Birth story - Abbey and baby Amélie

I relied on this community to keep me positive in the run up to the birth of my little girl and loved reading the stories of others throughout my third trimester. Thank you to each one of you who has posted here. You helped me through and kept me going every time I had a wobble.

I’m afraid this is a super long one so a brew (or two) may be required.

My first baby was born at 34 weeks after I'd had an active day of nesting, pregnancy yoga and dog walking. I had preterm premature rupture of membranes, followed by approximately 8 hours of completely manageable and mostly enjoyable labour (thanks to the small about of hypnobirthing I'd practiced by that point) on the labour ward. We then unfortunately experienced a cord prolapse. Bodhi was born via Cat 1 Emergency C-Sec and I was put under general anaesthetic. My husband showed me a photo of him after I'd come around from the general and I didn't meet him until he was about 10 hours old and in NICU in an incubator. Experiencing the PPROM at 34 weeks and the cord prolapse was basically bad luck on bad luck with no known cause, so I came into my second pregnancy anxious about something similar happening again.

I armed myself with knowledge about premature babies and delivery, vbacs, interventions, my rights and care as early as I could, knowing that this time I would ensure I had a more positive and less traumatic experience regardless of what was to happen. I had an extremely supportive community midwife who put me in touch with the consultant midwife and they were both keen for me to have a vbac and saw no problem with me wanting to deliver at the Birth Centre as opposed to the labour ward providing there were no complications.

I bought the PBC digital pack at around 30 weeks and watched the videos in quick succession just in case my little girl was to make an early appearance. I absolutely loved the videos and the pack reinforced all my knowledge as well as boosting my confidence regarding the choices I could make regarding my care prior to and during delivery. I also read a number of other books (both hypnobirthing and otherwise) which helped me prepare for the big day! After 34 weeks had passed, I started to feel less anxious and began to look forward to labour.

At my growth scans it was spotted that Amélie's abdominal circumference had started to 'tail off' between my 35 and 37 week appointments and there was talk of induction by the consultants, including delivering on the labour ward if growth hadn't picked up at my 39 week scan. I really wanted to do everything in my power for an unmedicated vbac so once I hit term, I was really focused on getting my baby out without any unnecessary intervention. I began having acupuncture at 37 weeks and had had 4 treatments prior to delivery. Whether these helped or not I'll never know but I enjoyed the time out and pampering all the same!

On Wednesday 10th April, at 38+5, I had a bloody show and started to lose my plug which got me rather excited that things were moving. I also suddenly found it really difficult to walk due to increased pelvic pain. After bathing my son on Wednesday evening, I couldn't stand up from the bathroom floor due to the pressure and pain and had to crawl to his bedroom which had my husband in stitches!

On the morning of Friday 12th I'd felt limited movement over the previous 12 hours so went into the local day unit to be monitored. I'd felt some mild period pains and backache but nothing notable. Amélie's heart rate and movement was fine on the monitor and towards the end of the 30 minutes on the CTG I was sure I'd felt my first surge but didn't experience another for a while. I spoke with the midwife on the unit and she said because of the reduced movement, if I went into labour I would have to go to the labour ward which I really wasn't keen on but again, knew this might have to happen. When talking about avoiding induction, she also said that my community midwife wouldn't do a vaginal exam/sweep until at least 40 weeks. Knowing my community midwife was more supportive and that I'd be seeing her that afternoon anyway, I thought I'd chat with her later about my options. I was sent on my way after everything was checked over.

After leaving the hospital that morning I started to feel very mild period pains every 10 minutes or so. I'd been familiar with checking my cervix for fertility purposes prior to pregnancy so thought I'd see if I'd noticed any changes. I was sure I could feel baby’s head and the opening to my cervix felt very loosey goose and forward, almost like an elastic band! I was confident I was at least a little bit dilated so this helped lift my mood and feel more positive after the rubbishy chat with the day unit midwife.

A friend came around for coffee around midday and for some reason my mood had changed again and I was feeling quite antsy and on edge, as well as being really short tempered with my son which was really abnormal for me. I usually had all the patience in the world for him and I was getting really frustrated at myself for being frustrated at him!

At 2.40pm I headed for my 39 week appointment and told Amanda, my community midwife, about how I was feeling and that I thought I'd been having period pains every 10 minutes-ish but hadn't felt the need to time them. She asked if I wanted her to check what was going on so I agreed to a vaginal exam(!). To my surprise I was already 4cm and the baby's head was very low! Result! I agreed for her to give me a quick sweep which was surprisingly comfortable and she assured me that Amélie was probably going to make her appearance that night and if she hadn't, to call her tomorrow and she'd come give me another sweep. I told her about the conversation with the other midwife at the hospital and she said not to worry and just to ring the MLU as planned when I felt I needed to go in, as discussed/signed off with the consultant midwife and as specified in my notes. What a woman. Confidence restored!

Despite feeling relieved that I knew my body and had read the signs, I suddenly became nervous and anxious so I sat in the car in the GPs car park and practiced some up breathing before calling my husband to let him know things were moving.

I got my mother in law to keep take my little boy so I could bounce on my ball and start to practice my breathing and get myself mentally ready and calm for what was ahead.

At about 5.30pm my surges were every 3-4 minutes, lasting around 1 minute so we decided to stop timing them and call the Birth Centre. Given that it was rush hour on a Friday eve, I was very conscious it could take up to an hour to make it to there so was airing on the side of caution. The midwife on the telephone said it was up to me whether I came in or not but ‘to be sensible’ considering the traffic and not knowing how fast I was going to labour etc. She advised me to take some paracetamol to make me more comfortable but I said I didn’t need it as was coping fine with the intensity.

At about 6.45pm, my husband and I decided to just go for a drive and see how things progressed instead. I didn’t want to be in the house when my MIL came to put my little boy to bed in case he got upset that I wasn’t going to be reading his stories etc so we drove to McDonald’s (which seemed like a great idea at the time but spent the entire labour repeating on me!). Things slowed down massively in the car and at about 8.30pm we decided to head to the Birth Centre to see what was going on. My rationale was that if I was at 4cm earlier on in the afternoon, things wouldn’t really have gone backwards so getting into ‘the zone’ might help.

On arrival at the hospital things picked up as soon as we got out of the car and by the time we’d been shown to the room in the Birth Centre I was just starting to feel the surges intensify and needed to really concentrate on up breathing.

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My husband got out the tealights, sprayed the room spray, dimmed the lights and positioned the bed so I could stand and lean over on to it more comfortably. I tried to listen to my playlist and the affirmations but found I preferred silence so we turned it off and popped on my TENs machine. After about 40 mins, my midwife Jo came in and checked me over. I was 5cm so she filled up the pool and I got in at about 9.30/10pm. Because I was trying to have a VBAC she clarified that I knew I wouldn’t be continuously monitored and that I was happy to accept that and that she would listen in to baby a little more often. There was no other mention of this being a VBAC whatsoever, which was such a relief.

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I laboured in the pool for a few hours and found it calming and lovely. My husband was great and tried some soft touch massage (whilst being batted off occasionally when I wasn’t feeling it!) and remembering to respray the Liquid Yoga.

Shortly after midnight I remember saying that I couldn’t cope for much longer and that I couldn’t do it, even though in my head I knew full well that I could and recognised it as transition. It strangely just felt like something I should say when things got tough. Just before I was due my next exam, I felt the urge to bear down and start pushing. Down breathing wasn’t really working for me though so after a short while I changed back to up breathing. My waters hadn’t yet broken and were bulging with each contraction. Jo said that she was sure that the baby’s head was right behind them and it would probably be a quick delivery once they had gone. This really spurred me on, so I followed her lead and tried to more actively push into my bum with each surge. The surges were so short at this point so I was finding I couldn’t really push for long. We decided I’d get out of the pool to try and have a wee in case this was slowing things down.

As soon as I’d sat down on the loo, I felt a surge coming so found myself on my hands and knees shouting “I’M PUSHING!!!!” on the bathroom floor. My waters exploded all over the floor and the midwife ran in just as I felt the ring of fire.

We tried to rearrange the bathroom so the midwife, second midwife and husband could fit in but it wasn’t working out. Between surges, the two midwives managed to help me get back into the room and kneel on the bed and I remember feeling the weight of the baby’s head between my legs and reaching down to feel her head and her creased skin as she was trying to emerge.

After 1 push, her head emerged and she started to cry. I shouted at my husband to take a photo (which will forever more be one of my most precious memories, despite my husband's horror haha) and after 1 more push on the bed she was born and passed through my legs. I felt sheer elation and couldn’t believe that I’d done it. VBAC achieved! I was on top of the world.

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We had delayed cord clamping and wonderful skin to skin. I had planned for a physiological 3rd stage but I had a small PPH and the contractions to deliver the placenta didn’t seem to want to start, despite us cracking straight on with breastfeeding and skin to skin. I agreed to have the injection and Jo got to work on trying to remove the placenta to avoid a trip up to theatre and to hopefully stop my bleeding. Thankfully, the bleeding slowed and the placenta was removed in one piece. I had a second-degree tear stitched up, which at the time I didn’t feel at all but felt whilst being stitched. Up breathing really helped during this.

Amelie’s birth was such a wonderful and healing experience and most of my preparation and readiness for this was down to the PBC digital pack and this community so thank you!

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