Homebirth Story VBAC

Sterling Wyatt was born at home. Nothing special, another birth. But, hanging over the birth and our story is ‘VBAC’. My first baby was a planned homebirth. I just thought -how hard can it be? Babies are born all the time! No point being in a hospital unless you’re sick! I was right, but my care provider was a community midwife, attached to a hospital and under the hospital’s rules. So 18 hours after the rupture of the membranes, we had to transfer to hospital. Antibiotics, epidural, synto, flat on my back, posterior baby, failure to progress, …John was born by caesarean section. Can’t remember a great deal. Someone else caring for my baby even though he was in my room. I couldn’t get out of bed to pick him up. The community midwife was helpful in the postnatal period, realising my lack of sleep wasn’t so much due to the baby as the memories that kept playing over and over in front of my eyes every time I closed them, and referred me to counselling and to CARES-SA. The counselling was a great start and CARES changed my life. I made it across to the other side of town to my first coffee morning when John was 2 months old and it was the biggest achievement of my parenting career to that point! I was so scared to go but I knew I had to talk. I found out about independent midwives and that they would even birth with previously sectioned mums! I heard the term ‘VBAC’. I heard women talk who had ‘survived’ caesarean section and had gone on to have more children –out of their vaginas and everything! I drove home planning to start saving then, to be able to afford the midwife by the time I was pregnant again.

I didn’t start saving (thank goodness for the baby bonus!) but I did get pregnant again, and like the first time, in the first month of trying. In my journey to my new pregnancy I tried all sorts of natural and alternative therapies and all of these spiritual, psychic people had told me there was a baby girl waiting to come to me. I’d even had visions myself, of me birthing a baby girl at home, into water, early in the morning. So I spent my whole pregnancy imagining my baby girl. That didn’t turn out to be right. Nor did the predictions that the baby would come early and the labour would be short. One of them did predict the baby would be born within 4 hours of the waters breaking. That was closer to the mark, but unfortunately there was about a day of full on labour preceding that. As my due date came, and went, I started to get frustrated and then I got to 40 + 5, the date I’d gone into labour with John. I cried to Lisa that second babies are meant to come earlier than first babies. Says who? Said Lisa. We got to 40+7 when labour started.

I’d been out to lunch with my very supportive friends and had been asking “how will I know the difference between the ‘false’ labour I’ve been having every night at the real thing?” They told me what I would’ve told me – You’ll just know. And I did. I was in the habit of walking up my street every night, feeling the contractions build, but this time when I got home they didn’t fade away. Peter, my husband, called from work at 6:30 to check on me. I started to cry and asked him to come home. I left a message for Lisa “I don’t really know what’s going on, um, can you ring me and we’ll have a chat?” She rang me back and I told her how I was feeling and she told me I was going to have a baby! She offered to come straight away but I felt OK for her to finish the meeting she was at and then come. I rang Sam my friend and appointed photographer and told her she could come whenever she liked, but she might just be sleeping over, with all the action being in the morning. She was excited and happy to come down that night.

Peter got home from work and we got some beds made up for everyone in case they got here and it all died down. Mum was already over, she was John’s support person. We watched some TV. I had a cold and was blowing my nose. A lot. We put on Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the movie I’d been planning to watch whilst in labour. It was a good choice as I couldn’t really concentrate but it didn’t really matter. I texted my sisters that I was watching it and therefore labouring, and they texted me back lines from the movie-it was good to have a laugh. Lisa came. Sam came. I started to get excited. I blew my nose and got into some serious labouring.

I wanted the pool filled up quickly for my quick birth I was expecting. Peter was fairly laid back about getting it filled-sensing that we had plenty of time. The hot water ran out, and pots were put on to the stove. Finally I could get in. Aaaahhhh bliss. Nothing like getting into that hot water during labour. I got in during The Challenge on ABC radio. The radio was a good distraction until I got too frustrated that I was getting the questions right quicker than the callers – and I was in labour! So we moved into silence, apart from me and my birth song, which I was trying to keep low and (sort of) controlled.

At some point I started to cry, really cry, wondering what it could have been like last time, feeling this relaxed, with a pool, with the right support. And I still thought the baby was coming in the morning so thought the pain was pretty bearable.

I laboured on. And on. Blew my nose. After a while Lisa suggested a rest on the bed. I lay on my side. I fell asleep! Peter lay on the floor and held my hand for contractions. I got up for a wee, thinking I’d slept for hours. It had been 20 minutes. So, back to bed. It hurt laying down, but I was tired. The house was quiet, everyone was tired.

I got up for another wee, it was daylight. My baby was nowhere in sight. I cried. I hadn’t expected to labour this long. Lisa sent Peter and I out for a walk. We made it the whole way up the street and back. I didn’t think I could. The walk that now takes me 10 minutes took an hour that morning, waddling, groaning, blowing my nose and labouring on.

We got home and found the hose had come out of the pool, a lot of the water had syphoned out and the birth room had been flooded. Quickly, and without really disturbing me, every towel in the house, and a lot of Lisa’s too, were on the floor mopping up, and the pool was refilled with gloriously hot water. It took a while to get naked again between contractions but soon I was back in the pool. Still blowing my nose and still labouring on.

Time began to get hazy. I began to become unaware of anything except the pain. I needed someone to hold on to for each contraction. And for someone to speak to me. To give me a point to focus on, because the pain was so overwhelming I couldn’t tell up from down. I couldn’t believe that the pain would ever end. Then it would and I would be so relaxed. Sometimes I kept my eyes closed and as the next wave hit I would be waving my arms around trying to find someone to hang on to. Every single time there was someone to hold me. Well, a couple of times I had to click my fingers to get my people to attend to me, but if you can’t do that to your friends and family during labour, when can you do it?

I laboured on all day. Mum and John went out. Sam took photos. She made the pumpkin soup I was meant to have made in early labour. I laboured some more. Peter was great, holding my hand for every contraction and keeping faith in me. I laboured on. I talked with Lisa about Rose coming over too. Turns out her work had cancelled and she was now free to come. Rose is my friend, Lisa’s friend and a midwife too. Rose came. I laboured on. Rose was fantastic at applying the right amount of pressure to my lower back in the right place at the right time. Apparently she got me into positions Lisa had been asking of me, I don’t know how I listened to Rose and not Lisa. But I do know everything they wanted me to do made it hurt more. Somewhere in my head I knew that more pain meant more gain, but it just hurt! I wasn’t going to have a contraction sitting on the toilet for anyone. Soon I couldn’t even wee. So Lisa and Rose managed to insert a catheter, eventually. Laying on my back, on the bed, having painful things done to me, was not what I had signed up for when I planned my homebirth. But the relief when I heard all that wee splashing out of me! It felt so much better. I blew my nose and laboured on.

At some point the membranes ruptured with a massive pop that felt like a water balloon bursting between my legs. That was also a relief, the pain was much less. Lisa saw a trickle of blood and suspected a cervical lip. Turns out she was right. So we laboured on and I blew my nose some more.

Eventually Lisa got me out of the pool, telling me I needed to lay on my side. “How long for?” I asked, I knew it would hurt. Lisa confidently told me it would be about half an hour. She guessed right that I had no concept of time and wouldn’t be keeping track of how long I was there.. I breathed through the contractions and realised how much I’d been trying to push now that I was under strict instruction to just relax and not push . Mum lay with me and gave me Reiki. Peter was there too sometimes. It hurt a lot. But I was getting tired and knew I had to do as I was told for once. Maybe my nose stopped running, I don’t know. I was just lost in labourland.

Out in the kitchen Lisa was telling the others she was beginning to think we might have to look at transferring to hospital because of the long labour, meconium in the waters and the baby having an elevated heart rate. I think there were some tears. Lisa came into the room and bent over and spoke in my ear, I’m not sure what she said but I understood that we were looking at a transfer if something didn’t happen soon. She spoke so clearly that it got through to my thinking brain, without scaring me or bringing me too far into consciousness. She left me to think about it and let it sink in. She came back and asked what I thought. I said something like “My baby is being born at home!” and then “I’m really sorry but I can’t stop pushing”. She had a look and yes! There was a head to be seen! My baby was being born at home! Peter was at my ear, holding me from behind, telling me our baby was going to be born at home, telling me I was doing it There were some more contractions on my side with someone holding my leg up. Then I was on all fours, pushing and pushing. Then the beanbag I’d been leaning on was pushed out of the way and so was Peter and it was time for the serious work. Amazingly the pain got worse and worse. I’d thought I was in the most pain possible already! But the pain was different and I could feel something coming out of me. (Besides fluid, poo and haemorrhoids!) There was a burning feeling and I reached down to hold the top of my bits- I thought I was going to rip right open- but soon I was quite sure I could feel a head being born out of my vagina. Each time I felt that head slipping back up between contractions, I thought somewhere far away in my brain that I was actually doing it! A couple more pushes and apparently Lisa helped the baby along a bit because he didn’t rotate properly once his head was out. And all of sudden the burning was over and I had that feeling you get when you do a massive vomit and it feels like your body is completely empty. I felt empty. I was still facing away from the baby and just stayed there not really thinking or realising what had happened. Lisa touched my back and told me to stay there a second. I didn’t think much of it. After a bit I thought nah, that’s enough, time to see my baby. She touched me more firmly this time and spoke more firmly, “we’re just working on him He needs some help”. Or words to that effect. My first thought was oh my god there must be something really, really wrong-Lisa wouldn’t sex the baby before the parents. Then I thought, she must be distracted-I’m having a girl. I wonder what’s wrong? There was no panic in the room, no sense of urgency. I didn’t realise my baby wasn’t breathing. Eventually (less than a minute in real time) Lisa got me turned over and told me to touch my baby. I looked him over, he looked OK. I looked and yes he was a boy! I was tickling his feet and blowing in his face and telling him “It’s OK! I don’t mind you’re not a girl! I’m sorry I thought you were a girl! You are lovely! I am so happy you’re a boy!” He opened one eye. I picked him up. He was all messy and gooey and in my arms! I was so tired but so able to hold my baby! He cried. A boy! There was an oxygen tube being waved around us, and I’m sure there were others in the room, but I only had eyes for my baby. In my arms!

At one point someone tried to wake John up but he had somehow slept through all the noise and not even a new baby was enough to wake him up, so he was put back to bed. It occurred to me, or maybe was suggested to me, to breastfeed the baby. He wasn’t really into it and I couldn’t get him to attach properly. I’d forgotten how to hold a newborn to feed so had to get some on the job training from Lisa. I had wanted to try baby led attachment but after everything everyone had been through, I just wanted to get a feed in and go to sleep. I felt a bit annoyed that John’s first feed, although I don’t remember it, was apparently really long and really easy, even though he was drugged and pulled from my belly. And here was my homebirthed baby, not interested in breastfeeding when I wanted him to. That wasn’t how it was meant to be! But he fed. I pushed the placenta out, I survived the afterpains. Peter and Lisa cut the cord. Sterling was taken off to be weighed. My screaming baby ended up out in the kitchen on a second set of scales, and someone mentioned the irony of birthing at home and my baby still being taken away to be weighed but it didn’t feel traumatic at all. There was no anxiety while he was gone, but it was nice to have him back! Eventually Peter and Rose took Sterling to dress him and he went to sleep. Lisa cleaned me up a bit and got me into bed. I felt a bit weird, a bit hot, but I got the all clear from Lisa and I sort of dozed in bed, listening to everyone out in the kitchen. Turns out Lisa was checking the placenta and helping Peter make some prints of it. The prints are up on the dining room wall, and they are a stunning reminder of Peter’s role in our birth at home. He later told me all about the printing and the placenta and when I passed a couple of clots a few days later, he could reassure me that he’d seen the placenta, and he was quite sure it was all in tact, so I needn’t worry about anything being retained!

Everyone went home, it was very late. I slept for a couple of hours, waking to that beautiful newborn snuffling of my boy looking for a feed. Somehow I got us up and into the lounge room and feeding. I was in a lot, lot, lot of pain. Thankfully he’s a quick feeder and we were back in bed pretty quickly. In the morning John came in to our room (or maybe woke up in our bed, I’m not sure), saw the baby in the bassinette and thought Sam had left her 9-month-old baby Atticus behind. It took a while to convince him it was our baby, he needed to lift my nightie to check my tummy was smaller to believe me. We had birthday cake in bed and gave him a present from the baby and gave the baby the picture John had made during the labour.

The recovery was horrendous. OK, I had a perfectly lovely, well baby. I didn’t have a massive hole in my belly. It could have been a lot worse. But I did have second-degree tears, massive haemorrhoids, every muscle was sore and the cold had moved into my chest. Not pleasant, having to cough all the time after giving birth. I stayed in bed for a few days. I thought I would never feel normal again. My bum was so sore I thought I would surely die from the pain. The tears healed up really well because I couldn’t move because of my sore bum. Couldn’t sit up. Couldn’t walk. Couldn’t go to the toilet… On the second day when Lisa came to visit I burst into tears and told her I couldn’t do it. Any of it. Any more. She was great. We started with the worst thing and worked our way down the list. By the end of her visit I was sitting up at the kitchen table eating a meal. Amazing progress! I was sitting on 2 pillows and an ice pack, and had taken a Panadine Forte, but I was up! She also reminded me my teariness was also likely due to my milk being about to come in. I’d forgotten about that! Peter picked a cabbage from the garden and put it in the freezer for what I thought would be the inevitable sore breasts and engorgement, but the milk came in with no fuss at all. One minute I was squeezing colostrum into Sterling’s sticky eye, the next I was shooting a stream of milk across the room. No cabbages required!

Feeding was different than I had expected. I’d forgotten how strong a newborn’s suck is! But worse than that were the dark, sad, hollow feelings I was experiencing. At first I didn’t attribute them to the breastfeeding, but after reading about a condition called D-MER I realised I was not depressed, crazy or imagining things. From “Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex is a newly recognized condition affecting lactating women that is characterized by an abrupt dysphoria, or negative emotions that occur just before milk release and continuing not more then a few minutes.” Once I noticed that the feelings were for only a short time (30 seconds or so for me), and learnt that they are related to the let down reflex and often go away with time, I felt much more confident in myself and with breastfeeding and it has been wonderful (except for the 30 seconds before let down!) ever since.

As I talked about the birth with the support people and with Lisa, I realised how close we had come to hospital transfer. I realised that my support people chose to stay with me for a very long time. I realised the recovery was hard but nowhere near as hard as after a section. I realised it was OK to take the glory-I had felt bad feeling so victorious when it seemed it was the support people who had really done all the hard work. I realised how hard I’d worked. I realised I could do anything! I realised I did it! I did it! I did it!

3 responses to “Homebirth Story VBAC”

  1. Rose

    You are such an amazing strong woman. I thank you and Peter for giving me the privilege of witnessing such a beautiful and powerful time…..

  2. Anonymous

    Michelle –
    Thank you for sharing your story. It is empowering and so honest.
    It is so wonderful to know you, Pete, Johnny Jay and Stirly.
    You are an amazing woman, and a wonderful friend.

  3. Anonymous

    What a beautiful story. your birth of Sterling has left tears strolling down my face. I am so proud of you- YOU BIRTHED AT HOME!!

    love you all so much