“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.

Cambridge Birth Choices FREE pregnancy support drop-in at CWRC

13The next Cambridge Birth Choices FREE pregnancy and birth support drop-in session is on Friday 9th December 2016 from 12.30pm to 2.30pm at Cambridge Women’s Resources Centre, Hooper Street, Cambridge. Click here for full details.

Satyam Yoga Centre is closed over the Christmas so the Birth Choices team will take a well-earned rest and return on Friday 13th January 2017 at CWRC.

Wishing everyone a happy Christmas!

Like our page or follow us on Twitter to keep up-to-date with news and views, and Cambridge Birth Choices’ community page and Twitter too.

Jane’s VBAC at Hinchingbrooke Hospital following induction for gestational diabetes and concerns about HELLP syndrome

Jane’s older daughter was born by elective caesarean due to the baby’s size so she had no experience of labour or how would her body would respond. Her second pregnancy had additional risk factors due to gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and concerns about HELLP syndrome she had an induction of labour at 39 weeks. Here’s her story…

jane3“We were expecting induction or caesarean at 38 weeks as I had gestational diabetes (controlled by diet and metformin) so staff at Hinchingbrooke explained it would be around there.

Unfortunately at around week 34 I developed high blood pressure which I was admitted to hospital with as there were worries about pre-eclampsia.

Over the next four week I had various appointments for monitoring etc. but baby was all fine on growth scans so I was encouraged to go to the due date to have a better chance of a successful VBAC.

One Friday whilst having monitoring it was discovered I had low blood platelets and they were concerned about possible HELLP syndrome (similar to pre-eclampsia) so after discussing things with the consultant she felt we needed to get going with induction a little earlier.

I was admitted the same day at 39+1 and induction started with a stretch and sweep and 1 prostin gel. The midwife was quite confident, she said my cervix was soft and stretchy and 1-2cm. I went on to start contractions, I was able to rest overnight whilst things progressed and Steve was with me until visiting hours ended.

Next morning I was assessed again and my cervix was similar but the midwife felt the waters could be broken so we went to the delivery unit. After two attempts my waters were broken and the contractions continued. I was able to have some time to be mobile but then due to my blood pressure still going up I decided to have an epidural on the recommendation of the Dr to try and manage my blood pressure. I felt quite despondent at this as knew my VBAC chance would go down with not being able to continue to be mobile however continuous monitoring of the baby and my BP was essential so I was already restricted plus I would need to start antibiotic drip for group strep b. So around 2pm I had the epidural and contractions continued at three in 10 minutes.

jane4At around 6pm the doctor was happy for me to have a longer session with the hormone drip to see if the contractions would build further, which they did and all along baby was fine and happy on the trace. I tried to doze over the evening but then around midnight I was asked to lay on my left side to help pick up baby’s heartbeat. At this point I had awful pain in my scar and bum and the epidural did not touch it. I really lost it, the pain was so bad and I was panicking about my scar rupturing but the midwife examined me and we were all shocked to hear that I was fully dilated!

I then had gas and air to cope with pain as baby descended then she said I needed to push about 30 mins later…14 mins of pushing and our beautiful daughter Lydia arrived safely on Sunday at 1:48am! I had a second degree tear and grazing and had stitches soon after.

I still can’t believe I gave birth like this, with so much going on I was convinced it would be a caesarean birth. The staff at Hinchingbrooke were amazing and encouraging and always reassured me that it was very much worth trying for VBAC.

I hope my story gives others hope if you have a VBAC induction for medical reasons or have maybe not laboured before.”

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 this hospital on Hinchingbrooke Hospital VBAC data page, including its VBAC guidelines and VBAC rates. Find more resources on our 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.

“It took courage to fight for what I knew was best for me and my baby.” Ellie’s homebirth after caesarean (HBAC)

After an emergency caesarean birth with her daughter following a failed induction due to suspected oligohydramnios (deficiency of amniotic fluid), Ellie knew she wanted her VBAC birth in November 2015 to be somewhere she felt comfortable and safe, at home. Here’s her story…

“I was determined not to be put under pressure again for unwanted intervention. The best way that I could see of achieving this and safely having a VBAC, was to birth at home. I researched extensively before making my decision and felt entirely comfortable that I would have the best chance of labouring effectively in a comfortable and safe environment, which for me is at home.

I explained my intention to birth at home at my booking appointment and then discussed it further at subsequent routine antenatal appointments with the community midwife. Whilst they openly said that they “wouldn’t recommend it”, not until 34 weeks did they mention that they “might not be able to send a midwife due to staffing issues”. I was crestfallen. I left the appointment in tears and spent the next few days not sleeping very well and in an anxious state. The community midwife had told me that I could hire an independent midwife or rely on a paramedic. I even talked about going it alone as I could not contemplate labouring in hospital, to which the community midwife asked me whether I had done any hypnobirthing, but that they of course would not recommend me doing this.

After seeking some great advice from some doula and midwife friends, I felt much stronger and able to stand my ground, knowing what was best for me and my unborn baby. I had an appointment with the Consultant Midwife to discuss place of birth the following week. I was expecting to talk more about the VBAC itself but a lot of the meeting focused on the staffing issues at the Rosie. I explained clearly my reasons for insisting on a home birth and as we went through the ‘what if’ scenarios, I agreed that I would transfer in if there was a clinical indication but with regards to their staffing/resource issues, that I was not prepared to transfer in and risk iatrogenic harm (from a cascade of intervention) or major abdominal surgery. After the meeting, my agreed home birth plan was issued and disseminated, and I looked forward to preparing for my home birth. I later received a letter which again cast doubt over whether a midwife would attend, however, I was so close to my due date that I chose to ignore it.

I was due on Bonfire Night – my contractions started on the afternoon before and there followed two-and-a-half days of slow labour. As I thought that things were moving along, I got up with my husband, Darren, very early on the Friday morning and put on my TENS. We phoned into the DU to let them know that we thought that things were progressing to give them as much notice as possible but that we were happy on our own. Nevertheless two midwives came out to see me and just before they left I was vomiting however the contractions were not intensifying so I went to bed to rest. On getting up I spent the day trying to keep things moving and wore myself out. I found it difficult to get any proper rest and was getting really frustrated.  In the early hours of the morning I took off my TENS, had a bath and then I spoke to a lovely midwife who was worried that I might have an infection but she understood how important it was for me to stay at home. She came out to see me and reassured us both that there was no infection but that I was pretty exhausted. She advised me to rest (and stop worrying about keeping things moving!) otherwise I might not have the strength to make it through. I can’t thank this midwife enough – I just needed some sound advice from someone who understood me and my plan, and she helped me perfectly.

I woke on the Saturday morning at 8am after a few hours sleep and felt so much better. My contractions had continued but amazingly I’d slept. When I got up they immediately started getting stronger and closer together. I knew things were moving rapidly so Darren called the DU and asked for the midwife to come. He then got me downstairs and out to the annexe where the birth pool was set up. I got in and immediately felt the benefit of the water and felt so relieved to finally be in the pool.  The contractions kept coming faster and stronger and I began to panic, especially as I kept having the urge to push. The intensity was hard to bear but fortunately I calmed myself down. I really felt that I needed some pain relief and had gas & air as soon as the first midwife arrived. As I got into a rhythm, I felt much more able to cope, but then the canister failed and I panicked again!

I swung from coping to needing reassurance. The midwife suggested that I could check progress myself but I didn’t really know what I was looking for, so I asked her to check with a VE. I was fully dilated. I used the support of the water to help me to move when I needed to and then ran out of gas & air. I felt a couple of times my baby move position and from there things would progress again, but the pushing stage was about 1h30. I did struggle with not knowing how long things were going to go on for and how I was progressing – I think I just needed some reassurance and this is where with hindsight, I could really have benefited from having a doula. But I managed eventually. My waters went (which felt strange) and I could feel my baby moving down, and then slipping back again! I asked the midwife to help me as I wasn’t sure whether I should be pushing or panting and at the very end I wondered how on earth I was going to push the baby out – I just didn’t know what else I could do. I moved position again and finally his little head was born. I rested for the next contraction and was so relieved when I made that final push and he was in my arms.We sat in the water together and I fell in love. Chester was born at 13:37 at 8lb 8oz.

ellies-hbac-nov-2015The midwife suggested that I birth the placenta out of the pool. I was not having any contractions, but soon after moving to the bathroom, the placenta came and I took a shower whilst Darren enjoyed some skin-to-skin. Unfortunately, I had a third degree tear and had to transfer in by ambulance to have it repaired in theatre. Everyone was apologising to me but I was just so elated to have managed my VBAC and managed my home birth. I couldn’t have been happier. Yes it would have been perfect to have been able to stay at home but I was grateful to be attended to so well and have things properly dealt with. I was delayed in theatre because of an emergency case and it just amplified how lucky we all were; so a night in hospital was no big deal.

If I could offer myself some advice, it would be: hire a doula! And listen more carefully to my body. I was looking for reassurance in the wrong place at times, which led to panic. When I listened to myself, I was ok. It was the hardest thing I think I’ve ever done but such an amazing experience. Sat in that birth pool with my baby in my arms, I couldn’t believe that I managed it. I still can’t. And I am so thankful that things progressed as well as they could and that I managed to have him safely at home. I feel blessed and I’m truly grateful to all the people who offered their support when I needed it the most, to give me the courage to fight for what I knew was best for me and my baby.”

Ellie’s homebirth coincided with the Rosie Hospital changing the way its homebirth service is staffed, we wrote about the change on our blog and how the changes affect women and their birthplace planning and confidence. If you have any feedback about the Cambridge homebirth service, please contact Healthwatch Cambridgeshire.

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 this hospital on The Rosie’s Hospital VBAC data page, including its VBAC guidelines and VBAC rates.

Here’s a blog we wrote about how women planning a VBAC can gain access to midwife-led units and birth centres, it’s called “Let me in!”

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.

Video of Chloé’s VBAC waterbirth in the new pool room at the Rosie Hospital’s Delivery Unit

After having placenta praevia and accreta in her previous pregnancy resulting in an emergency caesarean birth at 35 weeks to her beautiful son Kayden, Chloé was (in her words) obsessed with having a completely natural birth this time round. Here’s her VBAC story and stunning video montage of the birth…

The closer I got to my due date the more I was letting myself get stressed with my birthing plan. My VBAC was beginning to sound like everything I didn’t want…lots of talk about being strapped down on monitors to a hospital bed, possible scar rupturing, emergency caesareans and so on.

I really was hoping to have my birth in the Rosie Birth Centre (midwife-led unit) but was told straight away: “No VBACs take place there.” I knew this wasn’t entirely true but tried to move on and not let it get me down. After attending a VBAC antenatal class at the hospital, I left feeling positive and decided I was going to try and have my water birth on the delivery ward at the Rosie and use wireless monitoring.

One week before my due date, I began to feel like the baby was ridiculously low. I found myself walking like the women I had previously giggled at…I didn’t walk, I waddled…very, very slowly. I had been on the birthing ball all night this particular evening, ate lots of pineapple and in a last bid to get the ball rolling, we had some intimate time! (around 11pm, to be precise!).

3am and I had been to the toilet around four times in the last hour but not urinating properly. I thought baby was just laying awkwardly and this was going to be a rough night’s sleep again.

I had a stomach ache that I couldn’t shift but I couldn’t work out if it was trapped wind or if I had eaten too much pineapple. Thirty minutes after getting back in bed, my tummy was really really aching, my partner was awake with me at this point, we were both pretty sure I had wind as this was a common nightly occurrence throughout this pregnancy haha!

Then the ache began turning to a lingering pain coming in waves, “is this it? do you think I’m in labour?” I kept asking my partner wanting him to be able to tell me a definite yes or no. I never went into labour with my last pregnancy and I couldn’t be sure this was it! I was worried I’d go to the hospital and then the pain would stop and I’d have caused a load of unnecessary fuss. Plus the fact it was fast approaching 4am and my son was in his bedroom sound asleep, with school to get up for in a few hours. We decided on timing my pain and checking with a few apps and the internet we was almost positive this was contractions, I found myself beginning to pant through them and they were coming every 3 minutes!

EVERYONE UP! We began rushing about grabbing school uniform, maternity pads, toothpaste etc. My son woke up super excited and we all got in the car as soon as we could.

The pain was manageable and I thought I had everything under control, I really had no idea how painful labour was at this point in time. We was all on a giggly high excited to meet the new baby. We dropped my son of to his grandma’s and set off for the delivery ward.

Checking into hospital I handed over my birthing plan which was more what I like to call my birthing preferences, I knew what I wanted but I also knew I had to be open minded and do whatever was best for baby.

I stated I wanted minimal vaginal examinations to reduce the risk of infection and stop me from clock watching my progress (I would recommend this to everyone, the time flew by and I just let my body do its thing without any pressure of how long it was taking me to dilate). First examination I was 3cm, after around an hour and a half of being in a normal delivery room, the pool was ready for me. What a blessing that pool was! the pain was getting worse every minute and I couldn’t get comfy in any position, I didn’t want music on or to be massaged, I was in my own zone trying to cope.

The water was lovely and warm, the room was dark with mood lighting. We were quiet (for most of the time) and everything was going perfectly. I asked for gas and air and it really helped me with the pain for a little while…but above anything it helped me just control my breathing which I think made the world of difference.

The time really did fly by and before I knew it, it was around 8am. I had been in the pool for HOURS (didn’t seem this long at the time) and the contractions were coming really strong. We had a change of midwives and our new midwife was Irene, she was an angel. Bringing me ice, holding my hands when my partner popped out for phone calls/drinks etc. And most importantly, when I was breaking and begging for an epidural, she reassured me I could do this! “Chloe this is what you want, this is your dream, you’re going to have your beautiful water birth really soon, were going to meet your baby, you can do this mummy, your nearly there, you don’t need it come on Chloe!”. If she had said yes to my begs and pleas for an epidural (transition is a bugger) without questioning me, I would never in a million years have had my water birth. But she didn’t, she believed in me and at the time I hated her for it because obviously I felt like I was dying and wanted SOMETHING, ANYTHING to help haha.

My second and final examination showed I was 9cm, I got straight back into the pool and she said whenever I feel like I wanted to push I can.

I couldn’t help myself from pushing, my body was pushing him out for me, yes the pain was far worse than I could ever in my wildest dreams have imagined. I swore to myself I wouldn’t scream and make myself look silly, and for the most part I couldn’t even make a peep as I felt like the life was being sucked out of me. However they have told me when I was in the transitional phase I did apparently soak them whilst having a little breakdown resulting in me punching the water. (I have no memory of this.)
Ten minutes of pushing and I was retrieving my little baby boy, I pulled him out of the water and straight onto my chest and it was the best feeling in the entire universe. And it’s true what everyone says, after that you don’t feel the pain.

I was numb, exhausted, overwhelmed, and besotted with my new love.

It was an amazing experience I will treasure for the rest of my life, I could never have done it without my partner and Irene, they made the perfect support team.

We named our little boy Harvey, he weighed 6lb 120z.

He has brown hair, dark eyes, dimples when he smiles and nice big rolls on his thighs and is adored by his older brother.

Next time, I will most definitely use water as a pain relief and hopefully for giving birth in as well, I’m even considering a homebirth but I’ve still got a few years to consider haha!

If anyone is considering having a water birth in the delivery unit, go for it! And as a plus, the room is HUGE! It’s like being in a private hospital!

Good luck to anyone else in similar situations!

Click here to watch chloe2Chloé’s stunning video montage of her VBAC waterbirth in the newly refurbished pool room at the Rosie Hospital’s Delivery Unit. 

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 this hospital on The Rosie’s Hospital VBAC data page, including its VBAC guidelines and VBAC rates.

Here’s a blog we wrote about how women planning a VBAC can gain access to midwife-led units and birth centres, it’s called “Let me in!”

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.

FREE pregnancy support in Cambridge

CambridgeBirthChoicesDropin
At Cambridge Women’s Resources Centre, photo courtesy Cambridge Birth Choices

The next Cambridge Birth Choices FREE pregnancy and birth support session is on Friday 11th November 2016 from 12.30pm to 2.30pm at Cambridge Women’s Resources Centre, Hooper Street, Cambridge. Click here for full details.

If you can’t make it, the following session is on Friday 25th November 2016 between 1pm and 3pm at Satyam Yoga & Wellbeing Centre, 2-4 Hawthorn Way, Cambridge, CB4 1AX. Read all about it here.

Like our page or follow us on Twitter to keep up-to-date with news and views, and Cambridge Birth Choices’ community page and Twitter too.