“This is the story of my Home VBAC Water Birth after a traumatic cesarean birth and a miscarriage. My story really begins with the birth of my first son. It is fairly lengthy, so I didn’t want to repeat the whole thing here. Some of what I will share will make more sense if you do read it. It was written over a year after my son’s birth, and while I might not write it exactly the same today, it is very much how I felt at the time and a part of my journey. My son is now 3 1/2 and this birth was just as much for him as it was for me and our new baby!” – Melissa
I separated my cesarean birth experience from my son from the moment I met him. I knew I had to in order to be a mom to him. Those few days had torn my heart and made me question everything. I couldn’t have this beautiful new little being attached to such horrific event. He was here, he looked like my husband so he must be mine, and I was going to do everything I could to succeed at what was left for me to do – be a mom.
For months I didn’t dare think about what happened, I was holding on to my faith by a thread. When I did start to think about it I struggled with making sense of it. The only conclusions I could come to were either A – God wanted this to happen, in which case I was incredibly pissed at Him and didn’t want to talk to Him, or B – This was a test, as I had felt it had been, and I had failed in which case I was ashamed and didn’t want to talk to God. So I stopped. I wasn’t until our son was about 2 years old that I started to make any sense of the spiritual aspect of the events. I often get flack for saying this but it doesn’t change what I know. My first experience was a test, God tests His children with trials, and I failed. He asked me to trust Him and I didn’t. It’s taken a long time, but I have come to terms with that. The key is “His Children”, even though I failed, I am still His child and I have learned from my failure.
In March 2012, I found out I was pregnant again. We were both so happy! We wanted more children and hadn’t expected to take as long as it did to conceive again. I was in the middle of planning the first Bellies to Bambinos Expo. I knew I would have a lot of work to do to prepare for a VBAC but I was busy with the expo and figured I would have plenty of time after it was over. I did, however, come to the conclusion that there was a good chance that I could have another cesarean and that I needed to be at peace with that. My husband thought I was giving up on a VBAC like I had given up on my first birth. But I explained that I just needed to be able to be at peace with either outcome so that I wouldn’t be in fear the whole time. I knew that even if I had another cesarean there was no way that it would be like the first. One major reason for that is that I was educated this time and I was going to trust God. If I had another cesarean, it wouldn’t be because an inpatient OB bullied me into it, it would be because there was not other choice and it was truly needed. This was a bit of a revelation for me.
April 8, 2012 around 1am, I was up with my son, who had been woken up by our new noisy neighbours again, and I had a cramp and got dizzy. I thought it was odd and was a little worried but I as 10 weeks, I went back to bed. I woke up with bleeding. I called for Dave, in tears, and asked him to pray. Even thought it wouldn’t end up being over for 8 days, I knew in my heart that our baby was gone. I had cramping and bleeding all that Easter Sunday that peaked that night in about 6 hours of, what I can now say was transition like, labour but without the pressure. I had taken another shower as it had helped before, but it was too hot and I started to pass out. I had no intention of going to the hospital and I was fine by the time my husband was on the phone to 911, but I went anyway. They confirmed in what I knew in my heart. I was so sad, and scared, but I was trusting God. They had offered me a pill to speed things up, but even though I thought they were right, I knew they could be wrong and there was no way I could take control of this. I left it in God’s hands and our little “Sprout” came to us on April 16, just after I had attended a birth. It is still incredibly sad, but I am at peace with it. God loves me and knows best and this is what He chose.
The end of October 2012 and I was pregnant again! I was excited, but both me and my husband were a little hesitant to be too excited. He will admit that he had issues bonding with the baby even up to the birth. He had been hurt by the miscarriage and was afraid to get attached and lose another child. I knew either way, this was going to be hard. I was either going to face another miscarriage or have to fight for the VBAC I knew I wanted. With the planning of another Expo in the works, I went to some counseling with a doula friend of mine who is also a Christian. She asked some hard questions about my faith, as I had come to terms with my failure at my first birth but hadn’t really known how to move forward from there. How do I see myself? How does God see me? Who did He make me to be? In light of this, how should I live? Questions we should all ask. I didn’t get time to finish all the sessions before the birth, but even just having someone listen to me and not throw out the standard “Thank goodness for Drs, God made them too and they obviously saved you from yourself” and “you should be happy you have a healthy baby” was a load off of my shoulders.
I remained cautiously excited and did what I could to stay healthy and give myself the best shot I could at a successful VBAC. This included having midwives and choosing a home birth. I also wanted as close to an unassisted birth as I could get and still have the midwives there. I wanted to know that this was happening on my turf and I was calling the shots. My midwives were so supportive and respectful of my decisions all the way through pregnancy and the labour.
I had gained about 70lbs with my son, I believe mostly because I was allergic to wheat, diary and corn and didn’t know. This time I gained about 25lbs and attended belly dancing classes, to which I attribute the amazing core strength I had through out my pregnancy. I also took a few different vitamins and supplements, saw a naturopath and had a few acupuncture treatments. While for months I would jump at any little twinge or gush, in fear of another miscarriage, but the pregnancy was without any major complications. I was, and remained a good candidate for Home Birth and a VBAC.
I didn’t know it was possible, but I started having Braxton Hicks contractions from about 6 weeks pregnant, I had never had any the first time. The baby also dropped in to my pelvis and was quite low very early on. Everyone, even the midwives, speculated that I might go early! Since being post dates was the major instigator of everything that happened the first time, I really hoped they were right!
Week 40 came and went, I was now 40+5 and creeping closer and closer to the 41+4 that my son was taken from me at. I was still in good spirits but the worry was always there, quietly in the background and saying that the clock was ticking and I would have to fight. I had a plan, I would be 41+1 on Canada day and I have a fairly severe allergy to milk. My plan was to go to Dairy Queen and get a Blizzard if labour was no where in site! A BIG one! I knew that it would have about the same effects as castor oil on me and would taste far better. The midwives thought the plan was hilarious and even said they hoped it would work so they could write “induction via Blizzard”. My husband didn’t mind the idea either as he hadn’t had a Bilzzard in as many years as I had.
My midwives appointments were every Friday now. Thursday afternoon I lost my mucus plug! I was excited as I knew that meant change, but cautious as it was no guarantee anything was going to happen soon. My Braxton Hicks came back again, as they had stopped for a couple of weeks, but were different. I didn’t know for sure what it meant – early labour? Nothing? I was excited about both at my appointment and really didn’t have any desire to discuss induction at our Friday meeting. I really thought the baby might be here by Canada Day. My Midwife was optimistic, but was talking about what day the hospital did inductions. I think I started to tune out at this point. I am sure she knew I wasn’t going to agree to one, even if it meant being 42 weeks and having to deliver in the hospital, but it was on the check list for the appointment. I left still in good spirits but anxious to move things along.
I had been doing and taking everything I could over the last couple of days to get labour going, homeopathics, essential oils, sex, evening primrose oil, acupressure and letting my son nurse as much as he wanted (which was the only thing that seemed to do anything). Each evening feeling hopeful I would wake up to labour. When my husband got home that evening, we went out and got some groceries and went to the bank. At the bank I saw my naturopath and asked if she would be able to do a treatment on me, she said “Yes!” and came to our house later that evening. She put in about 25 needles, ALL the way. I think that was about my third or fourth treatment ever and I really wasn’t expecting the needles to disappear into me! My husband thought it was hilarious and just had to take a picture to commemorate the moment. I thought for sure I would wake up in labour this time!
Saturday morning came, and I had slept the whole night. No only that, but I wasn’t even getting the mild contractions anymore that I had been. Letting my son nurse wasn’t working either. Everything had stopped. I was started to panic, to doubt, to play worst case scenarios over and over in my head and to think that I was NEVER going to go into labour on my own. At more that one appointment I had told my midwife that I was hoping and preparing for a pain free orgasmic birth, but really all I was worried about was actually getting into labour and whatever happened after that I could deal with as it came up. She thought this was a good plan, but so far it seemed like it wasn’t going to happen. Saturday came and went, my husband arranged for someone else to cover the sound board at church as he didn’t know if he would be there, but I was starting to get a pessimistic and wanted to just make plans for the rest of the week and forget everything that was going on.
Sunday morning came, and once again I had slept the whole night. My husband went and did the setup and sound and took our son with him as he usually did. I slept in and made sure I went into church late. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, especially when most knew that I was due or post dates. I didn’t want the questions, the looks, the “You’re still here??” stare. I came in and sat at the back, with my husband at the sound table and avoided eye contact with everyone. Much to my pleasant surprise, one of the other moms came in a bit after me and walked right over and said “You look like you are going to have that baby any day!” It almost brought me to tears. I had carried very high and trim the whole pregnancy and most couldn’t believe I was full term because I looked to small this time. This instigated a lot of “You don’t look like you are having a baby any time soon” type comments, even when I was 40+ weeks. This was the first time anyone had said I looked ready. I needed that. One concerned friend came over with an almost frantic look on his face after church and said “Where is your baby??” His wife had been a part of the Blessing Way group and my Mom had told them on Friday that I was in early labour, I guess some had assumed that I would have had the baby by now. I relied pointing at my belly “In urtero.”
I came home from church tired and exhausted. I was getting scared, worried, frustrated and just plain fed up. I felt like I had done everything I could and my body was just saying “NO.” I didn’t feel like it would ever say “Yes.” My husband went took our boy outside with him and worked on the shed that we had been building, he had hoped to finish it before the baby got here so he was taking the opportunity while he had it. This left me some time to think. I often do my best thinking when I am journaling, something I haven’t done a whole lot of lately but I felt I needed to get it out. I wrote/prayed to God and wrote to my baby. I begged God, pleaded with Him to make me go into labour NOW! As I thought this I realized that this wasn’t His way. While I am all for doing things to prepare your body as best you can for labour, I had been attempting to take things from His hands, once again I wasn’t listening to Him or asking Him or trusting Him. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. If I “made” myself go into labour, who would be glorified? God doesn’t like to share His glory, and He clearly told me He wasn’t going to. I could either trust Him, or fend for myself. Well, I know how well that worked out for me last time. I chose to trust Him. I also wrote to my baby, I told it that I was sorry I was so sad and that it was safe to come out now, but if it waited to much longer, it might not be. Mostly I was scared to fail, scared to fail by baby and my son, who wanted to be at the birth so much. After my praying and journaling I felt more at peace, I had let go.
Once I had let go, I decided I needed to do something to keep busy and keep my mind off of things. Cleaning the bathroom has been my husband’s job for a long time. It started with the toilet when we got married. I said the two things I do not do are garbage and the toilet – that is a boy’s job. Since he was already there he kind of just took over the rest of the bathroom and it’s been that way for years. However, every woman knows that most men’s version of clean isn’t quite the same as ours and I would need to do a really through clean every once in a while to satisfy myself that it really was clean. I had found out I was pregnant right after moving into our house and had never had the energy to bother with a good scrubbing the whole time we had lived here. In the back of my mind I had known for weeks that the bathroom was going to get cleaned by me before the baby would come. Now was the time! I scrubbed my heart out and cleaned every inch. My husband came in at one point and tried to take over, being sweet and not wanting me to have to do it. I quickly bit his head off, tired of waiting for labour, and said “Just leave me alone! I have to do SOMETHING!” I just as quickly apologized and he left me to clean.
About 8pm Sunday I started to feel the surges again, but stronger. My heart was elated, I knew this was it! I kept it a secret as I wasn’t having to breath through them yet and didn’t want my husband to be too excited to sleep. I had a bath in our soaker tub with a small glass of wine and some cheese. I floated and swayed in the water, reveling in every surge and delighting in secret that only myself and my baby knew – we would soon meet. I went to bed but I didn’t feel I would wake in the morning.
About 4am Monday I had been awake for a bit off and on, the contractions were becoming stronger and I couldn’t sleep through them any longer. The birds were singing outside our window as they always were at this time. The sun was just beginning to make it assent into the sky. I had to get up and move. I put on my robe and paced and swayed. They were strong enough that I couldn’t ignore them but I didn’t have to breath through them yet. I hummed and sang to my baby, standing and swaying in the front door watching the sun rise. I sang the song from church the day before that’s lyrics were “Grace to you and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” It was new but words and the melody had been playing in my head since I had heard it. I enjoyed our time together, some of our last hours so close. I am in tears remembering the beauty of it as I write.
About 6am my husband and son woke up. He had known that things were happening but had tried to get some more sleep. He got us breakfast then proceeded into a flurry of action that lasted the rest of the day. He was excited and nervous and I think he felt like completing tasks was the best way to “fix” the situation. Some of the things needed to be done, he went to the grocery store and got some food for everyone and kept our son busy and fed. But all I really wanted was for him to hold me, sit with me and for us to spend some time together as a family. The contractions had gotten stronger and I was having to breath through them by mid morning, but they were still irregular and anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes apart. I waiting until I thought everyone would be up on a holiday Monday and let them know what was happening. I called my doula, my midwife, my photographer and my Mom. I had at least 2 or 3 contractions when I was on the phone with each of them and always felt like a creep doing all that heaving breathing on the phone. I had a good laugh with each of them about it too. They all appreciated that I had waited until morning to call and were on standby if anything changed. Nothing really changed.
Canada Day continued that way all day. The contractions would get stronger and closer together and then they would space out, they didn’t get any weaker but every time they got stronger they got further apart again. Then they got closer and stronger then spaced out again. I walked, bathed, ate, drank and continued the day like that. Evening came and I paged my midwife about 8pm. I wanted to check in with her before bed time as I knew I wouldn’t be getting much sleep. She asked if I wanted her to come and assess me, I said my biggest fear was that I had laboured all day and she would check and I would be 2 cm. We decided that she would come and see where I was. When she got there I was on my knees and draped over the birth ball. I looked at her and said “It just occurred to me what actually molds the baby’s head – that’s not nice!” She checked me and sure enough, I was 2cm… She suggested that I try a Gravol shot and Tylenol. I have issues with Tylenol so she was going to just do the Gravol but discovered she was out. While she went to get some more, I heard the Canada Day fireworks and laid down in bed and slept! I had maybe 2 contractions in the time she was gone, which was about 2 hours. My body knew I needed a rest and it gave me one. I probably could have slept longer but when she came back I woke up, the contractions started again and she gave me the shot. It didn’t do a thing, and the silly part was that the injection site was hurting like crazy, was red, hot and swollen! It almost hurt more then the contractions at that point. She left us to go to a hotel and get some sleep. I, unfortunately, didn’t and the contractions picked up where they left off. By 2am Tuesday, I knew I needed some support and called in my Doula and paged the midwife to come back.
When my doula and midwife arrived to stay, I felt like things were finally really happening! I was vocalizing through contractions and coping well. Up to this point I had been labouring on my own. My husband had been home for the most part, as well as our son, but mostly I was going doing my own thing without any support through the contractions. It was good to know I wasn’t alone and I didn’t have to troubleshoot things myself anymore. I could just let my mind go and let things happen.
My husband filled the birth tub in our living room while our son was still sleeping. I was in different positions and tried the tub. I was still eating, drinking, peeing and pooping – oh the pooping! I don’t think I have ever pooped so much in my life! The student midwife arrived and at 6am I was 3cm and 90% effaced. I didn’t want to hear that, I was tired and already felt like I had been in labour forever. It was progress, but it wasn’t as much as I had hoped. The midwife called this the start of active labour. I knew I wasn’t going to give up but I was discouraged that I had made what seemed like so little progress. I also knew that things could change quickly as my cervix had almost completely thinned. We called my friend, fellow doula and volunteer birth photographer to come when she was ready. I continued in and out of the tub and different positions, vocalizing eating, drinking – pooping! Around 10am they checked me again.
I was 6cm, once again it was progress but labour was getting really hard and it seemed like it should be happening faster. I was in the thick of active labour and it hurt like hell. Nothing seemed to help. I was getting frustrated that nothing seemed to even be taking the edge off. At every birth I had attended there was always something that helped. I couldn’t understand it and I was starting to feel like no one was helping me. They were all there and supporting me but I didn’t feel like they were. I think everyone could tell I was hitting a wall and suggested I go out side for awhile, it was humid but a nice day. I really didn’t want to, but did it anyway.
As soon as I stepped out the door I had to drop to my preferred hands and knees position as this was how I had been labouring, that, and howling like a banshee! When it was over I made it about another 20 feet and was down again. I stayed down when it was over. My husband was with me and I could tell he was worried. I really wanted to say “I can’t do this” but I knew I couldn’t, I wouldn’t. I did say “I don’t know if I can do this” but that is because I didn’t know. It was so hard, nothing had prepared me for that. Not the books I had read or even the births I had attended. My husband was strong for me when I couldn’t be, he told me I could do it and that I there was no way I was going to give up.
I made it back in side and sat on the birth ball. My midwife could see that I was still having a hard time, she talked to me about my head space. She suggested that maybe I was trying to have three labours at once – my first son’s, my miscarriage and this one. She later said I gave her a look of death and that is why she had backed off after, but it was just that I hadn’t had a conversation with anyone in a while and just wasn’t in the head space to think quickly. I took a few minutes and really thought about what she said. I came to the conclusion that I didn’t think that was the issue, or at least the biggest one, but I did realize that I was thinking too much about the future. I needed to deal with what was happening right then and there. I needed to take it one contraction at a time and the truth of the matter was that I WAS doing it and had been doing it already much longer then I ever thought I could have! That was the moment I dug deep and fully committed. This was happening, it was what I had wanted so desperately and I was going to see it through. I wasn’t alone, God was with me, friends and family where praying for me and I was joining every other woman throughout history that had every given birth.
Less then an hour later I was on the toilet, again, and started feeling a little “pushy.” My contractions actually stopped for a little while too, and my whole demeanor changed. I “woke up” and looked around, I was smiling at people and greeting them, as I didn’t remember doing it when they came in. It crossed the back of my mind that this could be my “rest and be thankful” stage before pushing! I asked to be checked. About 1:30pm I was 8cm with a thick lip at the front, they told me not to push. Once again I was feeling somewhat defeated, happy that I had made progress but really expecting to be closer to fully dilated. Now I was in transition, wanting to push, feeling like my pelvis was going to break into a million pieces and I couldn’t do the one thing that had brought me any relief – push. I got into some forward leaning positions to try and put pressure on the the front of my cervix, it was so hard, but there was only one way out – quite literally! And that was for things to progress. At some point my husband had started breathing with me as I had totally lost control of my breath at the peak of the contractions, he said “Breathe innnn and ouuuut.” This became my ritual, my breaths were me saying/yelling “IIINNNNN – OOOOWWWWTTTT!” And, yes, “Out” just so happens to start with “Ow!”
Just after 2pm I was into the tub again and that is where I stayed! I was actually sleeping in between contractions and my body was starting to push all on it’s own! About an hour later they checked me again and I still had a cervical lip at the front, so they said not to add anything to the pushing my body was doing. My body might push through the lip but they didn’t want me to cause anything to swell. The student had checked me and she also said that I could likely reach the head if I wanted to feel – did I ever! It was the most amazing thing to feel my baby’s head while it was still inside me. I could also feel what my body was doing and boy was it doing something! I had moved into a squatting position in the tub and thought I might as well try and do a bit of pushing with a contraction to try and get the feel for it.
I had my finger on my baby’s head and it moved a little when I pushed, but right after I stopped, my contraction peaked and my body pushed – it moved about a 1/4″! WAY more effective than anything I was doing. My contractions spaced out a bit at this point, likely to catch up to the movement of my baby down the birth canal, and I slept in between them. I felt my baby through every one, I even let my husband feel too.
The second midwife was there and keeping our son occupied as official “Pooper Scooper” and got him involved in checking the tub temperature too. It wasn’t too many contractions before I started to feel a bit of the “ring of fire” and everyone said they were starting in be able to see hair! I hadn’t been freaked out or worried up until then. This was the part that I had been a little worried about – crowning – I didn’t want to tear and I heard it burned like hell. I had to take my hand away for a bit so I could gather myself. I put my hand back and my baby’s head was right there! It was slipping back a bit in between contractions so I did a little bearing down in between so that I wouldn’t loose any progress. A couple more contractions and it’s head was out! They knew I wanted to be the one to pick the baby up so all they did was check for a cord around it’s neck. It had a tight one they couldn’t get off, so I pushed out the shoulders. My baby was born! I picked it up and brought it into my arms. As a family, my husband, my son and myself – we welcomed our new son!
At 5:49pm on July 2, 2013. Our family was reborn. As a family we welcomed our new son and brother, Levi, into this world, into our home, without drugs, without interventions, without fear and in God’s own timing. Levi means “joined together” or “joined with him”. That day our family was joined together and so was my heart, it was healed.
- Photos © 2013 Nicole Marozzo & Melissa Van Dam