Ironically, given the obstetric view of home birth vbacs, it is the fact that my first baby Sam was born by c-section that led me to a home birth on my third. Be¬ing an 'undesirable' as far as community midwife programmes were concerned I had the 'standard' hospital experience on my second birth but we found the whole experience incredibly stressful. The hospital felt so foreign to me. The 'machine that went beep'
unnerved me. The need to perform to a schedule that just didn't fit with my body's put me on edge. Although I got the vbac that I so wanted, it wasn't an experience I wanted to repeat.
Before I was even pregnant with baby number three I was pretty sure that I wanted to go the home birth route next time and so as soon as I got my positive test result I was on the phone to my midwife of choice, who handily lives only a few minutes away. From the outset my c-section was a non-issue, and my age (just about to turn 41) was never even mentioned. As far as she was concerned, I was fit, healthy, had a history of problem free textbook pregnancies, my scar had been 'tested' successfully and I was a good candidate for a homebirth. The fact that she was happy made me happy. I trusted her experience and she trusted my body. What a novelty!
This pregnancy was also problem free aside from worse nausea and heartburn than I'd had before. Very little to complain about really! My 20 week scan showed low lying placenta so I tried to keep an open mind till I was re-scanned at 34 weeks and saw to my relief that there was no issue with placenta position. Then I reached the 37 week milestone and finally relaxed that we were good to go the home birth route. Only then did we test out the pool we'd been lent and start to accumulate the various bits and pieces that we needed.
As my edd approached I was both irritated that I was still pregnant and apprehensive about how much longer this pregnancy might continue. This baby felt and looked big. I was tired of waddling and eager to meet my new baby who I was convinced was a third boy (my 'intuition' had been reliable both previous times so why not this time?)
Two days before my due date was a beautiful day in what had been a very mixed summer. I spent a lovely day with the boys and my dad. A friend had phoned to tell me that she was as cranky as a wasp for two days before her son was born. I laughed and wished that that explained my bad temper but didn't really take it to heart. Little did I know! My dad had just left the house when my waters went at about 4pm. As both previous labours had started that way but with no contractions I didn't expect much to happen (Daniel, my second son was born 73 hours after my waters broke). But this time contractions started within a very short time. In fact by the time my husband Alan got home from work at 5ish he noticed them though I was doing my best to ignore them as I made dinner for the boys.
My midwife dropped in at about 4.30, checked the baby's heartbeat and said to call if anything started. Then she texted at about 7.30 to see if there had been any change and I texted back that pains had started and were now 4-5 minutes apart. I was still not sure if this would continue as labour on Daniel had stopped and started over 2 days. That said, we had decided at about 6.30 that Alan should take the boys to his parents so we must have had some sense of things going somewhere.
When my midwife got my text she phoned me, I had a contraction while she was on the phone and she heard it and said she'd be right over. I was a bit surprised so I was obviously still in denial. She arrived just after 7.30pm as Alan got back from dropping the boys to his parents. She asked permission and then gave me an internal exam (the only time she did). I was 2cm dilated and my cervix was soft. Everything was looking good.
I laboured in the kitchen as the table was just the right height for leaning on. The back doors were thrown open and I spent some time in the doorway looking out on the summer evening. I couldn't sit down and found myself getting tired and shaky in my legs as things went on. I felt I should eat something to keep my energy up but a couple of bites of toast and I threw up so that was an end to that.
Alan and the midwife got the pool ready and when it was ready I got into it (about 9.00pm). The relief between contractions was extraordinary. Absolutely blissful! I felt I got some rest though things moved on and as I reached the pushing stage nothing was really registering except a realisation that I'd never done this before and had no idea what it was that I was 'supposed' to be doing. I pointed this out to my midwife several times though she patiently explained that I didn't need to 'know' anything. I wasn't convinced!
I was increasingly tired and annoyed with this baby who just didn't seem to be interested in coming out (though my midwife later pointed out, the slow exit was why I only had an unstitchworthy tear when my 9lb3oz baby appeared at 11.18 that night). The sensations as the baby descended were very strange: I felt like there was a giant walnut moving about inside me, not a smooth skulled baby.
I spent practically the whole time on all fours draped over the edge of the pool. I tried turning over briefly but hated the feeling of lying back. Apparently time was passing though I'd no sense of it. Eventually a head appeared followed a couple of pushes later by the slither of a body. I greeted my beautiful baby 'boy' and only a few minutes later when the midwife asked what we'd had did Alan move the cord to show me how wrong I was. We had a daughter and the boys had a much wanted sister. She latched on in the pool and at some point the cord was cut. I got out of the pool after a little and Alan held Beth (as we later named her) while I delivered the placenta, showered and was tucked up in bed
After the midwife had left, Alan, Beth and I shared some precious 'us time' together before falling asleep. When the boys came home the next day they greeted their sister with total delight and no sense of the hiatus that Sam had experienced with my disappearance into hospital to have Daniel and my reappearance 5 days later with baby in tow.
I can't begin to describe what the experience was to me. Having had a birth by c-section, and a vbac complete with continuous monitoring, oxytocin, pethidine, gas&air, an epidural, and episiotomy, I had no 'reason' to believe that I could give birth naturally, except for a deep-seated belief that I could, given the right support and the right environment. I felt a need to reclaim my body and its capabilities from those that had undermined the belief that I had grown up with. It was tough briefly but it was an extraordinary experience. I'd never felt the actual birthing before and found the sensations very strange and not at all what I'd expected.
It was so lovely to be home. I felt safe throughout. I never had to make a conscious decision that I was in labour: I just was. One thing led to another, and another, and then my baby was there. I never felt at risk. I never felt the jolts of stress that punctuated my hospital experiences as the monitors beeped and blipped throughout labour. Home was everything I'd hoped, everything I knew it to be. I am still bowled over by what a contrast it has been to previous experiences and I feel genuinely blessed in having had the experience. I also feel more than a little sad that such an experience will not be available to other mums with a section in their past but that's another day's work.
I am, and will remain, eternally grateful to my fabulous midwife for walking the path she does and for the opportunity that she gave to me.
birth pool, Subsequent baby but first home birth, Home birth after C Section, midwife Philomena