SARAH & ASTRID
I wanted share my Birthtale about my daughter Astrid - a VBAC (very nearly at home), rainbow baby after the traumatic birth of my son Oscar three and a half years before and miscarriage a year earlier.
I went into my second pregnancy with a lot of anxiety about her birth and concerns about how much I would have to fight to be supported to have a home birth after caesarean. I needn’t have worried. Every midwife and consultant I met with was respectful of my past experience and supportive of the choices I wanted to make this time around.
I did a lot to work through the emotional stuff that I was still carrying around from Oscar’s birth. I had a birth reflections session to help me make sense of his birth and to share my feelings about where I felt let down and traumatised by the care I received - it was one of the most cathartic things I’ve ever done. I also learnt hypnobirthing and did a lot of work on fear release about the anxieties I had developed about birth. And finally, I hired a birth doula to be part of our birthing team. Continuity of care was something that was really important to me and our local hospital didn’t have case loading for home birth at the time so having her meant there was the reassurance of having her familiar face and support on the big day.
I woke up on the Wednesday morning two days before my due date with cramping that grew stronger as the morning went on. Our doula came over later that morning, but by the time she arrived the surges that I had been having for the few hours previously had started to die down. I remember throwing my arms around our doula for a hug as soon as she walked through the door because I was feeling so discouraged that things were slowing down. Oscar’s birth had been an epic 30 hours and I was worried I would be in for the same marathon.
I decided we should go for a walk in the nearby cemetery to pick some blackberries to see if the walk would get things moving. When that didn’t seem to help we headed back to our house to eat, rest and trying to take my mind off of things. Eventually we decided it was best for our doula to go home and come back again once labour picked back up, whenever that would be.
I had a midwife appointment the next day and thirty minute walk there and back seemed to do the trick. When I got home I found that I’d lost my mucus plug and started to get some mild cramping which continued through the evening and into the night. They were still quite mild when I went to bed so I was thankful to be able to get a good night sleep.
They picked up in earnest in the morning and just as had happened a few days before, they kicked into full gear once Oscar was out of the house and at nursery. Throughout the pregnancy I had thought that I would want him there and for his sister’s birth but my body clearly had other ideas about what it wanted.
My husband called the midwives and doula late morning and they were all with us by lunch time. We had the birth pool set up in the lounge and ready to go for some reason, even though I knew I didn’t need anyone’s permission, I wanted to get the ok from the midwives about using the pool. As soon as they arrived I asked if it was ok to get in. They said yes, off came my clothes and in I went. The relief was immediate and incredible.
I spent the next several hours floating around the pool, breathing through the surges, being fed strawberries and drinking homemade lemonade and staring at the birth affirmations my friends had made at my mother blessing a few weeks earlier. Staring at them, I really felt like they were all there with me cheering me on.
At some point the midwives asked if I wanted to have a vaginal exam. I hadn’t want to have any as I’d had so many during Oscar’s birth and found them really uncomfortable and unhelpful psychologically. I decided that I did want to have one and was excited to find that I was well on my way to being fully dilated. I hopped back in the pool and continued breathing my way through each surge and visualising the word open.
During Oscar’s birth I don’t ever remember the surges being painful. Intense, yes. But painful no. With Astrid’s however, they were painful. Turns out she was back to back which explains why it felt different this time. When we realised that she was back to back the midwives encouraged me to get out of the pool and move around to try and get her to move into a more ideal position. I felt ridiculous marching and squatting around the flat but it did seem to do the trick.
Around dinner time I had the overwhelming urge to lie down and have a nap. So James and I crawled into to bed and cuddled while breathed through the surges and dozed in between. I realised afterwards that I was probably in my rest and be thankful phase but didn’t realise it at the time.
It was at this point that I started to notice a pinching feeling near my caesarean scar which worried me. One of the risks (albeit a small one) with VBAC is the risk of scar rupture. I mentioned it to my midwives and we talked about what to do. From their perspective everything else was fine so there wasn’t an immediate need to transfer to hospital unless I wanted to. My feelings were that I had noticed this sensation and couldn’t un-notice it and was worried about scar rupture which had burst the birthy bubble that I’d been in. I decided that I wanted to transfer to the labour ward just in case so an ambulance was called and we prepared to transfer in.
Up until this point I’d been using breathing and hypnobirthing techniques to cope but asked for gas and air while we were in ambulance on the way to the hospital - surges and speed humps don’t go well together! By the time I got to the hospital I was feeling quite giddy from the gas and air and was apparently cracking jokes.
The plan had been to transfer to one of the more home from home rooms on the labour ward so I could use the birthing pool but it wasn’t quite ready for us when we arrived so we were put in one of the other rooms until it was ready for us. Once again my body had other ideas and as soon as we were settled in that first room the intensity of the surges ramped up. I remember shouting instructions at people to turn the lights off, shove the bed out of the way and get me a birthing stool. As soon as I plonked myself down on it, it was clear that I wasn’t going anywhere until Astrid was born.
It wasn’t long before I started to feel pushy. One of the things that I’d put in my birth plan was that I didn’t want to be coached on how to push. I’d had people trying to do this when I was trying to birth Oscar and I’d found it really confusing and irritating. The midwives respected that and encouraged me but never told me what I should be doing or how I should be doing it. One of favourite memories of birthing Astrid was when I reached down and could feel her head. I had been so scared that I wasn’t going to be able to push her out, but here I was doing it and feeling like the most powerful goddess woman in the world. Even now, two and a half years later, thinking about that moment makes me emotional.
Once her head was born the rest of her body came out quite quickly into the hands of the midwife who handed her straight to me. The utter relief that she was hear safe and sound, the joy that we had our baby girl and the pride I felt that I’d done can’t ever fully be expressed in words. We’d chosen not to find out what we were having but I’d known deep down that she was going to be a girl and sure enough she was and we knew straight away that she was our Astrid and that our family was now complete.