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    HBAC: Home Birth After a Cesarean

    • person Brittani Velasquez
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    *If you prefer listening to birth stories, I had the pleasure of telling all three of my birth stories on The VBAC Link Podcast. Episode 252: Brittani's HBAC After a Hospital Transfer VBAC.

    My journey to motherhood began with intense fear around birth and ended in the purposeful and dedicated preparation for a home birth. If you overheard me chatting about birth five years ago, you would have heard me using fearful language and cringing while listening to moms tell their birth stories. Our society is so intrigued by birth stories. I don’t know about you – but I tend to hear more negative and traumatic stories than calm and empowering ones. It's almost as if there’s some secret competition to have the worst possible birth experience.

    If you are reading this blog for the first time, welcome! My name is Brittani Velasquez. I am the mama behind this brand. For a bit of my background – I had a primary cesarean for a breech baby. I was terrified of birth and viewed my daughter’s cesarean as an “easy” way out of labor. I now understand that could not be further from the truth! Our second was a transfer from the birth center to have my VBAC in the hospital. I am excited to share my experience birthing our third baby at home.

    Overcoming the fear of labor

    When I thought about laboring with my first baby, I envisioned everything you see on TV. The rushed and agonizing car ride to the hospital. Being whisked away in a wheelchair while I’m screaming for an epidural. It turns out I didn’t get to labor with my first. She was breech, and we scheduled a cesarean birth. Which at the time, didn’t feel like a birth at all.

    The entire experience was traumatic to me. Getting a spinal injection (I have always been terrified of needles) without my husband in the operating room. I felt all of the tugging and pressure, not to mention the smell of my flesh burning. Olivia was taken from the doctor, her vernix wiped off and bundled up before I held her for the first time. I was not prepared to experience a surgical birth. This experience motivated me to do everything possible to avoid a repeat cesarean with our second baby. This included avoiding the hospital altogether.

     

    Pregnant woman holding ultrasound photo while her husband has his hands in a heart shape over her belly

     

    My first VBAC

    I prepared to have our son in a birth center just under two years after giving birth to our first. His labor was long (almost 30 hours) and challenging. During this labor, I endured many hours of double-peaking contractions. Finally, I decided to transfer to the hospital to get an epidural. I retell the story in this blog post.

    My husband, Gonzalo, and I originally planned to have two children. He went in for a vasectomy in 2020. After submitting several post-procedure samples, we were told the vasectomy did not work. As silly as it sounds, I questioned everything in my life! After many months of discussions – we decided to have a third baby. Gonzalo and I both have two siblings and it just felt right.

    Preparing for a Home Birth

    At the beginning of this pregnancy, I knew I wanted to have a home birth. I interviewed several midwives and found our match at Flourish Midwifery. Finding a team that I felt chemistry with was super important to me.

    This pregnancy was by far my most challenging. I now had two toddlers to care for. Nausea ruled my life until close to the end of the second trimester. I was under a lot of stress, and it felt impossible to get most things done. So I rested and ate a lot!

    With my son’s birth, I thought I did plenty of mental preparation for an unmedicated birth. I now understood I needed to dedicate as much time as possible. My friend, Christy, is a hypnosis coach. She also teaches Hypnobirthing classes. We took her course and I meditated daily with the Rainbow Relaxation.

    Another Breech Baby

    My midwives sent me for a 36-week ultrasound to check the placement of my placenta (it can be dangerous to have a VBAC if the placenta is on the uterine scar). This appointment was supposed to be quick, so I went alone. However, during the ultrasound, I was told Sofia was breech. This was the exact reason I had a cesarean with Olivia. The words coming out of the technician’s mouth didn’t feel real. I felt disoriented and broken. I needed my husband to be there. Devastated, I called my midwives after the appointment and cried.

    This time around, instead of accepting defeat, I took a day to feel sorry for myself and got to work. I followed this program from Spinning Babies. Gonzalo assisted me with various exercises designed to create space in the womb to give the baby the chance to turn. Belly sifting, inversions, laying on an ironing board, etc.

    My midwives scheduled a procedure called an external cephalic version (ECV). This involves a trained professional using their hands to manipulate the baby to a head-down position manually. Most ECVs are performed in the hospital with muscle relaxers and an epidural for pain management. This was the reason I did not attempt one with Olivia. However, a well-known midwife here in Portland has excellent success turning babies. We went in to see her when I was 38 weeks pregnant.

    Pregnant mother holding her daughter while standing on train tracks at Cathedral Park in Portland, OR

     

    Pregnant mother tossing her son in the air while standing on train tracks at Cathedral Park in Portland, OR

     

    External Cephalic Version

    Gonzalo and one of our midwives joined me for the appointment. The midwife who did the version is also an acupuncturist. She began by putting a needle in each pinkie toe to help increase uterine activity. Unfortunately, this was something I was very familiar with. The end of Olivia’s pregnancy left my pinkie toes bruised in my desperate attempts to help her turn. The midwife left the room to give the needles time to work. During her absence, my midwife massaged my belly with oil while we talked to baby Sofia. This was incredibly relaxing and helped me feel even more connected to my birth team. When the midwife returned, she checked Sofia’s position with an ultrasound machine and started working her magic.

    Sofia started moving quite quickly. It wasn’t as painful as I anticipated. I talked to Sofia, took deep cleansing breaths, and focused on remaining calm. Once she made it to a transverse position, it suddenly became intense. Lots of pressure and stretching in my uterus and the midwife had to dig underneath my ribs to keep her moving on her journey.

    The midwife lost her grip about halfway through, and Sofia slipped back to transverse. At this point, I started to worry it wouldn’t be successful. After pausing momentarily to allow me to catch my breath, the midwife placed one hand on Sofia’s butt and the other on her head. She then rhythmically rocked her all the way head down. Relieved and shaking from the adrenaline, I embraced my midwife and cried.

    Pregnant woman surrounded by white flowers looking down at her belly

     

    My Home Birth Was Becoming a Reality

    The ultrasound confirmed Sofia was head down. I sat on a low stool to help her settle into my pelvis for a while. To encourage her to settle in further, Gonzalo and I took a little stroll around the neighborhood before getting back in the car.

    The ECV left me sore and a little bruised for several days. It was a wild but unique experience to have Sofia manually turned inside my belly. I spent months practicing relaxation, visualization, and a positive mindset to birth Sofia at home. All the practicing helped me handle the discomfort of the ECV. It gave me great confidence that I could handle the intensity of labor. My home birth was becoming a reality.

    Manifesting My Baby’s Home Birth

    I went into this birth feeling confident and determined to have Sofia at home. I listened to the Hypnobirthing relaxation and affirmations daily, read Ina May’s books several times, and even changed my language around birth. Referring to contractions as surges instead. Reminding myself surges feel like period cramps with immense energy to bring baby earthside. Truly believing labor and birth weren’t going to be scary or painful.

    It was by far the most intense experience in my life. I woke up to lots of blood-tinged mucus the morning of her due date. This was how labor started with our second, Enrique. I had some cramping but went about my day as usual. Our oldest went to preschool, and I did some grocery shopping. More mucus came that evening. Proper surges started around 7 p.m. They were light and easy. I bounced on my yoga ball and watched TV with Gonzalo – even chatted with my Hypnobirthing coach over the phone for a bit! I tried to sleep that night but was unable to. Instead, I rested in bed until the surges were too intense to lay still. 

    Active Labor

    Around 2 am I got in our tub while Gonzalo began setting up the birth tub. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to fill it up. I was in full-blown active labor and found relief by squeezing Gonzalo’s hand with each surge. This was the only way I could refrain from clenching my butt. It allowed me to put the energy elsewhere and work with my body as opposed to fighting against each powerful surge. I chanted loudly with each breath “I can do this” or “I got this” as I did my best to direct the energy downward. The noises that came out of my mouth were something I couldn’t control. It felt very primal. I was incredibly loud and was convinced the noises coming out of me weren’t my own.

    I was very sweaty and uncomfortable in our tub. Somehow, I managed to get out and waddled my way to the bed. I text both my doula and midwife around 3 a.m. Our doula arrived at 4 a.m. and the midwife shortly after. At this point, the surges were longer and much, much stronger with barely any time in between.

    My low grunting alerted my team that I was getting close to pushing. I could feel Sofia move lower and my butt began to bulge. I yelled for someone to put pressure on my back, which helped ease some of the intensity as she prepared to enter our world. Somehow, the team convinced me to move from the bed to the bathroom. I didn’t think I could move – nor did I want to.

    Bringing my Baby Earthside

    The short trip to the bathroom took a lot of energy and strength. After plopping down on the toilet, I rhythmically swayed back and forth. I felt disoriented as if I was in some alternate universe. I remember my doula wiping my sweaty hair off my forehead and telling me how beautiful I looked. Her gentle and nurturing presence made me feel supported. My water broke with a loud “pop” and my body completely overtook over. I was holding my doula with one hand and Gonzalo with the other.

    Things were incredibly intense at this point. Her descent made me feel I had zero control over what was happening. It felt like my body was violently pushing her into the world. I remember sinking my teeth into my doula’s arm while standing up from the toilet to squat for Sofia’s arrival! My midwife asked me to hold back during a few surges while she was crowning. She offered to have me touch Sofia’s head. I tried to let go of Gonzalo’s arm but my legs were shaking so badly I couldn’t manage. Sofia arrived fast and furious with less than 5 minutes of pushing! She was born with a nuchal cord (it was wrapped around her neck) and was placed directly into my arms.

    I sustained a small vaginal tear that didn’t require stitches, and my perineum was intact! We had a zero-intervention home birth. No one touched her for the first few hours of her life. I didn’t have one vaginal exam. There were no IVs or machines hooked up to me. Best of all, I lay in my bed after the birth. It was glorious. I did it!!

    Final Words

    I’ve experienced three vastly different births. A planned cesarean for breech presentation, a VBAC birth center transfer to the hospital for an epidural, and a second VBAC home birth. While this home birth was not easy – I am grateful for the opportunity to experience an unmedicated and empowered birth. Toward the end, I started to doubt my ability to continue. I even said out loud that I couldn’t do it any longer. With the support and encouragement of my team, I did the damn thing! Sofia’s birth has ignited a newfound belief that I can do anything I set my mind.

    Women are amazing. Our bodies are amazing. 

    Couple holding their children at Cathedral Park in Portland, OR

    *Maternity photos by the lovely Laura with Elle Images

     

    About the Author:

    Brittani Velasquez is the owner and founder of ñuñuy nursing apparel. She is a mama of three, a home sewist, and is passionate about sustainable living. Read more about her here.

     

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