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Anna's Home Waterbirth After Caesarean story, by Rebecca

Rebecca's third baby, Anna, was born at home, in water, weighing 8lbs 15oz.

My first child was born at hospital after transfer from a planned home birth. I slipped 2 discs in my back during the labour which went undiagnosed, and ended up with a very managed ventouse birth. Second child, also a planned home birth, was born by caesarean section at 38+1 as my back injuries had flared up badly. I booked with independent midwives (Bristol Birth Practice) for this, my 3rd pregnancy, as the VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean) policy of my local Trust isn't supportive of either home or water births.

On my due date I woke up feeling hugely uncomfortable and very tired; for around 9 weeks I had been having niggling pre-labour which was preventing me from sleeping well at night. Two days earlier the contractions had increased in intensity and I'd had a small show, so I was hoping that things were coming to an end. As I had gone to 40+18 with my only previous spontaneous labour I had psychologically prepared myself for a long wait.

I had made plans to have lunch with a friend in IKEA and was having the odd contraction as we walked around afterwards picking up the last few bits and pieces for my homebirth. I then took my eldest to gymnastics and sat there for an hour feeling quite spaced out and deeply irritated at all the 'haven't you had that yet' type comments from the other parents. As soon as we got home I got in to the birthing pool with the kids as the contractions were getting more uncomfortable - they still felt like pre-labour and was convinced that I was going to have a stop-start labour for the next week or so. I cancelled my chiropractor's appointment as I wasn't into the idea of getting out of the nice warm pool and driving in the dark and cold.

After getting the older two kids to bed and pottering around a bit I decided it would be best to call Sally the midwife and let her know that the contractions were getting stronger - I didn't really want to surprise her with a phone call at 2am. We chatted for a bit, she listened in to a contraction and said she would call back at around 11pm. I had the TENS machine on at this point and my main worry was how deeply irritating I found it! I had planned to use the TENS to get me through the night and help me sleep and then see how I felt in the morning as regards more pain relief. I'm not sure if it was me, but it didn't really seem to do much, especially as I kept accidentally turning it up and electrocuting myself.

I spoke to Sally again at around 11pm and told I her I was fine (I was) and I wasn't even sure what this was (contractions were very erratic still and no closer than 8 minutes apart). I go into the pool again as the TENS machine had electrocuted me one too many times and I was actually getting a bit scared of it. I got out just after midnight and sent Richard off to bed as I was getting a little more convinced that this was actually 'it' and memories of my first labour (29 hours and him not really coping with being that tired) made me quite sure that he needed to sleep.

I lunged around the bed trying to sleep until 3am when I woke him up and got him to put the TENS machine back on. I had become convinced that he hadn't put it on right and went online to try and find someone awake to tell me if we were using it right(!!) and found someone who told me what to do. Unfortunately we had been using it correctly and I found it just as irritating. My plan to rest during the contraction and try and get some sleep wasn't really working (I don't understand how people can do that!).

At 5.30am I went and woke Richard as I was clearly in labour - the contractions were getting more intense although I could still talk during them and felt OK, just really tired. I started belting out instructions at the poor man ('call the midwife', 'call my sister' etc). I decided that the best thing to do was to get Sally to come with the Entonox and try and knock myself out so I could sleep. At this point I thought I would probably go into 'proper' labour later that evening.

At 6.40 Richard made the call to the midwife (we decided to wait as long as I could) and asked her to come round. I carried on in the pool as it was my only option apart from the Evil TENS machine, and I was quite comfortable. My only concern was that it might slow things down so I was quite keen to get out once Sally arrived. She got to the house at around 7.10 and we chatted for a while. I then got out of the pool on to the bed and the contractions became much more intense. It was almost as if I need Sally there to go into labour.

Richard was being amazing, pressing down on my sacrum during the contractions which was really helping with the pain (he had been doing this the whole time he was awake). The children woke up and my sister turned up to take care of them. I was starting to feel incredibly tired and decided with Sally that I would rest on the bed with the Entonox and try and get some rest. Lying down seemed to slow things down and the Entonox was working well for me. Before this I went to the toilet and things speeded up as soon as I was upright, so I knew in my rational mind that I could speed things up if I was upright. On the toilet I had a bloody show as well.

At 10am I started feeling a lot more pressure during the contractions and things started feeling more intense. Even though I was using the Entonox I felt that I needed to bellow towards the end of each contraction, which were coming about every 3 minutes by this point. As the baby had been very low for the last few weeks of my pregnancy I was very aware of a deep pressure towards the end of each contraction. I got up to go to the toilet again and things at this point became even more intense; deep down I knew it was close although I thought it was a few hours before she would arrive. I decided to stay off the bed and do some hip rotations during the contractions, while leaning on the edge of the pool. Primal Scream's Higher Than The Sun was playing at this point and I can remember thinking that I was going to dance this baby out like a sad old aging raver…

For some reason I was hanging off getting into the pool, which I had adored being in during the last few weeks of my pregnancy. I think memories of my first labour where I spent many hours in the pool were creating a kind of block, but I decided after 5 more contractions I would get back in it. Perhaps I was also worrying about slowing things down (too much knowledge is a dangerous thing; throughout most of the birth I had a very rational narrative voice giving me advice in the back of my head!!)

Just after 11am I got into the pool. The relief was amazing but all of a sudden it felt like I'd gone up several gears in intensity. The pressure in my pelvis was increasing as well. At this point one of my worst fears was realised - the second tank of Entonox was faulty. (I'd basically transferred to hospital during my first labour as we kept running out of Entonox and I found this very difficult). Sally and Richard got the tank half working and Sally called Jo (2nd midwife) to bring another tank; I stayed quite calm during this although I did feel a little panicky. I carried on using the faulty tank which was giving out a little gas but by this point was finding the breathing using the mouth piece more helpful than the gas itself.

All of a sudden I felt an overwhelming urge to stand up - I'd been leaning on Richard who was outside the pool and I lunged upwards shouting 'I can't do this anymore' (obviously transition, voice in my head said), and my waters broke. I was suddenly aware of the head coming down very quickly and thought 'hang on, this is too fast' so pulled upwards with my pelvic floor but it was all too strong and her head shot down again.

Sally said 'either sit down or get out of the pool' - no way could I have climbed out so I got down on my knees as I desperately wanted to remain upright. I could feel the head slipping out and Sally asked if it was OK if she caught the baby (originally we'd wanted Richard to catch her but there was no way I could let go of him), I nodded yes and Richard told her it was OK. I felt her head slide out and then an overwhelming huge push and her body slid out with a little twist from Sally to free her hips. Sally told me she was going to pass her through my legs (she had to untangle the cord from her neck as well - I was totally unaware of what was going on behind me!) and my baby was passed to me. I blurted out 'I did it' - I was so pleased and elated!

At this point my natural cack-handedness kicked in and I let her slip under the water which was the only scary part of the whole birth - after a bit of rubbing she started to breathe and was put straight on to feed.

I was helped out of the pool to lie down and try and birth the placenta. Our oldest came into the room (the kids and my sister had been sitting outside the door during the birth as they didn't want to come in - I had left it up to them), and she cut the cord once it had stopped pulsing.

The placenta was a bit stubborn and refused to come out, even though we tried sitting on the toilet, homeopathy, breathing into a bottle. I'm sure it was psychological in that a lot of my VBAC fears had centred on something going wrong with the placenta. Or possibly Jo was right and I was hanging on to it as I was sad about not having any more children!! In the end I decided that I had had enough, wanted to get into bed and lie down so I asked for a shot of syntometrine. After this the placenta came out very easily; Sally did say she wished she'd been a little more forceful and worked to get it out, but as she has done throughout the birth, she did as I asked, which was wonderful.

I had torn along my old scar from my first birth but we decided it could be left to heal by itself. I then got into bed with our new daughter and started feeding her and making all the phone calls.

In total I had been in latent labour for 15 hours, 1st stage of 4 hours and 29 minutes, 2nd stage of 3 minutes and 3rd stage of 1 hour and 11 minutes. It was exactly the birth I wanted and I feel blessed to have had such a wonderful experience. (Oscar speech moment warning). I couldn't have done it without my wonderful midwives Sally and Jo, my brilliant shiatsu therapist Suzanne Yates, who did an amazing job coaching me through my fears in the last few weeks of pregnancy and my chiropractor Nina who kept my SPD at bay. I also feel that I birthed our child with my husband who was a total rock and kept me going throughout - he was so pleased it went well that he cried before she was even born. After our first two births it was a very healing experience for us both.

Rebecca Ward

Big Mama Slings


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