A healing home birth at Dawn, a VBA2C story.

By Larissa McCarthy

My pregnancy had been pretty straight forward. Being my fourth baby, I was feeling relaxed and just went with the flow for the most part. My first two births had been quite traumatic caesarean births that I know deep down, were unnecessary. Both had left me with severe postnatal depression (PND/PPD) as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Over the years following we moved from Auckland to Taupō and I made some new friends. One in particular introduced me to the idea of a VBAC, VBAMC (vaginal birth after caesarean, vaginal birth after multiple caesarean’s). So, when I became pregnant with my third child, she helped direct me to a VBAC friendly, amazing midwife who 100% supported my plans. I got myself on every Facebook forum and hunted down every piece of research regarding VBAC that I could find. I ended up having a very beautiful but hard fought and uneventful water birth at the hospital eight days after my due date. Fast forward to my fourth pregnancy a few years later and I found my heart yearning for a home birth. Home birth was not a normal idea for me and yet the concept of birthing at home was everything to me. Just a year earlier, I had the amazing privilege of being present and supporting my half-sister at her home birth.

My midwife, Karen and I had a great relationship, and I began talking about my desires for a home birth very early on in the pregnancy, to which she was incredibly supportive. I had a little setback at week 14 in the form of a haemorrhage but by week 16 I was up and running and life was back to normal. My pregnancy progressed despite the bleed, through the very long and hot summer. My birth plan included little to no intervention and hopefully, a water birth. Karen dropped off our birth pack and the birthing pool a week before my due date which seemed to be fast approaching. A couple of days before my due date our washing machine broke, luckily, we found the part we needed, but being the weekend, it would not arrive until the next week. I was sure I would go overdue again, so this didn’t faze me. Funny the things we remember!

The day before my due date, Saturday February 21st my husband Dan, who is a professional fire-fighter was working all day. In the early afternoon I was feeling a bit tired and ‘off’ so had a lie down and I realized that baby had been quiet. I made the decision to contact Karen who suggested we meet at our local maternity unit to check everything out. I gathered the children up, and off we went up the road to the local maternity unit. By around 4pm-ish, I was beginning to feel some tightening’s, so I decided to contact my mum who lived 4 hours away for some support and she made the call to head up to be with us.

We headed home, I lay down and I started, out of curiosity writing down the times I was feeling the tightening’s… every 4-6 minutes or so and lasting between one and one and a half minutes. I tried not to think much of them. Soon it was time to pick up hubby, cook dinner, bath the children, and get everyone into bed. My mum arrived not long after, so I decided to have a bath and get to bed early.

3.10am- I woke suddenly. A second later, and I felt a sharp pain and heard a big pop! It took me a good few seconds to realize what had just happened. I quickly jumped out of bed as fluid began gushing out of me. I started whacking Dan and yelling at him, ‘Dan, Dan, wake up!’ When he realized what was happening, he started telling me to get to the ensuite, but I was in shock and too busy laughing at the irony of the situation that I couldn’t move. My waters had never broken naturally before. I had seen the huge gush in movies but had been reassured by numerous people that it did not happen like that in real life, that a trickle was more realistic. How wrong was that in my case! The puddle on the floor was huge and as the waters kept flowing, I waddled off to the bathroom. Sitting on the toilet I understood that this meant my baby was probably going to be here sooner rather than later and I had a bit of a cry, an emotional release.

3.19am- I got my first contraction which overwhelmed me completely. I had essentially gone from zero and sound asleep to these huge and intense contractions. My last birth had started with small waves and over 8 hours developed and increased as I adapted and moved with them. This was much more sudden. My mum had heard the commotion and made her way downstairs to my room. By now I was on my knees hanging over the side of my bed and I was starting to feel a little pushy. My husband was very worried about getting the birth pool full in time so was busy fussing over that.

3.40am- After only 20 minutes I felt a desperate urge to push. I told Dan to stop filling the pool and to call Karen!! My lovely midwife didn’t get a chance to talk to me, but she must have heard the primal noises I was making and decided to come now. She arrived at 3.48am and began by listening to baby. Baby was happy and I was given the go ahead to listen to my body and do what I needed to. I just needed that little bit of reassurance.

My body seemed to hover in transition for a really long time, we think about 80 or so minutes. During this time, I was pushing and forgetting to breathe. My Mum was amazing at whispering positive and encouraging things to me between each contraction (at my insistence). Karen was working hard at moving my hips and massaging my lower back, trying to help this transition along. I specifically remember at one point her hair touching my naked back. I felt grounded. I was having a lot of show and clear fluid was still leaking. At some point she realized that baby was posterior although at the time that meant nothing to me. Baby was descending well, and my midwife whispered to me that we could try a position change. I was instructed to lay on my back on the floor. She called it the beetle! I thought she was crazy however trusted her completely and with the next contraction understood why she suggested this. I could finally feel baby’s head near earth side.

5.28am- The pressure became immense and in one more contraction, that I didn’t even need to push with.  It was just over 2 hours after my waters first released, that my baby literally shot out of my vagina, in one very fast motion. Their squishy face looking straight at me, in seemingly slow motion, no stopping! The tiny body immediately followed as Karen caught them mid-air. This beautiful thick umbilical cord was wrapped around their body many times. My baby was unwrapped and on my chest in seconds, a midwives quick thinking hands.

I had not had time to think about getting completely naked nor had Dan had the time to get in a position to catch the baby himself. This baby let out a satisfied whimper! I began my sacred post-birth wail. My favourite part of all births. That loud and primal wail we all make that sends shivers to the heavens.

My placenta presented on my bedroom floor by ‘Matthew Duncan presentation.’ It had flipped on itself, and my membranes were still inside my uterus. Karen understood how strongly I felt regarding not wanting any artificial help by way of drugs and made sure she did everything possible to help my body do what it needed to do to birth these membranes. We started acupressure with the help of my back-up midwife with a plan of beginning acupuncture shortly. After another half an hour it was decided that after one more push/wave, I would need artificial intervention. I pushed harder then, and with desired results. Despite very real fears, my membranes were birthed intact, and I experienced minimal blood loss considering. Karen is highly skilled and experienced and never once did I feel scared, unsafe, or overwhelmed. I have no doubt in my mind that had I been in an institution that the amount of intervention I would have received would have been unlimited and I would have been swept into the system without a voice.

I am so very thankful for the amount of skill and knowledge my midwife Karen carried, and her ability to look calm and collected even when there was high risk, and her mind was running a million miles. I feel this is the absolute difference in a home birth midwife with experience and who sees normal, natural birth every day and believes fully in a women’s/birthing person’s ability to birth their baby unaided vs someone who is trained in medical emergencies, of which I feel, birth is not.

Without too long I was up and in my bed with my naked chubby baby on my chest, her cord and placenta intact and untouched. Our eldest two children woke after not long and came to greet me and their new baby sister. They are still upset with me for not waking them to watch the birth they had been so well prepared for. Over 2 hours after her birth our baby was weighed and her checks were done, on my bed right next to me, never separated.

Hayley-Dawn was born on February 22nd 2015. She was born at home surrounded in love. Posterior with brow presentation, weighing 11 pounds (5kg), 38cm head circumference and 58cm long. She was born at home after 2 caesareans. We were both healthy and well and I was left feeling ecstatic on an untouched oxytocin high! And as for the washing… its lucky my husband works at a fire station, that night he trudged all our ‘birth washing’ there to get it washed and dried!

Midwife- Karen Donald

Husband- Dan McCarthy

Mum- Wendy Bishop