Aubrie’s birth story – HBAC! (home birth after caesarean)

Aubrie is my second child. My first, Cohen, was planned to be a home birth, with no interventions.  I trusted that my body and my baby knew what to do to birth naturally. However at 20 weeks we found out that Cohen had a large rare tumour on his neck  stopping him from breathing that would mean a natural birth wouldn’t be possible. In fact he needed to be born via a special C section where he could be intubated whilst still attached to me via the placenta. So the 2nd half of my pregnancy was intensely medicalised and very stressful.

My 2nd pregnancy, 2 years later, was the polar opposite, I had a very straight forward pregnancy, apart from a bit of morning sickness and hip pain. Because I had had a c-section previously, it was recommended that I birth at the hospital. I met with an obstetrician a few weeks before Aubrie was due and she went through the protocol recommended for VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) – Hospital birth, IV luer in arm in case of emergency, and continuous monitoring by CTG. I felt very strongly that medical interventions were not necessary unless it was clear things were going wrong (mother or baby distress), and actually felt that interventions would interfere with the natural birth process that my body was quite capable of on its own. In addition, the reason why I had had a c-section was due to my son’s condition, not any inability for my body to birth naturally. I was also unable to breastfeed Cohen as he was tube fed for the first 6 weeks of his life, then had a very poor latch and suck/swallow due to nerve damage in his face. We made the very tough decision to stop expressing at around 8 weeks of age as I was not coping.

This 2nd pregnancy was a chance to be able to trust my body to do everything naturally. I owe a lot of gratitude to Claire Eccleston, my first midwife, and Sarah Power, my 2nd midwife. I attended Claire’s pregnancy yoga classes (Claire couldn’t be my midwife this time around as she was pregnant too!) So I had to find another, and Sarah was recommended by a friend, what awesome advice that was.  I still loved the idea of home birth but thought I would still go to hospital at this point. Claire and Sarah empowered me to trust my body, and only 2 days before Aubrie was born I had written my birth plan, something like this….

  • Labour at home for as long as possible before transfer to hospital
  • No luer in my arm unless medically necessary
  • No CTG monitoring unless medically necessary (Sarah to monitor with Doppler)
  • Water Birth in the bath at the hospital

Sarah encouraged me to write this down, as I would be officially going against “protocol” for a VBAC.

So to the labour and birth…….

3am Friday 1st Feb ( 38 weeks, 2 days) – I woke at about 3am with a contraction. I felt excited, like it was all going to happen, but another one didn’t follow. I saw Sarah (midwife) on the Monday who said that usually the baby would be born within the week after this happened.

12 noon Wed 6th Feb (Waitangi Day) (39 weeks) – I had a show, not a huge amount but I felt excited and happy! It was going to happen soon, I did tell myself it could be still days away though.

6pm – While eating dinner I felt a contraction. It felt like period pain in my lower back. This time it wasn’t a one off, the contractions continued, between 10 and 20 minutes apart, about 20 to 40 second long. I was meant to go to book club at 7pm, and I did consider going since I was expecting the first stage of labour to last a while, but at 6.50pm I had had several contractions and wanted to relax at home. We put our 21 month old son to bed at 7pm. We watched TV to distract me and timed the contractions on and off.  I admit to googling “early labour signs” to work out if this was it or not? I felt really excited at this stage, smiling lots! This would be the first time I would experience actual labour, not having had the chance with my first child.

10pm – By about 10pm the contractions were getting stronger, at now about 2 to 5 minutes apart but I could still talk through them. They were more frequent when I was upright and moving than when I was sitting or lying down. They were in my lower back and felt like a searing hot pain right above my tailbone. I called Sarah to tell her and she told me to stay upright as much as I can and to call her again when I couldn’t talk through contractions. Kris (my husband) packed his hospital bag and watched movies, Men in Black  was on TV. But I didn’t really watch as I was concentrating all my energy into the contractions. We called Paula (mother in law) to ask her to come over (she lives in Thames, and said she’d be here by 6am). I also called Laura (my sister) and asked her to come over and stay in case we had to go to hospital before Paula arrived.

10.45pm – Laura arrived just before 11pm and went to sleep in our bed at the opposite end of the house and tried to get some sleep with me groaning every few minutes!!

Midnight – So at midnight Kris called Sarah as by this stage I wasn’t able to talk through contractions, they were more intense now but still not overly regular, 1 to 4 min apart lasting 30 seconds to a minute. They never really were regular the whole labour. I seemed to have a strong one every couple of contractions and the others weren’t as intense.  Sarah said she’d make her way over to our house. The pain was still all in my lower back. I was leaning over my swiss ball and Kris was massaging and putting pressure on my lower back through each contraction. I moved between the swiss ball and the beanbag, from leaning on the couch to the floor. It was difficult to find a comfortable position and felt changing positions often was best. I was on my knees a lot and remember feeling sore! I tried to concentrate on breathing out and found making low deep sounds helped get through each contraction. I went to pregnancy yoga which helped immensely to concentrate on relaxing my body as much as possible through the contraction and breathing in for energy and out slowly, trying to relax my face and shoulders particularly. In between contractions I was quite chatty and relaxed but feeling tired.

1am – Sarah arrived at our place. I remember telling her I felt tired but didn’t want to go to sleep as I didn’t want to slow things down (not that I could have slept, things were definitely moving and pretty sore already!).  Still lots of low back pain with each contraction. I was drinking lots of water and powerade, but couldn’t stomach any food. At some point around this time I felt quite loopy and saying silly things like making jokes between contractions. Sarah and Kris were taking turns massaging and putting pressure on my lower back. We also got out the wheat bag and hot water bottle which were wonderful.

4.40am – Sarah asked me if she could check my progress. This would mean lying on my back which was excruciatingly uncomfortable. In between contractions I tried to get comfy on the bed, had another contraction and then she did a quick check and I was 6cm. I remember feeling good like I was making progress, but feeling tired and asking how much longer it might be! She said it still could be several   hours. By this point I had totally lost track of time and only know the times by looking at my Sarah’s notes later. It was at this stage I started to think that I would stay at home, I think. I just couldn’t see how I could get into a car being in so much pain!! I also didn’t want things to slow down, I wanted it to hurry up and end! I felt completely calm, trusting in the process, and not worried at all about staying home. I felt nauseous on and off and got a bucket handy. I also had to go to the toilet often and had a couple of contractions sitting on the loo or pressing my back against the wall.

5.50am – I decided to run a bath to see if that would help with pain relief, I felt very tired now and contractions were intense. I climbed in but couldn’t find a position that was comfortable as I wanted to be leaning forward on my knees and couldn’t get the water deep enough to be on my lower back where the pain was so got out again. More show while in the bath. I had made the decision at this point to stay home. What would going to hospital achieve? A very uncomfortable car ride, the possibility of the transfer itself slowing labour down (the iatrogenic effect of being at hospital), having to defend my choice not to be monitored by CTG, and being offered pain relief that I didn’t want.

6am – I vomited on the floor in the kitchen as I couldn’t find my bucket!! I remember thinking this would be easier to clean (lino) than the carpet….. It was mainly water anyway. Sarah walked in and thought it was my waters, but told her it was just vomit. She kindly cleaned it up for me. I felt heaps better after this a new burst of energy. My waters STILL hadn’t broken and I felt a lot of pressure low down. I wiggled and jiggled my hips to try and make them break, but baby was hanging on in there.

6.25am – Cohen (my son) woke up and also my mother in law arrived. I decided to move into the bedroom as we’d been in the lounge til this point and had my pants off too, I didn’t want to freak them out! My mother in law gave Cohen his breakfast and played with him. I desperately wanted to have a hot shower but my sister needed it as she needed to get ready for work, so I got in the bath again, which was  a bit cold by this point and not much good. I could not get comfortable in any position and tried to concentrate on deep low moaning. I remember saying “out, come out baby, oooooooouuuuuuuut, oooooooooouuuuuuuut! ” with each breath out.

7am – Sarah asked if she could check my progress again. I was almost 10cm (yay), but with a lip on one side of my cervix that was holding things up. My waters hadn’t broken yet either and I felt so much pressure down low.  Sarah tried to break them for me but no joy. She was saying I think that when these waters break it will start happening.

7.40am – I started feeling pushy and feeling like I couldn’t cope much longer, it was soooo intense. There was a bit of swearing at this point, and it took all my energy to focus back on the contraction and the outward breathing.

7.50am – Sarah did another quick check, I was fully dilated! Yay this means I could keep pushing, I was so relieved. I asked how much longer, Sarah said could be a few more hours. Really??  I was on my knees leaning forward on the bed at this point. Sarah encouraged me to be as upright as I could be so I hopped off the bed and leaned against it. Then it was time to push! It was actually a relief to be pushing as it felt like less pain. With the next couple of contractions and pushes I could feel the head crowning! The “ring of fire” is an accurate description of how it feels. I was now on my knees on the floor leaning on my heels with my hands. Then the next contraction the head was born.  One last contraction, and baby was born in my hands at 7.59am. I brought my beautiful girl Aubrie up to my chest and cuddled her, so relieved that labour was over!  Aubrie was very relaxed and peaceful, a lovely pink colour and breathing on her own gently and easily. She didn’t cry just looked at me with big eyes.

I lost a fair bit of blood so I needed to lie down, and Kris took Aubrie for skin to skin cuddles. I laid on the floor and was given Syntocinon to birth the placenta quickly due to the blood loss, they also inserted an IV luer and put up a couple of bags of fluid. I felt much better lying down and soon Aubrie latched for her first breastfeed. Laura was just leaving for work and we called to her through the door that Aubrie had been born, she didn’t really want to see the sight, I was basically in a pool of blood, but seriously didn’t care! Cohen popped in and met Aubrie for the first time, then my mother in law took him out for a walk.

I finally made it back up onto the bed and had some toast and hot chocolate, I was starving now! We snuggled in the bed and Aubrie had another feed. And the rest is history. She is now 8 weeks old and breastfeeding like a dream, she sleeps well at night but loves to be awake in the daytime, the little monkey. Its been a healing experience to have such a natural birth, at home, with the 2 best support people I could have imagined, thanks Sarah and Kris.