‘More Faith, Less Fear': An Unassisted HBAC

by Svea Boyda-Vikander on February 23, 2013

Lisa M. shares the story of her daughter Freya’s free birth.

“This is a story of a beautiful birth – the birth of my gorgeous daughter Freya. Her birth had been planned for a long time… Pretty much since the day her older brother and I left the hospital after his very traumatic VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) birth, two years ago. Both he and I still suffer today from the experience – he physically and I, emotionally. I knew another baby of mine would not suffer coming into this world again. And she didn’t. Deciding to birth Freya unassisted was the best and most informed decision we had ever made.

October 11th was a Thursday, my husband’s “Friday”. We had joked during the pregnancy that having this baby on a weekend would be absolutely marvelous! We could get away with birthing the baby in peace – no questions asked, no phone calls, no checkups. That evening as we were watching Johnny Depp’s latest film, I began to notice my Braxton Hicks were actually causing some discomfort. Not overwhelming, only noticeable. After the movie we went to bed but it wasn’t until after a million trips to the bathroom that I fell asleep.

I woke up with the boys at 8:30am, having gotten a good solid seven hours of sleep. The uncomfortable Braxton Hicks were still there – still only noticeable but not yet bothersome. That being said, I had an intense urge to get a few things accomplished. We needed to get groceries for the weekend and my boys needed winter boots and mittens as it had snowed the day before. I woke my husband up and we were off to town by 11 o’clock am.

Walmart was our first stop. As I was browsing and picked up boots and mittens, I noticed the sensations getting stronger. I had to use the public bathroom twice while we were there. I wasn’t officially timing them but would say the contractions were about seven minutes apart. I could still walk and talk through them without anyone noticing. We got our groceries and made a pit stop at the health food store looking for some coconut water. By 2pm we were back home.

The boys and I had a little snack and then I put them down for a nap. Contractions always felt worse to me lying down, but I worked through them without the boys knowing. I too fell asleep for about five minutes before another contraction awoke me. Still feeling a bit hungry, I got up and ate half a bag of Tostito’s tortilla chips (healthy, I know!) and browsed Facebook for a little bit while sitting and swaying on my exercise ball. I started to squat and sway through the contractions, which felt amazing and made them instantly go away. I decided to make myself some kale and pineapple juice, squatting and swaying during contractions. I was still in denial about labor, thinking I had about a week of this “false” labor to go through.

During my pregnancy I had created a “birth blessing” necklace, which you can see hanging with the towels in the first picture below. I had just received a few extra beads from friends and decided it was the perfect time to put them on. I went to the bathroom to do this because by that time I had to pee every 30-60 seconds. Sometimes I wouldn’t even leave the toilet as I would pee, stand up and bend over during a contraction, and pee again. I noticed the feeling I had to poop – but was not having any back labor (thank goodness!). Already this was a completely different experience from my last two labors.

The boys had woken up by 4pm and by 5 o’clock, I told my husband to put on some soup for supper. I was fully intending to help him feed the boys but by 5:30pm the contractions were starting to demand my attention. I mostly stayed in the bathroom because of the fact I had to pee ALL the time and then had three bowel movements within the next half hour.

I would walk to the kitchen and then squat and sway or crawl on my hands and knees during the contractions. I began to feel warm and irritated by my clothes, so I kicked off my pants and just wore my underwear and tank top. I thought my toddler also looked hot (whether he was or not, I am not sure!) so I stripped him down too. I think it was more so that I wouldn’t feel alone. I periodically cracked open the window or door to feel the crisp cool autumn air. It made me feel better. I was snacking on an apple and banana and still making very frequent trips to the bathroom to pee. My last contraction in the kitchen was on my hands and knees and then after I immediately started vomiting.

7pm. My husband and my toddler would massage my back. His little chubby hands made me smile. My husband walked me to the bedroom and he read my “birthy” vision board aloud while massaging my feet. We laughed and he continued to be encouraging as I worked through another contraction. The boys bounced around happily. My three year-old asked questions and would give me a kiss every so often.

We walked back to the bathroom and I declared I REALLY needed to get in the bathtub. My husband contradicted. He felt I wasn’t ready and he didn’t want me in the tub until I really needed it. We then had a slight bickering match. Needless to say, I won and he started to fill the tub.

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I decided to feel my cervix, not to check dilation but to just get a feel. I reached in with two fingers and felt the water bag protruding. The contractions were intense and yet I was still in denial. I knew I had another three days of this false labor. I began to panic – I couldn’t do this forever. I muttered a few things: I wanted my loving midwife who helped us so greatly throughout this pregnancy. Maybe she could speed labor up. How can dogs do this and birth so many babies at once and yet stay so calm? My husband brought me back to reality. He told me I needed to stop thinking and get back with the flow of labor, that each contraction was bringing me closer to my baby, time doesn’t matter and I am a strong woman! He was right … he is always right.

I stopped “thinking” and started “feeling” again. The very next contraction I felt a “pop”. My water broke. I scanned the tub, the fluid was clear – exactly how I envisioned. Three things immediately went through my mind. One: my midwife mentioned the water usually breaks at 9 cm. Two: during my last birth, my previous midwife had told me I needed to hold back my body’s urge to push because I could swell my cervix. Three: Ina May Gaskin had better be right! I am letting go and allowing my body to do what it needs to do!

And with that last thought, one very powerful contraction came over me and my baby’s head halfway emerged. I reached down and felt the softest hair I ever felt. The next contraction went through me like a wave – my legs shaking, I let out a very primal roar and the baby’s whole head was visible. My toddler came in the bathroom, giggling. He thought I was funny and decided to roar like a lion himself. I laughed. The very last contraction flowed through me and at 9:25pm our baby was fully Earthside.

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Since I was on my hands and knees, my husband reached down with one hand, as he was also videoing the birth, and passed the baby through my legs. I checked and it was girl! My son was singing “baby, baby, baby!” She looked around, so calm and very alert. She made a little cry and soon after she latched onto my breast. She was perfect. I checked twice more to make sure she was still a baby girl. My little Miss Freya weighed 7lbs, 8oz and measured 19 ¾ inches long.

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This was a perfect birth – just how it should be: peaceful, gentle, loving. I didn’t even tear which just confirms that the body knows what to do, that birth is a natural bodily function. Many people say we were just lucky and thank God, nothing went wrong. I disagree. I prayed about this decision for a very long time and God brought me to this situation. I look back on both my sons’ births which were both very medical. Each caused some kind of unnecessary pain physically and emotionally to my babies and myself. With Freya’s birth – absolutely nothing went wrong. That’s not luck, that’s just how it’s meant to be. As women we need to have a little more faith and a lot less fear.”

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