“Nothing in my life will top this experience.” Becca’s story of her homebirth after caesarean (HBAC)

beccac2“This is my tale of how our gorgeous son, Lorcan, joined our family in the wider world.

Lorcan’s birth was preceded two years ago by the arrival of our healthy little girl at Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford. Despite a healthy and positive pregnancy, it was a truly agonising and traumatic labour: I found myself laying in fear on my back on a hospital bed, under continuous monitoring and attached to a drip to keep me hydrated. Fifty hours after regular contractions starting and at 9.5cm dilated we were advised a caesarean was the only way to birth our daughter and we were whisked into surgery. We wanted to feel more empowered for a positive birth experience with our son and decided the safest, healthiest place to do this for us was at home.

During pregnancy: a few things helped me prepare immensely: the positive support of midwives; a birth reflections appointment; the Wise Hippo hypnobirthing course alongside Zoe Tolman’s fantastic all round support; Clare Minter’s reflexology sessions; Emma Stevens’ Pregnancy Yoga; the AIMS VBAC booklet and Kate Evans’ book “Bump: how to make, grow & birth a baby”. HUGE thanks to all of these people for contributing to the best night of my life in the wonderful birth of my son; you’re all amazing for your contribution to our special gift.

Just before labour (14:00 to 17:00): So, our pregnancy was healthy and despite NICE guidelines that I should be seen by a consultant, it didn’t happen until 40 +12 when I attended the Rosie Hospital for continuous monitoring. During the 45 minutes on the machine, I was getting a few tightenings of my uterus that had started and stopped over a few of the preceding 18 hours. They weren’t strong, long or regular enough to convince me early labour was underway. The consultant agreed and an internal exam showed no progress. The doctor however was more concerned that I was following a homebirth plan and I was advised against this choice because I was past dates with a history of a previous caesarean with a macrosomic baby. I hadn’t had any additional growth scans. I waited while the doctor spoke to colleagues and another consultant came to recommend I admit myself to labour ward to have my son. I refused and on the way home I had a pep talk with my bump; we were healthy and well and would have the birth that was healthiest for us.

Early labour (17:00 to 23:00): I popped to a couple of shops on the way to collect my daughter from nursery. We got home and as I started to prep dinner my tightenings started coming in more regular waves. By the time my hubby (Chris) arrived home from work at 18:30 I was struggling to concentrate. It was difficult to juggle my daughter and impossible to relax into the surges which were as frequent as 3 or 4 in 10 minutes but lasting just 40 seconds on average. I was feeling stressed, but comfortable and at ease in my own home. Chris went on to blow up the pool and I was pacing around the house having lost the ability to keep track of the surges and decided to call the Princess Alexandra Hospital (Harlow) at 20:20. They were aware of my situation and said they would advise the community midwife to come out. Chris then took our daughter up to bed and my midwife (Lynn) called – I was lucky enough to have gotten to know her – and she said she would call back after an hour. Not long after 21:00 she called and advised she would be on her way to us.

Lynn arrived at 21:30 with Kerry another midwife I was familiar with. I was so pleased and fortunate that they were on duty because they had listened to my birth choices, understood and supported them as well as reassuring me along the way. We sat for what felt like no time at all, me bouncing on the birthing ball at first, chatting away. After about an hour I was being supported by hubby and the midwives through each wave while I squatted and focused on using my hypnobirthing techniques while looking at boards I’d made up with positive affirmations and relaxing/ positive pictures. Even now I was doubting whether the surges were productive given my history alongside the fact that they remained short – albeit frequent. At around 23:00 Lynn asked if I wanted to get in the pool. I had my first internal check before getting in, and it was good to hear that I was in established labour (4 to 5cm dilated).

Active labour (23:15 to 00:20): So, I got into the pool and it felt wonderful. It really helped ride through the surges, along with some gas and air as I found myself in transition (because of fleeting thoughts that I could not birth my son right now). I was so glad to have been aware of that phase in advance in order to manage it positively. I remained squatting while in the pool. I was aware the midwives were wanting me to increase my sugar intake with the aim of fuelling my contractions to lengthen but I was also reassured that progress was being made. Much of this time is rather a blur as on the whole I was focussed on my son, my breathing and my body. Upon reflection I wasn’t rationally experiencing what was happening around me when a couple of things distracted me: I complained that my hubby took too long to get me a towel and griped about the midwives being bossy. Focussing on my body felt incredible though; I could feel my son slowly moving down and followed instruction from the midwife to reach down and feel his head crowning: wow!! I’d like to say I wasn’t in any discomfort but it was certainly a lot of work to ride out the waves. I maintained positive thinking when focussed though and it was such a positive experience with Chris and the midwives reassuring me throughout.

beccac1The birth (00:20 to 00:39): As I felt my son make his way lower, my body told me to bear down (at 00:20) as it expanded. I soon heard Lynn say to breathe and I panted him through to the big wide world. Before I knew it our son’s head had emerged, quickly followed by his shoulders. Then, a short rest and I could feel him wiggling to progress and my body bearing down, it is 00:39 and he arrives! My husband catches our son and passes him to me, I sit back and hear Chris repeatedly saying “you did it Bec!” full of emotion, I look at our boy, holding him close and thinking “we did it” he is crying but I feel immense pride in him. It starts to rain, thrashing down heavily on the conservatory roof. It was immensely symbolic of the rush of emotion we all felt. Kerry tells us that part of the amniotic sac was completely intact around him as he was born and we should keep it because that’s lucky!

The third stage: There was no rush to get out of the pool, but we moved into the lounge. I chose to birth the placenta naturally but wasn’t feeling that my body was continuing to surge. Lynn reassured me that it was normal because it didn’t feel there was anything to bear down with compared to the sensations with the baby. It was tricky to bear down while hoping our son would latch onto my breast and stimulate more positive hormones! After a little help to drain my bladder, I birthed the placenta and phew, I felt a huge relief. So, back to lots of cuddles with our baby boy!

The happiest ending to our experience: Our daughter Lara had been upstairs asleep the whole time but around 02:00 we hear her call out from her bedroom. Obviously she would not settle given the atmosphere but I was concerned that she would be meeting her baby bro at a less than ideal time. Lynn and Kerry reassure me and Lara comes into the lounge. She looks a tad confused at first but as soon as she sees our baby she said “ahh, baby bro is here. I love baby bro! Look at his tiny hands . . . tiny ears . . .” Mumma, Daddy, big sis and baby bro all share cuddles on the sofa and I experience the most magical, happiest, wonderful moments of my life. I feel more privileged than I ever thought possible and the love in the room is immense. Nothing in my life will top this experience.”

If you would like to connect with other local women planning birth after caesarean, join our private online support group, you can read more about it on support page.

There’s information about local hospital data including VBAC guidelines and VBAC rates. Further information incl. research, blogs, birth stories and hot topics are on the resources page.

And for monthly face-to-face support, there’s the Cambridge Birth Choices free drop-in group, held on the second Friday of the month at Cambridge Women’s Resource Centre and the last Friday of the month at Satyam Yoga Centre.

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