Megan’s birth story
11/10/2021 at 4:16pm
Baby girl – Emmerson
I waited so long in hopes that I would get to write this very story. I write the word HBAC and instantly my eyes fill with tears of complete happiness – mostly because I achieved my VBAC, which was the main goal. But also, because birthed my baby girl in my own loungeroom surrounded by loved ones and amazing support.
My first birth to my beautiful son, Leo, was via “emergency” C-Section at 40+2. A classic cascade of intervention, a naive first-time mum-to-be and full trust in the public hospital system. I had no plan because I assumed I would push my baby out like my mum and my sister did and I would also “just go with it and do what is recommended by the hospital staff as they do this all the time”.
I tested positive for group B-strep (without thorough information on why I was doing the swabs in the first place or having the risks and benefits outlined to me), my waters broke at home, and I went to hospital immediately (as instructed to). I went into labour naturally with contractions starting shortly after my waters ruptured. Approx. 6 hours later, I was checked and wasn’t dilated, and my baby’s head was not engaged. I was advised the best option was to have morphine before getting induced to speed up labour. Meanwhile hooked up to monitoring and IV antibiotics, I soon found myself asking for the epidural as the contractions were so intense and significantly stronger from the natural contractions that I was breathing though quite comfortably. Not that I knew it at the time, but there was no assistance from any staff at the hospital to encourage my labour to progress. No one got me to change positions, walk around or try something different to help my baby get into position. From here it was “failure to progress” at 6cm after about 10 hours and baby was distressed. I was completely defeated, disappointed, felt like a failure, felt like my baby was delivered to me and I did not birth him.
Moreover, it was during the first covid lockdown period, so I was unable to have any additional birth support, the hospital had low staff and soon after having major abdominal surgery to birth my baby, my husband had to leave and only return for the scheduled 60-minute visit 2 x per day. I was left alone, completely exhausted, and probably too deep in my own thoughts.
The day after Leo’s birth, I was crying in the hospital bed and asked for a doctor to come and talk to me about what happened. This was also where I started asking if I am a good candidate for a vaginal delivery next time and from here my research about VBAC’s began. This does make me a little bit sad, that before my son was even 24 hours old, I was already wanting another baby to “fix” how I felt and to do it better next time, instead of enjoying my beautiful baby. 10 days post C-section, I fell extremely ill and was re-admitted to hospital for 4 days with a womb infection (Postpartum Endometritis). My son was not able to stay with me as it was covid and I was too unfit to care for him.
I never knew how much I was hurting until I had my HBAC and realised that was how I should have felt the first time. I have no regrets as I know I just wasn’t educated in my decisions, and I don’t think I would have had my home birth if it wasn’t for my first birth experience.
Baby #2 – Preparation
Leo was 9 months old when we fell pregnant with our second baby. I knew I wanted to have a VBAC as I had been reading about it since Leo was born and I was committed. At the time, I wanted to birth at KEMH, as the doctor from Leo’s birth advised this would be my best chance of a successful VBAC. I applied online for the CMP at KEMH, and I also researched private midwives who would have admitting rights to KEMH, in case I did not get accepted as I was not in the catchment area.
I wanted to avoid another C-section as to me the risks of having major surgery outweighed the risks of a VBAC. I wanted to be fit enough to look after Leo, I wanted my baby to be born when they were ready, and I wanted to avoid potentially experiencing postpartum Endometritis again. Most of all, I wanted to feel different this time. I wanted to feel empowered, educated, informed and that every decision was in my hands no matter the outcome. I just wanted to feel happy once my baby was born.
I enquired about a hypnobirthing course (Hypnobirthing Australia) and came across Renee’s VBAC story, feeling inspired and very excited.
I started to feel like my preferred option would be to have a private midwife, however financially I was unsure if it was affordable as we had just bought our first family home. I got in contact with my midwife when I was about 8 weeks pregnant and organised to meet with her to discuss my previous birth, my plans for this birth and it was an opportunity for me to ask any questions about having a private midwife. My midwife made me feel so comfortable with my willingness to have a VBAC, she was supportive, she made me feel confident and most importantly, I felt excited to give birth!
I decided that having a private midwife was the path I wanted to take for so many reasons. I wanted the continuity of care throughout the pregnancy, the convenience of home visit appointments with a toddler, I didn’t want to have to keep being told about the risks of a VBAC with multiple midwives/doctors, nor did I ever want to have to justify my decisions (which had been questioned by a GP who hadn’t had a patient experience a VBAC before). I just really wanted Peta to be my one and only person to communicate with during labour in the hospital if any decisions needed to be made. This was a big one, as knowing what I know now, I would have made different decisions in my first labour for a better experience, but I just didn’t have anyone to advocate for me. Peta would also provide me with 6 weeks postnatal support, which I felt was so important as I struggled the first time. Having her come to my house to visit us would be much more convenient than driving to appointments with a newborn and a toddler. Additionally, Peta is a lactation consultant. I had an unsuccessful breastfeeding journey with Leo for various reasons but was open to trying again, despite having a breast reduction in 2017.
My husband could see how happy I was after meeting with my midwife and we both knew how important it was for me to have a positive birth experience this time. I did not want to feel how I did after Leo’s birth, so the financial cost of having a private midwife was irrelevant now. I chose the option best for me and made it work. I also realised, I am getting so much from this service and not just paying for someone to be at my birth. I was getting 9 months of support from my midwife, someone to call or text at anytime when I needed to, someone who believed in me and could help me achieve my goal. Also, someone to support my new baby as well as myself for 6 weeks after – totally worth the investment!
I was nauseas and being sick until about 20 weeks. We had bought a new house which we organised to have completely renovated and sold our first family home. It was an exhausting and very busy pregnancy!
Peta organised all my blood tests, scans and came to me for all our check-ups. Baby was happy, healthy, constantly moving and always seemed to be in a great position too. I chose to decline the group B-strep test this time and I chose to monitor my blood sugar levels myself instead of doing the standard glucose blood tests.
We discussed all the risks as well as what happens when I go into labour and my birth preferences. For some reason, this entire pregnancy I would visualise giving birth in my loungeroom (at both houses we lived at) and never thought about the hospital. Perhaps having Peta visit me at home was the reason for this but I soon found myself curious about what happens if I just decide to stay home, and the baby is spontaneously born here? What if I am in the zone and don’t want to be interrupted? What if there isn’t enough time to transfer to hospital as I want to labour at home for as long as possible? (I really wasn’t up for a roadside birth!) After a few more appointments, I had decided I just wanted to be at home unless I needed or wanted to transfer to hospital. I felt safest at home, and this would be my best chance at a positive birth. I couldn’t think of anything more uncomfortable than being in my zone, then having it interrupted to get into a car to go to the hospital. If all was going well, it just felt unnecessary. I was also
very motivated to not have any medical pain relief this time as I believe the medication could have contributed to my previous birth ending in a C-section. A physiological birth was the safest option for me and my baby. I wanted to experience every part of a physiological birth – for me.
I was expecting my husband to be unsure of this idea to stay home but he was completely supportive. He explained how he trusted me and that he was aware of how much reading, listening and research I had been doing for so long about this birth, even prior to falling pregnant. He just trusted that I would know what to do.
Our preparation included attending Renee’s hypnobirthing course, which confirmed we were well informed and making all the right decisions with our birth plan(s) for us and was reassuring for my husband. I had multiple appointments with a women’s health physio for my pelvic floor health as I have a history of it being overactive and wanted to be as relaxed as possible. (Anna Forward at Subi Sports Med) I listened to my hypnobirthing tracks regularly and did exercises to ensure baby would maintain a good position for birth. I took raspberry leaf capsules and ate 6 dates most days from about 36 weeks. I had a good friend of mine write me some affirmations which I stuck up around my house to keep a positive mindset as I waited to go into labour. I also wrote my own affirmations coincidentally the night before labour began. I listened to podcasts, read books (Birth with confidence by Rhea Dempsey and The VBAC handbook by Helen Churchill & Wendy Savage) and I watched the documentary “Birth time”. I ended up promoting our maternity/newborn photographer to capture the birth of our baby also (Sara Bresser Birth Photography) – we felt comfortable with her and she was a great asset to our birth space with her calm, subtle presence.
I chose not to discuss my birth plan with any friends or family. I shared that I hired a private midwife who will support my decision to have a VBAC, which from my experience was a political topic itself. I wasn’t sure if I would birth at home or how it would all work out but I was prepared for a home birth, hospital transfer, intervention options and c-section. I wasn’t prepared to feel anything but satisfied with my birth and I wanted to do this on my own with my husband without any judgement or horror birth stories. I was in such a positive headspace the entire pregnancy.
I was irritable this day and it was the first day I thought “when will this baby come”. I was not impatient or uncomfortable the whole pregnancy but this day I just felt different. I had been having tightening’s for a few weeks, so nothing alarmed me by this stage, but I just wasn’t feeling confident being away from home.
That evening my son kept waking up for cuddles which was unlike him as he usually just sleeps through or if he does wake it would be for a drink/ dropped his “foxy” out of the cot. In the early hours of the morning, I ended up putting him into bed with us and he unexpectedly fell asleep. I lay there staring at my sleepy husband and son, thinking that soon there would be another little person in our bed, which made me so emotional. I took a photo of them snuggling together. I had teary eyes, then got a strong tightening, followed by two more and I knew something was different. I snuck out of bed, took myself to my couch and realised I was having to breath through them. My mum lives in a granny flat at our house and at about 6:30am I heard she was awake so I went in to sit with her and told her I thought today might be the day. I had asked my sister to be there to support me, (which she was extremely excited about) and I messaged her to let her know how I was feeling.
My husband woke up and I let him know I felt different. I was irritated that it was the daytime as I imaged it being overnight but then Ryan reminded me that “the baby will come when it is ready no matter the time of day”. I tried to ignore the surges and did all my usual chores to keep distracted while I was expecting my midwife to visit for a scheduled appt at 930am. I don’t know why but I didn’t think to message her to let her know I thought I could be in labour as she was coming over anyway and I was prepared for a marathon (I should have given her a heads up!).
My midwife arrived and I was in bed by this stage with my eyes shut, earphones in listening to my birth playlist and working through the surges. I was very emotional, overwhelmed and was in tears to myself. I opened my eyes to see my midwife at my bedside and then I just cried, I knew it was time to get ready to meet my baby! She said to keep resting and to call her when things progress.
We messaged my photographer Sara, the placenta encapsulation company (pure placentas) and my sister. From there I had no communication with anyone, I just focused on myself and went deep, keeping focused with my eyes shut the whole time. I had my TENS machine put on and my sister was keeping track of contractions without me asking. I had no idea who was in my house and what time they arrived as my sister Gemma & Ryan were communicating with all the support people for me. My mum helped look after my son (18mo) whilst Gemma and Ryan took turns comforting me as I was needing the support. (Lots of hand squeezing).
I spent about 4 hours side laying in bed resting until I decided to try and go to the toilet where I lost my mucous plug. Gemma took a photo to send to my midwife, it was here that I decided I wanted my midwife to come back now. My husband had pumped up the pool and covered the room in plastic once my son went down for his midday nap.
My midwife arrived at around 1:30pm and she asked me if it was okay for her to do a VE for her reference in case we needed to reassess down the track (which we discussed in our antenatal appointments). I didn’t know how dilated I was at the time, but I was 5cm. My midwife told my husband to start filling the pool with water, but I was unaware of anything going on. I knew i wasn’t getting in the water until I was in established labour, and I knew it wouldn’t be time to push until the second backup midwife, Louise, arrived (who I met at 36 weeks)- so in my head I thought I had hours and hours to go.
I had written some affirmations the night before but hadn’t cut them up or put them on my vision board. My sister would place them in front of me when I was on all fours moving around the room and I would glance at the ones that resonated with me at the time.
For a while now, I had been humming through each contraction and it felt more intense by this stage.
My midwife suggested getting in the water, however at the time I didn’t actually feel like it but I told myself to be open to suggestions during labour as I didn’t get any help this way the first time.
I felt relief as I got in the pool and stayed on my knees leaning over the pool edge. I started getting very vocal through my surges and I found this really worked for me. It wasn’t a scream just a loud “aaaahhhhhhhhh” noise at the peak of a surge.
My playlist had gone from artists like Missy Higgins/Matt Corby to Chris Brown/ Drake! I remember needing the music to stay focused and felt slightly amused in my head when my music got changed from my earphones to the Bluetooth speaker for all to enjoy. Chris Brown was on repeat for a while… haha!
Very soon after I got in the pool at the end of my surge my body would bear down, and I would make an involuntary grunting noise. It felt so good, like I was doing something productive but didn’t think anything of it. In my head I assumed my midwife might want to check I was 10cm or no cervical lip before I pushed (this wasn’t the case). Again, I also knew it couldn’t be time for my baby to be here until the second midwife had arrived, which she had but I was so deep in my trace I hadn’t noticed.
Intuitively, I put my hand in my vagina to see if I could feel anything and I could feel a slimy bubble of bulging waters. My midwife used the Doppler to monitor my baby and she wasn’t happy with heart rate as it was low. I got a little worried as this was one of the reasons the Caesarean was called in my first birth.
My midwife said “you need to change position for your baby now Megan”- so I turned to float on my back with my husband and sister either side of me holding my hands. Baby was happier once changing into this position and it felt comfortable floating in the water on my back – which surprised me as I was adamant I wouldn’t want to be on my back. I always imagined I would prefer to be kneeling over the bed/couch or on all fours.
My body kept involuntarily pushing at the end of each surge and without anyone coaching me, it just felt natural for me to bear down and push with it. With a big effort, I pushed out what I thought was the head, but instead a big bubble came out of me filled with water! My midwife was very excited, and I remember her saying “omg it’s just the sack!”. And in my head, I was thinking, shit… that was a big effort, and it wasn’t even the head! I came out of my trance and put my hand down to feel the bubble of water, it was incredible.
The next surge came and as my body bared down, I could feel the ‘ring of fire’ as I birthed my baby’s head into the sack of waters that had come out first. I came out of my trance again then felt my baby’s head. Everyone was very excited and almost celebrating like it was a big relief it was all over, but I knew the next surge was coming and I had to push again to get the body out. My midwife stood in front of me and said “the next push you’re going to meet your baby!”
The next surge came and I was ready for it to be the last one. With a mighty roar I felt my baby’s body being born. At the time, with my eyes closed, I thought my midwife had put her hand in me to assist the shoulders coming out, but I later found out I did it all on my own and I was feeling my baby rotate as she was coming out. It was incredible to know I got to feel every detail of my baby being born down to her little knuckles.
At 4:16pm my beautiful baby girl was born in the caul. After she shot out and almost rebounded off the other side of the pool, I pulled her up onto my chest from under my legs and it was a moment I wish I could relive over again. The most euphoric, fulfilling and healing moment I never knew I needed.
I shouted, “I DID IT!” repeatedly, with my eyes filled with tears. I was in awe at what I had done. So proud, so joyful, so completely healed and I’ve never felt so accomplished in my life. I will never be able to describe that feeling but it was the best moment of my life and I don’t know if anything will ever come close.
A baby girl MY baby girl, Emmerson. We dreamed about her and spoke about her for so long, not knowing she was in there this whole time. My intuition told me I was having a girl. I only bought a few girl items the entire pregnancy and always called my bump a “she”. But I could only ever imagine having boys after Leo, so it was too good to be true. I’ve never cried so hard with happiness, and I still cry when I reminisce finding out the gender. The first girl in our family for over 20 years and the best surprise ever. She didn’t cry, she just locked eyes with me and was so calm with me holding her in the water. I felt that instant connection with my daughter and so much love.
My mum walked in the door from taking Leo to a sleepover (she was always unsure if she wanted to be there or not which I left up to her). Mum had a bunch of roses in her hand, and she looked down the loungeroom to see me with my baby in my arms- a moment I’ll forever cherish. Then when she found out she had her first granddaughter, the tears just flooded the room. It was so beautiful.
I had a physiological birth of my placenta, which took about 45 minutes. I pushed with my contractions while I held my baby in the water, then tried standing to see if it would fall out. I ended up pushing it out on the couch and keeping baby attached for a while as I snuggled her.
I got to shower at home and then lay on my couch holding my baby in my own lounge room surrounded by loved ones and the most incredible support team. We had cups of tea, Vegemite toast, sausage rolls and talked about the whole day. My birth photographer stayed for 2 hours after and it was amazing having her there. I loved her being there in general as she had such a calm nature.
Following my shower, my midwives assessed me and stitched up my small tear while I relaxed on my bed. I enjoyed having this experience at home instead of a hospital environment too. Everything was so calm and safe the entire day.
This time, we got to introduce our baby to our family together and not separately over the phone (thanks covid). Ryan’s parents came over with dinner when Emmerson was about 3 hours old, and we facetimed his sisters to share our news. It was so intimate that evening and so wonderful that everyone we shared that day with were all familiar faces and people that we loved.
Once everyone left, I stayed up all night on the couch kissing my beautiful baby girl, crying the happiest tears, and boasting to all my friends and family about what I did. I will never be shy to tell this story, it has completely healed me and it was incredible. Birth is amazing and truly so beautiful. I wish that every woman feels this happiness when they reflect on their baby’s birth, no matter how they are born. I also hope one day that birth is spoken about as positive and incredible, instead of painful.