Kirsty was one of the first women to have a VBAC birth in the midwife-led Rosie Birth Centre, Cambridge.
Kirsty story begins with the birth of her first child, a planned home birth because she has white coat phobia. During labour, she transferred from home to hospital and things went from bad to worse when she was given an intervention she didn’t consent to. Her baby’s heart rate plummeted resulting in an emergency caesarean. After his birth she became very ill with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), diagnosed by her GP at her six week postpartum check. She couldn’t sleep because she had nightmares about the ordeal and when awake she had flashbacks. Seeing an ambulance or driving near the hospital made her physically shake and cry. Despite treatment, the PTSD continued to this severity for the first year of her baby’s life.
Here is Kirsty’s story, in her own words…
Two years later when I fell pregnant again I had done a lot of research and knew what to do for the best to have a positive birth experience. I wanted to try for a vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC). This would not be possible for me at the obstetric-led delivery unit due to my PTSD. Day to day I felt much better but the thought of going back to the scene of events filled me with panic and uncontrollable tears. There was no way I could willingly walk back there to peacefully give birth to my baby, as I craved. Equally, knowing the ambulance transfer time was about 30 minutes from my house, I didn’t feel home birth was a safe option for us either. I wanted to be close to help, should the need genuinely arise. Consultants and midwives insisted having my baby in the delivery unit was in mine and baby’s best interests; how this could be the case with my medical history? No one could specifically answer that question and no one took into account my PTSD. I felt so alone and cried myself to sleep almost every night because I had nowhere to give birth and no one would help me. I was just a statistic with a label to everyone who should have been there to support me. I worried about the stress and the impact this was having on my baby.
I decided the safest option I had would be to head to the Rosie Birth Centre in labour and give birth in the corridor if I wasn’t admitted inside. It was the only option I had. I wasn’t sure if it was brave or stupid but I was desperate.
I prepared for the birth using my natal birthing [hypnotherapy] CDs, which I found really relaxing and often fell asleep to. I took raspberry leaf tea capsules from 35 weeks and also evening primrose oil.
At 39 weeks pregnant, after a meeting with the consultant midwife, I was sent a service agreement from the Rosie, which stated I could access the Rosie Birth Centre but it was not recommended. This was such a huge relief and I felt ready to have my baby. I received the agreement on the Thursday, by the Saturday I had my first contractions…
On Sunday I missed my boy’s third birthday party and opted to go home as the contractions ramped up. I used my ball to sway and roll my hips as the contractions rolled over me, I concentrated on breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth. Staying very calm and trying not to tense up. The contractions became more intense when standing, which I avoided, but I soon realised this is what my body needed for my baby to engage. I roamed about, with each contraction I swayed from side to side, going into myself. I managed to stay in control of the contraction, rather than letting them take control of me. The pain almost became too intense and I wanted to go for the gas and air, then I suddenly remembered that I had hired a TENS machine (how could I forget!). It worked amazingly, and brought me some more time at home. We decided to call Katie, our Doula at about midnight and my Mum came and collected my toddler. My husband started timing contractions and supporting me, up till then I’d been happy on my own but from this point I needed him. Katie arrived and contractions stalled for a bit, she reassured me this was totally normal. Soon they were coming back. I did start to struggle because I was exhausted (I’d had five hours sleep in the last three nights) and I kept falling asleep in-between contractions standing up. Katie recommended some other positions but I could only get control of the contractions by standing up. I remember being very sick into every available receptacle and Katie attentively holding my hair back. I tried labouring in another room which was lighter. This helped as it woke me up a bit, which is what I needed at the time. I decided it was time to go to hospital. My contractions weren’t regular intervals or lengths but I knew I needed to go.
We arrived at the Rosie Birth Centre at about 5.45am on the Monday morning. After being greeted by our excellent midwife, she showed us to our room. She did the initial assessments, which I found very painful to lay flat for, so I requested gas and air. Our midwife explained she’d like to examine me to see how far along I was. After I had the pain relief, I declined the examination. Katie ran the birth pool for me as our midwife explained she couldn’t as it was against hospital policy to have VBAC women in the pool, I didn’t care, I was getting in and that was that! She explained to me that because my contractions were irregular they weren’t sure how far along I was. She respected my wishes though and left me with my husband and Katie’s support. The relief when I got in pool was immense. I felt so safe and relaxed, my body was completely able to do what it needed to without any stress or anxiety. I remember having a really random conversation, giggly on the gas, from the next contraction, roughly 20minutes after getting in the pool. I believe I was in transition. The contractions came on top of each other and were very intense. I felt the urge to push, so I did! Just like that! No one to tell me when or if I was ready, my body knew what to do. Katie pushed the buzzer when I told her I was pushing. Our midwife and another midwife joined us. Luckily they cut my knickers off! I’d hopped in with them on as I thought it would be a long road, as the contractions didn’t hurt that much when I got into the pool. The midwives were fantastic and gave me great instructions when baby was crowning. They told me to reach down and grab my baby, which I did. It was the most magical moment. Baby arrived at 6.54am, weighing 7lbs 12oz in his sac of waters. His sac was swiftly broken. Fourteen minutes of pushing was recorded and six hours of labour (although this was a guess from when I started using my TENS machine).
I stayed in the pool to deliver the placenta, surprisingly I still needed the gas and air. Clinging onto my baby, crying hysterically, the other hand holding onto the mouthpiece, I delivered the placenta and tried not to drown my baby at the same time…what a sight!
I got out of the pool, narrowly avoiding slipping on the sac in the process…one of the midwives offered to pack it up for me to take home as it’s supposed to be lucky…I politely declined! Luckily, I didn’t require any stitches, so we all lay on the bed snuggling up, me having skin to skin and Daddy having skin to skin when I got up to shower.
By 2pm that afternoon we were home for our big boy to meet his baby brother, such a contrast to the first time round.
The whole experience of giving birth in a calm way where I knew would be comfortable was the best experience I will ever have. I believe everything was so straightforward because I felt so safe. I knew how important it was for women to feel safe in where they choose to give birth and should be given every option available to them.
Five years on I have come to terms with my first birth experience and I count myself as a brave C-section mummy, as we all are. I’m so lucky to have experienced birth at both ends of the spectrum and to have two beautiful boys 🙂 “
Thank you for sharing your story Kirsty!
We know that seven* VBAC women have given birth in the Rosie Birth Centre in Cambridge since it opened in September 2012 and many more VBAC women have been given permission to birth there. Yet women are still being told their only option for place of birth is the obstetric-led delivery unit or home.
Cambridge VBAC Friends’ advise all women who want a midwife-led birth at the Rosie Birth Centre or at home to contact The Rosie’s consultant midwife to discuss their options and develop an individual care plan.
* Sept 2012 – May 2015.