My Home VBAC

by Rebecca Leverentz

Rebecca's first baby, Eric, was born by caesarean for foetal distress after an induced labour. Her second baby, Rowen, was born at home.

June 1995
Fell pregnant, 17 years old, new boyfriend who actually lives in the states. Baby due February 1996.

October 1995
20 week scan. Discover Eric has gastroschisis (his intestines are on the outside of his abdomen with a hole in the muscle). Lengthy discussions with doctors. Pregnancy closely monitored with consultant appointments, scans, Doppler scans and Electronic Foetal Monitoring every 2 weeks. Birth set to be induced at 38 weeks. Wedding arranged for 37 weeks 6 days, prospective parent-in-laws notified. Boyfriend buys plane tickets. Told vaginal birth is possible.

January 30th 1996
Wake at 4am with bad backache, call hospital, advised to stay home, I have an appointment at 9am anyway. With backache and the odd contraction, attend antenatal appointment at hospital. No one seemed to know if I was in labour or not, I was 37 weeks 3 days (by 12 week scan, irregular periods). After my appointment I was admitted to the labour ward. Placed onto my back and attached to an EFM machine.

Thankfully, the cruel midwife who told me to "Calm down, you're hyperventilating!" went off shift after half an hour and was replaced by a far kinder one. As I remember I was on the machine from around 10am till 4pm with the odd break to go to the loo! some of the time I was on my back, some times in a chair. My mum was my birth partner and she disappeared periodically to get food. I felt bored, uncomfortable, sad that my boyfriend was going to miss it, he was due to fly in the next day.

I remember the 'nasty' midwife telling me I had to lie on my side for the EFM and I said I couldn't I was in too much pain. She seemed fed up and annoyed that I wouldn't comply.

I had an internal exam shortly after lunch, I was in some pain but not active labour. The exam was carried out by an anonymous female ob. with about 4 onlookers. It was very painful. I was 1 cm dilated, she had been hoping to break my waters but didn't.

At 4pm the midwife entered and said the consultant had perused my traces and the baby had to be born immediately as he was distressed. I was still not in active labour and was flat on my back.

I remember keeping a brave face through the next 15 minutes. I had to drink something, my hair was shaved. My mum looked sad. I was wheeled into theatre in a wheelchair. At this point I lost it and broke down into sobs. I think my mum cried too. I cried the whole time. The whole memory is frightening, degrading. Lying on a table naked with my legs open, not being able to feel a thing. Having loud music playing in the background, a room full of people. The anaesthetist kept pricking my chest the whole time to check the spinal was working. Both my arms were immobile. When they inserted the spinal I was having contractions and I remember it really hurt to curl up like I was supposed to. They kept insisting I curl up more and more. Eventually it went in and brushed a nerve, pain shot from my toes to my head. Afterwards I had a numb bottom and some sciatica-type pain.

Eric was born at 4.12 pm. 5lb 6 oz. I saw his arm as he was carried across the room and heard him cry once. They suctioned him, lots of meconium, and took him away to Special Care. I was sewn up, still crying, I remember seeing all the bloody swabs hanging on the wall, thinking how revolting it looked.

I was put into a recovery room, given morphine and drifted in and out of consciousness. My legs wouldn't stop shaking. They wheeled Eric in for me to see. He was in a mobile incubator as the ICU was in a hospital a few miles away. I couldn't really see. I was given a Polaroid.

January 31st 1996
My boyfriend arrived, I was expressing milk. I hadn't seen my baby yet but the rest of my family had. I was due to go visit but due to the operation I was only allowed in a hospital vehicle. They forgot about it until my paediatrician looked in on me late in the afternoon to find me in tears. I got to spend about 30 minutes with Eric and we had our first cuddle. He'd been operated on at 9pm the previous night.

He's absolutely fine now, 5 years old, no complications despite a 4 week battle with an intubator.

After this experience I think I became depressed. I failed at breastfeeding when Eric came home with me. I don't know why, just tired and alone I think. My husband had to return to the states. I joined him when Eric was 9 months old. I didn't talk about it much, but would cry watching people give birth on TV.

December 1997
Fell pregnant (intentionally this time!) with Rowen aged 20, baby due August 1998. Living in California. Registered with the hospital, had a scan at 9 weeks (oh my god). Moved back here at 18 weeks. Scan at 20 weeks all fine, healthy baby. I am unsure of scanning but because of what happened with Eric I was worried about it happening again. Read Natural Childbirth after caesarean.

June 1998
Moved house, started NCT classes same week! Youngest person by far in class, also most experienced, lots of fun!!! The teacher talked about homebirth, one couple said yes, this is our plan. They were very well informed, (great friends now in fact, their child is also called Rowan). It didn't even enter my head. The teacher quietly mentioned that VBACs at home were possible, she knew of someone who had managed it. That was all it took. I then read 'Spiritual midwifery' by Ina Gaskin, my mum surfed the net and sent me stacks of info, I read 'Obstetric Myths' and 'The VBAC Experience'.

I was determined to have this baby at home. It hadn't occurred to me before that it was an option. It was certainly never offered to me by staff either in America or in the two districts in England I was registered at.. I was in fact a high-risk patient.

I don't need to list the risk factors here, Angela's site will have plenty of links and the books need to be read. My midwife was not happy. She asked me to go to the hospital and visit the consultant (apparently pro-VBAC) unfortunately not pro-Homebirth. He insulted us, claimed if the baby died it would be our fault. I asked for his references. He didn't answer. I left in tears, not knowing what to do.

My husband and mother stood by me, supported me all the way. I had never ever faced this kind of situation before, I knew I was more informed about this subject than my midwife, and she refused to even glance at the research I was showing her.

August 1998
Made an extensive birthplan, covering a home birth and a hospital birth (trying to remain open minded) I did live a 10 minute ride from the hospital, and my midwife would attend me. When my yellow bag came I was so excited. I did rifle through it and wonder at the 30 pairs of latex gloves!

I had glucose in my urine and a diabetic brother. My midwife could not contain her delight; a day of not eating and a tolerance test proved negative.

I may go overdue and have to go to hospital! Hours of nipple stimulation followed, much to my husband's amusement. Mum recommends castor oil but it's not getting desperate yet.

26th August 1998
Had sex (this is relevant!), walked up a very big hill with heavy pushchair, told woman in shops I was due in 2 days, she nearly fainted!!! by the time I got home at 11 am I felt a few odd feelings in my belly. Totally different from last time, but very far apart and weak.

I had my midwife doing a check-up at 2pm. She said I probably wasn't in labour but both of us were secretly pleased that she was going on holiday that evening for a few days.

Later in the afternoon I called my mum and we decided she'd better start the 2 hour drive down to babysit.

After tea, and after smiling through many contractions I confessed to my husband I was in labour. The on-call bitch arrived to inform me that I was 'only 2 cm' and that people like me made her job stressful.

I have to insert here that I have a pleasant disposition and do not start arguments with strangers; it just seems that certain midwives take the liberty of addressing all labouring mums as children.

Back to the nice part.

My mum arrived, we were all too exited to sleep but this was still early first stage. They went to bed around midnight and I was too uncomfortable to sleep, so I tried to read a book. I remember thinking it was a shame that I'd be tired for the birth. I fell asleep at about 5am and woke at 6am with an almighty contraction. It felt like nothing on earth and my waters pooped so loud my husband heard!

The bitch returned to inform me that I was still' only 2 cm' and left quickly.

At 8 though, we called back as since my waters had broken things were moving a lot faster. This time we got a different midwife, better, but not perfect. She looked worried and hassled. Thank goodness I didn't care less, during the active phase I didn't talk to anyone, I was completely inside my own head.

My mum had taken Eric out for a walk, I was naked, modesty gone, but this time it was my decision. another midwife arrived and the first left to do a clinic. I was 5cm. I was very uncomfortable, contractions seemed to never end. But I was singing and groaning through them, doing a kind of hoo haa hoo haa, I dread to think what the neighbours thought. The midwife brought gas and air which I hadn't wanted, but I tried and apparently I 'wasn't doing it properly' I got through by breathing about once then chewing it.

My husband took pictures and placed his hands on me to show me where to breathe and how deeply. Something we had only learned a week earlier from Sheila Kitzinger's 'Pregnancy and Birth'.

The midwife asked if I felt like pushing as I was making the right noises. To be honest I hadn't noticed and I never remember feeling the urge to push. True enough I was 10 cm but with a lip so she had me lie on my side for a few minutes 

I had been allowed to do as I wanted throughout the active stage, which mainly consisted on being slumped forward onto a floor cushion on all fours. I had to go to the loo a few times, which meant going downstairs. This brought on the contractions big time and I had to drop to the floor when one hit.

The first time my scar was mentioned was when the midwife asked me to be bolt-upright instead of leaning forward (some midwives believe that upright labouring positions put the scar under less stress - Angela). I gave birth 30 minutes later to a huge 9lb 4 oz baby girl at 11am.

Afterwards I bled a lot; I was given syntometrine and then ergometrine. I had wanted a natural third stage and didn't get one, my only disappointment. The fussy midwife had returned minutes before the birth, as had my mother who took lots more photos. The fussy midwife would not let me hold Rowen until she had wrapped her in a towel. I was so cross at her!

Despite the blood and fuss, Rowen latched on perfectly, my mum had to force me to move to get the blood cleaned up I was so so so ecstatic. She stayed on me for two hours I think. My little boy came in when she was about 30 minutes old. I remember thinking that Rowen was so alert compared to Eric. Perhaps that was as the result of a happy birth. Her apgar was 9 then 10.

I breastfed her till she was 13 months and she decided to stop. It was wonderful.

Things I found useful:

A little evaluation: My c-section was undescribable; if I could do anything to avoid that trauma I would. However, my sister had an elective c-section for a breech (she was pressured into it I feel). She was sad she didn't get a homebirth but they made the birth enjoyable for her.

I feel that my c-section was possibly a result of bad care, naivety on my part and I believe it helped to cause my depression and lack of bonding with my son. I was left in a hospital, no longer pregnant but without a baby. I wasn't even allowed to see him until he was a day old.

No one can give me that time back, which is why I have decided to become a midwife myself. Maybe I'll practise independently, or maybe in a hospital, who knows, but I would like to prevent these injustices from happening to other women and perhaps help them to have the best experience of their lives, having a baby.

No word can describe the feeling of true love and especially someone like me, who is so grounded it's silly. I am the atheist to end all others, yet I could only describe it as a transcendent experience. No one should be without that memory of the birth of their children.

Rebecca Leverentz

Home Birth After Caesarean

Home Birth Stories


Home Birth Reference Page
Site Contents