Birth story - Adele and baby Conor

I searched everywhere for positive VBAC and labour ward birth stories before giving birth to my son and found it so helpful reading them to prepare myself for the environment I was going to be going into for my birth. I hope my story can reassure anyone else in this situation it is possible to have an amazing birth experience even in the medical environment.

I had a long labour, including induction and failure to progress, ending in c section with my daughter in 2016 and found the whole experience overwhelming and frightening, and I felt robbed of the 'golden hour' experience, as she was taken away from me and weighed, checked and then bundled up in a blanket and hat before I even got to hold her, at which point I could barely keep my eyes open as I was so exhausted and out of it from the pethidine and 3 days with no sleep.

This time I wanted to make sure I had a different experience and after following the advice of an amazing midwife, I met after my daughter's birth, I looked into hypnobirthing and found the PBC digital pack which I found so affordable and accessible.

So birth story here goes!

I went for a pregnancy massage at 39+2 and the same evening I started having mild surges which felt like period pains. They continued through the night and then went away during the day, the same pattern followed the next 2 evenings and overnight. Then at 39+4 the surges became stronger when I got up in the morning and continued to intensify and increase in frequency.

By mid morning I had called my husband to come home from work and by lunchtime had called my in laws to come and collect our older daughter.

I found the up breathing, relaxation tracks, and advice on keeping oxytocin flowing very helpful in these early stages. I bounced on the birth ball, walked around, leaned over or squatted during each surge and was managing fine with support from my husband. We listened to our birth playlist and chatted between surges.

Around 5pm we went to hospital, this was after about 12 hours of surges and by that point they were frequent and intense enough they advised us to come in particularly with me attempting a VBAC.

Unfortunately we were travelling in rush hour and the normal 20 mins journey took 45! Surges slowed although I tried to keep in the zone with my sunglasses on, eyes closed and repeating the relaxation tracks on my headphones which really helped.

On arrival I was examined, at which point we were told I was only 1cm dilated which I was really disappointed with! They also measured me and found my bump was 7cm bigger than my community midwife's measurement only a week earlier. At this point talk of big babies and repeat c sections were mentioned, they gave us a scan to assess measurement but didn't really tell us much about what they'd found. I was getting quite stressed and disheartened at this point and had a bit of a wobble making surges feel that much more intense. What the course teaches about coming back down to 'green' after each surge was so important as there were a few times I didn't manage to do that and it made the next surge start to become overwhelming. My husband was so important in supporting me to come back down to green, this whole process has made me fall in love with him all over again!

Because I was not in 'active labour' we were not yet admitted to the labour ward and advised to walk the halls, sideways, walk up stairs etc but I couldn't cope with this as the surges were very intense and I strongly felt the need to be in a private space. We ended up in the very small, hot triage assessment room for around 5 hours with just a pillow and a birth ball for comfort, sometime during this time I started having gas and air which really helped me cope as it wasn't a situation I'd wanted to happen and I regretted going in so soon. This was a low point in the experience and I did start to doubt whether we were going to achieve our VBAC.

Eventually we were told we could go to the labour ward but they wanted to place a cannula first. I didn't want it and nearly refused but I did need it in the end so I'm glad it was there ready.

As soon as we got to the ward I relaxed as we had a wonderful midwife who we clicked with immediately, she had dimmed our lights and immediately reassured me and told me to stay positive as we explained about the triage staff's talk of baby's size etc, and started to read our birth preferences and chat through them.

I had intermittent monitoring and laboured on the ball and leaning over the foot of the bed with gas and air. I had breaks from it when I felt I could and started to use it less as I knew it was becoming less effective over time and started to make me a little nauseous.

The things that really helped me during this time were…

1. My husband - leaning on him, having him hold my hands during surges
2. Feeling that we were in a private space. I specified on my birth plan as few people as possible in the room and most of the time it was just me my husband and the one midwife, with lights dimmed.
3. Music, our playlist which was just lots of song that gives me those happy vibes!
4. Bouncing on the ball and being mobile and 'UFO'
5. Visualising my cervix stretching and opening with each surge

At around 6am (about 24 hours of surges at this point), I was examined again and the midwife performed my first stretch and sweep which got me to about 3-4cm dilated. Then a few minutes later my waters broke all over the bed. The feeling of the surges changed at this point and I started to feel more downward pressure.

Another 5 hours of surges later and I was at 4cm on examination. At this point we had a discussion about trying a low dose of syntocin to help my contractions become longer and more frequent as they had continued to be under a minute and around 3 in 10 or less since we'd arrived in triage 12 hours earlier. I was keen to help things along at this point as I was so exhausted, however I felt I would struggle to cope with more intense and frequent surges. I also felt my body needed a break and I needed some sleep, and so we decided to have an epidural. It was a really emotional decision as I hadn't wanted to have one and it brought back feelings of failure from my last birth, and worries about the cascade of interventions, but I still felt it was the right decision.

It took 2 attempts but finally the epidural was placed and I was able to lie down and they started syntocin. I alternated between lying on my side with the peanut ball, and on my back depending on how baby was responding. I put my sleep mask and headphones on and again listened to Siobhan's guided relaxation tracks. I dozed and rested as much as possible and stayed in my little bubble thinking positive thoughts.

After around 4 hours I was examined again and to my utter surprise and delight I was fully dilated! I could not believe it!

An hour later and I started to push. Unfortunately I was on my back although propped quite upright. I had not topped up the epidural in a while as I wanted to feel as much as possible now! The midwife advised me in a VBAC birth we would have an hour to get baby out and then the doctor would assess the situation to see if assistance was needed. I had my husband holding up one leg and the midwife holding the other and both of them cheering me on, it was my favourite part of the whole experience! My son's head started to emerge, and I reached down and felt it. Such an amazing feeling! A couple more surges and his head was born. Then there was a lull of a few minutes and his body was born. The best and strangest sensation ever! And I finally got my moment of having my little baby handed straight up to me, and my husband in tears telling me he was a boy, and utter relief and elation. I'll never forget that moment, it was so special and such a healing experience.

We were not rushed at all to get him weighed or checked over, we had delayed cord clamping and then lots of skin to skin in the hour it took to birth the placenta. We were really interested to see it and our midwife talked us through what she was doing and all the parts of it whilst she was checking it.

I had a second degree tear requiring a few stitches, which has healed really well and not caused me any pain. Unfortunately I did have to have a catheter placed for a few days after birth as my bladder had been very over full during labour, this and a tummy bug gave me quite a rough first week post birth but my recovery has been really quick compared to my previous c section birth.

Although the birth was more medical than I'd wanted, I had a wonderful experience and felt so supported and safe throughout. The staff understood the kind of birth we wanted and we felt fully involved in all the decision making along the way. There were lots of things I was concerned about beforehand - continuous monitoring, examinations etc that just weren't an issue on the day because I felt comfortable in the environment and with the people looking after me, and I felt fully in control. I hope anyone who is going into a labour ward birth for whatever reason feels reassured by this. You have the power to make your birth positive no matter the setting!

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