So before I begin, I thought I’d explain that I actually wrote up this birth story in a notebook a couple of days after Ollie was born but it’s taken me until now to type it up. I don’t know why its taken so long, I think partly it’s because the birth was so quick so I wanted to take time to process it all, but that obviously didn’t take 12 months! But also I was a bit bothered about people asking whether I’d recommend a VBAC homebirth before I’d had chance to think about my answer. Now I’ve had chance think about it, the answer is yes and I’d definitely consider it again, but I would say it depends on every single pregnancy and how you feel at the time. If you think a homebirth is the right thing for you then go for it- but you need to be aware of the risks too. VBAC homebirth
So here we are almost a year late but in time for his first birthday, here is my birth story with Ollie.
E xcuse me if this comes out a little rambled. I’ve never written a birth story before and in fact, when I think about it, I haven’t actually read that many either so I’m not really sure how much detail to go into. But our little man is asleep at the moment and his big sister is at nursery so I’ll start to put pen to paper now and see how far we get.
You may have seen from my Instagram that the birth of our baby boy [later named Ollie] was quick! Beach to Birth in 2 hours 30 minutes quick to be exact, and when I read over my birth notes a few days ago my first and second stages of labour were recorded as being only 51 minutes long. Needless to say I was pretty shell shocked when Ollie actually appeared (and by the fact that he was a boy, but that’s another story)!
My VBAC Homebirth Story
It’s difficult to know where to begin with my birth story because it was over so quickly, but I think a sensible place would be to go back to the night before I went into labour as events then will come back in to the story a bit later on…
So the evening before Ollie was born was a Saturday. I’d taken Ettie to see the Pride parade in Hove and we’d had a lovely afternoon just the two of us. When I was putting her to bed that evening I noticed I couldn’t really feel the baby moving around. This was usually the time of day when I felt the most movements and it was nice watching my tummy move when I was with Ettie, but that evening I couldn’t really feel anything and even when I pushed my tummy in, I could only feel faint kicks back.
I’d say this made me aware of the situation rather than alarmed because movements had slowed down over the last few weeks but when I’d had the heartbeat checked everything was fine. I put it down to me being overdue but decided to have a shower to see if that woke the baby up.VBAC homebirth
It didn’t, so feeling a little nervous I told Stu and we agreed to call the hospital although when we did the number was engaged. Stu had a feel of my tummy and he said he could definitely feel kicks from the outside, I just couldn’t feel them from the inside which was weird. Rationalising it by thinking I had an anterior placenta, I calmed down and soon after that I looked down to see a bum/ elbow move across my tummy, so that put both our minds to rest and we went to sleep.VBAC homebirth
Fast forward to the next morning and all was fine again. Movements were back and so we didn’t really think any more about it.
I took this photo on the Sunday morning after finishing painting a set of drawers and was going to post it to Instagram with the caption ‘Nesting done, we’re ready to meet you baby’ . Like many mums to be, I’d spent the whole of the run up to my due date nesting like a crazy person, painting everything in site. But on the morning Ollie was born I remember waking up completely over DIY and I just wanted to chill on the beach. VBAC homebirth
Because I was having a VBAC, I knew I would only be able to go over by 10 days and if nothing had happened I’d have had to have had another C Section. I didn’t want that because of the risks associated with another pregnancy after two C Sections and so I knew it was important to try and relax in order for baby to want to come. The advice I’d read in all of the hypnobirthing books I’d seen was to try and visualise the birth because that would help with the process. I found that difficult because I wasn’t really sure where the baby was going to be born (we’d requested a home birth but were open to transfer because I was having a VBAC), but I had sort of earmarked the Sunday after Pride to down tools and start relaxing because I knew thats when Stu would have finished off all the bits in the nursery that needed to be finished.
That morning I was four days overdue and whilst I definitely wasn’t feeling any labour pains, I did feel a change in my mindset, like I was finally ready for baby to come. It was a lovely sunny day and all I wanted to do was have a lazy day on the beach because I kept thinking it might be the last time the three of us would be able to spend a day together.VBAC homebirth
Stu still had some boxing to finish off in the baby’s room so simply suggested leaving us to it and him coming down to join us later but I remember feeling really emotional about him not wanting to come so after a teary hormonal outburst (where I’m sure he thought I’d lost the plot!) we packed up the car and I waddled to the beach (9 months and 4 days pregnant!)
A lovely family day…V
Because I was so pregnant we parked the van quite close to the beach and put four hours on the meter. At that time I still wasn’t experiencing any pain and genuinely thought it would be a good week or so until the baby arrived! We had a lovely day eating ice creams and playing in the water. All the tiredness I’d felt in the previous months had vanished and for some reason I was bursting with energy.
A couple of hours in I started feeling tightenings in my tummy – where my bump would feel really hard, but I just thought it was Braxton Hicks ramping up because I was so close to the end. (I’d been getting Braxton Hicks on and off since around 24 weeks so it really wasn’t a new sensation).VBAC homebirth
At around 3.30pm we were eating some watermelon and I felt a sudden urge to go home. It wasn’t a pain or anything, just a feeling that we’d probably had enough and it was time to pack up and go. Ettie had some sand on her hands, so I took her down to the water to wash it off while Stu packed up the blankets. To paint a picture of how great I was feeling at this point, we had one last dip in the sea and I decided to start swinging her round and round and up and down dipping her legs in the water. Definitely not feeling like I was about to have a baby anytime soon.
At 4pm we were making our way back to the van but Ettie needed a wee so I took her to the loo. When we came out I wanted to take a family picture of the day but I had to stop because I felt a period pain. It wasn’t a big pain, just enough to make me pause and go ouch, but given how far along I was, I thought it must be the start of something and so told Stu we really should be getting home, (naively I still thought we had hours! )VBAC homebirth
That last family photo , just after I felt the first twinge
The Journey Home…
In the van on the way home, Stu asked if I wanted to take a detour to see a development he’d been working on (yes we are that exciting in our spare time). Whilst not unbearable, my pains had kind of ramped up at this point so I thought it better we head straight home.
I remember thinking that labour must be like needing the loo… in that its kind of a niggle until you get close to the toilet, then by the time you reach the loo you realllllly need to go!! The closer we got to home, the stronger my pains became and it became apparent that I was actually going to have my baby that day! Midway along the A23 we decided it might be a good idea to time the contractions. Stu got his phone out and I fumbled with the apps until I found the timer pressing start when a pain began and stop when it was over. According to my timings the contractions were only a couple of minutes apart – but I thought I must have been timing them wrong because it all seemed to be happening so quickly!
Twenty minutes after leaving the beach we were home and I told Stu he should probably phone his mum to come and get Ettie because the baby was on its way – luckily Ettie was asleep in the back of the van. I went into the house first because I needed the loo, and then randomly I brushed my teeth?? I remember texting my Mum to say things had started, but I didn’t have enough time to put any punctuation on the text before the next contraction came so I just pressed send!
The baby is coming…VBAC homebirth
At 16.51 I called Triage and told them I thought I was in labour – although I still wasn’t convinced because I felt so normal in between the pain. Luckily I was booked in for a homebirth, so the midwife on the other end of the call said she would send someone round to assess me and call back in ten minutes to confirm that things were actually progressing.
Well in those 10 minutes everything ramped up significantly. We decided to time the contractions again and they were two minutes apart lasting for around a minute at a time. When the midwife called back 10 minutes later I answered the call saying I was fine, but then couldn’t talk as the next contraction took hold so just had to pass the phone to Stu.
We laugh about it now, but Poor Stu was like a pinball machine running around trying to do all the jobs that needed to be done in the two minute break between contractions. In those two minute intervals he had to phone his mum, get Ettie’s bag ready, tidy the room (not essential but there were still tools everywhere), find me a paracetamol, answer the phone to the hospital, answer the door to his mum, hand over Ettie, run up to the top floor for the towels, find my hypnobirthing music, put it on, get me a drink of water, open the door for the midwives and run me a bath (which I didn’t even get near!!).
Just as he was completing his latest mission he’d hear ‘Stuuuuuuuaaaarrrrrtttt’ and have to come racing back to rub my back as the pain took over me again! I was getting a bit panicky at this point because it was all going a bit quick but he was excellent at slowing me down and getting me to think about my breathing.
By the time the first midwife arrived at 17.30 I was back in my zone swaying from side to side with my eyes closed thinking about the beach. I think Stu thought I’d lost the plot a little at that point, especially when I started sort of humming through the pain, but he was happy I wasn’t shouting orders anymore so we’d had a little bit of a rest-bite amid the chaos. That is until the midwife spoke. Her first question was ‘had I felt any movements that day?’ Thinking about it, other than in the morning when I’d checked everything was ok from the night before, I hadn’t really because my tummy had been rock solid. I told her that and explained how we’d had a bit of a scare the night before and think that caused a bit of a panic, because things suddenly got chaotic again.
The midwife examined me and explained I was 4cm dilated but there was a chance of foetal distress because of the reduced movements so she asked whether I’d like to transfer to hospital. The last thing I wanted to do at that moment was move because the contractions were coming every two minutes and I was next to an amazing fan blowing cool air onto my face! But my main priority was to keep the baby safe and so I agreed that Stu should call the ambulance.
That in itself was a palava because the people on the other end of the phone kept asking to talk to the midwife, but she was dealing with me and sorting out all of the bits she needed to deliver a baby. There was quite a lot of arguing going on so I remember trying to block everything out and just concentrate on my breathing.
Around 15 minutes later the ambulance was on its way, so Stu and the midwife were able to return their attention to me and what was going on with my expanding cervix. Stu was back rubbing my back during contractions and I was back in control of my breathing which really helped the pain.
At around 5.50pm the second midwife arrived who was a lovely lady called Cecile. I remember thinking she had a lovely voice and nice cool hands! (I didn’t actually see her face until after Ollie was born!) There was lots of whispering between her and the first midwife which I remember feeling really irritated by and so I told them to stop! The contractions were pretty severe by that point and I wanted everyone to stop talking about transferring me to hospital and just deliver the baby!
A couple of minutes later my waters popped and they were filled with black meconium. I looked down and felt really weepy thinking the baby was in distress but I was at home not the hospital. At 6pm the ambulance arrived and asked if I was ready to transfer, but I knew it was too late for me to go anywhere. The first midwife was flapping around me trying to get me to move, but Cecile heard the sound I made from my latest contraction and said it was a bit ‘pushy’ so the first midwife asked me to pop up on the bed so she could examine me.
I really didn’t want to move from the cool little spot I had on the floor and I remember saying out loud ‘I cant do this anymore’, but I know from my NCT classes that that is also a sign that the baby is on its way so I let both midwives help me up on to the bed between the contractions. There wasn’t a very big window between them at that point.
The first midwife said she needed to feel how my cervix felt during a contraction but I was in so much pain the last thing I wanted was her hand up there so I said no. She said again that she really needed to feel how I was progressing and so I agreed but as soon as the contraction came it was so uncomfortable I shouted ‘Get Out Get Out Get Out’ and my leg kicked. I think she told Stu that he needed to restrain me which was very Matron like and I remember thinking ‘well don’t put your hand up my bits when theres a baby coming out and we’ll be fine!’
On the next contraction I was ready to push, no time for hospital transfer. I remember that Cecile was french and had such a soothing voice. She told me to keep my chin down make the most of every push and it worked because I gradually felt the baby moving down which was a very surreal feeling. Because of the meconium in my waters, the reduced movements and the fact I was a VBAC I sensed panic in the room which is the main thing that spurred me on. I just wanted the baby out and so I used all my energy to push during each contraction. With one big push I got half his head out but there was yet more meconium so the first midwife had to hold his little head to keep his airways clear. I remember thinking at that point how strange it felt because I could tell exactly how much of him had been born.
The time between contractions now felt like an eternity with each midwife pressing on pressure points in my ankles to try and bring on the next one. It felt like it was never going to happen and I was so worried for the baby, that I think I began to push slightly before the contraction took hold which is when I tore.
Our son was born 13 minutes later at 18.51 – 51 minutes after it was recorded that I went into the 1st stage of labour. Stu asked if he was ok – and thats when I found out he was a boy. The midwife said ‘yes he is’ and the relief was palpable. He was placed on my chest and I think I asked the midwife a further 400 times ‘if he was ok just to be sure?’ A little while later Stu cut the cord and our beautiful baby boy was here safe and well and smelling incredible.
The first midwife was due to finish her shift so asked if I would mind being stitched up in hospital, but I really didn’t want that so she stitched me up at home which was horrible (worse than the actual birth!)VBAC homebirth
It was still only 7.30pm and I knew Ettie would still be up so I was hoping we could go and get her, but because of the meconium we had to go to hospital to be observed. Feeling very surreal, I got up and dressed back into the dress I’d had on at the beach, put on a spritz of perfume (??) and waked down to the ambulance, our new baby in my arms. It was like an out of body experience, but I held tightly onto our beautiful baby boy the whole way, sniffing his tiny precious head so grateful that he was ok.
And that’s my homebirth story. A little bit different to the birth I’d anticipated, with mood lighting, birthing pool and fairy lights, but I did still have him at home which is really empowering and I know I’m going to love telling him that when he’s older. I’m also glad that I listened to my gut and planned a home birth because I had a feeling from previous experiences that labour was going to be quick.
My thoughts on a VBAC Homebirth
So the age old question, would I recommend a home birth as a VBAC? I’ve thought long and hard about this because the consultant did advise against it on the run up to my due date and it was only after talking to a friend who’s a midwife that I made the decision to go ahead with it. When my waters popped and they were black, I felt like I’d made a huge mistake, but at the same time I wouldn’t have been able to make it to hospital anyway given how quick everything happened so it was lucky i’d followed my instinct.
My honest answer to anyone planning a vbac homebirth would be to listen to your gut. If I was to get pregnant tomorrow and had a really strong urge to have the baby at home, then that is the route I would go down, but if my gut was telling me to be more cautious and go to hospital then thats what I’d do too.
Having a baby at home is empowering, it’s nice to be in your own surroundings and its a nice feeling afterwards knowing you’ve brought your baby into the world in the family home. But at the same time I think you have to be aware that things might go wrong and always be open to a back up plan.
If you are planning a homebirth after a C Section talk everything though with your consultant and read LOTS. I found the Positive Birth Book really good for birth information and KG Hypnobirthing good for hypnobirthing advice.
If you’d like to read more about Ollie… I wrote this introductory post the week he was born: Introducing Ollie Hugo Stanley