VBAC success! Brontë Rose born 30th May, 2019.
7lb 9oz at 43 weeks 2 days.
Triggers: balloon catheter, miscarriage, induction.
My son was born 2 years & 10 days ago by emergency caesarean at 41.6 weeks gestation. We went through the Launceston birth centre for a home birth here rather than the hospital. I knew the hospital had a high rate of caesarean so I thought the birth centre was my best chance of a 'normal' birth.
Textbook pregnancy (even though I was aged 40 at the time and most Doctors I talked to gave me the horror stories)- all went well. Spontaneous labour. Laboured at home for 30-something hours, in the birth pool and shower for a lot of it. Got to a point where things slowed down, I was exhausted and my midwives said the baby is not engaged (he never was) and slightly posterior, the baby's head just isn't in the right position and we think it might be best to head to the hospital and have Bub monitored to see how everything is going. I was pretty sad. We went and of course, the cascade of interventions cascaded.
Monitored, baby all fine, waters were manually broken, left for a bit, syntocin drip and then it got full on. No rest in between contractions. Did this for a few more hours, got to 5 cm dilated. Something about them telling me I was only 5cm after all that time broke me...The Drs advised a caesarean. Within 10 mins of being in theatre and the wee man was born, 9lb 4oz and perfect.
5 days of a couple hours sleep each night at the hospital, breastfeeding was very difficult, nips were all cracked, he screamed all the time with hunger, lost weight and I cried all the time. It wasn't the best.
Cue 9 months later and I'm accidentally pregnant again. I cried when I did the test. It was then I realised how much the birth had affected me and I hadn't acknowledged it. I was really frightened to do it again and to do the first few weeks again. At 9 weeks I had a fairly traumatic miscarriage and after that we just went back to life the way it was, but I realised there was another little person out there that wanted me to be their Mum.
A few months later we decided to try again and hey presto pregnant again with the same due date as my son, 2 years apart! We decided to go for a home birth VBAC (Vaginal Birth after Caesarean) provided everything with the pregnancy went smoothly.
Which it did, apart from a 12 week scan which came back with a 1:8 chance of Down syndrome- which then got called low risk following further Harmony/Precept testing. The hospital Drs tried to convince me to birth there but advised my VBAC chances weren't great as I was aged 42.
A lot of emphasis was placed on the risk of uterine rupture. The pregnancy went on and the pressure from the Drs increased. I definitely felt like most of the Drs I saw through the pregnancy didn't think I could do it. Then the pregnancy went on.... And on.... Got to 42 weeks and the Drs were nervous.
Jasmijn and Jenny were still pretty chilled. Baby didn't seem big and I agreed to drop in daily at the hospital for monitoring to keep everyone happy and for peace of mind. Baby was very happy in there, my blood pressure was great, lots of movements, all good. A few little niggles overnight here and there but nothing to get excited about. I had tried all the things. I'd had ongoing chiropractor care throughout the last trimester of pregnancy to ensure everything was aligned. I did the Hypnobirthing 5 week course to prepare. 4 sessions of acupuncture over the last week of pregnancy. Curry, Sex, walking, gutter walking, fit-ball, warm bath, special eggplant parmigiana, clary sage essential oil, pregnancy massage. All the things... Nada.! One Dr told one of my midwives she was very nervous and if it were up to her she would have done an elective caesarean at 39 weeks.
The pressure was mounting. I was getting all the stillborn baby guilts placed upon me. I am pretty sensible, I understand statistics, and I understand risks and I like to think I wouldn't take any unnecessary ones.
I was confident that my body just wanted to cook this baby a bit longer. I was born at 43 weeks myself, induced because I was breech and the obstetrician was going on holiday the next day. My mum was born at 43 weeks. Maybe it's just a thing with us?
But still the pressure came. From health professionals and well meaning friends and family. Thank goodness I hadn't announced the pregnancy on Facey this time, it was tough enough with just the few who knew. Fortunately Jasmijn and Jenny appeared cool, calm and collected. That was exactly what I needed. So 43 weeks came. The Drs told me again they were worried (even though baby was happy in there). Said at this stage I had three options: Wait. Strongly advised against this. Caesarean. Or begin induction. I remembered the drip from last time and how awful it was. Some Drs at the hospital weren't willing to administer it to a labouring mum with a history of having had a caesarean, some were. This did not give me much confidence.
I agreed to a stretch and sweep on Tues, at 43 weeks exactly. If nothing happened they would use the balloon catheter on Thurs morning, break waters on Fri morning, give me a few hours, if nothing happened, it was syntocin drip time. My home birth window was closing...
Tuesday night happened. Couple of niggles.
Wednesday happened, nothing. Baby monitoring well. Wednesday night I packed my hospital bag and gave up the home birth dream. I had more or less accepted that a repeat caesarean might be my fate. Nothing I seemed to do that worked for other women seemed to work for me. Why would this balloon thing?
Thursday morning - first day all week I hadn't had a sook. It was time to meet baby and it was happening one way or another. Had some monitoring, all well. Had the balloon inserted about 11am. Went fine. Started getting very mild surges which I could breath through. About every 10 or so minutes. By about 5pm it was every 5 or 6 minutes but I was reading my book, breathing, no dramas. I sent Jasmijn and Jenny off to have a snooze (as they'd come home from another homebirth early this morning) and my partner headed off to get our son and my stepdaughter sorted at the grandparents and he'd come back about 8pm to sit with me for a bit then go home to bed. The hospital midwives were saying they'd give me a sleeping pill and then I could get some rest before the next day.
Went into the bathroom to use the loo when I sat there and realised that the balloon was coming out. I caught it as it came out with some paper towel and carried it out of the bathroom. My hands were shaking. My partner was sat there, having arrived while I was on the loo. I rang the bell to let the midwives know the balloon had fallen out. And then it started,..- very strong surges 2-3 mins apart. Boom. I leant over the bed and tried to breath through them, it was hard. This was intense and nothing like with my son.
My partner called Jasmijn and Jenny and they were there shortly afterwards and did all the things I didn’t know I needed them to do. They were amazing. One was pushing down on my lower back during surges, the other was holding my face, helping me breath. I felt like we were in the maternity ward for ages waiting for a birth suite to become free. It occurred to me I might not make it to the birthing suite. A Dr asked to examine me, checked and I was 5cm. I flashed back to my son's birth. 5cm. I didn't say anything but I thought, hmm, the hospital expects progress of 1cm an hour. Can I do another 5 hours of this without pain relief? I don't know. It was full on.
At the peak of a surge my body was already crunching up and my uterus was pushing really strongly. I couldn't control it. Jenny gave me another breathing technique to do to slow things down which helped. I got put in a wheel chair and taken down the corridor to the only free birthing suite. Then got told by a Dr I couldn't use the bath because I was planning a VBAC (despite everyone else telling me I could up to that point). I couldn't be bothered questioning it. I had too much else going on.
I was still leaning over the side of the bed and standing on the floor but my legs were starting to feel it so Jasmijn suggested I pop up on the bed and lean over the end, sitting on my knees. All good. I held onto the frame like I was holding on to life itself and it wasn't very long before my waters went everywhere and then I could feel baby moving down.
The body's reflex to push baby out was amazing. I really just had to keep breathing and everything was just happening, wasn't as easy as that, it was full on, but my body was definitely doing it for me. Then I could feel the burning that I'd read about.
The head went up and down a couple of times and then a bit of effort and the head was out. Next surge and Bub was out and I lifted bub up to my chest. I still had my top on from the rush of everything so I was helped to get it off as I had bub snuggled into my chest. I checked and our surprise Bub was a girl!
Our little Brontë Rose.
I had the placenta shortly after and then cut the cord myself.
I was home with Brontë the next afternoon. I thought the labour was about 4 hours but Jasmijn told me later it was only 2 1/2 hours including the birth of the placenta.
Life is markedly different to my first baby. Brontë sleeps. A lot! She hardly cries. I get sleep. I know this might change but it is so cruisy compared to first time round- that I am a different person, and that is good. I got my VBAC, and it has helped me enormously.
I didn’t get the home birth I’d wanted, but I got to birth my daughter with strength and support and I know I couldn’t have done it without Jasmijn and Jenny.
Birth photographer: Mel Julin (www.meljulinphotography.com.au)