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A VBAC Story

A VBAC Story

Rita shares the story of her daughter’s birth – a healing VBAC.

My first baby was born via cesarean section. Like many women, I never imagined that I would need a C-section; I never thought that would happen to me. Imagine my surprise when after 24 hours of labor, my midwife announced to me that since my baby was in distress and I had not progressed past 8 cm in three hours, the next step would be a cesarean. I pulled my bed sheet over my head and cried out loud like a baby. I wasn’t physically, emotionally or spiritually prepared for this.

The C-section was due to failure to progress and non-reassuring fetal heart rate. I personally think (my non-medical opinion) that the cesarean was the result of all of the drugs that were administered to me during labor (with my consent) and the artificial rupturing of my membrane when the baby was still high up in the uterus in the occiput posterior position. Those drugs included Fentanyl, Epidural and Pitocin. I felt like my baby was drugged (again, my non-medical opinion). I also think that it was due to my ignorance. I didn’t educate myself about childbirth. I did not educate myself about the different pain medications that were available to me and their pros and cons. Heck, I didn’t even take a childbirth class. I was one of those patients who just let the nurses and doctors do whatever they felt necessary. I did not have a plan or even know what I wanted. The cesarean was definitely a wake-up call for me.

When my baby was about 6 months old, I learned I was pregnant with my second baby. The pregnancy was more than a surprise; it knocked the wind out of me. Eight weeks after my first baby was born, I had an IUD inserted to prevent another pregnancy until I was prepared for it, which would have been about 18 months after my first baby was born. I was told that this type of IUD usually lasts for 10yrs and that there is a .08% chance of getting pregnant while on it. I guess I was a part of the .08. I was very upset with the provider who inserted the IUD. I had so many questions that she couldn’t answer. Yes, I even thought about suing her… but that’s a whole other story.

After a few weeks of crying my eyes out and being frustrated, I decided to get with the program. This baby wasn’t going anywhere. I needed to take care of myself physically and emotionally in order to be able to care for my unborn child. Once I came to terms with the pregnancy, I made a promise to myself: the birth of this baby was going to be completely different from the birth of the first child—I was going to have a vaginal birth—and I was going to do everything I could to increase my chances of having one.

The first order of business was to find a VBAC-friendly hospital. All of my research led to one of the big hospitals in my hometown of Tacoma, WA; so I contacted the hospital’s midwifery department.

My first appointment was great. The midwife told me that since my last cesarean wasn’t due to any major medical reason, I should be able to at least try for a VBAC. After my first C-section, the doctor told me that because of the way she had sewed and positioned my uterus, I would have a greater chance of having a vaginal birth the next time around. She sewed my uterus twice. Also, since I was able to go into labor on my own and progressed to 8cm, this would work in my favor.

After finding the VBAC-friendly hospital, the second order of business was to find a doula. While on doulaMatch.net, I found two doulas in my area. One of them, surprisingly, had been my high school music teacher. If I had known that she was a doula, I would have used her for my first baby. I interviewed both of them, and ended up choosing my high school music teacher. There were so many reasons why I chose her. She had a C-section with her first baby and went on to have four vaginal births. She had 15+ years of doula experience. She had a very gentle and calm spirit, which I felt was important. She’s also a birth instructor for one of the big hospitals in our area. My husband and I took a birthing class with her, and she was great! She really knew a lot about birthing babies. During the class, we had to do an exercise that required partnership. One of the girls there did not have a partner. The instructor volunteered to be her partner. After the exercise, the girl said to her, “Wow that was great! You have a gentle, motherly touch.” That statement confirmed even more that she was the right doula for me. I needed that gentle, motherly touch during my labor and delivery.

As my pregnancy progressed, I decided to educate myself more on childbirth. I read two books and watched endless YouTube videos on natural childbirth and successful VBACs. I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin, and Birthing From Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz. I watched all episodes of the British TV show One Born Every Minute. I watched a movie called All My Babies: A Midwife’s Own Story. I must have watched this movie about a thousand times. It is also on YouTube. Of course, I watched the documentary The Business of Being Born.

I became a member of our local ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) on Facebook. I also became a member of a Facebook group designated for all cesarean moms who are looking to have VBAC (a very supportive group). I followed Birth Without Fear, improving birth.org Ob/Gyn & midwife associates, and many other childbirths groups on Facebook. My Facebook feed was 90% natural childbirth/VBAC related. Every day of my pregnancy, I read or watched something positive about natural childbirth or successful VBAC. I read almost all of the birthing stories posted on Birth Without Fear’s Facebook page. If others could do it, I could definitely do it, too. I was really encouraged by other women. I made up my mind that I wasn’t just going to try for a VBAC, I was going to have a VBAC. I asked Jesus every day to give me my heart’s desire.

During my second trimester, I started reading a lot about red raspberry leaf tea, which has many benefits. One major benefit is that it helps strengthen the uterus, which helps in preventing uterine rupture. Uterine rupture is a major concern when having a VBAC. I posted a question on our mamas’ group Facebook page; I asked if anyone had experience with drinking red raspberry leaf tea during their pregnancy, and I had a lot of good responses. Some women said that it helped them go into labor. I was a little nervous about that, as I was still early in my pregnancy. I spoke with my midwife regarding this. She said it was ok to drink two cups of red raspberry leaf tea a day, and three cups starting at about 34 or 36 weeks. I was 28 weeks pregnant at that time, so I started drinking two cups a day. I drank red raspberry leaf tea religiously until the day I was in labor. I also started seeing a chiropractor for weekly adjustments from 28 weeks until the week before my baby was born.

My pregnancy was going very well until I went in for my 35-week checkup. While examining my stomach, the midwife seemed a little concerned. She couldn’t tell if my baby’s head was down or not (I had a very large fibroid.) At the beginning of the exam, she thought the baby’s head was down, but by the end she thought that the baby had moved into a breech position. She recommended that I have an ultrasound done to be 100% sure that the baby’s head was down. I started to get very nervous.

I had an ultrasound done that week, and thank goodness, baby’s head was down. I was very happy and relieved. My first baby was breech throughout my whole pregnancy. My OB turned her around through external cephalic version. My 36- through 38-week checkups were fine. My midwife was sure that my baby’s head was down. At my 37-week checkup, I told my midwife that I was getting nervous about having a VBAC. I was afraid something terrible might happen—something worse than a repeat cesarean. She said if anything happened, they would do the best they could to help my baby and me. “However,” she said, “You have to trust yourself, your decision and your body. You had a cesarean. Your body is not broken. Your body is more than capable of birthing your baby.” That stuck with me. I repeated it about a hundred times a day. My body is not broken; my body is not broken. My body is more than capable of birthing my baby.

Things took a turn at 39 weeks! I went in for my 39-week checkup. While examining my stomach, my midwife seemed very concerned again. I remembered that look on her face from previous weeks. I asked, “What’s wrong?” She said, “I am 90% sure this baby is breech. “No way!” I exclaimed. “Please make an appointment to do an ultrasound as soon as possible, probably before the end of this week,” she said. This was on Monday, January 18th. My baby was due on Sunday, January 24th. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The rest of the appointment went downhill from there. I went to the receptionist’s desk and asked her to schedule me for the earliest ultrasound. She scheduled me for 8:00 a.m. the next morning (Monday, January 19th). I was very sad. Worry kept me awake that night. To be totally honest, from the movement of the baby, I knew something wasn’t right.

I went in for my ultrasound the next morning; and lo and behold, my baby was in a frank breech position. Head up, bottom down. I started crying. The ultrasound tech asked if I was okay. I said “No. I can’t believe my baby is breech this late in the pregnancy. Now they are not going to allow me to try for a VBAC.” I was very frustrated. She recommended that I meet with the midwife that same day. She asked me to go wait for her by the receptionist. As I sat by the front office, I really could not contain my sadness any longer. I started crying. The office worker and other pregnant women who were coming in for their appointments probably thought something was wrong with me or my baby. Lucky for me, the midwife was available that morning.

I don’t remember much of my meeting with the midwife that morning. I was just too sad and upset. She asked me to come in later that day at 3 p.m. The OB was available to perform an external cephalic version if I was interested in it; and of course I was. I made the appointment to go in later that day. When I left the midwife’s office, I got into my car and cried/prayed for about 10 minutes. I called my husband and told him the news. He assured me that everything would be ok. He later told me that he felt very sad because I sounded so sad over the phone. I called my doula and left her a message. She sent me a text saying, “Got your message and will be praying. Let me know if you want me to come with you.”

Before I continue with the rest of the story, I want to take a moment to acknowledge a woman in my life; I will refer to her as a birthing goddess. This woman has given birth to seven children. Five of them were probably homebirths. One was via cesarean, and the other was a VBAC. We were pregnant at the same time twice. She was pregnant with her last two kids and I was pregnant with my first two kids. She is very inspiring in lots of ways, but especially when it comes to birthing and raising kids. She has a gift! Now back to the story.

On my way home from my ultrasound/midwife visit, I felt like I needed to talk to someone; someone who would understand what I was going through. I decided to head over to this birthing goddess’s house. She had just had a successful, unmedicated and fast VBAC – just what I was hoping and praying for. As I pulled up into her driveway, I saw her through the window reading what looked like a Bible or a devotional book. My mind was somewhere else. I couldn’t tell. She swiftly came to the door and let me in with a hug. She knew something was wrong just by looking at my face. I told her what was going on. After I was done, she asked me, “Can I pray for you?” “Yes please,” I responded. She sat very close to me on the couch, put her arms around me, and prayed for me. After that prayer, I felt like a burden was lifted off of me. I had hope, trust and peace again.

We went to the hospital for my 3 o’clock visit. I was very nervous. The nurse was very nice. The OB and midwife came in to perform the EVC. You have to sign an agreement agreeing that if your baby becomes distressed after this procedure, an emergency cesarean would be performed. After all the talking/paperwork signing, the OB said to the midwife, “You grab the baby’s bottom, I will grab the head, and we will slowly turn her around!” It was very painful and uncomfortable, but I was very happy that it was successful after the first try. After this, I asked the midwife to sweep my membranes. That was also very uncomfortable, but I was going to do everything I could possibly do to prevent another cesarean. Per the midwife, I was 1 cm dilated.

I went in for my 39-week checkup on Thursday, January 21st at 4:30 p.m. The appointment went very well. My baby was still head-down. I asked my midwife to sweep my membrane again. She did, and I was still 1 cm dilated. I know everyone has different opinions about membrane sweeping, but this was my choice. On my way out of the midwife’s office, a gentleman walked up to me and said, “Ma’am you are very beautiful.” I said, “Aw thank you” with a smile. I thought he was just being nice. Then he said, “Do you have a husband or boyfriend?” “I have a husband,” I responded. “Oh, okay. Have a nice day,” he said, and walked away. I couldn’t believe he was asking me this. How did he think I got to be 39 weeks pregnant and wobbling to my car? That made my day, though.

The text messages between my doula and me explain what happened the next day….

January 22

8:34 a.m. me: good morning. I had my membrane swept yesterday. I have been up all night with something that feels like cramping and it is very uncomfortable. I am unable to tell if it is actual contractions. Sometimes it feels like it and sometimes it doesn’t. And very painful too

9:09 a.m. doula: comes and goes? Can you feel if your belly gets tight?

9:10 a.m. me: yes, comes and goes. Belly does get tight a little bit.

9:11 a.m. doula: keep drinking water. It could just be irritable but it could turn into something as well. Time how often you feel it. Sorry you were up.

9:13 a.m. me: I have been trying to time it but very irregular

9:14 a.m. doula: ok that’s alright. Just gives you an idea of what was and then you can compare if things change.

9:14 a.m. me: ok, will do.

9:15 a.m. doula: keep breathing slowly and keep me posted. Are you working today?

9:16 a.m. me: no, I called out today.

9:16 a.m. doula: smart. You should alternate rest with walking.

9:22 a.m. me: ok.

When my husband and I took our then-15-month-old daughter to her 15-month checkup, I was still having “contractions.”

5:10 p.m. doula: how did you do today? Did it settle down?

5:13 p.m. me: I was just about to text you. It has gotten worse. Starting to get a little more regular. Every 5 to 10 minutes between 30 and 45 seconds long.

5:20 p.m. doula: oh ok that’s good. Yes? Have you gotten some rest? And are you handling it ok?

5:23 p.m. me: it is good. Haven’t been able to nap yet. I am handling it ok so far.

5:27 p.m. doula: good, try to get some rest! You may be up again if you are going into labor! (Boy, was she right!)

8:35 p.m. doula: so any idea yet if tonight is the night???!

8:36 p.m. me: I think tonight is the night!! Just got out of the bathtub. Contractions are still coming.

8:38 p.m. doula: alright! What is your progress? Any changes from earlier? And that’s a good sign with the bath, because that will usually slow pre labor stuff.

8:42 p.m. me: (sent her a picture of what seems like a mucus plug) sorry if this is gross but I am also starting to poop a lot.

8:43 p.m. doula: oh yeah change is happening. Good hormones on board causing all that. How long are you wanting to wait at home with contractions? Your paperwork is in the car: as long as possible or more like 3-4 min apart?

8:47 p.m. me: probably 3 to 4 minutes. I am starting to need some help focusing.

8:55 p.m. doula: let me know whenever you want me to come – home first or when you go to the hospital.

8:56 p.m. me: ok.

9:31 p.m. me: contractions are pretty close together. Can you come to my house?

9:32 p.m. doula: sure. (Verified address, we had move into a new house). I am under half hour from it.

9:33 p.m. me: yes correct address

9:33 p.m. ok!

My doula got to my house about 15-20 minutes later. When she came in, I was leaning over the kitchen counter. At this time contractions were closer together, but still less than a minute long. When I had the next contraction, she asked me where I felt the pain. I pointed to my lower back, and she proceeded to give me a back massage. I said, “No, don’t touch, don’t touch!” She stopped massaging me. This was very weird because I love getting massages.

When my next contraction came, she very gently rubbed my back in a circular motion. That felt really good and calming. At this point my 15-month-old daughter knew something was wrong—mama was behaving very strangely. She followed me around the living room and even gave me a massage when I was on my hands and knees. My husband took a picture of her giving me a massage. She was very sweet.

An hour or so after my doula arrived at my house, I started having very intense contractions. They were very close together but still less than one minute long. My doula suggested that we head to the hospital before I got too uncomfortable to get in the car. We got in the car and headed for the hospital. I kept telling my husband not to hit any potholes. “I will try not to,” he responded.

We got to the hospital, which was 10 minutes from our house, at about 11 o’clock. We were in the emergency room for Lord knows how long. The receptionist was asking my husband all sorts of questions, while I was sitting in the wheelchair trying not to embarrass myself in front of everyone in the emergency room. I kept having very intense contractions, and my doula was there talking to me and rubbing my back.

On our way up to the triage, the nurse was pushing the wheelchair really quickly. I ask her to stop for a little bit because I had a very intense contraction. “I can’t,” she said,” because you could actually be having the baby right now.” Both my husband and doula said, “She’s not, just slow down please! She did not slow down. I was in too much pain to do or say anything.

The triage was very nice. It was a large room with a birthing tub. I asked if I could get into the birthing tub. The nurse said no because they don’t do VBAC water births. Plus, they needed to monitor my baby’s heart rate until she was out of the womb. At my previous midwife appointment, I asked her if I could get the mobile fetal monitor. “Yes,” she said, and added that to my file. I asked her to add to my file that no one should mention or suggest any pain medication while I was in labor. She said, “Yes, I will put that in big bold letters.”

For the first half-hour that I was in triage, I was attached to the bed monitor while the nurse went to find the mobile monitor. This tells me that not too many people request or uses the mobile monitor. I think we were admitted around 12:00 a.m. The nurse checked me and said, “You are about 1 to 2 cm dilated.” She said she was going to be back in an hour to check my cervix again. I was so disappointed I couldn’t believe that after all the pain I was in, I was still only 1 to 2 cm dilated. Labor was worse when I was lying in the bed. I kept asking for the mobile monitor so I could move around.

I finally got the mobile monitor, and started walking around the room. I sat on the toilet for a little bit, but was too uncomfortable to sit for too long. While I was in the bathroom, my doula found a little stool – probably what women used to climb into the tub for water births. She asked me to put one leg up on the stool and do squats when I got my next contraction. She said it would help open up the cervix, and would help make labor go faster. At this point I would have done anything to make labor go faster! I did some squats.

While doing squats, the nurse came in and said, “Your midwife wants me to wait for another hour before I check your cervix, so I will be back at 2:00 a.m.” I was in too much pain to comprehend anything. I heard my doula say, “That’s good; they’re giving us more time to labor alone.” I felt like labor got about a thousand times harder after doing those squats. I told my doula that I thought I would need an epidural. I was too tired; I hadn’t really slept in over 24 hours. “Okay,” she said; “Let’s see how far you have progressed. If you are at 4 or 5 cm dilated then we can talk about getting an epidural.” She would have talked me out of getting an epidural if I had been 5 cm dilated. She would have said, “You are halfway there. Let’s wait a few more hours to see how far you’ve progressed.

At 2:00 a.m. the nurse came in to check my cervix. I was in so much pain I did not want to be touched at all. I kept saying to my doula, “Just kill me now please. Just kill me now.” Labor was very, very intense at this point. I wanted it to be done. I wanted the pain to stop. Contractions felt like they were a minute apart and a minute long. Between contractions, the nurse checked my cervix. “Wow,” she said, “the cervix is completely gone and I can touch the bulging bag of water.” I was so out of it, I said, “What? Where did the cervix go? Don’t we need the cervix?” She said, “Let me go get the midwife.” At this point my husband had left the room to go get coffee. I wasn’t happy with him about that.

A few minutes later, the midwife came, checked my cervix, and said, “You are 10 cm dilated and I can feel your bag of water.” “Well, can I get an epidural now?” I asked her. “No,” she said, “You are already 10 cm dilated and about to push this baby out.” “Wait, what? I am about to push the baby out?” “Yes,” she said. As she was talking, I felt the bed start to move. I heard, “Let’s take her to room whatever.” As we got into the room, before they could get the bed attached to the wall and get everything situated, I got on my hands and knees. I felt a VERY intense contraction with an involuntary push and my water broke! As soon as that happened, I felt the baby’s head slide into the birth canal. I thought to myself, Oh crap. There is no going back now. I am about to actually birth a baby through my vajayjay!

There was meconium in the water, so my midwife called the NICU and two NICU nurses came in the room. I felt like the room was a little crowed with the two NICU nurses, my nurse, midwife, husband and doula, but I didn’t care. I wanted the baby out! I started pushing. The baby’s head would come out a little bit and then slide back in. I said, “Oh, the baby is going back in.” The midwife said, it’s ok, it will happen for a while.” Apparently, this was normal. I didn’t know. I only pushed with contractions. I was so tired; I had no energy or willpower to push without the intense force of the contraction. Every 1 to 2 minutes, I would say, “Here comes another one,” and would start screaming—I sounded like an animal! I was VERY vocal!

Anytime I would scream, my doula would come close to my ear and say, “Rita, put all the energy down in your bottom.” She would say this as she gently rubbed my back in a circular motion. Her touch was very comforting. At one point I heard the midwife saying, “Soon you are going to feel the ring of fire; just push through it.” Boy, did I feel the ring of fire, and It HURT like none other!!

I pushed on my hands and knees for a long time, then the nurse suggested I lie on my back. I lay on my back, and with maybe 3 VERY hard pushes, my baby girl was OUT!! My midwife said “YOU GOT YOUR PERFECT VBAC!” I kept saying, “I did it. I did it.” I couldn’t believe I had done it. My labor was not in vain. I really believed that I could, and I did it. The placenta followed shortly after. The baby wasn’t crying right away, so the NICU nurses took her to suction her up. This was surprising to me, because the baby was literally kicking on her way out. I could feel her legs still kicking as I was pushing her out. I pushed for 45 mintues. She was born at 2:45 a.m.

While they were suctioning up my baby, the midwife was giving me a few stiches. After they were done they put her on my chest. Oh, that feeling of having your baby placed on your chest is the best feeling in the whole world! She was and is the most beautiful baby ever (she and her sister!). After an hour of being on my chest, they took her off to weigh her. She weighed 7lbs 11.2 ounces and was 21inches long, with an APGAR score of 8/9. My first baby was 7lbs 9.2 ounces, and 21 inches long – almost the same birth weight. We were out of the hospital within 24 hours.

Why did I decide to right this birth story? I was inspired by the other women who wrote their successful VBAC stories. My goal is to encourage other women who are planning to have a VBAC; it is possible. I hope my story is an encouragement to you.

Unplanned Home Birth

Unplanned Home Birth

Hi all! Our little guy’s due date was January 20th, 2016. Being first-time parents, my husband and I were SO anxious to meet our son. I had a great pregnancy throughout, and continued to do CrossFit up until I was about 9 months along. I knew that I wanted a natural birth, and was determined to make it happen. We hired a doula and met with her a few times before the birth. It was so worth it and I would recommend a doula to any pregnant woman. We discussed everything from nutrition, providers and pain relief options to circumcision, vaccines and hospital procedures. I’m so glad we took the time to research and decide what kind of birth we wanted. There are so many things that the hospital makes you think you need to do that you really don’t have to do.

Toward the end of my pregnancy, right around Christmas, I had a little blood pressure scare (nothing serious, just scary for a first-time mama-to-be) and my feet and face were swelling up just enough to concern our midwife. After an ultrasound and listening to our babe for an extended amount of time, they determined he was as healthy as they come. On Monday, January 11th, I woke up at around 4 a.m. with what I know now, looking back, were very short contractions. They weren’t painful at all and I honestly didn’t think anything of them. Throughout the day I had a couple more times where I remember having to stop what I was doing and just breathe. How was I supposed to know what a contraction felt like?! At around 6 p.m. that evening, I was bouncing on my exercise ball in front of the TV to take my mind off of what I thought to be gas pains. When the pain started to get a little more intense, I started thinking that this was probably the start of my labor. I texted our doula, Megan, at around 10 p.m. and let her know what was going on. She wanted me to try lying down to get some rest or try taking a bath to relax. I tried taking the bath first; but it was too painful to sit in the tub. Then I tried lying in bed – too painful. After a lot of intense contractions, around midnight I told my husband we needed to call Megan and get her out to our house.

We had planned on laboring quite a bit at home then going to the hospital for delivery. While on the phone with Megan, she listened to me have a couple contractions and made an educated guess that our baby’s head was tilted a little bit, causing me to have back-to-back contractions with no break and then a small break. (I’m talking a break of MAYBE 30 seconds; so contraction, contraction, small break.) She mentioned that I should try to do some stairs to get his head straightened out and in the best possible position for delivery. She also told us to call her when we couldn’t handle it ourselves and wanted her out to our house.

It took me over an hour to get down and back up our stairs two times with my husband’s help. Finally, just a little before 3 a.m. we called her back and told her we needed her for support and reassurance. She was to our house by 3:15, and listened and helped me through some more contractions. My exercise ball was the absolute best thing during my labor. I was having a contraction on the toilet at 3:45 a.m. when my water broke. As soon as it broke, my husband put our hospital bag into the car and turned it on to warm it up. (It was about 10 degrees that night, roads were icy, and it was snowing).

I got up off the toilet and tried to make it to the car, but got no further than my living room chair when a contraction had me almost on my knees. I remember asking Megan how in the world I was going to make it to the hospital—a 40-minute drive on a good day—with contractions this strong. She told me I would take them as they came, one at a time. The only problem was that my contractions were so strong and close together that I didn’t get any breaks.

I remember learning that first-time mamas will usually push for at least an hour or two before getting to meet their sweet baby. My exact words to Megan after my water broke were, “I’ve never had a baby before, but I don’t think it’s going to take an hour or two.” I just told her that my body was telling me to push and I couldn’t help it.

I sat back down on the toilet and she had me feel up inside myself and describe to her what I felt. What I described to her must have sounded like a baby’s head. She had me get on my bed to check and see if I was right. I was! Our baby wasn’t going to wait to make his appearance! Megan was on the phone the entire time with our midwife, who was originally supposed to deliver our baby at the hospital. I remember Megan telling my husband that he could turn the car off because we weren’t going to make it to the hospital.

Once I knew we were really doing it – that we were really going to have our baby at home, I got on my hands and knees in my bed and pushed three times in a 30-minute span, and at 4:32 a.m. my husband caught Dirk Steven Synhorst as he joined our family!

Megan and my husband (and our midwife on the phone) had successfully talked me through the birth of my son, at home, unplanned, in my own bed. It was the most beautiful thing in my entire life. Right when Dirk came out, he immediately started crying and I knew he was just fine.

The most common question we get is, “Weren’t you so scared something would go wrong?” But truthfully, we didn’t have time to be scared. It all happened so quickly that we just did what we had to do. My husband was incredible the entire time and stayed so calm; he’s the best! Megan was a Godsend and I’m so thankful she was there with us. Dirk latched on to my breast almost immediately after placing him on my chest.

I delivered my placenta about 25 minutes later and we put it in a kitchen bowl beside me in bed because Dirk’s cord was still attached. I did have a very minor tear and I wanted to get Dirk checked over by our midwife in person, so we headed off for the hospital at around 6 a.m. with my baby snuggled right up on my chest, blankets covering us both, and my placenta in a big Ziplock bag.

I remember calling our parents and telling them we were heading to the hospital, but we already had their grandson with us. Dirk checked out just fine, weighing in at 8 Ibs 8.7 oz and 22” long; healthy as could be! We had to stay at the hospital for most of the day, mainly just waiting on paperwork. We had to get a special birth certificate for Dirk since he was born at home. We got back home around 5 p.m. and it’s been pure bliss being a family of three.

The most important thing I want expecting mamas to know is that YOU HAVE OPTIONS. You don’t have to have the kind of birth where you lie on your back with Pitocin and an epidural, suffering through so much pain. Of course I was in pain when I was in labor, but it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t stand and I knew my pain had a purpose! My body knew exactly what it had to do and it did it. What a miracle childbirth is, and I’m so excited and hopeful that God blesses me with more children!

Medication-Free Hospital VBAC

Medication-Free Hospital VBAC

Olivia shares her son Ethan’s birth story ­­– her own triumphant VBAC.

My daughter was born in 2008 via unnecessary cesarean at 40w4d; I never went into labor. I had a very hard time recovering physically and emotionally. I had a hard time bonding with her, and felt guilty for this reason. In the state that I was in, it was only pain. Ever since, I started to read everything I could about VBAC, stories and books, and I found ICAN – the webpage where it was a forum. That’s how I started to educate myself.

Fast forward to October 2015, when we found out we were expecting our second child: a little boy. We were super excited and I was very determined to have a natural, medication-free birth. I found a provider about an hour away from our house. Our local hospital has a VBAC ban; you have to arrive in pushing stage so they won’t make you have a cesarean. But this was a healthy pregnancy; happy mommy-to-be, happy family.

Everything went fine until one point, at 19 weeks, I was late to my doctor’s appointment; when I got there, I was panting and stressed out. For the first time, my blood pressure went high that day: 140/70. It was an isolated event so nobody paid to much attention to it. Then, at 26 weeks, I had another doctor’s appointment; again late, again high blood pressure. I told the nurse to give me a few minutes to calm down, but she took my BP as soon as I walked through that door, and again it was 140/70. And I had some sugar in urine – I had had cake right before I went in.

I was sent to do my 1-hour glucose test, which I failed with bright colors at 160! Automatically they sent me to do the 3-hour test plus the 24-hour urine test. The 3-hour glucose test results came back great, so no gestational diabetes. But I had a high value of protein in my urine: 540. They say over 300 is high, and combined with other symptoms, equals preeclampsia.

My blood pressure never went high again in my entire pregnancy. I previously had protein in my urine (I was a water diver and water polo player for 15 years, had lots of tests, and nobody ever figured out why I had protein in my urine). All other values remained normal, creatinine serum, liver enzymes, BUN value, etc., including my blood pressure. I was already labeled as a potential preeclampsia. I knew I was fine and didn’t have it.

Because of that, they kept a close eye on me, and I was living with constant fear that they would push for a cesarean. I had to have an ultrasound every week from week 36 until I gave birth. I must mention that I REFUSED completely any cervical check the entire pregnancy. We hired an amazing doula, who eventually became our close friend. And finally, the big day came.

I was two days overdue. I always knew somehow that I would go past 40 weeks. That day, I dropped my mother-in-law off at the mall and returned home. I took my daughter and two friends of hers to the pool. The kids were making fun of me, chasing me in the pool so that I would go into labor. They were telling other people that they have to make me swim so my labor will start because I am overdue. It was so much fun. I swam like crazy that day. My husband texted my at some point, telling me that he had a feeling that the baby would come that night.

I got home, took a hot bath, he cooked dinner and we went to bed. It was 10 p.m. At 11:43 p.m. I woke up feeling weird and restless. And I was CRAMPING! I was like, “OMG is this labor?” I couldn’t believe it. It was happening. I was waiting to feel that pain for eight-and-a-half years. Unbelievable. I started to see very light spotting on my underwear. It was my plug (never experienced that before). I texted my doula, and we talked for a while; I had contractions, but they felt like kidney pain or a UTI. I kept asking my doula if it was normal. Boy, I was so silly.

They became regular every 10 minutes, although not too strong. She told me to get some rest. I couldn’t, though, since I was so excited and anxious. She decided to come over. She arrived at 2:30 a.m., brought her kit with her, along with aromatherapy, some stress balls, oils and other stuff. My husband woke up eventually; I was making too much noise walking around, packing and talking on the phone. We sent him back to sleep since this was not going to be that easy and it would take time. My contractions were regular but not strong enough. I started to lose more and more of my plug. I couldn’t sleep at all. My doula took a nap, but I couldn’t. I was thinking that this is not such a big deal (I was so wrong).

The contractions remained constant – every 10 minutes for 45-50 seconds. They were getting more intense. At 10 a.m. I had breakfast and continued to labor on my birthing ball, on the couch, against the kitchen counter, over the sink… everywhere! I didn’t want to go to the hospital too early, because of their time frame regarding births.

At 12 p.m. we decided to go to the hospital, it is a one-hour drive, so we took off. We had a friend picking up our 8-year-old daughter. I had my husband, his mother and my doula with me the whole time.

We got to the hospital and it went very fast with the registration. I got to the triage room and as we waited to get seen by the nurse, my water broke. I was shocked! We were going to have a baby! The nurse came, I refused the cervical check, but she confirmed that my water broke and admitted us. My contractions came every five minutes after that.

We went up to the labor and delivery department. They wanted to start an IV; I refused and told them that I don’t want any intervention, nor anesthesia. I had a hep-lock, for “just in case”.

Because I was a VBAC mom, the hospital required that I was continuously monitored; so I had a wireless monitor so that I could move around. Everybody gave me space, and let my body do its job. The staff was coming to check if I needed anything, and to make sure we were fine. They were great the entire time. Nobody made any pressure; they respected our wishes and were very respectful and polite.

I was laboring on and on and on and on! I had my stress ball, which helped me through each contraction. I surrendered to the pain, embraced it and remained focused at all times. I had only horrible lower back pain (quite in my rectum area) – I never had front pain throughout the entire labor. It was very weird. We thought that the baby was posterior, but it wasn’t!

I walked, danced and bent any way that I could. My doula was putting pressure against my back, while my mother-in-law was putting cold compresses on my forehead as I leaned over my husband. I was for sure in labor land! My body was there, but my mind was in a trance. I was moaning every once in a while. I had my own breathing pattern, which worked great with the contractions.

At 11 p.m. the doctor insisted that she check me, as she wanted to know where I was at. She really insisted, and I had to pick up which fight to fight. So I agreed. After 24 hours of labor, was 4 centimeters! “Good Lord, what I’m going to go through,” I thought! The contractions got stronger and stronger. At 4 a.m. I was checked again and I was at 7-8 centimeters. That was great, but I didn’t really care too much; I was in pain, and I knew that I would make it!

I was so tired the entire time, but I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat, either; I had food hidden in my bag, but was not into it. I had a great time chewing ice chips. I had horrible heartburn so I asked for the nurse for some Tums. The morning came; my doula never took her hands of me; she talked to me and helped me relax. I would have not made it without her. My husband and his mother took a nap and I was so jealous of them. I was imagining myself sleeping.

Around 8 a.m., things got way too far and my doula called for the nurse, telling her that she thought I was ready. She could tell that by watching me during contractions. My contractions were so close together that actually I thought it was just one long contraction! It was incredibly long and painful. I kept switching positions, and I used the squatting bar too. The nurse, midwife and a bunch of other staff came in. There was a training midwife, too.

I got checked and I was complete and ready to push. I just didn’t want to push; I wanted to wait for the urge to push (which, by the way, never came). So they told me that I had to since I had been in active labor for 34 hours; I had to get it done. The doctor came; she was an ex-military doctor – a very tough woman, which at the beginning scared the soul out of me. (She was nice, but she was looking very intimidating to me at that stage). She respected all my wishes and was very professional, and she made it happen!

Because of that, my contractions stopped! I couldn’t believe it! After 35 hours! With the baby’s head visible! I had to regroup myself and stop being scared.

She said that I needed a little Pitocin for my contractions to pick up. That was the devil to me. I started to yell that I would not be able to manage the Pitocin without the epidural, and I didn’t want that. I was scared that would stress the baby; and then, after 35 hours of labor, to end up with the cesarean. Well, I had to agree because my contractions stopped completely.

So the Pitocin drip started, but my hep-lock was not properly inserted and nothing actually went into my veins (they figured it out after I gave birth). My doula did nipple stimulation. That’s when my contractions came back again, and I got back on track. I was pushing on my back with my chin tucked in, and holding my thighs. That’s the only position that worked for me. I had a mirror, and was able to see everything while it was happening.

Not a single time had I thought about my scar; I never had pain during labor, and I never had been worried. They offered the oxygen mask, which gladly I took. The head was almost out when I heard the doctor saying, “We have a hand!” His left hand was on his head, just a little bit over the left ear. The head came out and the doctor told me to stop; but I just couldn’t and pushed like my life depended on it. That’s when he came out very quickly, giving me a third-degree tear.

I pushed for two hours, and at 10:18 a.m. on June 22, 2016, baby Ethan was born; at 40w4d, after 36 hours of intense pain and a medication-free labor. He was 8 lbs and 11 oz and 21 inches long. He was right on my chest, purple and full of blood, and he started to cry immediately. The cord stopped pulsing and my husband cut it. Right away the placenta came out.

I started to heavily bleed and the doctor was pressing with one hand on my belly, and with the other one she was cleaning me inside. That’s when I started screaming. That pain was horrible; but she had to. I lost more than 500 ml of blood. She gave me a shot of Pitocin and a rectal Cytotec suppository to cramp the uterus and stop the bleeding. In about seven minutes I was fine; the bleeding had stopped and she started to stitch me up.

It was quite scary for them (I always felt that I was fine); the room was filled with staff, including ICU for my son, but things turned out fine and he nursed right away. My family from Romania (that’s where I’m from) watched the last two hours via FaceTime, so they saw my son coming into this world. Altogether, it was the most amazing experience I had. It was hard work and I had an incredible pain tolerance; I had no idea I was capable of something as huge as Ethan’s birth.

I had my VBAC, I had my healing and victorious birth, and I was so proud of myself. Everybody was cheering and my husband was crying like a baby. I could not have done it without my amazing doula. She was my rock, my shoulder and my mind when I lost my own.

Unexpected Home Delivery

Unexpected Home Delivery

Maria tells the touching story of her daughter’s birth. 

On June 1st at around 7:30 a.m., the day my daughter was born I woke up with cramps and the need to use the bathroom a lot (I thought the spicy chips from the night before had something to do with it since I couldn’t tolerate anything spicy throughout the pregnancy). The cramps kept getting closer together but remained tolerable, and I found that it was better sitting down than laying down.

So I decided to take a shower hoping maybe it would stop, since I had heard baths and showers stop the cramping if it’s fake labor, and speed it up if it’s the real deal. While I was showering, it kept on getting worse and I couldn’t stay calm; I was screaming and wanting to calm down, but I just couldn’t.

I got out of the shower, went to lie down, and texted my husband to tell him that I was having bad cramps but that my stomach wasn’t hard like the contractions everyone describes. The pain wasn’t letting up, so I went to the bathroom to sit, screaming all the while; my husband called and I don’t remember what he asked, but I told him to come home.

All of a sudden I felt the need to bear down, and I texted my husband to call an ambulance for me because baby was coming and there was no stopping her. At 12:19 p.m., I delivered her. She came out looking around; I put her on my chest for skin-to-skin time, she let out a little cry after that, and about five minutes later I delivered the placenta.


Paramedics came five minutes after that so I had to open the door because my husband wasn’t here yet! He actually got home just in time to cut the cord! This all happened within 30 minutes of getting out of the shower—and just four minutes of pushing. At the hospital they checked me and saw that I had a tiny tear that didn’t need stitches; they checked the baby as well, and she was perfectly fine.

It is so amazing what our bodies do! I hope this story empowers more moms in knowing that they can do it!

The Birth of Robinson Blake Sylvester: Part II

The Birth of Robinson Blake Sylvester: Part II

Kara shares with us the powerful story of her son’s birth. Read Part I here

At around 7:15 a.m., I decided it was time to get in the birth tub. I ripped off my skirt and hopped in. The water was so warm. I felt my tense legs relax a bit. I had another contraction, and the water, as always, soothed me. During that wave, I remember that voice inside my head saying, “It’s almost time to push. On the next wave, your body will push.” I still doubted a bit, but was willing to do nothing, and let my body work. As with my previous two labors, cervical checks weren’t needed… Letting my body do good work without involving my mind and the doubt or hopes that could arise.

My contractions began to space out a bit, giving me that amazing break before the final part of labor. I was able to focus and look around. Malory put cold washcloths on my head. The next wave came, and sure enough, pushing came with it. I reached inside and could feel my baby’s head moving down. One of the most amazing things I experienced during this labor was feeling the baby’s energy. With my hand, I could feel a swirling and buzzing coming from inside of me. I’ll never forget the power that was coming out of me. It was so amazing.

Contractions were coming fast now; and with every one, my body pushed hard. I gripped the side of the pool, planted my feet, and bore down. Very soon, I could feel my baby’s head coming out. The feeling was such a relief. As the head slipped out, baby spun all the way around. It was a crazy feeling to see and feel the head turning on the outside world, and feel the body spin, still tucked inside. Truly in two different worlds. There’s nothing like feeling that soft, baby head as it is being born — the bones molding, the firm skull, the silky hair, the awareness of knowing your baby with your touch, but not yet with your sight. I felt baby’s face then, with my hand, and gave one last push. And then, I held my whole baby.

Robinson (Robin) Blake Sylvester was born at 7:48 a.m. I brought him up on my chest, facing the world. His cord was wrapped once around his neck, and easily slipped over his head as he joined us. I started to cry, which I have never done! He was beautiful, and radiated peace as he took his first breath of air. He had no vernix, like his older sisters did, since he decided to stay inside a bit longer.

“We did it!” I cried, and looked around at the smiling, crying, loving faces surrounding me. There is no more wonderful feeling than welcoming your child into a peaceful room filled with kind, caring people who love you and your baby so much.

I held my first son in the water for a while, then got out to deliver the placenta. Tessa and Nadia cut the cord, and daddy held Robin skin-to-skin as I made my way to the bed to relax and nurse. He nursed a bit, but much more reluctantly than his older sisters. He is still that way, five days later – taking his time, and in no hurry. I expect my little guy may always be that way… A good reminder that life doesn’t need to be rushed.

The birth team hung around awhile, doing their checks, taking photos, writing notes, and making me a smoothie. They took such amazing care of both of us. I have been moved to tears over the last few days thinking about my awesome team—how lucky I am to now have birthed three babies with them, exactly the way I wanted, without interference, pressure or expectation. They trust my body just as much as I do (maybe more!), only bringing support and safety when my babies and I need it. Isn’t that what all women should expect as they bring forth new life?

We all had mimosas and of course a “Cheers!” to this beautiful new little boy – the first Sylvester boy since Bryan was born 37 years ago. We both checked out perfectly, and snuggled in to bed. Never did I think that by 8:00 a.m., I’d be in my blankets, surrounded by love, kissing my newborn son.

The girls all got a chance to hold him — Nadia, then Tessa, then Sybil; and then we weighed him: 6lbs, 7oz and 20 inches long. We were all shocked at his size! He was a pound lighter than the girls, and almost two weeks later! He had blondish brown hair, long fingernails and a birthmark or bruise on his right arm. He had a dimple in his chin and one on each cheek.

The birth team and my mom then packed up to leave, giving us warm hugs and kisses as they said goodbye. By lunchtime, our new family of six was all alone, starting the fun, chaos, and beauty of three daughters and a son.

Read Part I of Robinson’s birth story here.

Photographs by Amanda E Photography

The Birth of Robinson Blake Sylvester: Part I

The Birth of Robinson Blake Sylvester: Part I

Kara shares with us the powerful story of her son’s birth.

In October 2015, we found out we were expecting our fourth little miracle. It was a definite surprise to us, coming sooner than we had planned. There was no trying, or medications, or hoping month after month like the last time. It was definitely not our timing at work, but God’s timing, perfect as always. We quickly became excited, especially after seeing how joyful our three daughters were when they heard the news. Our youngest, Sybil, was 16 months at the time, which would make her newly two when she became a big sister. Although that is a fairly good age gap, it was much closer than our others, so new for us. However, I knew if anyone could handle it, it would be my happy, independent, chatterbox Sybbie.

The pregnancy went well. We were planning for our third home birth (Tessa was a hospital birth) with our lovely midwife, Brande, and her assistant, Malory. All three girls were born in the 39th week, so we assumed our fourth would be about the same, or maybe even earlier.

The end of my pregnancy had a few ups and downs. Bryan and I took a trip in my 38th week, and I ended up very sick with dehydration and sun poisoning. This lead to a hospital visit with IV fluids and a UTI – not a very fun way to wrap up a pregnancy. I ended up having pretty awful anxiety during this time. I was feeling so terribly, and was so afraid that I would go into labor feeling so sick. I didn’t think I had the strength for both. I was sick for a good 10 days, nervous all the time that the baby was coming. It didn’t, however. Baby stayed put, and my outlook began to change. I felt better physically, emotionally, and mentally and I knew I was ready to take on this birth when it happened.

By this time, I was nearing my due date of July 4, 2016. We thought I would surely have the baby the weekend before the 4th and we would be cuddling a newborn as fireworks blasted outside. How surprised we were when the day came and subsequently passed. Never had I been pregnant on a due date! And then another day passed, and another, and another… Bryan was wondering if he would ever get to stop going in to work every morning!

I remember a few days after my due date, it was early morning, and there was a big, booming thunderstorm. All the girls were cuddled up in our bed with us, and we all took turns telling the baby that it was safe to come out and that we were all so excited to meet them. That today would be a great day for a birthday. It was such a sweet moment. But still, baby waited.

I went to bed early the night of July 8th. I wanted to have energy and rest just in case baby would come that night. I felt totally normal. I hadn’t really had many practice contractions throughout the entire pregnancy. I was feeling good and positive, but not at all like I would be heading in to labor soon. It was a Friday night, so Bryan was home for the weekend. We hoped he wouldn’t be going back on Monday morning!

I woke up at 3:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 9 with a nice, strong wave. Even through the fog of sleepiness, I knew within the first second that this was it. There is something about a “real” contraction – it’s not that is more painful or stronger than a practice one… It’s just real and somehow your body and brain knows that. I decided to try and go back to sleep. I was woken up again about 10-15 minutes later with another. I got up to use the bathroom and tried again to go back to bed. The same pattern happened again. Around 4:00 a.m., I woke Bryan to tell him I was getting in the shower and that I was definitely going to have our baby today.

I took my shower, and Bryan got out of bed after that. Around 4:30, I decided to call my friend/doula/birth assistant Malory and let her know what was going on. She was excited and told me to update her in the next hour. At this point, Bryan was timing my waves, and they were right at 3-4 minutes apart. They were getting more intense and I was starting to vocalize through them. Instead of waiting the hour to update Malory, I texted her 10 minutes later and asked her to head our way.

The next 45 minutes was just Bryan and me. It was a really special and memorable time for me. The sun was rising, pink and blue and orange, and we were out on our back deck talking and taking breaks through contractions. It was going to be a hot July day, but the morning was mild and cool. The birds were all singing happily and even a bat swooped down, chirping all around us. It was a truly beautiful start to labor, as I moaned loudly through waves with the sun rising over the cornfield behind us. Our girls were all still in bed, unaware that today was the day they would have a new baby to love.

At some point I lit my candles from my Blessingway, and posted in my group of mommas, asking for them to light their candles as well, and send positive labor thoughts my way.

My photographer, Amanda, was leaving on vacation this morning. I was so sad in the previous days that she was going to possibly miss the birth. I wasn’t sure what time she was leaving, so just decided at the last minute to send her a text and check if she could come for awhile before leaving on her trip. Little did I know, she had decided that if I called after 5:00 a.m., she wouldn’t be able to make it. I texted her at 4:45 asking her if she could come. It was such a crazy coincidence that she made it. I was literally overjoyed when she said she was on the way…Nothing like the last minute!

I also called Brande, my midwife, around 5:00 to let her know today was baby day. She told me to have Malory give her an update once she arrived. I called my mom as well to let her know to head over (and bring donuts!). She was the caregiver for the girls.

Malory arrived at about 5:30 a.m., and I was so happy to see her. We made coffee and joked with Bryan. She came outside with us and supported me through my waves, which were still about 3-4 minutes apart and quickly gaining in intensity. I remember at some point thinking “I hope I have the baby by 10:00 a.m.” and then Bryan jokingly saying “We could still be doing this at 10:00 p.m.!”… He got a death glare for that one. Our neighbor was also outside, and had quite a puzzled look each time I started moaning.

After this, Amanda arrived to take photos and my midwife Brande arrived as well, quietly setting up her equipment. My mom came, and the girls started waking up one by one. First Baby Sybil, who was a bit nervous when she saw all of the people and heard momma making loud sounds. She quickly woke up though, had some breakfast, and joined the fun. Then Tessa woke up, and woke up Nadia as well saying, “Mom’s in labor!”. Nadia didn’t believe her at first, until she came up and saw for herself. They all got dressed in their “Big Sister” shirts and were set to meet their baby. The big girls said since this was their second and third times being at a birth, it was pretty easy for them.

By this time it was around 6:30 a.m. My contractions were pretty intense by now, and I was making really deep, loud, long noises through them. I remember calling for Malory if one started and she wasn’t right next to me. She did an amazing job of reminding me to breathe between moans, and her presence calmed me. Each wave I would close my eyes and go somewhere else. I thought a lot of the ocean. I felt pretty calm and centered at this point. It was almost like I was seeing it all play out in my mind. I could tell myself what was coming next.

I thought I may be close to transition, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up, either. I started to get that far away feeling, shaking my head no, and saying I couldn’t do it. I then let myself believe that yes, transition was coming, and I completely released myself to it. Even though there were people around me, I felt so deep within myself. I felt focused and in my own head during waves. There was my body, doing all the work, knowing how to do it, and doing it well, and there was my brain, always with a bit of doubt and disbelief, but telling me that it was ok, and knowing deep down that I would soon meet my baby.

My contractions were close together now. I could feel my baby’s body moving so far down. I could feel the head coming into my pelvis with each wave. I remembered to stay loose in my throat and jaw and bottom and voice as I walked throughout the house.

During one contraction, I was walking down the hallway, moaning low and long. I turned around, and my sweet two-year-old Sybil was following right behind me, moaning with her eyes closed as well, making everyone giggle. I told myself through the next wave, that I was giving my daughters such a beautiful gift. Time after time they saw normal birth, and the sheer strength and capability of a woman and her body.

Read Part II of Robinson’s birth story here.

Photographs by Amanda E Photography

VBAC Birth Story

VBAC Birth Story

Here’s some background about my first labor/birth that ended in a Caesarean:

I planned to deliver at the local birth center. At 41 weeks and 5 days we started induction, with a foley only. I dilated to 8cm before labor stalled. We transferred to the hospital with plans of doing a Pitocin induction, but that never happened – my baby’s heart rate dropped into the 40s and did not come back up. I was on my hands and knees in the bed, and watched the nurse push the code blue button. As a nurse myself, its incredibly surreal hearing a code called and realizing that this time you are the patient. I was rushed to the OR, where I begged for a spinal, and my wish was granted. I got to hear my baby’s first cry, hear what gender HE was, and kiss his sweet face before they took him to the NICU. My 7lb 4oz, 21″ long baby boy was born at 41 weeks and 6 days, after 44 hours of labor, and spent 2 days in the NICU. It was about eight hours until I was able to hold him as I had to wait for the anesthesia to wear off before I could get out of bed. The hardest part was not being able to see my long awaited baby. I had to greet my family without a baby in my arms; I didn’t even know what he looked like.

Fast forward to my second pregnancy.

I was determined to have a different outcome, and found a practice that was extremely supportive of VBACs. I went post dates again and was miserable, terrified that I would never go into labor on my own because I hadn’t with my first. I was emotionally spent. I couldn’t deal with waking up another morning pregnant and going to bed STILL pregnant. At my last appointment I convinced my provider to induce me at 40 weeks and 5 days. I did not feel comfortable going past 41 weeks given my first experience.

Contractions started Friday night (40+3)—maybe every 10-15 minutes. I told my husband to get some sleep, and that I’d be on the couch and would wake him up if things got serious. Contractions were long—at least a minute—which I found encouraging compared to my first labor, where they were only about 45-50 seconds apiece. I had the TV on all night, but I wasn’t paying attention. I had to be upright during contractions and couldn’t tolerate sitting – too much pelvic pressure. I was listening to Hypnobabies “baby come out” for awhile.

I finally forced myself to lie down and sleep when contractions were happening about every 20 minutes or so. When daylight came, nothing was happening, except I was exhausted. This was a familiar experience since the same thing had happened with my son. My husband took our toddler grocery shopping so I could rest. I hardly did anything on Saturday; maybe had a contraction here or there. At 4:30 on Saturday afternoon, I called the hospital to confirm induction and they said it was game on. This is when I’m saying labor truly started (although I didn’t believe it).

I called my mother-in-law and told her to come to our house around 5:15 p.m. When she arrived, I was having contractions that made her and my husband tell me we needed to get to the hospital. I thought they were crazy; contractions were uncomfortable, but I didn’t think it was serious labor. Saying goodbye to my toddler wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be—probably because I was so uncomfortable. When we got near the hospital, my husband asked if we could stop at McDonald’s; I said that was fine, since my contractions were happening every 4-6 minutes.

When we got to the hospital, we parked and I waddled slowly to the lobby. We were early and I was worried they wouldn’t take me because of it. The woman at the desk took one look at me and said, “Let’s get you to your room; you look like you’re in labor. You’re the scheduled induction, right?” I probably looked at her like she was crazy. I was thinking, “Why does everyone think I’m in labor? I’m not!”

I was delighted to see we got a nice labor suite; but the only downside was it had a shower, not a tub. I wasn’t sure if they used the nicer rooms for VBACs or not. The nurses came in and tried to start an IV. She blew my vein after not listening to me as to where to put it. I have good veins. The bruises from that lasted for a few weeks after. The midwife George came in and asked to check me. I was not feeling optimistic. He said, “Well, you’re at a 6 and seem to be contracting well; I don’t see a need for induction.” I was floored and expressed my disbelief. I was still fully expecting to be on Pitocin. George told me he never jokes about a woman’s vagina. I couldn’t believe it. I was 6cm and still didn’t think I was in serious labor! I asked to get in the shower. I labored there on my knees, bent over a bench. The floor was hard so I was kneeling on a towel. This is where my husband asked me if I wanted more kids after this.

I kept shifting positions, and baby was falling off the monitor. I kept asking how baby was, and baby was always perfect. My knees finally got too sore, so I went to the bed. My midwife came in and wanted to check me. I was standing upright and needed something to brace myself on, and he was the nearest sturdy object – so I hugged him tight. He checked me, and I was a 7. That’s when things got serious.

I got in bed and was half kneeling and had the back of the bed completely upright. I couldn’t tolerate being in any other position. Awhile later, the nurses came in and I was struggling. I wanted to climb the walls and pound on the bed. A  nurse offered me pain relief and after discussing it with my husband and my mom, I decided for a Nubain IV. It worked quickly and I started feeling a bit drunk. The nurse asked me to sit down since I was kneeling. I remember thinking, like when you’re drunk, “She knows!” And I asked if I looked that loopy but promised I wouldn’t fall backward.

The Nubain was a godsend. It made things more tolerable, as contractions were on top of each other. I was thinking, “This HAS to be transition…” because I wanted to die—or at least escape from my body. An hour after the Nubain, since I knew it was fairly short-acting, I asked if I could have more when it wore off. The nurse told me that generally it’s a one-time dose; so I decided I wanted an epidural. I was putting it off because I knew I needed a fluid bolus over 30-60 minutes and I was hoping I would run out of time.

I started having doubts like I did with my son, about how I could push a baby out when I could barely think about surviving the contraction. The epidural was administered at 10:30, when I was 8cm. It brought sweet relief. Contractions felt only like Braxton Hicks and I was able to rest. I believe that’s when they broke my water. My husband even took a short nap.

Around 1:45, a bunch of nurses rushed in and started asking me to change positions because baby’s heart rate was down. I had a flashback to my son’s birth and thought, “Well, we tried. I’m going to have another C-section.” My midwife came in, checked me, and said I was complete. I said, “NO WAY, you’re kidding.” He said, “We have been through this before and you need to start believing me!” I laughed then turned to my husband with tears in my eyes and said, “We get to actually have a baby!!”

So pushing began. My mom was holding a leg, and my husband held my head. All too quickly I heard George say that I only need small pushes. I thought, “What?! That means baby is almost here and I’ve hardly even begun to push.” I could also tell from how excited my mom was sounding. So I asked to touch the head and felt her soft, wet hair. I leaned as far forward as I could to see her come out. She was purple and slimy, and A GIRL! I got to announce her gender to the room. She was on my chest immediately. I couldn’t believe it. I got my VBAC and my baby girl. I had a front-zip bra on so I was able to pop my breasts out immediately. She snuggled on my chest for a little, taking in the world. Then she started to crawl towards my left nipple and latched herself right on.

Labor was 9 hours and 42 minutes. I pushed for 16 minutes.

Charlotte was born on Sunday, August 14th at 2:12 a.m., at 40 weeks and 5 days, 7lbs, 3.5oz and 20″ long.

Elena and Tobias Come Home: A Twin Birth Story

Elena and Tobias Come Home: A Twin Birth Story

Jennifer McLennan shares with us the beautiful story of her twins’ birth in 2015. 

As I sit down to finally write into words the story of my twins’ birth, I am watching them sleep in their bed from my desk. They are about to turn one. They are strong and healthy and not a day goes by that I don’t send out a mental thank-you note to the universe for their vitality.  So, it’s obvious that this story has a happy ending, but to tell their story I need to backtrack to a not-so-happy time.

Between the birth of my son, Caio, in 2011, and the birth of the twins in 2015, I experienced two pregnancy losses; one at 13 weeks, and one at 7 weeks. The depth of grief I experienced completely blind-sided me. My world view and self perception were shaken, my confidence plummeted and my marriage was challenged. I felt guilty, lost and out of control. I turned inward for healing and really took the time to examine my reasons for wanting another child. I consulted with a trusted fertility specialist who suggested taking progesterone during early pregnancy if we wanted to try again. I did a lot of self work to arrive at a centered and healthy place, and as a family we decided to try one more time.

In March 2015 I took a home pregnancy test, and those two little pink lines showed up right away. Pregnancy after loss is such a cacophony of emotion: the excitement and joy is all mixed up with a lot of fear. I decided early on that I was going to focus on the things I could control, and do the best I could to let the rest go. I talked to that little being in my belly every day, and the thing I said most often was, “I love you already. Please stay if you can, but I understand if you have to go.” I created a small altar out of objects that were meaningful for me and tried to sit there for a few moments each day. As each week passed safely I added a new rock, shell or other item that felt right. We chose not to share this pregnancy with many people early on, but those in my intimate circle also gave me little things to place on the altar. This process was so empowering as it reminded me of all the support I had and helped me to stay centered through those passing early weeks. I tried to remember to just enjoy each moment with my baby, even if our time together was to be short. In keeping with the feeling of needing to stay very internal with this pregnancy, I did consult my midwife but chose to decline an early ultrasound.

The weeks went by; my altar grew, and so did my belly! A lot! By 10 weeks I was starting to get some raised eyebrows and sideways glances. When we did finally start to share the news, there was much whooping and cheering and hugging and people asking, “Wait…are you SURE about your dates??” By 16 weeks, our midwife did recommend that we go for an ultrasound as my uterus was measuring large (I was very sure of my dates!), to check for excess fluid or MULTIPLES. I have no family history of twins so I honestly didn’t think about the possibility very seriously.

As we entered the ultrasound office, my heart was in my throat. I was so excited to see this little one, and desperately wanted everything to be normal and healthy. The moment that his wand touched my belly, the technician said, “Oh look…twins!!!” I started to laugh and cry at the same time and my partner Julio was speechless, pale, and had to sit down. We got to see their beautiful spines and perfect limbs and Caio (then 3) asked again and again…two babies?? There are two babies in mamas belly?? I felt about the same level of incredulity.  When asked if we wanted to know the sexes we said, “Yes yes yes please” and discovered that I was carrying one boy and one girl. Walking out the office beaming and beaming, I couldn’t help but think: they came back. Two gone and two returned. An unforgettable day.

Knowing that this was now a multiple pregnancy, the focus of my meditations changed. I asked friends and family around the world to join me in holding the intention of full-term, healthy babies. I had to move through a lot of fear around the idea of having premature babies, and I was honestly terrified of a Caesarean section. Having had a beautiful experience with the home birth of my first son, I had assumed that a natural birth would be possible again this time around. The C-section rate with twins is extremely high here in Costa Rica where we live – around 98%. Working closely with my midwife (who had been with me for Cai’s birth), we decided against a home birth for the twins. After interviewing several OBs, we found a fantastic one who was willing to attend at a fully equipped birthing center, and to work with my midwife as co-caregivers. By this time I had come to a place where I was honestly fine with however these babies needed to come into the world. We made a plan for a respectful and loving caesarean, and a plan for a peaceful, natural birth. Whatever needed to happen for them to come earthside safely, that’s what we would do. I asked the babies to show us, when the time came, how they needed to be born. I learned so much from this process of birth plan re-creation. My belief in my right to choose a birth team of individuals with whom I felt safe, supported and listened to was reaffirmed, and my mind was opened to the potential beauty of Caesarean birth.

The pregnancy proceeded very normally. I followed the Brewers Diet for Twins (high protein, low sugar) hoping to avoid Gestational Diabetes. GD is common in multiple pregnancies, but never did develop in mine. I knew that position-wise the best chance for a natural birth would be to have both babies head-down. I added that request to our daily chats and meditations, and at each and every ultrasound, sure enough, both babies were head down. The weeks seemed to fly by, and pretty soon my belly was a party of bumpy knees and elbows. As huge as I was, I so so so loved feeling them dance around with each other. I truly felt my network of friends of family hold me and the babies up as we got closer and closer to full-term—36 weeks for twins.

We passed our full-term milestone and headed into week 37. My mum arrived from Canada, and it was such a relief to have her help. Then came week 38. I was overjoyed that they were now big, healthy babies, but things were starting to get really shockingly enormous and uncomfortable! At my appointment on Monday, November 30th, at 38 weeks 4 days, there was good news and bad news. Babies were in great shape, both still head-down with lots of water, and I was 1 cm dilated with a nice soft cervix! The bad news was that my blood pressure had started to climb. It was still in the safe zone, but needed to be watched closely. We had daily check-ups from then on, and every Braxton Hicks sent me into major excitement mode. I was so ready to meet these people already! Sleep was just not happening by that point, so at night I would get up and waddle around (and eat! I was starving ALL the time!) until I was tired enough to lie back down.

When we checked in with our OB on Friday (39 weeks 1 day) I was 3 cm dilated, well effaced but still no contractions! This was incredible for me as during my first child’s birth I had worked for about 10 hours of HARD labor to get to 3 cm. My blood pressure was still creeping up so it was time to make some choices. My OB explained that my body and the babies were all giving thumbs up signals for birth. He felt that for safety’s sake we would need to induce labor Saturday afternoon if things hadn’t started up on their own by then. I remember him saying that “It seems like those babies are listening to you so tell them it’s go time!”  He also offered me the option of a stretch and sweep in addition to the homeopathics we were already working with to give the babes one more nudge towards the exit. I accepted the stretch and sweep and while not exactly comfortable, it did let me practice breathing to stay relaxed.

We left the office around 2 p.m. and went straight home. I grabbed my iPod and climbed straight into a hammock. I know, I know… an almost-40-weeks-pregnant-with-twins mama does not just nimbly hop into hammock: it was a bit of a struggle, but so worth it! Through the whole pregnancy, hammock time had helped take pressure off my back and really relaxed me. After about half an hour of rocking and some gentle Braxton Hicks, I noticed that the contractions were getting more intense, becoming a tightening all across my lower belly. They also started to get closer together. I didn’t want to sound a premature alarm and I was really comfortable where I was, so I stayed rocking, listening to music and breathing deeply through each wave of sensation. Time started to warp so I’m not sure exactly how long I stayed like that, but soon the downward pressure in my pelvis was getting intense and I wanted to walk around. I ate a huge bowl of pineapple and told Julio that I thought things were happening but it would be a while. He left me on the patio dancing with my belly with instructions to call him the next time I felt a wave.

About 30 seconds later, I was yelling for him and he came rushing out with the phone ready to call the midwife! I told him I thought it would be a long while yet but to call her to let her know what was going on. I got on the phone with her and she asked to hear me breathe through a wave. I breathed, she listened, and promptly told us to meet her at the birthing center with no waiting around! I spent a few more waves outside watching the sunset (It was about 5:30 p.m. by now), sent a few messages to let our closest friends know what happening, then we kissed my mum and our son and were on our way to the center. It was about an 8-minute drive and I remember a song on the radio with the words “just breathe”. I breathed through the waves rolling through me and still didn’t believe we would be holding babes any time soon.

We arrived at the center just ahead of our OB, and got settled in as he gave me a check. The babies were doing great and I was 6cm dilated! I was SO delighted and amazed, and felt a new surge of excitement and energy lift me up. Our doc left to give us privacy and I walked around the room and danced and rocked to our birthing playlist, joking around with my partner. I set up a mini version of my home altar, and lit some birthday candles for the babies. About an hour later our midwife (who had been stuck in traffic) made it and could take over checks. She had brought her birthing stool with her and we got it ready in case that felt right for me when the time came. I was getting very pacey and she suggested some time in the shower. I took off my dress and getting under that hot water felt absolutely divine. I turned my face into a corner, pressed my forehead against the tile and got deep into my birthing rhythm. I rocked my hips, tapped one hand against the wall and vocalized with mmmm and ahhhhh. I can’t say why that felt right but it just did and I really got into the pleasure of this experience, the sensuality and the intimacy of birth. I felt tightening and loosening of my muscles and just tried to keep my mouth soft as I visualized baby A getting lower and lower.

When I felt ready for a change in location I climbed onto the bed and tried a few different positions. What felt right was reclining propped with pillows behind my back, knees bent and soles of feet touching with very open hips, arms at my sides with palms up. I could feel myself starting to resist and tighten as the waves went deeper and deeper and tried to let go, keeping my hands and mouth soft and open as sounds of aahhhhmmmm came through me. I remember dim soft lights, the candles glowing, my music playing. I remember my partner, my OB and my midwife in the room chatting quietly or just sitting respectfully. I remember getting a very strong image in my mind of each and every person in my circle of love holding hands and surrounding me and the babies, each sending me energy and taking a bit of my discomfort for me. I found out later that groups of my loved ones in several different parts of the world were in fact meditating for us at exactly this moment (goosebumps!); I was flooded with such a sense of safety and well-being, seeing all of those loving faces around me. I felt nauseous at one point but didn’t actually vomit (in hindsight, this was transition!). Soon after this I gave permission to be checked, and I was 9 cms at around 9 p.m.

I got up and held Julio’s shoulders as we danced away that last centimeter, and our midwife and OB made final preparations. Some fear was sliding around the edges of my consciousness now as it really hit me that TWO PEOPLE were about to come out of me and I wanted so badly for them to be safe. His confidence in me and the strength of our connection were what grounded me in that moment and sent me forward. As we danced I felt the rhythmic squeezing of my uterus move lower and lower and the waves were right on top of each other. I felt that my body was starting to push on its own and my partner helped me onto the birthing stool. As soon as I sat all the way down, one of the water bags broke and I felt such intense pressure in my vagina, I instantly bore down and pushed with all my might.

Until this point my vocalizations had been soft and low, and my energy had been calm, light and peaceful. The sounds that came out of my mouth now surprised everyone in the room, myself included. It was as if all the despair, the sorrow, the rage and the joy of the last two years came ripping up my throat and out of my mouth. I roared. I howled. It was a wild, raw, almost feral sound. I was so deep inside myself, reaching for the most profound strength I possessed. With my first push, my son’s head crowned. Two pushes later and he was born. I was panting and gasping and kept saying, “He’s here he’s here he’s here!!” My midwife had caught him and as she held him up he immediately opened his huge dark eyes and started looking around, taking it all in.  She handed him up to me and I held him to my heart for a moment before another massive contraction ripped through me, and I passed him to my partner. I could feel baby number 2 moving down very quickly and I remember locking eyes with my midwife and saying, “I can’t do this again!!” She stroked my leg and reassured me, and I remember glancing up at my partner holding our new son, and thinking “Okay, let’s do this. I want those babies in my arms!!”

I closed my eyes and found a reserve of energy and power that I hadn’t realized was in me and pushed my daughter out into the world, just 7 minutes after her brother. Knowing them now, their attitudes at birth fit so perfectly. My son is extremely active, inquisitive and in constant motion. Of course he was born eyes open, ready for adventure! My daughter is a very mellow, easygoing yet cautious person, and she does things when she’s good and ready, including landing earth-side. She was quite blue in her first moments and did not immediately breathe. After a few seconds of rubbing, our midwife leaned in to give a breath into her mouth. Just as panic began to rise in me, my little girl took a huge breath, turned pink and started squaking as she moved her limbs and took in the scene around her. They handed her to me, and I stared down at her, the reality sinking in that we had done it!! The three of us who had shared a body for 9 months had come safely apart. They were here.

I lost a lot of blood during the birth, and needed to get into a prone position to deliver the placentas. My partner and midwife took the babies to be weighed and measured as our OB helped me to birth both placentas, which were intact and, interestingly, fused together by their outer membranes. As exhausted as I was I remember noticing how fantastic those organs were, they really are beautiful. The babies came back just a few minutes later and my partner incredulously told me how much they weighed: our son 7 lbs 4 oz and our daughter 8 lbs 6 oz! Our midwife helped me to get both babies latched on, and they started nursing like old pros. With both babies finally in my arms I kept looking back and forth between them, so overwhelmed with love. Tears streamed down my face, completely overcome with gratitude. The names that we had ready fit them perfectly: Tobias (gift from god) and Elena (light bringer). They were born at 9:28 and 9:35 pm on December 4th, 2015.

We spent the night at the clinic, without much sleep. I couldn’t stop looking at my babies and marveling at their beauty and their perfection. I counted their fingers and toes over and over again. We had breakfast together and a checkup with our OB in the morning. All was well and we left the clinic with many hugs and well wishes from the staff, so looking forward to introducing our babes to their big brother, their Nana and their whole new tribe of loved ones.

Soon we will light those birthday candles again and celebrate the first year of life of these two incredible little people. The experience of carrying and birthing these children has irreversibly changed me. I am more resilient that I ever imagined, more powerful than my mind can understand. I am reminded daily to trust my journey, to let go of my expectations of how things should be, and to simply ride the waves of energy that move through us and around us, always. I am so very honored to be their mother.

Caroline’s Birth Story

Caroline’s Birth Story

Jesse got home from work at around 5:15 p.m. I was feeling incredibly tired, so I asked if I could go lie down. He agreed to feed and get the girls to bed. I fell asleep at around 6 o’clock. I woke up at 10:30 feeling much better, and joined him in the living room. At about 10:45, I felt a strong contraction. Not anything terribly abnormal, but strong enough for me to take notice. I decided to text my doula to give them the heads up at 11 p.m. At this point, my contractions were completely bearable and irregular, but I decided it was best to call my mother-in-law, who lives an hour away, to come spend the night—just in case; my previous labors had been quick.

My mother-in-law arrived a little after midnight. Contractions were still bearable and not incredibly regular. By 12:30 a.m., I was certain this was the real deal. At 1 o’clock, we called our doulas to head our way. Between 12:45 and 1:15, my labor went from 0 to 60. As soon as the doulas walked in the door, it was time to go. Amber helped keep me calm for the last few contractions out the door. She knew I was beginning to panic. Michelle jumped in with Jesse and me, and Amber followed in her car.

The car ride got intense quickly. I was terrified we were about to have a car baby. Thank God I had Michelle with me, otherwise I’m not sure I would have stayed as calm. She called L&D to let them know we were on our way and that things were progressing quickly. None of us knew just how quick it was about to be.

We pull in to the ER and there was a wheelchair waiting. I got in, and whoever was pushing it didn’t move! I jumped out and exclaimed that I had to pee. Michelle followed me to the restroom. I got into a stall (with the door open), reached down, and there was a head, about an inch out. Michelle ran out to get a doctor. Jesse and Amber rushed in, followed closely by a gaggle of nurses and a doctor. The doctor looked at me and said, “Hi, ma’am. I am Dr. McMahon. I need you to come sit in this wheelchair.” I said, “No! This baby is coming now!” With one big contraction, Miss Caroline comes out, caught by the ungloved hands of myself and Dr. McMahon as Jesse held my other.

It was a little (okay, a lot) chaotic, but Caroline cried and was a beautiful pink color. The doctor helped me waddle over to the wheelchair, where we discovered she was a girl (Team Green for the pregnancy). The emotions were intense. We cut the cord and Jesse followed the nurse and Caroline up to L&D, followed shortly by myself, Amber and Michelle.

In L&D, the nurses and on-call OB joked with us as I delivered the placenta and got a few stitches. No one got a time of birth so we guesstimated it at 2:08am. Caroline was 6lbs 14oz and 19.25″ long.

The whole experience was, and still is, so surreal. I am forever grateful for my husband, our doula team and the medical staff.

We are now 3 days postpartum and still riding the hormonal high. I’m doing well recovery-wise, and Caroline is perfect. Postpartum, I am in a much better place than my last birth. Her birth is the perfect description of our new life: beautiful chaotic. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Photographs by M. Scarpello Photography

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