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SM’s birth story

SM’s birth story

Once pregnant this time I was worried that ‘preparing’ too much would lead me to an even deeper disappointment this time around if things went wrong. I found however that as I neared 30 weeks I started wanting to really prepare again. I again did yoga, enrolled in an NCT refresher course, used raspberry leaf tea and capsules and listened to natal hypnotherapy CDs most days from 32 weeks. I also bought a selection of aromatherapy oils that are recommended for various uses in pregnancy and labour.

I did a lot of research into VBAC, the stats, birth stories, what the hospital policies are, what my consultant would support and what my midwife’s views were. I actually found my midwife to be lacking in up-to-date info about the hospital policies and also the fact that all their recommendations are simply that, ‘recommendations’, and that I can choose to say no! Due to her attitude, I went to see my consultant who agreed to write down my birth preferences in my notes and show her support for them. I was lucky to have a very VBAC friendly consultant. I also went to a different midwife clinic for the last couple of visits so as to avoid this particular midwife.

The latent phase of my labour started on Sat eve when I was 39+2. I had contractions on and off between Sat eve and Tue morn. They were always more regular in the eve and overnight and would then tail off in the morning again. I went for some nice brisk walks in this time to try and encourage baby’s head to come down and also to encourage the labour on.


By Tue afternoon the contractions were getting stronger and more regular – about every 15-20 mins. My contractions never did follow a ‘regular’ pattern in the way that the midwives look for. By Tue eve I was struggling to cope with some of the contractions so I asked a friend to come over who had offered her support.

My hubby had tried to massage me but I realised I could not cope with being touched during the contractions so he said he felt a bit redundant after that. We had discussed hiring a doula earlier in the pregnancy but neither of us had really known how we would feel about that or what we would want her to do. Anyway, what I now know I needed and what my friend provided, was basically a female in the room, but also one who had expertise in labour and birth! Having someone there to chat between contractions earlier on and then, later on, be able to tell me how I was doing and what was happening with my contractions. She also supported me with homoeopathy remedies and by giving me ideas on trying different positions and movements to try during and between contractions in order to get the labour moving but also help me cope so I could stay at home as long as possible. This type of support was invaluable and I would certainly recommend having someone with labour and birth experience with you. What I found worked for me changed throughout my labour. In the earlier days, I could just stop what I was doing and breathe through them. Later on, I had to lean forward stood up or on my knees.

By the Tuesday eve, I was kneeling over the ball trying to relax my whole body but this became less effective for me as the contractions intensified and I started to tense up rather than relax. My friend (also a yoga teacher) suggested a walking movement (which she called the Charlie Chaplin walk) that opened my pelvis and made each contraction feel more like a workout. This worked incredibly well for me. Not only did it get my labour progressing much quicker (from 5-10 min apart down to 1-5 min apart) it also enabled me to cope with the intensity. By 10.00pm I was asking to get my son to his grandparents, at 10.30 we called the hospital but they suggested we wait and my contractions actually slowed anyway (this happened every time hospital was mentioned and also whenever my hubby came into the room, basically whenever I lost focus).

At about 1 am I felt lots more pressure with each contraction and decided to head to the hospital so I said goodbye to my friend and got to the hospital at about 2 am. I was still using lavender oil on a cloth to inhale at each contraction, moaning on the out breath and doing the ‘walk’ but the contractions slowed incredibly on arrival. This, however, meant I was very able to assert myself on arrival which I, unfortunately, had to do several times. The midwife on reception said I could not use the pool as I was trying for a VBAC and would need constant monitoring. I informed her that their hospital guidelines said that I could and if they needed to monitor me they could use the telemetric monitor…. to which she replied it was broken. I then informed her that I chose not to be monitored so I could still use the pool. She seemed quite flummoxed that I knew my rights so got another midwife and a registrar to speak to me. Once in a delivery room, I repeated my preferences – no constant monitoring, no cannulisation and keeping active. The registrar asked me to ‘tell her why I thought they recommended monitoring the baby’ in order to prove that I knew what I was declining, I was able to coherently answer as I had done my research and my labour had slowed so much I was barely having contractions. This must be very difficult for a woman in full-blown labour to get across though! I did agree to their admission monitoring (20min) (which I have since found is not routine) but I insisted that I stayed upright and mobile while they did this and I kept the belt pressed to my baby in order to get a ‘good reading’ so that they would then leave me alone. I also had a vaginal examination at this point which showed that I was only 2cm. At this, I was deflated especially as I had wanted to get in the pool but knew it was too early really as it could slow things down. My hubby and I went for a walk and I marched up and down the stairs for half an hour but I just got exhausted.

As a VBAC mum, I knew that the consultants would be clock watching very carefully with me so I made the decision to go home and get some rest and come back in when labour became established again. (What I have since learnt is that your cervix can dilate but then shrink back if presented with fear etc so perhaps I had been further along until arriving at the hospital). Back at home (now 3.45am) I sent hubby to bed and had a rest myself. I woke up after about 30 min to 2 very strong contractions. I ran a bath and the contractions continued irregularly and I tried to cope with them but I was getting an urge to push at the end of every contraction. I remembered how this urge had led to the epidural in my first labour and I started fearing that this labour was going to end in the same way. I got out of the bath and my mucus plug came away intact with a bit of pushing that I was trying not to do. It was now 5 am and I woke hubby and asked to go back to the hospital as I was feeling that I may need some pain relief to stop pushing…. as I was not yet trusting my body.

On arrival at the hospital my contractions continuing strongly I was again given admittance monitoring which I did bouncing on my ball this time and I asked for it to be removed when I could no longer cope with the contractions with it on. I also asked to have a vaginal exam again and found I was still only 4cm. At this point, the midwife said that as I had only reached 7cm last time we would just ‘have to see how I went’, not the resounding positivity I was hoping for! I was again disappointed that I was only 4cm so I was considering starting on gas and air but I decided to start listening to my natal hypnotherapy music again and start the Charlie Chaplin walk again. After 3 strong contractions focusing on the music I went to the toilet, whilst there I could not stop the urge to push again and as there was no midwife to discourage it I allowed my body to do what it wanted and after 3 pushes my waters burst all over the toilet. I had to have help getting back to the room as the contractions were now on top of one another but I still felt in control. I got on the bed on my knees and started to push. The midwife insisted on me stopping and checking me and she found me to be 10cm. She did say that there was a slight lip left so to hold off pushing for 10 more contractions and she gave me some gas and air in order to help me do this, however, I believe I held off for 1 and then just let my body do what it wanted which was push!

My hubby said that around this time the midwife said ‘they won’t let her push for long’. Again what a positive comment! Luckily although I did not hear this I knew it to be true so again I took things into my own hands. After 10 min of pushing on my hands and knees I asked how I was doing, she said she could not see anything yet but that I was doing well. I asked my husband to move the back of the bed up so I could lean over it with my arms to use gravity when pushing. The whole period of pushing for me felt like a very intense aerobic workout, which interestingly is what the natal hypnotherapy cd referred to labour as. This upright position worked really well and after only 25 min of pushing I pushed my little girl out. Just before she was born I told them I wanted her straight to me and they passed her right under my legs and into my hands. The most wonderful feeling in the world!

They cut the cord quicker than I hoped but I was so elated with the birth that I did not want to argue. I breastfed straight away and had some wonderful skin to skin while we waited for the placenta. I had asked for the injection as I thought this a safer option with a section scar but this seemed to make them rush slightly to get the placenta out because of the syntocin speeds up the closing of the cervix. When it did not come with a bit of tugging they eventually got a registrar in who confirmed that it was retained. I had to go into the theatre to have a spinal and have it removed. It adhered to the c section scar tissue which I believe is quite rare.

The retained placenta was unfortunate but it was handled well and calmly once discovered and I still had a good 2 hours of time with my baby and hubby before I had to go to theatre. Overall I felt so proud of my birth and after discussing it with my husband afterwards even more so as we both realised that I had actually done it DESPITE the maternity services rather than because of them. The excellent support and advice I received from my friend in early labour, the confidence my husband had in the knowledge that I had gained with regard to what was necessary and my ability to be very assertive throughout my time in the hospital were what got me my VBAC.

H birth

Susan Merrick

SM's Birth Story - #VBAC #BIRTH #LABOUR
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Susan Merrick (3 Posts)

Susan is a mother and Doula, passionate about support and rights for women in pregnancy and birth. She is also a BSL/English Interpreter and Artist, Susan love painting women figures, painting on pregnant bumps as well as canvas and drawing political or humour cartoons when she is inspired to! As a member of AIMS Susan keeps uptodate with changes in maternity services and current research and campaigns in the field. Susan loves dancing, food and being with her family (oh and red wine :)). Check out her Facebook pages, www.facebook.com/SBMArtwork and www.facebook.com/SusanMerrickDoula


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