Today is the 27th September, a very special day in our house as it is my daughters birthday. Being our youngest, she is still very much our baby (& will be even when she is 35!). Now the presents have been opened & the chocolate breakfast has been demolished, I find myself in a reflective mood, thinking about her birth 7 years ago.
When I discovered I was pregnant with Evie, I knew immediately that I wanted a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). I had been teaching antenatal classes for 3.5 years at this point, filling lots of expectant parents with confidence about their ability to birth & hearing lots of amazing positive birth stories as a result, so I knew without doubt that I could do it too. My husband was on board, I had done my research, what could possibly go wrong?
I had my booking in appointment with my community midwife, who to this day I am so incredibly grateful to, she was amazing and so supportive of my VBAC plan. But due to my previous cesarean, I was considered high risk (does anyone else hate that term??) and therefore put under consultant care. Oh & did I mention that as I was also 40 at the time and therefore considered decrepit, this made me even more high risk..ffs.
So off I went to my first consultant appointment, with my VBAC plan firmly in place. I still remember sitting across from a registrar excitedly sharing my birth plan and her looking at me in a kind of sympathetic way. I was expecting a 'Yes, sounds brilliant. We think it's fabulous that you would like a vaginal birth' kinda of response. Instead, I was told that they whilst they would 'allow' me to have a VBAC, due to the risk of a uterine rupture I would be continuously monitored throughout, cannulated and basically prepped and ready to go to theatre at a moments notice. Doesn't that sound like an oxytocin filled birth environment to you?
Before we move on, let's just consider the risk here. According to the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (RCOG) the risk of a uterine rupture is 0.5%. Which means there is a 99.5% of it not happening. Yep you read it right - 99.5%!!! Now if someone told me that I had a 99.5% chance of winning the lottery, I would take it. So why is all the focus on the risk? Yes I understand that a uterine rupture is a very serious matter, in fact it can be life threatening to both mum & baby, but encouraging a women to birth in a stress filled environment is surely not going to help?
I left my appointment feeling pretty deflated. So when I got the option to meet my consultant a few weeks later, I jumped at the chance as of course he would support my plan, right? I left that appointment booked in for a cesarean at 39 weeks. I actually find this funny now. I remember calling my husband to tell him and his astonished response 'but you don't want a cesarean?' To this day, I am still not sure how that happened!? But it was at that point I knew I needed to move trusts if I wanted my VBAC. So I hopped over the county border to a hospital in a different trust, at 35 weeks pregnant & this was honestly the best decision I have ever made.
The support I received from the outset was amazing. They truly believed my VBAC was possible in the way that I wanted it. I was told I would be left to birth undisturbed & I could have the pool room if it was available. Finally I felt like I could plan for the birth I knew I was capable of. The only caveat was that if baby hadn't arrived by 41 weeks, then a cesarean would be recommended (I still don't know why, I don't think I was listening at this point as had convinced myself that the baby would arrive before then - or so I thought!).
So fast forward a few weeks, I am 40 weeks pregnant and no sign of baby. In that week I tried everything; reflexology, currys, raspberry leaf tea and even agreed to a stretch & sweep. On the 26th September, the day before my planned cesarean, I agreed to one final stretch & sweep. I initially wasn't going to have one, as I found them really unpleasant and experienced bleeding & cramps after my last one, but I thought at this stage what have I got to lose. My midwife told me I was so close to going into labour and my waters were bulging, if I could push back the cesarean a few more days, labour would happen spontaneously . I was so close but yet so far away! I left her room and pretty soon the cramps started, just like the last time so I just carried on with my day.
I had an appointment at the hospital later that afternoon for my pre op. I was gutted that after all my planning & dreaming, I was going to have to have a cesarean after all. I got really emotional at my appointment and as the cramps were still there, I was feeling a bit rubbish. I drove home crying and at this point started to notice the cramps were getting a little stronger but surely they were just still Braxton Hicks? However by about 5pm, I finally had to accept that I was in labour.
As the evening continued, my contractions continued to build & I thought my waters may have broken. So around 9pm we called the hospital. It took about 45 mins for someone to answer the phone, which panicked me a little as the unit had been shut the previous week for a few nights due to being so busy (the 26th September is the busy day of the year to have a baby - great timing!). However we managed to get hold of a midwife and they asked us to come to the unit, so although I knew I wasn't in active labour, we headed in.
When we arrived my contractions were still manageable and they tested to see if my waters had broken, which they hadn't. At this point I was around 4cm dilated & they were planning to send me home. However as the unit was quiet, they asked if I would like to stay and moved me into one of the delivery suites. Which was a good job, as not long after arriving, I could really feel my contractions starting to build in strength. Knowing what I know now, I think I may have had her on the side of the road if we hadn't stayed!!
Over the next hour or so my contractions started to become more frequent, much more intense & the pressure in my bottom was very hard to ignore. The only position that felt comfortable throughout was standing. I breathed & rotated through every contraction, rising on to my toes as the contraction reached its peak, with my husband massaging my back. It was honestly the most empowering, raw experience.
Not long after my waters broke (whilst still wearing my leggings), and maybe 15 minutes Iater I could feel she was coming. Evie was born whilst I was still standing at 1.30am on the 27th September. The rush of oxytocin was like nothing I have ever felt before. I feel so blessed to have had this experience & would do it again in a heartbeat.
So when I think about how I achieved my VBAC, I believe it was down to the following:
I found a hospital that was truly supportive of VBAC. What I mean by this, is one that respected my wishes & did not tell me how I was going to birth my baby or placed loads of restrictions on me.
I spent hours researching so I knew the risks, was able to talk with knowledge about my choices & I knew my rights. Remember - it is ALWAYS your choice how & where you birth your baby.
I trusted my body. There was never a point when I doubted my ability to birth my baby. I remained focused and positive throughout and as a result loved giving birth.
So there you go, my birth story finally written down - 7 years after the event. I hope this helps anyone deciding if a VBAC is for them. I would love to hear your comments or maybe you would like to share your VBAC story.