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Category: VBAC

“I Did It!” {An Active And Unmedicated Hospital VBAC}

“I Did It!” {An Active And Unmedicated Hospital VBAC}

It was 6 days past my due date, I was being taken over by a mild but itchy case of PUPPPS (Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy) when I was woken up by the distantly familiar feelings of labor at 3am on a Monday morning. I was having short and mild contractions but not so short or mild that I was able to go back to sleep again. I tried. After 30 minutes and several contractions later I accepted I would not be sleeping again without a baby next to me and got out of bed. It was the end of our current family dynamic and the beginning of something new, something better, the beginning of life. This planet was about to get a little more beautiful. I went into the living room, got some snacks, and began focusing through my contractions. I appreciated the time alone and was enjoying trying different positions that worked for me. I wasn’t having any difficulty getting through each contraction but was “practicing” for when things got harder.

Around 5am I was pleased to see the surprised face of my sweet husband. He had not even noticed I wasn’t in bed when he got up, so when he walked into the living room to find me kneeling over the couch he was caught off guard. I told him I had been having regular contractions for the last couple hours but that he should go ahead and go on his regularly scheduled morning bike ride, he just needed to keep it short. He refused, good man, and I was happy as this meant we could go for a walk together. We woke my mom up to let her know what was going on and also so we could put J into her bed. We didn’t want him to wake up alone in our family bed and wonder where we were. At this point my mom told me that before bed she had lit a candle and said a small prayer the night before encouraging my body to start the process of bringing life to our side of the world. It worked! So around 530 in the morning R and I went walking around our neighborhood together.

The morning air was a perfectly crisp temperature somewhere in the low 70s, there was a bright sliver of a moon in the sky that gently lit the sidewalk, and the birds were just beginning to chirp. It was just us with an occasional car leaving for an early morning shift. I already felt somewhat disconnected from life outside my body as I focused on the task at hand. We stayed close to home but walked around the block many times while R timed my contractions using a cell phone application made just for this. Sometimes I was able to keep walking through the contractions but sometimes I would have to stop and lean onto R for support while I waited for them to pass. After I was no longer comfortable walking around we went back home to labor some more there. I spent time leaning on R, leaning on the pony wall, leaning over the birth ball and even in the tub.

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My mom and J eventually woke up and wonderful J was so quiet and so gentle through all of it. He did not worry about me; my mom made sure to inform him that I was working very hard to bring his baby sister here and that he needed to be calm and quiet for me. His thoughtful three year old mind could somehow understand the magnitude of bringing forth life as he did a great job at staying calm and quiet while I focused through each contraction. After several more hours my contractions were becoming ever more powerful and were accompanied by some spotting, something I never had while in labor with J. This gave me hope that I was making some progress, though fear still gripped me tight as I mulled over my previous birth. Beautiful as it was, I did not want another cesarean section.

We contacted our Doula and requested she come to our house but it was no more than a few minutes later when we decided we would meet her at the hospital after all as both R and I were getting anxious. I was feeling eager to settle into where my baby was going to be born and I really wanted the car ride over with. We left my mom and J behind so that they could make arrangements for J to be picked up. We headed for the U of U hospital around 10am but not before my very sweet son gently put my sandals on my feet as a lay over the birth ball.

 Before labor started I was petrified of the car ride but it wasn’t as bad as I thought even with bumper to bumper traffic down Foothill Blvd. I spent the entire car ride on my knees in the front seat leaning over the back of it. With each contraction I visualized the word “OPEN”. I was so afraid this would be just like my previous labor that the word “OPEN” seemed the most appropriate word to think of. My labor had, after all, started similar to J’s. Both started at 3 in the morning and both started with no dilation and little effacement. Not to mention baby was not in an anterior position, much like J, to only further discourage me, but I kept an open mind and tried to relax. I was working together with my baby girl; a new birth, a new baby.

I remained hopeful. Hopeful that I would get to the hospital and be at least a 6. If I was a 6 I would be happy, I thought. I should have known better from last time not to pick numbers and then place such importance on them that it could change the course of my birth. Once at the hospital the nurses immediately put me in the closest room and began asking a battery of questions to check me in. R answering all of them, of course. I was told to get undressed from the waist down before they could start checking baby’s heart rate but I was never asked to put on a hospital gown. No one cared that I remained in my own clothing, a black over-sized night gown that clung tightly to my pregnant belly. This was significant to me because I specifically did not want to have to deal with changing my clothes during labor.

They hooked me up to the monitor all the while letting me take the time and positions I needed to make it through each contractions. I knew this part was going to be a challenge and I knew I was going to get “extra attention” due to my previous cesarean birth, but all the while the nurses remained respectful and patient. “Good job, girl. You’re doing great” both nurses kept saying; quite a contrast from being held down by one of the nurses while laboring with J. Once they got a heartbeat on the monitor they had me lay down to check for dilation. This part was difficult and probably would have been better off not done at all, laying down was extremely uncomfortable and the result was just discouraging anyway. They told me I was a 4 1/2. I was hoping for so much more and all I could do was chuckle a bit. I wasn’t going to give up! I was determined! In response to my reaction the nurse said, “You must be happy about this given your smile”. I informed them it was a smile of disappointment. At this point I told myself I will wait to get settled in with my doula and my midwife before I make any decisions about pain medication. I tried to back track from my desire to be a 6 and continue to trust my body, to trust each powerful contraction, and to trust that my body, and my baby, were capable.

After they determined baby’s heart rate was fine and that I would be admitted, I was taken to the room I would actually be delivering in. I honestly have no memory of how I got to that room, probably walking, but once there I was able to lean over a birth ball (my most beloved position), and have my full support team there and available to me. My doula showed up, my mom showed up, and my midwife came in; the lovely midwife I had switched to from my OB when I was 30+ weeks pregnant. My midwife came quietly walking in while I was in the middle of a contraction, she gently but confidently walked up and did a hip squeeze maneuver that immediately helped relieve the intensity of the contraction. From then on out someone (sometimes two people at a time) applied the same pressure to my hips with every contraction. I was taking it one contraction at a time while everyone was encouraging me, rubbing my back, pressing in certain areas to decrease the pain and various other ways of keeping me going. All of it, every bit of it, was so very helpful. Every women in the room, as well as the one man (my husband), were doing everything perfect. Absolutely perfect. Every touch, every word of encouragement, everyone was working together to make this easier for me and it worked! When my midwife left the room I felt a sense of fear, I didn’t want her to leave, her presence was comforting. But it was brief, and it was to get some essential oils to spray around the room. I could feel the cool mist gently landing on my back and the smell was refreshing. Everything that everyone did was to support and encourage me so that I could let my body birth as it was meant to do.

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At one point the nurse asked me, “you plan on going un-medicated, right?” I laughed and told her that was yet to be decided. It was certainly the goal but at this point I had my doubts. She responded with “well, if you want pain relief that is your choice but I will not bring it up again, so if you want it you can ask”. Perfect, I thought.

I continued to labor. My Doula reminding me to relax and to moan low, rubbing my back and helping me stay focused. My midwife rubbing my back and feet all the while monitoring my well being as well as my baby’s. My mom moaning with me to remind me to keep my sounds low and productive. It was perfect, I was comfortable making whatever noises I needed knowing my mom was right there doing it too! I guess a mother never loses touch with her daughter. My sweet husband gently whispering in my ear that I was doing a good job, helping with hip squeezes, and taking me to the bathroom whenever I needed. When I was checked again I was a 7 1/2. I had a bit of a negative attitude as I was sure my labor wouldn’t progress like last time. I complained that I was only a 7 1/2 but my doula gently reminded me that I was farther dilated than I ever did with my last labor. My midwife pointed out how fast I had gone from a 4 1/2 to over a 7. At this point they had to change the location of the fetal monitor from high up on my right side to down low on my left side; baby had rotated to a better position and was down low! I continued taking it one intense contraction at a time all the while thinking, if I want drugs I can get them. The truth is I didn’t want them, not any of them, I was not interested in them coming in and messing with me; making me lay down, making me get IV fluids etc. Some positions were so horribly painful I thought if I ask for an epidural and they make me lay down I will die, it just didn’t seem worth it. So I kept relying on my support team to make things bearable. I cannot emphasize enough that the tricks these ladies knew, and shared with my mom and R, were amazing. Absolutely amazing! The words each person said, the touch, the scents, it was all too much to even ask for yet I got it all. Everyone worked so well together it was just perfect!

active labour at hospital with support

I soon began getting the urge to push. With each contraction my moans changed from pain coping sounds to short grunting sounds. “I think she’s pushing” I heard someone say. “I think I’m pushing” I said in response. It was almost over I thought but really it was only beginning! I was standing and could not for the life of me lay down. My midwife checked me while I stood but did mention it was a hard position to check in. She told me if I had the urge I could push if I wanted. So I pushed just as I had been. Little nudges and not much more. My midwife requested I lay on my side on the bed so that she could check me better as she felt a little unsure about her last check.

She gave me the news that I was still an 8. “AN 8!” I exclaimed. “I can’t do this, I can’t do this” I began saying. I was an 8 twenty minute ago, which isn’t long, but at the time it felt like an eternity. “I want an epidural.” Although I had crawled deep within myself hours earlier I had now lost focus and was losing control. The pain and intensity was taking over and I wanted to give up. I think they call this transition! My doula mentioned breaking my water as one option to speed things up, I declined as I was terrified things might get more intense than I felt I would be able to handle. My midwife agreed and supported my decision so we left them intact. Everyone reminded me that an 8 was really good. My midwife, sensing fear spilling over from my last birthing experience, got eye level with me and gently but sternly said, “Meghan, this is not like your last. This is different”.

labour with midwife support

My doula encouraged me to go 3 or 4 more contractions and then re-evaluate. I agreed to go 2 more but it would be many more before I brought up pain medication again, mainly because I slipped so far into a different place there really wasn’t much room to think about anything other than getting through it. The contractions were so intense, more than my mind could handle, they were flooding over my entire body; from every hair on my head to the tips of my toes I could feel the intensity and power of each contraction. My mind had shut off, submitting fully to my body as my body took over and labor continued. It was around this time R and my mom started offering me some personal items I had brought with me intended to give me strength. I chose a charm R had given me at the conclusion of our birth class and focused on it in my hand. With each contraction I dragged my fingernail over each raised line of the symbol that represented a labyrinth.

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After a few more contractions my doula and midwife suggested I change positions, I chose to stand at the edge of the bed again. Another contraction! Another slight urge to push and immediately I felt like I had been hit by a freight train. My water broke, the pressure changed, the sensation changed, and I collapsed. My knees buckled and I completely collapsed into a squat as my arms reached up holding onto the edge of the bed. My mom was holding tight to my arms from across the other side of the bed, my doula, midwife and R all holding me up from behind. I screamed; no, moaned. I never screamed, I was never scared. I had no control of my body, none, every single muscle pushed without asking for permission and pushed with a fierce strength I never knew I had. My body had completely taken over. Imagine standing on a train track and suddenly, without warning, a train comes and slams into you from behind, you never saw it coming. That is the best way I can explain the sudden intensity of having that urge to push. Finally the pressure, the train, it stopped. I stood up, I breathed, I relaxed. I almost felt like I could fall asleep but not enough time; another contraction, another chance for my muscles to take over. I collapsed again, being held up by my team, I moaned, I felt pain and pressure so severe, so strong, so intense I had checked out of my body… but I wasn’t scared.

If before my mind “shut off submitting fully to my body”, it had now walked off, left the room, left the planet. I trusted my team and they continuously reassured me I was doing good. I knew if anything went wrong I was taken care of, I was safe. I could focus solely on getting my baby out. My midwife began instructing the nurses to get the squat bar. In between contractions I climbed up onto the bed and was told how to effectively use the squat bar. It was a great place to be at that time in my labor; brilliant was my Midwife to recognize the need for it. More contractions, more pushing, more freight train, more giving into my body.

I even joked “is it too late for an epidural?” I asked in between pushing. I was told by many natural birthing mamas the pain stops when the pushing starts. To that I say bull. I was looking forward to pushing the entire time in hopes of finding some relief. My doula put it best when I met her before labor “you welcome the change in sensation” this is true but that “change in sensation” came with other things that were not necessarily welcomed. Regardless I was happy to be getting close. At his point my midwife noticed I still had a “lip” left on my cervix, pretty bad news to me but turns out it was as simple as her going “let me see if I can just push this out of the way” and away it went, no biggie.

“Meghan, do you want to feel her head?”. I said no. Not sure why I wasn’t interested in such an amazing opportunity but my Midwife knew it was one I wouldn’t want to miss. “Meghan, reach down here and feel her head”. I did it. My response, “that is it? That is hardly out”. I was such a downer. I had spent the entire labor concerned of not progressing like last time. It seemed no matter how much progress I made I was convinced it wasn’t enough. So my amazing birth team, yet again, reminded me of my great progress.

I kept pushing when I had the urge and relaxing when I didn’t. My midwife patiently watched and waited and simply supported me. Then her demeanor changed a bit. She began telling me I needed to push and push hard, even instructing me to push in between contractions. She looked at me, she was serious. “I need to do an episiotomy. I haven’t done one in 4 or 5 years, I’m so sorry”. I remember talking about episiotomies at the clinic. The Midwives were against them unless they were absolutely necessary. I didn’t fully understand the seriousness of the situation but I knew something had to be going on. I wasn’t scared, I trusted my team.

At this point my husband said things got kind of crazy in the birthing room. My daughter’s heart rate had dropped, and dropped low into the 60s only recovering into the 90s. This pattern was remaining despite my teams best efforts. I was changing positions and given oxygen to try and help baby girl get more but it wasn’t working. There was the potential that she would need to be resuscitated upon coming out. I never felt scared. My midwife was never panicked, she never made me feel fearful, she acted quick, she made good decisions, and I trusted her fully.

“Will you numb it?”

“There is no need, the baby’s head on the perineum is a natural anesthesia, you won’t feel it.” and she was right, I didn’t feel a thing.

I kept pushing until I felt her head slide out! The burning and pain decreased immediately and it felt as though the rest of her slid right out. I later learned, due to a tight cord wrapped around my baby’s neck, my midwife did some cool midwife trick to help get her out quickly without having to prematurely cut the tight cord. A quick check by the midwife to make sure all was okay and just like that she was on my chest. She was damp but easy to hold onto, not slippery like I thought she would be. Her smell, it was ‘earthy’. It was pleasant, it was the scent of life, of hard work, of strength beyond comprehension, it was of me and her. I will never forget her smell. So distinct but completely hard to describe.

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She was perfectly healthy and I believe my midwife’s quick decisions and cool manoeuvres were a huge part of my baby’s health! Her cord was wrapped tightly around her neck, her arm and her body. In most situations the cord around the neck is not a big deal, however in my baby’s situation it was very tight. My amazing midwife did some cool midwife trick where you keep baby’s head close to mom’s thigh and flip her around doing some somersault thingy, apparently it’s something to do when the cord is too tight. R got to watch and said it was pretty cool. I hardly knew any of this was going on, I never felt scared. I trusted my team.

“Can someone get the resident?” My midwife asked. She had begun stitching me. I looked at her face and she was focused. She kept inspecting me, stitching me, cleaning me but the resident never came. No one got him, no one listened to her. “I need someone to get Jacob right now” she sternly repeated. I had lost 500mls of blood. Anything over 500mls is a hemorrhage but I never felt scared.

The resident came in and I was offered an epidural by the resident while they did repairs. Apparently some areas were deep enough inside and bad enough it was difficult to get numb. I declined the epidural. I was not about to go through what I just went through only to have an epidural for some stitches. They numbed me up as best they could, which wasn’t good enough and what seemed like over an hour (and probably was) I had a clean bill of health!

Baby girl born VBAC July 25, 2011 8 lbs 4.5 oz at 2:05 PM.

I DID IT!

calm newborn after drug-free VBAC

Full-term VBAC after Micropremmie Birth {incompetent cervix, cerclage, 21 weeks of bedrest}

Full-term VBAC after Micropremmie Birth {incompetent cervix, cerclage, 21 weeks of bedrest}

If you follow BWF chances are you’ve read my story about preterm labor with my son Jaydon, the little one pound nine ounce miracle that changed my whole world. After the ordeal that nearly cost mine and my son’s life, I ultimately decided I never wanted to chance fate again. I got more than lucky and had a beautiful child to show for my troubles. I wanted to be sterilized. Tried as I might I could not get the procedure done for several reasons; I could not have a diagnosis of an “incompetent cervix” based off of a single pregnancy disaster, and I also did not meet the requirement of age and/or number of live births for my insurance to cover the costs of the operation. If I wanted to be sterilized it would have to be paid for by me and who has that kind of money these days. So I did the next best thing and made sure to stay on birth control and be very careful.

Jaydon was almost 2 1/2 when I discovered I was pregnant again. Being more in tune with my body after Jaydon helped me to discover my pregnancy early – I had a feeling and confirmed my fears with a “before a missed cycle” home pregnancy test. My heart sunk and once again the “jump up and down with joy” feeling had eluded me.

I immediately called a high risk OB and set up an appointment and once again they confirmed I was pregnant. This OB seemed as nervous as I was and her “doom and despair” attitude did not help me to find the courage to tell my family the news.

I decided to hide my pregnancy for as long as I could, which I thought would be easy since I was not stricken with the consistent nausea that I had with Jaydon. But it was not easy living everyday knowing that I had a life on the line inside me; I was tearing apart inside. Not many people know why I finally decided to share my pregnancy, or why it came out with the enthusiasm that it did (partly because I felt guilty that the first person I told was a complete stranger and perhaps I’m only sharing it now because it is easier to write about it then to talk about it).

One night while grocery shopping I stopped in the baby aisle to get Jaydon some diapers and I found myself running my hands across infant items and staring at the pictures of cheeky newborns on the packaging. I was hit by a wave of uncontrollable pain and quietly made my way to the bathroom to have a moment to cry it out. My “moment” turned into 30 minutes of sobbing and cursing at myself and the rest of world. Only a few women came in and out of the bathroom and when I thought I was alone again I wiped my eyes, left the stall I had sheltered myself in, and headed towards the sink to clean myself up. There was an elderly lady washing her hands and I tried to shoot her a smile when our eyes met. She asked me if I was alright and I said that I was fine. She laughed and said “I have five daughters and a number of granddaughters; you can’t fool an old bat like me”. I was totally busted and for whatever reason, I still don’t know, I spilled my guts to this stranger. I cried, I laughed, and I cried some more while she patiently listened, kind faced the entire time.

When I finally finished my rant she took me by surprise by telling me that I was being selfish. What?! She asked me to ask myself if it was fair to throw this on my husband and family if my pregnancy went wayward, if they loved me and they do, then they deserved to be there for me and share this experience with me regardless of the outcome. Then she told me to ask myself if it was fair to me to allow myself to succumb to misery? Then she told me a heart breaking story of her sixth child, a boy, already having five children she didn’t allow herself to relish in her pregnancy, instead this woman struggled with the financial aspect of another child. Her son died at 7 months in the womb and she had to deliver still born. She told me that even in her old age she regrets not enjoying the time she had while her son was with her. I started crying again this time angry at myself for being so selfish that I didn’t even realized the hurt I could have caused my family. She told me not to fret, that I was young and bound to make mistakes but if I was truly sorry then I would make sure to make the best of my pregnancy! I thanked her over and over, hugging her and crying. I raced out of the bathroom a new person and started planning my big reveal! “A girl” I said, it’s going to be a girl.

I told my husband first by asking him if he could massage my stomach because I had “cramps” and he was thrilled when he saw “We’re pregnant!” scrawled across my belly in pregnant-friendly body paint. My husband is older than me by 20 years and a previous marriage blessed him with three boys, I had also given him a boy so when I told him I believed the baby was a girl he was skeptical. He wanted a girl very badly.

The weeks and months started to pass without incident. I had days when I’d lose hope and days when I would find it again, but each change in mood was always accompanied with love and support from my family. I took advantage of each day trying to experience the pregnancy wonders I had missed with Jaydon. Even at the early stages I would lay on my back, breathing as gently as I could trying to feel any bit of movement. When it came time to find out what the baby was going to be I managed to get an ultrasound scheduled on December 23rd, two days before Christmas. By this time I was no longer seeing my “doom and despair” OB and had a new much kinder OB named DC. Slack and I absolutely loved him. And he was ok with working the day before Christmas Eve so I could reveal the baby’s gender on Christmas. The whole way to the office I worked on my poker face. I didn’t want to give anything away. The ultrasound went great and my mom, husband, and son got to see the baby’s face but when it was time to see what it was I told them to “am scram” to the waiting room.

The baby was a girl and I let out my tears of joy to my DC and ultrasound tech. I didn’t think I could contain my joy but it wasn’t hard to do when we realized something was wrong. I was dilating. I couldn’t believe this was happening, not today, a day that started so joyously and wonderfully. Finally I was going to give my husband a girl, that’s if I could hold on, but I was only 19 weeks. Viability had changed from 26 weeks to 24 weeks since Jaydon’s birth but that was still 5 weeks away. I had only made it 5 days with Jaydon how would I make it to a minimum of 5 weeks!? But my wonderful OB stepped into say not all was lost, I was not even 1cm and my bag was not bulging, my pregnancy had a chance if they put in a cerclage. I remember walking to the waiting room, crying. I figured my family would think it was a boy because I was crying but they knew instantly that my pregnancy was in jeopardy. I wanted to ease the blow so I came right out and said “it’s a girl and I am going to do everything in my power to get her here, alive.”

I was sent once again to Denver. After some shots, an amniocentesis (the second one in my life), the cerclage was put in. My clearest memory of the whole procedure was the anaesthesiologist, his name was Greg and he had obviously dealt with many antepartum moms like me. He told me the medicine he was putting in my IV was a special “Uncle Greg margarita” to help me relax thru surgery. I giggled thru the entire thing and eventually fell asleep.

I spent Christmas Eve in the hospital and was able to go home Christmas Day but I was now on strict bed rest. The surgery went well but my cervix was so small that the stitches were already strained and pulling. There was not much hope of making it very far, but before I knew it I was at 24 weeks. I had made far enough to give my daughter a chance. A few more weeks passed and I made it to 26 weeks which was when I had Jaydon. I was thrilled and by this time I could feel her moving. My hope was gaining momentum.

Overall I didn’t spend much time hospitalized, about 3 weeks all together and every week that passed I was astounded. I was proud of myself, proud of my doctors, and proud of my daughter. I finally reached 34 weeks which was a big deal because now I could have my daughter closer to home and not have to travel to a hospital specially equipped to handle preemies beyond 6 weeks early.

We were getting down to the wire and my doc asked me about my birth plan. I hadn’t thought about it, I just figured I was doomed to a C section. I hadn’t counted on being pregnant this long. He asked me if I would like to see if I qualified for VBAC. I had never heard of this before but was ecstatic when he explained that my cerclage was not a permanent stitch and depending on how my last C section was preformed I could possibly have my baby vaginally. “Let’s do it” I told him and within a week I learned I could have a VBAC, so long as I didn’t go into labor before my stitches were removed.

At 37 weeks my stitches were taken out, we discovered that 3 of the 4 stitches had torn thru my cervix and my pregnancy had literally held on by a thread. I dilated to 4cm within hours of the stitches being removed, and a peppy nurse said I could expect to have a baby within a few short days. Well those few short days became a week and now I was 6cm. My doc stripped my membranes and the peppy nurse chimed in again about a quick turnaround. I wanted to slap her when another week later nothing was happening. I was 39 weeks now and ready for this ordeal to be over. I was in and out with false labor and at this point very ungraceful about still being pregnant.

Finally on the evening of May 14th I was getting irregular but strong contractions. At the hospital we learned that I was 8cm and they were not comfortable letting me go home so far dilated. I had planned on having no medication during my birth simply because I had endured so many needles that at first I couldn’t fathom yet another IV and something in my back. But after the contractions started really kicking in I was singing a whole different tune. A tune that resembled a bear caught in a trap. My water was broken for me a few hours later and the contractions ceased. Unfortunately hospitals have a strict 24 hour rule with broken water and time was ticking to get my labor back into full swing. When my 24 hours were up I was having contractions again but they were far apart and I was only at 9cm. My beloved OB was out of town and I got stuck with a strict, stick by the books kind of doctor who was now telling me my chance to VBAC was gone. I was going to be given a C section. I was devastated. I had made it so far and was in finally in control of my own pregnancy but her words hung in the air “we needed to do what was best for the baby” who was now showing signs of fetal distress. I was still trying to come to terms with the C section when the doctor came back in to inform me that I was scheduled for my C Section directly after another scheduled C section which the doc was heading off to do. She said she would be back in an hour to take me to the OR.

Ms. Peppy nurse herself came in a few minutes later to help me reposition to a more comfortable position, not that a comfortable position actually existed. But the minute she turned me over I was slammed with contraction after contraction. Hard and painful despite the epidural. I grab my husband arm and frantically asked what was happening. I didn’t even realize the nurse was checking me again until she started jumping up and down, clapping her hands, and cheering that I was 10cm! “It’s time Amber, it’s time, you can still do it” she shrieked. She dashed out of the room to find a doctor while another nurse helped to get “into the position”. All the doctors were in delivery and I was greeted by a soft spoken midwife who confirmed it was time to push. “That’s it, everybody out” I yelled. My mom left but my husband was stopped by Ms. Peppy. She made him stay citing that this was a beautiful moment that needed to be shared between us. I agreed but didn’t pause to pass a death threat to my husband if he “looked down there”.

I pushed for what seemed to be an eternity when the midwife realized that the baby had turned and her shoulders were stuck. I panicked thinking that any moment the doctor would return and whisk me off to be gutted like a fish. But the midwife was calm and gently turned the baby the right way and with one final push my daughter entered the world. Morgan Shea, 05/16/11, 5 pounds 9oz.

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I will never forget the moment I heard her cry. Every ounce of ungracefulness and agitation melted away and I was finally beaming with the “glow”. They put my daughter on my chest and to this day I can’t recreate the sense of accomplishment I felt in that moment. In those first few moments it was only me and her, my sweet little Morgan, the little girl who at first I couldn’t keep in and then couldn’t get her out. I said to her “you sure have caused a lot of trouble you know, but you are worth every bit my gorgeous little trouble maker”. My husband cut her cord and proceeded to hog her all to himself. He couldn’t bring himself to believe she was a girl until she was finally in his arms.

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I had done it, I beat the odds stacked against me and brought my daughter into this world on my terms. I had my VBAC even after being told my chance was gone. I thought about the elderly woman in the grocery store bathroom and sent a special prayer for her, that kind hearted soul who helped a stranger.

I finally had the diagnosis I needed and, following some surgeries to alleviate the pain of my destroyed cervix, I was sterilized. I was not meant to have children, my body was intolerant to them, but yet here they are. Perfect, happy, healthy children, I really couldn’t ask for more.

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I have told my stories to Birth without fear in the hopes that it reaches at least one antepartum mom and help her to get to the place I couldn’t, a place this blog and the people who contribute to it so lovingly represent every day, a place where she can experience “Birth Without Fear”.

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The Healing Birth of Jackson {Natural Hospital VBAC}

The Healing Birth of Jackson {Natural Hospital VBAC}

The birth of our third baby has been so healing, in ways that words cannot fully describe. The heartache and pain of our losses, of our preemie experience and of the surgery that brought our premie into the world has been with me daily. Since delivering our third baby, those pains and the distress they brought have gone. This birth has been such a blessing, and I am amazed and overjoyed at what my body has accomplished. It is such a natural act, yet that is too often taken from us during our experiences of labour and birth. Delivering our son was the most empowering and awesome experience, more than I could have asked for. God has given us such a gift!

I am looking at our precious baby boy and all I can do is smile. The birth was perfect, absolutely amazing and unlike anything I could have imagined! To know just how beautiful this birth was, you have to know about my previous pregnancies and births.

Our daughter Caitlin Rose was delivered 5:09am 30th March 2009. The pregnancy was tough, I needed progesterone injections the whole way to maintain the pregnancy, I had hyperemesis gravidarum and I felt movement super early. We had not planned to have a baby, so it was a great adjustment for us after only 3 months of being together! (And me being told I was infertile…ha!) I had antenatal depression sparked by the shots, and an irritable uterus causing daily painful contractions. There were episodes of bleeding and mucous plug loss, and the whole pregnancy was rather less than enjoyable. I felt overwhelmed at being pregnant and the prospect of being a mum. But that changed the instant I held her in my arms!

The labour was 2 days, she was a posterior baby. Thankfully I laboured mainly at home (well, at the beach, then hosting dinner for my sister-in-laws at home) as I wasn’t convinced I was really in labour. My husband had to demand that I get into the car to drive me to hospital as I wanted to stay home longer. We allowed a student midwife that I had met previously to come to the hospital for the birth, and we had a midwife taking care of us. That was great! We did wind up with a lot of people in the room as our baby girl became distressed and she was stuck for a long time. The staff were being prepped to take me to theatre, thankfully with some hands on assistance (manual dilatation) my student midwife and midwife delivered her.

I had been labouring to my comfort, in the shower, hands and knees, swaying, squatting, however I felt I needed. And we had planned to deliver her in a good position. Unfortunately I was not in a favourable position for the delivery, but we avoided the caesarean so it was a small price to pay. Only 6 hours after arriving and she was in my arms. And she melted my heart! I finally felt right about being a mum, it was such a breathtaking moment for me to have her handed to me. Despite emergency surgery a week following her birth (due to retained placenta) I thought I had experienced a wonderful natural delivery. She was birthed without drugs, and it was a spontaneous vaginal delivery at 37 weeks.

We then conceived a baby shortly after her birth, but the pregnancy was lost. We conceived fraternal twins when our daughter was 5 months old. Sadly we also lost one of the twins, and had a lot of complications during the pregnancy. On top of the daily injections, there was severe hemorrhaging from subchorionic hematomas, PPROM at 18+5 (when we were assured we would lose our surviving baby, thank the Lord that He kept our son safe!) infection and placental abruption. Our boy Jacob Kenneth was delivered via emergency classical (vertical) caesarean at 6:10am on March 2nd 2010. He was just 25 weeks + 2 days. I was in hospital on bed rest from 23+6 until his delivery, as 24 weeks is considered viable here. There was just 3cm of fluid surrounding our son, and as he was breech, we opted for the caesarean. The labour was horrible thanks to hospital staff, and also being strapped to monitors, catheter in place and unable to move with IV lines. When I knew I would be delivering him I called my husband. (I knew as the contractions were quite surprisingly as painful as those of my first labour. The pressure was centred on the cervix but the intensity was the same). As he slept next to me, the doctors on call loudly discussed my situation and the fact that I had refused narcotics to stop the labour. I had already been informed that such drugs would not prevent birth when the mother was already labouring, but could prevent a labour from beginning. I knew I was in labour, so I declined. They insisted that I would cause an unnecessary caesarean and potentially the death of our baby by refusing the drugs. It was very distressing. Another doctor examined me soon after and I was rushed for the caesarean, as I was indeed in labour at 6cm dilated. Because our baby had not flipped, we knew the chance for survival was slightly higher with the caesarean. The surgery was awful, I felt a lot of pain throughout and we did not know if we would be welcoming a live baby or not. He was delivered, we were told he was a boy, then I was left alone as my husband went with our son (and was promptly asked to leave NICU, so our baby and myself were both alone. Hubby didn’t know his rights as a parent to stay with our son at that time). A further 15 weeks and a lot of preemie issues elapsed before I was able to finally take our son home.

So I had now experienced two very different labours and deliveries, and was quite convinced I did not want surgery again. What I did not realize is how different spontaneous vaginal labours could be. When we found out I was pregnant again, I began researching vaginal deliveries after classical caesareans. Months of studying went into this, and many discussions with medical staff. I found Jessica Tiderman’s site Special Scars which prompted us into further research. Between Jessica and another special scar mum, Katie Perez, I was given a lot of support and encouragement. My husband and I decided to try for a vaginal delivery, and conferred with our obstetrician to make this as safe as possible. Our obstetrician was fantastic, he took on our care against hospital policy, and had us sign a waiver after explaining the risks and benefits of a vaginal delivery in our situation. He was always respectful and encouraging while stating his concerns and helping us to create a birth plan. A great change from the experiences we had until he took us on! So we now had a birth plan in place for a vaginal delivery following classical caesarean. We also hired a beautiful doula, who we were hopeful would guide us through this birth.

At 1am on September 26th 2011 I was up walking around the house with contractions. They had been there for over a month, the same pain as my previous labours and could be timed 1-2 minutes apart, lasting 2 minutes. The joys of an irritable uterus! Our baby was beyond engaged and had been for a long time and I was getting around an hour sleep per night. And then my water broke. I had a quick panic when I thought I had peed myself, and then realized my waters had ruptured. So I called my Mum and asked her to come over to watch the kids. We knew they would be fine waking up to my Mum without us being there. Then I woke my husband to let him know it was time to head in. I would have laboured longer at home, but we had decided to head in early in the labour to have the cannula placed in case of complications. We called our doula to let her know we would be heading into hospital as my contractions were steady.

At 3am we left the house and arrived at about 3:30am. A midwife took us through to the maternal and fetal assessment unit. I had to laugh when she insisted that a vaginal exam (which we declined) was necessary for her to let me know if I were in labour or not. I let her know that I would be birthing that day. She asked us about continual fetal monitoring, which we also declined, and a male staff member came in to insert the cannula. He was unable to get it in between the wrist and elbow, so the midwife sent us through to the labour suite where we would try again. I had dropped into a hands and knees position by now to deal with the contractions, and our doula set up the ground for me to be more comfortable. I had to get up and onto the bed to let the man attempt the cannula insertion again, so the bed was set up reclining and I was on my knees leaning against the bedhead.

The contractions were lasting only 45-60 seconds, but they were coming on top of each other. There was a great deal of pressure, which I had only experienced with our other babies when they were descending. This was so different, very intense and more painful, but it much more natural and therefore comforting than my other labours. I extended my arm between each one and gave permission for him to insert the cannula wherever he could find a good vein, as he looked rather panicked about not being able to get it in! The midwife we were assigned bandaged it for me and bloods were taken. The midwife then asked to check the baby with a Doppler, and I agreed.

On the next contraction, I needed to make my way to the shower to cope with the pain. I was surprised at just how painful I was feeling them, it felt like the end of my first labour in comparison and I looked to my doula and told her I wasn’t sure that I could actually get through it this time. I wasn’t stressed, or losing control, just quite aware of how painful they already were and I thought I would need some form of pain relief to get through the rest of the labour. She smiled and said I would do just fine.

Our doula continued with her encouragement and gentle reminders to relax my pelvis and breathe into my belly. Once we were in the shower I was able to focus on the contractions knowing our doula was between the medical staff and my husband and I. That was so important to us, it felt like our birth space was protected by a woman we trusted and felt comfortable with. Very soon I thought I felt the need to empty my bowels, so I asked everyone to leave. The midwife went to get a doppler and my doula asked if I were sure I needed the loo, or if the baby was coming. Both my husband and I thought we had many hours of labour to go, but she insisted I keep my hand close just in case. And she was right! Once my bowels were empty, I realized it was indeed our baby, I made my way back to the shower immediately after the contraction.

I called my husband into the bathroom and knelt down, one hand waiting for our baby, one hand on the floor supporting my weight. The force of the contractions was unbelievable, I finally know what the ejection reflex is! With our other babies, I could not control the pushing, but I could choose to bear down with them or not. This time, I had no control at all over the force. I was aware of how quickly the baby was descending yet I could not lessen the pushing. It was amazing! I delivered the head, which was rather blue just as my daughter’s had been, and I watched our baby turn slightly. It had taken a few pushes to get the head out, but one more forceful contraction and while still guiding the head I delivered the body with my other hand. I was able to bring our baby straight up onto my chest, and discovered that we had another son!

Our doula had notified our midwife of the imminent birth, and two midwives arrived after I had delivered him. One of them was a bit too quick to cut the cord (we had hoped for the benefits of delayed cord clamping) as our son was not yet breathing, despite being attached to the placenta and without any compromise. He cried within seconds of being pulled away from me and was promptly handed back. It was such a beautiful delivery, bringing my own baby up to my chest while my husband was by my side. This was the first birth he had actually witnessed, although he was present for all of them. That was just amazing and still brings tears to my eyes that he was able to watch his wife deliver his baby. It was so lovely to have our doula present also, she gave us both a lot of confidence and I believe having her present allowed my body to relax fully and experience a labour the way it is meant to be. What a wonderful difference to my previous labours!

VBAC

Our son Jackson Lucas was born at 5:08am, September 26th 2011. I was 39+4 weeks into the pregnancy, far further than anyone had expected us to make. We have been abundantly blessed with this birth. The Lord Jesus had such mercy to give us this perfect birth, which has been so healing for me. From a pregnancy that began with the specialists not wanting to prescribe progesterone as they believed I was miscarrying, to make it not just to viability, but to term, was such a relief and a fantastic thing to experience. There had been complications with the pregnancy again, and I was very sick too, but I cannot find a single thing that I would choose to change about the labour. It is surely how I was meant to birth. I needed surgery following the delivery due to retained products that were vascular, resulting in major hemorrhaging (one blood clot alone was 500mL!). I lost 1600mL by the time I was done in theatre. There was talk of a blood transfusion, and iron infusions. But thankfully the Lord saw us through without either as we had chosen to decline them unless I had another large loss. God blessed us greatly with the surgery, as we had our obstetrician take over my care and perform the surgery. My husband had requested him when I became upset at needing surgery, and I am so thankful! Our obstetrician did a wonderful job, and the theatre team were just lovely with me. They had me laughing, and the anesthetist even played music for me on his phone.

vaginal birth after cesearean

When I came out of surgery, I was met with our now qualified midwife who was our student midwife with my first birth. She is a beautiful young woman and it was an absolute pleasure to find her as my nurse. She was also on call the following morning, so she was there to book us out of hospital. It was great to see her and let her see our other children again. Given that the surgery was necessary, I could not have asked for better than to have both our obstetrician and our (ex student) midwife caring for me. And I was able to leave the morning following the birth. It was awesome to walk out of the hospital with my husband and all three of our children. And with my health. My scar was very thin, we saw this on the ultrasound that was performed to confirm the retained products. And my endometrium was presenting unusually. We know we are not willing to have any more children now, as we believe the risks are too high after discussion with our obstetrician. Which makes it so much more meaningful that I was able to experience such a perfect birth. I had asked the Lord for a positive birthing experience for my husband and I. There could have been nothing better than the experience He gave us! No unwanted interventions, no fetal monitoring, no invasive vaginal exams, no managed third stage, and the joy of discovering we had another son for ourselves. Just a birth, completely natural and unassisted. Despite the surgery, and initially needing to express breastmilk again (I had to pump exclusively for both our other children due to tongue tie and prematurity) until our son’s tongue tie was snipped, I am still so thrilled with the delivery. It was painful, it was intense, and it was perfect. There is not a moment of the whole labour I would change. It felt so natural, and to deliver our son into my arms the way I was able to was so beautiful, I wish that every woman could have this kind of experience in childbirth. I am sitting here with my son right now, our other children are in our room sleeping, and the way I feel is amazing. I have no signs of postnatal depression, which I developed very quickly after delivering our other babies. Our son feeds well now and actually sleeps well too, which is a first for us. A nice first! I love wearing him in the sling and sleeping next to him (as we all sleep in our room). He loves it too. I finally understand the term ‘babymoon’ now. I was very scared becoming a mum to our daughter, and the NICU experience was extremely challenging with our son. To have another baby at term, healthy, and thriving is just lovely. And the birth, I will never forget how amazing that felt. The Lord certainly blessed us with His great mercy and kindness!

natural hospital birth

The Birth of Lucas {a healing hospital VBAC}

The Birth of Lucas {a healing hospital VBAC}

Lucas was born on 11/25/12

In order for you to really understand what Lucas’ birth meant to me as a person, a woman, and as a mother, I feel like I need to cover the basics as to why this was a VBAC in the first place. My first son, Elijah, was born 9/25/10 (talk about coordinating birth dates!). On 9/23, I was almost 38 weeks pregnant and went in for my doctor’s appointment. My BP was high, I was swollen, and I had already done the 24-hour protein watch and knew my levels were high. This all together meant, of course, that I was pre-eclamptic. The hospital midwife felt that it was needed for me to be induced. I remember going home and trying SO hard to get a hold of my husband. He is in the military and was training “out in the field” which means no cell phones. I was a nervous, emotional, wreck thinking about becoming a mom, knowing that it was happening. My husband was bussed home that night.The next morning, I went back to make sure my BP was still high, which I knew it was. I was brought up to L&D and hooked up to an IV and the magnesium sulphate (to keep me from seizing, but it also stalls labor), a Foley bulb inserted, and that horrid pill, cytotec, inserted. I was held captive on that bed with a catheter. I folded and got the epidural when the nurse told me that it would “help me stay calm and would bring down my BP”. Long story short, the cascade of interventions led to me laboring in bed for 24 hours before I was told I could push.

No woman should ever feel like this in labor.

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After 3 hours, I was told that I just wasn’t made to birth and he couldn’t fit out of my pelvis. His heart rate was dipping, I was told. So I went in for the C-section. I remember being on the table and telling them I could feel a few pinches. That is the last thing I remember. My husband was brought in and asked anaesthesiologist if I was awake, “Of course she is! Go let her know you are here and comfort her.” He walked over and sat down, and I did not budge. I was knocked out. My husband truly believed I was dead for a while. When he asked about it, the anaesthesiologist’s response to knocking me was “oops, wasn’t supposed to do that.” Oops?! So glad they valued my life. Any who, my sweet baby boy was born, and instantly taken to the bed to be cleaned and poked. I was shaken awake by the anaesthesiologist with my baby wrapped up in a blanket in my face. I was able to kiss him and work out a smile, then off he went. In the recovery room (with no baby), I was told his magnesium levels were 7x the normal amount (from the absurd about of magnesium sulphate they pumped in me). He needed to be transferred but that it would be a few hours so I would see him. That never happened. 3 hours later, he was brought in already in the transfer machine. I was able to touch his hand and that was it. He was gone. 4 days later, they finally released me and we rushed to the hospital so I could hold my baby for the first time in the NICU. I was on cloud nine holding him for the first time. He went home with us 2 days later.

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I struggled a lot to come to terms with his birth and everything that followed. I feel like that hospital did us so wrong in so many ways. I know in my heart that it was probably best to be induced but the way everything turned out just doesn’t feel like it should have happened. They refused to transfer me and I so ignorantly agreed. We struggled at breastfeeding because he was bottle fed for so long, and I had horrible PPD because of everything. I knew that when I had another, I would be educated, strong willed, and I would get the type of birth I so craved.

Fast forward 18 months…

When we found out I was expecting again, I instantly started educating myself about every little thing. I ate healthy, exercised, increased my water intake and my protein intake. I also struggled with where I would birth. The hospital went through a lot of changes and I spoke with the current head of L&D who made me feel pretty secure. They also had a special care nursery now which made me feel better. I decided that I would birth there again. Part of me thought it was the worst decision ever and I was crazy, but part of me wanted nothing more than to prove to every OB and midwife there that I could birth my babies, and my body was made for this. I decided to learn Hypnobabies, I hired a Hypnobabies Doula, and practiced and listened to my CD’s every chance I could.

When I was about 28 weeks pregnant, my husband received orders to go to recruiting school. He was going to be there till 2 days after my due date (11/28). Recruiting school also meant that about 2 weeks after he was done with school, we would be moving to a place that we wouldn’t know until he was almost done with school. I knew in my heart that he wouldn’t be there for the birth but also knew that Lucas’ would be here when he was ready! My neighbour went through my birthing classes with me and learned Hypnobabies in order to be my support. My mother drove 12+ hours when I was 38 weeks to stay with me until the baby was here. And I of course, had this amazing doula (who also owns Flash of Muse Photography) that taught the classes as well, so we had a good connection. On 11/24 I knew it was coming, I had been losing my mucus plug for a few days and that day just felt different. I gave in and was checked by my midwife that morning because the thought of Lucas being born after my due date was terrifying knowing we were moving so soon after. I was 4-5cm dilated already! That night, I was at home with my mom and my 2 year old who was fighting the end of a little cold. They went to bed as I sat on my birthing ball listening to my Hypnobabies track and talking to Lucas telling him I was ready to meet him and be his mommy. My 2 year old happen to wake up at around midnight crying. We got him settled back to bed and my mom dozed back off but I couldn’t. The contractions started once my 2 year old was settled. I didn’t tell anyone and waited. I got in the bathtub, on my birthing ball, and try to get some rest.

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Lying in bed HURT in any position I tried. I knew this was it, so I text my midwife. It seemed so surreal and I really didn’t know if this was it.

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The doula made it over around 6am and I sat in my room, in the dark, on my birthing ball. I was so calm and relaxed and didn’t think that these “waves” could be the real thing because I was doing ok! By 8am, they were coming every 2-3 minutes and lasting a minute long so we decided it was time to head to the hospital. My mom, my doula, and I headed that way.

They put me in triage and I was only 5-6 cm. I was then introduced to the OB on call that day that seriously lived her life in fear. My midwife was also working that day so she was there (luckily! That rarely happens at military hospitals). But since this was a VBAC, the OB had to oversee my birth. She was horrid. She started instantly with the scare tactics and told me that I could not do half of what my birth plan stated because “You and the baby could just die.” I stated my facts from all my research about intermediate monitoring and she was shocked I knew what I was talking about. I agreed to the waiver and she left. They checked my heart rate and my BP while she was in the room and they were both high when she was around. She literally made my blood boil! My midwife and the nurse were both rolling their eyes when she tried to scare me. It was honestly entertaining to me because I knew I was strong and I knew it was going to be my way. They kept me in triage for 2 hours to see how we were doing and progressing. My doula was by my side the entire time in triage. 2 hours later, I let them check me and I was 8cm! Everyone was shocked. I was so calm and collected still.

So they transferred me to a room where I instantly stripped and got into the tub. My mother and my birth photographer made it to the room and shortly came my neighbour with my 2 year old. That is how I wanted it; my birth team and my son. If I couldn’t have my husband, I wanted my son that much more. I labored in the tub and was laughing, Skyped with my husband and hugging my son. Upon getting out when I got to hot, I labored on the birthing ball. On the birthing ball and out of the tub, I had HORRIBLE back labor. I had someone using counter pressure on my lower back at all times. This is where I am most thankful for my team. I had a person to focus on my son, and always had someone who could help me. I’m pretty sure that everyone needed to rest their hands after Lucas was born. No amount of pressure felt good enough. I feel like I had such horrible back labor because he hadn’t turned all the way. From his positioning, I think he was actually sideways coming down. Not head up, nor head down.

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It was getting late and by this time I think it was close to 7pm. That horrid OB came in again and started her scare tactics. I was fully dilated already but exhausted. I had no IV so I was drinking and eating as I pleased. I tried to rest in bed but it was uncomfortable no matter what.

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My son and I were snuggling in bed when my water broke. It scared him something fierce being snatched up to avoid him getting soaked. I had that over dramatic burst of fluid! Once my water broke, I started to feel a little pushy but nothing major. I started to focus a lot more and tried bearing down with each contraction (they were come one on top of another at this point). I knew how exhausted I was but that OB thought that since I had been fully dilated for a few hours that she should try to scare me again. She stated that the baby could be trapped and that I might not be able to push him out. She then proceeded with threats of death, stating that “you could haemorrhage and both you and the baby could die.” I swear threatening death was her favorite thing ever. We told her we would try a different position to push.

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That is when the awesome midwife basically pushed the OB out of the way and sat down to catch Lucas. The OB felt like she needed to be heard but I think she knew that she had no control over me nor the situation and it killed her. At this time, we tried to get my husband on Skype so he could watch his son being born but it wasn’t working…go figure…guys can watch from overseas but Skype stopped working for us! So we did the next best thing and put him on speaker phone by my head.

I was so exhausted and unfocused at this point that I needed everyone’s help. They held me up in a reclined squatting position and I pushed. I don’t think I hit my transition period of losing control until I was pushing. I was whiny and exhausted. I pushed for a while, and felt everything. It was amazing. It wasn’t this pleasure-filled birth that women talk about but it was simply amazing feeling my son coming earth side. I didn’t get to feel anything with my 2 year old, so I embraced every second of Lucas’ birth. Finally, at 8:07pm, my sweet little boy was born!

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He was able to put him on my chest with MY hands, and there he stayed. The best sound ever was hearing him cry. I never heard my oldest first cries because I was knocked out. Being able to take part and hear that was beyond amazing. Every test was done on my chest. After the cord stopped pulsing, my mom cut his cord. I know that was a special moment for her. She had 3 natural births but never experienced anything like this. Lucas stayed with me until he decided to breastfeed and did it ever so perfectly.

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He was weighed at 7lbs 8oz., exactly one pound heavier than my oldest! So not only did I get my VBAC, I birthed a baby that was a pound heavier than the baby they said was too big for me to birth. I did it. My body did it. My son was in the room, and cried seeing his brother born. It was exactly what I wanted. I think the most significant thing about his birth is I felt empowered. I couldn’t have done it without my birth team either. Oh and I guess I should add that my husband made it home 5 days later. We all met him at the airport where he got to hold his sweet baby.

Pictures by Jeni Johnson Photography and Flash of Muse Photography

A Hospital VBAC with a Doula, ObGyn, Residents and Nurses

A Hospital VBAC with a Doula, ObGyn, Residents and Nurses

Two days overdue with my second baby, I woke up at 7am with a stomach ache, like I ate something bad and needed to go to the bathroom. Around 8am I finally got out of bed to go to the bathroom and I had a contraction.  It felt like the normal Braxton Hicks that I’d been having for the past month.  Less than 10 minutes later, I had another one. This one was a bit stronger and I wondered if this was going to be “it,” but then I thought back to my labor with my first baby.

With my first baby, in 2010, I went right into active labor with intense contractions from the start at 12am and I went right to the hospital. There was no question as to whether or not I was in labor.  By 7am I couldn’t take the pain of the contractions and I opted to have the epidural. I hated the feeling and had them shut it off around 12pm. By 2pm I was ready to push and I could feel everything by then.  2 1/2 hours into pushing and suddenly an army of doctors and nurses came flooding in and told me that baby’s heart rate was not recovering between contractions. And even though she was just about crowning, my hospital records reported that she was a “failure to descend.”  I was wheeled into the OR and she was born minutes later. I hated every minute of the C-section. I threw up on myself, I was shaking, asking the OB if everything was okay without any response from him. I was alone because my husband was gone with the baby, etc.  We all know the difficulties of what a c-section are.

I researched everything I could on VBACs and spent the last couple of months of my pregnancy reading only success stories.  It was just a month before my due date that I finally freaked out and decided that I needed to have a doula to help with the pain. I hated that epidural because it made me feel out of control and I knew that I could not deal with the pain without something or someone to help me through it. Although it was last minute, I found a doula and began to work with her right away.

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So, back to this labor.  I was having contractions that were fairly strong less than 10 minutes apart. From 8am until 1pm I breathed through them, but constantly asking myself whether or not this was the real thing.  My sister-in-law was visiting and helping my husband and I.  At 2pm, my daughter came home from pre-school and my contractions stopped completely.  Between 2pm and 6pm, I had nothing. In that time, my parents came into town and my house was full.  I called my doula and she suggested that I make a nest away from everyone and just relax.  I first went on a power walk and then sat with everyone at 6:30pm for dinner.  I was bouncing on an exercise ball and suddenly, one bite into my hamburger, I had a contraction so hard that I fell off the ball!

Contractions were immediately less than 5 minutes apart and fierce.  My husband called the doula at 7:30pm and she was at our house at 8pm.  I asked my doula if she thought it would be too optimistic to have the baby by the morning. She didn’t show total confidence, but was very good at staying neutral! By 9pm, I was in excruciating labor pain and asked to go to the hospital.

Arrived to the hospital by 9:30pm and this is where a lot of my VBAC education paid off.  Immediately I was asked to be in the triage bed and I refused except to be checked by OB when they arrived. Two residents arrived, I got on the table and while my cervix was being checked by resident #1, the other (while checking her hair and lipstick in the mirror) asked me if I understood the risks of a VBAC. I managed to exclaim, “yes, and I also understand the benefits.” This shut her up, but she wasn’t pleased.  Resident #1 announced that I was 7cm! 7CM! We celebrated and screamed in happiness. The unmedicated laboring was so difficult, but at 7cm, there was an end in sight.

I was immediately assigned a nurse who came in and told me that I was getting an epidural in place. No! I refused this. So, she insisted that I get a HEP lock. I also turned this down and she began to argue, at which point I asked for a new nurse.  I remembered reading that you can always ask for a new nurse, one that you find is compatible with you. New nurse was Lisa and she rocked! At 10pm I was wheeled into a laboring room. At 10:15pm, with a major contraction, my water broke while Lisa was trying to get my blood (I was standing up). It broke all over the nurse, all over myself, all over the floor!

Lisa practically lifted me off the floor and onto the bed and exclaimed, “the baby is coming!” It was a very slow night at the hospital and I had about 15 people from the hospital rushing into the room to watch me push. It became very chaotic fast. All together it was 2 residents, 1 attending OB, a plethora of nurses and such, plus my husband, sister, and doula. Everyone was telling me how to push, and I didn’t know where to look or who to listen to.  I asked if everything was okay because so many people were there and it was just incredibly chaotic. I remember asking to push in a different position, but the attending OB told me I “had to” push on my back.  (Just like last time!) I pushed for 30 minutes and again, the heart rate dropped and they freaked out. Baby had already crowned.  They told me I would have to get her out in one more push or else I would have to go for an emergency c-section. I pushed like no other and while I was pushing (contractions right on top of each other), they gave me a SURPRISE episiotomy without telling me–all that mean resident said was, “sorry honey, I have to do this.” With that cut, the baby came right out.

Successful VBAC

2nd degree tear and just 18 hours in the hospital. My baby was in my arms almost immediately and was happy and nursing right away! I just kept crying and crying and everyone in the room was celebrating and yelling in joy.  Conversely, the attending OB, who was very obviously NOT pro-VBAC, reminded me that what I did was risky because “history tends to repeat itself medically.” She added at the end, “But you changed your history tonight.” Her words stuck with me. I thought they were unfair and untrue. The rate of successful VBAC is quite high, which would actually indicate that history does NOT repeat it self often.  Quite the opposite!  And she was such a Debbie Downer during my most celebrated time. It was such juxtaposition between the 2 residents, the attending OB and the rest of us.

I can’t say that the physical healing time from the UNVBAC is shaping up to be any easier than the c-section, but the emotional healing time was almost none!

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Simple Home Water Birth VBAC

Simple Home Water Birth VBAC

Miranda’s birth story has to start with some background information and a bit of her big brother’s story. We had planned an all-natural, drug-free hospital birth and had taken Bradley Classes when I was pregnant with Dustin. Unfortunately, the hospital staff didn’t like how slow my labor progressed and coerced us into interventions we never wanted. Because of all this, I ended up with a C-section after 28 hours of labor. The recovery was rough, I had a hard time breastfeeding, and I ended up in a really bad spot for a while. I was eventually diagnosed with postpartum depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. We had always talked about having 2 kids, but after all this, we weren’t so sure. When we did get back to thinking about a second child, we knew we would do things very differently!

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Before I even got pregnant this time, I started researching my options and sending preliminary e-mails to local midwives and birth centers. Being a VBAC patient, I knew my choices might be limited. I got plenty of responses saying that they could not take me as a client or that they had extra regulations because of being a VBAC. I was lucky to find a couple midwives (one being a VBAC mom herself) close to my house and we set up an initial consultation soon after we found out I was pregnant. We liked them a lot after the first meeting and decided to definitely go with them after an amazing review from a friend who saw them for her VBAC.

Just like when I was pregnant with Dustin, I had a smooth pregnancy with no complications. The care and prenatal appointments were so much better with midwives, though. They actually got to know us and answered questions and truly listened. We were given options and choices about testing and procedures instead of just being told what things will be done when. The reactions I got from people when the topic of a homebirth and/or VBAC came up ranged from “you guys are crazy!” and “is that really safe?” to “I wish I would have done that!” and “that sounds amazing!”

My due date (August 19) came and went with no signs of anything happening. I was really hoping since this was my second baby she would come earlier, but she had other plans. There was never talk of inductions or anything being “wrong.” We all just waited. The day I hit 41 weeks, we went out for a big breakfast and a small hike. I wanted out of the house and I was really hoping I could get something happening. Still nothing! Early the next morning (August 27, around 2:00), I got up to pee, got back in bed, and felt a gush. This was something new for me; my water didn’t break on its own last time. I wasn’t having any contractions so I grabbed a towel and went back to sleep.

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Around 3:30am, I got up to get a clean towel and Johnny woke up. He asked how I was doing (he meant sleep-wise since I hadn’t been sleeping well most nights) and I told him about my water breaking. The sound of shock in his voice was great! I still wasn’t having contractions so we both tried getting some more rest. At 4:00 am my contractions started. They were coming every 10 minutes and just after 4:30am, I decided to get up and start getting some things ready. I asked Johnny to start getting the birth tub set up and then all the sudden the contractions were right on top of each other and I wasn’t getting any breaks. I got in the shower for a bit, but it wasn’t helping. I came out to call our midwives, but couldn’t even talk. I handed the phone over to Johnny and went back to the bathroom. It was now 5:15 am. I was moaning through contractions and wondering why they were so strong already. Our midwives showed up one by one between 5:30 and 5:45 am. At this point my body was pushing and I was thinking something was wrong; there’s no way I was actually ready to push, I must be doing something wrong, and this wasn’t going to end well. After a quick check on baby’s heart rate and such, they got me up and helped me to the tub (5:55 am). I got my first cervical check of my pregnancy to find out I was completely dilated with her head right there! I couldn’t believe it! I continued to push on my knees with my upper body resting on the edge of the tub. I kept reaching down to feel the progress of her coming out and it was such an odd but amazing feeling. She was born at 6:32 am and I couldn’t help but to break down crying! I had done it! I got my VBAC and it was the best feeling in the world to be the first to hold my brand new baby!

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We stayed in the tub for a while cuddling and nursing (she latched on within the first 10 min or so). Dustin had slept through all this and had just then woken up. Johnny went and got him and told him what was going on. The look on his face when he saw me in the tub with Miranda was priceless! I delivered the placenta at 7:05 am and Johnny got to cut the cord. At this point Dustin was wandering around with his breakfast, way too distracted to eat. I was helped out of the tub and got into my bed for more snuggle time. We got to spend our first bit of time together as a family of 4 totally relaxed in our own home. Eventually our midwives did Miranda’s first check-up; she was 8 lb, 4 oz and 19 ½ inches (shorter but heavier than Dustin was). I got checked out around the same time and it was confirmed that I had a pretty good tear (I had felt it happen, which in a way was pretty cool since I was so aware of my body and everything that was happening). Our midwives cleaned up, started some laundry, packed up their stuff and after a few final checks, left us to get some rest and start the new piece of our lives.

The difference in recovery has been amazing! Sure, I was pretty sore (mostly from the tear that I later had stitched) and worn out the first few weeks but it was nothing compared to my previous delivery. After my C-section I felt totally broken and defeated; after my VBAC I felt triumphant and, for a lack of better words, bad-ass. I still get excited thinking about how everything happened. On one hand, it’s sad because I know now exactly what I missed out on when Dustin was born, but at the same time this was such a healing experience! I want to tell anyone who will listen my story and convince every pregnant woman to do her research and question everything

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 Blooming Lotus Henna (http://bloominglotushenna.com/), Midwives (http://www.motherseedmidwifery.com/)

Epic HBA2C After a Surrogacy

Epic HBA2C After a Surrogacy

The Prequel to the Sequel

There are so many ways to begin the story of Osiris’ birth, whether that be by marking the arrival of contractions and prodromal labor, the arrival of my birth posse or possibly what kicked me into active labor, a handcrafted cheesy In & Out burger, fries and a beer. But what makes this birth story unique, is that Osiris’ journey into this world began before Frank and I ever knew we’d be pregnant again. I believe we were always meant for this little boy, and by some force, he was designed to teach me and to teach others how to trust, honor and believe. In the 6 days I’ve been blessed to share with this little boy and his big spirit, I have learned so much about myself, my husband, my daughter and what it truly means to feel complete….I’m no longer broken.

I had my first daughter at the age of “barely 20”, she was a surprise blessing in a time of rapid change and growth in my life. June was conceived while I was in college, working full time and dating her father (while on the blessed NuvaRing… ….). Things happened fast for us, as I had no clue of the growing child within my womb until the beginning of the 2nd trimester, just months after her father and I began dating. At 19 with a full course load and work load, being pregnant was initially something I feared for the sake of being pushed behind the crowd, shunned, looked down upon… I considered termination, made an appointment and never walked into the clinic after seeing a “not so pleasant” woman walk in before me. I remember thinking to myself how I didn’t want to be judged as I viewed her and judged her. Now, fast forward almost 4 years and here I am, with a beautiful, fiery and fierce young lady. That woman I saw walk into the clinic wasn’t someone I look down on anymore…I cherish seeing her in her sweat pants. That stranger changed my life forever.

June was born via a c-section that could’ve and should’ve been avoided. While I attribute my induction to being young and dumb, I felt that, at the time, I knew everything. I hired a doula, had a birth plan and bounced and rolled on my birth ball for months to prep my precious pelvic floor. I was swindled into an induction after Dr. HackandSlash witnessed my discomfort with sciatica. Like many inductions, mine failed to progress and I was strapped down in an ice cold operating room due to failure to progress. I saw my daughter, covered in vernix and struggling to cry and breathe…I couldn’t touch her, hold her or soothe her. I couldn’t do the kangaroo care I was so excited about, I couldn’t even kiss her slimy little cheeks. While we suspected she’d be large and full term, she was instead tiny and had symptoms that suggested she was 35-36 weeks gestation.  She was taken from me and instead of a moment full of joy and love I felt broken, damaged and used.

It was after her birth that I pursued DONA doula training and immediately began attending births, free of charge, to low income, single, young and immigrant mothers. I did doula work for over a year before deciding with Frank that I would become a surrogate mother for a family I had been talking to while on surrogate forums online. I had played with the idea in my head even before having my daughter, just as something to check off my bucket list…next to “make a baby” on my list there was “make a family”. I did a traditional surrogacy, meaning I was the egg donor as well as the gestational carrier. We managed to get pregnant within one cycle of trying, without the use of doctors or expensive fertility clinics. June was meant to be my miracle and my surrogate daughter, Anne, was meant to be a miracle for someone else.

The pregnancy was extremely hard for me due to Hyperemesis Gravidarum, with hospital visits and IV pumps, acupuncture and hypnotherapy. While we had planned a hospital VBAC with a great OB/GYN, toward the end of the pregnancy it was an unanimous decision to opt for an elective c-section as the malnutrition caused fainting spells… not a great combo for any birth, and definitely not something as demanding as a surrogate VBAC. The parents and I were saddened, but scheduled Anne’s section during my 39th week, the Monday after June’s 2nd birthday party.

Anne’s c-section was by far the most amazing story c-section story I’ve heard and given the circumstances of the birth, it had been perfect for the situation as well. Anne’s mother induced lactation and upon Anne’s little body leaving me, she was wrapped and handed to her intended mother, who was shirtless and ready to nurse her beautiful baby. She had waited a lifetime to be a mother and until months before hadn’t even known lactation without birth was an option. Within moments, literally seconds, Anne grunted, cried, looked up at her mother and latched. I was never meant to be her mother and she knew it as well as we did… Dad was waiting in the recovery room shirtless as well and once Anne was done nursing while I was being stitched up, she was taken into the nursery for a check with her dad and her mother stayed with me until we were all reunited. The 3 of us became 4 and for the remainder of my hospital stay, a short 3 days, we roomed together, both nursed the new baby, and ate, slept and even watched Judge Judy together. The hospital staff wasn’t too sure about our situation but let us be. We separated on the 3rd day with smiles and hugs, not tears of sadness. I keep in contact with the parents and we do multiple visits throughout the year to mark special times like birthdays and holidays.

While Anne’s birth didn’t break me, I still had a feeling of emptiness. I told myself the 2nd c-section was necessary but deep down I knew my body had the ability, much like it did before,  I just never found a doctor that would give my body the chance I needed. I knew after the 2nd c-section that I would have issues finding anyone to assist my next birth. I knew I would forever be on the OB/GYN “DO NOT FLY”-list. I was a terrorist. I was blacklisted. I was not to be trusted.

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When my husband and I found out about our pregnancy just 6 months after I had Anne, we were in shock… We had talked about a 2nd child of our own but didn’t expect to be expecting so soon. My heart sank when I did the math in my head, with a positive test in my hand…My due date was only 16 months after my previous c-section. Once again, the feeling of emptiness plagued me. Would I be able to give my child the birth they deserved? Could I redeem myself? Was it safe? I played with the idea of an unassisted homebirth after reading story after story of multiple c-sectioned mothers catching their own babies due to the lack of medical support for their right to a safe and natural birth. Mothers with stories similar to mine…Not one feeling of a contraction, not one birth where they were the first to see their offspring, smell their child or cry tears of joy because birth just “hurt too good”. My whole life I knew I wanted to be a mother…There are pictures of me as a child, sticking my belly out and listening to my stomach with a pretend stethoscope. I would pretend to be sick while in middle school and instead of watching MTV, I was watching TLC and learning about Pitocin, epidurals…. you name the intervention,  “A Baby Story” had it covered. I began attending hospital births of family members fairly young…by the age of 12 I had seen 3 different species birth…Yes, I count my older sister as her own species… ;).

I received an ultrasound early in the pregnancy and until near my 15th week, I had it in my mind that I would just be pregnant and trust my body.  I didn’t want to hear negative feedback from “medical professionals” about my aspirations to have a vaginal birth and didn’t want to have to explain why I just wanted a chance. I shouldn’t need to defend my body’s natural ability to birth. Frank ended up asking questions about prenatal care, and I’d laugh it off…No Hyperemesis this time (well, when compared to the hellish time I had with the previous pregnancy), I took my vitamins, baby moved great early on, I had great energy and my weight was stable, there’s some peace of mind when you’re on your 3rd pregnancy and have been a blog follower of Birth Without Fear for years… 😉 By week 18 I had a pregnant freak out and was uncertain that I could have a vaginal birth…No OB/GYNs in sight would take me as a VBA2C with my insurance and the house we were living in wasn’t suitable for a homebirth, whether that be with a midwife or unassisted. One bathroom, three bedrooms, four adults and a three year old lived in our home. Sure, doable, but the space was small, cramped and, honestly, the bathtub sucked. I felt trapped, and for the first time, and only time during the duration of this pregnancy, I felt like a failure again. This was it. I was going to be scheduled to be given a baby, I wouldn’t HAVE a baby and laboring was just something my body “didn’t do”.

A friend of mine asked if she could share my unique situation in a local midwife group… A mother aspiring for a homebirth after 2 c-sections, with the last section being 16 months prior to my due date. Three midwives responded and I interviewed with two, knowing instantly that one wasn’t going to work for me (hey, it happens, right?). The first midwife was outstanding….very spiritual while also extremely educated on anthropology and sociology with ties to birth… In all honesty, I wanted to stop interviewing midwives but she insisted I meet with the other midwife before making my final decision.

The Midwives

I was nervous before meeting Judy… I was familiar with her webpage, it had come up in a Google search at some point in the years between June’s birth and getting pregnant with Osiris…And while I didn’t know at the time, I read portions of “Our Bodies Ourselves” in high school for ammo during a student debate (Judy was a contributing writer). Judy was, in my eyes, the “best of the best” and, if I couldn’t birth at The Farm, I could at least find a midwife that suited my every desire… A spirited, dynamic, encouraging and most of all, an inspirational woman with a belief in my body even in times I doubted myself. I probably can’t convey my instant emotion in words…but I can try….The moment I saw Judy, with this big welcoming smile and an aura of warmth and her left over New England accent, I was nearly breathless. I knew instantly she would be a cherished token in my experience to birth. I just knew she was right.

I was reluctant to believe that anyone would believe in me…And what set Judy aside from the previous midwife was one simple sentence that I would ultimately repeat to myself on a daily basis…”You’re no different than a first time mom”. Truthfully, that’s all I ever wanted after I had June. A chance to re-do my first labor and birth experience. I longed for a chance to be that first timer again.

Judy is an amazing woman… Truthful, sincere, clever, considerate and even with my scattered brain, she was always able to keep up with my questions, concerns and even when I didn’t have questions she answered questions she knew I needed answers to. Talk about the complete package. She’s a ball of energy and whatever it is she has, it’s contagious.

Judy’s partner midwife, Lael, brings balance… a yin and yang. They aren’t opposites, but instead perfectly complement each other. Lael has a soothing tone and just something about her puts me at ease. It’s a feeling that I’ve felt before with very few others…not quite déjà vu, but a spiritual match, a “we’re on the same page”/*thumbs up* type feeling. She’s bright and has a realistic and tenderhearted disposition. I’ve never once felt judged or compromised around her. And as our relationship developed over the months, my awe of Judy transpired into an admiration of both women. Lael’s unique and refreshing personality goes far beyond babies and birth…I came to Lael with questions on how to handle transitioning my VERY MUCH of an only child and she always had a suggestion I hadn’t heard before, or it was put into terms even a freaked out “attachment parent” could understand. Sometimes distraction and kisses just don’t work…

The two of them are a force to be reckoned with. I can’t imagine a better team of midwives and I’m sorry to those reading that aren’t in the Bay Area…Judy and Lael have got to be the standard for what midwifery care is really about. The smartest women I’ve ever been around, the most compassionate, direct, fun and trusting people I know. I hadn’t felt so perfect in my own skin until I met these women that put faith and understanding in the natural concept of birth. I wasn’t broken to them. I wasn’t even a challenge. No “high risk” classification. No special needs here.

And what they have done for more goes far beyond prenatal care, my labor and bringing this baby into the World. They inspire me… I love people that inspire me.

Osiris, Lord of Eternity

My contractions began about 2 weeks prior to Osiris’ birth. Every evening they would begin and slowly drift away before bed time… On Monday I had noticed a difference in the intensity of the contractions and began to feel my whole uterus contract, with lower abdominal cramping and, as I described to many friends, it felt as if I was getting hugged at church while on the first day of my period. Classy, I know.

Things stayed at 7-8 minutes apart and I stuck to my normal routine… Being a mom to my 3 year old. I packed June in the car and picked Frank up from the train after work, we went home and upon lying down I’d have a contraction. I couldn’t sit, it hurt. I couldn’t even roll around on the birth ball, which hurt too. I knew things would get stronger and that the beginning could be a long, long, long experience…I called Ruthie to give her a heads up as she lives over an hour away. We agreed I needed to keep the photographer and doula in the loop. I called Sophia to let her know and to my surprise, she was already attending a birth and had been there for some time, we agreed to keep in contact if anything changed. Leah was next, I let her know things were “happening”.

It’s all funny to think about now….Being a doula can prep no one for a vaginal birth if they haven’t had one yet. HAVING a doula can prep anyone, but being one?!! No way. Within hours of contractions starting I was in excited, OMG, I WANT THIS TO HAPPEN mode and jumped the gun. Ruthie ended up driving with June’s birth buddies Indigo and Raiden with her AHHMAZING daughter Morgynne. We walked while Frank and Morgynne watched the girls and while the contractions would come and go within good time, they eventually faded. Maybe because of the kids being kids (no one wanted to go to sleep!)…Most likely because Osiris heard too much girly chitchat between June and Indigo. Monday came and ended….

Tuesday we woke up, hit the road with the kids and headed to Dr. Hanses’ for a chiropractic adjustment. It made me feel GREAT! My ligaments were tense and tight, so having Dr. Hanses stretch them out really must’ve helped Osiris drop lower. Also, cute chiro doing acupressure for induction? I’m 99.9% sure the first words out of my mouth once walking back to Ruthie after my adjustment were, “AM I SUPPOSED TO BE REALLY UM..TURNED ON RIGHT NOW? THIS WASN’T THE POINT! OH. MY. GAWD. I LOVE HIS WIFE.” I was red faced! Thank GOD for a cool water dispenser… Moving along…

Sophia and Leah (and mini doula Clara) ended up coming to Bonney’s Birth Den (my grandma’s house which ended up being the “homebirth” location) that evening. I didn’t have a blessingway, but if I could do it all over, this is what I’d do again. A group of birth junkies surrounding me while early labor contractions were transitioning from prodromal labor to ACTUAL early labor. I was getting pepperminted, lotioned…and even sang to (“My dick need no introduction, Your dick don’t even function, My dick served a whole lunch-in, Your dick, it look like a munchkin”…Sophia must have a HORRIBLE taste in music).  We were all laughing; even Frank was a part of the group, which is a change from his normal video game routine. It all just felt right…the kids were asleep, Ruthie, Morgynne, Sophia, Leah & Clara (they count as one doula entity) and Frank….All just hanging out and having a blast. Sophia had come from a birth and was exhausted…We all turned in and tried to get some sleep. Well, they tried to sleep…Frank and I tried to get “busy”.

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Labor Day…I’m a Believer

Wednesday began with chaos…Breakfast for everyone; getting the kids situated…We were all exhausted. Sophia said what the others were thinking…It was time for them to leave and we would all meet back again when things picked up. Once everyone left, go figure, things picked up… I spent the afternoon in bed with my headphones listening to Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Stevie Ray Vaughn…I’d lay on my back to rest and when I’d feel a contraction brewing, I’d turn real fast on to my hands and knees. Like a ninja. Thinking back at the intensity of the contractions, I have NO idea how I was able to get up and turn myself while hugely pregnant…I could hardly turn in bed for the previous 4 months (coughGREATCHIROPRACTORcough).

I called one of the midwives after I saw some bloody show following some (more)  “let’s get this party started”-sex. Lael (midwife, not to be confused with Leah the doula) came by to do a status check while another client of hers had been pushing for hours and hours with Judy. A stretchy 3cm. WOOHOO! I was on cloud 9. Not only did I dilate, but I had ZERO previous vaginal checks with this pregnancy…I hadn’t dilated with labor EVER. I couldn’t believe it. 3 centimeters. I could’ve been ½…or 2…and I’d still feel the same. I did it. It’s open… I trusted myself and it happened. After a stall and sending everyone home it was exactly what I needed to hear. Not that I did it…but that I was doing it! It was happening! With every breath and every contraction early labor was coming to a close. I’d be done with this crap soon! Once the stalling would just stop and I could get into my groove I’d get my birth posse back and have my epic birth party that I had envisioned for months…

Evening came and Rachel (Dr. Hanses’ wife, as previously mentioned) and Eliza came over to play with June and bring my LAST EVER pregnancy craving. In & Out Burger and a beer. Leah & Clara came as things were starting to get rough for me (Perfect timing. Literally. Perfect.) .  Frank was able to focus on me (Yes, AGAIN. Nudge nudge, wink wink) and while I didn’t have to worry about June I went from early to active labor. Rachel had to leave but gave me a great boost of confidence… I could do this! I WAS doing it! It was going to happen!

Shortly after Rachel left…And I mean an HOUR after Rachel left, BAM. Active. That’s also when I got naked. No idea how ladies labor in clothes…Screw that. Crazies. I would lean over the birth ball during a contraction….get up, walk around, giggle with June…Back on my hands and knees/birth ball in total hard-to-talk intense contraction mode. I went from 6 minutes apart to 2 ½ minutes within one contraction. I remember feeling my body just “give”…My cervix must’ve  opened up within one contraction.

I Love James Brown

Frank put the Rocket Man station on Pandora and I found a spot in the bathroom, hovering myself on the window seal of an open window with a nice breeze. My poor neighbors… I would moan through one breath and then breathe through the rest of my contraction. They were probably really confused with all the sex noises…I really didn’t feel pain. It was a blissful feeling for me. Not orgasmic (I had done enough of that between Monday and Wednesday night…no more orgasms were happening…) but a calm, intense feeling. I went from the window to the ball, from the ball to the window… Little Clara would come up and rub my back like her mama did, and she’d wipe the hair from my face. Best. Doula. Ever.  All the doula power from one big doula just concentrated into little itty bitty hands… I specifically remember a huge contraction while Leah was changing the sheets on the bed…It was almost an SOS call for some back rubbing when suddenly, there Clara was, with her little fingers running down my back. I lifted my head (which was RARE during all of my labor and pushing…VERY RARE) and saw Clara, not scared by my noise or intensity. Just little Clara, my 16 month old doula. I do know for a fact she helped during this birth as much as all the big girls.

Leah called Lael at some point, geez, I don’t even know. But I’m glad she was called when she was! Lael came, did a quick check and I was a good 7cm. Lael got things ready in the room and I remember saying “I LOVE James Brown” (which was playing on Pandora)…She laughed and found a spot to rest and waited until she could hear me “ripen” so to speak. I guess not many mamas talk about James Brown while in active labor?  Sophia and Ruthie weren’t far behind the midwife… I had a photographer and I’ll be damned if my face was even out of the pillow to get a picture of me in labor!

I remember peeking from my head-in-pillow position and seeing Sophia and Ruthie…THEY MADE IT! I was totally into myself and remember the “conversation” I had in my head during labor… When Ruthie and Sophia came I told myself it was time to just let go and start the real stuff. Upon Ruthie showing up, it reminded me that the Birth Beads she had blessed upon me during my third trimester were “nowhere to be found”. I didn’t say much while in labor…but I uttered “I can’t find my beads!” to Ruthie. I was so bummed…I meditated with those beads for weeks.

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I turned in and began to use my mind to guide and instruct my body. I have a great friend that sent me a book early into my pregnancy about meditation in martial arts… Sounds crazy, but I used more from that book than any birth book I *tried* to read. I knew I’d have a wall like a marathon runner and I knew I’d have to break it down… I thought to myself, “Or, well, how about I skip the wall completely, focus on breathing and visualize the prize?” There’s a passage from the book the mentions a world class sharp shooter….He didn’t even pick up a rifle for a year, but instead went to the shooting range and visualized hitting his target. He won a world competition the first time firing his gun in over a year.

That needed to be me. And I had spent months and months visualizing my cervix opening…I’d imagine the muscles in my uterus contracting, squeezing my baby down. I saw myself from within. I saw my baby, I saw his head moving down the birth canal and I felt everything. I was into this vision when I felt an overwhelming urge to scratch everyone’s eyes out, bite them, tear them apart… I did a “get THAT OFF ME!” freak out and upon hearing my own voice I KNEW…CHECK! Transition.

“Holy, fuck, Lyndsie, we’re doing it. And we’re close.”  I was getting deeper and deeper into my meditation…probably too deep as I heard Ruthie say “um…She’s not breathing. Lyndsie, breathe”.  I then started to focus on bringing oxygen to my baby. I told myself this was going to be quick. I felt the urge to push and didn’t believe it…. So I went 1-2 contractions trying to breathe out the push. I didn’t realize I could be ready yet. Lael wanted me to roll over for a check, which she never got to do… Once I was told I didn’t HAVE to wait for some signal from the midwife to push, I was PUSHING. And pushing HARD.

I asked how close he was…. “Closer than he was!” “He’s close!”…. I didn’t want to know that. I wanted to know where the fuck this little kid was….because I had been guiding him down my birth canal for months in my mind… “CMON, BABY”. I was getting heated, angry…”OSIRIS, WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU,” I heard in my head… THEN…a h-u-g-e POP. While  for a nanosecond I did a “WTF OMG UTERUS RUPTURE”, I then  heard my mind say “FUCK THAT WAS MY WATERS!”. Confirmed by the midwife…Yup. Check that off the list, too. Immediately after, I told Frank…”Frank! I want YOU to catch the baby!” (We had talked and before he didn’t feel comfortable with the thought of catching OR cutting the cord).

Ooo, Baby, baby… Ah….Push It Real Good

Now, if you haven’t been lucky enough to push with hot compresses on your perineum, let me tell you this… I’d marry Lael if I planned to have more children. Warm water counter pressure on my prized perineum? I didn’t even feel pain while pushing! Lael used fancy pure olive oil (out of our pantry) to lube my chute and I was loud and encouraged to be louder… but I think I was yelling because I had expected pain and I was pissed that I wasn’t feeling any. Like maybe I wasn’t pushing HARD enough? “Oh yeah? Take this!” Two more pushes, a Chewbacca cry and out came my baby. How’d I know he was coming out?? I heard Ruthie’s war cry…”FRANK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”…He was downstairs getting more hot water.  He ran up the stairs and scooped up his son. Ruthie jetted downstairs to wake up June (she couldn’t find her at first…June fell off the couch and ended up under the coffee table).

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I stayed on my hands and knees for a moment. I didn’t even turn around to look at the baby. I was so amazed with my body and then heard the baby cry…I knew he was okay, with his dad…and I had to soak in my moment. I did it. I FUCKING DID IT. I kept saying it. Over and over.

Osiris Nova was born October 18th, 2012 at 2:28AM. He was 7lbs even, 19 inches long. 3 ½ hours of active labor and 20(ish) minutes of pushing. No tearing. No stitches. No pain.

I finally felt someone pick up my leg and toss me over after I even made an excuse like “I don’t want to kick the baby!” (eyeroll). I was put on my back and looked around the room. Osiris, Frank, Lael, Ruthie, Leah, Clara (who had fallen asleep next to me, on her mama), Sophia and my Grandma Bonney. I raised my arm in the air and yelled, “I DID IT!!!!!”. I kept sarcastically yelling things like…”16 months between? No we won’t VBAC you”…”vaginal after 2 c-sections? Are you crazy?” “What if you rupture?!!”. Oh, and an epic…”SOMEONE TAKE A PICTURE OF THIS *cord hanging out* AND SEND IT TO MY MOTHER IN LAW WITH THE CAPTION: NOT EVEN A TEAR!” (she isn’t very pro homebirth…).

June was nervous…Lots of things going on to be woken up to. A room full of happy smiling ladies, a naked mommy, a crying baby and a bowl of placenta. She was glued to her daddy, just figuring out what was happening. My mom came within minutes of getting a phone call, at the same time Judy made her way. Once Judy and my mom arrived, June warmed up and welcomed her brother with a smile (and a poke into his soft spot…sigh…siblings).

Frank cut the cord and there we were… They handed Osiris  to me and I had to make a point to say he smelt WONDERFUL. Birth and pure olive oil. I can still smell it. And I hope I never forget. Osiris latched almost instantly, only after grabbing my nipple with his fist. Boy has grip.

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Not Broken

I mentioned how I idolized Judy…But it’s funny. I felt like I could do this because I had her as my midwife. People would ask if I was nervous and I’d reply, “No! I have the best midwife EVER!”…But really, I could do it all along. Her care and her confidence in my body directed me to trust and believe in myself. Even when we first met, on a park bench while June was running around and climbing all over, I knew she’d be a big aspect of this birth. She apologized for missing it…And I replied that she didn’t miss a thing. It meant I had a great midwife and she prepped me well, inside and out. She gave me power through her knowledge and faith in birth. I am forever changed. I did it.

Judy and Lael never saw me as damaged goods. They never lost faith in me. I was never actually broken or destroyed like I felt for the last 3 years.

And, while I can highlight how amazed I am that they believed in me, the most amazing thing is that I believed in myself. I read the studies of VBACs, I knew the risks of a homebirth VBAC and I decided that for me, my baby and for my family, a homebirth after 2 c-sections was right. I am so happy with this birth. It was perfect.

Now, 2 weeks after the birth, here I am with my squishy baby, next to a rockstar big sister and the most amazing father. Frank has been more than supportive through all of this, and he even pushed himself further than he expected. He caught his son, went downstairs for a Guinness and came back up (after the cord stopped pulsing, of course!), set his Guinness down on the window ledge and cut the cord. Osiris brought us so many things… new friends, a whole new community of people and support, the inspiration to go (back) to college, new job opportunities… Our family is closer than ever…Frank and June literally fight me to hold Osiris. I only get to see my sweet boy when he wants a boob!

A little funny about those Birth Beads I thought I lost… I woke up on my first day as a mother of 2 with a kink in my neck. I had slept on something and  reached into the pillow case that I had bit into during pushing, the pillow that I moaned into, basically, my life link during labor… Sure enough, there they were. I had my beads the whole time.

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I want to thank everyone that played into this wonderful experience…Even went it was tough, having my groupies made it worth every moment of confusion and misdirection. We have found our way now that Osiris is here…And know that we appreciate every little bit and cherish our relationship together. This little guy began more than just his own life…He changed ours and will continue to inspire us (just as his sister inspired us to grow the fudge up 3 ½ years ago). I could’ve done this without you…But I’m glad I had ya’ll! Special thanks (in no special order, except Ruthie): Ruthie and Matt Davis, Morgynne Rees, Jasmin Miltose, Rachel and Mark Hanses, June Melissa Park, Diana Hurwitz, Sophia Williams, Judy Luce, Lael Stimming, Leah and Clara Coppa, Jordan Cummings, Lynne Gomez, Lynn Heinisch, Elizabeth Ochoa, Ellie Cook, Yvonne Hightshoe, Kristi McCoy and all those along the way that believed in us!

Photographer: Sophia Williams of Sophia’s Special Deliveries. You can see more photos of this birth and many others at Sophia’s facebook page or website.

A Supported TOLA2C Cesarean Birth Story

A Supported TOLA2C Cesarean Birth Story

A little background about why I started to seek out a way to birth the way I knew my body was able to.

First we start with my first born, Bridgit, who is currently 4 and half.  She’s a spit fire just like her mom, who knows what she wants and will do what it takes to get it.  I did spontaneously go into labor with her.  My water had broken in the middle of the night.  We of course went straight to the hospital.  There they immediately put me on Pitocin.  After 6 hours of Pitocin I was asking for an epidural.  6 hours after the epidural I still had not progressed passed a 2.  My OB at the time stated, “You can have a C-section now, or you can wait to see what happens in another 12 hours and have a C-section.”  Not knowing what I know now, I opted to have the C-section.  I mean shoot, if it was going to happen anyways might as well beat it to the punch right?  She was brought into the world via C-section on Dec 22, 2007 @ 3:58pm CST.  Recovery wasn’t so bad either.

Next is my second sweet and adorable boy, Brenden.  Currently 20 months.  I continued care with the same OB I saw with Bridgit.  At 38 weeks, he was still high up, cervix thick, and my OB opted that it could be a fit issue, and recommended a repeat C-section as he wasn’t going to let me go past 40 weeks.  Again, not knowing what I know now I agreed and figured my body was broken and just didn’t know what to do.  Brenden was born via repeat C-section Nov 18, 2010 @ 1:09pm CST.  The recovery was much different, and the feeling of him being taken from my body is one I remember and never wanted to experience again.

At the end of Oct 2010 I got the surprise of a lifetime… I’m pregnant again!  And in Colorado (we just moved from Texas to CO) I started to seek out information on VBAC’s and my chances of being able to achieve this.  At first I stuck with OB care, and of course that OB was very against me wanting to VBAC.  She put the fear in my husband at our 20 wk appointment.  But it still didn’t seem right.  I just knew if my body could get pregnant that I could birth this baby to, or even let myself have the chance at labor! I attended an ICAN meeting with my husband and upon listening to the information given there; we were armed with the knowledge that I can do this!

I first got a doula, Lisa, whom we clicked with right away and were very excited to get her onboard.  She was so supportive and it felt great to have someone on my team that knew I could do this.   I was also on the move to find a new care provider.  Upon recommendation from ICAN leader, I sought out care at with a midwife group at the local hopsital.  They too were on board with my plans to TOLAC (trial of labor after caesarean) and to VBAC.  Now it was time to get myself mentally prepared and ready to tackle the biggest challenge I’ve faced head on.

My guess date came and went.  I was okay with this.  I knew my best chances to achieve this was to let him come on his own.  The hospital and midwifery group had a policy to induce by 41 weeks 5 days.  I was able to get that pushed back until 42 weeks.

July 15th was the set date.  I called up at 6am and they said they had room for me!  So we packed up and headed on down to the hospital.   We arrived right on time, only to our surprise that about 7 other momma’s decided it was time to go into labor, and took up all the available rooms.  Already being downtown, we decided to stay and wait.  Finally around 12pm we were told I had a room.  We get up to the room, and continued to wait some more until a nurse came in to get me all settled.  It wasn’t until much later that the IV was placed and a little later that the Pitocin was started.  This is when I like to think that my labor started.  So at 3:50pm my Pitocin was started at a very low dose, and my doula was on her way.  I had already sent my husband home because our two children were done being at the hospital.

When my doula arrived, contractions weren’t much so we decided to get up and walk around to try and help things along.  We did several laps around the labor and delivery floor.  I made sure to include squats, and lunges.  The staff thought it great to see me working at getting labor in a groove.  They slowly increased the dose of Pitocin, and slowly contractions got closer and more regular.  At one point my midwife came in to recommend some sleep options.  As I didn’t want to be groggy, I opted to just rest on my own.  Which I did get some sleep, although it was not enough for what I had ahead of me.

Mel's TOLA2C

The morning of the 16th, I was checked to find that I had made some progress and we could now talk about doing the Foley Bulb.  I knew that I would need some more help in the dilating process as I did have some small amount of cervical scar tissue for a leep several years ago.  Mind you at this time I still had not opted for any pain medication, and was starting to be very vocal (low moans) with my contractions.  I was very internal, I kept to myself and thoughts in my head were just one step closer.  They inserted the Foley catheter and boy oh boy you want to talk about one of the most intense things ever!  It was painful, and had me so wanting to scream our code word for pain help.  (Our code word was Yo Gabba Gabba, my son’s favorite TV show.)   My doula sat on the bed with me and talked me through each contraction and each moment that I just wanted that damn thing out!  After about an hour they came to check, giving the catheter a little tug to see if it would budge.  It wouldn’t budge.  So I had to sit with it for another hour.  It didn’t want to end!  It seemed like forever with that thing in me!

Mel pushing during a TOLA2C

The nurse came to check after another hour passed.  She gave it a little tug, and it was loose!!  Thank the powers that be!  As she pulled it out… I swear that thing was the size of a peach and felt so great to be out of my body.  Upon a cervical check I was confirmed and a 3-4.  I got in the tub again, and we did more walking.  I tried to rest more.  I also sat on the birthing stool since that was one of my favorite places.  At this point I lost more of my mucous plug and started to have a bloody show.   I  called up my husband and he was there.  It was such a relief to have my husband.  It was such a pillar of support that I needed but had no idea how important it was to have him there.  When he walked with me, we danced through contractions, and I even cried on his shoulder.  He just held me and it felt great to be in his arms!  From that point on I knew I didn’t want him to leave my side.

Husband helping

Things continued to get stronger as the Pitocin was slowly increased more and more.  Eventually things got really intense through the night and I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore!  I needed some pain relief as the contractions and lack of sleep were bringing on the tears. I actually screamed our code word!  Instead we opted for the Fentanyl.  It was wonderful relief! Although around this time was when they put in an internal scalp/contraction monitor to make sure all was going ok.  I was able to move around a bit more and feel much better about things.  But my labor had started to stall.  At this point I had been on Pitocin for about 32 hours. Upon discussing with the nurses and midwifes it was time to turn off the Pitocin, get some rest, and see if my body would keep up the labor, or we would have to turn it on. I was at a 5-6, very vocal through each contraction or even cry, and the tub didn’t help manage things.  No matter of talking/coaching seemed to help get me through.  Not to mention I had managed to throw up whatever food I had left in my belly.  Throwing up is a big deal to me and was a point I didn’t like very much.  TRANSITION.

I also spiked with a fever, which also with transition meant no more eating.  When that time was up I was almost scared to start the Pitocin back up.  I knew it meant more labor and more pain was on its way.  I was so done at that point.  The discussion for a C-section started at that time.  It was about 2 or 3 in the morning. If it weren’t for Lisa, my husband, and a wonderful team of nurses and midwives, I would’ve been on the path to another C-section.  But they convinced me to continue to labor on.  The new plan was to get an epidural, rest, and to start back up the pit at a normal pace.  I was able to get some rest.

On July 17th, about 40 hours into labor, getting the epidural was painful.  I managed to jerk upon insertion causing the poor doc to lose the spot.  She had to try another 2 times to get it to go in and work.  Even when it did it worked more on my right side, and had to rest on my left side to help move the medicine.  This helped but only so much.  I was able to rest. I recall thinking to myself I feel like I need to push.  I could feel my body curling around my body.  I was checked and sure enough I was 9cm and baby’s head was half way out of my cervix.  We were so excited!  Who knew I’d get this far!  I was ready to take it on! By this time I had one of my favorite midwife’s on board, Beth.  I was so ready to get the pushing party started and get the VBAC I always wanted.  I can remember being so thrilled and telling myself my body was not broken!

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I did some practice pushing, and as I did this each contraction intensified!  I was working hard.  I could feel him moving down.  I was getting excited.  Beth was also trying to help by pushing up on my pubic bone to help get Blaine’s head down.  He had gone from LOA to LOT and his head was kind of in a funky position.  We tried different positions to aid in pushing, as well as fingers constantly on that bone to help move that pubic bone out of the way.  At one point I was grabbing on my leg so hard that I left bruises.  By hour 2 of pushing Beth said “we can either keep going for another hour upon which we’ll have to confer with the OB’s to see what they’d like to do”.  The contractions were intense I could feel every one.  I was slowly losing steam.  I wanted to keep going.  Things started to slow again. I was getting exhausted.  Not to mention I had gotten sick again, and with nothing in my stomach I had lost all the water I was drinking.  I even got so sick that bile had come up too.  I was also getting so hot that no matter how they applied a cold cloth or sprayed cold water on me I couldn’t keep cool.  I was still pushing but losing steam and fast!  Hour 3 dawned upon us and it was time for Beth to go confer with the OB’s.

An OB came in, and with my next push continued on with what Beth was doing to my pubic bone.  Only this time it was excruciating.  I couldn’t bare it.  I screamed at her to get her hands out of me, even mixed in a few obscenities as well.  I almost kicked her and had I been able to move my legs better, I may have.  Finally after the contraction calmed, the suggestion was to bring in another OB who could help move the baby’s head and from there use forceps or vacuum to aid in getting him out.  I looked at my husband & Lisa and we both had that look of “NO WAY!!!”  At this time everyone left the room and I spoke with my husband.  I cried and cried because I was out of gas.  Something in my body was telling me that the pushing was done.  This baby needed to come out and he wasn’t coming via subway tunnel (my vagina).  As much as I wanted my VBAC I wanted my baby out just as badly.  My body just knew it was done and there was an unknown reason for it too.  So it was agreed to do C-section.  I was also later told that the OB was actually moving the baby’s head and in doing so also discovered an anomaly of a point in my pubic bone area, the reason why baby wouldn’t move down, and that even if we got baby’s head moved and down, the body may not have been deliverable.  Basically a heart shaped pelvis with some anomaly at the bottom.

At almost exactly 48 hours of the start of my Pitocin it was agreed that we would do C-section.  By this time I was laying on the bed naked as I had soaked myself in my own vomit.  I was hot, and in tears.  Part of me felt like I failed.  Lisa then reminded me of how far I’ve come, that I was able to get to complete and to push.  I wasn’t giving up I was doing what my body needed.  There was so much going on at this point.  Everyone moved fast, while I laid there and cried as another contraction would come and I didn’t want to push any more, which was terribly painful and I think I even gave in to push at some point.  I eventually got more pain medicine, and was able to rest.  I heard mention of Chorio (infection of the uterus), but it didn’t really dawn on me.  I just knew baby had to get out and hopefully it wasn’t that bad.  In the OR I was better explained what Chorio was, but was shaking uncontrollably.  I couldn’t relax. I was tense and continued to shake.  Eventually my husband and midwife came in.  My husband rubbed my neck as they started the surgery.  They did have an issue with scar tissue which took some time.  But I was concentrating on not shaking, breathing, and staying calm.  I was still really hot, and shaky, from the adrenaline.  The OB’s made mention of puss around the baby and in my bag of waters.  I didn’t hear this, but reminded of it later.

CBA2C attempted VBA2C

CBA2C

I soon heard the screams of my son!  I cried and cried.  I did it!  I didn’t care how it happened, I did it!  My midwife looked at me too and said you did it Melena.  All that hard work and you have your baby boy!  My husband was off to take pictures and cut the cord.  I cried and cried!  It wasn’t a failure after all.  My son was safely brought into the world and would soon be in my arms.  He was soon brought to me where I just couldn’t take eyes off of him.  I stroked him with my free hand and told him how much I loved him.  My husband was so happy, and looked at me with such love.  All that hard work he said, and we now have our little boy.

CBA2C

Blaine Carter Cox was born 4:35pm, almost 49 hours from the start of Pitocin.  In recovery he immediately latched.  It wasn’t until the next day that I was properly informed of the puss and that he would have to endure 7 days of antibiotics.  He was a pro at nursing from the start and did wonderfully.  It was a wonder if he was ever really sick from the infection of my uterus, but we stayed on the side of caution.  While in the hospital my blood pressure was high but I think I was just stressed of seeing my wonderful baby boy getting poked to get an IV, and having to endure that.  Not to mention it took me some time to come to terms with the infection of my uterus.

I realized that I had done everything I could do to have him vaginally.  It wasn’t in my cards.  I did everything I could.  I was strong.  I did the best I could ever do by waiting for him to come on his own and to labor as long as possible.  He came just the way he was meant too.  I showed strength I never thought I had.  My husband still calls me his momma bear.

We finally came home on July 25th.

HBAC with PROM, Fast Dilation, Long Pushing Stage {Previous Cesarean with Twins}

HBAC with PROM, Fast Dilation, Long Pushing Stage {Previous Cesarean with Twins}

My water broke at 10pm on Saturday night. It was a distinct popping sensation, followed by a gush of fluid that left me in no doubt about what had just happened. It was the night before my due date, and one way or another, my third son would be earthside soon.

Now, maybe I should back up to clarify that this was the night before my earliest due date. I’d had three at this point. One based on the standard 40 weeks after last menstrual period. Then another, slightly sooner, accounting for a shorter-than-average cycle & meticulous record keeping. Then another even sooner based on baby’s bigger than average size at my 20-week sono.

Having that sonogram not only changed my due date, but filled my heart with so much reassurance. You see, this was my third son, but only my second pregnancy as last time, I’d had twin boys. I’d had my first sonogram with them at 11 weeks because something told me it was necessary. That day we’d discovered that I was both pregnant with twins, and that they had some developmental issues which would bear watching. I threw myself into research to combat the fear of that pregnancy. I learned about twin pregnancies. Twin infancies. Each of the health issues they had. I learned and learned and learned about everything but informed birth.

Ultimately, I had eleven more sonograms of varying types for my twins. And they were born prematurely, at 35 weeks, growth restricted and via cesarean section without a single contraction, let alone a trial of labor. A whopping three and four pounds respectively. Had I known then what I know now, different decisions may have been made, or may not, but ultimately what I regret most about that pregnancy & birth was that I made their birth decisions based on fear, not solid information combined with faith in God. Oh, regret.

So fast forward to my first, and only, sonogram with what I now knew was a sweet singleton boy. I watched the acronyms and abbreviations pop up on the screen and read them out to my husband through tears of joy. Average. Healthy. A few days big. This was a boon to my mama’s heart and seemed like nothing short of a miracle.

I’d been introduced to the beauty of natural birth about a year before that sono, when a dear friend asked me to photograph her out-of-hospital birth center birth. Friends, I dearly hope she shares that birth some day because watching it through my camera absolutely changed me. She gave me such a gift. And I began to learn and learn and learn again, but this time there was no going back to the old obstetrical model of care.

So when I discovered I was pregnant a second time, I found a great home birth midwife, and set out to make things different. I researched & prayed & waited. There were a million legal reasons I might have to transfer my care to an OB, but every time I prayed about that fear, the gentle answer I would receive was, “Then I’ll walk with you through that, too.” The last pregnancy had been about fear. This one was about learning to trust.

So my water broke on Saturday night. I text my midwife, doula and my sweet friend whose birth I’d photographed, who had agreed to be photographer for me. I told them I’d not had any contractions, but my water was definitely broken and I’d keep them informed. My husband and I straightened up a bit, gathered our birth supplies, and I went to bed envisioning my Sunday baby.

I had irregular, light contractions all that night. They were tough to sleep through, but that was anticipation talking more than pain. I finally gave up on sleep about 7 am & woke my husband so he could get the twins up & ready to spend the day with their grandparents. Contractions started to become regular around 9 or 9:30 am, mostly because my midwife suggested the use of castor oil & my body revolted against that plan. Or so I believe.

My wonderful doula arrived just before the big boys left, around 10, and the midwife arrived to check me out not long after that. Things were going beautifully, if slowly, so I continued to labor in peace while my midwife left to check on another mama. The day passed and I tried everything. Every trick in the bag. My midwife had returned, my doula never left, and I was bouncing in and out of labor land. My husband was a rock for me the entire time, holding my hand, holding me up physically and emotionally all day long. Finally, the midwife checked me about 8pm for the first time. 22 hours after my water had broken and I was dilated a whopping 4 centimeters. I’d read enough birth stories at this point not to be discouraged, though. I knew it could change rapidly at any point.

So my midwife suggested I get into the birth tub, a true miracle of the modern age, and gave me the go ahead to try some “grunty pushing.” That was an hour of bliss. It felt so, so good to take some action. I was horrible at letting labor just happen, awful at relaxing through the contractions. Pushing. Was. GOOD. And by the end of that hour in the tub I was fully dilated and ready to push for real. It was 9pm on Sunday.

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Again, we tried everything. Every position. EVERY position. I pushed and pushed and talked and grunted and moaned. People kept telling me to stop sending all my power out through my voice and start sending it down through my body, and I knew that was good advice but try as I may I couldn’t make that happen. I was pushing to a mental count of 15, but my body was only effectively pushing for a couple seconds of that time. I just couldn’t figure out how to make my body do what I wanted it to. I was frustrated, exhausted and so disappointed in myself. Why couldn’t I make it work?

Finally, around 3am on Monday, my midwife began to talk about transfer to a hospital. She was well past the limit of what she was technically allowed to let me do while she attended me. This was true, but at the time I didn’t realize she was making a play to see if I could kick it into high gear. I cried and begged her not to give up on me. I prayed aloud. My husband went through the house hurriedly packing us a hospital bag. I pushed with all I could muster, but at this point I’d lost three nights of sleep and my tank was empty. Not just mine, but my whole birth team as well. My friend and photographer told me later that she was wondering if she’d even be able to drive a car to the hospital through the haze of exhaustion and tropical storm Isaac, which had set in hours before. There were buckets and buckets of rain and heavy wind howling around outside going unnoticed by me.

My midwife eventually relented, and made a deal with me. If I could lie down in my bed for an hour, stop pushing and relax as much as possible through the contractions to help recharge my battery, then she’d agree to help me push a while more before we decided to transfer. I agreed; I would have agreed to almost anything to keep me out of the hospital. Everyone lay down, including me, and for about 2 contractions I really tried my best to resist pushing. But that was really, truly the only part of the birth that was genuinely awful. I’d reached the point when my body just couldn’t be ignored. I tried to sleep between contractions, and push as gently as I could when a contraction came on. I just couldn’t NOT push, though.

I have no idea how long I lasted that way, it could have been 5 minutes or an hour, before the midwife’s assistant came in to check on me & take the baby’s vitals. She never ended up leaving because it was clear to both of us that I was fighting a losing battle. She knelt next to the bed, encouraged me, soothed me & did everything she could to help. I’m not sure how it happened, but everyone was eventually back in the room and we were working in earnest again.

My doula was pressing on my belly with the contractions, which felt wonderful, and getting me to drink, and then chew ice. My bladder had become painfully full while I lay down, but the baby was pressing too hard on it even for a catheter to be inserted (we did try!), so it simply had to be lived with. The midwife & her assistant were applying warm compresses, anointing me with what seemed like buckets of warm olive oil, checking heart tones and encouraging me. Everyone present was holding a leg or a hand, working incredibly hard right alongside me. I never learned to make my body work exactly the way I wanted it to, but my pushes became somewhat more effective than they had been earlier in the evening, and after several more hours, my sweet baby boy finally made his way out.

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Fist up against one side of his face, cord looped up against the other, he still managed to cope with the long labor and pushing beautifully. He made his big debut at 8:06am on Monday; 34 hours after my water broke, 11 hours after I started pushing in earnest. My doula asked me, as I was sitting up in bed holding my brand new son what I’d thought: I admitted it was much, much harder than I thought it would be. But also that I’d never do it any other way. This was the complete opposite of how I’d felt after my section. That day I’d felt that the pain was never as bad as it had been advertised, but also that I never, ever wanted to go through that again. This, THIS day was the day I had wanted all along. This was me getting the desire of my heart, and also learning just how much work I’d put in to get it. And, above all, knowing that God had walked with me every single step of the way. It was the hardest, and also the best, thing I’ve ever done.

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Birth photos by Tara Rojas at Tara Lynn Photography

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