VBAC Birth Story: The sensations grew in intensity and I was breathing deep in through the nose and moaning long deep moans. Occasionally I would say “open” as I exhaled. Jaymes and Amelia dripped warm water down my back with a face washer, patted my face with a cool damp washer, hugged me and held my hands.
31.10.12 at 1:49pm (39wks 4 days)
3.54kg - 52.5cm - Head 34cm
Saturday 27th: I notice many changes such as tender breasts and mucus turning from whitish to the fertile raw egg white kind. Sunday there was a bloody show (light pink tinge to the mucus). I remember telling Jaymes about it saying, “It will probably still be a couple of days yet but things are happening.” I’d also been getting lots of BH for a week with a slight false alarm the week before.
Monday the contractions changed in nature and were coming regularly and getting more intense. I had to pay them some attention now but not heaps. We got excited. We put our daughter to bed, Jaymes got super busy preparing my birth space, inflating and filling the pool etc and I called Lisa. We sat and talked and laughed the three of us as we waited for my body to open. We went to bed and things slowed. In the morning they picked up but labour had not quite established as yet so Lisa left and said “Call me anytime you need me and I’ll come back.”
Jaymes stayed home and took Amelia to school. The teachers asked “Where’s Mummy?” Amelia: “She’s having a baby....she’s having a homebirth.”
We just relaxed together Tuesday and at around 5-6pm I felt like things had finally become regular and slightly more intense. Amelia knew something was really happening as I had to breathe through the waves and go inward. I explained my body was getting ready for the baby to come and it was starting to work hard and that when it was working hard I had to concentrate and breathe and that it was hard to talk at those times. We put Amelia to bed and I asked Lisa to come.
Lisa came. Amelia woke up (or got up, not sure if she went to sleep or not). Not long after I stripped off and got in the pool... Ahhh it felt lovely. I felt so comfortable and safe. All my beautiful candles were flickering about the house, the scent of lavender and lemongrass filled the room. I fell in love with the lemongrass at my blessingway (thanks Lisa) and burned the oil often from then up until the birth. My CD, Tony O’connor “In Touch” was playing continuously. Each time the beautiful woodwind sounds died I would just gently direct my support people, “Music please” and the sound would fill the room once more as I drifted back into Labourland.
The sensations grew in intensity and I was breathing deep in through the nose and moaning long deep moans. Occasionally I would say “open” as I exhaled. Jaymes and Amelia dripped warm water down my back with a face washer, patted my face with a cool damp washer, hugged me and held my hands. Lisa and Jaymes kept offering me drinks, reminding me to go to the toilet and telling me I was doing a great job. They encouraged me the whole time and gave me the right support when I needed it .
Lisa would gently appear at my side, occasionally popping the Doppler on to check on bub or encourage me some more. At around 10pm I noticed Amelia sitting by the pool, in a dining chair, her head drooping to the side as she fell asleep. She didn’t want to go to bed but Jaymes scooped her up, walked about the room with her for a few moments and then tucked her into bed. At some point the waves were greeted with strong back pain that would linger after each contraction and the contractions started rolling one on top of the other. One would be manageable and the second would seem to go on forever and the back pain would linger after the contraction had eased.
This went on for hours. I would hop out of the pool to pee and the contractions intensified again. Sitting on the toilet was hell! I hated it. At some point I couldn’t empty my bladder and Lisa knew I needed to. She offered to insert a catheter and I was happy to let her. I could no longer lie in bed. I just propped some pillows` around and stayed on all fours. I would rock back and forth or sway side to side riding those powerful waves. Occasionally they got the better of me and I focussed on the physical, telling Lisa or Jaymes, “I want this to end... I’ve had enough...”
Then I’d find a way to go within and I’d tell myself over and over, “I’m okay. I can do this.” Riding the waves again as I rocked. I just did whatever my body told me. I tried a few different positions that Lisa suggested as well. When moving from pool to toilet or bed I’d hang off Jaymes or hold him and sway. At times I was able to rest between them although it didn’t feel that way. I started thinking “This baby has to be posterior... this back pain isn’t letting up.”
Jane was also there taking photos. Most of the time I didn’t notice her but at one point I was having a hard time staying inward, I turned my head away “too bright” I said and the flash disappeared. At around 3am Lisa asked about examining me to check bubs position and I was fine with this. As we both suspected bub was posterior and I was 6-7cm dilated. I felt slightly disheartened as I was getting tired. Lisa reassured me that my body was opening up just as it needed to and I was doing well.
As the pain was becoming harder to manage Lisa asked if I wanted to try water injections. I think I said “I don’t know what I want”... but within minutes I knew I wanted them. Lisa came back suggesting the TENS and I thought “Oh no! Where are the water injections?” Lisa didn’t have her sterile water. “NO!” So I tried the TENS. It provided some distraction but nowhere near enough relief.
Lisa came back...” I have been on the internet and can use saline.” “Great....let’s go” Lisa got ready; Jaymes helped me out of the pool and through a wave or two. I got on the bed on my knees, lent into Jaymes and we held hands tightly as I braced for what I thought would be agony. The injections felt like tiny stings not the horrible wasp stings I was expecting. I guess compared to the hours of backache I’d endured they weren’t much in comparison.
It was still dark at this point. Amelia was still sleeping and I thought Jane had gone home to rest. I continued to ride it out but I didn’t feel that the baby was moving or that any progress had been made. I told Lisa “Everything feels the same...The contractions the pain and the baby...Everything feels the same. I don’t feel like anything has changed.”
I got back in the pool again. I remember waking with a nose full of water as I had dozed off and dunked myself (quite a few times). The room was getting lighter. At 6am I started saying to myself “Just get through one more hour” as I started contemplating transferring to hospital for some pain relief to help me get some rest so I could make it through to the end of labour and be able to birth my baby.
Around 6am Amelia got up. I remember she was excited about the baby being born and she kept saying how beautiful I looked. Jaymes swapped between supporting me and supporting Amelia. Around 8am we decided it was time to call our wonderful friend Deb to come and get Amelia so Jaymes could fully support me and we could get her dropped back when/if it felt right.
While Jaymes was getting Amelia’s stuff already I was still in the pool riding it out and I started a discussion with Lisa about transferring to hospital. We talked about what they’d want to do, risks and benefits of procedures, what we could do at home and how I was feeling. I said “I just think I need some pain relief. I am so tired and I want to make sure I can birth my baby.”
We could have broken my waters at home and seen if that sped things up but I didn’t want to risk being at home with broken waters, more intense contractions and no increase in progress. I decided to transfer. I cried... “This isn’t how I pictured things Lisa. I don’t want a caesarean.” I told Jaymes “I don’t want to be weak and give up and go to hospital.” Yet, had anyone else made this decision I would not have thought they were weak! He said “Any tougher and you’d be a leather boot!” THANKYOU JAYMES!
Lisa made the call, Jaymes packed a bag and I got out of the pool at the very last minute, got dressed and off we went. I sat in the front seat, facing the back moaning through a few contractions as we went... “We’re almost there.” Jaymes said. Every now and then I’d peek to see where we were. I stood in a parking space exaggerating the contractions trying to save a space, only to realise Jaymes had found one... In the hospital a lady was talking away to us... “Do you want a wheel chair? First baby? Oh you’re close. Don’t worry, it’ll be over soon. Blah blah blah.” I felt like screaming, “Would you just shut up and let me breathe?” I turned into Jaymes and shut her out....
Finally we were there... We were greeted by a very warm midwife who Lisa knew well. YAY! We had an issue with the doctor though. At first I declined everything other than some monitoring “I want to be able to move though.” And I asked for some gas. Once I got stuck into the gas (and was feeling quite high, which we all laughed about) the doctor said “Okay there have been a couple of decelerations of the baby’s heartbeat so when you roll over I can do an exam and break your waters”. My head was so clouded. I knew that I didn’t want to do this but my body just started to roll over. As I turned, I faced Lisa and she looked at me as if to say “What are you doing??? No...”
Then the doctor and midwife went and Lisa spoke to me and said something like; “Sarah, you were just about to do exactly as she wanted. You said you don’t want those things... You can do this. I know you want some relief but how about you leave the gas for a bit so you can make some clear decisions.” She was right and I put the gas away, got off the bed and went back to rocking and breathing. Jaymes giving me drinks in between the big waves and holding my hand. Next thing we were getting a new doctor and wondered what he/she would be like... He turned out to be AWESOME! Dr Bushanti (Dr Tony) introduced himself then followed with: “You said you had a bad experience last time and that is why you chose a homebirth this pregnancy. Can you tell me what made it a bad experience last time?” Lisa and I looked at each other... “Huh?” “I don’t think I really want to talk about that right now.” I said... His reply: “I just want to know what happened last time so I don’t make those same mistakes.” Jackpot! I told him I didn’t feel listened to or supported. I didn’t feel like the staff cared or tried to help me achieve the birth I wanted.
From then on he gave me information every step of the way, answered my questions clearly and without trying to scare me with rubbish statistics etc. He gave me options and more options. He waited for contractions to stop and then spoke to me. He truly respected me and really wanted to help me have a positive birth experience. So after giving away the gas at the beginning I did ask about pain relief and as they describe side effects of morphine and the epidural I mentally said to myself “Oh, I don’t want that.... or that.” And didn’t go back to the gas either...
I decided to be examined and was still 7cm (as I thought and had told Lisa earlier) so wasn’t surprised. I decided to have my waters broken and got a drip for some fluids as I knew I was a bit dehydrated and felt it was a good idea to make sure I was strong enough to birth my baby. Soon after my waters were broken, something changed. The back pain shifted to the urge to push. I asked “Is it too early? I don’t want to push if my body isn’t ready?” Lisa and Carolyn both said that if my body couldn’t NOT push then it was time to just listen to my body... So I was breathing down and pushing and grunting. So raw and primal... I could feel some change! My baby was coming.
I was standing leaning over the bed, rocking swaying, pushing, squatting down with the strong surges in my body. Then we had a clip put on the baby’s head so we could better monitor the heartbeat. After a while the Dr wanted to check the baby’s position and found that the head had turned sideways (trying to move from posterior to anterior). The Dr told me to avoid an instrumental delivery or caesarean he felt it would be best if he turned my baby. He told me why, told me it would hurt and waited for my answer... “Do it!”
I breathed deep as he put his hand inside and turned my baby’s head. Wow! Yes it hurt! But I was determined to birth my baby out of my vagina and would endure anything to make sure I could. Then off the bed again and more pushing... Until we discovered the baby’s heartbeat was dipping too low during contractions and not coming up high enough between them...
Without freaking me out the Dr encouraged me to dig deep and push hard so I could birth my baby. After a while a new position was suggested to help ease the pressure on the baby and get the baby out. So there I was lying on the bed, pulling my legs back to be chest (with help of my support team), chin down to my chest pushing my baby down with all my might. Just like in the movies and not how I had pictured this birth at all. All I could think was “Oh, I’ll probably tear for sure like this...”
I was encouraged to dig deep, push hard, no noise, use all that energy to push your baby out. Between contractions Lisa’s voice rang sweetly “Breathe for your baby...Breathe for your baby.” I reached down, put a finger inside myself a little and felt my baby’s head, wow, all hairy. The baby is right there...
As my perineum was not stretching and letting the baby out the Dr suggested an episiotomy “the baby’s head will probably just pop out...we can avoid instrumental delivery/caesarean.” “Ok!” I said...( risks explained) signed the form... Again. I felt I’d do anything that I felt was really going to help my baby be born vaginally without instruments.
Then finally out came our baby’s head. I felt it and an enormous wave of relief started to wash over me. I couldn’t quite bring myself to lean forward enough to see, I was buggered. Jaymes had a look... “Wow, so much hair”
A couple more pushes and then I felt this amazing flurry of kicks as my baby swam out of my womb into Daddy’s hands. I looked at my baby and eventually reached out and took hold of the warm wet being. Then the euphoria started to set in. Oh my god! I glanced over the little body and the cord was between the legs. I couldn’t tell the sex and I didn’t care. I birthed my baby out of my vagina!
Doctors came close rubbing the baby down as I rubbed the chest. Once a cry came out there was a cheer. I was talking softly to our baby. Lisa’s voice was looming in the background “Not too much, don’t rub the baby down too much...” again respecting my wishes and reminding others to do the same!
Jaymes looked into my eyes, “We’ve got the complete package.” “Is it a boy?” I asked knowing the answer was yes. I couldn’t see him properly and I asked Jaymes if the name we had chosen suited him and then we announced Xander had been born. Then everyone melted into the background as we bonded with Xander Blake Bromwich, earth side for the first time. I looked over at Lisa with an “I did it!” face. And saw tears in her eyes. I was filled with such a high the tears took a few moments to kick in. Wow! He’s here. “I love you Xander. Happy Birthday!
Photos © Jane McCrae Photography