwives tried to give me the gas to help me. (It was thrown back at them soon after!) Our backup IM came over and started lifting my hips and applying pressure during each wave which helped immensely.
Finally, the impatient doctor came back in, got right in my face and stood between our two IMs and me so I could no longer see them. She told me she had grave fears for my baby, that she wanted to do the C-section and she had a theatre ready now, telling me if I didn’t agree to do it then and there, then she may not have a theatre available when I needed it. I finally agreed, and then heard our backup IM ask them to do another internal to check my progress, as both she and my IM had noticed me pushing. The doctor agreed, but I wanted my IM to do it. I had no trust in this doctor and felt safer with her! I was told this was not possible, and the doctor proceeded to do the most painful internal examination ever. She informed us I was now 9cm (pretty impressive seeing as I had only been there for an hour or so!). She told us she still wanted the C-section though, and they started getting everything ready. I asked if my IM could come in with me, and was told only one person was allowed in theatre, even for a spinal block C-section, so I had to choose between my partner and my midwife. I heard our amazing backup trying to talk them into letting our IM come, however, this doctor just would not budge. I had my own condition for the surgery; I told her I wanted her to check my progress again before she cut me, and I did NOT want to stay in the hospital for five days!
I was wheeled into the theatre with my partner close behind and I was still pushing. Once in there, they asked me to climb from the bed onto the table. I got up on all fours on the table and started pushing! They asked me to sit on the edge of the table so they could put in the spinal block. I turned around, put my legs up and started pushing. My backside was hurting, and I let EVERY person in that room know! But, no one was listening to me — they were too busy getting ready to cut me. So, I addressed each person with, “Excuse me, my bum hurts,” but still no one listened. It was burning/hurting, so I put my hand between my legs and could feel my baby’s head. “He’s right there!” I shouted, but they weren’t listening. They ended up trying more than once to insert the spinal and at one point, I had a male nurse hold my shoulders forward and the doctor was holding my legs, forcing me to sit on the edge of the table during a pushing wave, and I felt my baby being pushed into my tailbone! In the end, the spinal worked way better on one side than the other, so I was still pushing and had a bit of sensation.
I was still trying to tell the doctor and nurses that my baby’s head was right there. There was a nurse behind me who said she couldn’t see anything, but one of the midwives in front of me agreed that she could see his head. When they had me all ready for surgery, I demanded again that the doctor check where my baby was. That was when she finally realised he was actually right there — just like I had said all along! I asked them to go and get my IM, and was told one of the nurses had gone looking for her, but had been unable to find her. (Both she and our backup IM were exactly where we had left them!)
The doctor told me to put my hand between my legs as I pushed. I felt my baby come out, and he was put straight on my chest. Noah David was born at 1.19am on 1 June 2011, weighing 3945gm / 8lb 11oz, and my partner was able to be there and watch the whole thing! Noah was blue and not crying, but he was looking at me. We hadn’t wanted to cut the cord until it had stopped pulsing, but the doctor had already done it. Apparently the cord was wrapped around Noah’s neck so tightly that the doctor couldn’t even get her fingers under it; not only was Noah all tangled in it, he was holding onto it as well!
I couldn’t believe it — I had done it! Despite everything, I had my VBAC! I couldn’t wait to get in and tell my two IMs! However, I did have to wait — after the birth, the doctor apparently pulled on the cord to get the placenta out and snapped the cord, so had to put her hand in and manually remove the placenta! She also decided that my two small tears needed stitching, and rather than put one stitch in each like she said she would, she stitched continuously between them, giving me ten stitches. As soon as she was done, we were taken to another room where our two IMs were waiting ready to share in our excitement, and five hours later we were home, introducing Noah to his big sisters!
I honestly believe the only reason I felt empowered enough once I got into the theatre was because I had the support of two wonderful independent midwives. They gave me the strength to get the birth I wanted. I knew my baby was okay, and had faith in myself because of these two amazing women, and because of the trust and love I have for them.