I never actually wrote a birth story for my first birth. I think that was because I found it so full-on, and emotionally mentally and physically challenging, that I kinda let it drift back into a set of pictures on my iPhone, a memory of me doing what needed to be done and living moment to moment for months.
Over a year later, and it’s a little easier to reflect on that now, but there’s still some guilt floating around in regards to situations that weren’t entirely out of my control, but that I simply wasn’t knowledgable enough about or empowered enough to challenge desicions on at the time.
This time was gonna be different. I remember the relief I felt at the 20-week scan when I found out not only was the placenta nicely out the way this time, but also on the back wall of the uterus. Perfect.
There was no bleeding, no waters breaking; weeks that had caused such trauma in my first pregnancy came and went without trouble in my second. I entered the third trimester feeling fat but chilled as baby was head down and not back-to-back. 34 weeks came and went this time and so I began to plan for my Home Birth After Caesarian (or HBAC/VBAC). I had wanted a home birth the first time, but there was no chance with Placenta Previa & PPROM.
Now as anyone who has chosen to have a VBAC, and particularly a HBAC knows, it can be faced with varying levels of opposition from the healthcare system.
Because of having a section only 13months earlier, and living in a rural location over 30 mins from a hospital that could handle any complications, I was met with some resistance to birthing at home from one consultant in particular – however both my local midwife and doula were really supportive of it.
In the end, I weighed up the potential risks, used my intuition (which ain’t let me down yet…) and surrounded myself with those who helped me feel empowered in my choices. I got my birth pool sorted, birth plan written, and did a lot of meditation and yoga to help keep the right mindset whilst being aware of the fact that I would need to be adaptable if things did not go to plan.
It all started the day after I hit 39 weeks with pretty low-level surges that felt like period cramps. They ended up being really stop-start over the course of the weekend – slowing or stopping when I lay down and disappearing over one night. It was getting pretty frustrating as it made us have to be very in the moment which is not always easy with such a momentous occasion as birth!
By Monday lunchtime though, they were getting strong enough for me to have to stop what I was doing and really breathe through them. I remember still doing the washing and playing with Aurora and even going to get the bin from the end of the drive (it was quite useful to lean on in the middle of a surge). Basically I just kept stopping every few mins to lean on things.
Anyway, I was expecting these surges to get a bit longer as timing them they were still only 30ish seconds long – so I put off calling the doula and the midwife for quite a while. By teatime everything very suddenly kicked up a gear and the surges were getting unbearable without pain relief.
It was at this point that I realised all my breathing and hypnobirthing techniques were not giving me the laid-back, pain-free birth I was tryna envisage…I was crumped over the birth ball and I was REALLY feeling it in my lower back. Of course I didn’t know at this point, but my little tinker had decided when she finally engaged to do so back to back, and I was having what they call a ‘back labour’. It felt like my butt was gonna explode, which is not very zen at all.
By the time the midwives got to our house I was well into active labour – I’d already got into the pool because it felt like she was coming, but this dragged on for a while. At this point I had to take gas and air and to be honest I woulda took something stronger had it been available so I’m glad now that wasn’t an option (bloody wasn’t at the time though!)
Eventually they examined me as I was pushing but not a lot seemed to be happening (other than me making some wonderful noises); they were pretty surprised to find she was about an inch off crowning. However, the pool was also going cold so the plan was to get me out and warm the water up. By this point I was completely in another zone so I wasn’t so happy about going for a wander to the bathroom.
Whilst the water was changed, I sat on the loo with the gas and air and one of the midwives helped me through my breathing. I’m not sure how long I was there, but I don’t think it was that long. Everyone else was just getting the pool up to temperature, when I had an epic surge and felt her head crown. On the loo.
It was at this point I realised this baby was not going to come out in the pool like all the nice YouTube videos. I yelled at my partner to get his ass into the bathroom and everyone was gathered around me sat on the bog. The midwife suggested I move over the other side of the room – which I not-so-politely declined.
I couldn’t really have the baby come out into the loo though. I stood up, stepped forward and whilst having the weight of my now exhausted body supported, I had one final surge and birthed my second daughter (who was fortunately caught before she had chance to reach the bathroom floor).
This last part is pretty difficult to remember as I was really out-of-body – like I was watching it all happen.
So with that I crumpled back onto the loo and held my new daughter. I always envisioned I would feel like a total rockstar at this point, but at that time I didn’t. Maybe because I was on the bog. But we did get our Golden Hour (in the comfort of my own bed aaaah) before I got my second degree tear stitched up whilst sat on the end of my bed on a granite chopping board for hours.
However, looking back now I feel very empowered that I managed to get through a back labour with only a bit of gas & air and without any intervention; in my own home – just over 13 months after having a c-section.
And as intense as the pain was, it was a very spiritual experience for me. I often talk on here about life transitions – I think that transition in this birth is definetely the most intense I’ve been through.
So, there it is. A very different experience to my first birth, and a very different baba.