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My CBAVBAC – Cesarean Birth After VBAC

My CBAVBAC – Cesarean Birth After VBAC

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

The birth of my sweet Kelsie.

Every labor is different.

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

I wasn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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No. Change. At. All.

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

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

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

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

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

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Even the nurses knew that Kelsie was in charge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CBAC: The Birth of Ingrid Alexandra

CBAC: The Birth of Ingrid Alexandra

In the “birthy world”, CBAC or “Cesarean Birth After Cesarean” refers to a belly birth that was initially planned to be a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). In cases like this, sometimes simply saying “repeat cesarean” negates the significance of the decision to birth again via cesarean. As someone who has personally travelled this road, I share the story of my second child’s birth, a family-centered, gentle cesarean, in the hopes that it can bring healing and comfort to others whose birth stories may not have gone *quite* as planned.

The dense heat of the Florida summer air hit my face as I opened the car door. I was parched, despite sneaking a few sips of water to keep that nasty, constant companion of heartburn at bay. At 41 weeks 1 day, I was tired. Weeks of nightly (and daily) prodromal labor had left me exhausted, depleted. My whole body ached to finally hold my little girl.

“It’s your birthday, Ingrid!”, I whispered to my swollen belly, feeling its tightness once more and pushing that obstinate little foot, always stuck in my ribs, to a more comfortable position. I grabbed my favorite pillow and reached for my husband’s steady hand before heading towards the fluorescent-lit entrance of the Family Birth Center.

She wiggled in response to my voice and moved her foot right back.

As I completed the hospital admission forms and surgical consents, my birth playlist cycled through the carefully chosen songs that I’d accumulated over the last three years. The room was filled with laughter and love, as it should be when a child is about to be born, and I was calm and content. As my dreams of having a VBAC faded into the distance, I eagerly anticipated meeting my daughter.

The nurse unhooked me from the monitors, and I maneuvered my way to the edge of the bed, dangling my legs off the side for a second before I stood. I nervously fiddled with the ties of the gown that I’d brought with me, the one that I’d purchased for her birth before she was even conceived.

It was time.

My doula and birth photographer faded into the background, as my husband and I shared one last moment together before her arrival. Always my rock, he whispered tenderly in my ear, “You’re so brave. We’re gonna meet her soon, babe.” He kissed my neck, my cheek, my lips, and I smiled at him with tears in my eyes.

I, myself, walked to the OR.

It was cold.

I awkwardly climbed onto the slim surgical table, trying to center my very pregnant self on its tiny surface while shimmying my gown up to expose my belly.

I remembered the uncontrollable shaking from last time and tried to fight it as I felt the anesthesia taking hold, moving up my lead legs and climbing towards my chest. I’d forgotten that feeling, but it came rushing back as I gasped, “I can’t breathe; I can’t breathe”, knowing full well that I could if I was saying those words.

The nurse anesthetist put her hands gently on my shoulders, and said, “Bethany, I want you to think about your baby. What’s her name? What do you think she’ll look like? Does she have any siblings?”

I inhaled deeply and intentionally, blinking furiously as tears trembled on my eyelashes. As I answered her questions, my mind began to calm once again.

Seconds later, my husband was there, stroking my shoulders, kissing my forehead, whispering words of encouragement in my ear as he sat beside me.

“Everyone’s in here,” he said, “Samantha, Cassie…just how you wanted…”

I smiled, still shaking, thankful for his presence and the stability that he brought to my soul in that moment.

I heard the door of the OR open and the chatter of familiar voices as the remnants of the surgical team assembled.

“All right, Bethany,” I heard from the other side of the drape, “You ready to meet this baby?”

I nodded: “Let’s do this.”

I grasped Doug’s hand and held tight.

I visualized the whole process in my mind as the familiar smells of surgery filled the suite. I felt the pressure of my abdomen being stretched and pulled to accommodate her entrance. It felt like an eternity. Then, finally:

“Here she comes!”

“Drop the drape! Drop the drape!”

Doug ceremoniously stood to greet her, still holding my hand.

The blue curtain was yanked down, and I strained to catch a glimpse of her as she was lifted from my belly. She cried immediately, justifiably appalled at being forced to leave the warmth and dark of my womb. Dr. Graham held her wriggling body over the limp blue curtain.

Ingrid glared at me in all her newborn glory.

“You can touch her if you want…just don’t touch me because I’m all cleaned up for surgery.”

It was surreal.

My hand trembled as I reached out to grasp her tiny, wet fingers as she enthusiastically announced her presence.

“We’re gonna take her to the warmer, dry her off so she doesn’t get too cold in here, listen to her heart real quick, and bring her right back.”

My husband followed her.

I could see her the whole time.

My doula stayed with me, stroking my hair, talking to me, telling me how beautiful Ingrid was.

Barely a minute later, I watched as Douglas carried our daughter back to me, cradling her gently in his strong, capable arms. His brilliant blue eyes, accentuated by the surgical cap and mask, sparkled with tears of joy. He helped me open my gown, snuggling her onto my chest, skin-to-skin, just minutes after her arrival.

She melted into my warmth, half-heartedly rooting, alternating between protesting her arrival and staring at me and her daddy with her dark, wise newborn eyes. I kissed her – kissed her dark hair, her perfect button nose, the sweet curve of her cupid’s bow. I felt her soft, warm skin against mine. I breathed in her smell and marveled at her tiny fingers.

I smiled.

I cried.

Douglas wiped away my tears, as we laughed together, rejoicing in our daughter’s birth.

It was perfect.

Ingrid Alexandra, our sweet girl, our strong baby, born on July 12, 2016 at 07:53.

Birth experience submitted by Bethany B. 

Photographs by Cassie Ringl of New Light Birth Photography. 

 

Not Quite the Plan or 100% the Plan? A Hospital Birth

Not Quite the Plan or 100% the Plan? A Hospital Birth

My due date was January 22, 2017.  We had planned so much more with this baby than we did our son.  We prepared our son the best we could, I switched my doctor to midwives, we wrote a detailed birth plan, we hired a wonderful doula and toured a wing of the hospital called “The Birth Place” that is designated specifically for low risk pregnancies. They have a queen size bed, rocking chair, and private bathroom.  Mother’s labor, deliver, and recover in the same room. They do not administer Pitocin there or epidurals. I had such a horrible experience with my first with both of those that I was immediately drawn to that aspect. Sign us up…

My due date came and went on a Sunday.  I had an appointment the next day at 40 weeks and 1 day for an ultrasound to check my fluid level with a follow up appointment with my midwife.  I got into the follow up appointment to start a non stress test around 1:30 pm. My midwife came in and had a look that I recognized as a not fun one.  I had much too much fluid left for being that late in the game and she wanted me to head in to the hospital around 4 pm: not quite the plan. I immediately started crying as the words she spoke shot through my brain: break your water, cord before baby, placenta could tear from wall, possible Pitocin, minutes to get a c-section if cord comes first…

So in we went armed with prepped-for-a-week bag, specific pillow for comfort, new, fuzzy, purple socks a friend bought so I wouldn’t be stuck with hospital ones, and anxiety. So. Much. Anxiety.  

Unfortunately, because they had to do some slight induction actions, I was not able to go to the Birth Place as I wanted: not quite the plan. The midwife there at the hospital started a little pill to get my cervix to start thinning and dilate a little more.  She had planned on doing three rounds of it. After the first, I had some bloody show which I was waiting for so that gave me hope. Braxton hicks had picked up a little after the first dose. Then again with the second one. I had made enough progress after the second one that she did not do the third dose.  She said my body was starting to do things a little on its own so she didn’t want to do the third and stress the baby, which was good.

So come the next morning, January 24, the midwife that sent me in from the office was on her shift.  I met her in the hall walking laps as contractions were starting to pick up a little. I excitedly caught her up on what was happening: I was a solid 2 or 3 cm, contractions were coming on their own, I was walking laps to keep them going.  I went back to my room about 930/1000 am. The midwife came in and broke my water which was way less scary than I expected. Let me tell you… it’s a very gross feeling having your water broken. I sat up in bed to make sure the water kept draining.  She kept her fingers up near my cervix to make sure baby’s head was coming down first. She fell right into place as we were hoping. I sat in bed for about another hour. Contractions got just a little more intense so we decided to call in our doula. Our wonderful doula walked laps with us and brought me to some stairs so I could go up and down a few times.  The goal was just to keep contractions going. We did this for just about most of the day.

We went back to my room about 330 pm.  The midwife came in and said basically that we were running out of time: not quite the plan.  She said she wanted to postpone Pitocin as long as she could but we were running out of options and I was not progressing fast enough.  Because I had so much fluid, my uterus had been overstretched for so long that the contractions it was doing were not really doing anything.  My uterus was tired: I feel ya sister. So the midwife said as a last ditch effort to try nipple stimulation for an hour. They brought in a pump and I was to pump until I felt a contraction, wait five minutes and if a contraction did not start on it’s own, then to pump for another five minutes until a contraction started, and keep the pattern going for an hour.  We were looking for contractions to go on their own between 3-5 minutes and last a minute long. At first, they did not come unless I was pumping but then they started coming between 3 and 4 minutes, and only lasted about 45 seconds. The midwife came in after about 45 minutes and recommended going on Pitocin: not quite the plan. The saving grace was that they did not push Pitocin the way the hospital we had our first baby at did.  They start off at 2, and then go up by just one unit in cases like mine. Since my body was showing obvious signs of trying desperately to do something on it’s own, it just needed a little push.

Pitocin definitely got contractions going more.  At about 600, they bumped the Pitocin from 2 to 3 units.  My doula put counter pressure on my back during contractions while my husband played specially requested songs on youtube through his phone for me.  

At about 6:30 pm, the midwife came in to check me and I was 7 cm. Thank goodness. Only 3 cm to go.

I said “really? Seven centimeters already?”

She smiled and said, “ yeah, I told you your body just needed a little push from Pitocin.”

I was shocked because the contractions I was having did not feel like what I imagined 7 cm contractions would feel like. She recommended I get in the labor tub to sort of catch up with myself for a minute and relax before things got even more intense.  So at about 6:45 pm I was in the tub. It felt amazing. My doula spread the scent of lavender and her and the midwife helped me breath through contractions in the water. Before I left my room for the tub, my midwife told me to let her know if I felt any pressure or need to push when I was in there. That most likely meant baby was coming down and I would have to get out and get back to my room as quickly as possible. So I had one contraction and was fine. I had another and felt the pressure.  

I let her know and she said, “okay, let’s do another one and see if the feeling remains and if it does, we’ll get you out and back to the room.”

I felt it more with the third contraction in the water. I immediately stood up in the tub when it was done and said “yep, feeling is still there.”

So we headed back to my room. I had a contraction right as I got to my bed and said to my doula, “I can’t do this.”

She said, “you’re already doing it, it won’t be long now.” I knew as soon as she said it, from my research, that she was right. I got up on the bed and set the back straight up so I could lean over it during contractions which quickly became more serious. I asked for the music to be turned off and my doula rubbed a cold washcloth over my forehead which was one of the most amazing feelings at that moment.

The midwife checked me and said there was a little bit of cervix left to go but I was almost there. I knew from the experience of my son that it would not be long.  The same thing happened with him and 10 minutes after my doctor said that to me, I was ready to push. The midwife was having me sit back on my knees with each contraction and really let gravity do its work.  I became very quiet and internal during the contractions and had the sensation that I was having a bowel movement. In the next second I thought, that’s the baby coming down. I said to the midwife “my body is pushing on its own, she’s coming on her own.”

She said “okay, well try not to, because I don’t know what your cervix is doing yet.”

I thought to myself I don’t know how to stop it from happening, it just is.  The midwife asked for me to turn at least on my side so she could check again to make sure I was good to push. The only problem with that was during my pregnancy I had horrible pelvic pain from everything loosening and stretching like it was supposed to. Adding the extra pressure of baby coming down and moving in any other way other than upright was excruciating. I managed to slither, for lack of a better word, onto my side.  She checked me and I was ready to go.

I had a sudden rush of fear.  I went to push with the next contraction and I felt just the beginning of the ring of fire. That was the only time I let out a scream. I instantly thought, “oh no, I don’t want to do this anymore, no way.” But I knew, it would be over soon and the head was the hardest part. I had to 5-second pep talk myself and just go for it.  That’s what I did. Let me tell you one more time, that ring of fire is nothing to mess around with. But it was the most amazing feeling to be able to feel her head coming. I reached down and felt her as she was crowning. I will never forget how slimy and wonderful her head felt to me and how I’m 90% sure I said the actual word “ick” as I wiped the slime off on my thigh.  Her head was almost out, probably to her nose, when I stopped the push I was doing and I thought, “nope, I don’t want to sit here in this much pain with her head just sitting there, just a little more of her head to go.” I gave half of  another push and I felt her head come the rest of the way.

One of the best parts was looking down at her and watching her turn herself like they are supposed to. I saw her face and she was already screaming. I was thinking “okay, just her body now, one more push and you’re done,” when the midwife said “do you want to pull her the rest of the way? Grab under her arms.”  

I didn’t even respond. I instinctively reached down while I was pushing, scooped her under her arms and pulled her up onto my chest. She slid right out, I laughed and said, “I am woman, hear me roar!”

The things you say in a baby induced oxytocin high.

We did delayed cord clamping, the midwife let me feel her cord pulse. The placenta was delivered and she brought it over to me to explain all the parts of it which was amazing to me.  My mom was even looking at me in awe. My husband cut the cord and she was weighed and measured. Adeline Rebecca was 7 pounds 9.5 ounces and 21 inches long. I was able to nurse her immediately and she was a champion from the beginning. The nice thing is that even though I was not able to deliver in the Birth Place, I was able to recover there. They wheeled me and baby to the new room with a queen size bed, rocking chair, and private bathroom.  My husband and I curled up in the bed with Adeline so he could do some skin to skin contact with her. She was awake, alert, and making eye contact with us as if she was as amazed by us as we were by her: 100% the plan.

Birth experience and photographs submitted by Kathryn Garceau. 

Birth and Children Are Not All Balloons and Roses

Birth and Children Are Not All Balloons and Roses

My twin girls were born early at 30 weeks and five days. Yesterday I saw a friend posted on Instagram, the birth of his beautiful baby girl. The pictures were incredible. His wife delivered naturally, he got to help in the delivery of his baby, and immediately after, they put their first child on her chest. Both parents were able to cherish that moment, in what seemed like a magazine article on the picture perfect child birth.

I burst out crying.

Selfishly, I was NOT crying out of happiness for them, I was crying out of sadness for myself. I had an unplanned C-section, and upon delivery my babies were immediately taken to the NICU after I had just barely had a glimpse of them. As I looked at these pictures on Instagram of my friend’s perfect birth, I realized I would never have that experience. No vaginal birth, no holding my baby and I didn’t have that immediate feeling of “LOVE like you’ve never felt before,” you know the thing that all parents talk about when they first have their child.

Instead, I spent the first 24 hours after my babies were born feeling completely disconnected as if I was watching someone else’s life happen. I didn’t feel like a mom or have an overwhelming love and connection. Instead, I felt the complete opposite. I was scared, filled with anxiety and freaking out that this is not the way I am supposed to feel after the birth of my children.

My parenting comparison had already started. I questioned everything. Asking myself, “is this how I am supposed to feel? I’ve only ever heard about the overwhelming love and joy. What is wrong with me? Is this postpartum? Is it because I didn’t do it the right way, should I have pushed more and stayed the course of a vaginal birth?”

I continued with the self-shame: I will never get the experience of holding my newborn after delivery. Will this affect them and me for the rest of our lives? What does this scar mean and how will it affect my body? How long will they be in the NICU, did I do something to make them come early… Am I going crazy?

How come no one talks about this stuff? The doubt, the unstoppable crying, the night sweats. OMG, the night sweats. After 48 hours of pure anxiety, I woke up and realized something…..

Here are these two girls who were just brought into the world who know nothing but how to wiggle their toes, while they are trying to figure out how to breathe. I am already putting the pressure on them and myself on having the perfect birth. This is how parenting shaming starts, and this is how we create unrealistic expectations for ourselves and our children. Seriously think about it, our kids start out perfectly innocent, knowing nothing. With no standard on how they are supposed to look, dress or how they were meant to be born they are just working on staying alive at this point.

A lot of us are following a program to what our life is supposed to look like and to be honest; it’s a false program. We think if we just do it right, always give 100% and make it look like it’s supposed to look, then we are successful. The fact is, no one can give 100% a 100% of the time, it’s impossible. So why are we trying so damn hard to be perfect, to one-up each other? The expectations we have accepted from what society puts on us are FALSE expectations, and we have to stop.

Birth and children are not all balloons and roses. I don’t even have my girls home, and I’m already feeling the pressure of what’s right and wrong and what feelings I’m supposed to be feeling. What about being present in the moment my girls are alive and thriving. All they need right now is support and love. They don’t care if I cry or second guess myself they care I am here holding them, reading to them, kissing them and everything else is B.S.

I am committing to a platform of raw, open and real honesty. I have done this on all my other blogs about body image, food, and alcohol and I am committing to it as a parent. I will be honest about ALL the stuff. The good, the bad and the worse because I believe as parents and as a society, we need to talk more about the hard stuff, so we know we are not alone. We have to remind each other that the “perfect family” on Facebook is NOT real life.

If we want the best for our children it has to start with us, the parents. We would never want to pass our insecurities onto our children: our body issues, food issues, and low self-esteem issues. It all starts with us leading by example, and working on our comparisons of ourselves to others.

I want to change the message. Here are three things that hit me like a ton of bricks after childbirth:

Not everyone has the initial, “love like you’ve never felt before” immediately after childbirth, and that doesn’t mean something is wrong with you. However your babies came to you and however, you feel is exactly how it is supposed to be for YOU.

Comparisons, guilt, shame, anxiety, and uncertainty all are REAL. We all have negative thoughts. Don’t keep them inside. Find a tribe or one person to talk to, or even this blog to leave a comment on. You are not alone in how you’re feeling, let it out and let’s support one another.

No one and I mean NO ONE has a grip on parenting. The person you think has it all together could be a complete mess and just scared to share the struggle. It’s time we talk about the struggle.

My birth plan was NOTHING that I thought it was going to be and you know what? It’s OK. Every day is a rollercoaster but I’m on it, embracing it and I’m mentally committing to being present in it, ALL OF IT. Even the dark stuff.

To any parent out there struggling, to anyone, anywhere struggling, with or without kids, you are not alone! I am here for you. We NEED to be here for each other. Let’s talk about the REAL stuff, let’s stop judging one another and come together. It’s time we teach the younger generation and each other that self-worth comes from what we think of ourselves, not what society has put on us. It’s time to change the conversation and lead by example.

I love you thank you for letting me continue to be honest, real, raw and open with you. Thank you for allowing me to continue to tell my story. I love each and every one of you, we are in this together!

Birth experience and photographs submitted by Jenny Schatzle

Hospital VBAC After a Month of Prodromal Labor

Hospital VBAC After a Month of Prodromal Labor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birth experience and photograph submitted by Samantha Wall. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nurse: “Did you feel that contraction?”

Me: “Nope.”

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

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

3 minutes later…

Nurse: “Did you feel that contraction?”

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

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

(Repeat 5,000 times.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____

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


Photo by Tricia Croom – Doula Services.

Photo by Bella Baby Photography.

Birth experience submitted by Melissa Rogers.

With Fresh Adrenaline: A Hospital Birth Story

With Fresh Adrenaline: A Hospital Birth Story

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

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

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

I wouldn’t be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birth experience submitted by Kimberly P.

Photographs taken by Bella Baby Photography.

When Natural Labour Isn’t Ideal

When Natural Labour Isn’t Ideal

By Anonymous

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

Part One:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That story coming finally…

Part Two:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labour makes a person say crazy things!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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