10.2 pounds of love. A VBAC story...

HBAC (Homebirth after caesarean) OF MARCEL GARTH
Weighing 10.2 pounds

Four years ago, on September 19th 2010, I experienced a birth that would change my life and career forever. The caesarean birth of my first son, George, took me completely by surprise and then took its toll on me again postpartum. I struggled to connect with my baby and had continuing problems with breastfeeding. I resisted asking for help because I thought I should be able to do it all myself. This pregnancy, with Marcel, I learned to ask for help, and let my women look after me. It felt so good to be supported and mothered by my midwives, doula, friends, and my incredible partner.

During Marcel’s pregnancy, I meditated daily, practiced yoga, and visited him in the womb every day through visualisation. Marcel was willing me to be free, to be myself, and to let go. It wasn’t easy to be shown my negative habits and force myself to really work through them. It was now or never, though. I had to face these habits and change my mindset. Fear or self love? I chose SELF LOVE.

For childbirth education, or self-discovery, during Marcel’s pregnancy, I attended a workshop called “Connecting to the Shamanic Dimensions of Pregnancy” with Jane Harwicke Collings. I also made a Shamanic Drum with Tallulah Gough. I learned so much about myself just through the creative process. Both of these workshops were so healing and inspiring. They contributed greatly to my positive mindset and road to trusting the process.

So here’s Marcels birth story. 

I had been feeling pre-labour symptoms (period pain, tightenings and Braxton’s) since about 36+4 weeks. During the same week, I organised a meeting with the head of VBACs at our local hospital to talk about birthing options, and to have a general rapport with him in case of transfer. The meeting was a bit of a waste of time, as he wasn’t very supportive. He also had no compassion for my previous birth experience even though he played a part in the subsequent surgery (haematoma drainage) that I required after a caesarean from a failed forceps attempt. A waste of time yes, but I found strength in knowing that I had made the right choice to homebirth and had a super supportive team behind me no matter what the outcome. The fact was, I had no control over when my baby was coming, how he would be born, or where he would be born. So I really had to trust that he knew exactly what I needed at every given moment. 

Turns out the pre-labour lasted for almost 4 weeks. It was exciting and frustrating at the same time. I got excited most nights when the period cramps started to amp up, and then disappointed when they faded away after an hour. Marcel was always trying to show me patience. Each day I would take a deep breath, connect with him, and realise that it was his journey too. This little guy was taking his time and this was perfect. Each time I started to doubt my journey, my midwife Janine and partner Angelo always knew how to get me back on track. They were my guiding lights and I trusted them with my life.

I lost my mucus plug on Saturday, the 3rd of January, and had the chance to rest for most of that day to prepare for birth that night. I had a strong feeling he was coming soon, so I knew I needed my energy. I drank labour aid all day and resisted the urge to nest. I just had to let go now.

I started to feel period pain on the Saturday afternoon and into the night. But it wasn’t until I went to bed that period cramps turned into more regular contractions.

At 3am on Sunday morning, I went upstairs to wake up my partner Angelo. He was sleeping upstairs in the spare room to give me more space. I really had to breathe and focus through the contractions, but I still wasn’t convinced I was in labour. I called my midwife and told her my contractions were lasting about 30 seconds and not to rush. But as soon as I got off the phone with her they grew stronger. My two midwives and doula were on their way.

I was in denial through all of it because of the long pre-labour leading up to the birth, so I decided to time one contraction to see if I was in active labour or not. Turns out the contractions were lasting 1.10min, not 30sec. Oops. Luckily, the midwives and my doula were on their way.

I stayed in bed and Angelo put pressure on my lower back. He was also trying to blow up the pool, but we found out there were holes in it. He tried to tape them up, but to no avail. A water birth was out of the question, but it was ok. I wasn’t attached to any one type of birth. My baby was going to show me where to birth.

My midwives and doulas arrived about 1.5 hours later and by then I was in active labour for sure. It was so intense and the contractions were coming about 3 minutes apart, and lasting 1min or so. This labour was so different and so much stronger than George’s birth. The contractions were low in my pelvis and the intensity in my back and bottom was indescribable. I needed constant pressure on my back. Hot towels were a godsend (thanks to my doula for being intuitive). I was making loud, animalistic grunts and moans. There was a point where I noticed I was singing or wailing like someone had died. Maybe it was me dying so I could prepare for birth. I know lots of women who say they felt like they were dying during labour. I definitely felt as though I was letting go and becoming something new.

My 4 year old son emerged from his sleep at about 6am and his first words were “I’m bored”. Typical 4 year old response after 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Hilarious! The midwives read him a couple of books but he just kept saying “I want to go to Nana’s”. So Nana made her way over to pick him up for a special morning at her house. I wasn’t attached to my son needing to be at the birth, I just wanted him to feel comfortable.

The contractions continued to ramp up. I was changing positions regularly from standing, to squatting, to lunging, to leaning, to going on all fours. My midwives and doula were so intuitive with positions, I didn’t need to doula myself.

We made our way to the bathroom and filled up our tub, but realised it wasn’t going to be deep enough to birth in. I wasn’t very comfortable in there, anyway and the water wasn’t as effective as the hot towels on my back.

As I got out of the bath, all of a sudden, in true Hollywood style, my waters broke. It was quite an event. The midwives had never seen such a dramatic explosion of waters. It was quite funny, actually and a big relief. It was game on. Now it was even more intense and all-consuming.

There were so many times I wondered if “I can’t do this” or “When is this going to be over” or “Is he really going to descend and come out of my vagina?". Each time, my mind wandered to an eventuality that wasn’t true to the present moment. I would then return my focus to my body, and listen to my incredibly clever baby.

We made our way back out into the lounge room and got into a forward kneeling position on the couch, and then a squat, and then a standing lunge to help the baby open the cervix fully. There was a slight anterior lip that we managed to move just by changing positions frequently.

I was getting contractions 1 minute apart now and with each step I took, the contractions came hard and fast, bringing loads of pressure into my bottom. I made my way to the bedroom for a side lying pose with a leg in the air to help to move my baby round the corner. He was descending! I didn’t quite believe it. My doula had to take photos to show me his head was coming down. I was overwhelmed each time I saw his head and kept on believing that I could do it even when the intensity of the contractions got so strong that I was saying “I can’t do this”. My midwives, doula, and partner Angelo, didn’t let me get away with that negative self talk, though.

We moved to an all fours forward leaning pose over the end of our bed. With each contraction I yelled to my partner Angelo “Pull my arms”. I felt like I needed to pull on something so I could really send the energy down into my bottom for pushing. I was going with my body, making grunting sounds, and feeling all the sensations as my vagina stretched and opened.

The experience of the stretching had to be one of the most overwhelming, but rewarding feelings of the birth. I felt it was most definitely the hardest part. I was pushing out a 10.2 pound baby with a 38cm head, remember. I had to do some extra work to get him crowning. I came into a lunge pose for the rest of the birth to help him move down with more ease. I still wouldn’t believe everyone when they said the head was almost out. I could feel the opening and ring of fire, but I just didn’t believe it was actually happening. Oh how a caesarean birth can take away your confidence.

As my baby crowned and stayed there, I remember wanting to escape. But at the same time, I wanted him there. I wanted to feel it, as I had said during my pregnancy. I wanted to feel it all. Instead of pushing at this point, I panted and took very long breaths. I could feel my babies ears slide out of my vagina as his head was fully born. I still didn’t believe his head was out. My doula had to take another photo to convince me.

I was impressed to find that I didn’t tear when the head emerged, so I know I was listening to my body and staying present with the sensations.

And then, on the next contraction, his body was born. That part went so fast that I didn’t really have time to savour it or prepare for it. I was overwhelmed by the sheer miracle of birth.

Marcel came out screaming and did a huge poo on arrival. My midwife passed him between my legs and up into my arms. Our little man Marcel was gorgeous, huge, and so healthy. I was in love straight away.

My partner Angelo looked at me. We both had tears in our eyes. We did it! Angelo was totally blown away by the whole experience. He said to the midwives after, that it was by far the most incredible experience of his life.

What an amazing team I had looking after me! I was so lucky to have the midwives, doula, and my partner by my side. They not only trusted me to birth, but I trusted them to hold the space for me in a way that allowed me to be ME. With all my demands, moans, grunts, needs, desires, fears, my nudity, I was FREE! It didn’t matter what they thought of me, and I didn’t care if I was doing it right or not. What I experienced was FREEDOM.

I am extremely grateful for this birth experience. Not because I achieved a vaginal birth, but because I got to witness and be a part of the power of a group of women working together and trusting each other. The trust and support I felt was by far the best part of the birth. I felt so good in their presence.

To Janine, Emma, and Lu, I can't express enough how grateful I am for your presence at my birth. Under unique circumstances, too. Your dedication to your craft and to your women is exceptional and overwhelmingly inspirational. I love you guys and I cry when I think about how good I felt during the birth. Thank you, thank you, thank you :)

To my man, Angelo. You were exactly what I needed. You didn’t need to say anything. You listened to me, you nurtured me and you held my elbows perfectly. Ha! Even though I yelled "Hold my elbows, there, no not there, like this, pull my arms!" Thank you for being so supportive of the homebirth and helping me through some of the most challenging moments during the pregnancy and birth. I love you babe :)

Thank you to all the women who bought me food (especially Auntie Brooke), to Sarah for your exceptional breastfeeding advice and listening ears and heart, and my mum for being George’s wingman.

Breastfeeding is going really well now after a challenging start and both Marcel and I are thriving.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please share with your pregnant friends, especially those ladies who are hoping to have a VBAC. I have so much insight to share with you all now.

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