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Faith and Healing: A ‘Post Dates’ Home Birth After a Cesarean

Faith and Healing: A ‘Post Dates’ Home Birth After a Cesarean

(Editor’s note: this birth experience was originally posted on August 23, 2011.)

To gain a little insight of why I had a C-section with my first born, I have it written down as a “vent” on my blog. It basically started out as one intervention cascading into a ball of interventions that led me to a transfer from a “Birth Center” birth to the hospital that ended in a non-emergency C-section for being stuck at 5cm for hours and hours. I did a lot of processing and mourned the birth and post par tum bond of my beautiful baby girl, Alana.

I did my research, got in touch with my local ICAN Chapter and soaked up as much info as I could. I also found a lovely CPM who takes VBAC’s as I knew the best chance of a successful VBAC would to be at home with the least intervention and the most support. I did all my own prenatal’s, skipped the ultrasound, listened and trusted my body to grow my baby and prepare for birth. I was on top of my nutrition and got monthly adjustments from my chiropractor and even got a wonderful massage at the end of my pregnancy.

My VBAC Baby Born at Home
Wow! Where do I begin? Ethan’s birth has so many emotions attached to it. So many hopes and dreams came true the night he was born, on Wednesday, May 19th, 2010. It’s hard for me to even write what I really want to write here. Whatever I write, it comes from a deep place in my soul.

First, I just have to give praise and honor to our Heavenly Father…for knowing the desires of my heart, for loving me through some hard challenges in my life and for allowing them to grow me. Our Creator is so good. While Ethan’s birth was hard work for me, I have no regrets. I guess I could say I “wish” things had gone differently, but really I’m grateful for how it was. This is his story.

I woke up Friday the 14th (9 days after my due date) still very pregnant and no end in sight. Then around 10am I went to the bathroom to find “bloody show”. It renewed my faith in my body that things were progressing and that I would be having this baby. I was really hoping that I would be holding my baby within 24 hours, but no. Bloody show came and went and Istill had my all day, every day braxton hicks that would always go away when I went to bed. There was no way I was willing to do anything to speed things along. I knew that in order to have the best possible chance at a VBAC, I would have to allow things to unfold completely unhindered. While it was hard and uncomfortable being so big, I was so at peace with where my body was at and what it needed to do. I continued to have bloody show all through the weekend.

Monday the 17th, I felt different. Lots more bloody show and my contractions were slightly stronger. So I did some massive “nesting” and Alana was my sidekick. It was truly a wonderful day spent with my daughter for the last time just the two of us. We made a pot roast in the crock pot, went to Trader Joe’s for some shopping, cleaned the house top to bottom and made cookies! It was such a beautiful, peaceful day. A day that I will remember forever. Matt was in and out of the house throughout the day working and it allowed Alana and I some time alone together.

Monday night, as we got ready for bed at 11:30pm, I noticed that my braxton hicks were still coming despite how late it was. Usually they had died down by now. So of course I wondered. Went to bed and as I lay there, I couldn’t sleep. Contractions were still coming. I got up to find my phone so that I could start timing them. They were coming every 3-6min. Very short though.

After an hour of this, I decided to get up to pee and I woke up Matt telling him I couldn’t sleep, that I may be in labor. I went pee and had a huge gob of bloody mucus, so I knew that this was the real deal. I told Matt I was going to shower and asked him to pump up the pool. Actually, I think I demanded him to.

I felt really calm, but part of me wanted things ready in case things went quick (wishful thinking). Took a shower and tried to check myself, but everything just felt like mush. I couldn’t tell or maybe I just couldn’t reach my cervix. Matt and I then made the bed up with a shower curtain and a sheet over it while the tub filled. I went downstairs and made some raspberry leaf and nettle tea and grabbed a water and set up my birth snacks on my dresser next to the tub. I told Matt I was happy to labor alone if he wanted to sleep downstairs on the couch. So he grabbed his pillow and a blanket and headed downstairs. To help pass time, I blow dried my hair and did my makeup in between contractions.

I did some hip swaying to give room and even did some squats during the contractions. I made sure to empty my bladder every hour. I was drinking and eating to sustain energy. At 6:30 am, I text my girlfriend, Jessica, to give her the heads up that I had been in labor since 12 am. She was my birth photographer and has an almost 2 year old and knew she was up getting ready for work, so I wanted to give her time to plan for the birth and would keep her posted.

At around 7am Matt’s alarm went off, so I went downstairs to tell him he probably shouldn’t go to work. Matt then asked if I had called the midwife to give her a heads up. That kind of annoyed me because I felt like it was too early yet. Then Alana woke up and pretty much my contractions died at that point. Matt took Alana downstairs and told me to sleep for awhile. I was really distraught because I felt like things were progressing and then the moment Matt and Alana woke, it distracted me and labor had stopped. Ugh!

So I took some Rescue Remedy to help me calm down and I layed down and slept for a couple hours. Then I woke up and took a shower to freshen up. Matt and I had an “upset” so we worked that out (I was still mad over the comment her made about calling the midwife). Nothing like getting irritated at each other when you want to be laboring. Then we ate and decided to go for a walk around 3:30 pm. While walking, I timed my contractions and there were coming every 5 min. I had to stop and lean over something for every contraction or hang on to Matt, whatever I could grab first. I’m sure I was a sight to the passing drivers.

Contractions continued to come after walking and eating dinner. I called Jessica, my mom and sisters and let them know to head on over around 8pm. Even though I had planned to labor alone for the majority of labor, I was so ready for some support. They all showed up and my sister Callie announced that she was making brownies. Grrr. I really wanted some and I never got any. I called my midwife sometime after 8 pm to give her the heads up. She listened to me while I went through a couple contractions and said they are about 3 minutes apart, but only lasting 30 sec. She was currently at another birth and I agreed to keep her posted.

I labored all through the night. Everyone found places to sleep and in the early hours, I want to say around 2am, things were  intense. I think I was pretty tired and my contractions were getting painful. I was in the birth tub for quite a while at this point, but I had been in and out and changing positions every hour. I called the midwife around 3:30 am and was ready for her to come. She and her assistant headed over. I remember about this time feeling intense energy and it was quite overwhelming. I was getting very vocal and loud.

When my midwife came in, she prayed over me and told me where to release the energy in an effective way by vocalizing in a low/deep tone. What a difference that made. I really wanted to scream the pain away, but with the direction from my midwife I was able to welcome the pain and release the intense energy in an effective way. That is what gets me through the rest of my labor.

I ended up moving to my bed to lay down and rest. Contractions spaced out to allow me to doze and get some sleep. I held on to my mom’s hand and squeezed for every contraction. After an hour or so, I was up and ready to get back to business. I labored all over my room and in the tub. Mom made me some breakfast-eggs and hash browns. I layed down again and was able to get a good sleep. I decided to not vocalize and just relax during my contractions. That was hard, but I needed the sleep.

Around 9am, I got up and decided I was ready for a check. I NEEDED to know at this point what progress had been made. My midwife said that I was about 7cm. Yay! To me, that was a good thing. I had only progressed to 6 cm with Alana, so I was happy to be past that hurdle. It was just what I needed to hear to keep me going. My midwife needed to head out for a little while and so did my mom, sisters and Jessica. It allowed me to focus on getting busy with labor.

My mom and sister Kimberly came back around 1 pm and started timing my contractions. I was in the tub, on my knees, hanging over the side and contractions started getting closer, longer and more intense. I held on to my mom for every contraction. My almost 4 year old daughter pretty much stayed in my room. She was amazing. I rubbed my knees raw from staying in this position for so long. There was lots of pressure in my bottom and at the peak of my contractions, I wanted to push. It was so intense, its all I could do. We called the midwife and she was on her way.

About this time, it started to storm outside. It was really cool. I walked the hall, did some laboring on the toilet and would hang from mom’s neck. Midwife got there and I asked her to check me and she said I still have a rim of cervix (9cm) and that I would need to relax through contractions to melt it. “Yeah right!” is what I thought. She said another option was she could hold the cervix while I push the baby past it. I told her I would try “relaxing” to melt the cervix.

Well, an hour later, I hit my wall. I started having thoughts of going to the hospital. I just couldn’t go on. I was exhausted and there needed to be progress. So I yelled down the stairs to my midwife that I would like her to hold it back. She came upstairs and got prepped. She warned me that it would hurt. I didn’t care. What could hurt worse than those contractions? I got propped up in my bed with Callie and Jessica holding each of my legs, while my midwife massaged cervix in between contractions and held it up while I pushed during contractions. It was so hard finding the right place to push. Thank goodness I even had the urge to push. I pushed 4 times per contraction and pushed hard and at one point the assistant told me to hold my breath while pushing. I tried it once and I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath in time for the next push so decided that wouldn’t work and I needed to blow air out while pushing.

During this time, I was fed yogurt and drinking Recharge and Emegen-C to keep me fueled. I think I even apologized for any toots I couldn’t hold in. LOL. Finally, the cervix was gone and his head was low enough that I was able to get into a different position.

I head straight for the toilet.  It’s amazing how intense the urge to push is. Our bodies our amazing in that it just takes over and you don’t have a choice. While sitting on the toilet, I was hugging the assistant and my mom and reaching for my midwife’s hand. I think I was reaching for help, for someone to just take the intensity away. For whatever reason, it made sense at the time. I really used some muscles in my body as I was hugging on them hard. I remember saying out loud “I can’t” and the assistant saying back to me, “but you are”. That was powerful and gave me the push to keep going (not like I had a choice, but I was able to rationalize it in my head to keep going).

Some of this is really hazy and I don’t remember much detail, but at this point I was sooo hot and sweaty. I asked for cool rags so the ladies started putting cold rags on me. Then I got in the tub in a reclining position and was still cooking so they brought in a fan and aimed it right at me. I pushed and pushed, then got onto my knees to hang over the side of the tub. I had Callie put counter pressure on my lower back and that was AMAZING relief. I could feel the head come down low during pushing and then suck back up in between contractions.

Midwives suggested moving into different pushing positions since its like trying to cork screw the baby out. So I said I wanted out of the water, but when it came time to move, I didn’t want to. The ladies said “lets go” and so I finally just did it. I really didn’t want to move in fear another contraction came while moving. I squatted on the floor at the foot of my bed and wrapped my arms over my mom and sister’s necks for support. There was a mirror on the floor so that I could see the progress. That was cool and kept me going! Then I decided I wanted to push in a reclining position on my bed. I really wanted to see the progress and my legs were tired so it was time to move.

Propped in reclining position and hanging on to my mom for dear life, I pushed and pushed. There is no pain like the ring of fire. I seriously dislike those ladies who’s babies come flying out and don’t feel the ring of fire. It’s so intense. I watched in the mirror the whole time and reached down and touched his head. It was incredible! I’m so thankful it was slow so that I could process the whole experience. I didn’t want to miss a moment. I just wanted to soak the experience in…the experience that I had longed for and what I missed with my daughter’s c-section. So even though it was painful, God knew that it needed to happen slowly. It was needed for my healing. I will never forget, I was the first one to touch my baby. I was in the moment and feeling totally connected to my unborn baby.

VBAC HBAC

My midwife suggested I grunt, to not push him out too fast and I did that to get his head out. Part of me just wanted to push hard and to get it done and over with. But I chose to ignore that thought since I really didn’t want to tear. Once his head was out (sweet relief!!), I reached down and started touching his face. I got a good minute of touching him and it was surreal. Then my last contraction came and out he came with some maneuvering by the midwives since there was a loose cord around his neck and wrapped around his body and then I reached down and pulled him up to my chest.

HBAC VBAC

He was born on Wednesday, May 19th, at 8:01pm. My sister Callie then saw his parts and announced “its a boy!” and we all squealed in delight! His apgars were 8 and 9 and he squawked when he was born and then it took him another 45 seconds or so to get out a good cry.

The “love cocktail” is real and I got to experience it with my beautiful son. I was instantly in love with him and I smelled, touched and kissed him within minutes of him being born. My daughter got to experience and watch the whole thing. She was right at my side within a minute of baby’s birth, talking and touching him. He knew who is sister was. When she talked, he looked for her and it was soothing to him. She has been so loving with him and I know that her being there for the birth, instantly bonded them. My husband had to walk out of the room because of the intensity, but I know that his heart was full and that he was happy with the outcome. And that he was a BOY!

HBAC VBAC

VBAC HBAC

HBAC VBAC

I had two small tears, one on each labia. I took the stitches in hopes of a quicker recovery. Baby boy weighed in at 9 lbs 10 oz (major shock), 22in long and a 14.5in head! Big, happy and healthy boy milked his time in mama. He came at exactly 42 weeks with no pressure from anyone to have him before then. He chose his birthday! And it took us a little over a week to choose his name, Ethan Matthew Wright. He is simply amazing!

I am forever grateful for my “hands off” midwife who became “hands on” when I needed a little bit of help at the end to get that pesky lip of cervix to move and for her patience and trust in my ability to birth my baby!!!

I also have a picture video here.

Birth experience and photographs submitted by Melissa. 

A Long-Awaited Natural Birth: My VBA2C

A Long-Awaited Natural Birth: My VBA2C

Michaela shares with us the story of her son’s birth. 

My husband and I had our first child in 2006, when we were 18 and 17 years old respectively. I had a healthy pregnancy with no complications, but my doctor suspected fetal macrosomia and said that I wasn’t progressing at 37 weeks, and subsequently insisted I have a c-section because he felt that would be for the best. I had planned to have a natural birth without medication, but I was young, scared, uninformed and pressured into a scheduled c-section; my body wasn’t even given the chance to go into labor. My daughter was born at 38 weeks gestation, weighing 8 lbs 6 oz; she was a healthy and beautiful baby. My recovery was horrible, though, and years later I learned that I had suffered from a staph infection, which my doctor failed to discover in the hospital. My uterus had so much scar tissue that I was told if it hadn’t been cleaned out via laparoscopy, I may never have been able to get pregnant again.

During my second pregnancy in 2009, I was seeing a different doctor and had planned a VBAC. He was very supportive of my VBAC goals until the end, when fetal macrosomia was suspected again in my otherwise complication-free pregnancy. My doctor used the common scare tactics regarding all the risks, and insisted I schedule a c-section. I was quite upset about it, but I didn’t want something bad to happen to one of us, so it was scheduled.

The day of my scheduled c-section, I awoke to clean myself with the iodine and I felt weird. I thought it was merely nerves for the upcoming surgery, but when I told my husband how I felt, he knew I was in labor. We had a 45-minute drive to the hospital, and had to drop our daughter off at my mother’s place. The contractions kicked in full-force our entire way there, continuing about every 2-3 minutes. When we arrived at the hospital, my husband told the staff I was in labor and was scheduled for a c-section in a couple hours. The staff had me signing paperwork through the pain, and nobody was particularly taking me seriously; but eventually I was taken back.

Once we were in our room, no one bothered to check me; they just slowly went about prepping me for the c-section – that is, until my water broke. Finally, the hateful nurse checked me, and in a panic, went to get the doctor. The doctor came in and discovered that I was 9 cm dilated; then for no medical reason, the nurse give me a shot to slow my labor and continued to prep me for the c-section. At the time, I was in too much pain to say “no”, and my husband, in the midst of the situation, didn’t know what to do either. So instead of being given the chance to have the natural birth I wanted, I had yet another c-section. Our son was born weighing 10 lbs 11.6 oz; he was a healthy little boy.

My recovery went extremely well, aside from suffering from postpartum depression, but I felt like I recovered better because my body was ready to give birth. I was upset I didn’t get my VBAC, but I was extremely happy that I got to experience labor, and that we had a beautiful son.

I didn’t think I would have more than two children, but I had this constant yearning to have another child. I still felt disappointed that I had never experienced the natural process of pushing my child into this world on my own; I wanted that natural birth. Then in January of 2015, I became pregnant with our second son. This pregnancy and birth, I told myself, was going to be different. I studied like a mad person and gathered all the information I could on the pros and cons and statistics for a VBA2C birth. I knew that after two previous c-sections, it was unlikely that I would find a supportive provider, but it didn’t matter; I had my mind made up and the knowledge to fight for it.

In the beginning, I went back to the same doctor who had delivered our son, but I soon became fed up with his negativity, rudeness and lack of support. I continued to go to the same office, but there were 15 other doctors and midwives that I could see. I chose a midwife, and at my first appointment, I was in tears from her positive attitude and encouragement for my VBA2C. She was wonderful, but I feared that she might not be the one to deliver when I showed up at the hospital, as I did not have the power to choose. However, I continued to see her because I needed that positivity in my life. My husband stood in place of a doula; he was my rock, and was ready to fight for my right to have a natural birth.

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As my pregnancy progressed, I grew larger and larger, despite my commitment of working out four or five days every week. I walked up to six miles in the beginning, and continued doing PiYo, T25, and prenatal yoga. At my 37-week checkup, I hadn’t progressed, and my midwife was starting to get nervous about his size, as she was guessing he was weighing around 9 lbs at that point; but she agreed to give me another week and then weigh out our options. I instantly felt overwhelmed and discouraged. I told my husband I wasn’t going back to the doctors, and instead I would just show up at the hospital when I was in labor. Talk about some foreshadowing – because one week later, on October 4th at around 2:30 a.m., I woke up feeling weird.

2

My husband once again knew I was in labor and was ready since my last labor happened so quickly. I wasn’t sure though, and I didn’t want to be one of those women who shows up in false labor, so I debated taking a shower while walking around eating a bowl of cheerios; but one big contraction later, I decided maybe he was right. The entire hour-long ride to the hospital, I endured contractions every two to three minutes. I read my birth affirmation cards, which I totally laughed about because I was not “enjoying the moment”, and tried to deal with the pain as best I could while our son and daughter traveled with us in the backseat.

3

When we arrived at the hospital and were heading in, I felt a trickle and I knew my water was breaking. My husband explained to the receptionist that I was in labor, which was pretty obvious by my appearance. As they continued to ask us a few questions, my water completely broke, leaving a huge puddle on their waiting room floor. This wasn’t just a small amount of water, either – this was like a movie scene puddle of water. The nurses came quickly and were guessing I was maybe dilated to 7 cm. My husband and our children followed behind shortly, noting my amniotic fluid trail on the way. The nurses looked at my chart and saw that I had had two previous c-sections, but my midwife had also included my birth plan, so they followed along with it.

4

Once I was undressed and checked, they discovered that I was fully dilated and ready to start pushing. Finally my husband was by my side, and our children were being taken care of by the sweet nursing staff in the opposite room. It was time to push, but I was so concerned that I wasn’t doing it right. I pushed as hard as I could – so much so that I broke blood vessels in my shoulders. I yelled out, “I can’t do this anymore!” and the staff yelled back, “Yes, you can!” I can still hear them saying that.

5

The midwife told me to reach down and feel my baby’s hair; and a few pushes later, he was out. They placed him on my chest during the delayed cord clamping; my husband got to cut the cord for the very first time, and I was able to breastfeed him and snuggle him without being hooked up to any cords. He weighed 10 lbs 1 oz and was 22½” long.

6

I did it. We did it. It was one of the most intense, painful and beautiful moments of my life, and it made me appreciate all three of my birth experiences. They were all unique and special, and it’s amazing that I got to experience giving birth both ways. My natural birth was everything I had dreamed of, and it was definitely worth the wait.

HBA2C: Fox’s Birth Story

HBA2C: Fox’s Birth Story

This powerful mama shares the story of her son’s birth at home. 

After two c-sections, my husband and I had decided that we were done having children. My first child was born by emergency c-section at 33 weeks gestation, due to severe preeclampsia; and three years later, our second daughter was born via repeat c-section for “being breech,” which turned out to be wrong; she was head-down when they pulled her out. A little over a year later, we discovered I was pregnant once again – and this time, I was much more educated. I decided I wanted to try not only for a vaginal birth, but for a home birth. My husband stood behind whatever I wanted to do.

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We had met with the local midwife and she saw no problem with my wishes, so we went ahead with on our new adventure. I heard from every doctor I saw that VBACs – especially after multiple c-sections – weren’t allowed by them, which made my desire to birth at home even stronger. It solidified my choice that no one was going to tell me how to birth my baby.

2
On March 8th, 2016 I had an appointment with an OB for a biophysical profile just to make sure baby was okay since my midwife had me down as 42 weeks and we still saw no signs of baby; I had a posterior cervix, and was barely effaced or dilated. I was called a “reckless, irresponsible parent” for denying a repeat c-section that very day. My health was in perfect condition as was the baby’s, so I left feeling very angry but comforted in knowing he just wasn’t ready to come yet.

3
After a trip to the chiropractor and a support belt to keep everything aligned, I was hopeful that maybe something would happen soon. On March 16th, 2016, I woke up to a few contractions. They went on and off all day, although I was never able to time them. It wasn’t until they were strong enough that I couldn’t talk through them that we decided to head home from my in-laws’ house and call the midwife.

4
It was 10 p.m. at that point, and my husband started filing up the birth pool as I worked through contractions in the shower. We put our kids to bed, and the midwife checked me – I was a loose 4cm and 75% effaced. I cried at such a small goal achieved. I lost my bloody show almost immediately afterward, and was at 6 cm not even two hours later. I labored in the pool for a few hours, breathing through each contraction and telling my body that we can do this, eventually getting out because the water wasn’t staying warm enough to comfort me any longer.
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As soon as I was out of the birth pool, transition hit and I was squatting in the shower trying to find any kind of relief. My husband helped me out so we could see where exactly I was at; and during that, my water broke. Within minutes, I was pushing and baby was crowning. It took five big pushes, and our sweet little Fox Odice was brought earthside. Weighing in at 9lbs 1oz and 22½ inches long, my sweet baby boy gave me the healing vaginal birth I so desperately wanted after two prior c-sections. His big sisters slept through the entire six-hour labor and were able to stumble into our room when they woke in the morning to meet their new brother. It was the most empowering and healing experience of my life.

VBAC Birth Story

VBAC Birth Story

Here’s some background about my first labor/birth that ended in a Caesarean:

I planned to deliver at the local birth center. At 41 weeks and 5 days we started induction, with a foley only. I dilated to 8cm before labor stalled. We transferred to the hospital with plans of doing a Pitocin induction, but that never happened – my baby’s heart rate dropped into the 40s and did not come back up. I was on my hands and knees in the bed, and watched the nurse push the code blue button. As a nurse myself, its incredibly surreal hearing a code called and realizing that this time you are the patient. I was rushed to the OR, where I begged for a spinal, and my wish was granted. I got to hear my baby’s first cry, hear what gender HE was, and kiss his sweet face before they took him to the NICU. My 7lb 4oz, 21″ long baby boy was born at 41 weeks and 6 days, after 44 hours of labor, and spent 2 days in the NICU. It was about eight hours until I was able to hold him as I had to wait for the anesthesia to wear off before I could get out of bed. The hardest part was not being able to see my long awaited baby. I had to greet my family without a baby in my arms; I didn’t even know what he looked like.

Fast forward to my second pregnancy.

I was determined to have a different outcome, and found a practice that was extremely supportive of VBACs. I went post dates again and was miserable, terrified that I would never go into labor on my own because I hadn’t with my first. I was emotionally spent. I couldn’t deal with waking up another morning pregnant and going to bed STILL pregnant. At my last appointment I convinced my provider to induce me at 40 weeks and 5 days. I did not feel comfortable going past 41 weeks given my first experience.

Contractions started Friday night (40+3)—maybe every 10-15 minutes. I told my husband to get some sleep, and that I’d be on the couch and would wake him up if things got serious. Contractions were long—at least a minute—which I found encouraging compared to my first labor, where they were only about 45-50 seconds apiece. I had the TV on all night, but I wasn’t paying attention. I had to be upright during contractions and couldn’t tolerate sitting – too much pelvic pressure. I was listening to Hypnobabies “baby come out” for awhile.

I finally forced myself to lie down and sleep when contractions were happening about every 20 minutes or so. When daylight came, nothing was happening, except I was exhausted. This was a familiar experience since the same thing had happened with my son. My husband took our toddler grocery shopping so I could rest. I hardly did anything on Saturday; maybe had a contraction here or there. At 4:30 on Saturday afternoon, I called the hospital to confirm induction and they said it was game on. This is when I’m saying labor truly started (although I didn’t believe it).

I called my mother-in-law and told her to come to our house around 5:15 p.m. When she arrived, I was having contractions that made her and my husband tell me we needed to get to the hospital. I thought they were crazy; contractions were uncomfortable, but I didn’t think it was serious labor. Saying goodbye to my toddler wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be—probably because I was so uncomfortable. When we got near the hospital, my husband asked if we could stop at McDonald’s; I said that was fine, since my contractions were happening every 4-6 minutes.

When we got to the hospital, we parked and I waddled slowly to the lobby. We were early and I was worried they wouldn’t take me because of it. The woman at the desk took one look at me and said, “Let’s get you to your room; you look like you’re in labor. You’re the scheduled induction, right?” I probably looked at her like she was crazy. I was thinking, “Why does everyone think I’m in labor? I’m not!”

I was delighted to see we got a nice labor suite; but the only downside was it had a shower, not a tub. I wasn’t sure if they used the nicer rooms for VBACs or not. The nurses came in and tried to start an IV. She blew my vein after not listening to me as to where to put it. I have good veins. The bruises from that lasted for a few weeks after. The midwife George came in and asked to check me. I was not feeling optimistic. He said, “Well, you’re at a 6 and seem to be contracting well; I don’t see a need for induction.” I was floored and expressed my disbelief. I was still fully expecting to be on Pitocin. George told me he never jokes about a woman’s vagina. I couldn’t believe it. I was 6cm and still didn’t think I was in serious labor! I asked to get in the shower. I labored there on my knees, bent over a bench. The floor was hard so I was kneeling on a towel. This is where my husband asked me if I wanted more kids after this.

I kept shifting positions, and baby was falling off the monitor. I kept asking how baby was, and baby was always perfect. My knees finally got too sore, so I went to the bed. My midwife came in and wanted to check me. I was standing upright and needed something to brace myself on, and he was the nearest sturdy object – so I hugged him tight. He checked me, and I was a 7. That’s when things got serious.

I got in bed and was half kneeling and had the back of the bed completely upright. I couldn’t tolerate being in any other position. Awhile later, the nurses came in and I was struggling. I wanted to climb the walls and pound on the bed. A  nurse offered me pain relief and after discussing it with my husband and my mom, I decided for a Nubain IV. It worked quickly and I started feeling a bit drunk. The nurse asked me to sit down since I was kneeling. I remember thinking, like when you’re drunk, “She knows!” And I asked if I looked that loopy but promised I wouldn’t fall backward.

The Nubain was a godsend. It made things more tolerable, as contractions were on top of each other. I was thinking, “This HAS to be transition…” because I wanted to die—or at least escape from my body. An hour after the Nubain, since I knew it was fairly short-acting, I asked if I could have more when it wore off. The nurse told me that generally it’s a one-time dose; so I decided I wanted an epidural. I was putting it off because I knew I needed a fluid bolus over 30-60 minutes and I was hoping I would run out of time.

I started having doubts like I did with my son, about how I could push a baby out when I could barely think about surviving the contraction. The epidural was administered at 10:30, when I was 8cm. It brought sweet relief. Contractions felt only like Braxton Hicks and I was able to rest. I believe that’s when they broke my water. My husband even took a short nap.

Around 1:45, a bunch of nurses rushed in and started asking me to change positions because baby’s heart rate was down. I had a flashback to my son’s birth and thought, “Well, we tried. I’m going to have another C-section.” My midwife came in, checked me, and said I was complete. I said, “NO WAY, you’re kidding.” He said, “We have been through this before and you need to start believing me!” I laughed then turned to my husband with tears in my eyes and said, “We get to actually have a baby!!”

So pushing began. My mom was holding a leg, and my husband held my head. All too quickly I heard George say that I only need small pushes. I thought, “What?! That means baby is almost here and I’ve hardly even begun to push.” I could also tell from how excited my mom was sounding. So I asked to touch the head and felt her soft, wet hair. I leaned as far forward as I could to see her come out. She was purple and slimy, and A GIRL! I got to announce her gender to the room. She was on my chest immediately. I couldn’t believe it. I got my VBAC and my baby girl. I had a front-zip bra on so I was able to pop my breasts out immediately. She snuggled on my chest for a little, taking in the world. Then she started to crawl towards my left nipple and latched herself right on.

Labor was 9 hours and 42 minutes. I pushed for 16 minutes.

Charlotte was born on Sunday, August 14th at 2:12 a.m., at 40 weeks and 5 days, 7lbs, 3.5oz and 20″ long.

Deep Rooted Faith Leads to a Healing Second Birth

Deep Rooted Faith Leads to a Healing Second Birth

Surita Carstens from South Africa described her first baby’s birth as, “…one of the most traumatic experiences in our lives.” We published that story in 2012 and it moved many of us to tears with its senseless cruelty. At the end of it she wrote, “I hope that one day I can have a VBAC to empower me and feel like the woman I was born to be.”

Almost a year ago, Surita’s daughter Sandra Maria was born. This is the story of her birth.

“It all started with the birth of my son, Nicolaas Mertiens Carstens. His birth was a traumatic experience, filled with a lot of unnecessary interventions. It started with my water breaking, a rush to the hospital, a lonely night bound to a hospital bed with no contractions, a forced induction and after five hours of labour, being scared shitless, an emergency C-section at almost five centimeters due to “failure to progress”. That day I made a choice: never again would I get a C-section unless it was really necessary, and I would be informed enough to know when it was necessary.

Before my son’s birth I never knew about VBACs. But when I started talking to people I heard differently. Then on a Facebook forum I met a lady, now my friend, who had three natural births after a C-section. And then I learned about water births, home births, midwife births and so much more! Things that we thought were “old aged” but that were coming back.

My dreams were focussed on home birth after reading several home birth stories and because I was so scared of another medicalised birth in a hospital environment. So we started searching for a home birthing midwife. However, soon we found that in the small town we lived NO doctor would support us for a home birth, no midwife would help us unless we had a doctor’s support, and also, there were no midwives in our town.

I emailed many, talked to doctors (and I wasn’t even pregnant yet). Finally we found one midwife who would help us. We met with her and liked her, and then we got her price rates. Shocker! We could NOT afford her and as she didn’t use medical aid, there was no way for us to pay her at all. We started searching once more. After months of searches our General Doctor told us he would help us, so we settled on him. We trusted him and thought he would be a great choice, the birth happening at his offices one block from our home.

When our son was 21 months old, I told my husband Jp that I really wanted to get pregnant. It was a Saturday evening, I knew I had the perfect cycle and was ovulating the Monday, so we started trying. When I tested 10 days later we had a BFP. We were pregnant! On our way to having our next baby!

When we talked to our GP again he told us that, since he wasn’t getting any clients for births anymore, he had cancelled his birth insurance the previous year. He couldn’t help us anymore.

The search started all over again.

Finally at eight weeks pregnant we found a gynaecologist in another city who was reputed for doing natural births. His secretary told me he would allow a VBAC, so I made an appointment. He could only see me for the first time at 15 weeks, but I was OK with that, having learned from my research that I preferred not to have a lot of scans early in pregnancy.

The doctor asked how my son was born; I said it was an emergency C-section and his reaction was, “Oh, OK, so we will do a C-section again.” When I told him that I wanted a VBAC he got upset and started talking about how ‘dangerous’ it is. I told him I had the facts, and got out my research and handed it to him. His reaction was, “We’ll talk about it later.” Next up, he wanted to do an internal exam, which I also refused. Another fight, because according to him he needed to do internal scans with every visit to ensure baby was healthy. I said NO!

So we did a normal scan, but according to him he couldn’t a) say what sex it was without an internal, b) look for any birth defects without doing an internal and c) he only gave us the approximate weight at that stage, didn’t check lengths of the femur, head circumference or anything else. After the scan I brought up the VBAC again. His answer was, “I will do an internal check at 36 weeks and then I will decide IF I will MAYBE allow you to do a VBAC, else you will have a C-section between 37 and 38 weeks.” I told him I refused to have a C-section early, and wanted to go into labour naturally. Again he refused, and told me to come back in three weeks so he could do an internal scan to look for defects.

I walked out super sad and feeling beaten. After two years of waiting, everything was falling apart. Another two weeks of phone calls started, calling every and any doctor that I could find, fighting with the medical aid in emails and on the phone and searching, searching, searching.

And then my miracle happened!

Jp and I drew a bank statement of our savings, which to our surprise, were over R7000! And when talking on a Facebook group, a midwife mentioned that if I could come to the city my parents lived in she could help me with a birth and a payment plan over six months. Wow! We started making sums, but I couldn’t finalise anything until end of November when I got my bonus. When it came it was much smaller than expected but we decided to go for it anyway. I also really wanted a doula as well and had met one in October, but finances would just not allow it. Then a Facebook friend heard of my problem. Being a doula herself she said she would help me for free. I was way past happy!

However, there were a few glitches. Number one, the midwife was over two hours’ drive away so I would only be able to see her maybe once a month; I would need someone closer to home for more visits. Two, if an emergency arose I had to have a doctor near our home who could help. Three, because of our financial situation, a home birth at my parents’ place was out of the question – we needed the medical aid to pay for the birth. So another round of fights started about the hospital I should birth in, some of the operators stating the medical aid would pay and others stating it would only pay a certain amount and even more stating that it wouldn’t pay at all. I got the promises to pay in writing via emails.

We planned, we budgeted, and we planned some more. What was clear was that I had to birth at a hospital or else they wouldn’t pay at all, and we found out that my medical history with Myasthenia Gravis and epilepsy meant I had to have a paediatrician on standby in case my baby had breathing or heart difficulties. We never even knew this with my son.

Finally at 22 weeks I went to visit another GP in our town who did do births (mostly C-sections and he refuses all VBACS) for another scan and at 23 weeks we saw our midwife for the very first time.

I loved Heather from the very first minute. She had this way of just making you feel confident in yourself and in her. But she also had a softness and kindness that made me feel at home. Most of all I loved the way they did the examinations. It was so much softer, kinder and more intimate than at the doctor’s. Instead of feeling like just another number I felt accepted and for the first time I wasn’t scared of going for a check-up! And thus it was settled, we would use Heather and any of the other midwives who work with her and we would pay financially as we could, when we could.

I couldn’t see her in January, but saw her again the first Friday of February, March and April. My due date according to ovulation was 15 April, but last menstrual period said the 18th, so we met her three times in April, the last on the 15th.

The baby was still not engaged. She was very low already, but I showed no other signs of imminent birth. I didn’t want any interventions, preferably not stretch and sweep and most definitely no breaking of water or induction, so we decided to wait two weeks before doing anything. My doula, Anina, suggested that I start looking into using pressure points for induction and gave me a site to visit for help. That evening hubby started using them. We also started with evening primrose oil and several other non-invasive natural induction methods, including sex, bouncing on a birth ball etc. The days passed without anything happening. Every morning I would get Braxton Hicks contractions and every evening I would have prodromal labour, contractions 10-12mins apart and lasting 30seconds from 6pm till around 9pm, but as soon as I hit the bed they would stop. We waited.

My other birth companion was to be my best friend, Erika. On 17 April she came to visit so we could chat one last time before the birth and she would know what I expected from her. Three times during the day she and Jp did some pressure points and that evening I ate some pineapple, joking with my mum that I hoped it would induce my labour. Then Jp dropped off Erika at her home and I put our son to bed. The prodromal labour was worse than before and my mum was getting worried, she kept saying I was going to go into labour. I didn’t want to get my hopes up. After days of prodromal labour I was just not hoping anymore and thinking my body was failing me. So I went to bed and Jp stayed up watching a movie. I was sad.

Our son woke me just after 3am to go to the loo. I wasn’t feeling well but didn’t want to wake hubby for “not feeling well”. At 4:15am I woke up again, my tummy was hurting and I thought it might need to go as it had woke me the two previous nights; so I went to the loo – nothing – got back into bed and it started hurting again. Went to the loo again, still nothing and back to bed. When it hurt for the third time I looked how late it was (4:35am) and started timing. Every seven minutes, lasting 30-40seconds and I was…resting? This was different.

At 5:30am I woke hubby telling him I thought I was in labour. I stayed in bed until 6:10, as the contractions moved to five minutes apart, lasting for 30-40 seconds. I went to tell my parents and called Heather. My mum got stressed, wanting me to go to the hospital, saying her contractions were like that with my brother and he was born shortly after. Heather, however, said to wait until they were regular at four to five minutes and lasting over one minute long. So I helped my mum to leave for work and then crawled back into bed trying to sleep. The contractions weren’t really sore, just uncomfy. We all dozed until just after 8am when I got up and started breakfast and washing some clothes. I wanted my son to be sorted with clothes while I was in hospital.

Hubby decided to take a shower while he still had the chance. While he was away I was hit by a contraction and while breathing through it my son decided he wanted to drink some of my mum’s cleaning agents. When I opened my eyes I saw what he had done and rushed to him, smelling the cleaning agent in his breath. The ultimate stress! A friend phoned just at that moment, said she would help and get back to me. During these moments my contractions came every two to three minutes! One hour later we had finally learned that it wasn’t terribly poisonous but to watch him for vomiting and nausea. I was relieved but the episode had stalled my labour and my contractions were back to being seven minutes apart. My mum, a crèche teacher, decided to pick our son up and take him with her to work. Hubby and I went for a walk, hoping it would help get things back on track. But my contractions went to every 10-12 minutes and almost non-existent in length. Just great.

Told hubby labour was gone and I wanted to take a nap. It was 10:30am and I was feeling unsure. So hubby went to watch a movie and I rested. I woke at 11:15am to a hard contraction! We were back on track, every five minutes and lasting 30-40 seconds once more. I got up and went to join him, bouncing on my birth ball, breathing slowly through the contractions, enjoying the new sensation of it. They still didn’t really hurt and I was in heaven knowing my body was working to birth my baby. My doula sent me a message asking how I was and suggested I take a bath. At just past 12pm I got into the tub. Immediately my contractions increased, and by the time I got out they were two to three minutes apart and lasting up to one minute. Hubby got a little worried so I decided to get out and eat something. I ate some wonderful leftover carrot soup, but the labour slowed down again. The contractions still didn’t really hurt, I used hubby to breathe through them and I was just enjoying it, so when Anina phoned I told her I’d let her know when I needed her.

By 2pm my contractions were four minutes apart and lasting just under a minute. I phoned Heather who suggested waiting another hour before we decided what to do. I wasn’t worried yet, was just enjoying the ride and was sure it would be some time still. Then suddenly I felt a change. I couldn’t sit still during a contraction anymore. I had this peculiar urge to kneel and sway my body during the contractions and they felt stronger, harder than before. I had three very close together like this and at 2:45pm told hubby I think it’s time to leave, something had changed. We phoned Heather and Anina and got into the car to leave. Heather told me that she was in another city and it would be some time until she could get to the hospital but she would get a colleague to meet us. The car drive hurt, a LOT. Sitting still in one place was sore, I couldn’t kneel and sway, couldn’t bounce or anything except breathe through the contractions and they were coming over and over on top of one another.

At 3:15pm we stopped at the hospital. While getting out of the car I had another contraction and the security guard rushed to my aid while Erika supported me. She immediately wanted to fetch a wheelchair but I said it wasn’t necessary. Inside I booked in with the hospital and another security guard got super upset that I didn’t want a wheelchair, telling me that if I fell I would get hurt. (Erm, you’re SUPPOSED to walk during labour.) Erika just brushed them off and we went to the midwives’ labour and delivery suite.

When I arrived I was met by Christelle, the other midwife, and within moments Anina also arrived. While hubby fetched the bags Anina supported me during contractions and Erika took photos. First I sat on the birthing ball bouncing while we all chatted and Christelle put up the monitor to see what the contractions were doing and how they affected bubs. My labour had stalled after the car drive. After a while of bouncing we went for a walk through the parking lot, stopping every once in a while for the contractions where I would hold onto hubby and breath through them. Anina encouraged me to sway my hips and would put pressure on different parts of my back to help with pain. I can’t say that it was hurting at all – though I did have to concentrate and breathe through them. I was envisioning circles in a water pond, opening up growing bigger and bigger.

After a nice long walk and some chats and laughs we went back inside. Anina suggested listening to some music and that hubby and I dance to get some oxytocin flowing. Hubby put up Celine Dion’s CD which immediately got me into tears and we were swaying together, holding onto each other. We have been through so much lately and it just was too much for me. Again it was Anina who made the suggestion that I relax a little in a warm bath. Heather arrived and asked to do a doppler check first. The baby’s heartbeat was doing great so I undressed and got into the bath where I just relaxed and chatted while holding onto hubby during my contractions. Still it didn’t really feel like I was in labour.

After the bath Heather suggested some stretches to help with bringing baby down into the birth canal and we went for a walk. Every time the contractions hit I would sway and bend my legs pushing down, breathing through them, concentrating on baby coming down and in between contractions I would do the stretches. I was surprised to find it was dark outside; I had lost all sense of time.

When I re-entered the birthing rooms I was tired, so tired, I just wanted to sleep. Anina helped me down onto the birthing ball. I wasn’t resting very long when Heather asked if she could do an internal exam. It was almost 7pm and she felt it was necessary to know how far I was as I was so relaxed. This was the one part I had been dreading – after my son’s birth I was scared of internals and I was scared of what it would tell us! I was scared I wasn’t dilating enough and would have to go in for a C-section. Heather knew this and she was so kind and helped me to relax and breathe. Hubby helped me down onto the bed and to lie back, another contraction hit and Heather waited it out with me. When it was over she did my internal.

I was at 8cm, almost 9cms!
WOAAA!!! This was really happening! I burst into tears. After the hard long road, I was birthing my baby. What a feeling!

When I got off the bed I felt something shift and change again: the contractions were suddenly so much longer, more painful, more intense and I was feeling different. It was as if I was there, but also not there at the same time. Heather went to get a hot water bottle and poured my bath and Anina helped by applying pressure on my hips. Heather returned and stood behind me, hubby sitting on the bed in front of me. I was bending, swaying and doing things without thought, and I was moaning. Heather applied pressure with her hands on my rectum pushing upwards and at the same time pressing on my back down, both definitely helping, and next thing I knew I felt this bursting sensation. My waters had finally burst. I remember thinking, “Oh no, I just messed myself as well!” But I hadn’t.

Everyone was excited, but I felt this rush of tiredness. It was as if all my energy had drained away and I could barely breathe.

Anina asked if I wanted to get into the bath, but I was so exhausted, tired, I couldn’t even answer. After she asked for the third time hubby made the decision to get me into the bath. Between him, Anina and Heather they almost carried me to the tub a few meters away. The relief of the pain was immediate.

At first I sat hunkered forward on my knees. But this caused a problem. My baby’s head was pressing down so hard that I immediately felt the urge to push and push HARD, but I wasn’t fully dilated yet and was hurting myself. Hubby and Heather both kept asking me to try and stop pushing, which I just couldn’t do! My contractions weren’t even one minute apart and they hurt a LOT.

After a while Heather suggested that I turn around and sit leaning against the bathtub. I didn’t have the energy between the contractions to do it myself, so they had to lift me up and do it for me. But it brought immediate relief. The urge to push was gone and the contractions didn’t hurt as much. I was so grateful to have a little breather.

After a few minutes, Heather announced that baby’s head was moving down the birth canal and that I should start pushing when I felt the urge. I followed her instructions and I was LOUD, making lots of noise, sometimes almost screaming with the pushing. Everyone was encouraging me to push harder, push more and in between Heather asked me to not scream as loudly as it interfered with my pushing. Suddenly Heather realised I couldn’t concentrate through all the noise and asked everyone to just keep quiet and told hubby that he was to tell me when to push and how to push. He sat, holding my hands, lifting me up when the contractions hit and talked to me into my ear, encouraging me. In between contractions everything was quiet. Sometime, someone had put up Josh Groban’s music and I heard him singing. It gave me the courage to go on.

Baby started crowning, and damn that hurt. It felt like my clitoris was on fire and I instinctively wanted to close my legs and shut out the pain, but then I couldn’t push. Hubby leaned over me and held my legs open while I pushed. Heather encouraged me to feel her head crowning and took my hand and guided it to feel her. It felt soft and I could feel a little bit of hair. But every time, just when she crowned her head would pull back in. It felt like ages passed and I just had to keep pushing. Heather suggested that I continue to push just a little between contractions to keep her head crowning. Again she guided my hand down. I could feel our baby’s entire head now and could feel my perineum stretched over it. I pushed, but it didn’t want to come out. I really didn’t want to tear or be cut, so I started praying, asking God to help me, and in between I talked to our baby, encouraging her to come out.

Then the next moment I felt her head pop out! Wow, she was there! Then with the next contraction her body just slipped out and after a few moments Heather lifted her onto my chest, covering her with a towel. I was in ecstasy, I had done it, I had gotten my VBAC! When every doctor, every person I talked to, had told me I couldn’t, not with my history. I had proven them wrong. My baby was there and I had birthed her myself. At 8:30pm, after about 30 minutes of pushing, she was born weighing a nice 3.3kgs!

Me, hubby, midwife and doula just_ after the birth

Mummy and daddy

No words can describe how I felt. Minutes later the placenta was born and I could join hubby and baby on the bed. I got to breastfeed her immediately and my parents and sister could see her moments later. My son, however, had fallen asleep while waiting for us.

I only had three very tiny tears on the inside of my vaginal wall, no tears on my perineum. It was the most amazing and empowering feeling ever!

Breastfeeding for the first_ time!

I am so grateful to Heather, Anina, hubby and Erika. Every wish I had expressed in my birth plan was followed by Heather. I achieved every dream I had and I can never forget how amazing that felt. Thank you to everyone and mostly thank you to my Lord Jesus for helping me! I am a woman, I have given birth and I am a mum!”

 Me and both my kiddies

A Cesarean followed by a {Healing} Medicated VBAC

A Cesarean followed by a {Healing} Medicated VBAC

On October 16th, 2008, my son came into this crazy world. He was born via emergency C-section, which to this day I am still not too sure how I feel about it. I was induced not even being a week overdue. I was anxious, uneducated and just wanted to have my baby here. My blood pressure was up and I was starting to swell but nothing major, so my OBGYN could have definitely waited or tried other things first. Needless to say after 3 days in the hospital with gel being put on my cervix, not too much was happening so my OBGYN decided to break my water and start the oh so lovely Pitocin! Well I had NO SWEET CLUE what I was in for, it was HELL. I was pretty much completely bed ridden because I had to be hooked up to the monitor, blood pressure machine and IV.

After a few hours of that I lost control and needed an epidural because I was no longer handling the contractions at all. I had my epidural which took a couple hours to get because being in a small town the anesthesiologist was either in the OR or was at his house (I can’t remember), but either way, it was torture waiting and waiting for him! A few short hours after I had my epidural, the nurses turned the Pitocin off and called my OBGYN down to the room where he told us that he was going to have to do an emergency c-section as I was not progressing quickly enough and that the baby was in stress. So off to the OR we went. This was the first time I had any type of surgery, I had never even had stitches in my life!

In the operating room I was transferred to the operating table where they prepped me and told me what was going to happen. They started to cut and I screamed!! I could feel everything because I was not completely frozen; my epidural that I had hours before had pretty much worn off. I was given more medicine and they began. After that a lot of it is a blur, I remember my husband came into the room and held my hand. I was shaking so badly that it was hard to breath. I remember asking the anesthesiologist for an ice cube or a sip of water because I was so dry from the oxygen I couldn’t breathe through my nose and from shaking so bad it was hard to breathe out of my mouth because my jaw kept locking up. The list just goes on and on from my OBGYN and family doctor talking about a golf game while closing me up, to throwing up when they rolled me over to take my epidural out to having to be in the recovery room for a couple hours because my blood pressure kept dropping. Needless to say I was scarred physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Holding my son for the first time I cannot remember, all I have is a picture. It was the next day when everything came together for me and I really realized what all had happened, I finally had my baby boy why wasn’t I happier? Everyone met my son before me, they all held him loved him before I even had a chance. The following months were not great at all; it took a good 6 weeks until I felt good physically. I battled night terrors from the C-section, postpartum, PTSD, and the worst of all, guilt. Guilt for not being happier, guilt for not wanting to breastfeed sometimes, guilt for wanting a minute to myself and  guilt for knowing that I loved my son but I just didn’t have that “feeling”. I was broken.

My son has taught me so much about myself about life he is my life my pride and joy , there are no words to describe the love I have for that little man; it was always there I just did not know how to let it out with everything I was going through. We got through my darkest days together and survived! With the help of my husband because God knows I could never have done it without him he is truly my other half.

My OBGYN that I had with my son had told me at my 6 week postpartum check up that I was just not made to have babies and if I wanted another one then it would have to be another C-section! Well, that made my mind up for me; I was NOT going to have any more children. That lasted a while but I knew that I was not yet “fully complete.” So when I became pregnant with our daughter I was scared, all of the emotions I had with my son came flooding back to me but I tried to have the approach, “it is what it is,” whatever the outcome, I will have another beautiful baby, and I would walk through hell and back for that (which I am pretty sure I did the first time). I had always looked online after I had my son about VBAC stories and I would cry because I could relate to every one of those “broken” women. I knew I wanted a VBAC and I was definitely going to try for one. I had a new family doctor and a new OBGYN (go figure my OBGYN lost his licence and my family doctor only lasted a year here)! I expressed my concerns and fears to my family doctor about wanting a VBAC and she said, “Well as long as everything goes normally it should be ok to try.” TRY….TRY…try? She was so pessimistic sounding. So once again I doubted myself, I thought, “Well I will try for it…it won’t happen, but at least I know I tried.”

When I was referred to my OBGYN he was great, he saw no problem with going for a VBAC; he even encouraged it (I thought he must be sniffing glue because didn’t he know it was going to end in a C-section)! My pregnancy went great, just as it did the first time, but this time I had no blood pressure issues at all. Around 40 weeks my OBGYN did a membrane sweep and sent me home and said come back if things get going. Well, I had a few cramps and that was it, and my mucus plug had started to come out. I went back to him at the end of the week, he did another membrane sweep, and he said I’ll probably see you this weekend, if not come back Monday! Once again, cramps!

Monday morning we went back and he did yet another lovely membrane sweep and said if nothing happens then we will do a C-section on Thursday, that’s when I looked at him and said shall we call a spade a spade and just do a C-section. He looked at me and my husband looked at the nurse in the room and said no I think you will be fine.

My husband and I left and went shopping and out to lunch. I was having fairly consistent cramps so around noon I decided to start timing them. My mom had our son, so I asked her to keep him a bit longer just in case. We came home and I cleaned up a bit, had a warm bath, and then walked around our kitchen table nonstop for about 2 hours.  Around 7pm we decided to go to the hospital because the cramps (I would not admit to myself that I was in labour, they were just cramps) were consistent and kept getting worse.

When we got to the hospital they monitored me and checked. I was a couple cm, contractions were fairly consistent so they decided to keep me.  We were put in our room. I called my mom and she was going to keep our son for the night. I had a bath which seemed to help a lot, asked for a birthing ball and we were good to go. The nurses really left us alone for the most part which was really nice. Around midnight I had a shot of morphine because I was getting really tired and the contractions where getting harder to deal with the nurse checked me and I was around 2-3cms. I was able to get a couple minutes of sleep in between contractions.

I got through the night. I had a few baths and was in the bath at shift changes; our new nurse came into the room and wanted to put me on the monitor so I got out of the bath.  Everything was fine but unfortunately the contractions had faded; they were coming every 8-10 minutes my nurse checked and I was about 3-4cms and had told me you know sometimes this will happen labour can stop. Not long after my OBGYN came in and decided to break my water at 8:50am, my contractions where still roughly 7mins apart. I laboured pretty well. I used the birthing ball and went for a couple walks.

I decided to have another shot of morphine at 11:15am because once again I felt like I was losing control over my contractions because I was getting tired. At that time my nurse told me that my OBGYN would like to start Pitocin just to help things move along a bit. I decided I was OK with that but I wanted an epidural because from past experience Pitocin and I are not good friends (and to be honest I figured that at least it would be in when I needed my c-section). At 12:10pm I had my epidural and at 12:40pm the Pitocin was started.  I tried to sleep but it was hard to, I kept feeling pressure so my nurse checked me at 1:50pm and I was 7cm. About 15-20mins later I knew I had to push!!

The nurse that had checked me was filling in for my nurse who was on her break, she told me that she had just checked me and that there was no way I was ready to push! Thankfully my nurse came back into the room a couple minutes later and checked me! She told the other nurse to call the OBGYN because I was fully dilated and asked me just to give a little push which I did and she told me to stop and wait for the OBGYN. Our OBGYN came into the room checked me and asked to give a little push and said, “Woah, wait,” and quickly got his gown on. At 2:25pm I started to push and our beautiful baby girl was born at 2:45pm! I could not believe what had just happened all I could say was that her!! Is it over?!

Miss1

I cannot thank my OBGYN enough, I feel like I have been healed. My first birth was awful from the moment we walked into the hospital. Birth… the most natural thing for a woman absolutely terrified me; I was broken, how could I be broken, unable to have a baby? Was I not meant to have children? These questions always haunted me, they were always there as time went on I thought about it less and less but always knew it was there.

This time around I had the most beautiful experience, I was able to have my baby placed on my belly the minute she was born, my husband cut her cord, and I nursed her and held her skin to skin before she was passed around to everyone! I have an amazing 4 ½ year old who teaches me every day we have a very special bond and my little miss who is 5 ½ months old who helped me heal.

A Healing HypnoBirth {Natural Hospital VBAC In Australia}

A Healing HypnoBirth {Natural Hospital VBAC In Australia}

The pregnancy

My birthing journey started long before my labour. In fact, it started before my pregnancy. My first daughter, ‘Moosh’, was born via emergency cesarean after a long labour and traumatic set of circumstances. My grandfather (who I lived with for 15 years) passed away three days before my ‘due’ date, and surges started almost instantly. Six hours later my membranes released, and my daughter was born 42 hours later via emergency cesarean after a huge spiral of intervention: Syntocin, gas, epidural, attempted vacuum before losing her heartbeat and rushing in for a cesarean…  and for almost four years I relived the labour and birth with fear, regret and disappointment, and worked my way through motherhood clouded by birth trauma and post-natal depression. So much so that I thought I wouldn’t be able to face the idea of birthing again, and my partner, Michelle, agreed to birth the next baby – we tried to conceive for a few months in 2011 but after a lot of heartache from both of us we knew it wasn’t what we wanted. She didn’t want to birth, and I desperately wanted to.

So we took a break, and started again in 2012. It was meant to be, and we were pregnant first go! WOW! And OMG! And … what have I done? Now I’ll have to birth. What would I do? My options as I saw them were – scheduled cesarean or VBAC. Initially, I told Michelle I thought I wanted a repeat cesarean  I wanted some control. I thought that a cesarean scheduled by me, planned and orchestrated exactly as I wanted it to be, would be my healing birth. Could I really face the prospect of the same labour as Moosh and then just have it end in another cesarean? Could I deal with that disappointment again?

I knew a VBAC was what I wanted though. But I was so fearful. I was so fearful that I would try and fail, like the first time I tried so hard for the perfect natural birth I wanted to have for myself and Moosh and failed. I tried so hard to justify my choice of a scheduled cesarean to Michelle, who saw right through me and knew it was not what I wanted. It was not what she wanted either; last time, my recovery was long and my depression was deep. I have a lot of friends who have had a VBAC, and so did my mum, and with their support I began planning my VBAC…

I spent a lot of time online, researching the guidelines surrounding VBAC in hospitals in Queensland, Australia. I consulted a private midwife who gave me independent advice, and I also read almost every VBAC story possible on the BWF webapge and also on Birthtalk, a Brisbane support group for mums with birth trauma.

A friend (Cass, who would become my birth support and awesome birth photographer!) had done HypnoBirthing for her two VBAC’s, and that’s where my journey really began. I rang the instructor, Leanne Jackson (www.hypnobirthing.net.au), often with my fears and she eventually (and probably with some frustration and concern that I could truly hold so many fears about birth!) told me that I needed attend the first class NOW, at 20 weeks, because I would not be able to properly plan my calm birth experience until I let go of my first birth. We attended the class and came out of it energised. I felt an instant connection with Leanne and our beliefs aligned perfectly so she was able to talk me through my first birth and explain it in such a way that I felt infinitely better. We continued with the classes two months later, and Michelle and I worked together on the exercises and meditations. The classes were in Beachmere, right on the water, and it felt very peaceful – like my fears could be washed away by the salty breeze and I would be left cleansed. I listened to the birth affirmations often. We were able to be open with each other about our fears and it brought us closer. My birth expectations moved from ‘VBAC’ to ‘calm birth’, and I released my fear of another cesarean  because holding that fear would be silly since it was always a possibility with any birth, although I unfortunately held my fear of not being able to birth. The affirmation I felt strongly drawn to was the one I struggled with the most – ‘I trust my body to know what to do’. How could I trust in this body, that couldn’t even dilate past 4cm without drugs last time…?

My pregnancy was not without a little bit of unwelcome excitement. I got to visit the birth suite multiple times through 2nd and 3rd trimester. I had a small leak of fluid at 24 weeks, which the Ob attributed to an infection, and was told all the worst case scenarios, like pPROM or a uterine infection. I had another fluid loss at 28 weeks. And a bleed at 34 weeks. I had the support of the hospital for my VBAC until 28 weeks, when I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes and they decided that I probably had undiagnosed GD last time. And then when they saw the weight of my first baby (8lb 6oz – 3790g) they started talking about probable macrosomia and that they would want me to birth by 38/39 weeks. When I went on insulin at 32 weeks, they sent me for a scan and mentioned “delivery around 37/38 weeks”. I worried about the scan, knowing how notoriously inaccurate they are in the third trimester. The whole saga of infection, fluid loss and diabetes made it really difficult for me to embrace my affirmations and trust that my body knew what to do… I mean, quite clearly my body was struggling with the pregnancy. Would it know how to birth when the time came…?

Maternity photo shoot on Bribie Island – 33 weeks
Photos by Jane Gilbey Photography
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My family of three, soon to be four
beach maternity Jane Gilbey Photography

But my body was not defective – the 34 week scan worked in my favour, showing a perfectly healthy and average baby on the 63rd percentile. I was tested and had no infections at 34 weeks. After 4 weeks on insulin and weekly acupuncture, my body got its act together and at 36 weeks I was able to come off the insulin, just in the nick of time too! The Obs were happy with it all after that and were generally easily placated at appointments, and I just kept travelling in the direction of my VBAC. I was also having some really good pre-labour that allowed me to practice my HypnoBirthing breathing and meditations.

 At 37+5 the Obs at the hospital wanted to do vaginal exams and strip my membranes. I declined, but consented at 38+5, mostly because I was curious as to whether or not all my pre-labour had amounted to cervical changes. I still had not embraced the trust I needed to have. I was more than a little disappointed with my ‘Modified Bishop Score’ of 1… The strip did nothing, not even any cramping. Little Jellybean was very comfortable. I had another exam at 39+5, my score this time was 3 however my cervix was so high and posterior that this doctor couldn’t even do a stretch and sweep – she could barely do the exam. Ugh! I resigned myself to being pregnant forever, which was unnecessarily dramatic considering I wasn’t even ‘due’ yet… lol

My mum came up the next day – 39+6 – she had taken 5 days off work to come keep me sane. I had asked her, back in April, if she would be one of my support people. Not only because she was my mum, but because she had a successful VBAC in 2001 and having people around me who knew that VBAC was possible was important. She had taken on a lot of work in November and we all worried she wouldn’t be able to be up for the birth, the only time she could get off was these five days… not only that, but my other birth support, Cass, was unavailable at 40+1-40+3… so I had the smallest and most unlikely window of opportunity to birth this baby with both of my support people around me…

My body had sent me lots of signals that I needed to trust that it knew what to do. It grew a perfectly healthy baby, kept the diabetes under control, my blood pressure and weight gain was perfect throughout the whole pregnancy… and at midnight right on 40 weeks my body went into spontaneous labour – only 12 hours after my mum arrived! It’s like my body was saying “HEY, TRUST ME, I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!”

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Labouring at home

I had felt some niggles the evening before (39+6), starting at around 8pm. They felt slightly different to the pre-labour I’d been having, but nothing worth getting excited about. We were watching Finding Nemo with Moosh when I said to mum that I felt a bit funny, and she said I was probably dehydrated and that I should have a big drink of water and go to bed. I joked that I was going to wake her up really early and pretend I was in labour, and she said she wouldn’t get up if I did that… I went to bed exhausted (having mowed the lawn that morning, haha!) and slept through what was probably a little bit of early labour until just before midnight when my first intense surge woke me up. I laid in bed, breathing through it, a little shocked to be woken. After another one, I decided to watch the clock for a bit and I had 6 over the course of an hour – 10 minutes apart, all consistently 40 seconds long and a very deep squeezing and pulling sensation that I knew was *it*.

At around 1-2am it was getting uncomfortable to stay in bed so I got up, and messaged Cass because I was excited (although I probably should have just let her sleep!). I woke Michelle up to let her know and she got up with me until 3am, when I sent her back to bed. I sat outside with our gorgeous Labrador Sasha, who sat with me through each surge. It was so peaceful on my rocking chair with my iPod on repeat and my dog-doula at my side. I watched the sun come up and took myself down into a meditation and tried to harness the energy of the new day. Once the sun came up at around 4.30-5am Sasha started to get a bit sooky and whiney and protective, and wanted to sit ON me through the surges, so I went back inside, tried to lay down in bed to rest for a bit but it was quite uncomfortable. Michelle got up with me and we had some ‘together’ time, just hugging and smiling and she massaged my back. The surges were getting a little closer together, coming around 8-9 minutes apart at 6am. I could breathe through them easily without any support or cues, although they were taking a little more effort to focus on the breath rather than the sensations. When I felt one building I felt restless, and I would seek out a quiet spot, a wall or a corner, and close my eyes and go into myself. I remember thinking that I was acting like a labouring cow – literally! – who was trying to find the most isolated and safest part of the paddock to birth in.

At 6am I messaged Cass again, and Michelle and I made pancakes. I woke my mum up, telling her I was in early labour and that there were pancakes if she was hungry. She opened one eye, said “yeah right”, and rolled back over. HAHA! I said “no, mum, I’m serious…”, but she wasn’t convinced. I heard Michelle laughing in the kitchen, and I called out “I don’t know what I can do to make her believe me… maybe if I just have the baby right now…?!”. Mum eventually got up after my next surge, still not fully convinced! We ate pancakes between surges, and Michelle called her sister to get her to come and take Moosh.

Things frustratingly slowed down when Moosh got up, and then again when Michelle’s sister arrived to take Moosh at around 7-8am. I needed them out of the house, and Michelle could sense this, so she sent them away quickly. Things stayed around 10-15 minutes apart for an hour or two. I got cranky and had a cry, thinking it was all just pre-labour, doubting my body again. I walked around the garden, and then had a nap. Michelle sneakily messaged Cass and told her we needed her to come, even though I kept saying that I wasn’t ready to have anyone else here. Things picked back up around 10am(ish) when I got on the treadmill and did a slow walk for 30 minutes. The surges were getting more intense and I needed the physical cue of someone’s hand on my neck – my HypnoBirthing cue to relax and breathe. Michelle or my mum would jump in as soon as they noticed a surge coming on and keep their hand on my neck until I was ready for them to let go.

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Cass arrived and things were getting faster again. Michelle, mum and Cass made spinach and fetta pie for lunch and things were going quickly at this stage. Cass kept saying that we might need to go before lunch was ready, which made me excited to think I might be close to birthing. Things were getting more intense but not difficult to work through. I remember being like a restless cow during this stage again, and retreated to various parts of the house during a surge. Cass had her camera and was taking photos; during a surge I was oblivious to the sound of the camera, but if I was coming out of one and I heard the shutter I would have a little giggle and feel self-conscious.

Lunch time, and me in awe of the changes my body was going through
– as labour progressed, the top of my belly got squishier and squishier as my baby moved down
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Mum supporting me through a surge as Shel looks on
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We were still home when the pie was done, and I ate even though I wasn’t overly hungry, knowing it was important to keep my energy up. Things slowed down again. I was worried about the position of the baby – it felt like she was pushing down on the front of my pelvis and I worried she was stuck at the top. It reminded me of my labour with Moosh. I chucked a little tanty, and had a cry because I thought maybe my body wasn’t going to let my baby move down and out. I got cranky, then Cass got cranky that I kept comparing this labour to my last labour. I had another little nap, cranky and frustrated. Not a long nap, because I’d told everyone that I needed them to make me stay upright and active.

Things picked up very quickly after my nap. I vaguely recall vomiting a few times and moving around the house a lot, between midday and 4pm, and at around 4pm-ish I had ate again. Things got really intense from there and I didn’t have much of a concept of time, as I stayed inside myself. I was quite vocal, and found that focusing and visualising the sound moving down and out through my cervix helped get through each surge. I used an affirmation card that a friend made for me as a focus point, and that helped a lot.

Sarah made this affirmation card for me from a photo she took
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birth affirmation

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I had planned to stay quiet and calm, because last time when I got vocal I actually ended up hysterical and losing it emotionally, but it was different this time – vocalising felt like a natural response to the surges and making the low ‘ahhhhhhhhh’ moans made me feel more grounded and connected, so I just went with it. I needed a lot of touch and cues to breathe, relax, shoulders down. Cass said I was like an octopus, and they knew I was having a surge when I threw my arms around trying to reach for someone. I felt like I was in a safe bubble when I was near Michelle, and burying my head in her shoulder during a surge was where I felt safe and relaxed. I think at one point everyone thought I’d have the baby at home, and Cass actually whispered to me “do you plan on having the baby at home” and I laughed although I’m sure it was a totally serious question. I didn’t plan on it, although she knew I wouldn’t have minded!

My mum behind me with hands on my shoulders (HypnoBirthing cue to relax)
and Michelle in front of me holding my hands and my iPod
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Safety in my partner’s arms
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There came a point, around 8-9pm where I went through my ‘crisis point’. I was convinced I wasn’t in ‘real’ labour. Hilariously, I also decided that I had had enough of being in labour, because it was too hard. Transition is very funny in hindsight! The surges were tight, and stretchy, and pully, and lots of pressure. I felt movement down, and fullness. I lost it for a bit, vomited a few times, cried, and decided I wasn’t in labour, that if I went to the hospital they’d say that nothing was happening. I had a split second where I was squatting next to my bed in between surges and I contemplated just going to the hospital to have another caesarean because I didn’t want to do this anymore. I remember saying that I was going to crawl under the bed and hide. Then I wanted to hide in my walk-in wardrobe. It seemed totally logical to me that I could just run away and hide from it all in a dark corner!

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A few surges were painful as I battled the thoughts in my head and let fear and tension take over. I dreaded each of those surges and fought the build up instead of relaxing and breathing. I am grateful that I was able to use the Hypnobirthing techniques and my whole labour wasn’t like that!!! Except for the few times when I resisted a surge and tensed up, the rest of my labour was very intense and pully and crampy, but not painful.

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I’m not sure how long that lasted, maybe an hour or two, but once I had recomposed myself I remember knowing that now was it. I knew I needed to be in the place where I was going to birth. I was ready to get in the car and go to the hospital. In fact, I said I was ready to go, and then I was sitting in the car with mum wondering why Michelle and Cass were taking so long. Luckily they didn’t tell me why they were taking their time – Michelle had rung the hospital and the midwife said since my surges weren’t very close together then it was probably a bit early to go to the hospital. That would have definitely shattered my confidence and Michelle knew it.

Labouring in the hospital

The drive to the hospital was bliss. I was expecting an excruciating ride but with my iPod and holding my mum’s hand I enjoyed the bumps and turns and used them to focus on instead of the power of each surge. The drive was so easy I was worried that maybe it really was just pre-labour, or at most early labour, and I contemplated telling Michelle to just drive around for a bit as I was so comfortable. We arrived at the hospital and I had a surge at the car, and another in the lift. I stood in the lift as someone held the door open until I was done.

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We got to the birth suite at about 10.30pm, and I felt nervous. I smiled at the midwife and felt suddenly very self-conscious that I wasn’t wearing a bra! Bit silly considering how much she would see eventually… The midwife showed us to the birth suite, and had a quick chat between another surge. She stood and watched a surge, and I felt ‘watched’ and quite uncomfortable… where was my dark corner!?! Last time I could barely find a midwife when I needed one, and this midwife was in the room, sitting and watching us, more often than she was out of the room! She took my birth intentions sheet, and told us she’d be back in a bit. She read it, and it was evident in everything that she did. After the birth another midwife on the ward told me I had “hit the jackpot” with that midwife, apparently she was a bit of a VBAC queen and had no fear of the Obs, and it showed! It was around 10.30-11pm when she did an exam. We had on our birth intentions sheet that Michelle would be the only one to tell me the results of any exams, so they went out of the room and then came back in and they both had massive smiles on their faces so I knew something was right! I cried when Michelle told me I was 8cm, that her head was “right there”, and that there was a lot of pressure and my membranes would probably rupture very soon. MY BODY WAS WORKING! I felt renewed strength, pride and a bit of awe at the amazing work my body and baby had done. And the emotional work I had done to get that far.

Relaxed at the hospital @ 8-9cm
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Initial monitoring showed a happy baby, and the midwife was happy to allow me to be off the monitoring and go to the toilet. The monitoring didn’t bother me like I worried that it would – I didn’t even notice it and the sound of the heartbeat was a good focal point – and they were happy for me to stand and move so I agreed to go back on. I didn’t really want to move around, I just wanted to be up and off the bed, and the midwife brought the birth stool over and I had a lovely little corner set up for me.

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My waters released a little bit after and there was meconium in there, so the midwife told me that there might have to be a slight change of plans. I waited for her to say that I would need a caesarean, but she just said that the baby would need suctioning at birth by the paediatrician, but that she would just be across the room and she would be brought back to me straight away. I worried for a bit about if she would be ok, but both mum and Cass were quick to reassure Michelle and I that it wasn’t all bad, and that both of them had dealt with VBAC bubs born through meconium liquor, and all had turned out ok. The midwife also mentioned that the monitors showed that she was still happy inside so we were right to keep going for the VBAC. I felt a bit better after that – knowing she was ok on the monitors and knowing that the midwife was really working with me to help me achieve my VBAC.

A short time later the midwife noticed that the baby was having decelerations after each contraction had finished, which is a sign of distress. The midwife told me that she unfortunately had to inform the Obs about the decelerations (I think she actually used the words unfortunately – she was a pretty awesome midwife!). I was on the (space age) birth stool which was quite comfortable, but she encouraged me to change positions which seemed to help a little so it seemed bub hated the birth stool. With the position change the decelerations seemed to go away, and I remember hearing the midwife say that to the Ob, and I think they were a bit happier knowing that.

I stood for a while and then my body felt very, very pushy about two hours in, and with each surge I could feel myself bear down with a force that was almost unstoppable. It felt good, and right, and seemed to work with the intensity of each surge so I went with it. I remember the pressure, and my legs going shaky. I really wanted to be on the birth stool, so a close second was having someone behind me supporting my weight under my arms while my body took over to try and get this baby out. It was two hours after my initial exam and the midwife asked to do another exam, which I let her do, and she took Michelle outside and told Michelle that I was only 9cm and if I kept pushing my cervix might swell and stop dilating. Michelle came back in the room and just said “you have to stop pushing”.

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HOLY CRAP? Are you serious? Stop pushing. I don’t think I have ever done anything so difficult in all my life. Everyone coached me through breathing away the pushing feeling. Cass was across the room for one surge where I found the pushing instinct almost impossible to stop, and she yelled at me “LEASH! BREATHE!” and it echoed in my head, it was all I could hear. I screamed back at her “I’M TRYING!”. That seemed to help actually, as I forced the energy up and away with my voice instead of down and out.  Oh my goodness I was trying. I was trying to focus on my breath, and I was repeating over and over “Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.”  It felt like hours and hours, but apparently it was barely 20 minutes before the Ob came on the check me.

The  Ob did the exam… I remember screaming at her to stop about a million times. I considered kicking her away. Then I seriously considered kicking her very hard in the head. Whatever she was doing HURT. I growled “affirmations. AFFIRMATIONS!!!”; Michelle turned on my HypnoBirthing affirmations and I focused on the voice coming through the iPod and tuned out everything else… I didn’t know at the time, but she thought she felt an ear presenting, and so that warranted an exam that felt like she was poking me with a million red hot irons for hours. I’m glad I didn’t know that she thought it was an ear, because the caesarean birth was the result of asynclitic presentation, and I didn’t need that kind of déjà vu. In reality, the exam probably only took a minute, but it seriously HURT. But the good news was that I was 10cm, and it WASN’T an ear presenting, and we were good to go.

The midwife told me that even though she knew I wanted to birth gently and use Hypnobirthing techniques to breathe the baby down in our own time, that the Obs were starting to get antsy and were putting us on a time limit of an hour. I had one hour to push her out. She said “I want you to really push. You will push this baby out”. To be honest, I was happy to push, my body really wanted to push, and I wanted this baby coming out of my vagina. We had an hour. “Tell me what to do.” I said. And so we began…

The birth

1.20am, 40w1d, I started to push out my baby girl. It felt awesome, and terrifying! The midwife watched the surges, reminding me to breathe, to push down and out not up and away, not to use my voice.  I could feel my baby inside moving down, making teeny tiny progress with each wave. The midwife said “pushing is like two steps forward and one step back” which frustrated me because I felt like I was giving it everything but only making tiny steps, and then hearing that afterwards it was going BACKWARDS! Ugh! I was still also only have surges every 4-5 minutes, and I was pushing from very high, which apparently was going to make it a bit more challenging, plus the fact that we were on a time limit. I remember Lyn mentioning the ‘2 in 10’ surges, although another midwife just said “I’ve seen that done before”, and it made me feel better and it wasn’t mentioned again. I decided to merge the coached pushing with Hypnobirthing, in between surges I relaxed and focused my energy at keeping her where she was so I didn’t feel like I was starting back at square one every time I started pushing. It seemed to work because the surge after I started doing that Lyn got excited and told everyone to look, and there was a head.

Pushing, while listening to affirmations
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Resting between surges, using Hypnobirthing breathing to try and keep the baby from going back upIMG_7048RBW

Lyn told me to reach down, and I touched her head. It felt familiar; as I reached down to touch the smooth hard bones of her skull, something in me knew what it would feel like. It was exactly like a dream I had during pregnancy: of a VBAC, where I had reached down and was the first one to touch my baby. In between a surge the midwife ran out and came back with a mirror, and I saw the weirdest sight I’ve ever seen. There was a tiny flash of white emerging, the head I had touched a moment ago. It was white, covered in vernix, and pointy, which in hindsight was obviously her skull overlapping to fit down. I told everyone that it looked wrong, and I asked if the baby was ok – she was fine, of course.  Lyn looked at me and said “no going back now, this baby is coming out of your vagina!” and I don’t know if I smiled at the time but on the inside I was wearing the biggest grin in my life! I reached down and touched her head, it was smooth and hard, and again I felt renewed energy. A VBAC! My VBAC! I was going to birth my baby! She said the exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right time.

Michelle whispering “you’re going to do it, you can do it, you’re going to have a VBAC”
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The Obs were getting itchy fingers around now I think, but it felt like the midwife had built a wall around me, to protect my birthing space. She said to me very seriously “Alisia, I need you to look at me, I need you to hear what I’m saying.” She told me she wanted to do an episiotomy. On my birth plan I specifically stated that under no circumstances could they cut me without good reason and my explicit permission. She explained what she was seeing as I pushed, a colour change which indicated that I would likely tear. She also said that I had been pushing for a while (I think around an hour), the Obs would come in soon and they would want to use the vacuum to pull her out. I shut my eyes and thought. I could feel I was being held back, there was something I couldn’t push past and this time it was a physical barrier not a mental one. I trusted her judgement; everything she had done was with respect and with reference to my birthing intentions. I felt like she wouldn’t have done anything that wasn’t necessary for me to have this VBAC… she said “Alisia, I need you to tell me what to do.” I answered: “Ok. Yes, ok.”

I felt relief after the cut, and I knew it was right. Cass got a photo of it, fascinating but cringe-worthy. The Obs came in and asked how long I had been pushing for, and the midwife said to me “this contraction Alisia, she is coming out in this contraction, use the pain and push her out”. I pushed so hard, and made some good progress, but she wasn’t coming out in this one. I opened my eyes and said “sorry, I’m trying!” and then I saw the Ob holding the vacuum. The midwife said “THIS ONE! Alisia! Do it! Don’t let the doctors steal your thunder! We’re having a baby right now! Do it!”. I gave the biggest push I’d ever given, with power I didn’t even know I had, and I felt her move quickly down and at the time I was sure they were using the vacuum because I didn’t think I had that much power in me to move her so quickly. The midwife told me to stop pushing and breathe like I was blowing out candles. And then I felt it. I stretched. I was fairly sure I was splitting in half in all directions. The midwife supported my baby, and I felt her turn – I think the midwife helped her turn – and then heard her say “another big push now”, and I did and I felt suddenly empty, and an intense rush of relief and exhaustion and exhilaration. I breathed and sighed, and I knew it was over.

And then I heard it. Her cry. And I looked down, and there was a baby, laying there on the bed. A beautiful bloody vernix covered little mess, arms out, fists clenched, eyes closed, practically bald, and making the most beautiful sound in the world. And it hit me. I did it. A baby! Look what I did! I did it! And I birthed her! I pushed her out! No vacuum! No pain relief! No drugs! Just me, and my body! And there she is! My baby! Making the most amazing sound in the world! I did it. She just came out of me! I got her out. I JUST HAD A VBAC! Nothing else existed, and it felt like hours that I stared at her, but it was a matter of seconds. They quickly moved her away to suction her, and all of a sudden I had everyone on me, hugging me, and all I could hear was her little newborn cry and everyone around me saying “you did it!”. I could feel Michelle’s hand on my head, I felt her kissing my forehead, tears in her eyes. I heard my mum cry and say “Leash, you did it, look what you did!”.

The moment I saw my baby for the first time
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I came back to reality as I heard Lyn tell someone else not to give me the Syntocin injection because I wanted a physiological third stage (as per my birth intentions). She looked slightly concerned. “Do you think I need it?” I asked her. She said yes. I sensed some sort of commotion, and told her to do what she needed to do. I looked for my baby, thinking the commotion was for her and I felt sick thinking that something was wrong, but there she was across the room, looking amazing and crying perfectly on the resuscitation table. It was a few seconds before I realised the commotion was surrounding me. I was bleeding, a lot, and it wasn’t slowing down. I was told later that the Ob was scooping blood off the bed with her hands and into a bowl, there was quite a bit. They gave me the injection, and worked at getting the placenta out; it was difficult to get out. There was a rush to get it out because apparently the bleeding would stop or at least slow once it had fully separated and been birthed.

And they brought my baby back quickly, and we had skin-to-skin. She was there, on me, and it felt amazing and awkward. She was calm, so calm, with her eyes wide open. I wanted to hold her forever but I told them I needed someone to take the baby because I felt dizzy. Apparently that created panic stations, and people jumped out of cupboards (not really, but it seemed like people came from everywhere). I had lost a lot of blood and the placenta still wasn’t coming. They hooked up a bag of oxytocin to a cannula in one arm, someone putting another line into my other arm and hooking up something else. There was pushing on my stomach. The Ob was being a bitch again and sticking things in awkward places to stop the bleeding, and I protested half-heartedly by crying out “OW” every time she came near me. I think she apologised, but I’m sure she enjoyed torturing me. I lost 800mL of blood but the haemorrhage eventually stopped and the room was calm again. I started to feel better, and they brought my baby back to me.

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The Ob told me I had tore a little beyond the cut and that it was now considered a third degree tear and they wanted to repair it in surgery under spinal anaesthetic. She was going to repair the tear herself, and I remember thinking that she probably would have preferred to do it without any anaesthetic because at this stage I was fairly certain she was an extreme sadist…

I breastfed as they did their preparations for surgery. She latched on so perfectly one of the midwives told me they could use her lips in an ad for Special K. I felt proud that she had got it so right first go. They asked a million questions getting things ready for surgery, things that I honestly couldn’t have cared less about. Yes, knowing if I have ever had a reaction under anaesthetic is important, but didn’t they know I just had a baby? Half the time all I could hear was noise coming out of their mouth and I just nodded as I stared at my wonderful baby and enjoyed the moment with Michelle. I couldn’t believe how much she looked like Moosh, except that she seemed so much smaller! They said they were ready and Michelle took the baby, unnamed at this stage but very much loved already. The wheeled me in, and gave me the spinal. I kept doing my HypnoBirthing breathing, and it helped during the surgery. They thought I was asleep and were talking about whether my stats reflected that I was asleep – it surprised them when I opened my eyes and said, “no, I’m just doing my HypnoBirthing breathing” and closed my eyes again.

I stayed in recovery for 20 minutes, and they brought me back to the room. I could hear my baby crying as I was wheeled up the hall and I had tears in my eyes hearing her cry, and the intense need to hold her was overwhelming. It was almost 5am, and I could see the sun was already coming up. What a beautiful day! I was wheeled past the visitor area where Michelle and mum were waiting, and into the next room. They followed in after, and the midwife gave me my baby and all was right in my world again. Michelle told me that she was born at 2.34am, 4 hours after arriving at the hospital, and was a gorgeous 7lb 9oz (3438g).

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Michelle with our baby while I was in surgery
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Moosh meeting her little sisterJandC

I’m so thankful for the HypnoBirthing, which helped me stay calm and in control, even when unexpected twists and turns popped up. People ask how the birth was and I just say “perfect”. I was respected, I was supported, and I was safe. I had a support team who were responsive and knew exactly what I needed at every step, I had a midwife who respected us and worked with us through the different turns birthing took. I had a body that worked perfectly. I worked so hard for so long to prepare for this calm birth experience. I am so happy. I am so proud. I am healed.

My family, now complete
beach maternity Jane Gilbey Photography
siblings

Maternity and newborn photos were taken by Jane Gilbey Photography

Labour and birth photos were taken by my great friend and birth support person, Cassandra Hoffmann.

Article written by Alisia Cameron, wife and mum of two.

The Long Journey Home: An HBA2C Story, {Part IV}

The Long Journey Home: An HBA2C Story, {Part IV}

Yesterday, we shared the third part of Rose Homme’s HBA2C story. In this five-part series, she shares her journey to home birth: the emotional ups and downs, the pain of her first births, and how believing in herself and her body guided her through. Here, you can read the goals and intentions she set for herself for her third labour. Check back tomorrow to read the birth story!

“I know that our bodies are not flawed. All of us were built to birth regardless of our size, weight or height. I’m 4’11, I look huge when I’m pregnant, and I had to get to a point where I embraced my body and size for the work it was doing. That my size is normal for me and my babies. I think this played a part in my first birth experience as well, where I was as surprised by my size as everyone around me. I think that was the seed of doubt that started me questioning my ability to grow and birth a baby.

It is important to keep in mind that our bodies must work pretty well, or their wouldn’t be so many humans on the planet. 
― Ina May Gaskin, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

I also had to get to a place where I accepted my previous births and could acknowledge the strength and lessons they taught me. One of the last things Amy (my therapist) and I worked on was being “ok” with a hospital transfer, and epidural; it was like accepting those possibilities let them go into the universe, and I was no longer attracting them or inviting them to our birth.

I knew one of my goals for this birth was to be completely conscious, responsive and active in the process. I acknowledged that it was as much our baby’s birth as it was mine and we were going to work together. Through the pregnancy I had to remind myself that I could listen to my instincts throughout the labor and my body, mind and baby would tell me how to move and cope.

Our bodies know how to birth. Our babies know how to be born.

Sue had embedded in me that we were going to ignore my labor, and treat it like any other day. On one level this sounded completely crazy to me, but I believed it to be the best way to handle labor. Since I was induced with my first and in la-la land with my second, I was very unsure of what to expect. Even with doubts popping up here and there, I knew that if I trusted my body it would lead the way.

I let go of any expectations or ideals of perfection, the IF – THENS I had during Oliver’s pregnancy. I knew I wasn’t going to make it to yoga class, so I just did yoga daily at home, totally ok with kids jumping all over me, interrupting me. I would stretch on the floor or crawl around the backyard, some days that would be all the exercise I could get. I did one yoga DVD from about 20 weeks on and memorized it. I modified it so that it felt right for me, staying in some positions longer and skipping others altogether. I walked as often as I could. I knew that our daily lives didn’t accommodate daily strolls, so I went for distance. As a family we would take walks on Sunday to the Orange Circle about three miles away.

I tried to keep my activity level the same in late pregnancy as it was early on. I made sure to do the stretches and squats Sue recommended. I always had my car seat set in an upright position with my bottom slightly higher than my knees (good for babies’ positioning, see spinning babies). I sat on my yoga ball, and saw my chiropractor, Britney Cicon, on the same schedule as my prenatal appointments. I was probably the most active during this pregnancy. Because of my previous ectopic I had been treated like I was sick or slightly handicapped during my first pregnancy – no one wanted me to lift anything or do too much. Which is sweet, but really pregnancy is the time to keep up your endurance.

Two young children are awesome endurance trainers! They didn’t let me sit and put my feet up – half the time I couldn’t even acknowledge I was pregnant. I continued to chase after them and carry them throughout the pregnancy, which made me feel strong. I took a holistic approach and listened to Sue. Sue wanted me to watch my sugar intake – so even with a major sweet tooth, I listened. I took my supplements and really appreciated the care and knowledge Sue provided me as a whole person, not just a uterus.

Gardeners know that you must nourish the soil if you want healthy plants. You must water the plants adequately, especially when seeds are germinating and sprouting, and they should be planted in a nutrient-rich soil. Why should nutrition matter less in the creation of young humans than it does in young plants? I’m sure that it doesn’t. 
― Ina May Gaskin, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

I knew that I believed in this and wanted it more than anything! Here I am at 39 weeks.

These are some of the things I believed without a doubt and wanted for this birth:

-Home birth was the best option for me and my baby
-I wanted a peaceful birth for both of us
-We didn’t need intervention
-Home birth was safer than a third C-section
-I needed to surround myself with positive supportive people
-I was going to ignore labor for as long as possible
-We would have immediate skin-to-skin contact after the birth
-We would do delayed cord clamping
-I needed to move around during labor
-I would eat and drink during labor
-I would have a conscious, vibrant birth experience
-It was as much my baby’s birth as it was mine
-My baby played a role in this and I needed to communicate with her.

You can read Part V and the HBA2C birth story here!
Rose owns the natural baby store, Rosie Posie Baby, in Anaheim, California. You can read more about her and her family on her blog, Rosie Posie Baby.
Long Labor Ends with Beautiful HBAC

Long Labor Ends with Beautiful HBAC

For months and months I had dreamt of this moment. The moment when my daughter would be here and I would be able to say that I did it. I had my home birth after cesarean  I imagined what my birth story would contain and couldn’t wait to write it. And now, that the time is finally here. I find myself having a hard time putting into words everything that I am thinking and feeling. So, instead of a carefully planned story I’m just going to write and see what happens.

Most VBAC stories start with the details of the prior c-section. But when I tried to write that out I realized that the details of my C-Section aren’t important. The simple facts is, it happened. It gave me a beautiful, healthy son. I will probably never fully recover from the disappointment of having it.  It changed the way I look at birth indefinitely. If it hadn’t been for that C-Section I probably never would have realized that I could have a different experience. That I could actually have control over the choices made for me, my baby and my body.

From the moment I found out I was expecting again I began to research VBAC’s and natural birthing options. I researched hospital VBAC’s, birthing centers and home births. The pros and cons of using a doctor or a midwife. Whether or not to have a doula and every other decision I could possibly want to make.  I’m so thankful that I took the time to learn my options. I had the most empowering and healing birthing experience with a birth team that could not have supported me more.

My due date was November 14th, which came and went. Day after day we waited as patiently as we could for our girl to decide she was ready to join us. Despite my best attempts at walking, squatting, bouncing on my birth ball and a handful of other natural induction techniques my girl was quite comfortable and showed no signs of budging. I started to get checked by my midwife fairly regularly at 40 weeks and although there was always progress, it was very slow and steady. So it was no surprise that my labor began the same way.

On November 25th at 41 weeks and 5 days pregnant I started to have regular contractions that were clearly different than the braxton hicks I had been having. I sent my husband and my son off to watch football and I started to time my contractions to see what they did. They were almost immediately 4 minutes apart and lasting 50-60 seconds. I timed them for a couple hours to see what they did and was pleasantly surprised when they stayed consistent. I called my husband and asked him to come home to help me get some things in order around the house in preparation for the birth “just in case.” By the time he got home my contractions were only about 3 minutes apart. They still weren’t super painful just annoying enough to slow me down.

My husband decided he wanted my midwife to come check me and see what the status was. He also pulled out the birth pool so that he could set it up if I wanted him to. But wouldn’t you know it, as soon as I saw the birth pool everything slowed way down. I told my husband it just felt like too much pressure and at this point I still wasn’t completely convinced that it was the real thing. My midwife came and checked me and there was some change but not much. I was still dilated to 3 cm as I had been for several days but I was more effaced than I had previously been. We all realized then that I needed to labor alone as much as I could. My midwife left and my husband and son spent the day upstairs playing and watching movies. I parked myself in the living room alternating between walking, squatting, bouncing and resting as much as I could.

The contractions stayed consistent all day long. I tried to sleep that night but had a hard time getting much rest since my contractions actually became more painful when I was laying down. Around 2 a.m. I got up and started to rock and sway through them again. I realized that at this point they had spaced out quite a bit and were actually about 8 minutes apart. But they were lasting 1 1/2 minutes each. The day continued the same as before. I worked through each of my contractions on my own as much as I could. My midwife came again at about 12:00 p.m. at our request and much to my disappointment after 25 hours of consistent contractions I was still only dilated to 3 cm. Thankfully at this point I was fully effaced so I focused on the positive and went back to work getting through one contraction at a time. Around 1:00 p.m. I started having my husband apply heat packs to my back during every contraction since the back pain was getting more and more intense. We worked through contractions this way for about 2 1/2 hours. Around 3:30 I realized I was starting to need a lot more help to get through each contraction so I decided it was time to call in my team.

By 4:30 p.m.  my friend Jinna had arrived to keep my son occupied, my doula and midwife had both arrived and my sweet husband was setting up the birth pool. I decided to be checked one last time to make sure that getting in the pool wouldn’t slow down my labor. At 5:45 p.m. I was found to be only 4 cm. I was so disappointed. 31 hours of labor and I had only dilated to a 4. My midwife explained to me over and over that dilating to 4 was going to be one of the hardest things to do in my labor and that it was not uncommon for it to take the longest to go from 3 – 4 cm and that now I had reached 4 cm it was very likely that the rest of my labor would go at a much more typical pace.

I remember saying, “How do I do this for at least another 6 hours?” And my midwifes response, “You don’t think about it in hours. You just do it one contraction at a time.” We went downstairs and at 6:00 p.m. I finally got into the birth pool. My contractions stayed consistent and with the help of my midwife, my doula and my husband I worked through one contraction at a time by reminding myself that I was doing exactly what my body had been designed to do and somehow I was able to completely relax and rest in between which is saying a lot since my contractions at that point were lasting 1 1/2 minutes a piece, double peaking at times and only giving me about 3 minutes of rest. I was even hand fed grapes and given sips of water between contractions (as all laboring women should be!).

After about 3 hours in the pool my midwife said she wanted to check me after my next contraction. Little did I know my breathing had changed hinting to my doula and midwife that I may be getting close. During the next contraction I felt a gush, my hind waters had broken. I got out of the pool and before I knew what was happening I was in the middle of another contraction and literally hanging off of my husband to get through it.

My midwife checked me at 9:00 p.m. and I was 7 cm. Then while being checked my water broke – what a relief! It was at this moment I professed my undying love for my midwife. She then uttered the only words I wanted to hear, “Oh wait you’re a 9. Wait, now you’re complete! Back in the pool, you can push whenever you feel the need.” I pushed for 40 minutes in the pool in several positions but because my girl was positioned just a little crooked it made pushing a challenge. So out I went to try another position. About 10 minutes later she was here!

After 35 hours of labor my girl was born at 10:01 p.m. She was immediately handed up to me. We had done it! All of the preparation, worry, pain and impatience were gone. All that mattered was that she was here. She stayed with me except for one short period in which she did some skin to skin with her Daddy. She latched 20 minutes after she arrived and nursed for almost 40 minutes. She was quiet, calm and very alert. Immediately recognizing her Daddy’s voice as he told her how beautiful she was. When we finally got around to weighing and measuring her my girl weighed in at 8 lbs. 4 oz. and was 20 1/2 inches long with a giant 14 1/2 inch head! Sadly that large noggin caused a 2nd degree tear but what a small small price to pay for such a wonderful experience. I am so thankful that I was able to do this and so grateful for the support provided by my incredible birth team.

 

 

 

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