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Hospital VBAC After a Month of Prodromal Labor

Hospital VBAC After a Month of Prodromal Labor

I had been having prodromal labor for about month straight so when I noticed contractions starting on Sunday evening, I didn’t really think much of it. I went about my evening like normal, put my toddler to bed, watched a little TV, and around 9pm I decided to head to bed. I’m not one to ever have trouble falling asleep but I laid there for about an hour and just could not fall asleep. I noticed my contractions getting a little stronger, but nothing alarming. I mentioned to my husband, Steve, that my contractions were getting stronger and that I thought this might be it. He decided to get in bed and try to sleep in case this was the real deal. I texted my doula, Amber, to keep her updated on how I was feeling. 

I laid in bed with the TV on and tried to ignore the contractions for a while. They were about every 7-9 minutes apart by now and I had to deep breathe to get through them. I tossed and turned in bed until about 1:00am when I decided to hop in the shower in the hopes to relax. I woke up my husband before I got in to tell him I thought this was for real this time. The shower was anything but relaxing. My contractions just got stronger and stronger the longer I was in there. When I got out, I told Steve he needed to call my mother-in-law to come watch our daughter. She lives in Lincoln, so I knew it would be at least an hour before she would get to our house. 

The waves of contractions were getting much more intense now and I found myself leaning over whatever was in reach and moaning when a wave would come over me. Around 1:30am, I told Amber that I needed her to come over. At this point, my husband had gone into hyper-focus mode and decided deep cleaning our entire house was necessary, (he doesn’t cope with labor very well) so I really needed Amber’s support. Before she arrived, the nausea kicked in and I started to throw up. I didn’t have nausea with my first labor, and I can say it was one of the most unpleasant parts of the whole experience. When Amber arrived, my contractions were about 3-5 minutes apart and I was still getting sick. I continued to labor at home for a couple more hours. 

Around 5am, I decided I wanted to head to the hospital. We arrived around 5:30am and I was checked into my room. I had great communication with my midwives during my prenatal care so I knew what types of standard things would be coming my way when I got to the hospital, ie an IV lock and continuous fetal monitoring. They also wanted a urine sample, which was fine with me, but I had no idea how intense my contractions would get from sitting on the toilet! No wonder people always rave about how great it is to labor on the toilet! After that little experience, the nurses got my IV going and put baby on the monitor. The on-call OB came in and introduced herself. She asked to check me and I was pleasantly surprised to hear I was already 9.5cm. 

At this point, my labor stalled a bit. My contractions got a little further apart, probably due to my nerves. Around 7:30am, the nurses came in my room to do their change of shift. I remember asking for an epidural while they were talking. I hadn’t specifically planned for a natural labor but I knew being able to move would give me the best chances for a VBAC, so in the back of my mind, I was always reminding myself of that. The nurses told me to wait until the contraction was over and if I still wanted it, we would discuss it again. After the wave passed, I caught my breath and decided against the epidural. 

Soon after the nurses ended their report, the in-house midwife for the day, Kate, came in. She checked me and again I was very pleasantly surprised. I was 9.5cm! I was almost fully dilated without an epidural! That excitement was quickly diminished when Kate told me that baby was still at a -3 station. The problem with baby being so high while I was almost fully dilated is the risk of cord prolapse if my water breaks. Kate and I had a lengthy discussion about my options in this situation. It was a difficult decision to make but after giving it a lot of thought, I decided to get an epidural and let Kate break my water. This allowed the membrane rupture to be a little more controlled, and also allowed Kate to feel if the cord needed to be moved to prevent a prolapse. After three tries to place the epidural, it was finally finished. That was by far the worst part of my labor experience. 

When I was nice and numb, Kate broke my water and did end up needing to move the cord around baby’s head to prevent a prolapse. Baby dropped to a -2 station after the membrane rupture, which was not as much of a drop as we were hoping for. There was also meconium in my waters. Again, Kate discussed my options with me and I decided to continue laboring. Both baby and I were doing just fine, so I wanted to give my body more time. 

For the next several hours, I alternated laying on my left side, to my right side, to sitting up every 20 minutes. Kate continued to monitor baby and I but baby still was not dropping. I was getting more and more emotional as it seemed a cesarean was in my future but I wasn’t ready to give up yet. My nurse and Amber helped me sit up again but this time it was getting uncomfortable. I asked Amber to grab the birth ball and put it in front of me so I could lean over it. I remember hearing baby’s heart rate drop a little on the monitor. I asked the nurse about it and she said that it can happen during a contraction but as long as the heart rate goes back up after the contraction, it’s fine. We were having trouble-keeping baby on the monitor and I thought it was just due to how I was sitting. This happened a couple more times and then Kate came in. This is when things got a little crazy.

Kate had me lay back down and checked me. Baby was now at a +3! Things get a little fuzzy for me here because it all happened so fast. It seemed like I blinked and my whole room was filled with people. The one thing I distinctly remember is Kate looking up after checking me, and telling me that I was going to have to find my strength and get my baby out. That I was going to have to push with everything I had because my baby needed to get out now. Baby had dropped so fast that her head was transverse in my pelvis. With the very next contraction I was pushing. I continued pushing with every contraction and Kate was able to turn baby’s head into the correct position. I could hear everyone in the room cheering me on. That was one of the most meaningful parts of my whole experience. At 2:22pm after only 22 minutes of pushing, Kate successfully maneuvered her shoulder dystocia and I delivered my beautiful baby girl. She was placed on my belly briefly but was not responding as quickly as the doctors and nurses like to see. Daddy cut the cord and the NICU nurses whisked her away. I’m told she was only gone for about 15 minutes but it felt like hours to me. 

I did it! I am so thankful for Kate, Amber, Steve, and all the nurses and doctors who helped me achieve my VBAC. I am thankful that I had the courage to stay patient and thankful that I was given space and time to make my own decisions. This birth story is so different from my first, and I am so grateful to have been able to have such an incredible experience.

Birth experience and photograph submitted by Samantha Wall. 

Faith and Healing: A ‘Post Dates’ Home Birth After a Cesarean

Faith and Healing: A ‘Post Dates’ Home Birth After a Cesarean

(Editor’s note: this birth experience was originally posted on August 23, 2011.)

To gain a little insight of why I had a C-section with my first born, I have it written down as a “vent” on my blog. It basically started out as one intervention cascading into a ball of interventions that led me to a transfer from a “Birth Center” birth to the hospital that ended in a non-emergency C-section for being stuck at 5cm for hours and hours. I did a lot of processing and mourned the birth and post par tum bond of my beautiful baby girl, Alana.

I did my research, got in touch with my local ICAN Chapter and soaked up as much info as I could. I also found a lovely CPM who takes VBAC’s as I knew the best chance of a successful VBAC would to be at home with the least intervention and the most support. I did all my own prenatal’s, skipped the ultrasound, listened and trusted my body to grow my baby and prepare for birth. I was on top of my nutrition and got monthly adjustments from my chiropractor and even got a wonderful massage at the end of my pregnancy.

My VBAC Baby Born at Home
Wow! Where do I begin? Ethan’s birth has so many emotions attached to it. So many hopes and dreams came true the night he was born, on Wednesday, May 19th, 2010. It’s hard for me to even write what I really want to write here. Whatever I write, it comes from a deep place in my soul.

First, I just have to give praise and honor to our Heavenly Father…for knowing the desires of my heart, for loving me through some hard challenges in my life and for allowing them to grow me. Our Creator is so good. While Ethan’s birth was hard work for me, I have no regrets. I guess I could say I “wish” things had gone differently, but really I’m grateful for how it was. This is his story.

I woke up Friday the 14th (9 days after my due date) still very pregnant and no end in sight. Then around 10am I went to the bathroom to find “bloody show”. It renewed my faith in my body that things were progressing and that I would be having this baby. I was really hoping that I would be holding my baby within 24 hours, but no. Bloody show came and went and Istill had my all day, every day braxton hicks that would always go away when I went to bed. There was no way I was willing to do anything to speed things along. I knew that in order to have the best possible chance at a VBAC, I would have to allow things to unfold completely unhindered. While it was hard and uncomfortable being so big, I was so at peace with where my body was at and what it needed to do. I continued to have bloody show all through the weekend.

Monday the 17th, I felt different. Lots more bloody show and my contractions were slightly stronger. So I did some massive “nesting” and Alana was my sidekick. It was truly a wonderful day spent with my daughter for the last time just the two of us. We made a pot roast in the crock pot, went to Trader Joe’s for some shopping, cleaned the house top to bottom and made cookies! It was such a beautiful, peaceful day. A day that I will remember forever. Matt was in and out of the house throughout the day working and it allowed Alana and I some time alone together.

Monday night, as we got ready for bed at 11:30pm, I noticed that my braxton hicks were still coming despite how late it was. Usually they had died down by now. So of course I wondered. Went to bed and as I lay there, I couldn’t sleep. Contractions were still coming. I got up to find my phone so that I could start timing them. They were coming every 3-6min. Very short though.

After an hour of this, I decided to get up to pee and I woke up Matt telling him I couldn’t sleep, that I may be in labor. I went pee and had a huge gob of bloody mucus, so I knew that this was the real deal. I told Matt I was going to shower and asked him to pump up the pool. Actually, I think I demanded him to.

I felt really calm, but part of me wanted things ready in case things went quick (wishful thinking). Took a shower and tried to check myself, but everything just felt like mush. I couldn’t tell or maybe I just couldn’t reach my cervix. Matt and I then made the bed up with a shower curtain and a sheet over it while the tub filled. I went downstairs and made some raspberry leaf and nettle tea and grabbed a water and set up my birth snacks on my dresser next to the tub. I told Matt I was happy to labor alone if he wanted to sleep downstairs on the couch. So he grabbed his pillow and a blanket and headed downstairs. To help pass time, I blow dried my hair and did my makeup in between contractions.

I did some hip swaying to give room and even did some squats during the contractions. I made sure to empty my bladder every hour. I was drinking and eating to sustain energy. At 6:30 am, I text my girlfriend, Jessica, to give her the heads up that I had been in labor since 12 am. She was my birth photographer and has an almost 2 year old and knew she was up getting ready for work, so I wanted to give her time to plan for the birth and would keep her posted.

At around 7am Matt’s alarm went off, so I went downstairs to tell him he probably shouldn’t go to work. Matt then asked if I had called the midwife to give her a heads up. That kind of annoyed me because I felt like it was too early yet. Then Alana woke up and pretty much my contractions died at that point. Matt took Alana downstairs and told me to sleep for awhile. I was really distraught because I felt like things were progressing and then the moment Matt and Alana woke, it distracted me and labor had stopped. Ugh!

So I took some Rescue Remedy to help me calm down and I layed down and slept for a couple hours. Then I woke up and took a shower to freshen up. Matt and I had an “upset” so we worked that out (I was still mad over the comment her made about calling the midwife). Nothing like getting irritated at each other when you want to be laboring. Then we ate and decided to go for a walk around 3:30 pm. While walking, I timed my contractions and there were coming every 5 min. I had to stop and lean over something for every contraction or hang on to Matt, whatever I could grab first. I’m sure I was a sight to the passing drivers.

Contractions continued to come after walking and eating dinner. I called Jessica, my mom and sisters and let them know to head on over around 8pm. Even though I had planned to labor alone for the majority of labor, I was so ready for some support. They all showed up and my sister Callie announced that she was making brownies. Grrr. I really wanted some and I never got any. I called my midwife sometime after 8 pm to give her the heads up. She listened to me while I went through a couple contractions and said they are about 3 minutes apart, but only lasting 30 sec. She was currently at another birth and I agreed to keep her posted.

I labored all through the night. Everyone found places to sleep and in the early hours, I want to say around 2am, things were  intense. I think I was pretty tired and my contractions were getting painful. I was in the birth tub for quite a while at this point, but I had been in and out and changing positions every hour. I called the midwife around 3:30 am and was ready for her to come. She and her assistant headed over. I remember about this time feeling intense energy and it was quite overwhelming. I was getting very vocal and loud.

When my midwife came in, she prayed over me and told me where to release the energy in an effective way by vocalizing in a low/deep tone. What a difference that made. I really wanted to scream the pain away, but with the direction from my midwife I was able to welcome the pain and release the intense energy in an effective way. That is what gets me through the rest of my labor.

I ended up moving to my bed to lay down and rest. Contractions spaced out to allow me to doze and get some sleep. I held on to my mom’s hand and squeezed for every contraction. After an hour or so, I was up and ready to get back to business. I labored all over my room and in the tub. Mom made me some breakfast-eggs and hash browns. I layed down again and was able to get a good sleep. I decided to not vocalize and just relax during my contractions. That was hard, but I needed the sleep.

Around 9am, I got up and decided I was ready for a check. I NEEDED to know at this point what progress had been made. My midwife said that I was about 7cm. Yay! To me, that was a good thing. I had only progressed to 6 cm with Alana, so I was happy to be past that hurdle. It was just what I needed to hear to keep me going. My midwife needed to head out for a little while and so did my mom, sisters and Jessica. It allowed me to focus on getting busy with labor.

My mom and sister Kimberly came back around 1 pm and started timing my contractions. I was in the tub, on my knees, hanging over the side and contractions started getting closer, longer and more intense. I held on to my mom for every contraction. My almost 4 year old daughter pretty much stayed in my room. She was amazing. I rubbed my knees raw from staying in this position for so long. There was lots of pressure in my bottom and at the peak of my contractions, I wanted to push. It was so intense, its all I could do. We called the midwife and she was on her way.

About this time, it started to storm outside. It was really cool. I walked the hall, did some laboring on the toilet and would hang from mom’s neck. Midwife got there and I asked her to check me and she said I still have a rim of cervix (9cm) and that I would need to relax through contractions to melt it. “Yeah right!” is what I thought. She said another option was she could hold the cervix while I push the baby past it. I told her I would try “relaxing” to melt the cervix.

Well, an hour later, I hit my wall. I started having thoughts of going to the hospital. I just couldn’t go on. I was exhausted and there needed to be progress. So I yelled down the stairs to my midwife that I would like her to hold it back. She came upstairs and got prepped. She warned me that it would hurt. I didn’t care. What could hurt worse than those contractions? I got propped up in my bed with Callie and Jessica holding each of my legs, while my midwife massaged cervix in between contractions and held it up while I pushed during contractions. It was so hard finding the right place to push. Thank goodness I even had the urge to push. I pushed 4 times per contraction and pushed hard and at one point the assistant told me to hold my breath while pushing. I tried it once and I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath in time for the next push so decided that wouldn’t work and I needed to blow air out while pushing.

During this time, I was fed yogurt and drinking Recharge and Emegen-C to keep me fueled. I think I even apologized for any toots I couldn’t hold in. LOL. Finally, the cervix was gone and his head was low enough that I was able to get into a different position.

I head straight for the toilet.  It’s amazing how intense the urge to push is. Our bodies our amazing in that it just takes over and you don’t have a choice. While sitting on the toilet, I was hugging the assistant and my mom and reaching for my midwife’s hand. I think I was reaching for help, for someone to just take the intensity away. For whatever reason, it made sense at the time. I really used some muscles in my body as I was hugging on them hard. I remember saying out loud “I can’t” and the assistant saying back to me, “but you are”. That was powerful and gave me the push to keep going (not like I had a choice, but I was able to rationalize it in my head to keep going).

Some of this is really hazy and I don’t remember much detail, but at this point I was sooo hot and sweaty. I asked for cool rags so the ladies started putting cold rags on me. Then I got in the tub in a reclining position and was still cooking so they brought in a fan and aimed it right at me. I pushed and pushed, then got onto my knees to hang over the side of the tub. I had Callie put counter pressure on my lower back and that was AMAZING relief. I could feel the head come down low during pushing and then suck back up in between contractions.

Midwives suggested moving into different pushing positions since its like trying to cork screw the baby out. So I said I wanted out of the water, but when it came time to move, I didn’t want to. The ladies said “lets go” and so I finally just did it. I really didn’t want to move in fear another contraction came while moving. I squatted on the floor at the foot of my bed and wrapped my arms over my mom and sister’s necks for support. There was a mirror on the floor so that I could see the progress. That was cool and kept me going! Then I decided I wanted to push in a reclining position on my bed. I really wanted to see the progress and my legs were tired so it was time to move.

Propped in reclining position and hanging on to my mom for dear life, I pushed and pushed. There is no pain like the ring of fire. I seriously dislike those ladies who’s babies come flying out and don’t feel the ring of fire. It’s so intense. I watched in the mirror the whole time and reached down and touched his head. It was incredible! I’m so thankful it was slow so that I could process the whole experience. I didn’t want to miss a moment. I just wanted to soak the experience in…the experience that I had longed for and what I missed with my daughter’s c-section. So even though it was painful, God knew that it needed to happen slowly. It was needed for my healing. I will never forget, I was the first one to touch my baby. I was in the moment and feeling totally connected to my unborn baby.

VBAC HBAC

My midwife suggested I grunt, to not push him out too fast and I did that to get his head out. Part of me just wanted to push hard and to get it done and over with. But I chose to ignore that thought since I really didn’t want to tear. Once his head was out (sweet relief!!), I reached down and started touching his face. I got a good minute of touching him and it was surreal. Then my last contraction came and out he came with some maneuvering by the midwives since there was a loose cord around his neck and wrapped around his body and then I reached down and pulled him up to my chest.

HBAC VBAC

He was born on Wednesday, May 19th, at 8:01pm. My sister Callie then saw his parts and announced “its a boy!” and we all squealed in delight! His apgars were 8 and 9 and he squawked when he was born and then it took him another 45 seconds or so to get out a good cry.

The “love cocktail” is real and I got to experience it with my beautiful son. I was instantly in love with him and I smelled, touched and kissed him within minutes of him being born. My daughter got to experience and watch the whole thing. She was right at my side within a minute of baby’s birth, talking and touching him. He knew who is sister was. When she talked, he looked for her and it was soothing to him. She has been so loving with him and I know that her being there for the birth, instantly bonded them. My husband had to walk out of the room because of the intensity, but I know that his heart was full and that he was happy with the outcome. And that he was a BOY!

HBAC VBAC

VBAC HBAC

HBAC VBAC

I had two small tears, one on each labia. I took the stitches in hopes of a quicker recovery. Baby boy weighed in at 9 lbs 10 oz (major shock), 22in long and a 14.5in head! Big, happy and healthy boy milked his time in mama. He came at exactly 42 weeks with no pressure from anyone to have him before then. He chose his birthday! And it took us a little over a week to choose his name, Ethan Matthew Wright. He is simply amazing!

I am forever grateful for my “hands off” midwife who became “hands on” when I needed a little bit of help at the end to get that pesky lip of cervix to move and for her patience and trust in my ability to birth my baby!!!

I also have a picture video here.

Birth experience and photographs submitted by Melissa. 

And Baby Makes 9 {HBA4C In Australia}

And Baby Makes 9 {HBA4C In Australia}

“I thought you might be interested in my HBA4C from last year. I have 9 children with 3 vaginal births, 4 cesareans, hospital VBA4C and a HBA4C. I’ve experienced many ups and downs during my labours and births. I am committed to sharing my birth stories to help give others strength and confidence that they CAN have control of their births.

My greatest achievements in life have been my 9 gorgeous children. Each of the journeys that delivered them to me has been unique. With each new pregnancy, my “risk” status grew in the eyes of healthcare providers and I became more determined each time to have the birth that I felt was not only mine by right, but what was best for myself, my baby and my family.

My birth history is quite extensive. I have had 8 hospital births. My first 3 were vaginal births (with interventions), the next 4 births were c/sections (after “failure to progress” diagnosis) 2 of those c/sections were attempted VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean), 1 was a “forced” elective. My next birth was a successful VBA4C in hospital. This leads me to the birth story of my most recent little cherub.” – Gerri

This story starts during my 2nd trimester. I had booked into John Hunter Hospital for my 2nd VBA4C. I had birthed my 2 previous babies there with the last one being a VBAC. With this in mind, I expected to have my “risk” level lowered and not be subjected to the same old restrictions whilst in labour. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. In fact more restrictions than ever were placed on me… continuous monitoring, NO shower/water, laying on the bed, epidural upon arrival… it was unacceptable that there was no room for negotiation. I began looking at my options.

I met my wonderful midwife at a VBAC support group when I was about 32wks. We got to talking all things birth and one of us mentioned homebirth. It was always something I admired but never thought possible with my history. Lisa was very supportive. We met up a few times and discussed the possibility of me home birthing in detail. My main obstacles, as I saw them, were the fact that 3 out of 4 of my vaginal births were assisted with ventouse (due to posterior positioning of bubs) and I had always been a huge fan of epidurals. A homebirth meant NO medical pain relief. My husband was against the idea as well, but being the independent person I am, told him that I would do it with or without him. After much toing and froing, research and discussion, I decided that a water homebirth would be the best option for another successful vbac.

5th August 2012 – 40+5wks. BAM!!! I’m woken by a particularly strong contraction. It’s 4am. I get up and go to the bathroom to investigate if I’d had a show. Another strong contraction. Wow, this is it; we’re having a baby today!!! 1st thought… remind Rob to get Jasmine to surfing and kids to footy. I wander around a bit with contractions coming strong and regular. 2nd thought… Damn, didn’t do groceries or fold the washing! At 5am I text midwife, Lisa, and doula, Emma, to let them know todays the day.

I get the birth ball out and try some rocking. After a while I feel a bit faint and have to lie down. I text Lisa again at 6am letting her know and ask if she can come over.

When Lisa and Emma arrived I was leaning over the bed. I had started to get the dreaded backache that generally goes with my posterior babies. The girls were both encouraging me to move around and also had a hot water bottle on my back. I just wanted to get in the birth pool. Hubby, Rob, and the kids were putting it up as I was thinking it.

I don’t know what the time was but finally the pool was ready. OMG it was heaven. I was so worried that I wouldn’t be comfortable in the water, but it really helped ease the pain of the contractions. Some of my little ferals popped their heads in at some point to check out what was going on. I could hear the kids on and off all day as they kept themselves amused.

I was so tired. After 5 or 6 hours, sometime around 10am I guess, I asked Lisa to examine me. I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere and wanted to know how dilated I was. 8cm, waters bulging… this was good. 7cm had always been my hoodoo number where everything stopped. I could do this, it wouldn’t be much longer.

“Relax, release” I started thinking to myself. I was surrounded by lovely warm water. All I was missing was some drumming music and incense…lol.

Things appeared to be slowing so Lisa and Emma helped me out of the pool and tried some rebozo while I was head down, bum up on the floor. What an odd sensation and damn uncomfortable. Didn’t like it at all!!

Back into the pool. OMG, it still felt awesome! Very relaxing. I had no idea of the time. I had so much backache and pressure in my bum.

After what seemed like an eternity of contractions, I asked Lisa for another VE. I don’t think she was keen. Maybe it was for the best. I didn’t want to know if I wasn’t making progress. There was NO WAY I was transferring to hospital without it being an emergency. I could tough this out! I think I wonder aloud if the hospital would give me an epidural and let me leave? Hmmm… probably NOT!

Next thing I recall is lying in bed with the electric blanket on and a TENS machine attached to me. It was dark, where had the day gone? I felt like I had been labouring a long time, yet I was still surprised when I realised how quickly the time had passed. I was comfy in bed and was sleeping between contractions. The TENS machine kept stopping so I didn’t really use it much.

Random thought… I bet those kids didn’t clean the microwave like I asked!

Emma, my doula, was a constant presence. Whispering encouragement in my ear, getting me to drink her god awful labour concoction and just generally making sure I was as comfortable as could be.

Something was going on with Lisa and Emma. I asked what was happening but Emma assured me everything was fine. I later learnt that Lisa was sick and had to call in her backup midwife. I remember lying in bed and this stranger popped up and introduced herself as the backup. She’d scared the crap out of me… She explained that Lisa had reluctantly gone home and she would now be helping me. All I could think was “poor Lisa, I hope she’s ok, she’s guna be pissed she missed it”.

At some point Emma got me up to the toilet to help keep things moving. I was getting the urge to push with some contractions but it was excruciating. I had so much pressure on my back that I felt I would snap in 2. I tried to stay on the toilet to open my pelvis but had to stand and lean into Emma when a contraction came. I tried reciting the “relax, release” mantra in my head. Stuff that crap, it wasn’t helping!!!

I leant against the bed again with one leg up to open everything and help bub come down more. At some point I vomited in the shower. I had to get back in the pool. Finally the water was warm again and I got back in. Instant relief!

It was around 11pm and I remember thinking our baby wouldn’t arrive until Monday now.

Surely this can’t go on much longer. I was so tired and didn’t want to keep going. I asked the midwife for another VE. I was talking to bub, saying “come on baby it’s time now”. She examined me during a contraction while I pushed to see how far bub came down. The midwife said my waters broke, but I know she helped it happen, bless her. There’s no going back now. I tried pushing with contractions. I don’t know if it was helping. Sometimes it was involuntary and I could feel bubs move, other times it felt like nothing was happening. I was leaning over the edge of the pool on my knees. All of a sudden I felt bubs head come down almost with a whoosh! It seemed to happen so quickly. When he started to crown, I screamed. I had never felt the “ring of fire” quite like this. My contractions slowed and the pain was almost unbearable. This baby was going to rip me in two.

I tried pushing without the help of contractions but it didn’t work. Slowly bubs head made progress. “It’s breech” I heard the midwife’s surprised voice. What? “No, it’s ok. It’s just got big cheeks”. What did this baby look like if you could mistake its face for its bum…

It seemed like forever but finally his head was out. The midwife asked if I wanted to touch it. No, it was too distracting; I had other things going on. I could feel him moving inside trying to position his little body. It hurt like hell!

After a while the midwife’s voice became urgent. She told me to push harder. I was trying. Push… again… harder. “I am” I screamed. Emma and the midwife helped get me over the side of the pool to the floor. I had an enormous head between my legs and couldn’t manage on my own. What an odd sight that must have been.

I’m on all fours on the floor pushing as hard as I could. The midwife’s voice was more demanding and urgent. “Push harder! Baby’s turning blue!”

What was happening? She got me onto my back with my legs pushed back as far as possible. My hubby had called an ambulance but the midwife was still trying to get baby out.

Next thing I know, he’s out and she is talking to him, telling him to breathe. I keep asking if he’s alright. I hear a cry… THANK GOD!!!

It was 2am on Monday 6th August 2012. My brand new baby was put on my chest. I was asking if it was a boy or girl. I couldn’t lift bub high enough to see for myself. IT’S ANOTHER BOY!!! He was so very big and very pink! No wonder he got stuck. Everything seemed to be normal again. We were covered in a blanket. It was almost like there was no emergency. The midwife looked incredibly relieved.

In the meantime the ambo’s arrived. They gave bubs the once over and declared him perfectly healthy. They were only there for 10mins or so.

Someone woke the kids and all of a sudden we had an audience. They each had a little look at their new brother but couldn’t nurse him as he was still attached to the placenta. After a little while, they went back to bed. About an hour later I birthed the placenta but also some clots.

The midwife tied his cord with a string with beads and Rob cut it, “every baby should have beads” she was saying. We still hadn’t decided on a name for our boy. I gave him to Rob for a cuddle, and moved off the floor to the lounge. I complained to the midwife of having a sudden headache and began feeling faint. My vision went blurry and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. The midwife and Emma tried getting me to eat and drink something but I just couldn’t be bothered. Rob called the ambo’s again. I heard them arrive but didn’t have the energy to respond. They gave me some fluids and oxygen and I started to come to life again. 2 hours after my homebirth we were off to Hospital, but that’s the beginning of a whole other story.

I have NO regrets about my homebirth. I am incredibly proud of myself and feel that I can achieve anything. I birthed a 12lb 4oz (5.56kg) baby after a 22hr labour without drugs and without tearing (thanks to the magical birth pool) after 4 previous c/sections. My only disappointment was that I didn’t get to shower at home and curl up with my new baby in my own bed.

I feel complete. I finally had the birth that every woman should be able to experience.

My body, my baby, my birth.

vbac without fear

“I’m Done Now, God.” A Home Birth Experience

“I’m Done Now, God.” A Home Birth Experience

I was completely in charge of my pregnancy. Such a wonderfully intimate experience between myself and my baby, God, and our family. Although yes, it was empowering, that is not at all why I do it. I do my pregnancies, and births, and babies this way because this is the choice my husband and I confidently make for our family. This was my third pregnancy, second unassisted birth, first unassisted pregnancy. We did not know the sex of the baby or an exact “due date”.

Hurricane Matthew was pressing in on Florida and I could not have been more relaxed…considering I was full term and possibly could have the baby in the middle of it. Hubby seemed stressed about the water situation and no heat or light. I was prepped to fill the tub and birth pool, got extra drinking water, and said my prayers. The night of Thursday, October 6th, Matthew began its landfall on us. I definitely felt something in me going on but wasn’t sure what. I did enough research to know that there was some truth about the barometric pressures ‘inducing’ labor in some women. I knew this could be it but didn’t want to get my hopes up so I just stayed calm about it all. That night I woke up in the midst of the storm, trees cracking and coming down outside as the storm beat on us, and I was having some major contractions. I stayed in bed and rocked my hips. The contractions stopped after a bit but there was a strange uncomfortableness. The baby was active and turning…yes, full on turning his body around. Ow. I just laid there. I didn’t feel the need to get up and wanted to listen to my body and baby; I felt no urgency. With the storm outside, it was calming in a way. I spent a lot of that time praying for everyone, for us, but a lot for those out there that needed it. Man this hurts. The baby started to settle down. I felt so tired but just kept praying; I fell asleep praying. Then I woke up the next day (still pregnant). So, did the baby turn head down last night, or breach…

Friday morning I awoke feeling inside my head. The baby was not showing signs of coming Earth side despite my feelings of exhaustion, and the immense heavy weight in my lower belly and vagina. I texted my husband in a state of desperation. I let him know that I had recalculated my “due date” and was obviously wrong the first time. The baby wasn’t going to be coming until October 16. At first he laughed. I told him that there was no way the baby was coming now if it didn’t come in the midst of a hurricane, so it was obvious I did my math wrong. There were no signs of labor at all. I didn’t feel as if anything was happening anytime soon, and although it was just an estimation anyway I just knew, down right knew, that we had more time… or more so knew nothing was my choice and finally surrender to God any ounce of control I pretended to have. He said he understood and supported me so if next week was it then we’d be ready for next week. As soon as he said that I relaxed; just completely relaxed with no timeline in my head. I felt sooo much better.

I went on about my day as normal. Nothing stands out in my mind about the rest of the day. After dinner and the girls bedtime routine (our 4 and 2-year-old), hubby and I sat down to watch a movie. As the movie went on I started feeling my normal uncomfortableness in my belly. This was a nightly occurrence for at least the last month if not two. My pelvis was killing me at this point and I was sure the thing was just going to snap in half any day now! It was pretty routine at this point that I’d start to feel those pains almost constantly, but especially in the evening… Then I felt some gas and needed to use the restroom. I let a little bit of my bowels go. When I wiped I saw some mucus and blood on the toilet paper. I knew it was my mucus plug, but also knew that it could be lost and regenerated, or be lost over a long period of time. I had been losing bits of it the entire last trimester, so in no way was labor immanent…mind you this was the first time there was spotting with it. So I returned to the couch.

After another 10 minutes or so I had to use the restroom again and let some more bowels go. I returned to the couch feeling a slight tummy ache. Hmmm, did I eat something weird or something didn’t settle right. When I returned to the couch this time, I felt the tummy ache had a rhythm that I unconsciously was rocking to. I laid on the couch just rocking my hips with small thrusts when I felt the uncomfortableness come on. I had to use the bathroom again but was stalling because I didn’t want to keep pausing the movie. Hubby asked if I was okay….I guess he noticed the rocking. I just nodded. Then felt nauseous and said no while I got up and went to the bathroom. I let some more bowels go with more urgency and pain this time. Hubby came into the bathroom and asked if I was alright. I told him what had been happening. He asked “are we having a baby tonight!?” with so much enthusiasm in his voice.

I scoffed, “No, even if I was in labor, it could be a day before a baby comes and I don’t even think I’m in labor yet. And I still feel the baby moving around.” I thought I read that babies get quiet before labor….didn’t I…?

I wiped and went back to the living room. I started the movie again. “I just want to finish this movie.” I was thinking; it was almost over and it was intriguing. I couldn’t sit on the couch anymore though. It was obvious I was having surges at this point. I grabbed my birth ball and sat on that through some surges rocking my hips, swaying, doing the figure 8 with my hips. It helped relax me between them but when the surges came I didn’t like it. I stood and then was squatting through one. Hubby was looking at me crazy and I said “I don’t know what to do.”

Then I decided to just kneel on the floor and hang my chest over the ball and rock that way. I could feel my body needed to be opened. That image of the flower bud opening kept popping into my head. I was on my knees but with them spread apart as far as I could get them. I was feeling kind of euphoric…and yet uncomfortable. I was dizzy, but not like the dizzy when you fall over; I had goosebumps and tingles all over my body.

Dang it, I had to use the restroom again. Hubby followed me in. He then proceeded to tell me that if I thought I was having the baby then he needed to set things into motion at work and make some phone calls. I was kind of ignoring him at this point. I didn’t want to be rushed, or put on a timeline. I told him “I’m not ready to say I’m in labor yet.” He still had this kid in a candy store smile slapped across his face when I looked up at him and I burst into a giggle looking at him. Then another one came…ouch! I realized that when the surge came I was gripping the towel bar and corner of the wall. I tried to stand but was frozen on the toilet and knew I couldn’t stay there. I immediately looked at him when it passed and said, “It’s real now. I’m in labor. Go get the pool ready!” I think my subconscious knew it wasn’t going to be long.

Hubby headed off to our bedroom. I went back to the living room. I texted my sister, “I think I’m in labor. Ssshhhh.”

Then I called my friend who was coming to photograph the experience for me. She lives an hour and fifteen minutes from me and we were concerned that she might not make it in time to catch the birth. My last birth was five and a half hours and I thought I had more time during that one. So this time we agreed at the first sign I’d let her know. She answered “is it time?”

I told her yes, then a surge came, moaning and breathing, then told her “Please come now.”

She asked how long I’d been in labor. I said just a little bit and she said “I’m on my way, wait until I get there.”

All I could say was, “Okay but leave now and hurry.” Again, all these little signs that I knew it wasn’t going to be long. It was 10:20ish when I called.

I walked to our bedroom, turned some lights off, made a water and essential oil mix for a wash cloth on my head, instructed hubby on a couple of things I wanted, then went to the restroom again but nothing was there except gas. I immediately got into the pool. Finally, some peace down there.

It felt so wonderful submerging my bottom and belly. The water covered over me and just washed away so much of that intensity. I gazed up at my birth affirmations on the wall and saw dead center, one that said “God is with me.” I immediately started praying. Not a prayer of dear Lord please help me…but a conversation. From that moment on I was in full dialogue with God. Just praising Him, thanking Him, asking Him for strength. The water felt like his warm arms wrapped around me. I felt so loved, so supported. Thinking back on that time brings tears to my eyes and goosebumps knowing how close I was with Him. How loved I am by Him.

Hubby started my playlist. “Ugh, it’s too loud.” Song playing. “Ugh, I don’t like that song.”

The way I was laying in the pool I could only see my candles and birth affirmations. I have no idea where my dear hubby was or what he was doing, and yet he was always right there. I would just say what I needed and it would happen. The volume was adjusted, the song changed, a straw with water in my mouth, a soothing hand towel on my forehead, a hand to hold. As each surge came I would rock, sway, breathe, talk with God. I know I voiced out loud a few times my conversation with Him. The surges were sooooo intense. I only remember them this intense with my last during transition and yet here I was an hour and a half in and owww! At certain points the surges were pushing me to the point of pain, almost breaking me. I’d whimper and ask for help, and I’d feel God there, holding me up where I was faltering in my strength. My wonderful, amazingly supportive husband reminded me to breath, to let it pass, to let it go, to exhale. His strong low voice spoke at the exact times I needed it. How amazing God is to provide the support we need, to guide us and all those around us, when we just submit to Him and trust in Him and His process.

My girlfriend showed up right around two hours into labor. I remember faintly hearing her and hubby speaking, whispering. I opened my eyes (which are often closed while I labor) and smiled at her. We exchanged pleasantries and a couple quick questions…and then a surge started. I closed my eyes and started swaying in the water with my very low moan. Then I felt hands on my arm and shoulder. It was like my spirit was yanked back into my body, back into all that pain, I felt pulled away from that heavenly place. Then I heard hubby’s voice and the touching stopped. He took the time to explain to her that I like to pretty much be left alone and that I am vocal with anything I do need so only step in when I ask. My sweet friend, she was so understanding and respectful. My hubby knew she was trying to be helpful but also knew me and protected my space. I really was blessed with those two being present for me during this time.

I felt very uncomfortable with some surges, getting painful, painful enough that I started bargaining with God. “Uh oh, I’m done now, God. Please just get me through this birth. I don’t really want four or five children, I don’t want to do this again. I don’t want to feel this immense pain. I don’t want to be so out of control. Please, God.”

I asked hubby to put some essential oils on me. I was feeling the need to move and started trying different positions to ease some of the pain. I felt like my hips needed to be opened more. I flipped around on my knees and leaned over the pool. I had to be close and if not I needed to be because I. Was. Done. Then I tried the bed but it was awful. I knew as soon as I crawled onto it how wrong it was. I backed off and then was crouched on the floor at the foot of the bed and pool. This is getting painful. I need to go to the bathroom again.

{let’s pause for a commercial break} Since we’re sharing, let’s get personal for a moment. I have a fear. And that fear is very real for me. This fear causes me to run to the bathroom at the slightest bit of pressure down there. You know what I’m talking about. How “they” say “Lots, if not most women will pass a bowel movement on themselves while giving birth’. I know this. I’m not ashamed of this. I’ve known mommas who have done this, and I never even batted an eye at it. But apparently… I am terrified of pooping on myself. Yup. And my dear wonderful husband, bless his heart. He supported my every step in and out of that pool, in and out of the bathroom, every single time I crouch on that toilet. He stands there and holds my hand as I sit, then helps me up and walks me back. Mind you I haven’t actually passed any bowels since labor started and I was watching the movie. Since I’ve been in my bedroom and in the pool all I’ve done is gone into that cold ceramic room that echoes! to release massive amounts of gas. Such a good man that guy. So…

Off to the bathroom I go. Gas. Back to the room. I tell hubby I need him. Holding on to his arms I just start squatting. No idea why. I just decide now is a great time for a glute workout I guess. Oh the intensity. Now he’s pretty much holding me up and I’m turning into jello. I start whimpering and whining. Everything was so very intense. But it felt so intense right from the start and I just couldn’t imagine it getting harder. Back in the pool. But wait. Dang it, I have to go to the bathroom again.

As we go into the toilet closet hubby holds my hands and squats in front of me while I lower myself down. POP and GUSH!!! All over this wonderful, supportive, patient, kind man. Yup. but ohhh, excitement, my water just broke. Now I’m in a half squat just hovering over the toilet. Pain. Oh the pain. A surge and I feel it. I have to push. I need to push. My body is pushing. Oooowwww. The baby’s head is crowning. My husband comments on the presence of hair. My hand is on the head and oh my gosh. “It hurts, it hurts, he’s going to rip me.”

Hubby says “Then don’t let it, breath, pant, breath.” I’m panting. Holding on to the wall I push hard with the next surge. I’m supporting the crowning head, my perineum and clitoris all at the same time while finishing my push. Holy Jesus thank you!!!! The head is out. Whew. But ow. My legs are shaking. Hubby is grinning from ear to ear. I’m frozen. Now holding on to the walls again. A surge is coming. I start shaking and yell.

Hubby says “don’t let him drop in the toilet.”

“Well don’t let him!” and I heave-ho a push with all my might. And another one. Oh My Lord, thank you sweet Lord, my baby is out!!!!! Hubby caught the baby and lifts the little one into my arms while I sit on the toilet. Whoa! Hubby’s giggling. I’m giggling. “Thank you Jesus.”

“Wait, what is it” Hubby says.

“I don’t know, you caught him.”

I lift his leg and move my hand for hubby to see and he yells “It’s a BOY! It’s a boy!” Oh my gosh, my son! I have a son. “Sweet baby boy, thank you Jesus, my sweet baby boy. Oh, my baby boy.”

But my sweet little girls, they missed it. Hubby asked if he should go get them. “Yes, hurry!” Within minutes he brought them in to the bathroom. Rubbing their sleepy little eyes they stared with amazement and absolutely huge smiles. Hubby tells them with so much excitement that they have a little brother. We oooo-ed and awww-ed for a bit in the bathroom and then I felt the surge for the placenta. Ouch! I’ve got to get to the pool again. Everyone helps me to the pool while I hold the baby. I get in and relax. My little girls kept kissing me, rubbing my head and shoulders, giving me water. I can’t get over how unbelievably tender these two little girls were that night. We just had such a sweet time together gazing at the wonderful gift from God we just received. They looked at his adorable little toes and fingers; touched his hair and little ears; listened to his soft but oh so sweet little cries; gave me blankets and towels to cover the baby with. My heart was so full and just gushing with love in those moments.

But oh, those pains. The surges for my placenta were really strong! And after just giving birth I just felt so done. I gently explored the umbilical cord and gave it a slight pull to see if there was any give…nothing. I needed these surges to get that sucker out. I prayed for the placenta to let go and come. I gave the baby to my girlfriend while she hovered next to the pool and I did some squatting, went pee in the water, and a tiny bit of tugging while pushing (the tiniest bit, I know my body well) all while being as close to the edge of the pool as I could be because the cord was not that long. Finally it plopped out. It took an hour and forty minutes. Whew. Now I can relax.

After exploring the placenta and teaching my girls about it the baby and I got out of the pool and got all wrapped up on the bed. Nice and comfy. The girls took turns holding their brother. Hubby cleaned up a bit and joined us in bed after putting the girls back to sleep. Wow, I have a boy. I finally have a little boy. Blessed by God, such a wonderful and amazing God we have. I can’t get over how fast it all went; and how intense it was. And yet I made it through, and our little boy is now here. Zechariah Krzysztof Rogowski. Born October 8th, 2016 at 1:35 am. He was my biggest baby weighing 8 pounds and 6 ounces, and a whopping 21.5 inches long. Our family is complete.

The moment hubby caught and handed the baby to me
Our sweet baby boy, Zechariah
Our girls admiring their new brother

Birth experience submitted by Amanda Rogowski.

Pictures taken by Jennifer Last of Jennifer Last Photography.

That’s Why It’s Called a Birth “Preference” Instead of a “Plan”

That’s Why It’s Called a Birth “Preference” Instead of a “Plan”

I have long-struggled to like myself. I hated my body and lacked self confidence in many areas, so finding out I was pregnant just triggered a heightened sense of anxiety for me. Finding out I was diabetic at my first OB appointment made things even worse. As the doctor rattled off the list of awful things that could result, I sat there expecting each to all happen to my baby, and they would all be my fault. I wondered if I could live with myself if I caused such pain for my beautiful growing baby – macrosomia, dislocated limbs during birth, heart and spine defects, respiratory problems… One thing I had been told from the beginning – I would be induced at 38 or 39 weeks due to an increased risk of stillbirth for infants of diabetic mothers. I strongly opposed an induction but wanted to do what was best for our baby.

As the pregnancy progressed and my education on the issues increased, I became “a model patient” (the doctors’ words). My confidence grew as quickly as my sugars and A1C decreased, and for the first time in my adult life, I was actually feeling good about myself and my body. This new-found confidence gave me the ability to try new things (like yoga, which has been life-changing!) And maybe it was my “mama bear” instincts forming, but I was blessed with a feisty courage that I had not previously known to speak up for myself. Did that cause some tension between my doctors and me? Yes. Was it worth it? YES.

At that point, if I pictured our baby’s ideal birth, it would be in a peaceful environment outside of a hospital, calm, quiet, in water, with no interventions. My husband and I took a hypnoyoga birth class and hired a doula. I talked to several midwives; however, they couldn’t deliver my baby, due to the fact that I was taking insulin. I started researching natural induction methods to encourage baby out on her own. I drank red raspberry leaf tea, walked every day, faithfully attended yoga, saw my chiropractor once a week, got acupuncture, used essential oils on acupressure points, and visualized her calm, peaceful birth every chance I had. And still, the induction date (Sunday) arrived with no sign that baby Samantha was going to come out on her own.

As we walked the short hallway to the antepartum wing, I debated escaping. But I was with my husband and his mom, and really, pregnant ladies can’t run that fast. So we checked in, got settled in our room, and I was soon disappointed to learn that I wasn’t even ripe! After three doses of Misoprostol throughout the night, Resident S (that I ended up liking the most) tried and failed to insert a Foley bulb. Also throughout the night, our amazing nurse kept coming in and apologetically asking me to shift positions. He was noticing small drops in Samantha’s heart rate during the tiniest of contractions. (I wasn’t so worried, as that was a normal occurrence from the time I started attending my NSTs twice a week for the previous 2 months.) Finally, after one more dose of Misoprostol and lots of waiting, Resident K was able to get the Foley bulb in. I was hopeful that things would start happening that day (Monday), especially since they moved us to labor & delivery.

By Monday evening, the Resident K was somewhat surprised to learn that the Foley hadn’t come out on its own. So she gave it a tug and it came out…it was Pitocin time! My stomach did some flips thinking about all the stories I’d heard about the dreaded P, but at the same time I was so excited to meet Samantha and I was really ready for things to get a move on. After 24 hours in the hospital, I’d slept about 4 hours and had felt zero contractions. Thankfully we were blessed with amazing and fun nurses, which helped to pass the time. My husband put on my favorite Harry Potter movie, a few visitors came by, and we listened in excitement as the OB on call said we’d be meeting our baby by the end of the day tomorrow.

Here’s roughly how Monday night/Tuesday morning went:

Nurse: “Did you feel that contraction?”

Me: “Nope.”

Nurse: “Let me adjust the monitors; they are slipping.”

Me: “Ok.” (Try to sleep! Try to sleep!)

3 minutes later…

Nurse: “Did you feel that contraction?”

Me: “Nope.” (Try to sleep! Try to sleep!)

Nurse: “Sorry, I need you to move onto your side…her heartrate is not quite cooperating.”

(Repeat 5,000 times.)

And so it continued throughout the night. By Tuesday morning, they had adjusted the dosage of Pitocin more times that I could count – first increasing steadily, then backing off when her heartrate would drop significantly (from the 150s to the 60s…a few times it even went down to 20!) So when Resident K came in that morning, she explained that it was time to break my waters, in the hopes that things would pick up. I still hadn’t progressed beyond the 3cm that she had measured when the Foley bulb was pulled out.

After hearing her out, I told her that I wasn’t ready for them to break my waters. I explained that I was aware of the risks and benefits and that I just didn’t think it was time. (I had hoped getting up and about during the day would help things move along and that my water would break on its own. I’d given up trying to sleep by that point.) Then the OB came in and gave an even longer, guilt-laden explanation about why it was time to break my waters. She started talking about a “failed” induction. Truthfully, I wasn’t really listening. My mind was made up. Earlier my doula had prepared me for this moment and I followed her suggestion in saying to the OB, “I understand that there are risks associated with a labor that’s not progressing, but I am not ready for you to break my water. I would like to continue as things are for now, and if my baby does become truly distressed to the point where she needs to come out immediately, I know that you are very capable of performing a successful c-section very quickly.” After looking me up and down, “Um…actually for a woman your size, a c-section isn’t that quick.” If only there were words for how I felt at that moment. The only thing I managed to say was, “No. Not now.” A few tense moments later, the OB suggested that we take a break from it all. I wasn’t discharged, but they took me off all the monitors, stopped the Pitocin, and gave us 4 hours to walk around the hospital. “Just don’t go outside; it’s wet and you might fall.” (So the first thing my husband and I did after a shower was go outside. I didn’t care that it had been snowing earlier and was freezing…the fresh air felt amazing after 2 days of being cooped up in a tiny room.)

My husband and I ate some lunch, climbed (crab-walked, jumped, lunged) 10 flights of stairs, and visited the postpartum clinic to look at cute baby stuff…and not one contraction. I was so discouraged. I’d truly hoped that my body would take over and decide to bring Samantha into the world! I lost my mucous plug, but that was it. I am so thankful for the support my husband gave me during that time – he had my back through all of this and did everything he could to get me laughing and having fun. I’ve never had so much fun climbing stairs.

Defeated, we returned to the room and I told them I was ready for them to break my water. They did, and I was back on the Pitocin. Things finally picked up. OF COURSE there was meconium in the water, so I knew that she would have to come soon! As the contractions became much stronger, I bounced on the ball, walked the halls with my husband, and stayed on my feet as much as possible. Standing was the most comfortable way for me to labor, but I knew I couldn’t keep it up forever. My mom and my husband’s mom stopped by for a visit as they had each day, and it was sometime during their visit that I realized it was getting too hard to talk during the contractions. And that’s when all sense of time left me. Was it minutes before the doula came? Hours? Not sure. My contractions were lasting 40-60 seconds and coming a minute or less apart. Sometimes there was no break between them at all. Things picked up quickly and soon I wasn’t able to stand through the contractions. My doula suggested kneeling over the back of the bed so I could rest between contractions. How long had it been since I’d slept? Probably Sunday night. I was exhausted. And these contractions were no joke! And my back…my lower back started hurting so bad. Counter-pressure on my sacrum did nothing, hip squeezes did very little. But I was able to turn inward as I’d been practicing and breathe, focus. Through the toughest moments, I could also hear Samantha’s heartrate dropping. A few times during those drops, I panicked inside and I’d lose control. I felt myself crying out or breathing too quickly. I started to feel like I couldn’t do it. Finally, I asked to get in the tub, and the hot water felt amazing. My husband faithfully knelt by, feeding me ice and refilling the leaking tub.

At some point, I fell asleep. (My husband said I was even snoring and he was so relieved that I was getting rest.)  Maybe it was only for a second, but I felt so much better. Sure, some of it was the hot water, but mostly it was because my labor had slowed down considerably. Samantha’s heart rate had continued to drop with the big contractions so they were decreasing the Pitocin drip. Meanwhile, I heard some commotion outside the bathroom – my doula was packing up our stuff! The charge nurse had decided that she wanted to close the wing we were on, as there were only 3 other patients on the floor. My husband protested, asking her if she really felt like it was right to move a woman in labor. She relented and told us we could stay. Calmly explaining the situation, my doula told me what was happening and how they had already packed up everything, but we could stay if I wanted. She also suggested that walking to the other wing might help move things along without the help of the Pitocin. That seemed appealing, so they helped me out of the tub. I remember thinking it was funny that they were trying to help me into a gown…at that point I didn’t even care what anyone in the hallway saw.

As we walked through the corridors between the two L&D floors, I stopped to squat through each contraction. By the time we were almost to our new room, I was approached by Resident S.

“Things just really aren’t moving along like we thought they would, and Samantha is in quite a bit of distress during your contractions,” she explained. As I attempted to wrap my sleep-deprived mind around what she was trying to say, I remember sinking onto the bed and asking, “If you can give me advice, what would you do?”

After a long pause, a big sigh, and a bit of a frown, she said, “Well, I think I would have a c-section.” She really knew it wasn’t what I wanted, and I trusted her that at this point it was the best option for Samantha.

It’s shocking how fast you get prepped for a c-section. It seemed like only minutes went by before I’d expressed my “demands” (drop the curtain as soon as she’s coming out, immediate skin-to-skin with me or my husband if I wasn’t able…) and asked questions about the surgery, met the anesthesiologist, and walked to the OR. My doula and husband were both with me the entire time, which was incredibly comforting. The worst part of the surgery was the uncontrollable shaking! I felt a sense of calm going into this surgery, because I knew I was going to meet our dear, sweet baby so soon.

It’s just like they described…it feels like someone’s sitting on your chest. At one point I felt nauseated, several times I felt like I was hyperventilating, and the whole time I was shaking uncontrollably. But then I heard someone say “She’s out!” and I tried to wave my useless arms around and tell the anesthesiologist to move the curtain. I desperately tried to see my baby girl being lifted into the world, but I only saw her once the doctor was carrying her over to the warming table. It felt like an eternity that they were looking her over, and I was calling out “Is she ok? Why isn’t she crying? Stop wiping her down! Just bring her over here!” My doula reassured me that it was only a minute or two, but I was just so ready to hold her! My husband cut the cord and carried her to me. At that moment, I absolutely lost it. I was sobbing, still shaking, and loving my little girl in a way that I’d never thought possible. She was 5 pounds, 14 ounces of pure, seriously adorable perfection

My husband and I had joked throughout the pregnancy that Samantha was a stubborn girl. She just wasn’t ready to come out and wasn’t going to let someone make her! Born on International Women’s Day, Samantha came out literally holding her head up, quietly observing the world around her. My prayer for our sweet girl is that she will grow up a strong woman with the confidence that I only found once I became her mother.

_____

Every time my husband proudly handed off the stunning visual birth plan that I’d designed and he laminated, we’d joke that it was only a birth “preference” because we know that things can’t always go as planned. It still feels like the only thing that went as planned was that our little girl was born, happy and healthy. Today, her 2 month birthday, I’m still struggling with that. And I anticipate that I will continue to struggle for quite awhile. After a bout of high blood pressure and worries of postpartum preeclampsia, extremely low milk production despite 7 weeks of my best efforts and awful-tasting supplements, complications with my incision (two pinky-finger deep holes that aren’t not healing), and postpartum depression and anxiety, I look down at the often smiling face of our sweet Samantha and know it’ll all be ok.


Photo by Tricia Croom – Doula Services.

Photo by Bella Baby Photography.

Birth experience submitted by Melissa Rogers.

With Fresh Adrenaline: A Hospital Birth Story

With Fresh Adrenaline: A Hospital Birth Story

It’s been 7 weeks since our lives and souls were rocked to the core by the arrival of our first son, Declan Finn. It has honestly taken me this long just to reflect on and process the transformative experience of bringing a brand new human onto this planet enough to put it down on paper. Plus, there’s been a good deal of sleep deprivation around here lately, and I’m now seizing a spare moment while the little man sleeps in his swing. 

(Sidebar: this has actually been written over the course of SEVERAL stolen nap moments over the last few weeks. Newborn life, am I right? It’s also unedited and unfiltered. I wanted to really capture my first impressions and feelings about the birth, so I didn’t reread or pick this one apart.)

My due date was May 31st, so as that day approached and eventually passed, everyone at work basically expected my water to break at my desk at any moment. Still I soldiered on, and on Tuesday, June 2nd, I tied up the very last of my I’ll-be-gone-all-summer loose ends at the office, and made a facetious note on our shared calendar that I had a doctor’s appointment the next day “IF I’M STILL HERE.”

I wouldn’t be.

That night, I had dinner with my mom (who had come up from Florida on the due date) and aunt, went to the chiropractor, and turned in early with the hubby because we were both particularly worn out that day. It’s a good thing we did!

Around 2:00am, I woke up to contractions. I had been having them on and off all week long, but these felt like a whole different animal. I stayed comfy and timed them in bed for about an hour, catching short naps in between. They were 5 minutes apart and 45-60 seconds long from the very start, so at 3am I decided to wake Braden. “Hey babe, I think things are really happening!” He jumped right up and asked if there was anything he could do for me. I told him we should try to keep resting while we still could, so we stayed in bed while I timed contractions between brief snoozes. After a while, I couldn’t sleep anymore, and he wanted to get the bags packed and loaded into the car, so we got up, showered, and had a snack. I took a long bath (and shaved my legs, of course), sat on my birth ball, and stayed very zen. Even though the contractions were as close as 2-3 minutes apart, they were still very manageable. I thought, “I could do this all day!”

We called my mom at about 7:00am to let her know that this was it. She said “I will be there as fast as legally allowable!!” And my doula, who ended up being stuck in Edisto Beach because of a huge storm. I also texted all the ladies at work to let them know that they would not be seeing me today (!), and all my best girlfriends to get the prayers rolling.

We decided to take a walk by the river to keep things moving, and in the parking lot of the park, we ran into an ambulance. The driver put her head out the window and yelled “I hope you’re not too close to having that baby!” I told her that actually, I was in labor right now! The back of the ambulance swung open and one of the EMTs shouted with a huge grin “Do you need help?? We can give you a ride!” We about died laughing. It was a beautiful morning, overcast and not smoking hot yet. It was wonderful to be outside by the water in the peaceful “calm before the storm,” literally & figuratively, as a huge. flood-causing thunderstorm was actually brewing that day. We walked (waddled) for a while, and I paused to lean on benches or trees during contractions. Some were only a minute apart at this point, but still easy to breathe through. Once again, I thought to myself that this labor thing was a breeze. (Don’t worry, those thoughts would not last the rest of the day.)

After we got back home, I hopped back into the tub for a while. Mom arrived shortly thereafter, and she & Braden started loading the car with our hospital bags (and my pillows. And comforter. And yoga mat.  And birth ball. Etc. Packing light isn’t really my jam for huge life events.) Braden made me a green smoothie, and I sipped it on the birth ball while watching the Daily Show. I called the midwives around 10am, and after hearing that my contractions had been so close together for so long, they encouraged me to head on to the hospital ASAP. We hit the road around 11am, with towels under me to protect the new Prius’s clean seats (just in case.) I had to really start breathing through contractions on the road, but we listened to music and luckily the ride to the hospital was short and traffic was light. We broke the rules and went in through the main entrance rather than the ER (because, ew) and made our way to labor & delivery. To my surprise, they don’t admit you right away. You go to something of a pregnant lady “holding area” where you’re monitored and checked to make sure the ball is actually rolling before they put you in a room. The first two nurses I met I actually knew via Daybreak, so that was pretty cool. They hooked me up to a monitor and found I was only 2 cm dilated, so they wanted me to go walk for a while to see if I would progress further. To which I responded, “Ok great. I’ll just head home and be back in an hour.”

Well. Apparently that wasn’t an option. Not only did I have to stay in the hospital, but I couldn’t leave the 2nd floor! This threw me off a little bit, but we rolled with it. We proceeded to pace the halls of L&D for about an hour and a half, pausing to lean on the walls during contractions while Braden pushed on my lower back. (I didn’t know this yet, but Declan was posterior, so I was in for some major back labor.) Things were starting to get painful rather than just uncomfortable, and I got a little teary wanting to go ahead and get admitted so I could settle into my labor room and get this show on the road. Luckily, when they checked me again I was nearly 4 cm and moving along nicely. The nurse said “You get to stay and have a baby!”

We moved to our big, comfy labor & delivery room at 1pm. I got changed into the nightgown I brought from home and started to settle in. We met our amazing nurse Pam, who was with us through the whole process, and found out that one of my favorite midwives, Debbie, was the one on call that day. We put on my birth playlist. I took a hot shower. I spent alot of time on the birth ball, and on all-fours on the bed to relieve some of the back pain. Braden and I used a bunch of the moves from our birth partner yoga class and they were hugely helpful with my back labor. I didn’t get an IV, so it was great to freely drink as much water as I wanted to. I had also been nibbling on healthy snacks right up until I was officially admitted, so it was nice to not be starving.

I’m a very cerebral person, always in my head. Labor and birth have a fascinating way of pulling you completely OUT of your head and planting you firmly and irrevocably in your body. I had no concept of time, how much was passing, and I wasn’t able to consider anything but the present moment. Up until then, my labor had been totally manageable and easy to handle. But soon the contractions were right on top of each other, my hands started shaking, and I started to wonder if I could really do this. For the very first time, I felt a little bit of fear. Many of the books I read to prepare for birth preached that labor doesn’t have to be painful at all. Some insisted that birth can even be an orgasmic experience. Bless them.

In the words of John Green, “pain demands to be felt.” My mom, who knows her stuff, had an inkling that I was approaching transition. Sure enough, she was right. In a detached way, the fact that I could produce such sensations was utterly fascinating. In a more attached way, it was like experiencing lightning surging through my body, bringing my baby closer to us with every spectacularly powerful movement. It was like being a human thunderstorm: furious, untamable, and nothing to be done but ride it out.

At 5:45pm, my water broke, which is when stuff got really real. I was completely within myself, unaware of much of anything beyond the raging storm in my body. Nurse Pam got very close to my face and told me very gently that everything was okay, but that there was fresh meconium in the water, and I would need to be monitored continuously from here on out to make sure the baby wasn’t in distress. This meant my movements would be limited to the bed from now on. Up until now, I hadn’t even considered the possibility of pain medicine. My birth plan specifically said, “no pain meds.” I hadn’t even researched any of it in advance, because it was not even an option in my mind. But now I started to entertain the idea. I didn’t want an epidural; I wanted to stay fully engaged with what was happening in my body. To stay an active participant in the process.

Actually, let me clarify with a confession that my hippie earth-momma self is pretty embarrassed to share: I WANTED an epidural. Like, alot. The idea of escaping the pain completely was very seductive at that moment. But I really didn’t want to be immobile, catheterized, and unable to really feel and participate in the pushing process when the time came. Plus needles in my spine give me with willies. Between contractions, I said to my nurse, “I don’t want to sound like a chicken, but tell me about what pain meds are options for me right now.” After talking to her, to Braden, and to my doula over the phone, I decided to try one dose of the most mild, side-effect free medication they could offer me. It honestly didn’t take away any of the pain of the contractions, but it did allow me to take a breath and rest just a bit between them, which with exhaustion closing in, I really think my body needed at that moment.

Soon, very soon, I felt the overwhelming urge to push. It wasn’t even an urge; my body just started pushing completely on its own accord. It was a fascinating phenomenon. I had the nurse check me quickly, as I knew there was no way I could hold back if for some reason I wasn’t fully dilated yet. But hallelujah, I was 10 cm and ready to roll! Because he was posterior, I had to push in what they usually tell you is the worst position to be in: mostly on my back. Because of the meconium in the water, the special care nursery people flooded into the room, and we got this party started.

Pushing was amazing, because I really felt like I was doing something to bring our little man into the world. There was a tremendous feeling of relief between each push/contraction, and the pain completely faded from my mind. It was like being an amazon warrior, calling forth every last bit of strength and endurance that was left in me, and finding reserves I never knew I had. I made alot of noise, but my husband tells me it wasn’t like cries of pain, but the shouts of someone forging through a battle. We reached a moment when they told me to look in the mirror because his head was in view. That moment was transformative. I saw him, yelled “YES!” and apparently my whole face just lit up. Braden tells me it was incredible to see the transformation of my face.

With fresh adrenaline, I gave the final pushes every last bit of my energy. Pushing out the head took all of my strength, and then the rest of him shot right out like a rush of water. It was 7:01pm, just 20 minutes after I started pushing. Then everything happened so fast. Braden caught the baby and put this big, chubby, beautiful boy on my chest. I don’t know what I said, or if I said anything at all, but I held my little man tight for a few moments before they took him to be suctioned by the special care nurses. I felt profound relief, joy, and also just a sense of being utterly present. I didn’t cry, which even for a constant weeper like myself is normal for my huge life events (I didn’t cry at my wedding either.) I need to process to cry, and when I’m completely in the moment, my tear ducts need time to catch up.

No one tells you this, but those minutes immediately after birth are totally overwhelming emotionally and physically. Suddenly people are pushing on your stomach, you’re delivering the placenta, being stitched up and poked and prodded (I had a relatively minor tear), all while your baby is crying and being poked at himself and it seems like 10 people are in the room (apparently the cord was wrapped twice around his neck as well.)

They told me from across the room that he was 10lbs 5oz (WOW!) and 21 inches long. When they brought him back and put him in my arms, Braden and I just stared at him in awe. Braden had tears running down his face as he told me how amazing I did. We both just couldn’t believe that he was really here; after all this time, Declan Finn, our little buddy who had been flipping and kicking us for months, who we had been dreaming of, was finally earth-side. Our lives would never be the same.

Birth experience submitted by Kimberly P.

Photographs taken by Bella Baby Photography.

When Natural Labour Isn’t Ideal

When Natural Labour Isn’t Ideal

By Anonymous

This is a birth story about the last time I brought a baby earthside. This is also the story of something I’ve learned along the way bringing my first two sweet miracles into the world. In order for this story to make sense, I’ve got to explain what led up to it. Really, this is my three birth stories in two parts. Warning: some details may be a case of TMI for some people. Further, this is my story. By writing my story I am not saying that my experience is, or should be, the same experience as anyone else who has been through the same things I have been through. Maybe my experience will help someone, maybe it won’t. At the end of the day, I am recounting things as they’ve happened to me.

Part One:

I was sexually abused when I was very very very small. Besides working through a lot of mental/emotional issues that were wired into my developing brain, I also ended up with some physical baggage. My husband is a sweet and patient man of character.  He taught me that a man could love me without ever wanting to take something from me or use me. We shared our first kiss in front of the 100-ish people at our wedding. After we got married though sex eventually became something I feared. Even though I wanted to share intimacy with my man, my body made doing so a painful experience. I asked my doctor for a referral to a gynecologist.

When I saw the gyno I explained what was happening and that I was previously abused. When she examined me physically as soon as she touched the entrance to my vagina all my muscles tensed up and seized. She told that unfortunately she sees this regularly and that I wasn’t as bad off as some women who will shrink to the size of a test tube. She explained that muscle has memory. That even in cases of people abused when they are very small who may have no actual memories of the abuse their muscles can still remember it. She prescribed devices made of wax that would slowly stretch my muscles out and train them to not react to the pressure of penetration. We opted to use lots of prayer and slowly stretch things out with my husband. Again, he is a patient, patient man and for that I am very thankful. It took time, but eventually we worked things through and sex wasn’t painful anymore.

We were excited when we found out we were expecting our first little one. I believed strongly that natural labour was the best way to go if at all possible, and I thought I was pretty informed. We took prenatal classes together, toured our local hospital, talked about our hopes for labour and delivery and overall felt that we understood as best we could what we would prefer our labour to look like. I wrote up a “Birth We Would Like to Try Do” list. We didn’t want a set in stone idea of how things “had to” go as that seemed to be the most common scenario for everything to go wrong. We were fortunate to have a Doctor we had a really great rapport with who would thoroughly answer all our questions and was quite hands off overall. He did follow certain policies he was bound to though and I was never told I could simply say “No.”

Thus, as I approached the magical 10 days past my “due date” when he said that was the time we induce as the placenta starts to deteriorate I walked into an induction. I had been at about 3 cm for a week. He explained that he would essentially be using a tampon of hormones that would help my cervix to finish thinning and ripening and if things got too intense the beauty of this method was he could just pull the thing out. What I didn’t know was that however much hormone my body had absorbed still had to be worked out in my system once he took the insert out. Suffice to say, after progressing throughout the day and making it to nearly 8cm I ended up being steamrolled by continuous contractions. One would start before the last one ended. Then to boot, when I was next checked I had gone backwards in dilation by multiple centimetres. Our doctor was concerned that my contractions, while being pretty continuous and somewhat painful, were not being very effective in moving baby down. He said he would be starting oxytocin shortly to help them be more effective.

At this point my husband and I had a meeting. If my body was reacting to the level of pain (which wasn’t incredibly terrible) I was in by clamping down and closing up (knowing my previous history with all the muscles down there we figured that’s what was happening) then how would kicking things up a notch not lead to a disaster and possibly even an emergency caesarean? We made the decision that before any oxytocin got anywhere near me I would have an epidural (I’d had nothing up to this point). We decided that while we wanted to remain drug free, more than that we wanted to avoid a preventable caesarean. I ended up getting the epidural, my body was able to relax, and only a few hours later I pushed out the miracle that would turn me into a mother.

In the days and weeks that followed I felt let down that I hadn’t gotten the natural drug free birth I believed would have been most ideal. While I knew we needed to make a decision, and believed we had made the right one, I also regretting not preparing waaaaayy better for dealing with the actual pain of labour. Really, I’d had no clue what I was doing. I was trying to tell my husband to press here or there or massage this or that, while hoping I was guessing right and often I was totally wrong. Doing his utter best to support me I ended up feeling alone and abandoned by him when I needed him most. I thought that perhaps if we had been better prepared and able to cope better we wouldn’t have needed the epidural. That I would have been able to experience all that I had read about when women described feeling empowered and strong etc. when they birthed their babies without any interventions. I did more research and decided that next time things would be different.

Jumping to pregnancy number two. We hired a doula (If you are thinking about getting a doula but aren’t sure if you should bother with the expense, get the doula. Just do it!), I took a much more thorough prenatal class, and I watched episodes of “One born every minute”. I reminded myself over and over that women give birth every day and I could too; that I already had. My husband and I were now aware that my body might react unfavourably if I wasn’t coping well and were committed to making sure I was well supported and didn’t feel abandoned or alone in the delivery room. My husband had started a new job over 1100 km away but was due home a couple weeks before my “due date”. Given that I went post dates the last time and other women in my family have done the same, we were confidant he would be there before baby came.

One week before my husband was due home I had bright red show. I immediately saw my doctor who confirmed I was in early labour. I cried, then called my husband and told him I would appreciate if he was with me for this. He threw his things in the car and started driving. I called my doula and let her know I’d be phoning sometime in the next while, and I went about my day. I had so much confidence that time that I didn’t have with my first baby. Confidence that I had a team to support me, confidence that my body could do this as I’d done it before. Confidence that we had a better plan in place. Confidence in my ability to recover well afterwards. Just a lot more confidence. At 1:00 am my water broke while I was lying in bed. My sister came to drive me to the hospital. We arrived at the hospital I would deliver at by 3:00am and met my doula there. She hooked me up to a tens machine with a boost button (which was awesome), I put on the gown I had sewn, and we laboured. My husband arrived at 4:00am following his 12.5 hour drive. I knelt facing the raised head of the bed and with each contraction my husband and sister leaned into my hips and my doula pressed my lower back.

Then I hit a point where I felt like I’d had enough and said I didn’t need to be a hero and could certainly have an epidural. The doctor (same one as my first baby) turned to my sister and said “We’re about to start pushing. They always say that when we’re about to start pushing.” And sure enough, I was complete and in fifteen minutes or so of pushing out came my second miracle. While holding my newborn baby and saying over and over “I did it” in a somewhat dazed and surprised head space, I remember two things very clearly. 1) I did not feel any rush of accomplishment, power, or realization of how strong and amazing my body was. I did not experience any sort of joy, euphora, or otherwise “birth high” sort of feelings, 2) I was overwhelmingly relieved that it was all over. I didn’t realize at the time how deeply upsetting this labour was to me. I was soon caring for a newborn (with undiagnosed silent reflux; this was very challenging) and an energetic toddler and had a number of other things going on that prevented me from really taking the time to process everything through. I was, however, terrified of ever being pregnant again. I had never had panic attacks up to that point.  Just the thought of ever conceiving again would lead to a minor panic attack.

Fast forward through an awesome experience that led me to being willing to try again (we have always wanted a big family) and we were pregnant again. My second born’ was diagnosed with silent reflux and was being treated with appropriate medication for his condition and was also finally sleeping through the night. I had both the time and mental clarity to think about and process my previous labour.  As I looked back on it in I realized fully just how traumatizing that delivery was which was somewhat puzzling to me. I had achieved my ideal drug free labour. I had been awesomely supported and birthed in a quiet room with nobody telling me how to push or what to do. On a scale of one to ten I would say the pain never got past a 5-6. My husband made it in time and my body didn’t go backwards. I had gotten everything I had hoped for and yet, I felt overwhelmingly traumatized. I thought about and talked through everything with my husband trying to figure out why I was so incredibly upset by such an ideal labour. Trying to figure out why I hadn’t experienced any of the euphoria I’ve heard described, or even the level of “birth high” I felt after my first baby.

And then one night I stumbled across it. With my first labour, once I had the epidural I was no longer dealing with pain in areas of my body where I had experienced trauma as a small child. I could feel all the pressure of that baby being born, but nothing hurt down there. With my second, I could feel all the pain and just had to cope with it. It didn’t matter that I coped well, it didn’t matter that the pain was never as enormous as I thought it would get. While talking and processing what came out was “I just felt so violated! I was being subjected to pain in the most personal parts of my body and I couldn’t do anything but hold on until it was over!” and then I burst into tears. That feeling of being violated and just coping until it was done was buried somewhere deep in my being and having a completely natural labour with my second baby had fully brought it to the surface.

After that chat I became much more aware that labour itself could dig up some pretty deep wounds in me. So, we prepared more. We read more, we planned more. We had moved since our last delivery and were blessed to get on with a midwife who was terrific. We put together a great birth support team. And we waited. I was now fully aware that I was free to decline doing anything I didn’t want to do during my pregnancy/delivery. Thus as 10 days “post dates” I signed a form that I do not consent to be induced and we continued to wait for baby to be ready to meet us.

That story coming finally…

Part Two:

I was 43 weeks + 1 day. My husband and I had chatted and decided that we weren’t comfortable going much past 43 weeks and so the previous few days I had been using a breast pump on and off, walking lots, and even tried taking herbs, and using an essential oil a friend gave me. Nothing really worked. When I was walking I would have decently strong contractions, but as soon as I stopped they petered out. It was Friday, and my in-laws were set to arrive to be staying with us for a time. My husband and I took kids to an indoor family fun carnival in the evening, and the whole time we were there I felt strongly that I wanted to see my midwife. During the carnival I remember holding my baby boy (soon to be middle child) and being acutely aware that this was the last event where he would be my youngest. I wanted to cherish every moment of the evening.

As things were winding down I told my husband that I wanted to call the Midwife as I was now a day past 43 weeks, couldn’t seem to kick labour over into go mode, and hadn’t felt bubs moving as much as usual that day. While I was confident my littlest one was simply tucking in for what lay ahead, I figured it would be wise to make sure. I spoke to my Midwife and she said we should come in and be assessed and monitored for a bit and that she could sweep my membranes too. Not sure if a membrane sweep would push things over into real labour, we called our friend who was doing our birth photography (but didn’t have a car at the time) and said we’d be able to pick her up shortly. My in-laws had arrived at our house while we were at the carnival. We thus dropped our kids off with them, said a quick hello, and headed for the hospital an hour away.

Our midwife met us at the hospital. She assessed me, and we monitored bubs for a bit. I don’t actually remember if I was already dilated or how much if I was, but she said I was soft and certainly ready for labour. She also said that now she had us there she didn’t want us to disappear again. She performed a stretch and sweep and we made arrangements to stay overnight in town. I had some decently strong contractions start up, and was having trouble trying to fall asleep with them. I was starting to wonder if we just needed to head back to the hospital when I finally drifted off. I woke up the next morning (Saturday) with no contractions at all. We also woke up later than we’d thought as we were normally up by 7:00 or so with the kids, but without them there we had both slept in. We rushed to get ready and back to for the 9:00 am meeting we’d agreed to with the midwife to discuss what to do next.

Our midwife said she would be happy to rupture my membranes and was confident things would progress well if we went that route. I was hesitant to start that way as it was my understanding from my previous labours that once my water broke I would be “on the clock” and after somewhat arbitrary amounts of time could be pressured to allow further interventions. I was not quite fully awake and put together and didn’t express any of my concerns though. I just asked what other ways we could try kick things up a notch. Our midwife consulted with the Dr. on call (she had to as per hospital policy) and said she could order an oral dose of cytotec to start labour. When the nurse came in with the pills I remembered the contractions that I’d ended up being steamrolled with my first labour. I was tired from how long it had taken me to fall asleep, hungry from not having eaten breakfast yet, and given our haphazard and rushed morning I felt that everything was coming at me too fast. I chatted with my husband and essentially said I didn’t want to take the pills and would like to leave the hospital, collect myself, eat some breakfast, and then reconvene with the midwife. I remember saying to my husband, “Nobody is holding a gun to our heads saying we need to start labour now. A few hours isn’t going to make or break this.” When we told the nurse that we didn’t want to take the pills and wanted to leave there was some confusion when she relayed our desires to the midwife. The midwife (who was doing training in a different part of the hospital) came back and asked if it was true that we wanted to refuse care from her (essentially firing her from our labour). We assured her that was not the case and clarified what we wanted to do and she was fine with our plans and said she’d see us in a few hours. So we went downtown, met up with our photographer friend and another friend who would be supporting me during labour, and had some food. I collected myself some, and returned to the hospital much more composed and confident. Once again, while walking contractions would get strong, but once I stopped they disappeared.

When our midwife returned she again brought up that she would be happy to rupture my membranes. This time I was able to express my concerns about being “on the clock” and she assured me that wasn’t going to be the case. She said as long as baby and I were looking good then there was no need to add anything else unless it had been quite a long time and I hadn’t made any progress. I didn’t need to fear any 10 or 12 hour arbitrary timeline. I was very relieved and decided that we would just break my waters then. When she was preparing to do so, she noted that baby was still sitting high enough that there was a very real risk of prolapsing the cord if bubs wasn’t lined up right when my water broke. (We later realized this was probably why nothing would ever turn over into sustained labour. Baby was just sitting too high). The doctor on call was called in, and she stabilized my little one while my midwife broke my water. The doctor guided bubs to drop down into place, and I was safe to stand up.

And then I walked, and sat on the bed, and sat on the toilet, and made wonderful progress. I eventually got into the bathtub and laboured there a while and quite appreciated it. My husband did an awesome job of supporting me and I was so thankful for our friend who was also a terrific support. Things started to get harder and I felt shaky and ill and recognized that I was in transition. I focused on making sure the muscles in my face were and thighs were loose and used a low voice to repeat “Mooooovvee down baby.” Throughout everything from the time my water was broken I felt calm, confident, and very well supported. As I progressed through transition though things started to feel different. I couldn’t find a position that was working to manage the contractions (which were only about a 5 on a scale of 1-10 for pain). I started to feel like they were coming at me more than I could cope with. I tried to remain focused and breathe, and relax but it just wasn’t working. I broke down and said I needed a break from everything. My midwife suggested a quick acting narcotic (which I had never thought I would agree with but in the moment was fine with) and I was given a dose of fentanoyl. As the pain abated and I could reflect on things apart from the pain two things hit me. 1)I was terrified of all the sensations coming back, and 2)I remembered this terrified feeling from my last labour. With much more clarity than I probably should have had on a mind altering drug I knew that what I had been overwhelmed with was that same feeling of being violated and just trying to hold on until it was over. I had been trying not to focus on it, and hoping that I could cope better with it this go round. I had hoped that with each contraction I would get a handle on it and it would eventually go away. The feeling wasn’t going away though, it was getting stronger. I knew I did not want to go through the same emotional trauma as my previous delivery and I told my midwife I wanted to get an epidural.

My midwife was a tremendous support and she assured me I was doing well, and encouraged me to keep at it. I told her that I was serious and I wanted an epidural right away. My fentanyl was going to be wearing off shortly and I did get a bit panicked so she ordered a second shot while we sorted things out. I continued to repeat that I wanted an epidural please and thank you. My midwife took my husband out into the hall and had a chat with him. She explained her that she has had many women regret getting an epidural at this stage and that some have even “blamed” her for “letting” them get one instead of continuing to encourage them to carry on. She was concerned that I was being hit hard by transition and might regret having gotten an epidural so close to the end of everything. We had prearranged for our medical team to check with my husband if anything came up where they needed clarification on our birth plan/desires. My husband and I had talked at length about every aspect of our delivery and I figured that while I was in labour I wasn’t interested in trying to explain things to people. I also trust my husband completely and knew he would stick to what we had talked about. I am thankful that our midwife took the time to ask my husband if what I was saying lined up with our desires for this birth, and he assured the midwife that if I was insisting on an epidural I had good reason and that it would be better for me to have one than not.

I remember the midwife coming back into the room and letting me know she needed to check me to see if I was 8 centimetres or more in which case it was too late for the epidural. I said (through tears) “But you’re just going to tell me I’m 8 centimetres and that it’s too late to get one.” In hindsight, when she initially told me that I was doing so great without the epidural and could keep going I felt like she didn’t want me to have an epidural. That wasn’t the case at all, and she was doing her best to support me in what she was thinking was a moment of panic that I might regret. However, this feeling spilled over into thinking she wouldn’t be honest in telling me how far along I was, which was totally irrational. She had not given me any reason to disbelieve her character during my whole pregnancy and I felt bad for essentially accusing her of setting up to lie to me.

Labour makes a person say crazy things!

She gently disagreed with me that she would tell me exactly how far along I was and wasn’t about to make anything up. Then she checked me and said that I was just under 8 cm as I had a lip on my cervix that was keeping me from dilating further. I have not had a lip on my cervix at all in my two previous labours. I honestly believe it was the grace of God on my life that kept me from progressing further as a smidge more of dilation and I wouldn’t have been able to get an epidural. To confirm what she felt she had a nurse check me as well, and the nurse agreed that I was just under 8 cm with a lip on my cervix. The midwife thus called the anaesthesiologist and said she hoped he was able to make it soon. By that time of day the anaesthesiologist was not physically at the hospital and had to be called in to come from home, somewhere in town. I was told it could be 30-40 minutes, but in a much shorter time he was there with his wonderful caddy of needles and other stuff and I rejoiced. I sat as still as I could and tried not to think that a needle was about to puncture into my spine. He numbed my back and then I felt the pressure of a push. But then I felt the pressure of a second push a minute later. I thought to myself “He did two???”. It turns out he didn’t like how the first puncture placed so he did a second try. I had absolutely no side effects from the epidural (I had a terrible pressure headache from the one I got in my first labour) so I think he did a stellar job. Shortly thereafter the tightness and pain started to fade away and it was like I could breathe again.

I was a bit weepy right before and after the epidural.  I remember apologizing to my friends that they wouldn’t get to see a natural labour and telling them I was sorry but it wasn’t my fault and that a very bad man hurt me when I was small and I just couldn’t cope with the feelings this was bringing up from that. They were all great and as the epidural really took I got chatty about all sorts of stuff. Both during this labour and when I had my first baby once the epidural was fully working and was masking all the pain I could still feel and had control over both of my legs. I could also feel all the pressure of baby being so low, and this time I could feel the tightness of my muscles contracting.

As it were, we sat around chatting and then eventually my midwife checked me again and said I could start pushing any time. The bed was up in a seated position and I tried a push and really just felt like not much of anything happened. It didn’t feel like baby moved at all. My husband and I had talked a lot this labour about pushing in alternate positions (I had previously only ever pushed in a seated position with the back of the bed up and the bottom broken down) and I felt like it could be good to try something different. I said to my midwife “I’ve read some good stuff about pushing while kneeling. Do you think that would be a good idea”. She told me I was free to try any position I liked. So I turned around and knelt leaning against the raised head of the bed (as my epidural didn’t prevent me from moving around, thank goodness!). I tried another push and immediately knew that this one was effective. I don’t remember my total number of pushes, but I remember that it wasn’t long before bubs was crowing (My midwife said “Baby has dreadlocks, like me” and I though “Ahh, this one has a lot of hair, eh.”) and then the head was out. My midwife said to breathe a bit and try relax and not to push for a minute to let me stretch some. I remember asking my photographer to get some pics of what was happening and replying to my midwife that “I have a baby’s head sticking out of me and you want me to relax!!” but I did my best to wait a bit. And then I pushed again and bubs was out!! It was 15ish minutes from when I did the first push while kneeling to when my precious new son was on the bed between my knees. My midwife said “This kid has gotta be 5 kilos!!” I guess he was a pretty big newborn compared to the ones she typically sees. She was completely right. Later when we weighed him we learned he was exactly 11 lbs (5 kilos).

I turned around and sat down and they tried to lift him up onto my chest. His cord was pretty short though, so he would only make it up to my belly. I sat, holding him and stroking him and my whole being swelled with joy at this beautiful squalling miracle of life that was now not in my belly but on it. I remember being so happy I could have cried, and simultaneously being so so so thankful to experience that happiness. After a couple minutes the midwife said his cord had stopped pulsing so if we were okay cutting it I could pull him up further onto my chest. My husband (as with our first two babies) cut the cord and I got to hug and hold my sweet little one in a far less awkward embrace. He had meconium on him as he had pooped near the end of the delivery but he was fine and suffered no ill effects from it. I didn’t care that there was poop in his hair. I loved him, and loved that I could feel that love for him as soon as he was born. We dealt with my haemorrhaging (I haemorrhage every time), sang over our sweet baby (we always have a guitar there and songs picked out), stitched me up, and ordered pizza. It was quite the party. Bubs nursed, our friends went to get some much needed sleep, I had a glorious shower, and then we settled in to the rest of our first night with our new son.

I don’t for a second regret getting the epidural. I didn’t regret it when I asked for it, I didn’t regret it five minutes after he was born, and a year later I still don’t regret it. Unlike my first labour where I processed, grieved about, and ultimately made peace with having gotten an epidural, I have never been anything but completely okay with how this delivery went down. Because of that epidural I didn’t spend the last portion of my delivery being clawed at by deep and dark hurts. I didn’t go hollow inside while trying to hold on until everything was over. I didn’t feel ambivalence towards my precious new baby in the moments following birth because I was simply trying to collect myself while being flooded with relief that it was all over. Because of that epidural I did not feel violated and helpless. Because of that epidural I could focus on my precious new baby. I could experience joy, and happiness, and such a deep welling up of love for my husband as he looked on in wonder. I could tune into the weight of this fresh new body on my tummy, then chest. I could marvel at his uniqueness and explain to everyone in the room what his name was and why we chose it. Because of that epidural I have healed so much from the trauma that characterized my previous “ideal” natural labour.

I am not saying it is wrong to desire, or even have a natural labour. I have read a lot of research and recognize that from a purely physical health perspective it is “ideal” to have a labour free of interventions and medications if possible. I think it is sad when women have interventions that they were neither informed about nor had any say in. We hope that in the future if we have more children I will be able to overcome my scars and progress through labour without things breaking down as they have. And, if that doesn’t happen and I am overcome with hurts from my past that I have no control over, I need not carry any guild or shame for the epidural I will get again. Yes, a natural drug free labour can be ideal, but it just might not be ideal for me; an I am perfectly okay with that!  

Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP) & My Gentle, Family-Centered Preemie C-section

Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP) & My Gentle, Family-Centered Preemie C-section

I had a typical, healthy pregnancy with my daughter, Priya, until I didn’t. Late in my pregnancy, I became very itchy, my urine was dark in color, I was overly tired and frequently nauseous. I had lamented to friends and family about how I was feeling but was typically met with well-meaning encouragement. I heard things like, “You’re pregnant and chasing a toddler around; of course you are tired!” or, “It’s common to experience itchiness and nausea in your third trimester.” Yet, I could not shake this feeling that something was off.

I started to research my symptoms and came across something called Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP). As I quickly scanned the information, I knew in my heart I had this condition. As I read more, my worry began to increase. The treatment for this condition is to be on a medication that keeps your elevated bile acid levels from harming your baby, accompanied by frequent NST and ultrasounds to monitor the baby, and finally a delivery no later then 38 weeks, my worry grew because I was already over 35 weeks, and when left untreated, the complications can be serious and delivering past 38 weeks has a stillborn rate of 15 percent. Thankfully, I have a provider who excels at really listening to their patients, and when I called with my concerns, they saw me immediately. When I brought this up to him, he ordered the blood test and said they would call with results.

At 35w6d I laid down for bed. Anxious thoughts about receiving my test results the next day filled my head when I realized my baby was quiet. Where the usual kicks and tumbles that kept me up for an hour at bed time every single night, I was met with stillness. I did all the tricks to try and provoke some movement…nothing. Because we were waiting on the results of the blood test, and knowing what complications could arise with this condition, I didn’t want to take any chances, so we headed into Labor & Delivery.

Thankfully, our baby was looking great on the monitors, but right before being discharged by a nurse, my OB caught that the test results had come in. He told me what I had already known in my gut. That my bile acid levels were elevated above 10, which indicated a diagnosis of Cholestasis and that he would need to admit me and deliver her within 12 hours. He said waiting another week when we have had no treatment on board was not safe for her any longer and that she needed out very soon. Thankfully, the whole week I was waiting on my test results I had prepared myself for this scenario and even told my husband on the way to L&D that “I think we are having this baby in the next 24 hours.” So the shock I experienced was minimal.

Because of my previous emergency C-sections, her decreased movements, and the fact that my body had been essentially slowly poisoning her, we opted for a gentle cesarean instead of inducing labor to decrease the amount of stress she would experience during birth.

I have to admit, I mourned the birth I had been preparing and longed for. I had chosen a doula and had put in all the leg work to have my VBAC but sometimes birth plans and birthing your baby safely are not the same thing. Once I knew I would not get my VBAC, I was clear about my desire for a gentle cesarean. My provider explained that a cesarean with a preemie is unpredictable, but as long as she was doing well once she was earthside, my requests would be honored.

My birth plan requested the following:

• I did not want any medication that would make me drowsy for my birth.
• I wanted the radio on to help relax me while in the OR.
• I did not want any drape. I wanted to see my daughter being brought into the world. (This request was met with the exception of needing an air-filled warmer for her on top of us.)
• As long as she was breathing well on her own, I wanted skin to skin immediately in the OR.
• I wanted delayed cord clamping so she could receive her own vital stem cells, red blood cells, iron, and regain her full blood volume.
• I requested that she not be bathed at all but that the vernix should be rubbed in to aide in moisturizing her skin and help protect against infection.
• I wanted my catheter and IVs be removed as soon as possible.
• I requested breastfeeding-safe medication.
• I wanted the support of a lactation team to help me with the learning curve of breastfeeding a preemie and that she would also be evaluated for a lip and tongue tie.

My birth with Priya taught me three important things: First, to always trust your gut. When something feels off to you, listen to your body. Trust your God-given mama instincts. NO ONE knows your body and your baby better then you. Second, find a provider that supports you. Having a birth care provider who listens to you and supports you fully, even during less than ideal birth circumstances like this, makes all the difference in the world. Third, even if you have a less than ideal birth (like my four weeks early, emergent C-section), you can still have a birth that is a healing experience if you feel heard, understood, and your wishes have been respected. Though my story did not look the way I thought it would, I walked away from my less than ideal birth feeling at peace because my providers did everything in their power to give me the birthing experience I desired, and for that I am forever thankful.

If you or someone you know is experiencing itchiness while pregnant, please talk to your provider. Cholestasis of pregnancy, when treated correctly, almost always leads to healthy babies; but when left untreated, it can have devastating consequences. If you feel you are not receiving proper care or support or would like to be informed about this condition, please check this group for the most updated evidence-based research. This is a foundation that brings awareness and proper information to women dealing with this.

Experience and photographs submitted by Emily Russo. 

Our Ray of Sunshine, the Storm and the Rainbow {Trigger Warning}

Our Ray of Sunshine, the Storm and the Rainbow {Trigger Warning}

(Editor’s note: this birth experience deals with loss.)

I have had two natural births, the first to a beautiful and healthy baby girl – who is now three, and the second to a stillborn son born at 29 weeks.

Due in April with my third, another baby girl – how am I to birth without fear?

I feel so empowered to have birthed both of my beautiful babies.

After two years of trying and three miscarriages – Frankie came into the world.

Frankie’s birth was textbook – ten hours from first contraction to delivery, and spontaneously on her due date. I was so lucky. No damage, no intervention, no drugs. Happy baby, happy mumma.

Ruben’s labor was at the opposite end of the scale. A week after being told he was “incompatible with living” followed ten hours of failed induction, and then another two hours of the most painful and traumatic experience of my life. The room was silent, the doctors cut his cord and took him away to check for any signs of life – though the chances were slim that he was capable of surviving labor. I remember watching my husband from the bathroom as he cradled his son. I had to stay seated on the toilet to try encourage my placenta to birth. I couldn’t fathom what had just happened, it felt like an eternity before I met him. To then go home without him.

Only 8 weeks postpartum the clouds cleared and we were told the news of our rainbow baby. At the time the news was overwhelming, we weren’t ready.

Now 7 months pregnant I am excited and anxious for my daughter to be placed in my arms. Rosie cheeked, crying, flailing around as she adjusts to entering the world. To bring a baby home to Frankie as promised. A sibling for her to dote upon, a sibling she has been so patiently waiting for.

Birth experience and photographs submitted by Jade M. 

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