Having had an emergency c-section for Frances, after a traumatic 24 hour labour that ended in a ventouse, a baby that suddenly tried to emerge conventionally after the incision had been made, the section and recovery itself, and a baby that had an unexpected cleft lip and palate, i got pregnant again 11 months later with trepidation, but i knew if i didn’t do it quickly, i would never do it again.
I booked with my same midwife, and was keen to have her at the birth, although in retrospect this was a mistake as she was not terribly supportive of my anxiety to vbac. I had an easy pregnancy although i was rather worried and apprehensive and much less well informed than i am now. It was a difficult time.
2 days before my due date, we sent Frances up to my parents for the weekend. I had had a false alarm 3 days before and my midwife had examined me and said she couldn’t see me dialating without inducing – i was still firmly closed. In retrospect this was an odd thing to say – i had in fact dilated to a full 10cm with my first labour but Frances had not engaged well due to a lot of extra fluid that cleft babies often have.. Anyway, we couldn’t decide how to spend our free evening, and ended up deciding to repaint our 24ft living room!!!! We worked till 1am and of course at 5am i woke up with labour pains!!!! I also noticed that i had painted the living room matt along the bottom while my husband had used silk for the top half!!!! So, in denial, i went for a bath to stop these “false labour” pains and he repainted!!!
Anyway, things were clearly on the move, so we called the midwife, and although she was rather cross with me, she came and i was 3cm!!! My contractions were mild and irregular so we went for a walk, with my tens machine on for the odd strong one, and when that didn’t speed things up, we went to DFS to sit on sofas; i thought that might encourage my waters
to break! It was during the walk that i met one of my lovely SW class members for almost the last time; i remember grinning through a contraction at him and wishing i could get going, but in fact he died 3 weeks later. I saw him once more at a class, and he gave Maddy an adoring look and said “I have 10 grandchildren, and every one is gorgeous…”
However. 3 hours later, the midwife came back – I was now 4cm but my BP was up and the babys heartbeat was too. I agreed to go to hospital. Once there, the normal treadmill of monitoring and intervention started. I was very disappointed that my midwife failed to be much of an advocate for me, even though by this time everything had returned to normal. They tried to insist on a drip, and when questioned they said i was “showing signs of toxemia.” Fortunately my husband queried this, as everything now seemed fine again. They were very put out by his questioning and one midwife became really quite rude. She was hunting about in my arm for a vein, despite my protestations, and talking about my “very difficult veins” over my head as if i was a difficult school child. She looked at me, strapped to my bed and said “you have 2 hours, you are on a 2 hour countdown to a section.” (This midwife was mentioned by name on my 3rd birthplan as not being allowed anywhere near me!!!)At this point i started to cry and my wonderful husband threw them all out and told them not to come back until they had a registrar with them. I think, quite frankly, it is due to this and little else, that i got my vbac.
After a good long time, a registrar appeared. He was wonderful. He couldn’t understand the fuss and said “Lets break your waters and give you a few hours, if that doesn’t work we can try a drip and if that doesn’t work we can look at a section some time tomorrow.” I was still
only 4cm and it was 8pm at this point, so all this seemed pretty reasonable. I decided, at this point, that what was most important was to keep my head and not get tired so i decided to have an epidural. Then they broke my waters. It all became very relaxed – it was a light epidural and i could feel the contractions but still cope easily. The only thing i didn’t like much during this was the midwife, who sat in the corner and “looked” at me – and i felt i wanted to hide my face for every contraction. Max did the cross word and made encouraging faces when required! The pain began to get very strong (my husband says he recalls me having two syringes of epidural with the first and only half for the second) and i had gas and air. I began to make a lot of grunting noises and the midwife said “You CAN’T want to push – you were 4cm less that 2 hours ago” I suspect i may have muttered something less than polite – i was on quick examination “8cm… no…just an anterior lip – oh i can feel the head!!!!!” Minutes prior to this she had been asking for names so she could write out wristbands and was most put out we didn’t have a boy name!!!
The registrar had asked to be there at the birth as the babys head had been very high and he was called. In these few minutes as the pain and the urge to push became overwhelming, they lost the babies heartbeat and a panic ensued. I was bumped from my small room to a large one as i had expressed a real desperation not to have my baby removed from my room for resusitation. Frances had been taken out and brought back
several minutes later and the distress that caused me was hardly tolerable. I had dreadful nightmares for ages afterwards that she had been swapped for another baby; fortunately she looks enough like me for that not to be the case!!!) so they moved me to a room with a resuss table. It was very unpleasant to be moved, but i appreciated that they made the effort to follow my expressed wish.
The registrar now said ” This baby has to come out now. I am putting the forceps together, if you don’t want me to use them – PUSH!!!!” And i did!!!!! With 3 pushes (not bad for a first delivery!) out she came. I have an incredibly strong memory of visualising a bowling ball emerging out of the mechanism that delivers it back to the players during this time! I felt her crown, felt her nose and felt her swoosh out at great speed – NOTHING could have stopped me pushing!!! I opened my eyes just in time to see her appear on the bed, before she was grabbed, cord cut and whisked to the table. I think i knew she was fine because i didn’t ask”Is everythign okay?” I asked “Is it a girl or a boy?” and refused to believe Max who had seen it was indeed a girl!
Fortunately she was fine and came back to me quickly. I had a small tear (and kicked the registrar when he tried to stitch it without a local!!!) and i lost some blood, which made me faint when i tried to stand up, but after a night in hospital (she was born at 10.55pm), i was home, elated and relieved. Even afterwards, the midwife in charge was pretty rubbish really – she was shouting at a bewildrered and tired Max to get things and he had no idea WHAT she was talknig about. Grrrr….
My third child was born by a genuine emergency section with a presenting cord – the experience was so different to my first section and the people involved made it lovely for me. In some ways, that 3rd birth was the best of all because i was consulted, in control and respected throughout. I had planned an hbac and that planning had made me regret bits of my vbac that i wanted to have been better. But in retrospect i know i was lucky to get that vbac experience and it was a very very healing one, not least because i and we, grew in power during it.
I am just pregnant again and for the first time i am not too bothered how the baby is born. It matters more to me to make my own choice and not spoil the peace i have found than to hold on desperately for a birth that might end in pain and anger again. I think some of this peace has come from knowing i really DID nearly lose my third child (and they also found a hole in my uterus when they did the section) but much of it comes from having had a vbac, so i know i “can.”