Louise's Caesarean and two VBACs

Louise shares her three birth experiences: a caesarean at 30 weeks followed by two home water births.

When I was 19 I became pregnant with my first child. This came as quite a shock, and having been a former wild child (!), I had to not only deal with this, but also nurturing my new-ish relationship with my child's father, and giving up the booze etc. During my 7th month of pregnancy, which had not been a good pregnancy, I had felt ill for a lot of it, most probably due to my formerly abused body trying to heal itself, withdrawal etc, We got evicted from our flat, and had a lot of problems finding somewhere else to live. I am sure that the combination of all these emotional and physical stresses led to me having a small placenta, and my midwife discovered that my child had stopped growing at 30 weeks, what they call IUGR (I think Inter uterine growth retardation.) So at 30 weeks I had a caesarean section, and my son Will was born weighing just 3lb 13oz.

While I was relieved that my son left hospital 3 weeks later healthy and growing well, I was not so well. I don't doubt that his life was saved by the operation,but in the following 2 1/2 years I suffered many physical and emotional side-effects of his birth. Firstly, I blamed myself for the fact that he had been so small, I also blamed the NHS for my lack of education, though had they had told me, would I have listened anyway? I doubt it! I suffered from mood swings, depression, self doubt, all of which I was told was normal, yet I was still suffering from it 2 years later, even though in this time I had moved away, got married to my son's dad, started university, and in all respects should have been enjoying my new life. By far the worst side effects of the operation, and ones which also almost broke my marriage up, were first of all that I was extremely exhausted all the time, and the fact that I couldn't have sex without a lot of pain. When I went to the doctor about this, they said it was unexplainable why there was pain, but it seemed obvious to me!

Despite all this, when my son was 21/2 years old, and I was in my 2nd year at university, I became pregnant again. In the last couple of years, I had known a few people who had babies, and a couple of them had had home births. At this time, I had matured a lot, no longer wild! and a lot more educated I decided there was no way I was going into hospital for what should be a natural event. When I went to my GP she pretty much pooh-poohed the idea of me having a home birth due to my history. But I felt sure that the same problems would not occur again as I was now physically very healthy and emotionally more settled.So I read every subject on the subject of VBAC that I could find, and consulted this organisation, and decided that the risk was extremely small, and a lot smaller than any risk I would run going into hospital, where interventions like being induced, not feeling happy and being able to deal with the pain and having drugs might lead to me not being in control of the situation might lead to me having another caesarean and quite honestly at that time, remembering the pain during and after the operation, and the way I was treated by certain doctors in the hospital (the surgeon told me to shut up and keep still on the operating table when I was going to be sick!) I felt like I would rather have died than have gone through it again.

Well, I went back to my GP with all the information I had gathered, and she agreed to support me throughout, even though she did not agree with my decision, and my community midwives, were also supportive, though I think a bit nervous as they were under some pressure from the local hospital, and they had never done a home birth after caesarean before. I also started going to Active birth classes which was the best thing I could ever have done. It gave me huge confidence in the processes of my body, it also taught me all about the process of natural birth, exactly what might happen to me, what to expect and so on, so I would be aware if I felt that anything was going wrong. Importantly, of course, it also taught me how to relax, as I did not want ant artificial pain relief during the birth, I think I was so scared of it being out of my control after last time. I have to say, that despite their initial reservations, my GP and midwives were incredibly supportive, and my husband was a rock, even though I think he was quite nervous, he supported me in meetings with the hospital when they were rude and ignorant to me, which some were, though not all, but I had absolute unwavering confidence that the baby and I would be fine.

Well, the pregnancy proceeded better than I even dreamed, I felt so well, and 2 weeks before the due date I did my end of semester 3rd year university exams, and then finished to take a year out for this baby. Well, on the 9th March 1999 I gave birth to another lovely little boy, but this time "I did it my waaaay!" He was born in a birthing pool in our home. The labour was 14 1/2 hours, it was incredibly hard work, there were times when I just wanted to go to sleep, as I had been up since midnight! But my midwives were brilliant they never mentioned did I want some pain relief or anything negative. I went through the process simply using water and yoga and breathing techniques. I don't know if I would have been able to do it without having learnt how to relax and go with it, maybe I would, but it was all worth it for the feeling when that baby came out! It was the most intense joy I have ever felt, and this will sound really flaky, but in that moment every bit of sadness and anger felt healed! Also, my little boy was present throughout and I felt really pleased that he could experience the birth. My husband slept through quite a lot of it! But he was there at the end holding me up while I squatted, and just being there was enough. Well, after that experience I felt like I could do anything! My self-confidence increased 200%. I had always been very self conscious about the way I look, and had low confidence, but that almost practically disappeared after Jay was born. (He weighed 7lb 4oz by the way.) The other thing that disappeared was the pain when I had sex, even though I was worried about that because I had a tear when Jay was born. Although my marriage has not been perfect since then (what is?) it has improved vastly since, and I think a lot of that was to do with my improved confidence. 11 months later, I became pregnant again, and this was unplanned so it was a bit of a shock as I was just about to do my finals at university, and Jay was not sleeping through by any means, but in many ways I was very happy, as I was looking forward to a lovely birth and pregnancy, I can say that I actually quite enjoyed Jay's birth. So in the year 2000 I did my finals, when I got a 2:1 honours degree in social sciences, then we moved house, back to be bearer our family, and in November 2000 I gave birth in water, in my front room to a daughter, Alycia, in a 3 1/2 hour birth! This one hardly was hardly painful at all, and a lovely happy occasion, there were me (obviously!) my husband, my mother in law, my friend who is a homeopath, my two boys and a lovely lovely midwife present. Alycia weighed 8lb 10 oz, and I didn't have single tear! I think I was so relaxed this time, and as she was born, it was said that I was yelling like a football coach "come on baby come out now, yes, yes!) I don't know what the neighbours must have thought! So it is now nearly two years on since Alycia was born, I don't think I will be having any more children, as I am happily working with young families in crisis, and on the path to a career in social work, I think it would be unfair on everybody in the family if we were to have another child. Although in many ways having Will by caesarean caused a lot of problems, physically and emotionally, I don't regret it as I have a lovely 7 year old son, and without that experience I probably wouldn't have gone so out of my way to educate myself about birth and had such wonderful experiences with my other two births. There is no doubt that I would tell anyone who asked to have a VBAC, and I found the experience of a home birth so rewarding, and life changing. I held a lot of anger about Will's birth inside me for a long time, but I think that I have finally been able to take responsibility for it, and ultimately for myself, and in many ways I think that the key to a successful and happy birth of any kind, be it natural, induced, caesarean, whatever, is having the knowledge that you were responsible for the event and that whatever happened was a consequence of your own actions, and within your control.

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