Home birth after cesarean: This mom’s success story

Apr 3, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. ET

Vicki’s first birth ended in a C-section, which was not in her plans, at all. How she turned her second birth into a successful home birth is extraordinarily inspiring.

Newborn baby Olive

Vicki, a mother of two who lives in Canada, planned on a natural hospital birth with her first baby, but she wound up with a C-section instead. In between her first birth and her second, she set out to have the home birth she’d always wanted — and was successful.

Lyra’s birth

Vicki’s first daughter, born in 2009, arrived in the hospital via an emergency C-section. This was not the birth Vicki had expected and hoped for. “My plan was to have a natural birth in the hospital, as I was not able to get a midwife due to very low availability,” she explained. “I wanted little interventions, and to basically be left alone as much as possible.”

However, when her water broke prior to labor’s start, she was advised to go to the hospital to get checked out, and wound up being admitted with weak contractions and only dilated 1 1/2 centimeters and effaced 25 percent — in other words, she had a long way to go. With the time ticking away, she found herself on day two in labor and delivery with a Pitocin drip. Unfortunately, things didn’t pick up. “I labored for 24 hours while they ramped up my drip, and at 30 or so hours of labor, I was 3 centimeters, my baby was tachycardic (heart rate was in the 200’s), and I had spiked a fever of 105 degrees,” she said.

She was prepped for surgery and Lyra was delivered healthy, but still had to spend some time in the NICU because her oxygen saturation was low. The birth, however, left her with feelings that she didn’t expect. “I was so disappointed. Obviously I was elated to meet my baby, but I had envisioned this awesome, empowering birth, and instead I feel like I was railroaded into making choices I didn’t want to make,” she remembered.

Planning ahead

Vicki knew that for her next birth, she wanted it to take place at home. She began educating herself on how best to succeed. “I trained as a birth doula between the births of my children,” she told us. “I learned so much about the birth process during that training, that when I discovered I was pregnant with Olive, I knew how to manage some of the stumbling blocks that can occur during the birth process.”

There are only so many midwives in her area Alberta — in fact, only 14 to serve a metropolitan area with a population of one million people. “I knew I had to think about other options,” she shared. “I was not comfortable with the idea of having an unassisted birth after a prior cesarean, so I did look around to find general practitioners and obstetricians that were more holistically minded.”

To prepare, she read tons of books and attended support meetings. “I also went to ICAN support meetings, which I found invaluable — hearing other women’s VBAC success stories was inspiring,” she said.

Her midwife, like all others in the area, had admitting privileges at her local hospital. “Because I was postdates (42 weeks and 5 days), there was an obstetrician on call in case I needed to be transferred to the hospital,” she explained. “The care is collaborative between midwives and the physicians. The continuity of care is a feature of our maternity system that I do appreciate.”

Olive’s healing birth

Newborn Olive

Vicki’s labor, like her pregnancy, was very long — 46 hours long, in fact. A midwife visit at 41 weeks and 6 days found her to be 2 to 3 centimeters on the outside, but she couldn’t reach the amniotic sac to do a membrane sweep. The next day, she was eating dinner at her mother’s house, which is where her contractions started. “They weren’t regular yet, but they were a good 45 seconds to a minute long and anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes apart,” she recalled. “By 8 o’clock, I was having to breathe through them, so I packed up Lyra and took her home. Driving through contractions in the dark (when you have bad night vision) is a bit on the scary side.”

She put Lyra to bed and spent the night draped over her yoga ball. By the next morning, at 7 a.m., it felt like things were picking up. She spent time with her doula and running a couple of errands, and had her midwife check her at around 2 p.m., when she was devastated to find out she was only 3 centimeters dilated. Unfortunately, the same result was obtained the following morning at 3 a.m.. “I lost it,” she said. “I had been laboring for 30-odd hours with absolutely no progress. All I had to show for all my hard work was that my knees and elbows were rubbed raw from rocking back and forth on the floor on my knees. I was exhausted. I was beginning to feel defeated. I just wanted to rest.”

The next day, however, when she called her midwife in for a final check, she was ecstatic to find that she was 6 to 7 centimeters dilated. The birth pool was filled and she hopped in. She was checked at 2 p.m. and was 8 centimeters dilated, and thus began the most difficult phase of her labor. “My contractions were coming two at a time, I’d get about 30 seconds of rest between them, and they’d start all over again,” she remembered. “I was starting to get irritable. I could no longer control the sounds I was making, and I was getting a little panicked.”

Soon, she was completely dilated and felt the overwhelming urge to push. Around this time, her mother stopped by. “I heard her sobbing as she came into the house and she sat next to the pool telling me how proud of me she was,” she happily shared. "It was the little push I needed to get serious about... well... pushing.”

Soon, the baby’s head was visible, and the ring of fire sensation began to overwhelm her. Her midwife asked her to give one big giant push, and she did. “I pushed as hard as I could and felt outrageous pressure and stinging as the baby’s head popped out,” she said. “Noreen helped to deliver the shoulders with the next push, and with the very last, Chris held out his hands to catch our daughter as the rest of her body slid out at 9 minutes after 5. Our Olive Isis Staples.”

The rush of emotions

Vicki with Lyra and baby Olive

Vicki was understandably elated. “I can’t even begin to describe the emotions I felt,” she explained. “I was so elated. I had just ended 42 weeks of pregnancy and 46 hours of labor by birthing my baby in a pool on my living room floor. I just had my successful VBAC baby!”

She says that her home birth was absolutely worth it. “I knew it was the right thing for me to do,” she said. “I needed to take back my body. I needed to prove to myself that I could do it and that I wasn’t broken.”

She also encourages moms who have had a prior C-section to go for a home birth if they really desire one. “In the absence of risk factors that might pose a danger to yourself or your baby, I highly recommend it,” she said. “It was the single most empowering moment of my life. To reach down and pull my own baby out of the pool was an incredible moment. I can’t even think about it without beaming and tearing up.”

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