Emma's VBAC Birth Story
My little boy was born with a little assistance (ventouse) at the end of October. We had such a different birth experience to the one we had with my first child. It was really positive, really empowering... Here we go!
On October 31st, I was 3 days over my due date, and starting to get a bit grumpy and anxious. I kept worrying that I would 'run out of time' as happened with my first pregnancy, and would end up being induced, or having an elective C-section. To help things along, I opted to have a sweep at my 40 week MW appointment. I was sceptical about this, as I'd had 4 sweeps in my first pregnancy, and nothing had happened!
Around 2pm on that day, I had my sweep and was told I was already 1-2 cm dilated, which was great news. I decided to walk home, which is about 20 minutes (uphill!), and remember thinking, 'Ow, my lower back is really aching, I can't wait to have a sit down'. I got home and started watching a film with my husband. At about 4.15pm, I realised that I was finding it difficult to get comfortable on the sofa, so I sat on my birthing ball. It took another 20 mins for me to realise that I was getting uncomfortable at regular intervals, at which point I realised these might be real surges! Excited but calm, I sent my husband off to get our daughter from nursery in the car (about a 5 min drive away), and went up to my bedroom.
At this point I wasn't too worried, and thought I had plenty of time to get to the hospital. However, within 10 minutes I realised 'this is it, I'm in labour', and started timing the surges. I was surprised by how strong they were already, and astonished when I started timing them to find they were only 2 minutes apart. I was on my knees, leaning forward over the bed. I quickly called the hospital, and then texted my brother (who jumped in his car and drove up from Sussex to look after my little one). By this stage, I was finding it impossible to talk through the surges - I managed them by using the 'up' visualisations (of bubbles), and taking a powerful deep breath in (saying 'power' in my head) and a longer, loud exhale (saying 'softening and opening' in my head). I can't tell you how reassuring this was, especially as I spent the next 45 mins labouring alone as my husband got stuck in traffic on the way home! By the time he got back I had to run (waddle) straight to the car, and we had to hotfoot it to the hospital, with my daughter in tow! I knelt in the footwell of the passenger seat, and focussed entirely on my breathing. I maintained focus, and felt in control, despite very intense surges by this point.
On arriving at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, my husband ditched the car, grabbed my daughter and I ran into the delivery centre. I was examined and elated that I was already 6 cm dilated! The midwives were amazing - they quickly transferred me to a delivery room, and, as I was calm and in control they reacted immediately to me asking for gas and air, and for the birth pool to be filled. At this point I refused a cannula as I was sure I could cope with the surges if I was in the pool. My husband was a star looking after our little one, who was still in the delivery room, happily watching cartoons! She was aware that mummy was doing 'special breathing' to help baby brother be born, but seemed entirely unfazed by the whole thing.
I was labouring by kneeling on the floor and leaning over the bed, using gas and air (and my husband!) to help me through the peak of the surges. I had a mobile foetal monitor fitted (a requirement as I was a VBAC), but was able to change positions and move relatively freely. This could not have been more different to my first labour (where I was strapped sitting upright to a bed and unable to move). The surges were still coming thick and fast, and really intensifying, but the pool was only one third full. Again, as I was in control I was able to have a really calm conversation with the midwife, and asked if an epidural was still an option if the pool hadn't filled. By this point however, the midwives were concerned that my surges were so close together that the baby's heart rate was dropping. I was given a muscle relaxant to slow the surges (ironic, given that I was induced the first time), but by this point I was fully dilated and ready to push.
I remember having a few moments of calm where the surges eased off before getting a strong, primal urge to push. My husband managed to pass my daughter to my brother at this point, so she was spared the loud noises that mummy made during the pushing stage! I was so glad that my husband could then focus on helping me to push. As the baby was deemed to be in slight distress, I had an assisted delivery with ventouse, and delivered our baby boy in three intense pushes. Interestingly, I went into hypnobirthing autopilot and started doing 'down breathing', but was told not to breathe out during the pushing stage as the baby needed to come out fast. So I put my chin on my chest, held my breath and went for it.
Delivering my little boy was truly amazing - I was totally elated and kept shouting 'I did it, I did it!'. I felt really calm and in control at every stage. I was lucid enough to be able to tell off a midwife who advised me to 'get angry with the pain' (!). Not at all helpful language, and I politely but firmly told her NOT to say it again. And also laughed when they tried to put me on a syntocinon drip after the birth to help my uterus contract. I told the midwives in no uncertain terms that this was not needed, and they quickly agreed. Baby and I had immediate skin-to-skin cuddles and he was breastfeeding within an hour. From that first 'this is a surge' moment of realisation, to holding my little boy in my arms was 2.5 hours. Absolutely incredible!
I'd like to reiterate how brilliant the midwives and the obstetrician at QEH were. I felt that they really listened to me, and helped me to have a really positive birth. The lead midwife even gave me a hug and a kiss at the end, which made me cry. It was a much more personal experience than first time round.
Sorry for the essay, but I really wanted to let you know how helpful I found hypnobirthing during my little boy’s birth. I also wanted to let you know how cathartic it was to talk through the first birth with you during our sessions in the summer. Despite having an assisted delivery with a little bit of drama (due to an episiotomy and tear), I had a really positive birth, and have definitely laid some demons to rest from first time round. Two weeks on I am healing well, baby is feeding like a champ, and we are all in love with him! I really hope my experience can help out other mothers considering a VBAC - I can't tell you how much better I feel now at 2 weeks post-birth than I did 2 weeks post C-section, it's incredible. I absolutely recommend it!
Thank you so much for all your help and support.
Hugs from Emma and the rest of the family