Emilio's birth, by Sally

Sally's first baby was born by elective Caesarean because he was breech. Fifteen years later, she planned a homebirth for her second baby. Although she laboured brilliantly at home until 8cm dilation, her baby showed signs of distress - he passed meconium - and his head did not descend, so she transferred to hospital where she had another caesarean.

Sally writes:

I think its important to tell the stories of when things don't quite go to plan. I hope it can give support to others who go through something similar and let them know that they are not alone in feeling the mixture of dissapointment and utter joy that I feel now, and that it is perfectly normal to have mixed emotions about your child's birth.

Sally had her membranes swept at just over 41 weeks, but to no effect. At 40 weeks + 13 days, Sally requested a second sweep but was told that local policy was to offer just one, and then to book in for induction. Sally argued her case..

I had a second sweep at 40 + 13 and went into labour that evening around 9. I had a show and tried to get some sleep through niggling pains to no avail By around 2am I was contracting around 3 in 10 mins and managing with Tens machine we called the midwife around 5.30 - I could have waited longer but I knew the midwife who was on call that night and I really wanted to catch her before she went off shift.

I got in the pool which had been set up in the lounge for the last week as I was 15 days over due date by now...and there I stayed for the next 9 hours having quite a nice labour, contractions gradually getting stronger.

I steadily reached 8cm and started on gas and air at about 4cms. There was no mention of scar rupture the whole time. SOM (Supervisor of Midwives) arrived as second midwife...she's lovely too. They monitored me closely but were never intrusive. My partner was great and my 15 year old son came and joined us a couple of times and played the guitar to take my mind off the pain. It was better than Id dreamed.

I requested a VE (vaginal examination) as it had been 2 hours since I was 8cm and I was getting pushing urges which I was struggling to breathe through, but they didnt seem strong enough that anything was really moving. As I got out of the pool something seemed to change - the pain became excrutiating and constant, and on examination baby's head was free and not descending at all.

As the midwife did the VE she said I was still 8cm, then my waters broke and everything went crazy. My waters were brown, thick with meconium - not just stained - they call it "pea soup". An ambulance was called and at first I resisted - this was the last thing I wanted, but I could see for myself that this much meconium was too risky and I was by now in a lot of pain with strong pushing urges which I was finding it harder to breathe through.

I threw up and cried all the way to the hospital and the gas and air was doing nothing. I'd been coping so well with the contractions all day that I knew that the pain I was having now wasn't normal, and so my natural birth was out the window but all I could think now was that I just wanted us to be ok and I'd have to deal with the regrets later.

My midwife went with me and once the epidural started to work she examined me again and I was still 8cm and baby's head was free - this was 2 more hours on. I had to accept he was not coming out of me the way I desperately wanted him to and decided to have a c-section.

He cried as soon as he was born. I was so relieved the meconium hadnt affected him. Emilio was born at 8pm weighed 9lb 10. He had the cord round his neck twice.

I spent a blissful night with him in bed with me; I couldn't take my eyes off him.

At 6am I pointed out to a midwife he looked a little pale. She checked his breathing, which she said looked rapid, and called a paediatrician. Within minutes he was in special care in an incubator on oxygen with tubes and wires all over him. The doctors told us Emilio's heart was failing and he would probably need a heart operation. I asked if it was anything to do with the meconium and they said "What meconium?" They hadn't even been told.

He had a chest x-ray and there was meconium in his lungs. This was causing his heart to fail, his liver and spleen were also enlarged ....the next 48hours would be critical.

We spent a long 7 days on special care but each day he got stronger and his heart is still enlarged and will need monitoring but he is home now.

Of course I have regrets that I didnt get my homebirth...but every decision made was made by my partner and I and we believe we made all the right choices with the knowledge we had.

No doubt there are many more tears I have to cry yet but they are mixed with tears of joy that we did get a happy ending - it just wasnt quite the one we had anticipated.

Sally, Phil and Emilio


Meconium in the waters - what does it mean for homebirth?

Transferring to hospital - why it might be advised, plus thoughts and advice from mothers who've been there.

HBAC - vaginal birth after caesarean at home.

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