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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And IT WAS.

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

Thanks BWF!

{Desiree}

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Empowering VBAC from Dad’s POV

Empowering VBAC from Dad’s POV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Empowering VBAC from Mom’s POV

Empowering VBAC from Mom’s POV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We did it! I did it!

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Natural VBAC Without Fear

Natural VBAC Without Fear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Night and day different from my first birth experience!

My life is forever changed because of this experience!

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Healing Hospital VBAC Picture

Healing Hospital VBAC Picture

I just recently had my daughter (almost 3 weeks ago) and I’ve had several ladies tell me I should share this photo from my birth… so here it is!

We had a beautiful, wonderful, healing VBAC in a hospital and this picture says everything. The support that I had from my doctor, my nurses, my doula, my husband, and even my birth photographer was incredible.

This is me squatting in the hospital room floor right as my daughter (all 9 lbs and 10 oz of her!) is crowning,  while my husband, my doula, and my nurse are supporting me. My awesome doctor is on his hands and knees next to me, getting ready to catch my daughter. How incredibly blessed we were for getting this experience after an unwanted (and unnecessary) c-section with my son two years before. Such an amazing and healing experience.

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{By Samantha Miller}
{Photo by Sweet Pickel Photography}

My Healing Hospital VBAC

My Healing Hospital VBAC

To tell Mel’s birth story, I have to say a few words about Katherine’s and Laeney’s birth stories.

Laeney’s birth was a hospital induction. At my final ultrasound, my doctor told me my placenta was failing and she was losing weight in the womb. They told me she would only be 4 lbs and might have to be transferred to a NICU 40 miles away. She was born, healthy, weighing 6 lbs 3 oz and although I didn’t suffer any adverse effects, I felt cheated. I didn’t even get to go into labor on my own and desperately wanted something different for my next baby.

Nearly 4 years later, during my pregnancy with Katherine, I knew I wanted a homebirth. I dreamed of bringing our baby earthside, surrounded by my friends and family, in the peace and love of our own home. Unfortunately, I ended up with a nightmare instead. My water broke at 25 weeks and we had a traumatic emergency c-section at 30 weeks due to an amniotic infection, followed by a 46 day NICU stay. My c-section was brutal. The spinal block was only effective on one side of my body and my daughter’s heart rate was dropping, so they cut me anyway, even though I could feel it. Once she was delivered into the hands of the NICU team, I completely lost my composure and started screaming uncontrollably and flailing on the operating table trying to escape from the pain. The anesthesiologist put me under and I woke up in recovery terrified for my baby. When I was finally able to see her, I could only hold her for a few minutes. I’ve never cried so much.

I grieved for my pregnancy. I grieved over my birth. I grieved for my child’s start in this life. I grieved over leaving her in the NICU and having to go home, 40 miles away. I hated my body for doing this to my child. For doing this to me. I agonized over what I could have done differently that would have kept her inside me even one day longer. I would break down sobbing when I saw other pregnant women in public. I felt jealous and cheated and angry.I suffered through PPD and PTSD and remember very little of my daughter’s first year on this earth.

Fast forward three years and we found out we were pregnant with our third child. In my heart, I was terrified of going back to the hospital and desperately wanted a healing homebirth. But my husband was so traumatized by Katherine’s birth, he didn’t want to take the risk of staying home. So I found a midwife group that supported my decisions about my care and forged ahead, planning a hospital VBAC.

It was a terrifying, nerve wracking, healthy pregnancy. I had nightmares from the day I got that positive test result. PTSD is rough, and the triggers never really go away. We had lost two babies between Katherine and Mel, so I breathed a little easier at 12 weeks. We were out of the worst danger zone and baby was still hanging in there. When we passed 24 weeks (the age of viability), my fears eased even more. 25 weeks, 2 days, the day my water broke with Katherine,it seemed like I held my breath all day. Then 30 weeks came and went without a hiccup. (Well, with lots of in-utero, tickly baby hiccups, but you know what I mean.)

My husband and I both slept a little better once we passed that milestone. At that point, we were finally able to really embrace our pregnancy. We were having another little girl and it looked like she was going to go all the way and be big and healthy!!

I was beside myself when we made it to 36 weeks. I couldn’t believe my body was doing it! I was growing a big healthy baby and nothing was going to stop me from bringing this baby earthside, peacefully and naturally, with my husband and midwife. Yeah!

Until my 36 week appointment. I found out my insurance had dropped my coverage. So, at less than a month til my EDD and 3 days after Christmas, I was on the phone every day trying to get things straightened around. And every person that I talked to had a different reason to NOT put me back on my insurance. Without coverage, my midwife group dropped my care. I was terrified. What would happen when I showed up to the hospital in labor, with no midwife and no insurance? Would they force me into another c-section? Would they call child protective services on me for not having prenatal care for the last month? I decided to just show up at the hospital, basically ready to push this baby out. I would rather have her in the car on the way there, than be faced with another c-section.

Feeling pretty empowered, my pregnancy progressed past 39 weeks (woo hoo, FULL TERM!!!) I had gained 40 lbs and was so big, people (including my mother) insisted every single day that there must be twins, and one was just hiding on the ultrasound. The Saturday and Sunday after I hit 39 weeks just felt different. I was even more tired than usual. Having a lot of gross discharge. Only sleeping a couple hours at a time because my hips hurt so badly. Just being generally miserable. It was January and we had a winter weather warning, it was supposed to be -40 degrees F with the wind chill. My husband worked outside and requested that I have the baby on Monday so he wouldn’t have to go to work. He even talked to my belly and asked the baby to please come on Sunday night. HA! Ask and you shall receive, husband!

Saturday and Sunday I was having weak, lame-o contractions 10 minutes apart all day and all night. They were annoying, but not painful, but they were making my back really hurt. I bounced on the birth ball and walked around as much as I could in the house, but nothing really happened yet. So around 7 o’clock Sunday night, I broke out my breast pump and I power pumped for 40 minutes. I got 4 oz of colostrum (seriously, 4 oz before the baby is even born?! Who does that?), but no stronger contractions. They did pick up a little, going from 10 minutes apart to seven minutes apart. After the pumping, contractions spaced back out to 10 minutes again and I got discouraged, told my husband it wasn’t happening that night, and we went to sleep around 11.

3:34 am,WHOA! Umm, ouch! Calm down in there, baby. I thought you weren’t coming tonight? Since I felt like my bladder was about to burst, I got up, peed, and climbed back in bed. I had a mild contraction while I was up. As soon as I laid back down, another crazy one ripped through my body. Holy crap! This might be it! I started timing them. Two minutes later, another one hit and lasted a whole minute! 2 minutes later, another one! And another one after that! WOO! I woke my husband to tell him that I was in labor and he freaked out.

“What?! Is it time?! Are we going to the hospital now?!” I told him to calm down, that I wanted to labor at home until I felt it was time to go, and to go back to sleep. Honestly, I just wanted to be alone with my baby to center myself and power through those awesome contractions. I was beyond excited. I had never gone into labor on my own and I was really curious what it would be like.

I walked back and forth in the living room and swayed over a side table and hummed through each contraction. I got on Facebook and updated my private mom groups and I texted my best friend. I felt amazing and powerful and beautiful. I imagined my baby inside me, poised, ready to meet the world. In my mind’s eye, I saw my cervix glowing bright and hot as each contraction pulled it open a little more.

An hour passed like that. I called my sister down to make me a snack but couldn’t eat more than a couple bites. I ran a warm bath to try to take the edge off the intense back pain that was coming with each contraction. But I couldn’t stay in the tub longer than about 10 minutes. My body wanted me up and moving! Around 5:30 I woke my husband up and told him it was time. He ran around like a crazy person, grabbing all of our things I wanted to take with us. He went out to start the car since it was so cold and my mother called and wanted to talk to me. A contraction hit and I just yelled at the phone and threw it back at my sister. “She doesn’t really want to talk right now.” I heard her say. Then we got in the car.

That was the most painful drive ever. I couldn’t move through the contractions. I was vocalizing loudly and started to feel out of control. I felt pinned to the seat by the pain. And they were coming hard and fast, only a minute apart and a minute long. I wanted to climb out of the car and run away. We had just had an ice storm and the roads were AWFUL. The 15 minute drive to the hospital took 40 minutes and we arrived somewhere around 6:30. We parked in the garage and headed up to labor and delivery. My husband grabbed a wheelchair and wheeled me through the hospital between contractions. It was too painful to stay seated the entire time, so I got down on my hands and knees when each one hit. We checked into labor and delivery and they started monitoring me.

When the nurse checked me, I was 4 cm. My brain came out of my labor haze. “Only four?!”

“Four is great!” she said. “You’re doing amazing!”

A young doctor came in and told me that he would have to perform an ultrasound to make sure baby was head down. She was and he estimated her at 8 and a half pounds. He checked my chart. By some miracle, my surgical records had finally come through and I was cleared for my VBAC!!

The nurse came back, “We have to move to a delivery room, now. Here if you want to put this gown–“

“NO!! I don’t want to wear that!”

“Ok, well can we just wrap it around you?”

I guess the rest of the hospital didn’t appreciate a full term pregnant woman walking the halls naked. I made it to the delivery room with only a couple stops in the hall. A nurse came in and asked if I wanted the epidural. No, I can do this. My husband was my rock. He kept telling me how wonderful I was doing and how powerful I was. They checked me again. 6 cm. Okay, making progress.

My brain totally disengaged at this point. My nurse kept trying to talk to me, asking me questions, but I was just sitting on the edge of the bed, utterly focused on the contractions and my baby. It was like she was speaking another language.

I was hooked up the the monitor, trapped on the bed, and the pain was inescapable. I couldn’t even get down on all fours to get through the contractions. At this point, I was no longer vocalizing, I was screaming as each contraction peaked and felt totally out of control.

Another nurse came in right when a contraction hit and asked if I wanted the epidural again. “YES! Give me the epidural!!”

My husband rubbed my back. “No, honey, you don’t want it, remember? You can do this. You’re strong. You’re doing amazing. You can do this.”

“I can’t do it.”

“You can. I know you can.”

I started crying, “I can’t. Please. It hurts too much. I can’t do it. Please.”

He buckled under the tears. “Get her the epidural!”

A million years later, the anesthesiologist came in to do the epidural. He was great and it was very light. It only took the edge off the contractions and brought them down to a level that was bearable. I could still feel them all and even stand up. It was perfect. I relaxed and we waited.

As soon as the epidural took effect, the nurse checked me again and my husband walked down the hall to grab a snack (and try to sneak me something to eat as well). I was at 8 cm with a bulging bag. I couldn’t believe I made it to 8 cm on my own! I kind of felt like a wimp for caving in when I was so close. The doctor wanted to break my water but I asked her not to and she didn’t press the point. My baby was so close. I called my husband and he ran back upstairs without the food (sadly).

A little while later I felt something warm and wet on my thighs and reached down. My hand came back up covered in blood. I called my nurse and she brought in the doctor. I was 9 1/2 cm with an anterior lip. She asked again about breaking my water saying that the baby’s head against my cervix would help it finish opening and get rid of that lip. I agreed and she ruptured it. There was a little meconium in the water, but baby still looked good on the monitor. They left us alone so I could finish dilating.

A few more contractions and I started to feel pushy. I could feel her head descending through the birth canal and knew it was time. I called the nurse to “check me” and told her I was feeling pushy. She tried to check and only felt baby’s head. “OH! Baby!!” she said.

We were at a learning hospital so within seconds there were four OBs between my legs, four pediatricians by the warmer, about eight nurses scattered around, and three anesthesiologists in the back of the room. PUSH!

I pushed. And I pushed. And I pushed again. She crowned. One of the OBs said “Look at all that hair!”Really? Try to focus, Doctor. PUSH! Man, her head was so big!PUSH!Too big! PUSH! I can’t! She won’t fit! PUSH! NO, ouch!! PUSH! Just take her out! I can’t do it! PUSH!

“Her head is out! One more big push!” Her shoulders were born and then the rest of her.

And there she was. After nine months. Perfect, beautiful, healthy. And fat!! Whoah, fat, rolly baby! She was 8 lbs 10 oz (which is almost as much as my other two daughters’ birth weights combined). They put her on my chest and she just laid there. She never cried, she just snuggled on me and looked at my face. We hadn’t decided on a name yet and my husband looked at her and looked at me. “She’s definitely a Melanie.” After seeing her, he picked the name I had wanted. We just laid there skin to skin for what seemed like hours. She didn’t show any signs of wanting to nurse for quite awhile, so we just snuggled.

It was a perfect birth. Even though I had planned a natural birth, I don’t feel guilty about the epidural. It allowed me to relax and truly enjoy the perfect birth of my daughter. I was glowing with happiness. I did it. I grew a full term, healthy baby. I went into labor on my own and I pushed that baby out! But taking her home after only 24 hours in the hospital, only having left my side for 10 minutes to have her hearing test, was the truly healing part.

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And Baby Makes 9 {HBA4C In Australia}

And Baby Makes 9 {HBA4C In Australia}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My body, my baby, my birth.

vbac without fear

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