· By Tiny Hearts Education
I unintentionally delivered my daughter into my own arms in the laundry via VBAC.
My son was born two years ago via cesarean section. The CS was planned due to a velamentous cord inversion. I had always envisioned a vaginal birth, and it took me time to come to terms with this. My water broke during a meeting on my last day at work, and I thought I was just wetting myself! Once I realised what was happening, we went straight into hospital and had a healthy little boy born via emergency CS. When I fell pregnant this time, I was very hopeful to deliver via VBAC. My obstetrician was supportive, but I was realistic that it may not work out. Last time I did hypnobirthing courses and prepared for labour. This time I decided to take it as it came. At 27 weeks, a gestational diabetes diagnosis meant we would not be able to let the pregnancy go beyond 40 weeks, and because of my previous CS, we had to rule out any intervention to induce delivery. So, we booked an elective CS for the due date with the plan to deliver vaginally if I went into labour earlier. I was still very hopeful for a VBAC, and from 36 weeks, I tried some natural ways to encourage my body to go into labour. I walked a lot, ate dates, drank raspberry leaf tea and just tried to keep active and positive.
At 37 weeks, I started to experience mild contractions, similar to a period pain. After a day, they became regular every 5 minutes, but the intensity did not increase. The hospital told me to hold off coming in. These contractions transitioned between regular and irregular and continued over the next 5 days. On the 5th day of these pains, I saw my obstetrician in person, and he did an ultrasound. He confirmed the baby was healthy, the cervix was soft, but the head was not engaged, and I was not dilated. I was frustrated from five days of false starts. My obstetrician suggested we give it another week, and if nothing changed, it might be best for me and the baby to consider proceeding with a planned CS. He impressed on me the importance of going into the hospital for monitoring if anything changed. Three days later, on Sunday, I still had not noticed any regularity in contractions. I did notice a significant difference in discharge, to the point where I began to wonder if my waters had broken. Given I had missed the waters breaking last time, my husband and I decided to err on caution and go into the hospital for monitoring. Monitoring found that the contractions were regular at 15 mins apart, but they were still mild and indicative of pre-labour, which we were told could last for a few weeks. An internal check confirmed that my waters had not broken, and I was able to go home. I went out for dinner that evening with my extended family. I felt very well and like the contractions had once again subsided.
That night my toddler woke up at midnight, which is very unusual for him. He was up for 2 hours asking to go for a walk outside, and when we finally got him down at 2am, my husband and I were exhausted. In hindsight, we wonder if he had some intuition about what was to happen next. Before I fell asleep, I felt a very strong contraction. I didn't think anything of it, but I took some panadol to help me sleep. Fifteen minutes later, I woke up with another contraction that forced me to stand up. Again I went back to sleep. On the third contraction, I started to time them. It was quickly evident the contractions were building in intensity and 10 minutes apart. By this time, it was 3:30am, and while I needed to pace through the contractions, I was still able to sleep between them. So I made the decision not to wake my husband until they became closer together. At 4:40am, they were too strong to pace the bedroom quietly, so to avoid waking my husband, I went downstairs. In just three contractions, they moved from every 10 minutes to every two minutes and from one minute in length to 30 seconds. I woke my husband at 4:50am, and he immediately called the hospital and explained what was going on. The midwife on the phone advised me to continue labouring at home and try a hot shower. As she was explaining the importance of labouring at home, I had a bloody show and began to beg to come into the hospital. I felt like we were running out of time. She again asked me to try a shower first.
My husband called my mum to come and watch our son and went into the laundry, and turned the shower on. I was unable to walk, so I crawled across the living room floor. I was screaming so loud during my contractions, like a distressed cow. I later found out the neighbours had woken up and were worried about what was going on. I made it to the laundry and squatted over the doorway stair. My mum came into the house at the same time. I reached down and felt the baby's head. I screamed out, "I can feel her head!" and I asked my husband for an epidural. He obviously wasn't much help there. Instead, he called the hospital, and they asked him to look and describe what was happening. "I can just see a white circle," he said. They told him to hang up straight up and call 000. It felt like years to confirm our details with the 000 operators. Once the ambulance was on the way, my mum went outside to check for them, and the operator gave some simple instructions. "Don't sit on the toilet, and don't resist the urge to push." This made me realise how much I actually did want to push, and the screaming I was doing was easily going to be translated into the energy I needed to push. I had an overwhelming feeling of happiness and became very present in the moment and grateful it was just me, my husband and our baby, and we would meet her soon. On the next contraction, I screamed, gave a small push, and felt the baby's head come out. Guiding her with my hands, I gave a big push, and with that, the rest of her was out and in my arms. It felt so natural and instinctual. I handed her to my husband, and he announced, "and we have a baby!" This was at 5:32am, only forty minutes after I woke my husband and ten minutes after we had called my mum. It felt like a lifetime before the baby gave her first breath, but it was likely only seconds. My husband did an amazing job. The only instruction from the 000 operator was to find a clean towel. My mum, who was running in and out checking for the ambulance, ran upstairs to find one. My husband cleared the baby's mouth with his hand and then flipped her onto her belly and rubbed and patted her back until she cried. I was so impressed and relieved with how he handled it, and he later told me he used the same techniques he had learnt in the event of choking to get her to take her first breath. He handed her back to me, and we wrapped her in a blanket my mum had brought to us.
She was perfect, and she was exactly who I was expecting. In that moment, I felt like I had been waiting my whole life to meet her, and she was finally with me. The three of us had 5 beautiful minutes together before the paramedics arrived. When they arrived, they gave me a very quick assessment and then waited until the cord had finished pulsating before they cut it and got me onto the stretcher. We all had a bit of a laugh as they couldn't find the good scissors to cut the cord, and when the time came to cut, my husband was missing as he had gone to check on our son and have a quick shower. At some point, my son woke up, and my mum brought him down, and we introduced him to his new sister. He was a little scared to see mummy surrounded by strangers, but he was also excited to meet his baby sister.
We went to hospital in the ambulance, and on arrival, the midwife helped me to deliver the placenta. My obstetrician came to stitch up my second-degree tear. At this point, they offered pain relief, but I figured we had come this far. I was later told by the at-home midwife service that I had an "incredible number of stitches", and this was likely due to giving birth in an uncontrolled environment. My mum brought us our hospital bag, and it was really special and important to see her after the shock we had shared. The reunion was very emotional, and we called my dad to share the baby's name, Primrose. He was at our house with our son and cleaning up the mess. The house has only one small stain of blood remaining, which I love as a reminder of our experience.
While accidental, the whole experience was so magical to me and delivering my own daughter was the most incredible moment. Better than any birthing moment I could have hoped for. I am so grateful for my husband and mum, who were there and saw me in such a primal moment. Despite the chaos and pain, it felt very natural, and I somehow knew what to do. Seeing me go through it and supporting me was much harder and more traumatic. Having said this, knowing my husband was the one to help my daughter take her first breath bonds us even closer, and I love him more than ever. It was not the VBAC we imagined, but we wouldn't change it, and we love our children so much and are proud of the unique ways they joined our family.
I asked my husband for any advice for other parents to be and he said, "be prepared with a couple of clean towels and know what to do in the first five minutes after giving birth if you don't have any medical support." My own learnings would be to listen to your body and expect that sometimes things don't go exactly to the clock.