07 Aug Home Birth Caesarean – A Supported Birth Experience
Birthing Willow Hope: A Home Birth Caesarean Birth Story
Before you go ahead and read this, please be aware that this is a home birth caesarean birth story. It includes mention of miscarriage, home birth transfer, caesarean section and medical complications (i.e. a placental abruption). Additionally, some trauma around breastfeeding support in the hospital system is mentioned. If you feel up for it, keep reading 😉
The first baby!
Just after Christmas, 2012, we were given the best Christmas gift we could have wished for – we were pregnant! Sadly, we had lost a baby earlier in the year. While our miscarriage had taken the innocence out of pregnancy for us, it had also led us to home birth! Despite on and off spotting, a subchorionic hematoma and anxiety, my pregnancy was a blissful, enjoyable and extremely exciting experience! I had a really easy and generally complaint free pregnancy! Regular visits with a chiropractor, herbalist and acupuncturist, as well as biweekly yoga and a fantastic support system, really helped!
A placental abruption
At 35+5 weeks pregnant, after swimming 2km on my first day of maternity leave, I began feeling ill and started getting tightenings every 10 minutes. These continued until 36 weeks, when the tightenings became more regular and frequent. My mucous plug came away and I noticed our baby had changed position. I went to acupuncture to try to ‘keep baby in’, relaxed and spent as much time horizontal as possible! During this time, my husband washed baby clothes while I wrote out my birth plan and watched birth videos (bliss!).
At 36+3 weeks I woke at 2am to a gush of bright red, dripping blood and clots. I noticed I couldn’t feel our baby moving! My midwife encouraged me to listen to my body and intuition, and I decided we should head to hospital. The drive into hospital felt like forever! I stayed horizontal while trying to get our baby to move and trying not to panic.
From a planned home birth to a home birth caesarean
By 3am a CTG monitor confirmed that baby was still ok; What a relief! Our baby really hated that monitor though! Just as I was taking the monitor off the OB walked in. Within a minute of beginning an U/S the OB turned very pale and his hands began shaking. He explained that the placenta was coming away to which I asked ‘So, I’m having a placental abruption?’, He seemed shocked I knew what that was! Nevertheless, he said yes, that my placenta had come away and was sitting between my cervix and the baby’s head. He was concerned that it could possibly be vasa previa and that we needed to get baby out asap. He made sure to say, “If you’d tried to have this baby at home your baby would be dead!” (Thanks very much…this language is actually why I avoided the hospital in the first place!).
While the midwife prepped me for surgery (stupid stockings!) the OB arranged for an anaesthetist and four (four!?!) OB’s. I rang my midwife who was on her way, and rang my mum. Then I explained to the midwife what we wanted for our baby before signing the consent forms. I then cried! With relief that the baby was ok and fear that it might not be. I also cried for the birth we’d lost, the birth I couldn’t give my baby, my husband or myself. I’d looked forward to labour and birth my entire pregnancy! Our dream birth was ripped away very quickly; I felt like we were trapped in a bit of a whirlwind.
Birthing Willow Hope: A Home Birth Caesarean Birth
By the time we were wheeled into theatre my tightenings were 1.5 minutes apart and around 40 seconds long. My body knew that this baby had to be born, and quickly! My husband met me in theatre all gowned up (although his feet didn’t fit in the shoe covers, haha). I introduced myself to the parade of people that would witness our daughter’s birth: four OB’s, an anaesthetist, a student OB, two nurses and a midwife. The spinal was inserted while hugging a nurse, and I used my birth breathing which surprisingly worked a treat!
My husband held my hand while I lay on the table and questioned the anaesthetist about every little thing. He talked me through the procedure beautifully! My husband reflects on this time as quite bizarre…The OB’s were having an everyday discussion yet they were performing an operation! It made it clear just how ‘normal’ this surgery was in their eyes. At some stage during the operation the student OB fainted – cue a discussion about how all the other OB’s carried snakes (the lolly kind) in their car to eat during early morning starts.
I’d asked to be able to see my baby born; This wish the theatre staff wouldn’t allow. However, I felt when my baby was taken from my body and I told my husband, “Hope’s just been born!” (Hope was our baby’s nickname). They held our baby girl over the screen while cutting her cord. ‘Hope’ cried and my husband exclaimed, “It’s a little girl!” to which I replied, “I know, I’ve been telling you that for the last 8 months!” They weighed and measured her (despite agreeing to IMMEDIATE skin-to-skin). She was wrapped in a blanket and handed to my husband who brought her to me. I was shaking and got frustrated I couldn’t stop the shaking to unwrap my baby.
I said to my husband, “Get that blanket off, get her on my skin!” He quickly did that and I met my baby girl! I touched her gorgeous nose and told her through tears that it was ok and I’d never let her go! She was the most perfect thing I’d ever seen! I told my husband she looked like a ‘Willow’: slender (2.72kg and 51cm long), resilient (survived an abruption and SCH), flexible (a less than ideal birth taken in her stride), determined (you should see her fight sleep!) and healing (a rainbow baby).
Time went really quickly from here! My placenta was saved (cue ice cream container) and I was transferred to another bed for recovery. My midwife hammered on the doors of recovery to be let in, she looked as worried as I had felt. I was so thankful she was here! I felt safe with my husband’s support, but I felt calm once our midwife arrived.
The first breastfeed in recovery
We gave Willow a chance to do the breast crawl in recovery. She had difficulty latching but was surprisingly alert for what she’d just been through! I tried to stop shaking with my husband and midwife continually saying ‘breathe!’ (I forgot what they’d said as soon as I looked at our beautiful baby). We were transferred into our own room which we later found out was used for prisoners and quarantine! It was complete with bullet proof glass, observation area, separate air conditioning, bars on the windows and an AWFUL shower head with no hose. I spent the first few hours debriefing with our midwife and doula. I gazed at and fed our gorgeous baby. We let family members know she’d arrived and I declined pain medication. We also negotiated for my husband to stay overnight (success!) and asked that the awful catheter be removed (please).
Donor breastmilk journey
The hospital experience to this point was better than I expected…However, hospital policy apparently dictated that our ‘premature’ baby needed her blood sugar levels measured every 3 hours. I was also expected to have every feed supervised by a midwife! I was new to being a mum, let alone to breastfeeding, but knew this wasn’t what we needed! After flushing numerous cups (no bottles, thanks!) of formula down the toilet, we needed a better way to do this! When my doula offered donor breastmilk I jumped and thought, “Why didn’t I think of that!?!’”Thanks to two generous mama’s Willow had breastmilk from that point onwards, and for that I am so grateful.
Get me out of here!
After 3 days in hospital we really wanted to go home! I knew that the hospital environment wasn’t the right place to encourage my milk supply; ironically that was the only reason I was still there! I discharged myself against the doctor’s advice. Within two minutes of walking in the door at home my top was saturated! We’d agreed to return for ‘weigh-in’ in 3 days; the pressure was on to get Willow’s weight up. We spoke with our midwife and a lactation consultant and discovered that Willow could feed with a nipple shield! After 3 days Willow had gained 40g, we were finally free of the system! Unfortunately we never ditched the nipple shield. However, it’s a small price to pay for a beautifully healthy, successful (in my eyes) breastfeeding relationship, journey and baby.
Thank you, placenta!
I had my placenta encapsulated which was amazing and nurtured both my baby and I! I believe it helped my milk come in quickly, helped me heal, increased my energy, improved my mood, alleviated any pain I had and helped me avoid the baby blues and postpartum depression. My placenta was amazing, and I most certainly am grateful (and surprised) for all it provided us with.
Ode to my support system
Despite Willow being subjected to a scalding hot blanket, BSL testing, formula, having a sticky tag put on her back and being born via caesarean, and despite me being subjected to a freezing cold shower, several arguments regarding donor milk, pressure to use formula and put my baby in a plastic tub, strange looks when I kept my placenta and feeling that I was an awful patient (but a pretty good mum), I think we dealt with the hospital system surprisingly well. Honestly, the majority of the reason we did deal so well is because of our amazing birth team! Continuity of care with a midwife really is the gold standard, for a home birth caesarean birth or any other! Beyond that, the Blue Mountains Homebirth Group was also an incredible support!
The end…but not really!
I hope this Home Birth caesarean birth story was enlightening! Hopefully it provided some insight into what a home birth caesarean can look like. I also hope it showed how an emergency caesarean birth can still be undertaken in an empowering way. If you’d like to continue on the birth story journey, check out my Homebirth After Caesarean birth story and Evalie Maia’s birth story! If you’d like to hear me tell this story and my Home Birth After Caesarean birth story, check out the circle of birth podcast! I also speak about it and my following Home Birth After Caesareans on the VBAC Homebirth stories podcast and the VBAC birth stories podcast!
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Hello, I’m Aimee! I support women and their families through pregnancy, birth, postpartum and breastfeeding. I am a qualified and experienced Doula and breastfeeding counsellor, providing support in the Blue Mountains and surrounds. I’d love to meet you for an obligation free catch up! Contact me here.