Kelly : homebirth VBAC after traumatic first birth

Kelly and Broderick

Kelly and Broderick

Broderick has arrived! With my due date the 2/11/05 I was certainly getting impatient last week – 24/10/05. And every day said to my baby, ‘you can come now if you want to, I’m ready’.

On Sunday 30th October I felt good and ready and we had a lovely calm day at home, did food shopping. As the sun set and I knew my midwife finished work at about 11pm I relaxed into myself a little more, and around 7pm, I noticed that I felt some tightenings. I got a bit excited after the 2nd one and told Brett. He said, ‘let’s time them’. At first I said, no!’ as I didn’t want any pressure to have a tightening. I didn’t want to be disappointed if they went away (as they had done many times in the last 2 weeks). So Brett said ok but every time I had one, I told him and by about 8.30pm we were feeling excited as they were reliably 15 mins apart – I could tell the time just by going on when I got the next tightening. I said, ‘Brett is it 8 o’clock’ and it was – exactly 15 mins since my last one at 7.45.

So we stayed up until about 10.30pm, me just sitting comfortably, leaking a little fluid (amniotic) and enjoying thinking about the possibilities of the next 24 hours!

At 10.30pm I was just telling Brett that I might see him soon, but maybe these ightenings will just die down when I go to sleep. When I took my next step, I felt a small gush. We looked, smelled, touched and I knew it was the amniotic fluid! So I said to him, see you soon!! And I took my 4 year old son, Hudson to read him to sleep (very late for our big boy who was caught up in our excitement too!)

At 11pm I turned off the light feeling very excited and wondering what would happen next. I knew my midwife would be free now so felt totally relaxed. Huddy looked peacefully asleep and had been so excited when we told him that the baby might come tonight (like me he was jumping up and down on the spot saying woohoo!)

I slept well until 1o’clock exactly when I woke with a tightening and a big urge to empty my bladder. I got up and out came a little gush of fluid. I walked quickly to the toilet with little gushes coming out with each step! I got to the toilet and weed but also felt a period pain like cramping. I sat there for a few minutes and then felt a tightening. I thought, Yay! They’re still here. Then, what should I do now? Try to get more sleep? Wake Brett up? Just stay here for now? So I stayed for 10 mins and had another 2 tightenings. I was excited and I knew I needed Brett so I gingerly made my way up to our bed in between contractions. It all seemed so surreal at this stage, like, could this really be happening? Am I really in labour? But at the same time I felt so ready and happy. I was labouring at home, in an environment where I felt completely safe and comfortable, labouring spontaneously under my own steam! It was a real adventure. And it was further into labour that I had ever gotten before!

I went into Brett and said, ‘babe, I’m having contractions!’ Brett took a minute to register but when he did, he quickly got up and asked how I was and how far apart they were. I told him probably about 5 mins apart. He asked me if I wanted to call my midwife yet. I said no, I really felt that I just wanted to let this go on for awhile and handle it myself. And really be convinced it was the real thing.

So Brett got up and we went back to the toilet fairly swiftly as I had felt comfortable there (even though before labour I swore the last place I would want to be in labour is the toilet!!) and suddenly had a huge urge to empty my bowels. We made our way back – me walking fairly quickly. I got there and felt the bizarre feeling of emptying my bowels and having a contraction at the same time! It felt like practice for the pushing stage. The contractions felt like strong period pain. They were still about 5 mins apart. When it came on it built up and my uterus tightened, the pain was like fairly sharp jabs of period pain. I sat on the toilet for some time but also stood with my knees bent a little and leaned forward onto Brett for support. During this time, I really went into myself and focused on the tightenings. I couldn’t really notice or take in anything else going on. I didn’t think about Hudson (asleep in his room) or worry about who was there and not there. Even now it is difficult to remember times, what I felt, and what I was doing as I was absorbed in my body and mind. Time was of no relevance. It was absolutely perfect being at home, as I felt totally able to do whatever I needed to do and never once wanted to be anywhere else but home to birth this baby.

Brett asked me several times if I wanted to call my midwife. I said no as I felt I needed to get a way through this on my own and I was still slightly aware enough to worry that I might feel ‘watched’ – which I really didn’t want.

Finally at about 2am I agreed that Brett should call my midwife just to let her know what was going on. I heard him say that the contractions were about 5 mins apart and that I was ‘fine’. I remember thinking (exasperatedly) ‘fine?! – I am not fine – I am in labour and it is painful and all-consuming and ‘fine’ just is not appropriate in this situation!! I wanted him to say ‘oh, she’s going so well, she’s handling the pain so well etc…’ I guess I wanted to feel acknowledged and reassured that I was handling it well at that point.

After a little longer I wanted to have a shower and feel clean and warm. We walked to the bathroom, Brett turned the taps on and I got in and washed up and then got on all fours on the foam mat. I was now feeling a little stressed as the contractions were picking up in intensity and Brett seemed a bit stressed about being here by ourselves. He asked me to tune into the baby and make sure babe was ok. I tried hard but I couldn’t really get a sense of exactly how the baby was – I was just too consumed with getting through each contraction. Brett wanted to call my midwife again and I said no and told him that I was starting to feel panicky because of his stressing. He said sorry but admitted that he felt uneasy and wanted to hear the baby’s heart beat. I went through several contractions in the bath but was distracted with the notion of worry about the baby and being fair to Brett who I knew was feeling uncomfortably responsible for me and bubs. So I suggested I hop on the bed and Brett could try to hear the baby’s heart beat (as he had successfully done often towards the end of the pregnancy) to put our minds at rest.

Brett dried me off and onto bed I hopped lying down in between contractions so Brett could listen. He could hear lots of rushing blood etc but could not locate the heartbeat specifically. However we both felt reassured that babe was fine, just by intuition. I did notice that lying on my back with Brett pressing his head to my belly was actually quite painful and again felt so grateful that I was not required to do this (as in a hospital setting).

We were on the bed a short time when I felt myself looking around for somewhere else to go – I didn’t feel comfortable on the bed- I needed to feel grounded, the wooden boards under my feet.

We headed out to the lounge room now and I was on all fours again, rocking my hips around, leaning on Brett’s lap (Brett sitting on the couch). The intensity was getting stronger and the pains were still like heavy period pain jabs but lasting a little longer and perhaps 3 or 4 mins apart. After a little while I started to feel sick in the stomach and said to Brett I needed to go back to the toilet to vomit.

I walked back down to the toilet and vomited very strongly. It was a bit distressing at this time as contractions were strong also and I felt out of control of my body doing all these involuntarily movements. I was a bit teary about the vomiting – I really do not like it at all. Brett supported me physically and then got me some water. He again suggested we ring my midwife – it was now, 4am that I felt it was time, I really needed her here. I felt I needed more emotional and mental support and I knew Brett needed to share the load also. I instantly felt good knowing she was on her way to be with me. I stayed down in the toilet, sitting on it, leaning against Brett while standing with knees bent (feeling enormous gratitude to my strong, amazing husband) and finally on all fours on the floor. It suddenly did not worry me whether the floor was dirty etc, I just had to be in whatever position I wanted and be wherever I felt comfortable.

At about 4.45am I heard my midwife arrive. I was conscious of her presence however I was working hard and I did not feel ready to communicate. I had a couple of contractions before I decided to look up and see that she was there. When I looked up I was greeted with her warm and calm, peaceful smile to me from only a metre away on the bottom step. I remember thinking how perfectly she had entered my birth space – so quietly, calmly, unrushed, and so unobtrusively. I felt a rush of gratitude at this and instantly felt reassured that everything was fine and I was progressing normally. Her smile told me all this! I realized then that she was indeed that perfect midwife and support person for Brett and me. Any rushing in or racing around me would certainly have rattled my confidence, whereas her actions reaffirmed my instinctive belief that all was as it should be in my labour progress at that time.

After some time in the toilet, we moved up to the lounge room (about 5.20am). At this time the sun had begun to light up the house and I felt quite annoyed by this as I had imagined the birth being at night time and I was conscious that Hudson may wake some time soon and I had not pictured him at the birth of the baby. This feeling stayed with me for a few mins but knowing Huddy usually wakes as late as 9am I decided it would definitely be all over by then!

On getting to the lounge room I was on my knees again on a cushion leaning my head into Brett’s lap and rocking quite vigorously through contractions, which were very intense. I was vocalizing a lot now and the pain had changed to an intense contracting sensation which felt as though it lasted about 10 seconds or so, I knew I wasn’t handling them as well I had envisioned that I would! I felt quite overwhelmed at this point, even irritated, and certainly teary and upset at how painful it was. At this point, I thought about many of my beautiful birthing friends and the things they had told me about coping with the pain and to stay strong and focus on the fact that this is a journey of incredible energy, love and ultimately culminating in the birth of my beautiful, darling baby, a birth that is everything that is right for me and my baby, something that many millions of strong amazing women have done before me and will do after me. I felt myself waiver often and be drawn into the pain, but I always found my way back to a feeling that it was ok, I just needed to keep on going. I knew that one more contraction was one step closer to the end of labour and new life with my baby.

I also moved my hips in a circular motion and found that tapping my toes hard against the floor helped a lot with the pain, it helped by taking the focus off my uterus and down to my feet. Also the rhythmic tapping was comforting somehow. I used breathing also to help with contractions, breathing heavily and quickly at different times. I moaned and groaned also as I felt I needed to. At times my moan would go up to a level of whimpering noise but I tried hard and mostly was able to bring it back to a smooth deep moan as I noticed that the pain felt worse if I cried out. At some point, my midwife was beside me and massaging my lower back. I felt my body melt into her touch – it felt so comforting, a little bit motherly/nurturing which was nice. She tried some hot towels too, but they felt too hot and it seemed too awkward so she didn’t continue with that for long. But it was what she said that made the biggest difference to my coping at this time. She said, ‘go into it Kelly, go into the contraction’. At first I thought no!, if I relax and let this contraction go through me it will overwhelm me. But then I also realised that if I let these contractions really do their work, my progress may be quicker. So I took a deep breath and let the next one take me all the way into it. I was determined to stay strong and try this. Sure enough, it was overwhelming but like it was progressing further than before when I was trying to run away from the contraction! I remembered my friend Rachelle telling me that she had thought ‘what would happen if I just let go’ and shortly after was when her baby Luke’s head descended! The breaks between the contractions were a god-send, like this blissful calm, then followed by this massive wave gathering speed and crashing on me! Early on, in between contractions I felt like I fell asleep, it was that calm, and I know Brett did too, and then suddenly it was all on. The woman’s body is so amazing how it handles labour!

Eventually I stood up, no longer comfortable on my knees and feeling quite upset and annoyed at how this just kept on going! I looked at our front door many a time and thought, I wonder how hard it would be to slip out briefly and get, say an epidural or something!!! But I knew deep down, that was the last thing I would have actually done! So I stood up and looked at my midwife and said ‘how long is this going to take!’ and she rubbed my arm and said ‘it takes as long as it takes’ and I thought no! wrong answer!! But I knew that that was what she was going to say! I was pacing around a bit in pain and shaking my wrists with annoyance, when my midwife suggested we go back to the toilet. I felt a pushing sensation but wasn’t sure how to go with it so we thought sitting on the toilet may help. Looking back now, I think this stage was transition. It was about 7.30am by now and I was keen for it to be over.

I spent about half an hour on the toilet with a really uncomfortable pushy feeling and was a bit conscious of a fear of birthing babe into the toilet so really couldn’t let go properly.

I remember my midwife suggesting another change in scenery, as I wasn’t really progressing in the toilet. So finally we went to the shower/bath, which is where I had envisioned birthing my baby. So as we headed there I thought, this is it, the last stop. As we walked past Huddy’s bedroom I saw him sitting up on his bed, motionless, speechless, listening to all the sounds of birth going on in the house. He looked aware and curious, not upset, but certainly needing some reassurance. I think Brett tended to him briefly while my midwife set me up in the shower. I had a fleeting thought that I wished there was another me to mother him and tell him that I was perfectly ok, but I quickly left that thought as I knew there was nothing I could do about that right now and birthing this baby would need all of my focus.

I got on hands and knees in the shower with the hot water running over my lower back. It felt fantastic. I thought – why didn’t I do this sooner!! The plug was in so the bath filled up. I felt so comfortable that I was able to really go into the contractions and pushing. The pushing came on quite unexpectedly and was like an expulsion sort of feeling, an involuntary effort from my body to expel something out of it, rather than a ‘pushing’ feeling. I was loud and overwhelmed and wanted to say ‘bloody hell this is bloody painful and all consuming and I really underestimated how painful this was going to be!’ But, because it was so consuming all I could do was keep going with the contraction on top of contraction – no breaks anymore and use my breathing/groaning to help myself through it.

I could sense the excitement from my midwife and Brett though and knew that must mean I was getting close to the end. It was like a marathon, I just needed to make it around the next corner and then I would see the finishing line in the distance! My midwife had to pull the plug at one point as the bath was over flowing, and after that they left the plug out. It occurred to me briefly, that maybe I’ll have a water birth for next time as the feeling of water around me had been quite a comfort. I was holding Brett’s hand tightly, when my midwife said to him, ‘you should get in behind Kelly, the baby’s coming very soon’. I thought, ‘where is he going to fit behind me in this small bath, and is the baby coming soon – thank God for that!’ So Brett got in and my midwife told me to cock one leg up to give bubs more room. The bath is quite narrow so it was difficult to spread my legs out as far as I would have otherwise. At some point my midwife asked me if I wanted to see if I could feel the baby’s head- I thought how exciting, so I did, and I could feel it!! It felt velvety and beautiful. And doing that gave me such a rush – after that I thought, woohoo! Let’s do it! Let’s finish this off, I want to meet that baby!

So I worked with my body, encouraged by Brett and my midwife who were saying ‘that’s a girl, keep working, you’re doing fine, you’re doing so well’ etc. it felt good, the excitement was building. I knew the head was crowning and I was determined to hold it there, not let it slip up again. But, I did not want to tear! So I was patient, I looked at my midwife, she knew exactly where I was and she said, ‘hold it there, pant it out, pant it out…’ and I did that for as long as I could, letting 2 contractions go before I thought, ok, it’s time and I went in with the next contraction really hard and out bubs little head came. And, oh the relief!! Overwhelming, beautiful relief instantly. Brett was behind me and caught him as he slithered out, another contraction, a little pushing and out slithered the rest of bubs’ perfect body. And boy did that feel good! It was the crescendo that I always wanted and I felt blissful, delighted! I lowered myself down and Brett held bubs gently until I was sitting in the bath and he passed bubs through backward – it was then that I saw testicles and I thought – what?! A boy?? I was so expecting a girl – wow I had been wrong, Roy, Deb and Huddy had been right!! But oh my goodness, it would not have mattered anything at that moment, only that this was my baby that I had birthed under my own steam and in that moment, I felt whole, healed and complete. With my bloody, vernix covered bare baby against my bare breast, warmly snuggled into me – quiet and calm, not upset and crying, I felt magical, but so normal, and womanly. I sat back and said to my midwife, ‘I did it, I did it!’ and she said ‘yes you did you beautiful strong woman’. She beamed at me, she thought I was amazing, and I bathed in her praise and the light of new life. Brett was then by my side, in awe of me, of our baby boy and overwhelmed by the moment. Hudson was also at my side, smiling, lovingly looking at the baby and saying ‘I’m so proud of you mummy’ which was just delightful. He knew how important this moment was to us, and he was part of it.

I sat back and thought – So this is birth…
During the newborn days and weeks, I was filled with pride, love and gratefulness. Proud of my body and mind – how strong I had been to have a VBAC at home, how strong my husband had been to ward off the doubters and support me so completely at the birth. Grateful to my wonderful midwife who I now felt an unbreakable bond with and missed when our visits ended. But most of all I didn’t feel anxious, and I didn’t feel threatened – I didn’t have baggage.

The birth of Brody certainly contributed to healing from Huddy’s birth too. Hudson and I are still passionately in love, but the anxiety and the holding on too tightly has eased off and we both feel confident and ok about separating from each other. I also feel humbled by Hudson. I believe his birth and life have taught me to follow my heart and make informed choices about all aspects of my children’s lives.

The major difference in what I experienced with Huddy’s birth and Brody’s birth was in the absence of informed choice with the first time. The system currently set up for birthing women just doesn’t provide the education and choices women need. I certainly wish I had had access to the kind of support and education Birthtalk offers, the first time around. And within this, access to the birthing women themselves and their stories to help me on my journey.

The impact from each birth couldn’t be more different. Immediately after Broderick’s birth I felt a complete and utter calm and peace. Like I was sitting with my perfect baby, under a magic ray of pure sunshine. I felt beautiful and powerful and womanly .
And so, after such an intense journey, from the traumatic birth of my first son, to my affirming, healing birth of Brody, I walked into motherhood this second time free, and whole and strong.

©Kelly Makin2007

Read Kelly’s story of her journey from trauma to healing