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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.

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.

My CBAVBAC – Cesarean Birth after VBAC

My CBAVBAC – Cesarean Birth after VBAC

The birth of my second child was shared on your blog several years ago: Long Labor Ends with Beautiful HBAC. With my home birth I really wanted to inspire other women. I wanted to show them that they are capable of having the birth that they want. This time around, I think it’s important to share that sometimes the birth you want ISN’T the birth you get – and that’s okay too. Here’s my story that talks about when VBAC doesn’t happen…

The birth of my sweet Kelsie.

Every labor is different.

How many times have I heard that sentence? How many times have I said that sentence? I thought that I understood that as well as anybody. My first two children had completely opposite births. My son was born at 36 weeks via emergency C-section and my daughter was born at almost 42 weeks, at home, after 35 hours of drug-free labor. Because of these completely different experiences, I really thought that no matter how Kelsie’s labor and birth went I would be pretty prepared.

I wasn’t.

My water broke at 4:30am on June 15th, 2015. I was 41+1 weeks pregnant. I woke up to a small gush and quickly ran to the restroom. Broken water – Check. Bloody show – Check. YES!!! It’s baby time! My water has never broken at the start of labor before, but I had dozens of dreams that it would this time around, so I really wasn’t too surprised. I went and woke up Eric and let him know that my water broke and we would be having a baby either that day or the next. I knew that it could be several hours before contractions kicked in, so I kissed my hubby, told him to let his work know that he wouldn’t be in that day and advised him that we should both try and get a bit more rest since we would probably need our energy later that day.

About a half hour later I gave up on sleep and went downstairs to make some coffee. Eric joined me and we had a light breakfast, played some cribbage, and talked about what we thought our labor would be like and how excited we were to finally meet our newest daughter. A couple hours later my two kiddos and my parents (who flew out to stay with the big kids while we were in the hospital) got up and I told everyone that I was officially in early labor. We decided to try and get the contractions started by going to Ikea to eat some breakfast and to walk the entire store. We spent over an hour and a half walking around. We left Ikea and decided to take a drive by the hospital to show my parents how to get there later. We also wanted to show them how close the hospital was to the beach, an awesome park where they could play with the kids if they needed to burn some energy, and most importantly, the closest coffee shop.

We went back to the house after and I decided to rest. A little bit later I decided to try the breast pump to see if I could get contractions going. Afterwards, my hubby and I went to a park and walked close to a mile as quickly as I was able to (which isn’t saying much). My water had now been broken for almost 12 hours. I started to get really emotional and frustrated. I decided that I must have been imagining what had happened that morning. I called my doctor, Dr. C, to give him an update and after going over our options in lengthy detail Eric and I decided to go in to the hospital to get confirmation that my water had broken.

We took our time getting our bags together and made sure to give the big kids extra hugs and kisses. I cried off and on the entire way to the hospital. I told Eric that my two best case outcomes would be that either my water had in fact broken and I wasn’t losing my mind, and even though the contractions I was having weren’t super uncomfortable I would somehow still be dilated to 6cm OR that I had completely misread the situation and my water had NOT broken.

Then we could just go home and come back a few days later to have a baby. We got checked into the hospital and were taken to our room. I got changed into the hospital gown and went and sat on the bed; my husband said I looked so scared and anxious that he decided to build my confidence by dancing for me like Ray Lewis (you can see it here…). My goofy husband was able to make me smile but I was definitely not feeling any more relaxed.

Not long after we arrived it was confirmed that my water had broken. A bit later Dr. C came in and checked me. I was dilated to 2 to 3cm on the bottom, but my cervix was still very posterior and almost cone shaped, meaning it was still closed pretty tight at the top – not at all what I had hoped for. Because I am a VBAC, we were told that we would be staying put, but that we would not be on any clock – meaning that even if my water was broken for over 24 hours as long as the baby and I were doing well we would be able to continue labor as long as we needed to. This was not at all our original plan, as we had hoped to labor at home as long as possible and only go in to the hospital once, in my doctor’s words, there was a “baby coming out of my vagina.” However, I knew there was nothing I could do about that now. Dr. C told me I needed to have a good cry about it and then I needed to get out of bed and see what I could do to get this baby coming.

So I did. I sat there and cried, trying to understand why my body didn’t want to start the process that would bring my baby into my arms. I sent Eric out to the car to grab our bags and tried to focus on the few positive things that came with being at the hospital so early. We had plenty of time to set up our music and oil diffuser and for me to spend a few minutes playing birth photographer for my own labor. I changed into the labor gown that I made and called my parents to bring my kids over for a visit. I really just wanted to hug and kiss them and needed a bit of a distraction. My family showed up soon after and I snuggled my babies and my oldest read me a bed time story.

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After they left, we called in my doula. I paced the room back and forth as far as the monitors I was hooked on to would allow. I paced and paced and paced and began to feel increasingly like a caged animal. I was so frustrated having to be attached to those stupid monitors and not feeling like I was really being given a chance to get things going. My wonderful nurse Lisa came in around this time and reminded me that no one could make me do anything that I didn’t want to do. She had to have some record of monitoring, but that if I refused there was nothing they could do. So I did. I said I needed to use the restroom for a long time and removed the monitors so that I could have at least a half hour of freedom to move about the room. I walked some more and spent some time on the birth ball. A little after 10, I got back on the monitors to try and give my poor nurse some more readings. She had been so kind to me and I didn’t want to put her in a bad position.

A few minutes later my wonderful doula Crystal arrived. She was quick to offer help in any way that I needed. She rubbed my back and shoulders and feet and prayed for me. She whispered words of encouragement and when I wanted to try and sleep she sat beside me and held that stupid monitor in place since my little lady inside insisted on kicking it off.

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Now I know that during the next several hours I had another visit from Dr. C, I cried and felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster going from completely defeated, to motivated, to crushed, to relaxed. I was emotionally and physically exhausted. We were coming up on 22 hours since my water had broken and I had slept less than ten minutes. Around 2:30 in the morning, the nurses moved me and my crew into a different room with wireless monitors. YES! But they didn’t work. NO! So we continued pacing as far as they would allow me and bouncing on the birth ball. And many times I crawled into bed hoping that rest would bring something on. My doula kept offering things that we could try. Some of them I did, others I looked at her like she was crazy.

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This pattern continued for the rest of the night and well into the morning. My big fears at this point weren’t only what would happen if my body never went into labor, but also what would happen if it did? I had been awake for going on 30 hours and I could barely put together full sentences. How was I going to push through a labor?

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I was anxious for Dr. C to come in for a visit. I really wanted a check to see if anything we had tried throughout the night had helped. He arrived a bit after 9:00am. It had been 15 hours since my last check. I tried so hard to remain hopeful, but as soon as the check started I knew.

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Before he even had the chance to say anything I looked at Eric and Crystal, shook my head no and let the tears fall. There was no change.

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No. Change. At. All.

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My heart broke. Off and on throughout the night I had thought, talked, and prayed about what to do if there was still no change the next day. I didn’t feel like I had it in me to keep going. Dr. C sat down and we started to talk about options. As far as he was concerned I had several. First, everyone looked good so I was free to continue laboring as long as I wanted. Second, we could start to talk about other ways to get this baby out. Third, I could take off the monitors, go to sleep and not decide anything at all. I had already shared with Eric and Crystal what I was thinking. I feel so strongly that babies know how to be born and I know for a fact that my body is strong and capable of birthing a baby – so in my heart I felt that if Kelsie wasn’t coming there was a reason for it. I didn’t want to make this decision based solely on exhaustion or fear so Eric and I asked Dr. C a bunch of questions and then agreed that we would all just take a break before we made any decisions.

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Dr. C left, saying that he was hoping that rest was all I needed and he hoped I woke up in active labor. I no longer felt as hopeful. Crystal left shortly after to get some rest and to allow Eric and I some time together. While Eric and I were alone I was able to be completely vulnerable and vent out everything that I was thinking and feeling. I told him that I was leaning towards a gentle cesarean, but I needed to know that he wouldn’t be disappointed in me. He hugged me close, kissed me lots and told me that no matter what choice I made he knew I was making it for the right reasons. He reminded me that I was strong and that I was a wonderful Mom just trying to take care of our baby. He told me that he was proud of me.

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He laid down to get a much deserved nap, while I laid in bed, finally free from the dreaded monitors. I tried to sleep, but wasn’t able to. I don’t think I could possibly put into words how much I battled with myself during this time. I tried to rest, but when I wasn’t able to I decided to call my munchkins and make sure that they each knew how much I loved them. Hearing their sweet voices calmed me.

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A while later Crystal returned and Eric woke up. I didn’t tell either of them what I had decided. Our nurse walked in to check on me, “What do we think?”

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My eyes filled with tears and I looked at her and answered, “I think it’s time to meet my baby.”

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Even the nurses knew that Kelsie was in charge.

At this time things started to move pretty fast. Despite the speedy pace though, I felt in control and respected, which is so different then my first cesarean. Everyone was kind and went out of their way to try and keep things as calm as possible. Eric was given his awesome new duds, Kelsie’s blanket and hat were brought into the operating room and I was introduced to the anesthesiologist that would be working with my doctor. I sat on the bed in our hospital room, trying to just remain calm and cling to the small moments of peace that I felt. As I was sitting on the bed, letting Eric put some cozy socks on my feet, I heard my phone vibrate next to me, indicating that a text message had arrived. I had mostly been ignoring all messages since we had kept the news that my water had broken very quiet. But for some reason I decided to read this message before I walked into the operating room. It was from my best friend Lisa:

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“I love you so much. You are an amazing mom and will see that sweetie soon! Enjoy as her story happens knowing that God wrote it just for her!”

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Wow. The exact words I needed to hear in the exact moment that I needed to hear them. Eric helped me out of the bed, we walked to the operating room and I kissed him and let him know I’d see him soon.

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This cesarean was so different than my first. The operating room, while busy, was not at all chaotic. Everyone let me know what was going on and what to expect next. I was treated with respect the entire time and even felt comfortable enough to make jokes. For instance, when the nurse asked someone to let Justin know that he’d be able to come in just a few minutes I calmly replied, “Actually if you don’t mind I’d rather Justin just wait outside, but if you see my husband, Eric, he’s welcome to join us.” Prep went quickly and easily and before I knew it the drape was up and Eric was sitting next to me holding my hand and waiting on our girl. Before we knew it the drape was being lowered and the anesthesiologist was lifting my back up a bit so that Eric and I could watch our daughter being born. I cried and cried. She was here. 32+ hours after my water broke – and born at the exact same minute that I was: 12:31 p.m. She was perfect and pink and loud and tiny and COVERED in meconium. I mean head to toe covered in poop. And I had only ever seen anything that beautiful two other times in my life. She was quickly looked over while Dr. C did his best to get her as much cord blood as possible, while still keeping me safe. And less than two minutes later she was in our arms. As requested she hadn’t been bathed or weighed or measured. None of that mattered.

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One of the nurses came over and helped pull my pajamas down and slide Kelsie in so that we could lay skin to skin while the surgery was completed. Eric also held her during this time and we all laughed at how much she was rooting. The anesthesiologist mentioned that he had never seen a baby with such an immediate and enthusiastic root instinct. While she was laying on me and trying so hard to find what she was looking for I said, “I’m so sorry baby. You have to wait just a few more minutes.” Her response was the most perfect, most dramatic pouty lip that you can imagine. She had Eric and I and several others in the room laughing. Before I knew it everything was done. Eric held Kelsie while I was moved from the operating table to a bed. Kelsie was again tucked in with me skin to skin and we were rolled back to our room together.

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Eric, Kelsie and I were left mostly alone for more than an hour after she was born. Everything else that needed to be done was done with her in my arms. She wasn’t measured or weighed until we requested and when I did decide to have them rinse some of the poop out of her hair, they were quick to honor my request that they only use water.

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We stayed in the hospital for two days and were blessed to be taken care of by so many wonderful nurses and one exceptional CNA. I have had a few moments where I have felt sad about the way everything went down – like when I had to sign my consent to have cesarean, because of a “failed trial of labor” (I don’t think that’s the right reason – I never went into labor and I certainly didn’t fail). But the fact is I made the best choice that I could make with the information that I had at that time. I was supported and respected in all of my choices and I felt like I was in control. I never felt bullied or pushed into anything I wasn’t comfortable with. I wanted Kelsie’s birth to be joyful. I prayed for that for the entire 10+ months that I carried her. And when I look back at her birth, I will remember laughing at her silly faces right after birth and joking with my doctor about a dream I had where I had a C-section, but in the dream he had bleached blonde backstreet boy hair and him asking someone to bring him a wig. I will remember the jokes and fun that I had with my husband and doula in the middle of the night when we were all so exhausted that we were borderline giddy.

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I will own the choices that I made during this labor and I choose not to regret any of them.

This is Kelsie’s story and I will tell it to her proudly and remember it with joy.

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Welcome to the world, Kelsie.
You are loved.
You are wanted.
You are precious.

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*** I wrote Kelsie’s birth story the week that she was born. That was over 6 months ago. One thing that I wasn’t prepared for after her birth was how hard it would be to process everything. How much I would doubt my choices. How often I would ask myself, “What if…” Not having a VBAC when you prepare for one and want one so badly is HARD. With my first child’s birth his emergency C-section was out of my hands. It was easy to be frustrated with everyone else, because I had zero control in that situation. But this time around the decision to have a cesarean was mine alone. Processing Kelsie’s birth has been hard. For over four months I obsessed over everything that had happened. What could I have done differently? How much better would it have been if I had just planned a home birth? What if I had just given myself more time? Did I give up too easily?

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The self-doubt that comes in can suffocate you and it felt like nobody really understood WHY I was upset. My baby was healthy after all and my recovery had been as easy as it could have been. Yet still, I felt like I had let myself and my daughter down. For months (and sometimes even now) I couldn’t read birth stories without feeling sad, disappointed, and even jealous of these other women achieving their drug-free vaginal births and VBACs. My sweet doula sat me down and told me, “You’re only thinking of this one way. But what about these ‘what ifs?’ What if you HADN’T had a cesarean? What if you HADN’T followed your instinct? You birthed a beautiful baby. Be kind to yourself.”

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And you know what? She was right. The decisions made that day were mine alone. I chose the decision I could live with and now, over half a year later, I truly can accept that. Her birth story is unique to her. I did the best I could do and I am so grateful that the choices I made led to a beautiful, healthy, joyful baby girl. I think that I will probably always have moments when I wonder “what if,” but I no longer feel like I failed. Kelsie’s birth story is her own. I hope that other women reading this, possibly in the same situation, will know that they aren’t alone. It’s hard when VBAC doesn’t happen. Those feelings of disappointment, sadness, and anger are real. But in the words of my favorite doula, “You birthed a beautiful baby, be kind to yourself.” ***

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HBA3C with Inverted ‘T’ Scar

HBA3C with Inverted ‘T’ Scar

{Each woman, baby, and birth are different. Educate yourself, hire the right support, and do what is best for you and your baby. We share experiences and wisdom that is passed on from mother to mother. Please contact your care provider for questions or concerns regarding your pregnancy and birth.}

“The knowledge of how to give birth without outside interventions lies deep within each woman. Successful childbirth depends on the acceptance of the process.” ~Suzanne Arms

Quick history on my other kiddos births:

*McKenna born via cesarean section in 2008 due to “failure to progress”, and decelerations in fetal heart tones which we were told were completely normal after the delivery.

*Liam born via repeat cesarean section in 2011 after 67 hours of labor due to “failure to progress” and mentioned I was probably not able to have a vaginal birth.

*Wesley via drug free vba2c in 2013, 10lbs 2oz!

*Gracelyn via repeat cesarean section in 2014. At 33 weeks my water ruptured, and it was discovered that I had placental abruption. I was still determined to deliver vaginally, but she was breech. When I went back into labor, there was meconium, her heart rate was all over the place, and I decided the cesarean was the best choice. They had to do a t-incision to help deliver her head.

After we had Gracelyn my desire for more children was hugely lessened. I was afraid of having another cesarean and was pretty traumatized from her birth in general. For the first time in our seven years I was trying NOT to get pregnant. My husband, Tony, brought up how much he didn’t like seeing me this way. He didn’t want me to stress about having another baby and encouraged me that if we did get pregnant again, we didn’t HAVE to schedule a cesarean. It made me feel more confident and I put my trust back to God with our future children…if there were any more to come. Around this same time, Tony said he was praying for each of our children by name and felt like God said, “What about your unborn son, Jackson?” About a week later to our surprise, we were pregnant! I spent a few weeks reading everything I could find about VBA3C, specifically with a special scar. Unfortunately there is not much, but I felt confident trying with what I did find. Fast forward through a normal pregnancy…

I wanted an autumn baby so badly and didn’t think it would be an issue whatsoever, since typically my babies come late. I didn’t think I would literally have a baby born on the first day of fall. On September 23rd, at 1:20am, a contraction woke me up. I went to the bathroom experiencing fun early labor stuff and lost my plug with some show…I was excited, but assumed I had at least a day or two until baby. I continued contracting inconsistently until around 8am when things almost completely stopped. I had prayed for this moment, because I was exhausted and really wanted to nap. I stayed in bed the majority of the day and had a contraction every once in a while and assumed baby would be coming for sure within the next few days.

Around 5:30/6pm the kids got insane and Tony was pretty exhausted, because he was still recovering from eye surgery. I made dinner, and did dishes and started having contractions again, but they were different. I had so many things left I wanted to do and kept trying, but it was getting pretty difficult. I finally took a bath, thinking it could help with back labor, and it was AWFUL! I lasted about two contractions and had to get out. I resorted to our room around 7pm and tried to sit on the ball and I extra hated that and had to stand up during the contractions.

I took a shower to use the heat on my back, spent way too long looking for something to wear, and then I tried to lean against the wall in bed with a tower of pillows and that wasn’t cutting it either. My midwife friend texted me at 7:50pm and asked if she could stop by, my response: “Please.” A doula friend said she would head over also. At 8pm I sat on the toilet and around 8:15 my birthy friends arrived and my mother-in-law came a few minutes later to help with the kiddos. I started to feel pushy at this time, but did not think it was time and was getting really mad that my body was pushing already. I was recognizing the sounds and my thoughts as transition, but could not convince myself that it was near time. I thought I had hours to go and kept saying, “I just need a nap,” or “I just want a break.” I decided to check my cervix, because I still believed it couldn’t possibly be time and felt something really strange!

At first I was completely panicked thinking it was the baby’s cord or something terribly wrong, and then I realized it was the baby’s head beginning to crown already! I said something out loud about the baby’s head being right there, I think mainly to reassure myself. I had a few more intense contractions, trying to breathe baby down, but found myself needing to push. Suddenly Tony and my friends were helping me off the toilet, because baby’s head was halfway out and they tried to help me deliver standing.hba3c3

I was not comfortable at all, because I couldn’t relax my weight on them and ended up inches from my toilet squatting. With the next contraction I announced that my water had broken and baby’s head was out, which I only knew, because I reached down and could feel eyes and a nose. I really liked vocalizing everything for some reason! I waited for what felt like forever for baby’s body to be delivered. I didn’t want to rush anything, but the “ring of fire” was intense and I really couldn’t wait till it was over! I finally had that last contraction and the baby was here.hba3c2

It took a minute for me to hold him, because his cord was around his neck three times…he had a crazy long cord! Tony said, “It’s a boy,” and I couldn’t believe I was a mama to three boys! I repositioned and was able to hold him and hear that first amazing cry. Only a few minutes later my placenta delivered, which was extremely surprising…I hadn’t even fully grasped the fact that my baby was in my arms and without trouble at all. My body did exactly what it needed to finish the birthing process. Kenna was the only child awake, so her and my mother-in-law came into see him. Kenna cut his cord and was so excited to have another brother, even though she had hoped for a sister. I love how loving she is, with no disappointment at all, just blessed to have another sibling, and I was so blessed to have her have a part in his delivery.hba3c1

After all that, I got into a nice herbal bath and nursed him for the first time. Kenna helped get me some food and delivered it to me in the bath…I felt like a queen! I got dressed, and comfy in my bed where I ate fresh berries, peanut butter toast (at my request), and dark chocolate. We all guessed how much we thought he would weigh as we relaxed in my room: 8 pounds and 21 inches of perfection.

“Remember this, for it is as true as true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.” -Ina May Gaskin

The Birth of Luna Pearl: A VBAC Story from Home to Hospital

The Birth of Luna Pearl: A VBAC Story from Home to Hospital

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For three years I’ve wanted to send in the birth story from my first daughter, born in 2012. She was a planned homebirth, with a transfer to hospital for a cesarean section. She was posterior and asynclitic, and super stuck. I planned my second homebirth this past summer. This time a VBAC and I never felt more ready. I love birth, believe in every bit of birth and had the support of a strong, confident, loving midwife. I let go of so many things this time. Well, my water broke on July first and I never went into labor on my own. After every induction trick in the book and close monitoring by my homebirth midwife, at 56 hours post water breaking, we chose to go to the hospital for Pitocin. The hospital staff was amazing and respectful every step of the way, welcoming my husband and I, and my midwife without judgement.

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I received the maximum amount of Pitocin for 11 hours and didn’t feel ANYTHING, zero pain. The morning of the 4th of July, I finally felt a contraction and my daughter was born two hours later. During labor there were absolutely no signs of distress for either of us and I gave birth to her on the birth stool in peace with my midwife, husband, sister, and best friend.

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Everything felt so right. Every push was relief and I did exactly what my body told me to do. After my previous Cesarean and the torture and uncertainty of being patient with broken waters, I was finally having the experience where I could be in awe of our amazing bodies! I was able to pull my daughter up myself in a room full of happy tears.

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Pretty quickly we realized she was non-responsive and as floppy as could be. She was intubated and taken to the NICU for five days, where she was on a cooling mat for three days and then received an MRI and formal EEG. The belief is, that in the last moments when her head was born, she was somehow oxygen deprived, perhaps a compressed cord. The MRI of her brain and EEG came back perfectly normal, and she is six months old today, and as beautiful and happy as can be. I wanted to believe so badly that I was the woman that could squat in a field, alone somewhere, and birth my little miracle.

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For some reason, that has not been my story. I still believe so much in everything: home birth and the power of our bodies.  All though I wasn’t at home and it was absolutely nothing that I planned, I had that powerful labor and birth experience with my little moon baby this summer. There are days that I can’t help but feel resentment – Why did she come out not breathing? Especially when I hear other birth stories and there are many obvious signs of distress, long and drawn out in a rough labor, and the baby comes out kicking and screaming… Now that we can look back on her birth day, while holding a healthy, resilient little one, I’m still trying to figure out a way to disconnect the wonderful, powerful, redeeming qualities of my experience, from the terrifying experience at the very end. I’ll let you know when I gain a deeper understanding. Maybe some other mamas out there have some words of wisdom for me. For now, I would Love to share with you the beautiful photos my photographer caught and the amazing slideshow she created. I am proud of these, because I didn’t get to feel the experience of truly pushing my first daughter down and out. This time, it was so strong and real and powerful. The song “Keep Breathing” is perfect in so many ways, from beginning to end.

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Thank you so much for this blog it has been my absolute go-to and number one recommendation to my mama friends for four years.

Photography done by Paige Driscoll from Santa Cruz Birth Photography. Please enjoy the video they created below:

Next Time I Will Call the Shots – VBAC Home Water Birth {With Pictures}

Next Time I Will Call the Shots – VBAC Home Water Birth {With Pictures}

With my first child I was forced into a c-section and never given the opportunity to labor! The story is that I was 39 weeks, and was told at 40 weeks we would have an ultrasound, schedule an induction, and go from there. Well it turned out my OB NEVER scheduled the induction but rather scheduled a c-section. We went in thinking I was getting induced to find out two hours in I was having a c-section.

When my baby came into this world, I gave him a two-second kiss and he was off to the nursery. I went to recovery begging to go see my baby but I didn’t get to really meet him until he was almost two hours old. He wasn’t allowed to stay in my room with me overnight (hospital rules). I told them he was only going to be breastfed, but they still fed my son formula behind my back. I was wondering why he didn’t want the breast but I didn’t know why until I peeked in and saw for myself.

I was scarred and hurt, not only from that birth experience, but that he wouldn’t latch either. I said next time will be different and I will call the shots.

And IT WAS.

I had an amazing, empowering home water VBAC. I was diagnosed with CPD, but I pushed out an even bigger baby just fine. It was so beautiful! Daddy caught baby and a month later I am still breastfeeding! I Birthed Without Fear. Your page helped me a lot.

Thanks BWF!

{Desiree}

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Empowering VBAC from Dad’s POV

Empowering VBAC from Dad’s POV

Part II of a beautiful VBAC story, as told by Elspeth Ridout McCormick’s husband. 

Elspeth had been having contractions all month, really. They would come in the evenings, mostly, and then they would stop around bedtime. This Friday, though, the contractions didn’t stop. Elspeth had them throughout dinner, and as the night got a little later we started to wonder if this might be “it”. My in-laws were going to come and watch our son, but we didn’t want to raise any false alarms; and since she had been having light contractions for weeks, we didn’t really want to call in the cavalry yet – although we probably should have.

I went upstairs with our son to try and put him to bed, but of course, because Elspeth was going into labor, the toddler started to run a small fever and would not go down to sleep. Elspeth’s contractions were getting stronger, so we went ahead and called her parents and our doula, Abigail, to let them know that this might be it. I think we undersold it a little with Elspeth’s parents, though. They were enjoying a dinner party and said that they would leave when they were done. In the meantime, I was still rocking and comforting our son and trying to get him to bed; and Elspeth’s contractions were getting stronger. Her urge to “putz putz” was showing. Of course, with Elspeth it wasn’t her putzing around… it was her telling me to go do things. But it meant the same thing.

My in-laws weren’t going to be able to get to the house any sooner than 11 p.m., and that was about when Abigail would be arriving, too. We had nothing to do but wait for them and try to load the car and finish packing. Elspeth paced around the kitchen, her contractions getting closer and closer. By 10 p.m. they were 3-5 minutes apart. I was still carrying our poor sick toddler, and was trying to load the car with one hand. Though Elspeth, the trooper that she is, was able to hold our son for a little bit while I rounded up the last few things. We waited and paced.

Elspeth didn’t seem worried, but I have to admit that I was a little nervous as we got closer to 11 p.m. Her contractions were bouncing between 2 and 3 minutes apart, and we still had no grandparents or doula at our house. In the end if we had had to leave our son with the neighbors it would have been fine, but it still was a little nerve-wracking. Abigail arrived first, at almost exactly 11, and my in-laws were only a few minutes behind. In no time at all we had the last things in the car, our son resting on his grandmother’s shoulder, and Abigail following us in the car to the hospital.

The car ride to the hospital was short – for me. It probably seemed like a journey of epic proportions to my wife, who was laboring and whose contractions were getting closer and closer. The hospital was only seven miles from our front door, but the drive took about 15 minutes. Oh –and of course, since she was in labor, halfway there we got stopped at a train crossing with a freight train. Elspeth looked up from her contraction to say, “Of course. Of course there is a freight train.”

We arrived at the hospital, and my wife and our doula hopped out of the cars and started walking into the maternity wing. I grabbed our gear and chased after them. Her contractions were really close now, so Elspeth had to stop a couple of times in the hallway to do a little laboring. (No sweat right?) I walked past her and right up to the nurses’ station with a backpack, overnight bag, and exercise ball. “Merry Christmas! My wife is having a baby and her contractions are about a minute and a half apart.” I think they thought I was kidding at first. Elspeth was still around the corner and they looked at me for a minute like I was nutters.

After that, they got us set up right away in our Labor and Delivery room. We turned the lights down and dumped our things and got right into the business of laboring. Her contractions were still about 1-2 minutes apart, and very strong. This was a moment when having a doula that we loved and trusted was a blessing. I was able to take care of registration (because I hadn’t pre-registered … doh!) in the hallway while Abigail helped Elspeth to get settled and into her gown while laboring.

The nurses at hospital were very nice. Since this was going to be a VBAC, the situation was such that Elspeth would have to be on monitoring equipment essentially the whole time. The first nurse had a little bit of a hard time getting the HEP-lock set up; but soon, Elspeth was “all set” for the nurses. This whole time, Elspeth was in a pretty good mood. If she was worried, you wouldn’t have known. We had, for our first child’s birth, a hard time with frequent station checks, and a long labor that ended in a c-section delivery. One thing we wanted to avoid was lots of checks, as it can be mentally demoralizing to work and work and work on laboring only to find out you’re only 1 cm further dilated than you were six hours prior. So when the nurses finally got Elspeth situated with the monitors and HEP-lock and asked about checking to see how far along she was, we basically told them to come back later; and they did cut us a break for a little bit.

Probably 30 minutes after we had arrived, though, the nurses really put the pressure on to do a cervical check – just to see exactly where things were. That’s when we learned we had essentially walked into the hospital at 6 cm. Shortly after, Elspeth’s water broke. They noticed that there was some meconium in the waters, so they notified the NICU in order to prepare them for the birth. Also, the OB who was on call was notified and we were told, “Your doctor is… on her way.” I was a little nervous, honestly, that she wouldn’t beat the baby there.

Elspeth continued to labor mostly on her side for the next two hours. We kept her spirits up with a steady stream of ice chips and apple juice and some great foot massages from our doula. (She is also a trained masseuse. Win.) The apple juice was actually at the request of the nurses. The baby was fine (in the “zone”) on the monitors, but as they explained, she wasn’t really reacting to the contractions. The baby is supposed to dip and peak on the charts with the mom’s contractions. So in an effort to wake her up some, we juiced the baby. (And the mom.) The contractions got stronger and closer, and the doctor still hadn’t arrived yet. At one point, the NICU nurse came in to set up the baby station; and for a minute there, Abigail and I thought she was the doctor. Elspeth, who of course had met the doctor before said, “No guys. That’s not her.” So we waited and labored some more. Elspeth was really a champ all this time. I tried to help her with her breathing and keeping the tension out, but she was doing really well.

After we had been there for maybe an hour and a half, the doctor did arrive and check in on us. At that point the contractions were practically right on top of each other, and the labor was getting much harder for Elspeth. She tried some different positions on the bed, including leaning over the back of the head rest, but nothing was really comfortable for her; and to make it harder, the contractions were so close most of the time that there was hardly any time to change positions before another one would hit. Finally, after being at the hospital for two hours, Elspeth hit transition.

Transition is the stage of labor when the mother’s body is almost ready to push. Bradley classes! Thank you Hannah. (Our Bradley teacher.) Things that come along with transition are a temporary slow-down or stall in the contractions, feelings of fear or “I can’t do this”, uncertainty in the mother, and fatigue. Elspeth’s transition was textbook. She had been so strong through all of the early and hard labor that it surprised me when she said, “I don’t know if I can do this.” But then it hit me – this was transition. I knew right then that we were close. She had wanted, from the very first, to have a natural, unmedicated birth. She looked at me and said, “I don’t think I can do this – I want the epidural.” We had talked about this before, especially with the way that our first birth went, and she and I had agreed that if she asked for an epidural, I’d have to coach her out of it unless she really needed it. That was a little bit of pressure – having to determine for someone else whether or not they really needed it. When she asked for it the first time, Abigail and I just brushed it off and said, “Nah, you’re doing great! You don’t need that.” She asked for it again. Then I said, “We’re not going to let you ask for that unless you really need it.” Elspeth shot back with “Epidural, epidural, epidural!” (Think “Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!”) So in a last-ditch coaching effort I said, “Just hang on a minute. We can let the doctor check to see how close you are before we go for the epidural.” The doctor came in. She was at 10 cm with almost no lip. The doctor just said, “Well, you’re ready to have this baby, I think.” I could see the relief spread across my wife’s face as she got the okay to push.

Our son was delivered as a c-section after almost 20 hours of hard labor. So this is the part of the story that was wildly new and different from last time. Elspeth, after being told that it was okay to push, looked up at the doctor and was visibly elated. Immediately, she kind of smiled and said with a half laugh, “Will you tell me what to do, because I’ve never done this part before.” The doctor smiled and said she would. Elspeth was a trooper. She pushed and pushed and bore down. She tucked her head to her chest, and with a little encouragement, she pushed that baby out. Each time she pushed, we could see the baby getting closer. Eventually the top of the head was visible, and she had to take a little break; and then got right back into it. The pushing didn’t take long, but halfway through, the baby turned her shoulders and this caused some hard tearing. Ultimately it happened fast (comparatively), and it was beautiful and amazing.

The aftermath already seems like a bit of a blur. First thing was, due to the meconium, the baby was a little sluggish and they intubated her for suction to help clear her lungs and get her to respond a little better. It didn’t take long, though, and she was soon rosy and crying (like you do) while they weighed and measured and poked her. (Being a newborn must be annoying.) The great thing was that we never left the room. They had a NICU station right in the delivery room, and were able perform the suction and all their tests with me right there while Elspeth was recovering and getting a “few” stitches. Abigail did her best to tell jokes and keep Elspeth distracted while they addressed her tear. She says that hurt more than the actual giving birth. Less than 15 minutes after she was born, Cora was resting peacefully on her mother’s chest and getting to know us.

We entered with a little trepidation at around 11:15 p.m., because of what the last time was like, but by 2 a.m. we had a baby, naturally delivered, healthy and safe resting with her mother. It was wonderful.

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Empowering VBAC from Mom’s POV

Empowering VBAC from Mom’s POV

A beautiful VBAC birth story, as told by Elspeth Ridout McCormick.

Like all VBAC stories, the story of my daughter’s birth really starts with her big brother’s birth. In 2012, we were expecting our first child. We took Bradley classes, practiced relaxation techniques, followed the Bradley diet, and took yoga classes and nightly walks to stay fit. My water broke at home, and I labored unmedicated at the hospital for 10 hours, until I stalled at 9cm and my cervix began to swell. What followed was a 10-hour cascade of interventions, ending with a c-section. As they wheeled me to the OR, I was already planning our VBAC.

For the next two and a half years, we interviewed OBs and midwives (seven in total) to find the right provider; we attended ICAN meetings, prayed, researched, and I read every VBAC birth story I could find. I had a breakdown at 20 weeks, concerned that only one of the three providers at the OB practice was supportive, and I worried what I would do if he wasn’t on call. This birth was feeling like we were preparing to go into battle – and that isn’t the way it should be. I had several heart-to-heart talks with my doctor, and he assured me his partners were supportive. I cried to my husband. I cried to my mom and my doula (a dear friend who was also our doula for my son’s birth.) And then I had to let go of all the worries and stress. We had done our research, and now we needed to be confident in our choice. We would walk into the hospital armed with smiles (and chocolate) – not with our war faces on and swords drawn.

Then the day finally came to put it all into action.

I had been having prodromal labor for weeks. Every afternoon the contractions would start, and every evening they would peter out. Saturday evening we dropped big brother off with my parents, went out to dinner, and then to a holiday party. The contractions started before dinner, and continued all night until we climbed into bed. I almost started to time these contractions, as they were more annoying and persistent than previous evenings; but nothing resulted. Wednesday evening was a similar situation. I attended an ICAN meeting and heard successful VBAC stories, and timed contractions using the clock on the wall. But just like Saturday night, they stopped when I laid down in bed.

On Friday morning, I lost my mucus plug. I took my time getting ready for work, waiting to see if labor was going to start. Nothing. The three of us got into the car to drive to work/daycare. I kept waiting all day for something to happen. The contractions that I had been having daily never happened. Despite that, though, I had this feeling that baby girl was going to make her appearance soon; but didn’t want to jinx it, so I only told our doula. She said she also thought it would be that weekend. I wrapped up the few loose ends I had at work, and read VBAC success stories on Birth Without Fear every free second I had.

My husband picked me up from work, then we picked our son up from daycare, and I promptly fell asleep in the car on the ride home. We got home around 6 p.m., and the contractions started as soon as I got out of the car. They felt as they had all the other times, though, so I wasn’t ready to proclaim that this was “it”. I cooked dinner, ate, cleaned up, and my husband started to get our son ready for bed. I took a bath, and the contractions continued. I attempted to read, but became too distracted with each contraction. I watched TV (Gilmore Girls; the flashback episode where Rory is born, coincidentally enough), paced in the living room, leaned on the fireplace mantle, and then started to actually time the contractions. Around 7:45 p.m., I texted our doula to let her know I thought it would be tonight. I called our parents to say the same thing. But I told all of them not to come yet.

Big Brother must have sensed something was happening, because he would not stay asleep. I ended up lying down with him for a little bit. While it was hard physically during the contractions, it was very nice to spend some last moments cuddling him as my only baby.

I don’t remember exactly when I told everyone to come, but they all showed up around 10:30pm. My husband packed the car while carrying a half-awake big brother on his shoulder. I tried to wrap up loose ends with my mother at home in between contractions, then our doula proclaimed that it was time to go. Luckily, big brother went easily to my mother – and we were out the door.

The ride to the hospital was very quick. I leaned over the back of the seat, and it wasn’t as bad as I remember the car ride being the first time around. We arrived at about 11 p.m. The hospital was very quiet as we walked in. I announced to the security guard that we were there to have a baby, and then leaned my back into my doula for a contraction while she supported my heavy belly with a rebozo (so awesome). I changed into a gown, was hooked up to the monitors, and consented to the first cervical check of this pregnancy. 6-7 cm. Excellent!

As much as I feared the wired monitors inhibiting my movements during labor, I was actually most comfortable on the bed, laboring on my side or over the back of the bed. (I only remember the tightness of the monitor bands, not the wires; especially when I was pushing.) The monitors revealed that baby girl’s heart rate was steady, but was not fluctuating during contractions like they wanted; so I chugged some apple juice to get her to “wake up”. I threw up the lovely dinner I had cooked. When she still didn’t “wake up”, I sucked down a honey stick. We never heard anything more about her heart rate, so I assume that did the trick.

About an hour later, my water broke. There was some meconium in the water, and I felt the mood change slightly. We worked so hard to just get to this point to “just try” for a VBAC – I didn’t want some poo to get in the way! I tried to focus and connect with baby girl to get her earthside before someone at the hospital tried to stop my VBAC.

But soon I began to lose the ability to relax during contractions; they were coming so fast, without much time to collect myself between them. Thankfully my husband and doula would get into my face and help me control my breath. About an hour after my water broke, I felt like I was spinning out of control; so I asked for an epidural. Everyone knew that was the last thing I wanted, though, and I was told I had to ask three more times. I jokingly snapped back, “epidural epidural epidural!”, at which point the nurse asked to check me again. I was very concerned that I wouldn’t have progressed much or that I would have the same lip as I had with my son, so I declined. It took some persuading from my husband and doula (who later told me I had already been pushing). I couldn’t believe it when the nurse said I was at 10. I asked if she was sure. I didn’t make it past 9 cm (before or after drugs) with our first, so it was wonderful to hear “10” and “you’re ready to push.”

I looked at the doctor and said, “Okay, so now what do I do? I’ve never done this part before.” I’ll be honest – she wasn’t my first choice of the three doctors at the practice, but she was a good pushing coach, and never looked at the instrument tray. It was a lot of work, but it felt great to push.

The contractions slowed down and I was finally able to catch my breath. During one contraction, I reached down and touched her head. I touched her head! We were doing it! And then her head was out, followed by her body (which she turned as she came out, causing a third degree tear.)

We were warned that she may not cry due to the presence of meconium; and she was hurried over to the neonatologist in the room, where they gave her lungs some suction. She never left my sight, and Daddy was right there next to her, talking to her, and keeping her company while I was stitched up. They were still stitching me up when she was given the all-clear and placed on my chest.

I couldn’t believe I had done it! We admired our precious baby, and decided on her name. Cora’s birth was so incredible, and it healed wounds I didn’t even know I had. It was one of the hardest things I have worked for, and the most empowering thing I have ever done. My doula and husband were never wavering in their support and strength, both physical and emotional, and I am eternally thankful they were by my side.

We did it! I did it!

Earthside

Natural VBAC Without Fear

Natural VBAC Without Fear

Erin Murray tells the story of how she conquered childbirth through a life-changing natural VBAC delivery.

My first pregnancy was uneventful and very “by the book.” My weight skyrocketed, but whose doesn’t? I got to 40 weeks on the dot, and my midwife started talking about induction, non-stress tests, and a host of other scary things. She did a membrane sweep the next day, after an ultrasound. I felt cramping all day long, and lost my mucus plug later that night.

First thing the following morning, my water broke as I was peeing. I went into a slight panic, and told my husband, who stayed cool as a cucumber as we packed the last of our stuff and headed to the hospital.

A couple hours later, we had done the song and dance of checking into the hospital and were admitted into our laboring room. Before my butt even hit the bed, my midwife said she wanted me on Pitocin. I declined, saying I wanted a natural labor, and chose to walk the halls to keep my contractions going. A few hours went by, and some family and friends started to visit. Around 9pm, the midwife put me on Pitocin. It started causing heart decelerations in the baby, so they turned it on and off in short spurts.

Overnight, the got became unbearably painful as the baby turned posterior and it became increasingly difficult to say no to an epidural; and around 3am, I was begging for one. Right after after it was put in, the baby and I both experienced plunging heart rates. The nurses were able to get them back up, and put me on oxygen afterward. I immediately dilated from 4 to 6cm, but didn’t dilate any further overnight.

The next morning, the new midwife on call came in and flat-out told me she was scheduling me for a c-section in a few hours. I fell apart and cried my eyes out until my in-laws came in to visit about an hour later.

They wheeled me back for surgery around 11am, and my beautiful baby girl was born at 11:33am. I didn’t get to see her take her first breath, and by the time I got to hold her it was at least an hour after she was born. I was happy to be a mom and that we both were healthy, but the experience left me a little empty.

For months after that, every time I talked about my daughter’s birth, I cried. I knew I would try for a VBAC the next time I got pregnant, but I needed healing first.

After my daughter’s first birthday, we started talking about having another baby. I armed myself with information on birth, VBAC vs repeat c-section, natural birth – everything I could think of. I stopped nursing my daughter at 15 months, and finally had my first postpartum period. The very next month, I was pregnant!

I felt all the pregnancy emotions: scared, excited, how will this work?, holy crap, oh my God! …everything.

I made my first prenatal appointment at eight weeks with the same practice that performed my c-section 18 months prior. I asked more questions in that one appointment than I did during my entire first pregnancy. At the end of the appointment, I decided to switch practices.

The practice I switched to had a wonderful track record of VBACs in my area, and delivered at a more natural-friendly hospital. I made my first appointment, and was immediately in love with them. They were incredibly supportive, hands-off, and big proponents of natural labor.

I kept going with my workout routine throughout the course of my pregnancy. I started seeing a chiropractor for the first time in my life at around 20 weeks pregnant. We had the anatomy scan done, and I did not find out the sex – but my husband did. Weird, I know, but it worked for us and he was sworn to secrecy so no one else knew before I did.

My pregnancy flew by without a hitch. Before I knew it, it was almost our wedding anniversary, and just two weeks before my due date. I told my husband I wanted a “VBAC Without Fear” necklace as an anniversary gift. I had been holding off on getting one, because of the “what if” factor, but I let it go and got one. She rushed the order and it arrived on our anniversary – eight days before my due date. I wore it every day and night until labor came.

My due date came and went without any signs of labor. Then, two days after my due date, I woke up at 2am to steady contractions. I started timing them; they were 5 minutes apart, and lasted 30 seconds. They weren’t very painful, but they were enough to keep me awake. I kept busy surfing my tablet, drinking tea, cleaning, and taking a bath. My husband woke up at around 6am, and I told him what was going on. He stayed home from work, and labor kept progressing. Our daughter was bouncing off the walls while he was trying to work from home, so I told him to take her to the gym so she could play. I stayed home and labored alone, which was so freeing. We were keeping quiet with our families this time, so no one was bugging me.

My husband came back home around noon, and we tried getting our daughter down for a nap (which was NOT happening). A few hours later, we made the decision to go to the hospital because we didn’t want to be stuck in traffic later. My contractions were still five minutes apart and lasting between 45 seconds and one minute.  We called my dad to meet us and get our daughter, and we drove the 40 minutes to the hospital.

After my dad got our daughter, we walked into the hospital. They put me in an observation bed while they checked us in, and almost right away my contractions slowed way down. They were slowing so much, I was almost napping between them. When the nurse checked me, she said I was between 2-3cm and gave us a choice whether or not we wanted to stay. We decided to leave, and try to relax a little. My husband got us a hotel room nearby, and we went to get some dinner.

During dinner, the contractions were still pretty far apart, but getting painful. After dinner, we found some Tylenol PM and went to the hotel. We checked into the hotel around 9pm, I took the Tylenol right away and tried to get some rest. I slept for maybe an hour. The contractions just weren’t going away, and were still more painful. I got up and got in the bath tub for probably the tenth time that day. It helped immensely, and I was able to relax and labor for another two hours. When the contractions became unbearable once again, I got out and laid on the bed. I started vocalizing between contractions, and my husband kept asking when we should go back to the hospital. I guess the next few contractions made it pretty apparent, so we packed our stuff and headed out. I had three contractions between the room and the car (which was parked right outside the elevator entrance), and had three more during the six-minute drive to the hospital.

We pulled up to the hospital at 1:45am, and I had two more contractions while we were trying to walk in. A nurse came out to get me, and walked us straight back to a labor room. They checked me, and I was 5cm. I didn’t think much of it, and kept laboring as they asked questions and placed an IV port in my arm. After a few minutes, something shifted and it started to feel better to push during contractions. One of the nurses tried telling me not to push, but that’s easier said than done. After a few minutes of me continuing to try to push, they checked me again and said they were calling the midwife. I came out of my labor fog and said, “What? Why?”

She said, “You’re complete, and ready to push.” At that moment, I smiled the biggest smile of my life and was so proud of that moment. I was going to push!

My midwife came in, and I smiled saying, “You ready to catch a baby?” She got me a squat bar, and I got into position on the bed. My contractions had spaced out a little, so I killed time by cutting up with the nurses. The first contraction came, and I pushed as my body told me to. I pushed for another two contractions in that position, and the midwife told me the baby was very close. She had me reach down and feel the bulging water bag, which was encouraging (and super cool!). My legs were starting to fall asleep, so I switched to all fours. Right away, that felt better. The first contraction in that position, my water broke. It only took one more before my baby was born.

My baby was born at 3:13am on November 22, 2014.

They passed the baby between my legs so I could announce the sex – it’s a boy! They cleaned him up a little, and put him straight to my chest. I did it! I was in total shock. And bliss.

My VBAC dream came true after nine months of thinking about it every day.

He was on my chest right away. We breastfed on the table. I was up and walking around less than an hour after the birth.

Night and day different from my first birth experience!

My life is forever changed because of this experience!

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