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The Births of Luna & Remi

This is the story of my two births, the first an emergency caesarean, and the second a planned HBAC: home birth after caesarean.

My first pregnancy was incredibly smooth and I had virtually no complications. Perhaps the ease in which we fell pregnant and how my pregnancy progressed, led to a sort of uneducated arrogance, especially on my part, and we pretty much assumed we had it all sorted, and birth and postpartum would all just go to plan with little-to-no planning or preparation. To be honest, I don’t think I even thought about postpartum at all, and certainly didn’t consider it as significant or sacred as I do now.

The only person close to me who had given birth was my mother, who had two very quick, intense vaginal births. She was induced for post-dates with me and had a natural labour and birth with my younger sister. My younger sister’s birth in particular, I now believe was very traumatic for my mum. She has never used the word ‘trauma’ to describe her experience, but she recounts it with visible horror, and from the age of ten, I was brought up by her to believe that labour and birth were incredibly difficult, painful and terrifying. Looking back on the way she described it to me, I believe that a large part of why it was so traumatising for her was because my sister was born an hour and a half after her PROM and she wasn’t believed to truly be in labour by the hospital. She was kept on a bed in a hallway until she was screaming that she was about to have the baby then and there, and only then (most likely after a vaginal exam) was she wheeled into the delivery suite in the nick of time. Oddly enough, I was never fearful of birth in spite of this, but I do believe that this history did come into play in the events that led to my emergency caesarean.

I went to my GP and booked in to standard fragmented care at our small local public hospital. At the time I had absolutely no idea about alternative models of care; I didn’t know what ‘MGP’ was, or anything about continuity of care. We didn’t have private health insurance, so that was never a part of the equation, and my attitude was: ‘why pay when you can just go to hospital and have a baby for free’?

Joel (my husband) and I didn’t do any birth preparation, besides the antenatal class at the hospital, which was recommended to us at one of our antenatal appointments. The class was run by one of those classic, no-nonsense senior midwives, who stressed the importance and value of natural birth and breastfeeding, but with little to no tools of how to actually achieve these things.

Needless to say, we arrived at our ‘due date’ with no plan whatsoever, having been told time and time again the common line, ‘it’s better to go into it with no plan, so you’re not disappointed - anything could happen!’

I was fairly uncomfortable when we approached 41 weeks, and was actually relieved when I was offered induction at 41+2. I remember the midwife at one of my appointments after 40 weeks saying to me, “I can see in your eyes that you’re really over this so we can induce you if you like”. There was no discussion of the risks, alternatives, benefits to waiting for spontaneous labour, how induction differs from physiological labour or any explanation of the process.

On Boxing Day I was admitted to the hospital, given a prostaglandin in the evening that brought on contractions at about 3am the following morning. I now realise it must have been the hospital policy to go in guns blazing for every induction, so to speak. In other words, I was contracting regularly, but for whatever reason, was given the syntocinon drip to augment my contractions and my waters were broken artificially with the crochet hook. Another two medical interventions that were performed on me as if there were no alternatives, and definitely not explained to me at all.

My first labour is a classic induction story involving cascade of intervention. The syntocinon immediately caused unbearable back-to-back contractions, with barely any break in between. I somehow managed these for a few hours, all the while screaming, crying and barely able to move. When I say I ‘managed’, I mean I was sitting reclined back in an upright hospital bed; intensity and frequency of the contractions paralysed me, and I couldn’t get off that bed once - the thought didn’t even occur to me.

At one point my midwife came in and quietly asked me if I would like an epidural. I didn’t know much about epidurals, and again, I wasn’t given much information at the time. I did know enough to know I didn’t really want one, but when I asked her “will it be much longer?” and she replied with “you’ve got a long way to go yet”, I decided I would have one.

At about 12pm it became apparent that my baby was experiencing a decelerated heart rate while on the syntocinon (which I didn’t realise is a very common side effect that nobody explains to you). When they turned the drug off, my baby was fine, but according to them, this meant I wouldn’t progress in my labour. Given that I had been in labour for about 8 hours maximum, and this ‘slow progression’ was diagnosed by a vaginal exam that apparently found I was ‘only’ 3cm dilated, according to the hospital policy, the logical next step was to present me with the option of a caesarean.

Because I had been repeatedly told that my labour wasn’t progressing and my baby was distressed, it was clear in my mind that I should have the caesarean. It was like a choice between a caesarean or risking my baby’s life. Yet again, I was given no real information, risks or enough information about the alternatives. Not once was I recommended to try alternative pain relief such as water, or advised to try being active and changing positions or given any tools to assist the physiological process of labour.

I can remember feeling relief when I was allowed to opt for a caesarean; a tiny part of me carried my mother’s traumatic births, because I did think for a second, “oh how lucky, now I don’t have to push a baby out”. That day, I was one of the many misguided people who considered a caesarean the ‘easier option.’

My caesarean was relatively straight forward. When she was out, they showed my baby to me and then took her away to be cleaned and wrapped up. She was born with an Apgar score of 9; no signs of a baby that had apparently been in distress. The surgeon told me she was posterior and had a nuchal cord (cord wrapped around her neck), and spoke as if it was just a given that I wouldn’t have been able to give birth to her vaginally because of those things, and that was that. The team was kind enough, and Joel was clearly immediately in love, but I didn’t feel like I was a part of her birth at all. I didn’t get skin to skin - Luna was held next to me already all wrapped up, with her face touching mine. I cried then, and I can just remember feeling incredibly overwhelmed.

After that, I was separated from Luna and Joel for an hour and a half because the small hospital apparently didn’t have enough midwives on shift to allow someone to stay with me and my baby in recovery. We stayed in hospital for three more nights, before I requested to be discharged so we could go home. I was struggling to breastfeed and my milk hadn’t come in, but I hoped that the comfort of home and the absence of a new midwife every few hours giving us different advice would make things easier. I was under the impression I would just ‘figure it out’. I didn’t have any support or even knew what a lactation consultant was.

I recovered fine from the caesarean, and felt physically okay, but Luna's first three days at home were awful. We suffered through severe breast refusal and, after seeking help from the ‘lactation consultant’ in the hospital (I use that title very loosely here), I continued to have a very hard time with it. I gave up breastfeeding after six days.

Once Luna was put onto formula, and we settled into a rhythm, I would call my postpartum period ‘reasonably okay’. I definitely felt the connection to her and loved her straight away, but a part of me did feel disappointed that the labour and birth didn’t go the way I always assumed it would. I definitely felt as if my body had failed me - in birthing my baby vaginally and breastfeeding.

We considered having another baby with a two-year age gap, but then decided against it. Our plan was to buy a house, and then try to get pregnant again after two years. Life had other plans, though, and when Luna was 13-months-old, we had a surprise pregnancy.

We were incredibly excited, despite that it was unexpected, and set about planning our life with two small children, wondering how our house would fit the four of us, and how Luna would react to a new sibling.

My physical recovery was fine with the previous caesarean, and, due to being uneducated about birth at the time, I believed the best way forward was a booked repeat caesarean. I must have just had it ingrained in my mind that ‘once a caesarean, always a caesarean’. I just didn’t even consider a VBAC at the time, because I believed that my body didn’t ‘work’ the first time, so why should it the second time?

I booked into the same small, local hospital, and was immediately assigned an obstetrician due to my previous caesarean - VBACs are indiscriminately prescribed as ‘high-risk’ in hospitals. We discussed a repeat caesarean, and she even pencilled the date into her diary, six months into the future. I specifically remember it being for the 5th of November. At the time, I believed I was at peace with a repeat caesarean, but I was determined to make breastfeeding work for me and this baby. It was the one thing I did a bit of research on early in my pregnancy: how to increase my chance of breastfeeding successfully. Something that I keep reading was that immediate skin to skin after birth in that ‘golden hour’ had a significant impact on a breastfeeding journey, and it was something I decided I would be having for this birth.

At an antenatal appointment with a midwife (I was having alternating check-ups with an obstetrician and a midwife at this point), I asked about skin to skin in theatre and recovery. Her resigned response was that the hospital didn’t have the staff required to allow this, and so my baby would be separated from me immediately after birth again: while I recovered after surgery, my husband and baby would be taken to my room without me. I told her I struggled with breastfeeding my first baby, and really wanted to give it my all this time, expressing my worry that the separation and lack of skin to skin would set me up for failure again. My fears were dismissed, and I was told to just express antenatally and that “plenty of caesarean mums breastfeed just fine.” I may have been fairly naive at this point, with very limited knowledge about so many aspects of birth, but one thing I did know was that this just didn’t seem good enough. Why would midwives who had been so passionate about the importance of breastfeeding during my first pregnancy, working in a maternity ward where the benefits of breastfeeding were stuck up around the place on various posters, take away one of the most important ways they can promote success in breastfeeding to new babies and mothers? And so the first seed of doubt about the repeat caesarean was planted.

I was quite emotional walking out of that appointment. At this point, it was during one of the peaks of COVID lockdown, when partners were not allowed in any appointments, so Joel was waiting for me in the hospital car park. As soon as I got in the car, I said to him, “I think I want a VBAC.” I went home and read a few articles about vaginal birth after caesarean.

A couple of weeks, and about thirty-five VBAC Birth Stories podcast episodes later, and I was 100% committed to having a VBAC. The episodes that most resonated with me were, interestingly enough, about homebirths. They sounded absolutely blissful, and described birth in a way I had never heard before. I learned the term ‘physiological birth,’ and the sacredness of it, and a lot of what I had imprinted on me in the years leading up to this moment began melting away. I had also read a book about Hypnobirthing, and how much the power of the mind and stimulating oxytocin is so integral in achieving a physiological birth.

To say my husband was not on board with the idea of homebirth would be a huge understatement. Joel is a theatre nurse, who performs caesareans on a very regular basis, and birth to him at that time was a medical procedure. At that point he may have seen one or two vaginal births in the operating theatre, and they were instrumental births, still treated very much like a procedure. The way Joel describes it, once a woman is brought to the operating theatre, sometimes she is ‘given the opportunity’ to attempt a vaginal birth, but only if she is literally fighting the urge to push out her baby then and there. But theatres have strict timetables to adhere to, so you can guarantee they are not waiting for a baby to enter the world in their own time. Nor is the birthing woman given any choice of position that isn’t on her back, knees in stirrups.

Joel was supportive of a VBAC, but he was worried about mine and the baby’s safety and all the things that, in his mind, could go wrong at a homebirth. He couldn’t understand why anyone would take that risk, when the ‘safety’ of a hospital is so accessible to us. It caused a lot of issues for a time between us, because at this point I was adamant I wanted to try a home birth. I soaked up all the research and birth stories I could, with a particular focus on how I could achieve the vaginal birth I now so wanted. Nothing was clearer to me than that a homebirth was the best way to achieve my dream birth and breastfeeding journey. I had joined the VBAC Australia Support Group and Homebirth Australia Group, both on Facebook, and it was a very common concern of women that their partners were worried about the safety of a homebirth. In response to these questions, many women who had homebirthed previously explained that when they spoke to a private midwife who could answer questions and provide knowledge and experience, their partners would then feel more at ease. I was incredibly lucky that the second private midwife I got in touch with was available for my birth, and was happy to come to our home to talk to us. We clicked immediately. Once Joel met her and asked her questions, connecting over common experience of working in a hospital, I could tell his worries were fading away.

I was completely decided I was having a homebirth, no question about it, but Joel suggested I still attend my hospital antenatal appointment scheduled for later that week, almost to give them one final chance to support the birth I now envisioned. At this point, I was 28 weeks pregnant. I was able to ask the OB questions I had armed myself with after listening to the VBAC podcast, joining the Facebook groups and speaking to Ashlee, the private midwife. Could I have a waterbirth? Would they want to induce me or schedule a caesarean at post dates? Could I decline vaginal exams? All my questions were answered with a firm “no”, and when probed, followed up with, “that does not adhere to our hospital policy and we would strongly advise against it” and I was treated like I was booking in for a service they provided with all these non negotiable rules and conditions. I was given a 50/50 chance of having a VBAC. Looking back now, I consider that statistic laughably optimistic. I decided those odds weren’t good enough, especially when I had heard of the 87% success rate of attempted VBACs at home.

I booked in with the private midwife and didn’t look back, until I got to 34 weeks and she suspected baby was breech. At 36 weeks we discussed our options of vaginal breech birth in hospital or an ECV. I couldn’t have a planned vaginal breech homebirth, as my midwife didn’t feel she could adequately support me with her lack of experience of breech births at home.

I decided to go for an ECV at 37 weeks at a different hospital to the one I had originally booked to birth at. Luckily, as this was the hospital where my husband worked, he was able to be there with me as, due to the COVID restrictions at the time, if he didn’t work there he wouldn’t have been allowed. I feel for any woman who undergoes an ECV alone without a support person, because it was the support from Joel, his physical presence, holding my hand, talking to me, that really got me through the procedure. It was intense and painful, but it worked! And baby stayed head down for the rest of the pregnancy.

We now focused on preparing for the blissful homebirth that I was envisioning. In contrast to my first pregnancy, I was feeling quite well, physically and mentally, in those last few weeks. I attribute it to eating really healthily (thankfully skipping those pesky food aversions I had first time round), and being so trusting of my body after all my research and mental preparation for the birth.

I had an appointment with my midwife at home on a Friday, four days before my due date. I remember her feeling baby’s position and telling me baby’s head was so far down in my pelvis, she couldn’t feel it, just shoulders. I actually didn’t think too much of this, and assumed I would go post-dates like I did with my first. I had multiple discussions with my midwife about what we would do if I got to 42 weeks, so we were definitely not expecting me to go into labour early.

I had had fairly intense, period-like cramping in those last few days, especially radiating down my legs, which I thought might mean labour wouldn’t be too far away, but again, not thinking too much of them. When I woke up the day before my due date with contractions beginning from the get-go at 7am, I wasn’t initially phased. I had heard time and time again that spontaneous labour pretty much always begins in the middle of the night, so I went about my morning trying to ignore the sensations.

My husband had begun his two weeks of paternity leave that day, (we joked about how convenient it would be if I had the baby so he could make the most of his leave) so he dropped Luna, who was almost two, at childcare and came home to me wondering if this truly might be it.

By 10am I began timing the contractions, and they were about 6-7 minutes apart. They were building in intensity, but not what I would call painful. I texted my midwife at about 11am, and she told me to try and go about my day as normal and get some rest here and there. I was feeling energetic and excited, so I went about cleaning the house and getting everything ready. Our house was very small, so the only room I could fit the birth pool in was the lounge room, if we pushed the lounges back against the walls. I got Joel to set up the birth pool; we already had the fairy lights and affirmation board ready to go.

At 2:45pm, the contractions were getting more frequent, about 2-3 minutes apart, and I was beginning to need to breathe through them. Joel and I decided to go for a walk, during which I did need to stop and breathe each time a contraction came.

We were due to pick Luna up from childcare a couple of hours after this, and being unsure how long I’d be in labour, we decided to bring her home and go about our evening routine as normal. Our plan was to have her picked up by Joel’s aunt, who we’re very close to, when it became apparent I was getting very close, or if this happened after she was in bed, to leave her in bed unless she woke up. At this point, I assumed that I would most likely be having baby during the night when she would be asleep.

Joel made Luna dinner and put her to bed around 7pm, by which time my midwife, Ashlee, had told me she would come and check on me. To be honest, I don’t remember too much of that visit, other than her walking in when I was sitting on the ball with relaxing music playing on the TV. I believed she stayed for a couple of hours until about 9pm, at which point she decided to go home and get some rest, thinking she would likely be back in the next few hours. My contractions were intense, but clearly not showing any signs of having the baby any time soon.

At 10pm, the contractions were feeling very intense, and were beginning to remind me of how my first labour with Luna felt. To my relief, the experience was incredibly different, in that, yes the sensations were feeling quite painful, but I was getting a decent break in between each. At this point, they were fairly close together and regular, but I was still getting a good couple of minutes between them. By contrast, during my induction with Luna, the contractions were on top of each other with barely any break at all, and having those few minutes of relief made so much difference.

I decided we should fill up the birth pool. I was sure that I would be having the baby soon. It was difficult for me because I had not been allowed to labour for this long before and this was an entirely natural labour, with no interventions. So I didn’t really know what to expect. I had heard so many different birth stories, and knew that each labour and birth could often be so different. By this time, I had been in labour for 15 hours, 7 hours longer than my first labour, so it makes sense that I was thinking the baby would be arriving sometime soon. I had felt the progression of my contractions: they had gone from about seven minutes apart to 2-3; and from ‘interesting sensations’ to intense surges.

Between 10pm and 11:30pm, I got into and out of the birth pool. I do remember having to be on the toilet quite a lot, and at one point around this time I lost my mucus plug. At midnight I texted Ashlee and told her the surges were getting hard to handle, and I was finding it hard to breathe through them. I wrote in my message that I was starting to lose a bit of confidence. I think I was feeling like I should have seen some progression, maybe feeling the urge to bear down or obvious signs of transition. In hindsight, the hours of research and birth stories I had listened to could have cause me to over-analyse my labour a little bit.

Ashlee arrived at about 2am, and from that point up until about 5am, I remember her and Joel dozing on the lounges as I floated in the birth pool, moaning through my contractions. They were still about two minutes apart, and fairly intense, but had stayed fairly consistent for hours, not ramping up or changing much. I remember when Ashlee made the call to leave at about 5am, I felt really disappointed, especially as I had heard so many stories of women birthing in that hour around sunrise after labouring all night. I really thought that would be me, but it wasn’t to be.

I did ask Ashlee to give me a vaginal exam before she left. We hadn’t discussed one up until this point, but I really wanted to know some kind of definitive number; something that would give me an indication of how long I had to go. I knew that my cervix wasn’t a ‘crystal ball’, as they say, but all this uncertainty was playing on my mind, and I thought it might help to know a number. She told me I was 4cm and very ‘stretchy’, and was very optimistic as she was telling me this, saying all of that hard work I had done had been really effective in getting me to this point. In my head, all i really heard was “four out of ten”, which I know is not at all the correct way of looking at it, but I was extremely tired and really ready to have this baby!

At Ashlee’s advice, Joel and I tried to get some sleep in our bed for a couple fo hours after she left. It was so incredibly hard for me to relax, with contractions still coming every two minutes and having to bring my knees up underneath me laying face down on the bed. I was so tired, though, so I did manage to fall asleep for those tiny little intervals between each contraction.

Luna was a champ, had an undisturbed sleep, and woke up at her normal time around 7am. She didn’t have childcare that day, so we organised for Joel’s aunt to pick her up to spend the day with her. Before Luna was picked up, Joel did bring her into the bedroom where I was at that point, to say hello and goodbye to me, and he told her “mummy has a sore tummy” and to be gentle with me. She was beautiful and soft with me and I felt so sad that I couldn’t give her proper cuddles. But Luna adores her great auntie, so she had zero issues with the plan for the day and off she went.

At 9am, I had got to the point where I was really struggling, so Joel messaged Ashlee telling her I was having a hard time, and that I had told him I didn’t think I can go on for much longer. Around this time, I had hopped back into the birth pool and my waters had broken in there. I remember I wasn’t one hundred per cent sure that it had actually happened, I just remember having a big contraction, and then this sort of release and the feeling of something coming out, but obviously being in the pool, I couldn’t see it. I stood up, watching to see if my waters were leaking, but still I couldn’t be sure. Joel told Ashlee I thought my waters had broken, and she replied saying she was at another birth and that the other baby was coming very soon, and she would be straight over to us after that.

I definitely remember feeling pressure as the baby moved down at this stage. Joel told Ashlee that I felt heavy down low and thought it might be the baby coming down. However, three hours later, I didn’t feel like anything was progressing and Ashlee was still at the other birth. I can recall really feeling like I couldn’t do it anymore and told Ashlee nothing was happening, I was so tired and I couldn’t keep going. Looking back, this had to have been transition. It’s funny, because no matter how many times I had heard other mothers talk about their labour and the transition phase, and how it felt, I still didn’t recognise it in myself at the time. Being stuck at the other birth, Ashlee suggested sending another midwife to get me through this tough time. I definitely needed the support of someone extra, and Joel was so exhausted, as the labour had now clocked in at thirty hours and counting.

In hindsight, this would have been the time that having a doula would have been such a life-saver. Someone to provide that extra support when Joel needed a rest, someone who knew my labour was long, but still normal, and could talk me off the ledge, so to speak. I just wanted to take this moment to mention this, as I think it is a question a lot of women ask when planning a homebirth.

At about 2:30pm, Chantel arrived to me, as she wrote in her notes that I read later, curled up on the lounge with my ‘legs clamped together’. She was an absolute god-send at that moment, doing exactly what I needed to get me through. She was incredibly calm and gentle, and just provided soft little nudges and suggestions of what I could do to help me along and get in a better headspace. Not long after Chantel arrived, I did ask her to do another VE, about ten hours after my first one. She told me I was 6cm at that time, and again, was super positive, just like Ashlee had been, and told me that things will progress really quickly from here.

By that time in my labour, I had gotten in and out of the pool several times, and perhaps seeing this might not have been helping me all that much, Chantel suggested I try changing things up, sitting on the toilet for a while. The contractions were so incredibly intense on the toilet, though I must have felt they were effective, because I stayed there for over an hour. After enduring that for as long as I could handle, I decided I was definitely most comfortable leaning over the lounge, knees on the floor, with my head in a cushion. Joel stood behind me, squeezing my hips together when a surge would come. It was during this time that I really felt like I had gone within, and wasn’t aware of what was going on around me, besides the contractions and the hip squeezes. I asked Joel afterwards, “who was squeezing my hips?” He said, “me!”, seeming confused I didn’t know that, but I had felt like I was on another planet.

For about an hour, I stayed in that position over the lounge, and I began to feel the urge to bear down with each contraction. Chantel must have sensed a change in my behaviour, because she immediately asked me if I felt any pressure. I started bearing down and going with my body, and at this point Ashlee arrived after her other client delivered her sixth baby about forty minutes away. After she joined us, the mood felt so much more positive - I had three people with me encouraging me and telling me how well I was doing, and it wouldn’t be long now. Looking back, the arrival of someone else to just give me that extra support I needed marked a huge shift in my labour, and that warm feeling I now had did wonders to get me to where I needed to be, mentally and physically. It was about that time I could definitely feel my baby moving down in my pelvis. That overwhelming feeling was a huge mental boost as well; knowing that every contraction was working to bring my baby down and that my body was doing what it was supposed to, really helped me keep pushing through.

I had been lying face down over the lounge for a couple of hours, so at about 6:30pm, Ashlee suggested we get the rebozo out and try and have me get into some deep squats to really help move baby down. We roped it around my bedroom door and in the hallway of our tiny house is where I worked the hardest I ever had in my life, and bore my baby right down so that Joel and my two midwives could begin to see her head become visible and then move up again. Apparently the midwives asked me if I wanted to get back in the pool around this time, and I declined. I don’t remember doing so, I must have been so deep within myself that I couldn’t fathom moving at all, let alone toddling over the five or so metres to where the pool was.

Ten minutes later (according to my birth notes), I must have come back to reality, because as my baby’s head was almost crowning, I asked “I want to get back in the pool, is it too late?!” Everyone looked at each other, there was a pause, and then they quickly said, “okay, but we have to hurry!” I waddled over to the lounge room and carefully stepped into the pool, positioning myself on my knees, lying over the side of the pool, holding Joel’s hands. While waiting for the next contraction, Ashlee suggested I feel down where her head was, and it was the oddest sensation, all firm, but soft and gooey. The contraction then came in an overwhelming wave, and it was then that I pushed my baby’s head out into the water. The surges had become further apart, and I kneeled there in the pool for a few minutes, my baby in no hurry for her body to be born. The midwives were amazed, saying “she’s looking at us!” Clearly she was perfectly content waiting halfway between worlds.

When I felt the last contraction come on, Ashlee got in position beside me and, as I pushed my baby’s body completely out, helped her come through between my legs so I could lift her up myself, straight onto my chest. It was a crazy feeling, after such a long labour, I can just remember saying “oh bubba! It’s okay, I’m sorry it took so long!” She was born at 7:12pm, almost exactly 36 hours from my first contraction.

Our baby, Remi, was perfectly happy and healthy: she cried straight away and needed no assistance at all. I held her against my chest in the pool with a towel around her to keep her warm. I can remember feeling so relieved and excited and content - the high was just incredible, nothing compares. Joel felt the same, I could tell he was almost in disbelief of what had happened, of what I had done. This labour and birth was so strikingly different to my first with Luna, in so many ways; maybe the biggest contrast was that my first labour had ‘failed to progress’ after only eight hours, and a caesarean was suggested to ‘fix’ this and solve it as a ‘problem’. It’s laughable because my labour with Remi was over four times longer, and not once did anyone call it anything but ‘normal’ and nobody tried to ‘fix’ it: I was left completely untouched.

Yes, it was long, and my confidence faltered a few times, but I look back now and know that the time it took, and all those intense contractions I experienced, was what my body needed to do in order to deliver my baby. It sounds obvious, but I know that I had to experience the labour that I did to safely deliver a healthy baby. It was physiological and natural, and if it was sped up or augmented, or if the physiological sensations were taken away, would my baby have had the journey she needed to? I don’t think so.

After about twenty minutes, I hadn’t delivered the placenta yet, so I stepped out of the pool onto the lounge (heavily covered with drapes that Joel had handily brought home from work), where I birthed the placenta physiologically. I was still holding Remi, and just focused on her and the amazing thing we had just done while Ashlee examined me and told me I had a small, second-degree tear. She stitched me up right there on the lounge while I cuddled Remi, with me thinking all the while that after what I had just achieved, I could handle anything.

We experienced true delayed cord clamping: the cord wasn’t cut until 8:30pm, and over an hour after birth, it was completely white. Joel, having seen hundreds of caesareans, said that he had never seen a cord like that - their version of delayed cord clamping can often be no more than thirty seconds to one minute, when the cord is still purply-blue, thick and pulsating.

Remi had a little feed, I was able to shower in my own bathroom - bliss! - and at about 9pm, Ashlee and Chantel left us to enjoy our new baby. Luna was sleeping over at Joel’s aunt’s place, so we attempted to unwind from the marathon of the last two days and take our sleepy little newborn to bed with us, in our own bed.

The next six weeks definitely had their ups and downs, beautiful moments and challenges, but the postnatal support from Ashlee made such an enormous difference, knowing that she was always a phone call or text away from providing reassurance and guidance during tough times. Ashlee visited us at home four times in the first week, and then weekly or fortnightly until about 6 weeks postpartum.

My breastfeeding experience was significantly smoother than my first time with Luna, but it definitely wasn’t without its challenges. In a lot of ways, I felt like a first-time mum, because bottle-fed and breastfed babies can be so different, so I likely faced a lot of the struggles that a first time breastfeeding mum would have come up against. Looking back now, everything was going fine physically: Remi was back over her birth weight at 6 days old, and I had good supply, but I’m not sure anyone can ever be mentally prepared for those first few weeks with a breastfeeding newborn, and I questioned myself at every turn. Perhaps being a second time mum, my expectations of myself and my baby were too high; I wish I had been easier on us.

That postnatal support from Ashlee went such a long way, however, and that, along with a fierce determination that I wasn’t giving up, meant that I was able to breastfeed Remi until she was eight months old, which after my first experience with Luna, I am so incredibly grateful for. When Remi and I persevered, even after that six-day mark, I was so proud, and I know that my newfound knowledge of what my body is capable of played a huge part in getting me there.

Remi is now fourteen-months-old, and I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of telling her birth story. When I tell people I gave birth at home, most of them look at me in awe, and to be honest, I am still in awe of myself. It’s funny, because the general public and the healthcare system view VBAC as this incredibly risky and potentially dangerous thing, but when I decided I was going to have a homebirth, the significance of it being a VBAC began to dissipate. And it’s still a little bit of an afterthought, like “yeah I had Remi at home… oh right, she was also a VBAC; my first was a caesarean”. I can credit that attitude to the complete confidence I had in my body that I could do it. I didn’t even entertain the idea that I wouldn’t be able to have my baby, not only vaginally but also naturally, at home. I listened to podcasts, I read books and I absorbed VBAC and homebirth story after story, and proved to myself that knowledge is power, and it’s the unknown and the uncertainty that’s scary. If you arm yourself with knowledge, do the research and believe in yourself, I really don’t think there is anything a woman can’t do, and you’ll carry that confidence with you into motherhood, and I’m sure, for the rest of your life.


About Georgia:

Georgia, her husband Joel and two little girls live in the rural Hawkesbury, west of Sydney, NSW. Joel is a theatre nurse, ironically now with a uniquely rebellious outlook on maternity care in the hospital system. Luna is now 3 and Remi 14 months, and their mum Georgia is beginning her Bachelor of Midwifery in 2023, passionately inspired by her own experiences, the stories of other women and the determination that she can play some small role in improving the care her girls receive and the options they have, should they wish to have their own babies in the future.

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