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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!  

Snow Moon Baby: A Fabulous Hospital Birth Story

Snow Moon Baby: A Fabulous Hospital Birth Story

I did it!

I had always wanted a non-medicated, natural, home birth. It is my belief that childbirth can be positive and not “scary”. However, in the state/region I lived in at the time, it was not legal to do so at home and my husband and I felt uncomfortable with the notion of doing something unlawfully. When we got pregnant with our firstborn daughter, we decided to go with a hospital in the area that has a midwifery practice and is known for respecting women’s birth decisions. In the beginning, my husband had the mindset that birth is a horrendously painful ordeal and there is no way around that unless you get medicated. Through childbirth education and learning about hypnobirthing and coping techniques, he came to believe that an all-natural birth can be positive and not traumatic. Though I had concerns about being in the hospital, they were put to rest and I had a fabulous labor and delivery experience, all natural, without tearing!

I was 41 weeks and three days on February 10th, the night of a full “snow” moon and lunar eclipse. I had lost my mucus plus several days before. At 4am I felt something wet, but I was not sure if it was more than just my bloody show. Then around 6:30 I felt a bigger whoosh and it was clearly my water breaking. I was very excited and woke up my husband. He was excited that the baby was finally coming! We texted our parents and doula (R.M.), as well as my friend (RC) who happens to be a labor and delivery nurse at our hospital (We’d agreed that if she was not working, she would come to be a support in conjunction with my doula). My contractions almost immediately got stronger and by 7:45am they were painful, not just strong and uncomfortable like they have been over the past several weeks. They were about 3-4 minutes apart and 1-2 minutes in length. I ate a pretty big breakfast since I was not sure how quickly things would progress. We went out to feed the horses, but I was not able to do much because I had to be still and really concentrate on breathing through the contractions.

We called the midwife clinic to let them know that my water had broken and that we were going to labor at home for a while. At 10am, RC said she was on her way over and a few minutes after that text, I felt strongly that we should be heading to the hospital soon. The contractions were very strong and intense. I needed my husband to support me through each one and I could not talk through them. Between contractions I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and fruit. RC arrived and called the charge nurse on the Labor and Delivery floor to let her know that we were coming. I dreaded the ride because I could not effectively move around to relieve the discomfort. Thankfully, the hospital is only 15 minutes away. They had a nurse bring me up to the labor and delivery floor, she offered me a wheelchair but I declined because I needed to be upright to manage the contractions.

We arrived in the hospital room around 11am. Initially, I had to lay on the bed to get some monitoring, but once they got a good reading for how the baby was doing, they would unhook me from the monitors and just intermittently hand doppler me every 30 minutes before, during, and after one contraction. This would allow me to move around and walk wherever I wanted to go. The midwife checked my cervix. I was 5 cm dilated and that made me super happy to hear. The time in bed for monitoring was no fun, but I was coping alright even in the laying down position. While in the bed they placed a Hep-lock in my forearm in case we needed it. I was very happy that it was in my forearm, because I could flex my hands better that way. Finally, they let me off the bed! I tried laboring on a birthing ball, but I did not like that. Walking around and then stopping to lean on my husband’s shoulders while slow dancing and swaying my hips while bending my knees and sticking my rear out was my favorite way to go through contractions. My husband would tell me encouraging things and R.C. would stand behind me and remind me to breathe deeply and make low noises, she also would rub my neck, shoulders, and hips. This was very effective and I could stay on top of my contractions and feel relaxed through them. After doing this for a while (though in all honesty, time did not seem to have a place in anything so I have no idea how long it was) I decided I wanted to try going into the Jacuzzi to relieve some of the discomfort. That was amazing! My husband got in the tub with me. The water was very soothing and I could effectively relax. R.M., my doula, arrived while I was in the tub. It was neat, my husband, R.C., and R.M. each had very different roles in supporting me and they all were just what I needed. My husband was my hands-on guy, he physically held me and told me how great I was doing and how proud he was of me. R.C. helped me focus on my breathing, making sure it was deep and my moans were low noises. R.M. kept me grounded, saying birth affirmations and telling me that my body knows what it is doing. While I was in the tub, R.C. used the water sprayer to spray warm water on my back during contractions. I found it to be effective and most comfortable to be semi-squatting/on my knees and leaning forward on Nathan as he faced me, moving my hips sideways during contractions.

After about two hours, I decided I wanted to get out of the tub. Once I got out, the contractions felt much stronger and it took a lot more concentration to remain relaxed and breathing/moaning effectively. My midwife came back in and sat back and watched me labor for a little bit and then she used a rebozo scarf to wiggle my belly gently back and forth to help baby get in the best position for birth. The midwife suggested to labor for three contractions sitting on the toilet, as that can help bring the baby down. I did this, but it was not fun. I was in a lot of discomfort at this point and was getting tired. The midwife asked if I wanted my cervix checked and I was not sure. Because I knew I needed to lay down in the bed and be still to be checked, which would be hard for me to cope through. But I wanted to know how far I had progressed, so I decided to lay in the bed for an exam. While laying down, each contraction seemed 100% harder and I felt like I was losing control of my relaxation and breathing. I was at 7cm and everyone in the room except me was excited!

I actually cried because I was sure that, with the intensity I had been feeling, I would have been at 8 or 9cm. Everyone encouraged me, saying that this next stage would go by faster than the earlier stage and that my body was doing great. Then the transition phase set in. It was longer and more intense than I anticipated. I really did not like it and voiced that opinion rather loudly! My midwife suggested I lay on my side and put the peanut ball between my knees to help open my pelvis even more. I did this, but it was my least favorite part of the labor. Each contraction felt like I was losing control of my body. I was shaking and this was the one point when I said several negative things: “I can’t do this, I don’t feel safe, my body is tearing in half, give me drugs.” I didn’t mean it at the time; the pain was talking, and everyone else encouraged me that this out of control feeling was getting my body ready to deliver my baby. Both my support women encouraged me that I needed to believe that I could do this, and R.C. told me that I needed to tell myself that, “I can do this,” even if I didn’t believe it. So I did, and gave myself a pep talk. Then I really started feeling like my uterus was heaving and rolling during the contractions and a pressure down on my bottom with the slight thought of pushing each contraction. This made me feel even more out of control.

The midwife said that if I wanted to try and push, I could. I gently pushed a little during the contractions and that helped me feel less out of control. A nurse set up the squatting bar on the bed and suggested that I get up and squat, this was a welcome suggestion since I hated lying on my side, even though it clearly was helping. Instead of truly squatting, I knelt in a forward leaning position, with my husband in front of me. During this time, I was getting tired, in between contractions I could relax and rest easily, which surprised me. I also felt very nauseous during these contractions, but I never actually vomited. I continued to gently push when I felt like I wanted to push. The midwife, who had been giving me my space to let me work with my body, got in position behind me when she heard my moaning get very deep. Maybe two contractions after she did that, my water fully broke in a huge gush. I heard them say that there was meconium in the amniotic fluid, but no one showed concern. The midwife calmly told me not to worry, that the only difference would be that if she didn’t cry right away that they would have to pass her to the NICU team to make sure she didn’t aspirate anything (Hubby said they called NICU into the room when they saw the meconium but I don’t remember them being in there at all). The midwife told me that I could start truly pushing in earnest if I wanted. She never checked my cervix to see if I was a 10, she trusted me listening to my body since I was totally un-medicated. I started pushing and then started feeling the burning as she began crowning. My husband said I didn’t like that feeling, but I remember just saying, “Oh it is burning” in more of an acknowledgement way because it almost felt good.

Right after the birth, so much joy!

I feel like I probably pushed strongly about five times before I felt her head come out and then the midwife guided her body out. That was the strangest feeling, her body bursting out of mine. At 5:49pm our daughter made her entrance into the world. I heard a little squeaky cry and then the midwife passed her between my legs and I held my baby on my naked chest. I was on a total high, I kept saying, “I did it, I did it!” as I held my baby. She was covered in vernix and so beautiful. My husband was crying, later he told me that he was just so proud of me and that was why he was crying. I nursed her and just reveled in how beautiful she is and how glad I was that she was here. She had chubby cheeks and a full head of dark hair. I delivered the placenta in one push, it was so easy compared to birthing a baby. The cord stopped pulsing after a couple of minutes and my husband cut the cord. He held her skin to skin for a few minutes and then they did her measurements. She was 7 pounds 12 ounces, 20.5 inches, bigger than I or anyone expected. While they did all this, the midwife examined me, I did not tear externally, which made me so happy! However, I was bleeding a lot, so they gave me Cyotec to stop the hemorrhaging.

One week old

I loved my birthing experience! It was exactly how I hoped it would be, low intervention with my body dictating how things progressed. The medical professionals stayed quietly in the background, there for support when I needed them, but not interfering. My midwife made gentle suggestions and only checked my cervix twice, and only because I wanted to be checked. My husband came away with a huge respect for natural childbirth and a belief that it does not need to be an excruciating and scary process. Today our daughter is 4 months old, happy, and healthy with a wonderfully positive birth story!

Birth experience and photos submitted by Abigail Richard.

One Mama’s Birth Without Fear Tattoo

One Mama’s Birth Without Fear Tattoo

By Simone Burton

I actually forgot to share this when I got it back in 2013.

I had my first son when I was 18, and I was scared out of my brain to give birth, until an amazing friend of mine showed me her birth video and she completely changed my view on birth.

Not long after I found Birth Without Fear, and my mind was set. I was going to have a drug free natural birth, and after months and months of countless different doctors and midwives telling me I couldn’t because I was “too young.” (??)

I had my son on the 9th of Feb 2013, born en caul naturally in the water. I had the support of my hubby and my midwives to get me through it. I had the support of this page and the power of my mind, that there was nothing to be afraid of.

My second son was born in July last year, and I really saw the power of the mind then. I couldn’t lock my brain my birth zone and I struggled terribly. I managed to have another natural drug free birth, and I was defeated for a few days with how I acted, until my midwife kicked my butt and told me to kick that labour’s ass with the next one.

Birth Without Fear continues to inspire me and is a big drive in my life. I can still hear my husband whispering “what do you have tattooed on your ribs?” while I was in labour with my second.

Thank you so much January, you have seriously brought a very strong woman out of me, that I NEVER knew existed in me.

Cholestasis, a Change of Plans, and a Respectful Induction

Cholestasis, a Change of Plans, and a Respectful Induction

I’d planned a natural birth in a birth center from the second I found out I was pregnant with my third child. I’d had a dehumanizing induction with my oldest; my second baby’s birth was far better than my first but still not exactly what I wanted so I made huge changes during my third pregnancy in order to finally have the experience I desired. My pregnancy was wonderful and healthy and everything was perfect every step of the way, I received care from a wonderful practice of naturally-minded obstetricians and midwives and truly enjoyed every prenatal visit. Everything was going great and my husband and I were happily anticipating our impending daughter’s birth.

When I hit 37 weeks I started noticing that my skin was very itchy. I used a lot of lotion and didn’t think much of it at first but I quickly realized it was getting worse by the day. I was soon so miserable I was even willing to try anti-histamines despite being reluctant to take any medications while pregnant. Unfortunately neither anti-histamines or any lotion or cream helped at all. After six days it was so horrible I was becoming concerned, this just didn’t feel normal. I called my doctor’s office on a Sunday morning and asked for advice. The midwife I spoke to thought it would be a good idea to come into labor and delivery and have blood drawn to be tested for obstetric cholestasis. After examining me she was hopeful that it was just a miserable case of PUPPPS but felt that the tests were a good idea.

Unfortunately the tests took about a week to come back so we wouldn’t know for sure anytime soon.

The next day I noticed baby was moving a bit less than normal. By that evening movement was significantly less but I was still feeling her enough that I wasn’t panicking. I was up all night trying everything I could think of to get her to resume normal movement but had no luck. I got up in the morning, took our big kids to school and called my doctor’s office. They had me come in immediately for a non-stress test. After a few minutes on the monitors baby wasn’t moving so they brought me apple juice… and more apple juice… and cups of ice water. Attempts to buzz my stomach yielded no results. Baby’s heart rate was perfect but for some reason she was clearly not moving.

A few minutes later one of the doctors came to talk to me. My hands and feet were where the itching was the worst, he examined them carefully and found there was no rash or apparent cause to the itching and said that this was concerning. The timeline of my symptoms and the appearance of my skin were textbook signs of cholestasis, a condition where a build up of bile acids in the blood stream cause intense itching. Still birth is a potential risk of cholestasis and given my baby’s major decrease in movement he felt it would be best to induce labor. He could tell I was extremely upset and was willing to support me even if I disagreed with his recommendation. He told me to call my husband and discuss it with him but that if we decided it would be best to induce labor that he was going to schedule my induction immediately. It didn’t take my husband and I long to agree that this was the best option. Several months before I had attended a Birth Without Fear Meet Up where January described the birth of “Beard Baby”. Prior to her birth she had had decreased movement and January described this as feeling that her baby had “nudged” her. I had a brief moment of peace realizing that my baby was nudging me as well and that this was all a sign that it was time for her to be born.

My mother picked up our children, we packed our bags and in what seemed like seconds we were at the hospital starting the induction. I had a very hard time processing what was happening to me and barely spoke a word for hours. I couldn’t believe that in such a short time my plans for this birth were completely shattered. How could a pregnancy go from complication-free to this in a matter of minutes? I was three centimeters dilated and 50% effaced but I truly did not feel my body or baby were ready to be in labor and I was absolutely terrified to start down this road of interventions.

After getting settled into our hospital room, the midwife from my practice who was there that evening came in to talk. She had a student midwife with her and they were both extremely compassionate and willing to do whatever they could to try to give me as much of the birth center experience as they could. The induction plan was to use Pitocin very slowly and to bring in a portable birth pool for me to labor and birth in. After talking to them I felt a million times better, this wasn’t exactly the birth I wanted but it was going to be okay.

Pitocin was started and I quickly began having regular contractions. I tried to rest through the night but the itching was worse than ever and prevented me from resting at all. One thing I’d found that helped the tiniest bit was Earth Mama Angel Baby nipple cream and luckily the hospital used this brand. My midwife’s student brought me tons of packets of it and I passed the night applying nipple cream to my entire body. By morning I’d had little progress and was feeling discouraged. I felt sick to my stomach I was so worried that this was going to turn out badly. As the morning went by however, things finally started to pick up a bit and contractions became much more intense. I began having to actually breathe through them and was only comfortable standing up, rocking through them. My midwife Missy and her student Lila Rose thought it would be a good idea to check me and see if they could break my water. They thought that since this was my third baby that if they broke my water things would progress very quickly but I was absolutely convinced there was no way that would work. Regardless I agreed that it was worth a shot. They checked my cervix and found that I was five centimeters. They broke my water and left the room for a bit to be with another patient.

In a matter of minutes my contractions intensified. They went from very uncomfortable to actually painful and I continued standing up, rocking and swaying through them. I suddenly realized I’d been too upset to eat anything for almost twenty hours and became very worried that this would effect my ability to get through labor. My husband offered me several healthy snack options but the only thing that sounded good was a Kit Kat bar that he helped me eat in between contractions. I don’t remember Missy and Lila Rose coming back in the room but when they saw me they realized I was getting close. I didn’t realize this myself though and still truly felt that I was half a day away from giving birth.

I was in a lot of pain at this point and asked to get in the tub. Lila Rose got it ready for me and helped me get in. The warm water was an immediate relief in between contractions but during contractions I was in extreme pain. I remained sure that I was no where near giving birth and this began to alter my state of mind. I was so sure I was going to be in labor for hours upon hours and didn’t know if I could handle this pain for the rest of the day. Lila Rose helped me breathe and focus more during contractions, despite my being a total wreck her words of encouragement were extremely helpful. She was using a Doppler to check baby’s heartbeat frequently and realized her heart rate was going up and staying up and she asked me to get out of the tub. She and my husband helped me get out. As soon as I stepped out I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom. Lila Rose told me that that was just the baby and I didn’t really need to use the bathroom. I remember thinking “I’m not an idiot! I know that feeling like you need to use the bathroom is actually the baby when you’re close to giving birth but I am NOT even close to giving birth so I must actually have to go.”

I labored on the toilet for a minute and Lila Rose draped a warm blanket over me. Baby’s heart rate was still high so Missy asked me to try to get on my hands and needs on the bed. I moved into this position pretty easily and the contractions suddenly became absolutely unbearable. Contractions were maybe 20 seconds apart so I wasn’t getting a break between them at all. I started saying there was no way I could do this and that I needed an epidural. Missy tried to calm me down and reminded me that I didn’t want an epidural and that I would most likely regret it. She and Lila Rose tried to get me to focus more on what my body was doing and how each contraction was getting me closer to meeting my baby. I was still sure that I wasn’t actually close to meeting my baby though and asked again for an epidural. They explained that this baby was going to be born before they would even have a chance to request an epidural and I was perplexed. I didn’t understand why they were so sure that I was very close to having a baby when I was beyond certain that I wasn’t close.

Suddenly I felt the urge to push. I slid down on my side and started pushing and instantly my entire mood and mindset changed. I could feel my baby descending and the urge to push made me realize that I really was very close to giving birth. The urge to push was such an immense relief compared to the contractions that I’d been feeling that they actually almost felt good. I could tell each push was extremely productive and she was coming fast. My midwives started telling me that they could see her hair. I could feel intense burning and felt like I was pushing too hard and too fast and I tried to slow down and breathe her out but my body was on auto pilot and I didn’t feel lik&e I had much control over pushing. Before I knew it I could feel her body sliding out and I reached down to touch her, suddenly she was on my chest, screaming, and I was in disbelief. I immediately asked my husband what time it was and found that it had only been about 40 minutes since my water broke.

I birthed the placenta painlessly but my midwives said there were still a lot of large clots in my uterus and working them out was extremely painful. I was bleeding more than they liked though and they wanted to make sure everything was okay. Once they were sure, they checked me for tears and found two very small tears and asked if I would like them to stitch them. They thought they would probably be fine either way but that they would heal a little faster if they were stitched and I agreed. As soon as they were finished they covered my naked baby and I with warm blankets, dimmed the lights and left my husband and I to bond with our baby girl. We were left completely alone for hours and it was absolutely wonderful. No one bothered us or tried to bathe our baby or mess with her at all. A pediatrician stopped in just as I was actually feeling ready to try to get up and use the bathroom and clean myself up a bit anyway so the timing worked out perfectly.

I felt immense relief knowing that our baby girl was earth side, safe and healthy. I had salvaged a pretty awesome birth out of a situation that terrified me. I had been induced with my first baby and had absolutely no control. Every decision was made for me, without me. Not only was I never consulted but I was so disconnected from how birth should be that I didn’t even realize that I had a right to be consulted. I remember feeling as though I was in the way during my own birth. I remember thinking everyone would have an easier time delivering this baby if I wasn’t there. This induction was a completely different and wonderful experience. My health and the health of my baby were the priorities of my doctor but they were not used against me. My choices were respected every step of the way. I received guidance from my health care providers and was allowed to make my own choices. This wasn’t the birth I had planned but it was exactly the birth my baby needed.

Submitted by Kate S. 

PROM, Castor Oil, Precipitous Labor, & Home Birth

PROM, Castor Oil, Precipitous Labor, & Home Birth

When I got pregnant with my second child, my husband and I never questioned where she would be born – we both knew we wanted another home birth with our amazing midwife that guided us through our son’s birth in 2012. Aside from a small amount of erratic bleeding and a preterm labor scare that ended up being the stomach flu, my pregnancy was uneventful and flew by and before I knew it, I was out on maternity leave from work at 36 weeks and filling my calendar with social engagements to fill the days before my due date. My son was born at 39 weeks, 6 days and I expected our daughter would follow suit, give or take a few days. I had my home visit with my midwife at 36 weeks and everything was in order for the birth, which I figured was weeks away.

On the morning of April 13, at 37 weeks, 5 days, I woke up at 5:45 am after a surprisingly restful night’s sleep (I struggled with pregnancy induced insomnia the majority of my pregnancy). I rushed to the bathroom to empty my very full bladder and I noticed that there was something wet between my legs. I figured it was urine since I had been known to pee myself a few times during this pregnancy, but after I used the restroom, the liquid kept coming and I realized it wasn’t pee. I woke up my husband and told him I thought my water had broken. The instructions from my midwife stated to wait until normal business hours to call if my water broke but labor had not started, so I put on a pad and went about my morning routine, excited but also a little nervous that I had felt zero signs of labor and this was much earlier than I expected to be going into labor. My mother, who lives in another state, wasn’t scheduled to arrive for two weeks and she was going to be my labor doula and after birth support.

A few hours later, I called my mom and told her my water had broken. No sooner had the words left my mouth then she was looking up how to change her flight and arranging a ride to the airport. Her words of advice were to take it easy to avoid going into labor before she arrived that evening. I sent my husband to work and the older kids off to school, as I still had zero signs of labor. I called my midwife who said to keep in touch and practice good hygiene, etc. I realized we didn’t have any food in the house for the midwives, so I made some muffins, and took a nap, anticipating that labor would be starting at some point in the next 24 hours, as the internet assured me 95% of labor’s do, after PROM/SROM. The day went on without so much as a little baby contraction, my mother arrived and we all went to bed, expecting to be woken up overnight to some labor action. My husband stopped by my midwife’s office and picked up their labor induction protocol pack, which included castor oil, herbal tincture and a few other supplements. She recommended I start the protocol in the morning if nothing started overnight.

Overnight, I felt a few mild contractions, but I mostly slept through the night and woke up without incident. I got up early to start the labor induction protocol, which included nipple stimulation (pumping), tinctures and a castor oil compress. I opted to not do the castor oil internally and see if the nipple stimulation helped. I watched “Look Who’s Talking” on Netflix, which did not make me laugh, the tinctures were regularly making me gag and the nipple stimulation wasn’t inducing a single contraction. My husband stayed home from work and slept in, in anticipation of another long day/night. After 4 hours of pumping every 30 minutes and not a single contraction, I talked to my midwife who wanted me to come into her office to confirm PROM and do a sterile speculum exam and talk about options. My mom and I went for a quick walk around the neighborhood and I finally started feeling some back pain and little tiny contractions, which were slightly encouraging but still not what I would call labor.

As my husband and I headed to the midwife’s office, I was getting disheartened. We were approaching the 48 hour mark and I was dreading the thought of making the decision if we needed to go to the hospital or could continue to wait for labor to start on its own. The exam by my midwife didn’t help ease my mind. She estimated that I was less than 1 cm dilated and maybe 90% effaced. Considering how long it had been since my water had broken and all the labor inducers I had choked down, this was depressing news. We talked about what would happen if I went to the hospital and how long we were both comfortable waiting, the risk of infection, etc. We came up with a plan that if my labor hadn’t started by the following morning, she would accompany me to the hospital for an induction. Meanwhile, she gave me the protocol for internal castor oil and we decided I would try a dose of it when I got home, which ended up being at approximately 4 pm.

My husband and I left our midwife’s office and headed down to the beach to talk a walk and clear our (my) heads. I was feeling really down and sad that the birth I had been picturing for the last nearly 3 years (since my first son was born) was looking like it wasn’t going to happen. But as we walked and my husband made me laugh (This is why I love this man with my whole being), I had a sudden peace that no matter where my daughter made her entrance, it was going to be spectacular and that was the way it was intended, even if that was in a hospital bed with an IV antibiotic, a Pitocin drop and an epidural. We headed home where my mom had my castor oil chocolate milkshake waiting for me.

After I took the milkshake, we did another few laps around the neighborhood. Back home, as we were fixing dinner, I started getting a few regular and ‘real’ contractions. This was very exciting! I even had to drop to my knees a few times but they were still very short and not super close together so I figured this was all still pre-labor stuff. I explained to my almost 3 year old that this was normal, that mommy’s tummy had to hurt for baby sister to come out and this was a good sign. As they were finishing up dinner and starting bedtime, I attempted to do some squats on the stairs. That kicked my contractions into a much higher intensity and I immediately had to go up into our bedroom and shut the door so I could focus on relaxing through the pain. My mom and husband came to check on me and I said that i was ok but things were starting to get organized and I needed both of them to support me. The notorious effects of castor oil started kicking in and I (out of necessity) started laboring on the toilet. Although the contractions were intense, they were still short and I was getting a decent break between, where I could talk and even laugh. I was confused at why the contractions were so intense so we called our midwife. After talking to us, she concluded I was probably in pre-labor and should get some rest and baby would most likely be joining us in the morning. We took her advice and I laid down and attempted to get some sleep. I believe I slept for about 30 minutes. By this time it was about 830 pm.

I jumped out of bed when a particularly strong contraction hit and told my mom and husband that I couldn’t sleep anymore, the pain was too intense. I tried to labor on the birth ball, but it wasn’t helping. My mind started freaking out (in hindsight, I was in transition but didn’t know it, even the second time around!) that there was no way I could do this all night, the pain was too intense and we needed to go to the hospital. But then I would get another 2 minute break and I thought I was just imaging the intensity. My mom suggested I try laboring in the shower which helped dull the pain and I believe relaxed me to the point to allow sweet baby girl to descend into prime birthing position. All at once, I couldn’t stand up in the shower anymore, I nearly fell out of the shower onto the birthing ball and screamed “I HAVE TO PUSH”. That certainly got everyone’s attention. My husband started panicking and filling the birth tub while furiously dialing the number for our midwife. My mom said, “please Lord let her keep this baby in until the midwife arrives, I have delivered a baby before but I would really rather not”. The midwife was on her way and giving instructions to my husband who was still trying to fill the pool. My mother got me to lay on my side and said she could see the baby’s head crowning. With 1 push, her head was out and then immediately another push, she was out and my mother gently laid her on my stomach where she started screaming the most beautiful ear piercing scream you ever heard. She was tiny and pink with a head of thick black hair, long beautiful fingers and absolutely perfect.

I kept asking if she was ok and of course she was. When the midwife arrived, my husband cut the cord and I immediately delivered the placenta as soon as I stood up. Sweet Ella Grace started rooting for the breast as soon as she was placed on my chest in bed and began nursing like a champion (and 2 years later, still is a total mommy’s girl and loves her milky time!). I feel so blessed that I was able to have the birth I envisioned and her arrival still gives me chills when I think about it!

Story and photo submitted by Sarah W. 

VBAC Despite Thrombocytopenia: The Birth of Elodie

VBAC Despite Thrombocytopenia: The Birth of Elodie

The birth of sweet little Elodie really begins with the birth of our son Huck. I had a normal and, dare I say, easy pregnancy with our first. Nothing was out of normal and I had no doubt I would be able to deliver this baby naturally until about 32 weeks when I was diagnosed with severe gestational thrombocytopenia. Basically my blood platelet levels were dropping rapidly, putting both me and the baby at risk for hemorrhaging during the delivery. At this time, we were living in Africa in a city where health care was limited and our doctor became so worried about my severe thrombocytopenia that she demanded a C-section at 36 weeks and 2 days. I ended up having a C-section under general anesthesia and didn’t even get to see my son until he was 3 hours old which left me feeling so removed from the whole birthing process. The whole experience was very traumatic for me and recovery from this C-section, which I never thought would happen, was harder than I ever thought possible. I almost didn’t want another baby until I started reading about VBACs.

When we found out we were pregnant with our second, I knew without a doubt that I wanted the opportunity to try for a VBAC. During this pregnancy we were living in another country overseas which was not the best place to try for a VBAC. After many conversations with my husband, we agreed we would temporarily move back to the States at the end of the pregnancy so I would have the best chance possible of delivering naturally. We emailed an OB/GYN who was a family friend and he was immediately on board and excited about helping me go for a VBAC.

Our pregnancy was pretty routine and easy like my first one but the whole time we questioned whether the thrombocytopenia would come back and what it would mean for my chances of a VBAC. Around my 30th week of pregnancy, we flew the long transatlantic flight back to America and settled into my in-laws’ house with our almost two year old to wait for baby girl’s arrival.

About the same time that we got to America, my platelets started dropping again which meant the thrombocytopenia of my first pregnancy had returned. Our OB/GYN was amazing and had many a long conversation with us about how my low platelets could lead to different outcomes including steroids, induction, and the inability to get an epidural in case of an emergency C-section. The whole time he never mentioned a repeat caesarian as an option for me and made us feel in control of our decisions which was such a different experience from our first pregnancy.

We were fortunate enough to be able to transfer our care to the midwives of his office while he still helped us navigate the thrombocytopenia. Still we were forced to wait to see what my platelets would do. Every week I had blood draws to check my platelet count and each week, from 30-35 weeks, they dropped more and more until they were around 90,000. At this number they are considered too low for epidural and were coming closer and closer to the number our doctor wanted to induce me at. I had many good cries about my platelets and about the idea of having to go on steroids and then have an induction as I had really wanted an intervention-free birth where I could labor at home as much as possible. There were moments I was convinced my dream of a VBAC was slipping away. I wanted so badly to avoid interventions or an induction. I had this overriding desire to see what my body could do because I felt like I was robbed of the chance of experiencing labor with my first. I knew my body could do it if only it was giving the chance but with the thrombocytopenia I was so scared I would not be given the opportunity to naturally labor. All this time, my husband was always there to encourage me to trust my body and believe that we could have the birth I wanted.

We asked all our friends to start praying for my platelets to miraculously go up, even though we were prepared for them to start drastically dropping as they did in my first pregnancy. We went in for my 36 week blood draw full of trepidation to see where my platelets had fallen to. My husband called for the results a few hours later and found out they had gone up to 105,000. That was the first time ever in either of my pregnancies that my platelets had gone up! Over the next two weeks they kept going up until they were at a really good level (121,000) when I entered my 38th week.

At this point I started knowing in my heart that this was the ideal time for baby girl to come as we didn’t know if and when my platelets would drop again. On Thursday we went to our chiropractor for an adjustment and then spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday walking a ton. Each night I told baby girl that then was a good time for her to come. Sunday night I went to bed asking God to bring baby girl in his timing but asking Him to allow me the natural VBAC we had worked so hard for.

Around 1:00am Monday morning (I was 38 weeks 4 days), I woke up for my nightly pee and noticed bloody show in the toilet. I got really excited and knew that this at least meant my body was getting ready. Almost immediately after that I started getting my first ever contractions (I never had one with my first pregnancy). My husband was sleeping in our two year old’s room because our son was sick with a cold and ear infection so I laid in bed timing my contractions. I ended up having contractions all night long every 5-7 minutes apart. In the morning they spread way out and my husband and I were both disappointed. I had contractions off and on all Monday then throughout the night again which left me exhausted by Tuesday. Tuesday we spent the day relaxing and napping as contractions came and went. I eventually told my husband I did not think I could do another night of these contractions and I really hoped active labor would start soon. My husband ran out Tuesday evening to get me some of my favorite soup for dinner while I bounced on my birthing ball and watched our two-year-old.

It was at this point that the contractions changed from being mildly annoying to being painful. I started having to concentrate on breathing more and really focus during them. My husband at this point didn’t realize that things were changing so he was going about doing dishes and laundry…at some point I snapped at him to stop leaving me alone because I needed him. He said it was at this moment he realized things were picking up. We sat together and watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy as contractions came every 7-10 minutes or so. It wasn’t until around 9pm that I think I really entered active labor. I moved into the shower and labored there as contractions started coming every 5 minutes or so. Eventually we ran out of hot water for the shower so I went into the bedroom. It was at this point the contractions became really intensely painful. My husband called our doula and she came by the house to check on us. It was about 11:15pm and she guessed I was probably 4.5-6 centimeters and said I should try to sleep between contractions as I was now on my third night without much sleep. She left around 11:45pm asking us to call her when we headed to the hospital, which she thought would be in about 2 or 3 hours. As soon as she left contractions picked up in both intensity and frequency. They started coming almost every 2 to 3 minutes and lasting almost a minute. I was a little shocked by how intense they got in such a short amount of time. I told my husband that we needed to head to the hospital then. He was hesitant to go to the hospital as the contractions had not been that consistent for a whole hour yet. After a few more minutes of me yelling about going to the hospital, he decided it was indeed time to go and we headed out. The drive to the hospital was only about 10 minutes but I was contracting every 2 to 3 minutes so it seemed much longer.

We got to the hospital around 12:20am and were checked around 12:30. The nurse said I was a stretchy 6.5 centimeters so I was immediately brought to a labor and delivery room. At this point I was exhausted and demanded some IV pain killers. I knew I didn’t want an epidural but I was beginning to panic between contractions and knew I needed something to calm down. The painkillers helped me relax and sleep a bit between contractions with me still waking up every 3 to 4 minutes to breathe, scream, and occasionally cuss through so wildly intense and painful contractions. All this time the nurses were struggling with monitors for fetal heart beat and contractions. I did not know what they were talking about but I kept hearing them say “the contractions aren’t being read on the monitor” which in my tired mind meant that they weren’t strong enough to be picked up yet. That totally freaked me out as I thought I must just be at the beginning of labor. I kept asking our doula and husband if all of this was just false labor, to which they kept assuring me that this was really labor and a baby was coming soon.

By around 1:45am the painkillers had worn off and I started asking (demanding) for an epidural during every contraction. Our doula knew in that moment that I would really regret that decision so she lovingly but strongly told me no. Our nurses were awesome in honoring our request that they not suggest or bring up epidural either. Our doula did suggest I get checked at 2:00am as a way to give me a goal. At 2:00am our midwife checked me and I was at 9cm and the baby was at a 0 station. It was then suggested by our doula, that our midwife should break my water to help speed things along. At 2:15am she broke my water and I immediately began to feel the baby moving down. After about 2 contractions where I felt baby moving down, I told everyone in the room that I was going to start pushing. Our midwife, thinking I was still at 9cm, told me to try not to push. I told her again I was pushing and pushed with the next contraction. She had me flip over onto my back (I had been on my knees up over the top of the bed the whole time) to check and saw that the baby was close. At that point she called the nurses in and told me that since pushing was working I should just keep going. At that point all I wanted in the world was to get that baby out. I started pushing at around 2:25am and baby was crowning after only 2 or 3 contractions. Even as the baby was crowning I was scared of messing up somehow and needing a repeat C-section. I think almost everyone in the room laughed as baby was crowning and I was asking if there was any way that I was still going to have a C-section and if I was really in labor. It all just happened so fast that I was in shock!

The moment I pushed my baby girl out was literally one of the best and most empowering moments of my life. Her head came out and the rest of her body followed immediately. Our midwife placed her right on my chest and that is where she stayed for over an hour. After having a general anesthesia C-section with our son, getting to spend the first hour of my daughter’s life just holding her was a gift that I could not possibly be more thankful for. It was only after my daughter’s arrival that our midwife told me that my platelets had indeed dropped again and were under the threshold for an epidural. My husband and I are both so thankful we did not know that going into the hospital as the fear of a general anesthesia C-section would have caused me to panic. We are just so thankful baby girl came right when she needed to and exactly how she needed to.

Overall, I felt like my husband and I really fought for this VBAC and it was so worth it. We felt educated, informed, and empowered during the whole pregnancy. Even when dealing with thrombocytopenia and the complications that came with that, we felt like all our providers were fighting alongside us for our VBAC. All I wanted was to give my body a chance to do what I knew it could do and what it was made for. Our amazing team never pushed any interventions on me and allowed me to labor how I wanted. Our midwife was absolutely amazing in completely following my lead and allowing me and my body to control the pace and feel of labor. One of my recovery nurses, while reading the notes on my labor and how fast it went, said, “It is just sad you ever had to have a C-section in the first place. It’s clear that your body was just made for this.” It was such a redemptive moment for me to once again believe in my body’s ability to birth.

Overall, God gifted us with a birth we only could have dreamed about with only 2 hours in the hospital from check-in to baby. We now are thrilled to have a beautiful, healthy baby girl that came into this world naturally, surrounded by a loving and supportive team.

Story and photographs submitted by Julia Van Scott. 

The Best Father’s Day Gift We Could Have Asked For!

The Best Father’s Day Gift We Could Have Asked For!

To tell you about the birth of my second child, I have to tell you about the birth of my first child. With my first pregnancy I had Gestational Diabetes, and Gestational Hypertension and due to mounting concerns from my midwives from my rising blood pressure and heart rate, I was induced at 39 weeks. My cervix was dilated with a foley balloon, and then my water was broken. After 10 hours of intense labor, I was hooked up to pitocin which caused back to back, incredibly painful contractions with no break in between. I quickly became overwhelmed and frightened, and I gave up on my natural birth plan and got an epidural. Several hours later, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy my husband Josh and I named Henry. Despite the fact that I had a beautiful and healthy baby, I had this irrational feeling that I had somehow failed at his birth.

Fast forward 4 years to my second pregnancy. This second time around I had several goals so that I would get the birth experience that I wanted. The first was to go into labor on my own. The second was to have a natural birth with no interventions (I wanted to stay as far away from pitocin as I could), and the third goal was to have a water birth.

So to prepare for the natural birth, I tried to cement into my head that I can do anything for one minute. Meaning, that when those contractions became difficult, painful and/or overwhelming, I could focus on the fact that it would be over in one minute, and then I’d get a break. I would meditate on that subject, and go to sleep at night thinking about it, building my foundation for this natural birth that I so wanted.

With both of my pregnancies I had Gestational Diabetes, but the second time around I did not have the hypertension that I had in the first; my blood pressure stayed beautiful the whole time. The main difference between my pregnancies were the false labor (practice labor) contractions that I had. For the last several weeks of my pregnancy (and by “several weeks” I mean at least 5 weeks) I would have timeable contractions that would start, increase in intensity and then all of a sudden stop. Starting at 36 weeks we had several false alarms. Some that even sent us to the Midwife’s office to be assessed, but each time, it turned out to be braxton hicks contractions. The longer I stayed pregnant the more I felt like a ticking time bomb. I was more than ready for my baby to decide on its birthday. Having to relinquish the control and let the baby decide when it wanted to be born was one of the hardest parts of my pregnancy, and I struggled with that aspect almost every day.

When I hit 40 weeks, I was a bit shocked. I assumed that since this was a second kiddo that I wouldn’t make it to my due date, but June 12th came and went. I started to feel like I’d be pregnant forever, and that I’d be enrolling my gigantic belly into kindergarten. The longer I stayed pregnant the more my brain started to assess every cramp, twinge and pain that I felt, which at 40+ weeks is about every 4.3 seconds. I felt like I was slowly losing my sanity while waiting for my baby to decide what day it wanted to be born. This kid wanted to stay put despite all the red raspberry leaf tea I was drinking, all the evening primrose oil I was taking, all the squats that I did, and the daily walks I took.

On Friday the 17th, at 5 days past my due date, I broke down and called my midwife’s office and asked if I could come in and talk about options. I was starting to get a bit nervous about going over my due date because of the Gestational Diabetes, as well as just wanting to be done being pregnant. I’m one of those people who don’t love being pregnant. I love the end result, but the actual process of growing a human is extremely hard on me. I had horrible morning sickness the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy, and then had two trips to the hospital in my third trimester because of gallbladder issues, and let’s be honest, GD, although manageable, doesn’t make things easy either.

Anyway, on June 17th, I was really hoping that I could get my membranes stripped, and that it might propel me into labor. However, at the appointment one of my midwives informed me that she couldn’t reach my membranes to strip them, so unless I wanted to schedule an induction, I was just to wait. Josh and I had talked about having an induction, and we were considering it as an option. However, when the midwife brought it up and described how she would induce me, I firmly decided against it. Hearing the process she would take for the induction brought back all of the memories of my first birth. So, we went home a bit sad and discouraged, and resigned ourselves to wait.

I had a few contractions on Friday night after the appointment, some even timeable, but I didn’t think anything of them. As always, I was disappointed that I was able to go to sleep and that they seemed to have stopped. On Saturday, the day before I hit 41 weeks, I had some projects to do around the house (making Josh’s Father’s Day gift with Henry), and as the day wore on, I noticed that I had been having contractions for most of the morning. At some point I texted Josh to tell him that I was having them, but I didn’t know if it would lead to anything, so not to get excited. He got similar texts to that one for about the last 5 weeks, so he didn’t think much of that text either. My contractions were irregular in length, and really far apart – 40 minutes or so, and very mild, I could ignore them easily. To me they still felt like braxton hicks.

In the afternoon Josh and I took a 2+ mile walk in our neighborhood. It was great time to spend just the two of us. We talked about how we wanted labor to go, when we thought the baby would come, and how our first son Henry would do as an older sibling. We were so excited for this baby to join us! I was contracting all through the walk, but didn’t think anything of it, those contractions had become so routine.

We had a friend’s birthday party to attend that night, and I really wanted to go. So, Josh and I got ready and headed out of the house around 5:30. We dropped Henry off at the in-laws for him to spend the night (that turned out to be very serendipitous), and drove out to the party downtown.
All through the party I was having contractions, and after a while I was noticing that I needed to zone out while they were happening. They were still really far apart, and I could still talk through them if I needed to, but they were getting harder and harder to ignore. They still weren’t painful, but I was starting to have to focus on them and my breathing during them.

Josh and I had a really great time, and as we walked around downtown I had a lot of people comment on my belly. Around 9 pm, we stopped at a restaurant and got something to eat. While eating dinner, I noticed that my contractions were getting closer together, and I was getting more and more uncomfortable. At one point I got up to go to the bathroom and I had a strong contraction while in there. It’s at that point that I started to think these contractions might actually lead to something. A short time later I noticed another contraction that was strong as well. After 4 strong contractions (at 10:15ish) I told Josh that we probably needed to head home. So, we paid for our meal, packed up to-go boxes, and said goodbye to our friends. As we were walking to our car, I heard a guy yell out of his car window “Are you going to have that baby on Elm St?!” I yelled back “I wish!”

As we were walking to the car I told Josh about the contractions and that we should start timing them as we drive home. He seemed surprised at that statement, but pulled the app up on the phone to time them. As Josh had had a few beers that night, I ended up driving home while having contractions that were about 10 minutes apart. I supposed I should have mentioned the contractions earlier…It’s a good thing that my excitement trumped any kind of pain I was feeling. The first contraction we timed was at 10:45. As soon as we got home, we finished packing the go bag and got everything ready in case this was really it.

Once the bag was packed, everything seemed to get more intense fairly quickly. By midnight my contractions were about 5 minutes apart. They were starting to get strong, and to get through them, I was leaning over the yoga ball and having Josh do counter pressure on my lower back. It’s around this time that my back labor started. My pelvis and lower back were really starting to hurt, but leaning over the ball and firm pressure on my lower back really helped and kept them manageable.

We called our doula to let her know what was happening. She asked how I was handling everything, and I told her I was ok. She told us to keep her posted, but because I hadn’t had any bloody show, or lost my mucus plug she wasn’t convinced that this was it, especially with all of the false alarms we’d had. She told us to call her the moment I saw bloody show, or if I needed help and wanted her to come to the house. I was handling everything well at this point, so I just kept laboring.

Some more time passed and when my contractions hit around 4 minutes apart Josh and I called our midwife to let her know what was up, and she said to head to the hospital at any time. I wanted to wait as long as possible at home, so we just kept going. Me leaning over the yoga ball, breathing through contractions, Josh doing counter pressure on my back and The Office streaming from Netflix to distract us between contractions.

By 1:00, my contractions were 3 minutes apart, and I was really having to concentrate to get through them, and had started to vocalize during them. My mom joined us around this time and was helping to get things ready for us to head out. I kept waiting for my contractions to become as painful as what I remembered from my first pregnancy, but that never happened. And because I never reached that pain threshold, I was really unsure about when to head to the hospital. As long as I was in a position that took the pressure off of my lower back, I was good.

Still unsure that it was time, Josh, my mom and I left for the hospital at around 1:30. As we were getting ready to get in the car I just stood at the car door and had 2 contractions standing there because I didn’t want to sit down. I was having strong back pain, and I knew sitting would put an unwelcome amount of pressure on my pelvis and would be excruciating…I wasn’t wrong.

That 30-minute trip to the hospital was awful. I tried to lay on my sides as much as possible to take pressure off of my lower back and pelvis, but I could never find a comfortable position. I withered in pain during each contraction (2 minutes apart at this point) and the pain in my back was unbelievable. Josh was my rock though. He kept calling out landmarks as we were driving so that I’d know how close we were getting. As soon as we got to the hospital I was out of that car as fast as I could be.

While checking in I had several more contractions. I would sit in the chair to rest while talking and answering questions to the woman behind the counter, and during each contraction I would have to stand up and lean over the counter and moan, this didn’t seem to faze the woman at all. Once I had a bracelet on my wrist, I was in the waiting room and had to lean on chairs. My mom applied counter pressure on my back while Josh parked the car.

At this point in time my contractions were fierce and almost frightening in their intensity. I was finding it harder and harder to keep my composure. I kept thinking that I didn’t want to do this and that I wanted an epidural. I even voiced those thoughts to my mom who told me I could have whatever I wanted – sweet words that helped me calm down. Soon after those thoughts popped in my head, our doula arrived (Josh called her at some point to let her know we were going to the hospital) and was helping me with positions while we waited to be called back, and my thoughts of giving up on a natural birth went away.

I was the only one in the waiting room, and was taken to be assessed fairly quickly. They checked my blood pressure (which was up) and temp (which was normal). They then took me straight back to a room – although I hadn’t been admitted yet. It took some time to get to the room. I didn’t want to sit in a wheelchair, so I walked. And, during each contraction I would stop and lean on Josh in the hallway.

I had three nurses that seemed to be moving and buzzing all around me. Soon after getting into the room a nurse asked me to undress from the waist down so that she could check me. I dreaded getting on my back, but I managed it. I was so worried that they were going to tell me that I was only 3 cm and that I needed to go back home. However, I was relieved to find out that I was at 8 cm dilated and 90% effaced! No wonder I’d been having thoughts on giving up – I was in transition!! I remember looking at Josh and smiling, at that point we knew it wouldn’t be long before we got to meet our baby!

For the next little while, I was standing next to the bed, with my head on Josh’s chest, eyes closed, belly hanging down between us and moaning through contractions while a nurse hooked up the belts to my belly. I had another that was putting an IV in my arm for my GBS, and another that was entering information into the computer. All through this, my midwife still wasn’t at the hospital, and was on her way. In all of our haste, we forgot to call her. The nurses were texting her telling her to hurry.

I remember a nurse saying that my IV was placed at 2:45. We had planned all along for this to be a water birth, and I was excited for it! I was more than ready to get in that warm water. However, I was told that I couldn’t get in the birthing pool until my midwife got there because of paperwork. And, because my midwife wasn’t there, my doula couldn’t even fill up the tub! To cut the tension that information caused, Josh tried to distract everyone by taking a poll about the baby’s gender. Apparently, there had been a streak of girls born at the hospital and all the nurses thought the baby would be a girl.

All this time going by, I was still standing next to the bed with my head on Josh’s chest and eyes closed. Being in labor is the wildest feeling. I was conscious, and aware of everything that was going on, but I was also totally in my own head, my brain thinking and whirring the whole time but unable or unwilling to voice most of it. I was just concentrating on the contractions, trying to remain relaxed and loose, and to rest as much as possible between them.

The nurses must have pushed my IV fairly quickly, almost as soon as it was placed it was taken out. They left a heparin lock in, and taped a rubber glove over my arm so that I could get in the tub when the time came.

I’m fuzzy on the times, but I was told that my midwife got to the hospital around 3:10, and it’s at that point that I was finally admitted to the hospital. I found out later that she had her shirt on inside out because she was in such a hurry to get there. As soon as she came in she got the paperwork going for the birthing tub to be set up, and then she turned to me and wanted to check me. I was so over being checked, and I didn’t want to get on my back because of the back labor I was having. I didn’t want to move, I just wanted to stay exactly as I was, but I finally consented.

I waited until I had just finished a contraction, and got on the bed. She checked me fairly quickly and told me that I was now at 9 cm! But, she then kept me on my back to break my water. I was irritated at this, because she never asked if she could break it, and I didn’t know it was happening until it was too late to do anything about it. As my doula was setting up the tub, she didn’t know it was happening until after. And, then of course I had another contraction while on my back, which caused me to whither and cry out in pain, derailing me from my focus. Back labor is just awful….

In retrospect, I wish I had declined that final check, but labor is a funky thing. With both of my births I have found that when someone tells me to do something, I’ve found that I generally just do it without thinking, despite all the plans I had made previously.

I remember looking at the bed after my water had been broken and saw my mucus plug and bloody show on the pad. Who would have thought that at 9 cm dilated that those two things would still be firmly in place? My water was clear, so thankfully I’d be allowed to get in the pool. I was told that if my water had meconium in it I wouldn’t be allowed to labor or deliver in the pool. I had one contraction after my water was broken, and man they don’t lie when they say that contractions are more intense after your water breaks.

After all of that, the pool was finally ready and I was chomping at the bit to get in it. The warm water felt amazing, and really helped to take the edge off the contractions. Almost as soon as I was in the water, my body started to push on its own. I was kneeling in the pool, hanging over the edge and pushing, and pushing and pushing…..and getting nowhere. After a while, my midwife checked me while I was in the pool and discovered that I had an anterior lip of cervix caught between my pubic bone and the baby’s head which was now swollen. So, my midwife had me flip over on my back to push for a few contractions while she tried to move the lip of my cervix out of the way. #1. it hurt like hell to be on my back again, #2. it hurt even more when she was messing with my cervix. I believe I was screaming in pain.

My midwife couldn’t get my cervix to move out of the way while I was in the pool, so she then wanted me to get out of the pool and onto the bed. The move out of the pool took an immense amount of strength for me. I did not want to move. I was in pain, out of focus and just wanted to be left alone. I remember that I was thinking that I just wanted this to be over, and I wanted a break. I even had thoughts of wanting a C-section so I could be done. I never voiced those thoughts, and eventually I did make it onto the bed. I believe Josh and the nurses had to almost physically haul me out of the tub.

And, once again I was put on my back while my midwife tried to move my cervix out of the way. It was more painful than it sounds. I remember yelling quite fiercely while she was moving it, and begging for her to stop. She kept telling me that I wouldn’t like her during this, but I would like her afterward, and she was right. Eventually she got the lip out of the way. She had me then get on my knees and push on the bed for two contractions, to get the baby’s head below the lip. That time it worked, and I could get back in the pool. However, I didn’t want to move. I remember telling everyone to leave me alone, that I just wanted to relax and have some downtime. My contractions had spaced out and weren’t as hard as the transition contractions, and I just breathed through them without bearing down, giving myself a little rest. I was tired, and my energy was draining, and I really just wanted a nap. My doula was strongly encouraging me to get back in the water before I had the baby on the bed, and eventually I summoned the strength to move again.

As soon as I started pushing in the pool, I could feel the baby moving down. And, fairly soon the head was right there, ready to come out. That feeling, freaked me the hell out. It burned oh so badly. I felt like I was stretched to the max and was about to tear from stem to stern. But, Josh, my mom, my midwife and doula helped me get refocused. Seriously, Josh was amazing the whole time. He really was my rock and kept me focused and determined. He was repeating the mantra I’d been saying to myself my whole pregnancy: I can do anything for one minute. That helped snap me out of my freakout. I also remember my midwife telling me that I was fine, and that I wasn’t going to tear apart, which was reassuring. They then helped me widen my knees and when I was pushing I would sit back, almost in a child’s pose, or as close to child’s pose as a pregnant, laboring woman can get. Seriously, my face was in the water as I was pushing. After a few more times pushing like that, and out the baby came. I believe the baby came out in one push. One of the nurses later told me that the baby ended up doing a flip in the water as he came out.

The next thing I heard was Josh announcing that the baby was a boy! It took some fancy maneuvering since he came out so fast behind me, but I was able to stand up, step over the cord, sit back down in the water and then he was handed to me. For the next while I was holding our son to my belly (the cord was too short to reach to my chest) skin to skin in the water and just marveling him. I just kept thinking how beautiful he was. He was squishy and plump and perfect in every way. He cried a few times, and then was just alert and calm, snuggling with me. Josh was leaning over the pool and I could hear in his voice that he was tearing up. It was a very beautiful moment.

Soon enough the cord stopped pulsating and Josh cut the cord. Not long after, I handed Josh the baby to do skin to skin with while I got out of the tub. I got up on the bed and I was covered with warm blankets, and then the baby was handed back to me. He nestled right on my chest, and was just beautiful. It’s at that point that we decided to name him Benjamin.

I definitely remember still having contractions after Ben was born, which I still had to breathe through, but I didn’t care about them. Instead, I was irritated at the umbilical cord, because it just kept seeming to get in the way and rub places that it did not feel good to rub against. Thankfully, not long after getting up on the bed I delivered the placenta, which didn’t hurt at all. I had a tear (no idea on the degree, I never asked), which required stitches (I have no idea how many). My midwife gave me a few shots to numb the area, which stung, and then I could feel her stitching me up, feel the thread pulling through skin, but oddly it didn’t hurt. All while that was happening the nurses were assessing Ben on my chest. Ben’s APGAR scores were 9 and 9.

We got over an hour of skin to skin time before Ben was taken to be weighed. It seemed no one in the room could agree on how much they thought he’d weigh. The nurses all suspected that he’d be around 7 lbs, but we were all surprised when he was 8 lbs, 6 oz. He was 20.5 inches long, with a head circumference of 14 inches.

After everything was all said and done, and we had been moved from Labor and Delivery to the Mother/Baby suite, things settled down and I was finally able to really connect with my son. I’ve read account after account of women getting that natural oxytocin rush immediately after delivery, but that overwhelming feeling of love, comfort and peace didn’t come to me until about 3+ hours after Ben was born. I believe because those first two hours are so busy, with so many people working on you and assessing the baby, even while you’re holding him, that it’s hard to just sit and relax and bond. But, once it was just me and my husband alone with Benjamin, that overwhelming feeling of love started to flow. Even now, over 6 months later, I still get that feeling whenever I look at my boys.

Benjamin was born at 4:23 in the morning on June 19, 2016 – Father’s Day. I think that he was the best Father’s Day gift that we could have asked for!

Story and photographs submitted by Amanda C. 

Starting Life as a Family of 3 in the Birth Center

Starting Life as a Family of 3 in the Birth Center

Thursday September 22nd 2011

I was 38 weeks pregnant with my first baby, had finished my last day at work on the previous Sunday as a midwife and was looking forward to relaxing for the last couple of weeks of my pregnancy. Most things were ready for the baby’s arrival, but I still needed the car seat put into the car and to finish packing my half packed hospital bag. But with no signs of this baby coming and knowing from experience at work that you usually go over your due date with your first child I wasn’t too concerned, and would finish up the last few things on the weekend.

It was my husband Ben’s day off, so we were enjoying our last few childfree weeks together and with friends. I had seen a friend for coffee that morning and Ben headed off to his mates place for an arvo catch up and few beers before life changed for us.

I hadn’t slept well the night before so once Ben left I decided to try to have a nap. While lying in bed I felt and heard a pop, my heart froze, was that my water breaking? I jumped out of bed and ran to the toilet, and as I sat down a large gush of clear fluid poured out of me. Ok, so that was my waters. My midwife mind kicked into gear, clear fluid is fine, and I wasn’t having contractions yet so I was just going to stay quiet about what had happened for a while and see if anything changed. I noted the time, 4pm, and knew that the baby was moving around in there so I wasn’t too concerned. Sometimes it can take hours to start getting contractions and first labours are usually long so I was just going to wait and see.

I messaged my friend who is also a midwife, letting her know that my waters had broken. She was going to come around to check on me before we made our way to the midwife lead birth centre in Perth, Western Australia (I didn’t want to rock up thinking I was in labour when I was only 1cm dilated!). She told me to keep her posted when things started happening, so I went out to sit on my fit ball and see if I could get some contractions started. I was probably rocking round for an hour when I did start to get some cramping. I thought I should let Ben know and tell him to head home, as I was planning on picking him up at 6pm and going to dinner at his parents place, and those plans were changed now!

He answered the phone with a joke “Hey love, are you in labour?” to which I replied, “Well not really yet but my water has broken…” He didn’t think I was serious at first, and then he realised I wasn’t joking, so he rang a taxi to get himself back home.

In the meantime my cramping was starting to ramp up in intensity, so I decided to get my TENs machine on while rocking on my fitball. I was kind of timing the contractions, they were coming every 5 minutes or so but not that regular yet. That maybe lasted half an hour before I started getting really strong contractions every 3 minutes or so. I decided to jump into the shower, and sat on the floor enjoying the hot water running over my back.

Ben arrived home to quite a shock- me in labour! I remember him saying to me I thought nothing was happening, and me replying that it all happened so quickly. I hadn’t called the birth centre to let the midwife know anything yet, so between contractions I was telling Ben what he needed to do, let the midwife know my waters had broken and I was contracting but happy to stay home for the time being.

Then he had to call my mum and let her know too, put the car seat in the car and finish packing my hospital bag. The poor guy, he went from a nice chilled out afternoon drinking beers in the sun to running around like a headless chook!

By 630pm I was contracting regularly and strongly, and Ben and my mum were pacing up and down the hallway while I sat in the bath. I asked Ben to call my midwife friend to come check on me, and I think that was the happiest he had felt all evening, he was going to have some backup and support as he felt out of his depth. I was in my own world and didn’t really notice how tense my husband and mum were, but my mum has told me afterwards that they were stressing out in that time!

My friend arrived soon after that, and she checked to see what was going on, I was 4cm but bubs was really low and in a great position. I remember being upset that I was only 4cm when I felt like I should have been further along because the contractions were so intense. She told me to go and hop back in the bath and that I was doing great, it was words I needed to hear.

The next hour was spent going back and forth between the bath and the toilet, (got to love labour) and my poor husband likens it to the exorcist, with me crawling around moaning and groaning.

At one stage sitting on the toilet I had a contraction and felt a heap of pressure and my body sort of started pushing at the peak of the contraction. As soon as my friend heard the change in my moans and the little push noise during that contraction she was telling me it was time to head to the birth centre.

My friend had to drive us in her car to the birth centre, because Ben had probably had too much to drink to legally drive. So my mum followed in my car and called my sister who was at work (she’s a hairdresser and it was late night trading) telling her to meet us at the birth centre. Everything seemed to be happening so fast!

The 20 minute drive felt like it lasted forever, with my contractions coming every couple of minutes. I was having a shorter contraction followed my a longer one, and my poor friend was trying to talk me through them, encouraging me to not push, warning me if I had a long or short contraction coming and to keep my head. I was in the back seat and remember looking at the speedo which would creep a little over the limit as I got a contraction and back to the limit as it finished. It must have been a stressful drive for her too!

We finally got to the birth centre around 845pm, with me squatting out the front involuntary pushing, and my poor husband banging on the door to let the midwife know we were there. We were quickly shown to a room and Belinda, the midwife that was on call, checked me and said I was 9cm dilated, and to try not to push, as I wasn’t quite ready. As a midwife I have told women to try not to push, but I didn’t realise how hard that actually is in reality!

My husband had called when we were on our way saying I wanted to get in the birth pool, so luckily it was full and ready for me to get into. I think I practically dove into the tub, water is amazing as a pain reliever. I also got given the gas to use to try to breath through the urge to push, and by then my mum and sister had both arrived.

I remember asking for the radio to be put on, and telling everyone in the room that the gas wasn’t working and they all laughed at me. The second time I told them that the gas wasn’t working, Belinda checked the bottle, I was right it was empty. Everyone had a little giggle about that; I knew I wasn’t going crazy!

It was around 9pm and there was no way I couldn’t push, my body was doing it without me even trying! Belinda asked me to feel inside myself to see if baby was right there, which I did. I could feel a squishy little head sitting there, so she told me to just go with my body, which is what I started to do. After half an hour of pushing there was a small amount of head on view but I felt like nothing else was happening, I remember telling them that the baby wasn’t coming. My mum told me to stop being so impatient; I had only been pushing for half an hour. But every time I felt the baby’s head it was the same amount that I could feel.

Another 15 minutes of pushing and with one almighty heave my baby’s head was out, and looking down I could see her fishy lips and eyes looking up at me under the water. The next contraction the body was out and along with the midwife I guided my baby out of the water! Oh the relief, except my coccyx bone in my bottom was really sore! My husband checked what we had, a girl, and told me I could call her whatever I liked! (After months of arguing about names!)

Once we had all calmed down, Belinda reminded me that I had pushed out a posterior baby, which is one of the hardest positions for a baby to be in when pushing. She must have turned right at the end of my labour, because I had no signs of a posterior labour, no back pain and no slow progress, which are two signs of a malpositioned baby.

My beautiful 2730g (6lb) baby girl Lydia Lee was just perfect! I had a physiological 3rd stage, my husband and I slept at the birth centre overnight and headed home the following morning to start life as a family of 3.

Story and photograph submitted by Sam M. 

I Am Wholly Here: The Healing Water Birth of Finn

I Am Wholly Here: The Healing Water Birth of Finn

There was a moment, just before Ellie reached a gloved hand inside of me, that I wondered if I was cheating. If my body was incapable of truly beginning labor on its own. 6 centimeters dilated, completely effaced, 42 weeks with him in my womb. I ached to feel the natural progression of things – the dance of intensifying rushes around my middle, the surprise of his waters leaving me in the middle of the night, or as I rose in the morning, or in the produce aisle of the supermarket.

“Are you ready?” Ellie asked, one hand on my thigh. I leaned against a stack of pillows and nodded. And just like that, with a swift poke and a tug and a pop, the fluid that held him for forty-one weeks and six days, was gone.

Rushes started slowly, climbing from my thighs, to the top of my belly and back again. Caitlin, my doula, diffused cinnamon and cedarwood, and KC reheated salmon and beans from the night before. The birthing room was warm and honey colored. The rain outside came and went in waves. I felt an overwhelming safety and a drumming readiness as I paced from one wall to the next. The tub rested in the middle of the room, empty and waiting.

Didn’t plan much for this birth. With Aspen still so young and needing, and labor being (generally) so unplannable, I hadn’t thought to make a music playlist or pack snacks for myself or pen affirmation cards. Instead, my bag was full of smoothie pouches for Aspen, and diapers, and footed pajamas. But the disorganization of it all was oddly comforting. I took the opportunity to trust, and to settle into the moment.

I thought that music might be nice, so I opened Pandora on my phone. The default station is Disney music for the toy shop, and a song from Mary Poppins began to rattle my bones loudly. I tried to remember what music I was hoping for, but my mind was getting foggy. I turned to watch the rain out the window and switched my phone to silent.

And then, a rush much more intense than the others suddenly overtook me. I leaned against the glass and waited for it to be over, but it never quite left. The next was nipping at its heels, and the next, and the next, stacking atop one another like aftershocks from an earthquake. I found myself on the cool of the concrete floor, rocking and vocalizing through the cascade. I remember calling for KC, who was in the kitchen heating the salmon. I could hear a low conversation between he and Caitlin, and they both sounded worlds away.

I was somewhere else entirely, body and mind.

When they made it back into the room, the steaming to-go box made my stomach turn. I pushed it away and suggested a popsicle, maybe, because my body was telling me that I was both very hungry, and very sick. I took a few bites and then passed it back to KC.

It was time to fill up the tub. Just an hour after Ellie broke my water, I was now loudly vocalizing through rushes that lasted a minute or longer. I eased my body into the bean shaped tub and immediately knew that I wouldn’t leave the water until my baby was born. The feeling of weightlessness was a primal birthing need that I didn’t know I had until I gently moaned through a half-dozen rushes in the water. I closed my eyes. Caitlin held a cool cloth to my brow and Ellie’s nurse, Spring, pressed two hands down either side of my spine. I let my arms hang heavy over KC’s shoulders and inhaled the salty smell of his neck.

“You’re doing it,” he said into my ear, “You’re almost there.”

I was trapped in the in between – so close to the veil, where life splits and hangs in warm water, one side light, the other dark. Life meeting life meeting death. I knew a part of me was about to die, again, as it had when I gave birth to Aspen. I welcomed the death, and let it tear into me. Fire filled my belly, burning from back to front and back again.

From somewhere on the other side, I heard Spring say, “You’ve been in this position for fifty minutes now. Do you feel ready to try something else?” I felt myself nod. I waited for a lull in the pain and then pushed my body back, resting my spine against the curve of the tub. KC held my feet and massaged gently.

And then, just like that, I woke up.

When before I was barely breathing, barely awake, eyes closed, I now felt safe and alert and alive. I opened my eyes. I was smiling, laughing, talking between rushes that had mellowed measurably. The space between the bouts of pain grew longer.

“Something’s wrong,” I told Ellie. “I feel too good. Why are my contractions spacing farther apart?”

“It’s normal,” she reassured me, touching a hand to my shoulder. “Your body is resting, building energy. You’re about to meet your son.”

When rushes came, they were fueled by fire. They peaked in the middle and as they unraveled, my body heaved energy downward. The urge to birth my son was primal and uncontrollable. Each rush summoned screams wild and ancient to tumble from my throat. I have never heard something so loud. I shook the windows. Outside, the rain poured.

And with my wailing, the veil was torn.

I remember looking up at KC and seeing tears in his eyes. “I can see him,” he said quietly. “Here,” he grabbed my hand and guided my palm downwards. Just within me, there he was, the smooth round of his head pushing towards my fingers. We waited for the next rush with wide eyes.

And then, with the silent hum of a hundred thousand mothers before me tearing through my middle, my body revealed through a ring of fire a neat round head, and then shoulders, a belly, two arms reaching, and last, legs. One, smooth, involuntary push.

Just like with Aspen’s birth, there were ghosts in the room. I exhaled and heard the sound swim from myself as if I were holding onto my own body gently.

We did it.

We pulled him from the water and I held him to my heart. Ellie cleared his nose and wiped his face and we all slowly worked to move our still connected bodies from the water, to the bed. My faithful team tended and nursed and warmed and whispered. I drank a cinnamon tincture and hot cohosh tea. We cut the cord, changed a diaper, and welcomed family into the room.

Our sweet Griffin arrived screaming into the world at 3:51 PM on Wednesday, January 18th. He was 9 pounds and an ounce, and 20.5 inches long. Though I was bleeding heavily and weak in the knees, I felt almost immediately that his birth had healed some ancient, shattered part of myself. Maybe something I had broken when I chose to numb myself for Aspen’s birth. Or maybe the part of me that had torn in two when I first became a mother. She came alive again that day, in the water, roaring through the thin of the veil.

From mother of one, to mother of many. My edges have been sealed with warm milk and honey light. The veil is closed again, and I am wholly here, on the other side.

Story submitted by Kristen Hedges.

Photographs by Caitlin Wilbur.

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