This week I received an email from Zoe, who attended Little Seeds and who has very kindly given her permission to share her recent birth story on the website.
‘I wanted a calm relaxed home birth with my first baby – I went into labour spontaneously and it was all going well till I got to the pushing/bearing down stage. At this point I was diagnosed with brow presentation and was told baby would need assistance to be delivered. Cue emergency transfer to hospital via ambulance, spinal block, failed forceps, failed ventouse, and eventually I had a baby boy via emergency c section about 12 hours after my contractions first started. It was not the birth I wanted or had ever really considered. It made me feel like I had failed at giving birth, my body was useless and I was less of a mummy because I didn’t birth naturally.
When I found out I was pregnant this time, I wanted my labour and birth experience to be different. Due to my c section, I was put onto a consultant care pathway and was told a hospital birth in the delivery suite was the way it was going to be. As my pregnancy progressed I found was getting quite anxious when I went for my scans, which made me think a hospital setting would not help me have a natural delivery as I would find it hard to relax. I found out more about VBAC (vaginal birth after c section), researched all my birth options, got in touch with local maternity voices partnerships, and read lots of birth stories. After all that, I decided a home birth would be the best chance for me to have the opportunity to have the birth experience I wanted. My community midwife was really supportive of this and pointed me towards some facts and figures I could use to support me having a home birth after caesarian section (HBAC) when discussing my birth options with consultants. The consultant was still keen I have a hospital birth due to my c section scar, but ultimately told me it was my choice, so home birth it was!
One of the biggest things I felt with my previous birth was that we weren’t involved at all during any decision making processes. My birth partner Michael found the transfer experience quite distressing and wasn’t really able to communicate our wishes, especially when the situation changed from home birth to surgical birth. I also felt quite unsupported during the early days (or daze!) as my birth partner was trying to make sense of the birth themselves. We wanted to avoid that this time round, so we decided to get a doula to provide us with some extra support through our pregnancy journey and beyond. Best decision ever – they were brilliant at advocating for us, finding evidence to support HBAC, giving me lots of tips to navigate various pregnancy niggles and generally just being there for both of us before during and afterwards. It made me feel so much more empowered and gave me the confidence that I could do this. I went along to Little Seeds classes again, partly to meet local mummies due at the same time as me and partly to help ease my nerves – I was really worried about something going ‘wrong’ again, or that I was just not able to give birth naturally. Alison was great at reassuring me, helping me to understand what brow presentation is and how I could encourage an optimal fetal position for birth this time round. I was experiencing a fair bit of pain in my lower back, hips and pelvis too so she suggested going to a physiotherapist as well. The physio was great, they gave me some exercises and general tips to help with the pain, and also suggested a few things to help with fetal positioning too. We made plans – lots of them! I created one for my preferred birth (HBAC), and then a plan B (vaginal birth in hospital) and a plan C (surgical/assisted birth). It was really useful to consider all possible options, and plan how we would like them to unfold. Our doula suggested using icons that were freely available online to make our plan more visual. I’m not sure if it was because of the icons or something else but the midwives seemed to like our plan! The icons were also really great as prompts to think about certain things e.g. music, lighting, if I wanted to be told when/how to push, yes/no to examinations, privacy when being prepped for surgery, who to cut the cord etc.
Plans made, pelvic floor exercises done (when I remembered!) and belly expanding at an ever increasing rate I felt ready and even excited for my birth. We got a birth pool sorted, put the fairy lights up and had friends on standby to help with our toddler if we needed it. I packed many bags (I had a labour bag, a toddler grab bag, and a hospital bag) and stocked up on tea and biscuits for the midwives. Then we just waited….and waited…
At 5am on the 2 February I felt my waters go. I wasn’t too sure what to do at first as this hadn’t happened first time round, but after a quick google I rang the delivery suite at 5.15 ish to explain what had happened and that I was getting a few twinges but nothing regular. Michael was excitedly setting up the birth pool for me whilst our toddler was asleep upstairs. I pottered about and tried to eat and drink something, very happy – I was finally going to get to meet my baby! About ten minutes after that phone call I started getting the kind of surges you need to stop and concentrate through. By 5.45 I was on all fours, leaning on a gym ball having incredibly strong bearing down type feelings. It all escalated rather quickly! Michael rang the delivery suite again….the midwife who answered heard my birth ‘song’ in the background (I say song, it was more a heavy metal anthem!) and said they’d send the midwife team on call over straight away as they were over an hour travel time from where we lived. Doula was contacted and we were off! My toddler woke up around 6 ish and came downstairs. He ‘helped’ by moving my gym ball (not helpful!), then got a bit worried and upset by the noises I was making (too loud apparently) so we rang our friend on standby to come and get him. Toddler got picked up for a breakfast play date/nursery drop off just as our doula arrived at 6.30.
The midwife we spoke to was concerned the on call midwife team wouldn’t get to us in time and that it was getting close to shift handover, so they sent a second team who were based a bit closer to us. They also asked Michael to call an ambulance as well! The first midwife arrived just as the ambulance pulled up at 7.30. I was very much in labour land by this point – focused, in a rhythm, working with my body as it moved, breathing with my surges – big breath in when I felt them ramp up then yelling them out as they peaked and ebbed away. Having a sip of squash and allowing myself to completely relax during the resting phase. I kept repeating little mantras in my head whilst a bit of me marveled at how powerful my body was – my surges felt so strong yet I was equal to them. I really wasn’t ready for how fast my labour progressed and when my birth partner mentioned the ambulance I started to panic a bit – our doula was fantastic, she just appeared like the fairy godmother and was just this calm presence, gently encouraging me through each surge and caring for me when my body decided to give me a break. Michael was great at being a doorman, he kept the paramedics out to keep my birth space as calm and quiet as possible whilst the midwife came in. Once she was happy I wasn’t crowning just yet she sent the ambulance away and offered me some gas and air (finally!).
Michael got the birth pool up to temperature and I was able to get in the pool around 8.30. At some point the second team of midwives arrived but they all stayed out of the way, popping in to do checks as they needed. The pool was amazing – instant relief and so relaxing. I could feel baby’s head working its way down, something that seemed to take an age. Then it was crowning – there was a flurry of activity outside my pool bubble I barely registered. I listened to my body and let it take the time it needed to allow baby’s head to be born. I started to become more aware of my surroundings. I pushed when my body told me to, inching my baby out. The midwives were getting concerned as there been a fair bit of time since baby’s head arrived but the body still wasn’t out. The midwife in charge was put on speakerphone. They asked me to get out of the pool, hands appeared to help me up. I stood, started to step to the right and all of a sudden baby shot out looking a bit like superman at 8.59am! Honestly I didn’t push, it just happened!
Someone handed my little bundle to me and I was helped back down into the pool – I had done it! I made a little tiny person and birthed them!! and in the way I wanted!!! After four hours of labour, far more intense and faster than I expected we welcomed our little baby into the world. I felt amazing. We were given some time to embrace the euphoria, and find out if we had a boy or girl (totally forgot to check in the moment!), then the midwives wanted to get me out of the pool as they were a bit concerned about how much blood I had lost. I had wanted a natural third stage, but because of the concerns around blood loss, I went with an injection and some help to deliver the placenta. As per our plan, midwives waited till the cord was white and had stopped pulsing before dad cut the cord and tied our cord tie. I was still bleeding – not lots but it just wasn’t stopping so I had a few more jabs to help stop the flow whilst I was cuddling my little squish and all was well. Doula and midwives helped us up to bed and tucked me up with our baby boy, a cup of tea and some toast. Bliss!’