Phoebe Triumphant Birth – HBAC

This is my VBAC story. On 26th September 2007 my beautiful Phoebe was born in water at home. I find it ironic that an event that I consider the best in my life; the most exhilarating, empowering, awesome and incredible experience to me, was, in actuality, so very normal it could be considered somewhat boring. It was just a birth. Here’s our story…


Two years ago, my first daughter was born. My pregnancy with her was fantastic, the perfect pregnancy that I never got sick of & she was born at 41+5. Her birth was unnecessarily and unfortunately traumatic, cruel and so very wrong. After 50 hours of intense labour, I underwent horrific interventions in the form of ignored wishes (which were also in my birth plan), a traumatic vaginal examination & my worst case scenario outcome – a caesarean section under general anaesthetic. I haemorrhaged and my uterus collapsed, requiring manual internal manipulation to contract it back down again. An unnecessary Caesar performed due to medical impatience. Neither my precious daughter nor myself were distressed or at risk at any point in my labour (except when they intervened and operated). It should not have happened that way.

Although I am still intensely disappointed, sorrowful & hurt (for myself and for my daughter) by what happened with my first birth, I accept that I cannot change the past & if it weren’t for such a rough experience that time, then I probably would not have found out about homebirth & had the wonderful experience I had this time around. For that, I am eternally thankful.


This time I was determined to avoid any medical intervention at all. I had many people comment that I was brave to have a homebirth – to them I said not at all, I would have to be much braver to go to hospital. After all the research I’d done, I knew it was the best, safest option for birth. I didn’t rule out the extremely slim possibility of having to transfer in a critical situation, so I had a very specific birth plan written for that eventuality. I didn’t have a birth plan for my homebirth as I had complete trust in my midwife, Lisa Barrett.


My pregnancy was very rough. I spent the last 15 weeks in constant pain. At 26 weeks I developed pelvic separation and carpal tunnel syndrome. These gradually became worse over the course of my pregnancy and new ailments hit me & stayed for the duration too. I developed haemorrhoids (sorry, tmi). My thumbs started dislocating in my sleep when I would pull the sheets up. I wore wrist splints 24 hours a day, thumb splints at night. I couldn’t walk up any stairs, get in and out of the car or roll over in bed without excruciating pain in my pubic bone. I found myself wishing for a Zimmer frame many times. The fluid retention was incredible. It caused stretch marks on the tops of my feet. I was desperate to moisturise my feet they were so tight & painful, but of course I couldn’t reach them. That’s where toddlers come in handy. But I couldn’t pick up and cuddle my toddler daughter to thank her. At 34 weeks I had a biopsy done on my arm and was diagnosed with skin cancer in the form of an aggressive malignant melanoma. At 36 weeks I had a chunk of my arm removed. A few days later I thankfully got the all clear cancer wise. But the wound in my upper arm meant that I could only lie on my left side in bed. I could only sleep an hour at a time before my pelvis would be so painful I’d have to get up & hobble around for 10 minutes or so before I could lie down again.

After such a wonderful pregnancy first time around, I was devastated at how much I felt my body was letting me down this time. I felt I was falling apart. I cried often, desperate for it to be over. I understand only too well now why some women beg for early induction, but I’d already been through so much, what was another couple of weeks? I would be strong. Even though I thought about it, there was no way I would do anything to bring labour on this time, possibly harming my baby or my chances of a natural birth. Not even a whiff of clary sage this time.

I had a lot of pre-labour action going on in the last four weeks. Five times I called it, saying I was in labour. Four of those times it went away again. Talk about frustrating! The fifth time I was determined I wouldn’t say it out loud & I wouldn’t call my midwife until my waters broke, I had a show or there was a head coming out! After a couple of days of decent contractions, at 6:30am on Wednesday 26th September, 2007, I finally had a show. Yeehaa! Real action at last! I was 40+6.

Lisa Barrett, my midwife, came over about 8am(ish). Nothing much was happening; contractions were easy and very bearable. No idea of the timing of them, I didn’t really look at the clocks at all. We started filling the birth pool & had lots of pots of boiling water on the run as we’d decided not to use the hot water system water in case anyone wanted a shower later. My FIL came to pick up our daughter by about 9:30am. There was too much boiling water being trafficked through the house & no one to look after her exclusively so we decided it was best for her to spend the day with her Grandparents. My husband then went out to do some shopping & when he came back, Lisa went out to collect her knitting & have a coffee with a friend. I went for a walk around the property, keen for my labour to kick in a bit more.

We all started watching Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (movie version) early afternoonish. During the movie my contractions started getting pretty decent. I was on the fit ball, rocking & being quite vocal through them. My husband kept pausing the movie so I was made intensely aware of the noise I was making. He didn’t want me to miss the movie (what the? we own it!) & probably more importantly, I was interrupting their viewing pleasure!

At about 4pm I got into the birth pool. Aaaaaah, that was so good. I could move much easier in the pool than on land. For me, it was the best place to be. Contractions were now kicking in beautifully. I was so aware of the movement within my body – it felt fantastic! I could clearly visualise & feel my cervix open. I wasn’t chatting between contractions any more.

One thing I had read in Birthing From Within (by Pam England & Rob Horowitz) that stuck in my mind was a comment that stated that when you get to the point where you think you can’t go on, you’re just around the corner from the pushing stage. I held onto this thought throughout my labour. Unfortunately though, social conditioning & comments made regarding my previous labour two years ago were my only downfall. During that labour I had 45 minutes of constant contraction peak and later another 1½ hours of it. The midwife back then told me that these events were the equivalent of transition. So this time, when I was actually in transition but didn’t know it, the contractions were very intense and painful but I was having blissful relief between them. I was still expecting that the constant peak for an hour or so was yet to come. I started worrying that I wouldn’t be able to handle this level of intensity for that kind of duration. I had harboured a fear in the last few weeks of pregnancy that I would crumble and maybe ask for transfer to hospital or worse, a Caesar. Even though I knew in my heart of hearts that I would never, could never, ask for that, the fear was for some reason still there. I made comment a few times that I just wanted this to be over already, but that was the worst of what I said. Lisa sarcastically said something like “well, we could get out of the pool, into the car & drive to the hospital so they can pump you full of drugs & give you a Caesar if you want.” “F*** off” I grinned back at her, my irrational fear of my response during transition miraculously gone in a flash. Yay me! My only wish would be that I’d known that was transition already – I would have dealt with it even better than I did.

I was still concentrating on feeling the movement within me rather than the pain, even though the pain couldn’t be willed away quite as easily as that sounds. I started feeling a weird need to push, but I was feeling it in the front of me, down low in my belly. I was in the pool, resting my head on the ottoman we’d put under the pool (highly recommend the ottoman to anyone having a water birth) lying belly up. Lisa was at my feet, doing reiki on me & my husband was at my head, linking wrists with me. It was the only time I was somewhat mean to him when he said his back was killing him leaning over like that & I just said “suffer”. (Sorry, my love!) The pushy feeling was now starting in my belly and towards the end of the contractions I was starting to feel it in my bottom, but it wasn’t quite getting there enough. At one point I yelled out “oh, pushy, pushy, pushy” as I felt it kick in.

After a while Lisa suggested I get out of the pool & go for a walk to the loo & back. I didn’t want to, but they persuaded me. I’d read of other births when the midwife had suggested this & it got things really moving for them, so I went with that thought. I have no idea how I made it there & back, but I did. When I came back I saw that they had set up the beanbag for me to lean over, but I just said “nup” & got straight back into the pool. This time I was on my knees with my head resting on the ottoman. Between contractions I knelt upright. At one point I drifted off to sleep in this position & fell face first into the pool – sploosh! Very funny! That woke me up. Made Lisa and Grant panic for a moment, but I was fine. During contractions I was burying my face in a couple of towels on top of the ottoman, biting them & occasionally gurgling water & blowing bubbles!

I had a towel over my lower back as the water was starting to cool down a little & I felt Lisa lift it up at one point. “Purple line?” I asked. “You know too much”, was the only response. Not long after that I began pushing in earnest. I was waiting to feel the sensation of my baby’s head passing through my cervix – I don’t know where I got the idea I would feel that part before feeling baby’s journey through the birth canal – it wasn’t like that at all.

Lisa said that to her birth felt like a cannon ball coming down and about 10 seconds after she said that, in my next contraction I was yelling “I’ve got a cannon ball!” It really did feel like that to me too. My baby was already crowning while I was still waiting to feel a head coming through my cervix. With the next contraction Lisa told me to feel my baby’s head. I remember thinking to myself “I can feel it alright!” before I realised, oh, touch my baby’s head, yeah, right, oh, okay. And I reached down & could feel floaty membranes in the water and a hard lump behind them.

A couple of contractions later I was booted really hard. I yelled “oooh, baby’s kicking me!!” mid contraction. It was a very strange (and extremely painful) sensation because of where her legs were booting me. It was as if she was trying to swim-kick her way out of me.


Lisa said she could start to see baby’s face. I thought I had stopped with the head halfway out so with the next intense contraction, I bit my hand (you can see the bite mark in the picture) & pushed hard. I thought I’d got the head out & just had the body still to come, but Lisa was saying “pick up your baby, pick up your baby”. I was really confused, I thought I only had a head out; it took me a second or so to realise & start fumbling around the bottom of the pool underneath me to find my baby.

I picked up my baby & knelt upright, totally blown away, flabbergasted, ecstatic, euphoric, exhausted, and there just aren’t the words in the known universe to fully describe how incredible a moment that was. I hIeld my baby to me. It was amazing. Lisa quickly covered baby with a wrap because the water was a little cool by then. My husband cut my t-shirt off me so I could have skin on skin with our new baby. It was a couple of minutes before we looked to see what sex our baby was. I was wonderfully surprised to see she was another girl. I’d really thought I was having a boy.

I got out of the pool soon after so that we could be wrapped up and kept warm. I made it to the couch and only a couple of minutes later I birthed the placenta. I’d been a bit worried about whether that bit would hurt because I’d not read or heard much about it, but it was soft & mushy & came out with no pain at all. Plop, straight into the bowl. Shortly after that I started shivering and shaking, I was going into shock. A friend of mine had experienced that & had warned me about it because it had scared her, but because of her warning, I was fine with it & it didn’t last long at all, just a few minutes.

During the birth I got a second degree tear that required stitches. That bit freaked me out more than anything else. I hadn’t felt the tear happen at all. I hate stitches. Or rather, I hate local anaesthetics. Lisa was brilliant though & apart from the little prick of a needle, I didn’t feel anything. Thanks Lisa!


Grant cuddled our new daughter while Lisa stitched me up & we discussed names. She was Phoebe Kaye. The name Phoebe means bright and is from the Greek Moon Goddess. It was the night before a full moon & it was beautiful and bright outside. She was born at 9:30pm. The perfect fully physiological, normal birth. It was the most triumphant, exhilarating, amazing, incredible, ecstatic, fabulous, awesome thing I’ve ever done! I loved it! And I would do it all again.

3 responses to “Phoebe Triumphant Birth – HBAC”

  1. Kristy

    Well Massive Congratulations to you, to you both, to you all *applause* lots of grins from me while reading your story and so very ~very~ pleased for you – you have good reason to be ‘stoked’… Much love, xo Kristy

  2. Garden Pheenix

    Oh you gorgeous creature. I bawled at the last pic where you just look so ecstatic with joy! Such a wonderful birth. So much strength.

    GardenPheenix ^_^

  3. Janet

    So beautiful. *kotc*