Kathy from BumpBabyAndMe shares her positive VBAC experience.
That old phrase “Once a caesarean always a caesarean” is just that…old.
Times are changing, slowly in some cases when to comes to our health service, but today in Ireland, if a women has had a caesarean birth previously and wishes to have a vaginal birth on her next baby, she should be supported to do so. There are obviously certain factors that need to be taken into consideration, but if a woman is considered ‘low risk’ then she will more than likely be encouraged to try for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean).
I am involved in various online groups surrounding pregnancy and birth and the feedback is that when it comes to VBAC, support from caregivers can vary quite a lot from hospital to hospital. Choosing a hospital and Doctor or Midwife who supports and understands your wishes for a VBAC can make the world of difference.
When I became pregnant with Robyn I knew I wanted to have a VBAC. I also knew that I’d need to do quite a bit of prep work and get the right support to achieve this. And that’s exactly what I did.
*I read articles about best practice and up-to-date guidelines on VBAC.
*Myself and Steve took a VBAC workshop.
*I decided what was important to me regarding the birth and wrote up Birth Preferences.
*I trained my mind by listening to the GentleBirth App
*I found a supportive medical team.
*I trained when I could in my husbands gym, PTI.
*My husband was fully on board with my choices
* Last but certainly not least, I hired a Doula
So how did it all play out….?
To recap, I hadn’t experienced labour of any kind on Ayla, my first little girl. She was breech all through my pregnancy and remained so right up until our planned caesarean at 39 plus 1 day.
Despite doing everything and anything to turn her head down, she decided what way she wanted to be (that trait is still with her two and a half years later!) so she was born by a very ‘gentle’ caesarean section. I look back on that birth in a very positive light thankfully.
However, like I said above I knew when I got pregnant on Robyn I wanted to give a VBAC my best shot.
My hospital visits were all very ‘normal’.
Baby was head down and pretty low in my pelvis from about 35/36 weeks. I had a feeling that things would start themselves but then I had also prepared myself for the possibility that I may go a few days over and that we would more than likely have a standard ‘first time’ labour where things start slowly, perhaps taking a few days to get going etc… Well, surprise, surprise that wasn’t Robyn’s plan at all!
It was Sunday and after a lovely day walking the legs off ourselves in Dublin Zoo we came back home and I noticed I was getting some fairly regular twinges. These twinges started to get a good bit stronger as the evening wore on and Steve thought it might be a good idea to start timing them. I agreed, but in my head I was thinking I could be like this for days!
I took Ayla up to bed and looking back it was the perfect end to a perfect day. She cuddled up to my big bump and me and as I breathed in her gorgeous familiar smell I felt really happy and calm. Little did I know that night was our last night as a family of three and Robyn’s journey was already very much underway.
After some more kisses, whispers about our days adventure in the Zoo and a final big cuddle she went down to sleep so easily, leaving me free to have a little wander around the house.
In the quiet, I took a few moments to check-in with myself and figure out what I felt like doing. I think it was only when I went back downstairs to Steve, sat on my birth ball and timed a few more ‘twinges’ did we establish they really were proper contractions!
From 9pm or so they were getting stronger and closer together but I still managed to go and shave my legs and paints my nails!
By 10pm we agreed (and prayed!) that this wasn’t a false alarm.
I got into a half filled bath (I was too impatient to wait any longer) but I felt like a hippo tossing and turning in a puddle, so I went back to our en-suite bathroom and got back onto my hands and knees. This was the position that I felt most comfortable in and one I knew would allow the baby to move down.
Steve had his mum on stand by to come to stay with Ayla and somewhere around 11pm my waters went, the contractions ramped up and it was very clear that this wasn’t a drill! We were on!
It was nearing midnight but time had lost all meaning to me.
Steve called his Mum and our Doula Mim, who thankfully lived just ten minutes away.
When they arrived I was really in the throes of it. I knew we needed to try and move to the hospital but it was SO difficult to stand up and move. Things were really intense and if it wasn’t for Steve and Mim’s support, I could have let it overwhelm me. This baby was coming and coming fast!
I told Mim there was no way I could get into the car and make the journey into hospital so she asked Steve to call an ambulance. She knew by me and by the noises I was making that there was no time to waste. Within ten minutes two Dublin Fire Brigade paramedics were with us and I was slowly making my way down the stairs squeezing the life out of Greg’s (the paramedic!) hand. It was so refreshing to get out into the cool night air and then I got myself into the ambulance where the gas and air awaited me! Mim came with me in the ambulance and Steve drove right behind us, on high alert that a pit stop might be necessary.
The best way to explain this stage of labour was that the sensations consumed me. My body totally took over and my head had to go with it. I surrendered in a way. I kept fear at bay and just let the contractions come and go. Mims calm voice reminded me to ‘Let it go’. It seems like a simple instruction but it really helped because without me even realising it, I was holding tension after each surge. ‘Letting go’ allowed me to relax and let my body and baby work together and take over.
During the ambulance ride I concentrated on taking slow, long breaths of the gas and air. It really helped me focus and just before we arrived at the hospital I could feel the top of Robyn’s head. What an amazing, crazy moment that was.
The ambulance crew got me up to a room on the Delivery floor at 1.17am and just as I was getting myself onto the hospital bed (still on hands and knees!), Steve rushed in to me, grabbed my hand and said ‘I’m here, I’m here’.
Robyn made her appearance at 1.18am, one minute after getting to hospital. Steve had got there just in the nick of time!
I spent the majority of my labour on my hands and knees and stayed there (probably in shock) until someone reminded me to turn around to meet my new baby girl! Mim just looked at me with a big smile and said ‘Now THAT is how you rock a VBAC!’
Thinking back, the few moments after the birth seems a bit like a dream. I remember Mim saying ‘Has your mind caught up with what’s happened yet?’ I lay there for a little while letting everything sink in. Robyn started to feed and Steve cut the cord. Things after that went pretty straightforward and a little while later we were having some hot tea and toast and gazing down at the newest addition to our family. Ayla was a big sister now and she had a little sister who was healthy and perfect. All was good in our worlds.
The next day when Steve brought Ayla into meet her little sister my heart could have burst with love. I felt so fortunate.
Ayla was interested in Robyn to a point but was even more interested in the snacks I had in my room and running about the place!
I was lucky enough to get a private room in the hospital so it was nice to get some time to feed Robyn and relax as much as I could. As nice as it was though I was ready to get home to my little family two days later and settle in to our new.
And here I am, a few months on and yes it’s busy and yes it’s crazy, but that’s our life and we are loving it!
If you are considering a VBAC there is lots of good information available online. Here’s two examples from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and NICE:
Thanks as always for reading & if you’d like to keep up to date with all the Bump Baby and Me happenings just like my Facebook page & feel free to get in touch.
Kathy is passionate about all things surrounding birth, babies and parenthood. She also has a big interest in wellness, health & fitness.
She runs ‘Bump, Baby and Me’ – providing Pre & Postnatal classes & workshops & Doula services in Malahide, Co. Dublin and LOVES working with mums, dads & babies.
She is the proud mummy to her little girls Ayla & Robyn.