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VBAC Despite Thrombocytopenia: The Birth of Elodie

VBAC Despite Thrombocytopenia: The Birth of Elodie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story and photographs submitted by Julia Van Scott. 

A Fight for a Twin VBA2C Birth in the Hospital!

A Fight for a Twin VBA2C Birth in the Hospital!

I had my first son at age 18 and he was delivered by an old school OB who told me I wasn’t trying hard enough to push him out. He didn’t exactly offer a forceps or vacuum extraction because he told me these interventions were not designed to do 100% of the work. After a total of twelve hours in labor and pushing with an extremely strong epidural for two hours I was told “It’s time” and he discussed how he had tickets to a golf opening later that day while he operated on me. I was told I had a narrow pelvis and the baby never would have come out. My second birth was another scheduled cesarean due to me “not being a good candidate for VBAC” without reviewing my surgical report, just based on what I was verbally told was the reason I had a cesarean. With my third baby I put my foot down, found birth without fear, my local ICAN chapter, and found a lovely midwifery practice that actually reviewed my report and discovered the first doctor had noted “failure to progress” as the reason for my cesarean. I had a lovely and successful hospital VBAC at 40 weeks and 5 days.

My husband and I had three lovely boys but we decided to give it one more shot to get a baby girl, and if it ended up being another boy we would know what God was trying to tell us. Seventeen months after the birth of our third, and just one week after I stopped nursing him, we were pregnant. I knew the day I took the test it was twins. We told all our friends and family it was twins. At the 8 week ultrasound I asked my husband if he was nervous to see how many babies there were and he said no. The moment the wand hit my belly, there they were and all I said was, “I knew it”. Unfortunately the midwives that had helped me achieve VBA2C with our third were leaving the practice to start their own birth center, one that could not deliver twins. So I left the practice at sixteen weeks and moved to another midwives’ office that came highly recommended by my previous midwives. The new office was fantastic, very supportive and my pregnancy progressed beautifully. At each appointment I was given encouragement that I was perfectly capable of birthing these babies vaginally, and My OB Dr G. went over scenarios with me to explain all the risks associated with twin pregnancies but all of my options as well. I felt very well informed. I hired a doula, and set up a birth photographer and waited for the babies to be ready.

I had an appointment November 28th and had an ultrasound and confirmed baby A (a girl!) was head down while baby B (little brother!) was transverse. I was 35 weeks and 2 days pregnant. As previously discussed with Dr. G and all my midwives this was an acceptable situation to proceed with a vaginal delivery. Dr. G would even have been comfortable with Baby A being in a breech position but he warned me the other doctors on call in the practice would be uncomfortable. That night around 7 pm I started getting the all too familiar cramps and I started timing them. They were bearable and consistently 10 minutes apart. I texted my doula and she told me to try and sleep but to call her if they became unbearable or if my water broke. All of the sudden I started second guessing myself because it seemed like the contractions had skipped from 10 minutes apart to 4 minutes apart. I began to wonder if these were contractions at all or if I was just having stomach cramps. We called our doula and told her we were headed to the hospital to determine if I was even in labor or not and we would text her with an update. This was at 10:00 pm. My dad came to pick up the baby (the big boys were already at my parents’ house) and we were off.

The thirty minute car ride was unbearable and I just wanted to lay down in the seat because everything else hurt so badly! We got checked into the hospital and into triage and I let the admitting nurse check me for dilation expecting to be told I was 1-3cm and I could go home or walk around. Nope. 8cm dilated already. My husband was frantic and just texted the doula “8cm” she told me later she read the text and shot out of bed like a cartoon character.

In triage I was greeted by one of the OBs from my midwife’s office from a different office location (they all share the on call schedule) Dr. K and she told me she needed to have an ultrasound completed to confirm the position of the babies but that if baby B was still transverse it was going to depend on the way his spine was facing, up towards my face or down towards his exit, if it was whichever direction she didn’t favor, she would recommend a C-section. Dr. G had never mentioned spinal positioning of Baby B so I had a feeling already a fight was coming. The ultrasound confirmed baby A was head down and very low and baby B was transverse, and I never got a clear answer on which way his spine was facing only that she recommended a cesarean and she left to give my husband and I time to think about it. My doula arrived shortly after and we told her the situation and the doula asked if we wanted to pray about it. I said I didn’t need to because my husband and I both knew what we wanted to do.

We called Dr. K back in and explained we would like to try a vaginal delivery and that Dr. G and midwives had told us during our pregnancy this was an option as long as baby A was head down. I also had mentioned I did not want an epidural and should I need a cesarean for baby B I was willing to risk having to go under general anesthesia. Dr. K dropped open her mouth and asked if I understood her medical opinion was that I have a cesarean. I said yes but Dr. G had assured me this situation did not warrant an automatic cesarean. She told me Dr. G was not the one on call, and that he should have explained I have to listen to all the providers. I assured her I was listening, but asked if that means I do not get to make my own informed decision? She called me crazy, said she did not understand me and told me not a lot of doctors would even allow a woman who had two previous cesareans even attempt to deliver vaginally. I said I understood this and that is why I sought out this practice and my doctor specifically. She then told me I was risking baby B’s life and if I would need a cesarean it could take her as long as 10 minutes to get him out depending on the amount of scar tissue I had and that if his cord were to prolapse baby would be without oxygen and he would likely die, or be permanently brain damaged or have cerebral palsy. I knew cord prolapse and shoulder first presentation were only some of the possible outcomes and not guaranteed so I again said I understood and I still wanted to move forward with a vaginal birth. She asked me to repeat what it was that I understood because she wanted to hear me tell her I was ok with the risk of baby B dying. I looked her square in the eyes mid contraction and said, “I’m ok with the risk of baby B dying”, knowing full well it was a small risk and she was just trying to be a bully. She threw the consent form at me that I needed to sign showing she wasn’t liable if baby B died and I looked around and said loudly, “does anyone have a pen?” Dr. K also informed me that after baby A was born she was likely going to have to internally manipulate baby B and I was not allowed to retract from her or move up the table to get away from her. I said I understood and she again asked me to explain what I understood and I said “I’m not getting the epidural, you’re going to put your arm in me and it’s going to hurt like a bitch”.

After Dr. K stormed off the nurse asked if I needed anything so I said “Yeah, can I have a new doctor?!” I was half joking but she said I absolutely could, and she went to get the doctor on call from my previous practice that delivered baby 3. Dr. S. very calmly explained the risks and where doctor K was coming from but she admitted it was also possible that baby would turn head down perfectly fine. She suggested however I get an epidural port placed in case I need an internal version or if I need a cesarean that way the baby wouldn’t have the anesthesia in his system. I agreed to have the port placed and Dr. S. let me know she was going to attend the birth alongside Dr. K which I found to be pleasing. Scrubs were administered, apparently we were going straight to the OR for delivery, no time for an L&D room!

I asked for some scrubs for my doula and birth photographer and was informed they were not permitted in the OR. My doula has attended three twin births at this hospital and was allowed in the OR for all of them so it’s not hospital policy so I asked them to confirm this with the charge nurse and it turns out it’s up to the anesthesiologist so they wheeled me in and the anesthesiologist said my doula could come in but she needed scrubs. Dr. K loudly interrupted and said my doula could absolutely not come in there were far too many people in the room. I argued that my OB and all the midwives had assured me my doula was perfectly welcome in the OR but I was again shut down with an impatient firm glare from Dr. K. It was clear she was trying her best to control my birth anyway she could. They shut the door on my lovely doula and photographer and started helping me onto the table.

The anesthesiologist placed the port and then asked about administering the medication and myself as well as Dr. S informed him I wanted no medication just the port placed. Dr. K loudly exclaimed of course I needed the medication administered why else would I be getting the port. I was pouting at this point and just furrowed my brows looked straight ahead and said fine. The anesthesiologist said quietly to me that no, he would not just administer the epidural if I didn’t want it, I was the one that got to make the decision. Bless this man. I told him Dr. K was being a very insistent bully so we agreed together that I received just a small dose of medication to make sure it was properly placed. I was checked for dilation and was told it was a good time to start pushing now, so when I had contractions I could start pushing. I pushed two or three times and I hear Dr. K ask for a hook for AROM and I shot my head up and said wait what are you doing?! She said “Oh, did you not want me to do that?” I said, “UH NO!” But a few more pushes later and Dr. S explained if I let them break my water she would likely come right out. So I conceded and pop went the water and out came the head. 3:13 am my beautiful baby Girl Brinley Harper was born. She didn’t cry right away but when she did it was loud and she was pink. 9/9 Apgar scores and she weighed a whopping 5lbs 7oz. Dad was not asked if he wanted to cut the cord (which he did).

As soon as baby A was delivered Dr. K was elbow deep in my business and grabbing baby B’s head while Dr. S pushed from the outside to get babies body to turn. I heard Dr. K call for the anesthesiologist because they needed to “section” me open but Dr. S asked for the ultrasound to determine position. After about fifteen minutes of scanning and waiting not at all patiently, baby B was finally in position head down and ready. No cesarean needed, but he was still very high up so I needed to push him down and I had to somehow do this without the assistance of gravity.

An hour and a half it took to push him down all the while Dr. K is trying to break my water. They call it “membranes of steel” I tell them all it was my high protein diet. A nurse to my left shifts on her feet and repositions herself and I remember turning to her and asking if she’s alright or if she needs a break so clearly I am full of jokes. I can see baby girl in the warmer to my right and she’s just quietly looking in my direction. I am tired of pushing and just want to hold my babies so I announce I am done pushing and want the cesarean. Everyone thinks I am not serious. Another contraction comes and I do not make a sound, no one realizes it is happening. I am so clever I think. Someone sees it and says “hey a contraction! Push!” “NO” I shout. At this point I am so parched I am dying for water. I asked them to wheel me out of the OR so I can have a drink then they can wheel me back so I don’t contaminate their precious sterile environment they are forcing me to deliver in. I’m brought a wash cloth and told I can wipe my mouth out, I am not pleased. Then someone tells me baby B is almost there, I call them liars. Dr. K finally is able to break his waters and I give a mighty push roaring with intensity and my sheer will to make my baby appear. Someone tells me not to make noises with my pushes, I shout “I WILL MAKE NOISES IF I WANT TO!” And out baby B comes. They place him on my belly and dad gets to cut the cord. Despite having an arm inside and two babies coming out, I am intact. Thank you tiny baby Jesus. Declan Oliver is born at 4:47 am weighing 5lbs 3oz. Dr. K walks over to my bedside takes a long look at me and says “good job” I take a long look at her and say “thanks for not cutting me open even though I asked you to.”

Both babies got to come home with us three days later. I hear now from my OB that I am an inspirational story for the practice, and that he is so proud of me for being able to stand my ground and make sure I was a part of the birthing process. And I’m proud of myself as well. I honestly hope maybe my success story will help give Dr. K more positive personal experiences to draw from when she’s delivering future babies and dishing out her personal statistics. And with that, my birthing career is complete and my family is whole!

Story submitted by Stephanie Shuman. 

Photographs by Hillarie Laver.

Hypnobirthing Through Horrible Back Labor: A VBAC Story

Hypnobirthing Through Horrible Back Labor: A VBAC Story

I have been laboring for an entire day. Lying in the bathtub completely relaxed listening to peaceful music and meditating. I hear the door open quietly. I open one eye and take a peek. My oldest son Cash is sneaking in. I close my eye and get back to THE work of relaxation. Feeling a surge coming, I know it will bring the severe pain of back labor. I try to welcome it and remind myself that each of these surges is welcoming my baby into my arms. It doesn’t work. I clench onto the edge of the tub and breathe my agony down to my belly and as I breathe out I suddenly feel a small hand touch my arm and softly glides down to my belly. Then I hear Cash’s voice say softly in my ear “You are strong. You can do this. You are a goddess and the bestest mommy.” He’s repeating affirmations he read on my birth flags to me. I smile and take in this beautiful moment. This is definitely a core memory for us both.

Back labor… I can’t welcome you. Back labor turned this birth into something I was not prepared to face. Two weeks postpartum and I still cringe thinking about the torment. The peacefulness I wanted with this birth was stolen. I have to remind myself that Mayuq’s birth story is still beautiful.

Wednesday night, I begin to show definite signs of labor. I was 13 days late at this point and excited to see my body and baby were making progress. We made some arrangements for the next day thinking it will happen that night. I play my affirmation tapes all night while I sleep alone in my bedroom. The next morning comes and I feel surges every now and then while the kids were in school. I feel the surges pretty hard on my back and this is nothing I’ve experienced before. We knew the baby was head down but looking to the left of me. We tried a few techniques for flipping him into a better position, unfortunately nothing was working. So, I keep affirming to myself; “my baby moves to the perfect position for birth” and went back to work on my meditation.

After school was out we feed the boys and tell them baby will be here soon and take them to our cousin Robyn’s to sleep over. I just had a feeling it would be Friday morning. The surges were so strong but still so far apart and inconsistent. My husband and I were alone that night. Along with the surges comes intense back pain. I spend the whole night trying to sleep in between surges. The back pain was exhausting. The surges were still 15-20 minutes apart and I was able to rest despite the pain.

In the morning we have a stress test and asked if they could check my progress. I’m expecting to be at least four centimeters. The baby looks great and was still in the same position but I was only dilated two and a half centimeters. I think to myself, how strange. The back pain, and the strength of the surges had me convinced I had to be making more progress than this. The midwife sent us home and said she would probably see us tonight.

We grabbed the boys and took them home. My husband sent me to birth in the bathtub while they hung out until we were able to take the boys to another friend’s house. I had to keep changing surroundings to cope with the back pain. I moved from the bedroom listening to hypnobirthing music playing, to the shower with hot water on my back. I switched to laying in the warm tub with essential oils soaking me trying to distract myself from the pain somehow.

Surges are 10-15 minutes apart still. Enough time to cope with the pain and rest as much as I could. When it came time for my husband to drop the boys off with Yuki, he leaves me alone with a heating pad strapped to my back. It helped a bit.

I lay on my bed focusing on breathing my love to this baby. I remind myself of the powerful words that my girlfriends wrote at my blessingway. Thinking of how my good friend Shana brought me to my place with my husband a month ago through yoga and meditation. I knew that this birth wasn’t going the way I expected. It was a struggle to bring myself to a place of peace. I feel the next surge approaching. I squeeze my hands on the bed and breathed in deeply. In my mind my birthing flags are connecting and spinning above me. When I breathe out they fall, spinning around my body.

The shooting pain takes over and I breathe telling myself I have less than a minute of this and I will get to relax again. I breathe out and tell myself; I am prepared to calmly meet whatever turns my birthing takes. This was going to be the affirmation to help me get through this. This is going to be my second VBAC. I hear my door open. It was Joy, my best friend. She lies quietly next to me on my bed. “Hi Joy,” I whisper.

I am glad for this visit. It helps me re-fuel. To be able to express the challenge I am facing to a good friend. She hangs around a bit after my husband gets home. We all share a pineapple that I requested. I was craving it for some odd reason. We make plans for her to meet us at the hospital when we decide to go. I know I still have a lot of work to do before heading to the hospital; we tentatively plan for 9 pm as the next checkpoint. The plan is to get there right at the end. I don’t want to labor in a hospital.

9 pm comes. The surges are closer together; the back pain was even more intense. I cry to go to the hospital but based on the distance between surges my husband suggests the shower again. I tremble in the shower. I can barely stand. I scream for him to be close. I tell him I can’t do this, the back pain is too much. I’ve never experienced anything like this. I lay back down on the bed, by now dreading every surge because I know that each one will bring this back pain. My husband disappears to the computer to search how to help. Every time a surge comes he shows up trying different things to help me cope. Nothing helped. One time he presses a spot on my lower back that redirects the pain elsewhere. This I can cope with, finally some relief. He can’t find the spot after that. Every spot he touches makes it worse. It was unbearable; I beg to go to the hospital. I see he is already packing.

The drive is only ten minutes. Every surge I have had in the car makes it exponentially worse because of the way I’m sitting. He promises only one, maybe two surges to deal with in the car. It was a least four. They were so awful that I cry out his name grabbing at everything in sight. It feels like my back is going to break. When we arrive at the hospital, everyone thought I was about to have this baby at the front desk. My water breaks right there.

I get admitted straight into a labor room. It’s the room I wanted. It has a huge bath and shower and lots of space. It doesn’t matter to me anymore. I’m leaking amniotic fluid.

“Sacha, are you pushing?” the nurse asks me. It feels like I’m pushing, but not of my own volition. I couldn’t help myself. She checks me and says I’m at five centimeters. I lose it. “Fuck! Are you fucking kidding me?!!!”

My husband is telling me it’s great. The midwife says I’ve already done most of the work. I am panicking. How am I going to survive this birth? I feel like this at five how will I cope at ten? I can’t even imagine what the pain might be like then, or how long this is going to last.

I feel like I’m about to pass out. I’m on my hands and knees and I can barely stay up. More amniotic fluid. “Do you have anything for the back pain? Just the back pain?” I ask. She tells me my options are nitrous or an epidural. I do not want an epidural, the last one I had I couldn’t feel my entire bottom half. This is the path to a C-section. I repeat my affirmation as the back pain hits. It feels like my back is breaking. I am prepared to calmly meet whatever turns my birthing takes. They give me the nitrous mask and I put it on and breathe deeply through it for about a minute. Nothing. I throw it back at them, “This shit is stupid! It’s not helping my back. Please, my back I can’t fight this!” My husband tries to give me my earplugs to listen to my hypnobirthing music. I get mad and throw them; my back hurts so much I don’t care about anything.

“I want the epidural. I’m going to have to do this,” I say as assertively as I can. I know this is my husband’s cue to talk me out of this. He knows his job. I’ve said this every time but I don’t mean it. I don’t want an epidural; I want the pain to stop. This back labor is so much more intense than anything I have ever experienced. I really do mean it this time. I am at the point where I can’t relax in between surges; I just pant in exhaustion and anxiously await the next painful episode. I make the decision and I am OK with it. I make peace with my decision.

“Warren… I will PUSH this baby out! I can still do hypnobirthing with an epidural.” I reassure my husband. The surge hits my back again and I am unable to continue my speech to him. I know he is supporting me the way he is supposed to. He is still trying to talk me out of it and I scream with agony and cry and he just stops and says “I’m sorry babe. I am so sorry you are feeling this back pain. But, you can do this. You are almost done.” He is right. I am almost done. I am now at 8 cm. I went from a 5-8 very quickly. In the moment, all I want is this pain to stop.

The surge is gone and I know they are getting the epidural ready somewhere at my insistence, and despite my husband’s objections. A different nurse pops out of nowhere and overhears me scream of back agony. She mentions they have sterile water injections and says we should try them. Warren chimes in and says something like “oh, you guys have that option? I was just reading about that.” I try to listen but the surge hits me and I can’t think straight. I want to hear them; I want to learn more about it so I can make a decision but I can’t I am trying so hard not to pass out. Apparently, Warren was suggesting we try it. The anesthesiologist tells him in her experience it doesn’t work that well and continues preparing the epidural.

I ended up getting the epidural the last hour of my birth. Warren holds me up while they stab me repeatedly looking for a gap in my spine. My history with back pain in general is extensive. The hardest part during this process was to stay still through the pain. It feels like my back is breaking into pieces. I stay still while Warren holds me. I remember crying, trembling and screaming through the back pain wishing it was just a normal contraction. I can hear the nurses telling me that I am doing great holding still. I thank my hypnobirthing to be able to do this. This takes much longer due to the anesthesiologist not able to find the right spot. She finally finds it and when the numb feeling hits my back I am relieved but feeling cloudy.

I was pleased that I actually could move my legs and body and still feel the pressure of surges. This makes me feel extremely confident with this decision. I know I can push my new baby into this world with no problem. I turned to look at Warren. He looks concerned and distressed. I know he is thinking this is going to end up like Cash’s birth. He is thinking that I’ll be too numb to push this baby out. So, I look at him and say his name to snap him back to my reality. “Warren! I WILL push this baby out! I can do this. I can still use my hypnobirthing!” Hypnobirthing is not only about achieving natural birth. It’s about believing in yourself and surrounding yourself with empowerment and accepting your birth, wherever it turns. And I did just that.

Twenty minutes later I felt the urge to push. They checked me and I was fully dilated and ready to meet my baby. It only took me 23 minutes of pushing to bring him into this world. My husband kissing me telling me I was doing amazing and the midwife and nurses coaching me so well and so supportive at this point. Honestly, it felt weird pushing without the feeling of surges. I wished to feel them but knew it wouldn’t feel like that with the back labor pain. So, I reminded myself that I am still strong and I smile and say out loud, “I can’t wait to hold him! I am so happy he is finally coming to me!” I reached down to feel his head crowning and I smiled and pushed again and then he was in my arms screaming his baby lungs out. When they tell me what time he is born I am in shock that it’s now Saturday. Two and half days have really gone by? What a warrior my body is.

Mayuq Raul
Born at 2:23am Saturday 11/12/2016
8.8 pounds 22 inches
15 days past the “due date” (just like Rowan)
Another fun one, Cash was born on a Thursday, Rowan on a Friday and Mayuq on a Saturday

It’s been a few months now since Mayuq was born. I find myself with very mixed emotions. Back labor was something fierce. I was planning on writing how awful it was and how the reader should understand why I needed to have the epidural the last hour of my birth. I was trying to justify why my birth didn’t go the way I wanted it to.

Instead I just want to say this. WOW… Women are strong. We birth our children in so many different ways. And we should be proud no matter the outcome. When I had Cash as a C-section, I didn’t feel strong. I felt defeated. Rowan’s birth healed me to help me look at Cash’s birth as a voice to be reconnected with. Fighting for my VBAC and able to have him naturally and gentle was an amazing experience. This last birth I have fought with my emotions on how to think about it.

Talking to some friends that have gone through back labor has made me feel better about my experience. One friend said to me “Doesn’t it make you feel even stronger?” Yes, it does. It also makes me cry or think about what I could have done differently. But, that’s not fair to me. So, I choose to think of the amazing parts of my birth and pregnancy such as these: My oldest supporting me in my bath, my best friend’s visit to share a pineapple, my husband telling me he was sorry for my back pain, using affirmations and meditation to help me birth for so long, my beautiful visions of mountains, my good friend’s candle lighting when I started to birth, my blessingway ceremony, touching my son’s head when he was crowning, having him instantly on my chest and having a second successful vaginal birth after cesarean. And with that I have mastered my peace.

My birthing experience has come to an end. What an amazing journey motherhood is. Although, my personal birthing is done I hope to enjoy others in the future. Possibly pursue my dreams of being in the birthing world such as get my certificate so I can hold hypnobirthing classes. I think my experiences can be helpful to others and I just cannot imagine my life without helping other women achieve their birthing wishes. Thank you for reading Mayuq’s story with an open heart.

Here are some links about back labor and what it is and how to spin your baby back into a better birthing position. My baby was posterior, which is why I think I had the worst results of back labor, a very long pre-labor and some tear:

Also, sterile water injections are for the moms that experience back labor. It might save your natural birth labor if that is your goal. It works very well with cases of pain level at a 8-10 and have an hour left of labor. I would have been the perfect candidate for that option.

When I asked the midwife “what do you have for back labor!?” she never mentioned it. The nurse that was in the room for 3 minutes did. And at that point, it was too late for me to make a clear decision. Getting consent for something like an epidural when you are in intense pain is an interesting topic, especially in light of a birth plan I wrote when I was clear headed. I also think that having a doula at this birth would have been very helpful this time around. Warren had a hard time juggling my needs and fighting for my birthing wishes during transition at the hospital. It also would have been very helpful to have a woman’s touch that knows what she is doing due to training and experience.

My favorite affirmations I used:

I am prepared to calmly meet whatever turn my birthing might take
I birth with Ease
Breathing in I am Strong, Breathing out I let go
I allow my body to fully relax
Every surge brings my baby closer to me
I look forward to the day of my birthing, the day I meet my baby
My baby moves to the perfect position for birth
I breathe my love down to my baby
I am a strong woman
I am so happy that my baby is finally coming to me
My mind is clear; I focus on the miracle that is happening within me
My baby and body work together in harmony
I look forward to holding my little baby in my arms
I am calm and at peace
My body knows what to do
I tune into my body and out
My baby is safe and comfortable
I am safe and comfortable
I am loved
What a beautiful day… The day I meet my baby.

Story and photographs submitted by Sacha Jones. 

An Unplanned, Unassisted Home VBAC

An Unplanned, Unassisted Home VBAC

My birth story begins three years ago when at 35 weeks pregnant we discovered, much to our surprise, our baby girl was in a frank breech position. Following a consult with maternal-fetal-medicine (MFM), we ultimately decided against moving forward with an external cephalic version (ECV) and instead opted to wait and see if she would turn on her own. Unfortunately, as the weeks passed, baby girl remained snug inside, head up and bottom down. Not once did the option of a vaginal breech birth present itself and I was told the protocol was to schedule a cesarean section at 39 weeks. Although I hadn’t made any specific plans for an intervention-free or non-medicated birth (my personal philosophy was a more “go-with-the-flow” approach), something deep inside me (call it a mother’s intuition) told me labor was an important part of the birth process for me and for baby, even if it ended in a surgical delivery.

Although maternal-fetal-medicine supported us in not doing the ECV and instead awaiting spontaneous labor, my regular OB was not supportive of our wishes threatened me to either schedule a cesarean or sign a waiver (“Against Medical Advice”). I left that appointment feeling bullied, powerless and unheard. Eventually, after push-back from my end along with the support from my MFM OB, my regular OB backed off and agreed to us awaiting labor as an acceptable alternative to scheduling a cesarean at 39 weeks.

At 40 weeks and 1 day I woke around 3 o’clock in the morning to a ping in my stomach that resembled a period cramp. I told my husband I thought I might be in labor but that he could keep sleeping since it would probably be awhile until we’d need to head out for the hospital. Around 6am I decided to call the hospital when my contractions were about seven and a half minutes apart. By the time we got checked into triage at 7:05am contractions were closer and a lot more intense. It had been about four hours since my first labor pain; after a cervical check, the attending OB shouted out, “She’s an eight!” From there, I was prepped swiftly for labor and delivery and although my OB told me she didn’t have time to check me again, she said she suspected I was nine to ten centimeters dilated. My beautiful daughter was born in a belly birth with Apgar scores of nine and nine. She weighed 6 lbs., 3 oz., and measured 18.5 inches long. Surgery was respectful and straightforward; the OB explained to me what she was doing at every junction; she even told me as she sewed me up I was “the perfect candidate for a VBAC.” I knew my body could birth a baby and I was already planning my VBAC in my head.

Skipping forward nine months, I watched the movie The Business of Being Born for the first time. I was so moved by the film that it spurred me to search out more information about midwifery care and natural childbirth. The more I read and watched, the more and more I realized how little I actually knew about birth and maternity care in the United States. I was more determined than ever to attempt a vaginal birth when I fell pregnant again (which I did another ten months down the road) and I knew I had to re-educate myself if I really had a fair shot at a trial of labor and a VBAC.

When I found out we were pregnant again in March 2016 my next big step was changing providers; I switched from the OB practice I had been with while pregnant with my daughter to a midwife practice. As part of my care plan, I was required to meet with an OB from the midwives’ consulting obstetrician group. I specifically scheduled a meeting with the head OB from that group who I had heard good things about and who I was told was very VBAC-friendly. Upon reviewing my health records, the first question he asked me was, “So, why didn’t you have a vaginal breech birth the last time?” My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe he had asked me that since the topic never came up once as a possible option. I knew this time around I was with the right group of providers; a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I felt I could finally start to enjoy my pregnancy.

From that point on, my pregnancy progressed much like my first (complication-free and uneventful). Starting around 14 weeks I began doing twice-weekly prenatal yoga to ensure better body balancing in hopes of giving baby the best chance of getting into an optimal position. Around 30 weeks I started seeing a chiropractor certified in the Webster technique one to two times a week for adjustments. Baby luckily got into a head-down position around 28 weeks and we never looked back. During this time, we also hired a doula/birth photographer. In the final weeks before my baby was to be born, I felt I was as prepared as I possibly could be for a trial of labor and knew every single person on board supported me and believed in me. Although I felt deep down in my core I was going to have a VBAC, I still came to peace with the possibility of having another cesarean section (I even created an amazing cesarean birth plan if we needed it).

My “due date” of 11/24/16 came and passed along with the Thanksgiving holiday. We had family in town and everyone was excited and eager to meet our new addition to the family. I had been having increasing Braxton-Hicks contractions the couple of days surrounding the holiday, but nothing that took up a consistent pattern. Early morning on 11/27/16 I woke up around 3:30am with period-like cramps. I got up and decided to start timing to see if these were the real thing or just pre-labor. I woke my husband and told him I was going to the living room for a while to time them and I’d come wake him if it looked like they were turning into something more consistent. After timing contractions for about an hour, I texted my doula to let her know I was awake and contracting but that there was no distinct pattern. She suggested I have some water and lay down to see if they might go away. I took my doula’s advice and eventually contractions dissipated around 6am and I was able to catch a couple of hours of sleep before getting up again to officially start the day.

I woke again around 8:30am on 11/27/16 and contractions picked back up soon after, although still spaced out and not very intense. I called my doula in the morning and gave her an update. We decided since they were still infrequent and mild to keep an eye on them to see if they would turn into something more consistent. Around 1pm my husband, daughter and I headed out for afternoon brunch. At around 2pm while at brunch, the contractions started to become more uncomfortable, coming about every fifteen to twenty minutes. This is when I suspected it was the real thing. My doula called me while at brunch and I filled her in. Since contractions were still fifteen minutes apart, we decided to stay in touch about progress. She suggested I go for a walk and see how they progressed from there.

After brunch we gathered our daughter and decided to head to a nearby reservoir that also had a big play area and park. It was an absolutely picturesque fall afternoon; it was crisp and cool and the sun was shining. The multi colored leaves on the trees provided a beautiful fall back-drop to my labor. After we got parked and unloaded, we enjoyed a stroll and fed the ducks in the park. As contractions got more painful, I began to hang back a bit from my husband and daughter to work through them. From behind, I watched them playfully frolic in the afternoon sun as I labored. As we made our way for the play area in the park, the contractions began to intensify and started getting closer (about thirteen minutes apart). As we approached the playground, I told my husband I was going to follow behind them so as not to cause concern for my daughter. As they came and went, I began my deep breathing, moaning, and movement to handle the intense sensations; I was squatting on park benches and leaning on park structures while swaying my hips from side-to-side. After arriving at the play area, I continued to explore on my own; I remember watching the colorful skyline and thinking that the energy I was feeling was helping to bring my baby into this world.

Around this time, I felt as though I couldn’t be in public any longer and needed to go home. I tracked down my husband at that point and told him we needed to go soon; I asked for the key and told him I’d be waiting for him and my daughter in the car. Once in the car, I texted my doula that we were heading home and that contractions were about nine to eleven minutes apart. During the fifteen to twenty minutes I waited for my family, I had to get out of the car to work through my contractions; I squatted and held onto the car’s frame near the foot of the car and moaned deeply as they came and went.

On the way home I had several other intense contractions that required me to unbuckle my seatbelt in order to move through the surges. I knew this was the real thing and we were having a baby that day. As we approached our home, I told my husband that since my contractions were still rather far apart (about ten minutes) we still had some time and so I wanted him to take my daughter out for a car ride to see if he could get her to nap before we left her with my cousin to head to the hospital. Once we pulled into our garage, my husband told me he needed to run up quickly to use the bathroom; in the ten to fifteen minutes I waited in the car with my daughter, I had another strong contraction that required me to get out of the car. Once my husband got back to the car, I said goodbye to him and my daughter and told him I’d call him when it was time for him to come back home. As he headed out with my daughter I hurried up the stairs to get our final items together for the hospital. I also called my doula and told her contractions were about seven to eight, minutes apart by that time but were very intense. She said most likely today was going to be the day and that I should start making the necessary calls to arrange for my daughter’s care. She also said I should try to relax and use the last little bit of time before we left to reflect on my pregnancy journey. After I hung up, I plugged in our Christmas lights that hung across our living room windows; as I was about to put on some relaxing music. Then I had a monster contraction that shook me to my core; all of a sudden I felt a trickle of fluid and then a full gush; it was my water! Simultaneously, I felt a major shift inside of me – the baby was crowning and I was home…alone.

As the physical sensation overtook me, a moment of panic set in; I guided myself down to the living room floor into a side-lying position; I quickly spotted my cell phone on the couch and reached for it immediately. I dialed my doula to let her know my water had broken and the baby was coming. Sensing the panic and urgency in my voice, my doula told me she would be there in five minutes (luckily, she literally lives five minutes from me). I told her the front door to our apartment building was locked, but to ring every neighbor’s bell and that someone had to be home who could let her in. As I laid on my side, my contractions started to space out. I reached my hand down and could feel the top of my baby’s head; I could feel he had some hair and remembered that my daughter was also born with hair. There he was! Right there! I knew this VBAC was going to happen.

I then called my husband. Twice. But he didn’t pick up. So then I called my cousin who was supposed to watch our daughter when we went to the hospital. She answered, and I immediately blurted out, “the baby’s coming!” I also told her the baby was crowning and that I couldn’t get a hold of my husband; she told me she was on the way before I hung up and tried calling my husband again (to no avail). In that moment, I realized I needed to calm down and pull myself together. I told myself someone would be there soon, but that it was likely I was going to have to deliver my baby on my own. I knew I needed to be focused for my baby and remember telling myself to breath, that I needed to be there for him. Then, I remembered the breathing exercises I had learned in my prenatal yoga classes. I found my calm and tried to take some good, deep, cleansing breaths.

During this time, my cousin called me back and stayed on the phone with me as my body began to push. I remember my cousin trying to help me with words of encouragement while I started pushing, but she was understandably at a loss for words and just continued to listen from the other end of the phone. Then, all of a sudden, I heard a pounding on the door – it was my doula. The college-age girls that live across the hallway from us had let her in our building, but I had forgotten the door to our apartment was locked as well and my doula didn’t have a key! She shouted that the door was locked and that she needed me to let her in, but, at that point, there was no way I could physically stand up to let her in; the baby coming then and there and my body was pushing all on its own. Locked out on the other side of the door, my doula continued to talk to me. When she realized I was bearing down, she told my neighbors to call 911 for an ambulance. At a certain point, I stopped registering the words she was speaking and completely focused in on the task at hand. It wasn’t more than another push and my son’s head came out. Almost simultaneously the rest of his slippery little body followed. Incredibly, in that moment I don’t remember feeling any pain but rather relief. As he slipped out and softly landed on the carpeted living room floor, he began to immediately cry; I remember being so incredibly amazed that he came out of me so quickly and easily; the second I saw him land softly on the carpet, I scooped him up and shouted to him, “I got you! I got you!” I brought him immediately to my chest, hugging him tightly since I didn’t want to drop him (he was so wet and slippery!).

Then, it was as if my mind transported back from whatever far- off planet it had traveled to during the delivery, and I heard my doula ask me, whenever I could manage, to get up to unlock the door to let her in. After drying my feet, I quickly headed for the front door. In almost the same motion, I unlocked the door and headed back to the living room floor to lay down with my baby boy. My doula came in with the happiest glow on her face; she quickly helped guide me back down to the carpet and grabbed me two pillows from the sofa to help prop my head up. She also grabbed the throw blanket off the sofa and thoughtfully covered me up while doing a very quick check down below to make sure I wasn’t showing signs of excessive postpartum bleeding. After a quick glance over, she told me we both looked great and that the paramedics were on the way. She kept telling me how awesome I was, how proud she was of me, and what a rock star I was. She also assisted me with our first breastfeeding session, and the energy in the room was incredibly peaceful and serene. I felt an immense sense of calm and accomplishment that we both felt as we waited there for the paramedics.

As we waited, my doula warned me that when the paramedics got there it could be a little crazy; luckily, though, when the paramedics arrived (about ten minutes after the birth of my son) they were incredibly calm and professional (because both my doula and I were calm and everything was stable). The three older men looked me over to make sure I wasn’t showing any signs of hemorrhaging; luckily, other than the blood from the delivery, I wasn’t bleeding. They also looked at the baby and saw he was breathing great and was pink in color. One of them even commented that you never see babies look that good after birth. When it came time to cut my son’s cord (all of his cord blood had transferred by that point), I asked the paramedic if my doula could cut the cord instead; he had no problem with letting her cut the cord, and she happily accepted the honor.

After a few more moments, my husband arrived with my daughter in tow and my cousin arrived just a few minutes later. As I glanced up at my husband, I could see my daughter, fast asleep on his shoulder. Within a minute or two, my daughter awoke in a sort of fog; she was quiet but curious about the strangers in our home but did not appear scared or frightened. It was at that moment I especially appreciated the calm and professional demeanor of the first responders. Then, I could hear my husband ask my daughter if she wanted to see her brother; without hesitation, said, “Yeah!” She gave him a look over as the paramedics got my son buckled into his car seat and got me strapped onto the gurney. As we arrived at the hospital, I was greeted with the same professionalism and calm from the ER team. After a quick look-over, my son was returned to my arms; I was congratulated and told he was beautiful and perfect before they took me to my labor and delivery room to deliver the placenta. Once in my room, the team began to transfer me to a bed from the gurney when, all of a sudden, I felt a dull but intense cramp that pushed out my placenta. Finally, the sense of relief was immense and I realized not only did I birth my son without drugs, but my placenta too!

Although I had not planned for an unassisted home VBAC, I felt I was as prepared mentally, emotionally, and physically as anyone could be for this kind of experience. I am in absolute awe of the female body and am certain all women have the same instinct and ability to birth their babies unhindered just as I did. The love and respectful care I received from the first responders, medical team, doula and my family was priceless and I wish that for all birthing women, everywhere, under all circumstances. I have never felt more, powerful, capable, womanly, transformed and healed as I have as a result of this birth. I hope, if anything, my experience shows other moms who are on their VBAC journey that their bodies are not broken and that we all have the intuition and strength to birth naturally.

Birth story submitted by Erin D.

Photographs by Jessica Thomas of Under My Heart Birth Services.

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.

1

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.

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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.

My VBAC Story

My VBAC Story

Sherry-Ann shares her beautiful VBAC birth story.

I always knew that I wanted to birth my kids the way nature intended – naturally. I had always said that if my mom was able to do it (and my mom has a very low pain tolerance), then I could, too.

When I was pregnant with Joshua, I only had a Plan A: a natural birth; and I made that very clear throughout my appointments with my gynecologist. At my 39-week check up on November 20, 2012, my then-gynecologist told me that my amniotic fluid was very low and I needed to go into hospital to have an non stress test done. This came back all clear and my husband and I went back home. The minute we got home, my gynecologist’s assistant called us back to the hospital saying that the doctor wanted to see us and that we should bring along our bags.

My husband and I were excited and overwhelmed at the same time, and I remember that we hugged and said a little prayer before heading off to the hospital, not knowing what to expect. When we got to the hospital, the doctor then said that I would be admitted and also induced in the early hours of the morning (take note: the NST was clear).

The nurses then came in with a ton of forms that needed to be completed, including a c-section consent form, which I refused to sign because I knew that there was only one way that my baby was to be birthed; but I was forced to sign it somehow.

Fast forward to 3 a.m. the next day – the nurse then came to start the induction. Unfortunately nothing was happening although baby was fine; and 13 hours later the doctor came in and gave us one more hour to see if anything was going to happen. Nothing happened, and so the doctor came in to tell me that I was going to have a c-section. That was the most devastating news I had ever heard in my life. I remember crying like baby in my room while my husband tried to calm me down.

While hubby went to change into his scrubs, the pediatrician walked me to the surgery room; I was crying all the way there. I was then prepped for surgery, and a few minutes later I heard a loud scream. My baby boy was born at 7:52 p.m. on November 21, 2012, weighing 3,26kg. As much I knew I loved him since that very first cry, I also felt like I had already failed him as a mother.

As they were stitching me up, I was so emotional and I felt so helpless that I couldn’t take my crying baby and hold him in my arms immediately to calm him. It took a very long time for me to bond with my baby. I loved him from the first second, but it would take months before I really felt that bond between a mother and a child. The recovery process from a c-section is no fun at all. I couldn’t walk for the first night; and when I started walking the next day, it was the worst feeling ever. I was on pain meds for quite some time because I was in so much pain. Having to nurse a scar and a new baby was no fun at all.

Don’t get me wrong—I thank God for the wisdom that doctors have to perform caesarean sections, but only when it’s really necessary. Had I known better at the time, I would have never gone back to the hospital when the doctor called me; I would’ve waited.

Fast forward to June 25, 2015, when we found out we were expecting our new little bundle. From the word go I knew I was going to have my baby naturally. Soon after Josh was born I started researching VBACs; the pros, the cons, birthing centers and who the best midwives were for the job. That’s when I found out about Sue King: VBAC queen.

I had been following Sue for some time on Facebook and at a stage read that she had plans to emigrate during the month that my baby was due. My heart ached. In the meantime I went to see one of the backup gynecologists at Genesis Clinic, Dr. Maasdorp, and I told him my story. He then asked me who my midwife was, and I told him that I really wanted Sue King but she had plans to leave so I didn’t have one as yet and that I was still looking.

He then picked up his cell phone and made a phone call and asked the person on the other line to take me on. When he was done, he then told me that he had just spoken to Sue, and that she’d take me on. If I could, I would’ve jumped up and down right there and then. I was so happy. From that second, I knew God was in total control and that He was already busy working on my behalf to have this dream come true. Dr. Maasdorp then gave me Sue’s number to get in touch with her; and after explaining all the pros and cons of a VBAC, assured me that I was a good candidate for a VBAC. I left the doctor’s office the happiest girl that day. I then sent Sue a message setting up a time to meet with her.

Wednesday the 5th of August was my first meeting with Sue. I could immediately tell that she had an amazing spirit, and I connected well with her. I shared my story with her, and she reassured me that we were going to do this, and that she wouldn’t do anything without guidance from God. At our next appointment she told my husband the same thing, and he was happy and he supported right through this journey amidst his own concerns.

Fast forward to 12:38 a.m. on the 24th of February. I woke up with some light cramps, and ignored them until they started coming regularly. Luckily I remembered all the breathing techniques that I had been reading up on over the past nine months, and I started practicing them with each contraction. I was still not sure if it was helping though, since I still felt the pain.

After about an hour, I woke my hubby and told him what was happening. We monitored what I thought were contractions for some time, and then I asked him to message Sue. Within no time she replied and advised that the contractions were too close together and irregular, and then said I should get into a bath and take a Panado. She said that this was common after a c-section. I did exactly that, and the contractions started easing up a bit.

They were still coming, but very irregularly. I couldn’t get much sleep at all because I was excited and also in pain. I couldn’t stop thinking that if this was early labor, what the real thing would feel like. I had irregular contractions for most of the day, and then they eventually stopped for a while after 3 p.m. I finally managed to get some rest. I notified Sue and she advised that I rest and that she would see me soon.

The contractions started up again in the early evening and by 11 p.m. I told my husband that we should go to Genesis. I had a shower, with a few contractions in between, dressed, greeted Josh and my mum, and off we went. Sue arranged for one of the midwives to check that baby and I were okay. We got to Genesis just after 11 p.m., and met up with Elrika, the sweetest midwife ever. As soon as I got onto the bed for her to check baby and me, my water broke; just like that. She then tested to make sure that it was amniotic fluid, and lo and behold, it was. I wasn’t going anywhere else but my private room at Genesis. This baby was on her way.

My husband and I then went to our room, and Elrika gave me a light sedative so that I could get some rest. The sedative made me drowsy but I could hardly sleep as the contractions were still coming. I closed my eyes anyway, and made sure I rested in between each contraction.

Morning came, and I was so happy to see Sue. She checked me and I was only 1 cm dilated; she did a stretch and sweep while she checked, too. Even though I was 1 cm, I wasn’t disheartened because I knew my body would do what it needed to do when it needed to. Sue also gave me some homeopathic medication that would bring my contractions on much stronger, and she also arranged for me to see a reflexologist.

After lunch I still hadn’t progressed much. Sue then went to the room next door to do another birth; and as she left, she reassured me that I was going to have this baby naturally. I loved the boldness that she had when she made that statement. God was in control.

Sue then came back a few hours later and told my husband and I that she had a chat with Dr. Maasdorp. She explained to him that I was in labor but my contractions weren’t strong enough. She then asked him if she could give me something to help kick-start the contractions, and he obliged. I have to mention that with a VBAC you’re not allowed to be induced and you’re not allowed any pain medication. But God was in control.

Sue waited for the nightshift staff at Genesis to come to start the drip. While waiting, my husband and I prayed; we were excited for what was to come. Sue and Elrika put me on a drip just before 8 p.m. Sue also told us that there was a doula, Tertia, who was there, and that she was going to assist us with the birth as well. Tertia came in and turned the lights down in our room and there was an immediate sense of serenity. They had also set up the birthing pool and we were good to go.

The medication then kicked in, and I started feeling those contractions on a whole new level. I thought I was in pain before until I started feeling those strong contractions. They started getting closer, and at times I forgot to breathe.

It was then time to get into the pool, and I felt an immediate relief. The water was warm and it felt so good. But that feeling was very short-lived. Contractions were coming with hardly any time for me to even breathe. Sue then checked and I was about 4 or 5 cm dilated. She then left the room for a while. Tertia was a gem. She rubbed my back and made sure I was breathing through every contraction. There was a time that she briefly left the room too, and I told my husband that I couldn’t do it anymore. I felt like crying because I was exhausted and in pain. He then gently spoke to me and managed to calm me down for a bit.

When Tertia came back I told her I was in pain and couldn’t do it. She also spoke to me and calmed me down. I don’t recall what happened next but I do remember Sue coming in and giving me something for pain in my drip. I felt a burning sensation in my chest and she told me it was from the meds. I immediately felt so relaxed. I laid back in the pool and I was focused again. I breathed through every contraction and I felt like I could do this. That was very short-lived too, but at least I managed to rest and save up some energy.

The meds wore off and I started feeling those contractions on a whole new level again. But after a couple of contractions, I felt an urge to push. I told Tertia and she told me to push whenever I felt that feeling. I did just that and it made the contractions a bit easier to manage knowing that I could do something when they came. Tertia then went to get Sue and when she checked me I was 10 cm dilated. I remember saying, “Thank you, Lord.”

My eyes were closed the entire time as I tried to stay focused on birthing my baby. Sue was checking baby after every push and she remained one happy little girl right through all the pushing. Sue and Tertia coached me through every push but eventually all the breathing techniques went out the window and I started screaming. Tertia and my hubby tried reminding me to breathe all the time but I just couldn’t. I’m sure I scared quite a few moms who were about to birth their babies.

I pushed for about 45 minutes before our beautiful angel arrived at 11:30 p.m. on the 25th of February 2016, on my dad’s birthday, weighing in at 3,9kg. I remember saying, “Thank you, Jesus” the second she was born. She was the most calm baby I had ever seen. She never made a sound but she was wide awake, eyes wide open and blowing little bubbles from her mouth. I looked at her and started crying. I was so emotional and I fell in love with her instantly. I had forgotten about the pain and I just enjoyed my little baby.

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My hubby prayed over her and we just sat there staring at her for a few minutes. Sue asked me to push one more time, and my placenta was delivered. My husband then cut the cord, which he wasn’t able to do with Josh, so I was very happy and he was excited too. Abigail was then passed on to him for some skin-to-skin bonding while I got out of the pool.

It was such a good feeling being able to stand up after birth, get out of the pool and walk to the bed. I felt liberated after birthing my baby. I was flooded with happy hormones from the moment she was born. I couldn’t stop smiling and I was so thankful to God, my husband, Sue, Tertia and Elrika. I felt like I conquered a huge mountain that day.

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Sue checked and weighed Abigail before handing her over to me to feed. Once Abigail was sleeping, I went to have a shower. I felt so good being able to do it all my own.

To this day I am still in awe of God and how he designed our amazing bodies. Women are strong!

I have learnt the power of prayer and confession through this journey. I’ve learnt that you can block out negativity from others by continuing to speak positively and by making bold declarations all the time.

God restored me that day. I bonded immediately with my baby and I even fell more in love with my son.

God is faithful.

A VBAC Story

A VBAC Story

Rita shares the story of her daughter’s birth – a healing VBAC.

My first baby was born via cesarean section. Like many women, I never imagined that I would need a C-section; I never thought that would happen to me. Imagine my surprise when after 24 hours of labor, my midwife announced to me that since my baby was in distress and I had not progressed past 8 cm in three hours, the next step would be a cesarean. I pulled my bed sheet over my head and cried out loud like a baby. I wasn’t physically, emotionally or spiritually prepared for this.

The C-section was due to failure to progress and non-reassuring fetal heart rate. I personally think (my non-medical opinion) that the cesarean was the result of all of the drugs that were administered to me during labor (with my consent) and the artificial rupturing of my membrane when the baby was still high up in the uterus in the occiput posterior position. Those drugs included Fentanyl, Epidural and Pitocin. I felt like my baby was drugged (again, my non-medical opinion). I also think that it was due to my ignorance. I didn’t educate myself about childbirth. I did not educate myself about the different pain medications that were available to me and their pros and cons. Heck, I didn’t even take a childbirth class. I was one of those patients who just let the nurses and doctors do whatever they felt necessary. I did not have a plan or even know what I wanted. The cesarean was definitely a wake-up call for me.

When my baby was about 6 months old, I learned I was pregnant with my second baby. The pregnancy was more than a surprise; it knocked the wind out of me. Eight weeks after my first baby was born, I had an IUD inserted to prevent another pregnancy until I was prepared for it, which would have been about 18 months after my first baby was born. I was told that this type of IUD usually lasts for 10yrs and that there is a .08% chance of getting pregnant while on it. I guess I was a part of the .08. I was very upset with the provider who inserted the IUD. I had so many questions that she couldn’t answer. Yes, I even thought about suing her… but that’s a whole other story.

After a few weeks of crying my eyes out and being frustrated, I decided to get with the program. This baby wasn’t going anywhere. I needed to take care of myself physically and emotionally in order to be able to care for my unborn child. Once I came to terms with the pregnancy, I made a promise to myself: the birth of this baby was going to be completely different from the birth of the first child—I was going to have a vaginal birth—and I was going to do everything I could to increase my chances of having one.

The first order of business was to find a VBAC-friendly hospital. All of my research led to one of the big hospitals in my hometown of Tacoma, WA; so I contacted the hospital’s midwifery department.

My first appointment was great. The midwife told me that since my last cesarean wasn’t due to any major medical reason, I should be able to at least try for a VBAC. After my first C-section, the doctor told me that because of the way she had sewed and positioned my uterus, I would have a greater chance of having a vaginal birth the next time around. She sewed my uterus twice. Also, since I was able to go into labor on my own and progressed to 8cm, this would work in my favor.

After finding the VBAC-friendly hospital, the second order of business was to find a doula. While on doulaMatch.net, I found two doulas in my area. One of them, surprisingly, had been my high school music teacher. If I had known that she was a doula, I would have used her for my first baby. I interviewed both of them, and ended up choosing my high school music teacher. There were so many reasons why I chose her. She had a C-section with her first baby and went on to have four vaginal births. She had 15+ years of doula experience. She had a very gentle and calm spirit, which I felt was important. She’s also a birth instructor for one of the big hospitals in our area. My husband and I took a birthing class with her, and she was great! She really knew a lot about birthing babies. During the class, we had to do an exercise that required partnership. One of the girls there did not have a partner. The instructor volunteered to be her partner. After the exercise, the girl said to her, “Wow that was great! You have a gentle, motherly touch.” That statement confirmed even more that she was the right doula for me. I needed that gentle, motherly touch during my labor and delivery.

As my pregnancy progressed, I decided to educate myself more on childbirth. I read two books and watched endless YouTube videos on natural childbirth and successful VBACs. I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin, and Birthing From Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz. I watched all episodes of the British TV show One Born Every Minute. I watched a movie called All My Babies: A Midwife’s Own Story. I must have watched this movie about a thousand times. It is also on YouTube. Of course, I watched the documentary The Business of Being Born.

I became a member of our local ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) on Facebook. I also became a member of a Facebook group designated for all cesarean moms who are looking to have VBAC (a very supportive group). I followed Birth Without Fear, improving birth.org Ob/Gyn & midwife associates, and many other childbirths groups on Facebook. My Facebook feed was 90% natural childbirth/VBAC related. Every day of my pregnancy, I read or watched something positive about natural childbirth or successful VBAC. I read almost all of the birthing stories posted on Birth Without Fear’s Facebook page. If others could do it, I could definitely do it, too. I was really encouraged by other women. I made up my mind that I wasn’t just going to try for a VBAC, I was going to have a VBAC. I asked Jesus every day to give me my heart’s desire.

During my second trimester, I started reading a lot about red raspberry leaf tea, which has many benefits. One major benefit is that it helps strengthen the uterus, which helps in preventing uterine rupture. Uterine rupture is a major concern when having a VBAC. I posted a question on our mamas’ group Facebook page; I asked if anyone had experience with drinking red raspberry leaf tea during their pregnancy, and I had a lot of good responses. Some women said that it helped them go into labor. I was a little nervous about that, as I was still early in my pregnancy. I spoke with my midwife regarding this. She said it was ok to drink two cups of red raspberry leaf tea a day, and three cups starting at about 34 or 36 weeks. I was 28 weeks pregnant at that time, so I started drinking two cups a day. I drank red raspberry leaf tea religiously until the day I was in labor. I also started seeing a chiropractor for weekly adjustments from 28 weeks until the week before my baby was born.

My pregnancy was going very well until I went in for my 35-week checkup. While examining my stomach, the midwife seemed a little concerned. She couldn’t tell if my baby’s head was down or not (I had a very large fibroid.) At the beginning of the exam, she thought the baby’s head was down, but by the end she thought that the baby had moved into a breech position. She recommended that I have an ultrasound done to be 100% sure that the baby’s head was down. I started to get very nervous.

I had an ultrasound done that week, and thank goodness, baby’s head was down. I was very happy and relieved. My first baby was breech throughout my whole pregnancy. My OB turned her around through external cephalic version. My 36- through 38-week checkups were fine. My midwife was sure that my baby’s head was down. At my 37-week checkup, I told my midwife that I was getting nervous about having a VBAC. I was afraid something terrible might happen—something worse than a repeat cesarean. She said if anything happened, they would do the best they could to help my baby and me. “However,” she said, “You have to trust yourself, your decision and your body. You had a cesarean. Your body is not broken. Your body is more than capable of birthing your baby.” That stuck with me. I repeated it about a hundred times a day. My body is not broken; my body is not broken. My body is more than capable of birthing my baby.

Things took a turn at 39 weeks! I went in for my 39-week checkup. While examining my stomach, my midwife seemed very concerned again. I remembered that look on her face from previous weeks. I asked, “What’s wrong?” She said, “I am 90% sure this baby is breech. “No way!” I exclaimed. “Please make an appointment to do an ultrasound as soon as possible, probably before the end of this week,” she said. This was on Monday, January 18th. My baby was due on Sunday, January 24th. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The rest of the appointment went downhill from there. I went to the receptionist’s desk and asked her to schedule me for the earliest ultrasound. She scheduled me for 8:00 a.m. the next morning (Monday, January 19th). I was very sad. Worry kept me awake that night. To be totally honest, from the movement of the baby, I knew something wasn’t right.

I went in for my ultrasound the next morning; and lo and behold, my baby was in a frank breech position. Head up, bottom down. I started crying. The ultrasound tech asked if I was okay. I said “No. I can’t believe my baby is breech this late in the pregnancy. Now they are not going to allow me to try for a VBAC.” I was very frustrated. She recommended that I meet with the midwife that same day. She asked me to go wait for her by the receptionist. As I sat by the front office, I really could not contain my sadness any longer. I started crying. The office worker and other pregnant women who were coming in for their appointments probably thought something was wrong with me or my baby. Lucky for me, the midwife was available that morning.

I don’t remember much of my meeting with the midwife that morning. I was just too sad and upset. She asked me to come in later that day at 3 p.m. The OB was available to perform an external cephalic version if I was interested in it; and of course I was. I made the appointment to go in later that day. When I left the midwife’s office, I got into my car and cried/prayed for about 10 minutes. I called my husband and told him the news. He assured me that everything would be ok. He later told me that he felt very sad because I sounded so sad over the phone. I called my doula and left her a message. She sent me a text saying, “Got your message and will be praying. Let me know if you want me to come with you.”

Before I continue with the rest of the story, I want to take a moment to acknowledge a woman in my life; I will refer to her as a birthing goddess. This woman has given birth to seven children. Five of them were probably homebirths. One was via cesarean, and the other was a VBAC. We were pregnant at the same time twice. She was pregnant with her last two kids and I was pregnant with my first two kids. She is very inspiring in lots of ways, but especially when it comes to birthing and raising kids. She has a gift! Now back to the story.

On my way home from my ultrasound/midwife visit, I felt like I needed to talk to someone; someone who would understand what I was going through. I decided to head over to this birthing goddess’s house. She had just had a successful, unmedicated and fast VBAC – just what I was hoping and praying for. As I pulled up into her driveway, I saw her through the window reading what looked like a Bible or a devotional book. My mind was somewhere else. I couldn’t tell. She swiftly came to the door and let me in with a hug. She knew something was wrong just by looking at my face. I told her what was going on. After I was done, she asked me, “Can I pray for you?” “Yes please,” I responded. She sat very close to me on the couch, put her arms around me, and prayed for me. After that prayer, I felt like a burden was lifted off of me. I had hope, trust and peace again.

We went to the hospital for my 3 o’clock visit. I was very nervous. The nurse was very nice. The OB and midwife came in to perform the EVC. You have to sign an agreement agreeing that if your baby becomes distressed after this procedure, an emergency cesarean would be performed. After all the talking/paperwork signing, the OB said to the midwife, “You grab the baby’s bottom, I will grab the head, and we will slowly turn her around!” It was very painful and uncomfortable, but I was very happy that it was successful after the first try. After this, I asked the midwife to sweep my membranes. That was also very uncomfortable, but I was going to do everything I could possibly do to prevent another cesarean. Per the midwife, I was 1 cm dilated.

I went in for my 39-week checkup on Thursday, January 21st at 4:30 p.m. The appointment went very well. My baby was still head-down. I asked my midwife to sweep my membrane again. She did, and I was still 1 cm dilated. I know everyone has different opinions about membrane sweeping, but this was my choice. On my way out of the midwife’s office, a gentleman walked up to me and said, “Ma’am you are very beautiful.” I said, “Aw thank you” with a smile. I thought he was just being nice. Then he said, “Do you have a husband or boyfriend?” “I have a husband,” I responded. “Oh, okay. Have a nice day,” he said, and walked away. I couldn’t believe he was asking me this. How did he think I got to be 39 weeks pregnant and wobbling to my car? That made my day, though.

The text messages between my doula and me explain what happened the next day….

January 22

8:34 a.m. me: good morning. I had my membrane swept yesterday. I have been up all night with something that feels like cramping and it is very uncomfortable. I am unable to tell if it is actual contractions. Sometimes it feels like it and sometimes it doesn’t. And very painful too

9:09 a.m. doula: comes and goes? Can you feel if your belly gets tight?

9:10 a.m. me: yes, comes and goes. Belly does get tight a little bit.

9:11 a.m. doula: keep drinking water. It could just be irritable but it could turn into something as well. Time how often you feel it. Sorry you were up.

9:13 a.m. me: I have been trying to time it but very irregular

9:14 a.m. doula: ok that’s alright. Just gives you an idea of what was and then you can compare if things change.

9:14 a.m. me: ok, will do.

9:15 a.m. doula: keep breathing slowly and keep me posted. Are you working today?

9:16 a.m. me: no, I called out today.

9:16 a.m. doula: smart. You should alternate rest with walking.

9:22 a.m. me: ok.

When my husband and I took our then-15-month-old daughter to her 15-month checkup, I was still having “contractions.”

5:10 p.m. doula: how did you do today? Did it settle down?

5:13 p.m. me: I was just about to text you. It has gotten worse. Starting to get a little more regular. Every 5 to 10 minutes between 30 and 45 seconds long.

5:20 p.m. doula: oh ok that’s good. Yes? Have you gotten some rest? And are you handling it ok?

5:23 p.m. me: it is good. Haven’t been able to nap yet. I am handling it ok so far.

5:27 p.m. doula: good, try to get some rest! You may be up again if you are going into labor! (Boy, was she right!)

8:35 p.m. doula: so any idea yet if tonight is the night???!

8:36 p.m. me: I think tonight is the night!! Just got out of the bathtub. Contractions are still coming.

8:38 p.m. doula: alright! What is your progress? Any changes from earlier? And that’s a good sign with the bath, because that will usually slow pre labor stuff.

8:42 p.m. me: (sent her a picture of what seems like a mucus plug) sorry if this is gross but I am also starting to poop a lot.

8:43 p.m. doula: oh yeah change is happening. Good hormones on board causing all that. How long are you wanting to wait at home with contractions? Your paperwork is in the car: as long as possible or more like 3-4 min apart?

8:47 p.m. me: probably 3 to 4 minutes. I am starting to need some help focusing.

8:55 p.m. doula: let me know whenever you want me to come – home first or when you go to the hospital.

8:56 p.m. me: ok.

9:31 p.m. me: contractions are pretty close together. Can you come to my house?

9:32 p.m. doula: sure. (Verified address, we had move into a new house). I am under half hour from it.

9:33 p.m. me: yes correct address

9:33 p.m. ok!

My doula got to my house about 15-20 minutes later. When she came in, I was leaning over the kitchen counter. At this time contractions were closer together, but still less than a minute long. When I had the next contraction, she asked me where I felt the pain. I pointed to my lower back, and she proceeded to give me a back massage. I said, “No, don’t touch, don’t touch!” She stopped massaging me. This was very weird because I love getting massages.

When my next contraction came, she very gently rubbed my back in a circular motion. That felt really good and calming. At this point my 15-month-old daughter knew something was wrong—mama was behaving very strangely. She followed me around the living room and even gave me a massage when I was on my hands and knees. My husband took a picture of her giving me a massage. She was very sweet.

An hour or so after my doula arrived at my house, I started having very intense contractions. They were very close together but still less than one minute long. My doula suggested that we head to the hospital before I got too uncomfortable to get in the car. We got in the car and headed for the hospital. I kept telling my husband not to hit any potholes. “I will try not to,” he responded.

We got to the hospital, which was 10 minutes from our house, at about 11 o’clock. We were in the emergency room for Lord knows how long. The receptionist was asking my husband all sorts of questions, while I was sitting in the wheelchair trying not to embarrass myself in front of everyone in the emergency room. I kept having very intense contractions, and my doula was there talking to me and rubbing my back.

On our way up to the triage, the nurse was pushing the wheelchair really quickly. I ask her to stop for a little bit because I had a very intense contraction. “I can’t,” she said,” because you could actually be having the baby right now.” Both my husband and doula said, “She’s not, just slow down please! She did not slow down. I was in too much pain to do or say anything.

The triage was very nice. It was a large room with a birthing tub. I asked if I could get into the birthing tub. The nurse said no because they don’t do VBAC water births. Plus, they needed to monitor my baby’s heart rate until she was out of the womb. At my previous midwife appointment, I asked her if I could get the mobile fetal monitor. “Yes,” she said, and added that to my file. I asked her to add to my file that no one should mention or suggest any pain medication while I was in labor. She said, “Yes, I will put that in big bold letters.”

For the first half-hour that I was in triage, I was attached to the bed monitor while the nurse went to find the mobile monitor. This tells me that not too many people request or uses the mobile monitor. I think we were admitted around 12:00 a.m. The nurse checked me and said, “You are about 1 to 2 cm dilated.” She said she was going to be back in an hour to check my cervix again. I was so disappointed I couldn’t believe that after all the pain I was in, I was still only 1 to 2 cm dilated. Labor was worse when I was lying in the bed. I kept asking for the mobile monitor so I could move around.

I finally got the mobile monitor, and started walking around the room. I sat on the toilet for a little bit, but was too uncomfortable to sit for too long. While I was in the bathroom, my doula found a little stool – probably what women used to climb into the tub for water births. She asked me to put one leg up on the stool and do squats when I got my next contraction. She said it would help open up the cervix, and would help make labor go faster. At this point I would have done anything to make labor go faster! I did some squats.

While doing squats, the nurse came in and said, “Your midwife wants me to wait for another hour before I check your cervix, so I will be back at 2:00 a.m.” I was in too much pain to comprehend anything. I heard my doula say, “That’s good; they’re giving us more time to labor alone.” I felt like labor got about a thousand times harder after doing those squats. I told my doula that I thought I would need an epidural. I was too tired; I hadn’t really slept in over 24 hours. “Okay,” she said; “Let’s see how far you have progressed. If you are at 4 or 5 cm dilated then we can talk about getting an epidural.” She would have talked me out of getting an epidural if I had been 5 cm dilated. She would have said, “You are halfway there. Let’s wait a few more hours to see how far you’ve progressed.

At 2:00 a.m. the nurse came in to check my cervix. I was in so much pain I did not want to be touched at all. I kept saying to my doula, “Just kill me now please. Just kill me now.” Labor was very, very intense at this point. I wanted it to be done. I wanted the pain to stop. Contractions felt like they were a minute apart and a minute long. Between contractions, the nurse checked my cervix. “Wow,” she said, “the cervix is completely gone and I can touch the bulging bag of water.” I was so out of it, I said, “What? Where did the cervix go? Don’t we need the cervix?” She said, “Let me go get the midwife.” At this point my husband had left the room to go get coffee. I wasn’t happy with him about that.

A few minutes later, the midwife came, checked my cervix, and said, “You are 10 cm dilated and I can feel your bag of water.” “Well, can I get an epidural now?” I asked her. “No,” she said, “You are already 10 cm dilated and about to push this baby out.” “Wait, what? I am about to push the baby out?” “Yes,” she said. As she was talking, I felt the bed start to move. I heard, “Let’s take her to room whatever.” As we got into the room, before they could get the bed attached to the wall and get everything situated, I got on my hands and knees. I felt a VERY intense contraction with an involuntary push and my water broke! As soon as that happened, I felt the baby’s head slide into the birth canal. I thought to myself, Oh crap. There is no going back now. I am about to actually birth a baby through my vajayjay!

There was meconium in the water, so my midwife called the NICU and two NICU nurses came in the room. I felt like the room was a little crowed with the two NICU nurses, my nurse, midwife, husband and doula, but I didn’t care. I wanted the baby out! I started pushing. The baby’s head would come out a little bit and then slide back in. I said, “Oh, the baby is going back in.” The midwife said, it’s ok, it will happen for a while.” Apparently, this was normal. I didn’t know. I only pushed with contractions. I was so tired; I had no energy or willpower to push without the intense force of the contraction. Every 1 to 2 minutes, I would say, “Here comes another one,” and would start screaming—I sounded like an animal! I was VERY vocal!

Anytime I would scream, my doula would come close to my ear and say, “Rita, put all the energy down in your bottom.” She would say this as she gently rubbed my back in a circular motion. Her touch was very comforting. At one point I heard the midwife saying, “Soon you are going to feel the ring of fire; just push through it.” Boy, did I feel the ring of fire, and It HURT like none other!!

I pushed on my hands and knees for a long time, then the nurse suggested I lie on my back. I lay on my back, and with maybe 3 VERY hard pushes, my baby girl was OUT!! My midwife said “YOU GOT YOUR PERFECT VBAC!” I kept saying, “I did it. I did it.” I couldn’t believe I had done it. My labor was not in vain. I really believed that I could, and I did it. The placenta followed shortly after. The baby wasn’t crying right away, so the NICU nurses took her to suction her up. This was surprising to me, because the baby was literally kicking on her way out. I could feel her legs still kicking as I was pushing her out. I pushed for 45 mintues. She was born at 2:45 a.m.

While they were suctioning up my baby, the midwife was giving me a few stiches. After they were done they put her on my chest. Oh, that feeling of having your baby placed on your chest is the best feeling in the whole world! She was and is the most beautiful baby ever (she and her sister!). After an hour of being on my chest, they took her off to weigh her. She weighed 7lbs 11.2 ounces and was 21inches long, with an APGAR score of 8/9. My first baby was 7lbs 9.2 ounces, and 21 inches long – almost the same birth weight. We were out of the hospital within 24 hours.

Why did I decide to right this birth story? I was inspired by the other women who wrote their successful VBAC stories. My goal is to encourage other women who are planning to have a VBAC; it is possible. I hope my story is an encouragement to you.

Medication-Free Hospital VBAC

Medication-Free Hospital VBAC

Olivia shares her son Ethan’s birth story ­­– her own triumphant VBAC.

My daughter was born in 2008 via unnecessary cesarean at 40w4d; I never went into labor. I had a very hard time recovering physically and emotionally. I had a hard time bonding with her, and felt guilty for this reason. In the state that I was in, it was only pain. Ever since, I started to read everything I could about VBAC, stories and books, and I found ICAN – the webpage where it was a forum. That’s how I started to educate myself.

Fast forward to October 2015, when we found out we were expecting our second child: a little boy. We were super excited and I was very determined to have a natural, medication-free birth. I found a provider about an hour away from our house. Our local hospital has a VBAC ban; you have to arrive in pushing stage so they won’t make you have a cesarean. But this was a healthy pregnancy; happy mommy-to-be, happy family.

Everything went fine until one point, at 19 weeks, I was late to my doctor’s appointment; when I got there, I was panting and stressed out. For the first time, my blood pressure went high that day: 140/70. It was an isolated event so nobody paid to much attention to it. Then, at 26 weeks, I had another doctor’s appointment; again late, again high blood pressure. I told the nurse to give me a few minutes to calm down, but she took my BP as soon as I walked through that door, and again it was 140/70. And I had some sugar in urine – I had had cake right before I went in.

I was sent to do my 1-hour glucose test, which I failed with bright colors at 160! Automatically they sent me to do the 3-hour test plus the 24-hour urine test. The 3-hour glucose test results came back great, so no gestational diabetes. But I had a high value of protein in my urine: 540. They say over 300 is high, and combined with other symptoms, equals preeclampsia.

My blood pressure never went high again in my entire pregnancy. I previously had protein in my urine (I was a water diver and water polo player for 15 years, had lots of tests, and nobody ever figured out why I had protein in my urine). All other values remained normal, creatinine serum, liver enzymes, BUN value, etc., including my blood pressure. I was already labeled as a potential preeclampsia. I knew I was fine and didn’t have it.

Because of that, they kept a close eye on me, and I was living with constant fear that they would push for a cesarean. I had to have an ultrasound every week from week 36 until I gave birth. I must mention that I REFUSED completely any cervical check the entire pregnancy. We hired an amazing doula, who eventually became our close friend. And finally, the big day came.

I was two days overdue. I always knew somehow that I would go past 40 weeks. That day, I dropped my mother-in-law off at the mall and returned home. I took my daughter and two friends of hers to the pool. The kids were making fun of me, chasing me in the pool so that I would go into labor. They were telling other people that they have to make me swim so my labor will start because I am overdue. It was so much fun. I swam like crazy that day. My husband texted my at some point, telling me that he had a feeling that the baby would come that night.

I got home, took a hot bath, he cooked dinner and we went to bed. It was 10 p.m. At 11:43 p.m. I woke up feeling weird and restless. And I was CRAMPING! I was like, “OMG is this labor?” I couldn’t believe it. It was happening. I was waiting to feel that pain for eight-and-a-half years. Unbelievable. I started to see very light spotting on my underwear. It was my plug (never experienced that before). I texted my doula, and we talked for a while; I had contractions, but they felt like kidney pain or a UTI. I kept asking my doula if it was normal. Boy, I was so silly.

They became regular every 10 minutes, although not too strong. She told me to get some rest. I couldn’t, though, since I was so excited and anxious. She decided to come over. She arrived at 2:30 a.m., brought her kit with her, along with aromatherapy, some stress balls, oils and other stuff. My husband woke up eventually; I was making too much noise walking around, packing and talking on the phone. We sent him back to sleep since this was not going to be that easy and it would take time. My contractions were regular but not strong enough. I started to lose more and more of my plug. I couldn’t sleep at all. My doula took a nap, but I couldn’t. I was thinking that this is not such a big deal (I was so wrong).

The contractions remained constant – every 10 minutes for 45-50 seconds. They were getting more intense. At 10 a.m. I had breakfast and continued to labor on my birthing ball, on the couch, against the kitchen counter, over the sink… everywhere! I didn’t want to go to the hospital too early, because of their time frame regarding births.

At 12 p.m. we decided to go to the hospital, it is a one-hour drive, so we took off. We had a friend picking up our 8-year-old daughter. I had my husband, his mother and my doula with me the whole time.

We got to the hospital and it went very fast with the registration. I got to the triage room and as we waited to get seen by the nurse, my water broke. I was shocked! We were going to have a baby! The nurse came, I refused the cervical check, but she confirmed that my water broke and admitted us. My contractions came every five minutes after that.

We went up to the labor and delivery department. They wanted to start an IV; I refused and told them that I don’t want any intervention, nor anesthesia. I had a hep-lock, for “just in case”.

Because I was a VBAC mom, the hospital required that I was continuously monitored; so I had a wireless monitor so that I could move around. Everybody gave me space, and let my body do its job. The staff was coming to check if I needed anything, and to make sure we were fine. They were great the entire time. Nobody made any pressure; they respected our wishes and were very respectful and polite.

I was laboring on and on and on and on! I had my stress ball, which helped me through each contraction. I surrendered to the pain, embraced it and remained focused at all times. I had only horrible lower back pain (quite in my rectum area) – I never had front pain throughout the entire labor. It was very weird. We thought that the baby was posterior, but it wasn’t!

I walked, danced and bent any way that I could. My doula was putting pressure against my back, while my mother-in-law was putting cold compresses on my forehead as I leaned over my husband. I was for sure in labor land! My body was there, but my mind was in a trance. I was moaning every once in a while. I had my own breathing pattern, which worked great with the contractions.

At 11 p.m. the doctor insisted that she check me, as she wanted to know where I was at. She really insisted, and I had to pick up which fight to fight. So I agreed. After 24 hours of labor, was 4 centimeters! “Good Lord, what I’m going to go through,” I thought! The contractions got stronger and stronger. At 4 a.m. I was checked again and I was at 7-8 centimeters. That was great, but I didn’t really care too much; I was in pain, and I knew that I would make it!

I was so tired the entire time, but I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat, either; I had food hidden in my bag, but was not into it. I had a great time chewing ice chips. I had horrible heartburn so I asked for the nurse for some Tums. The morning came; my doula never took her hands of me; she talked to me and helped me relax. I would have not made it without her. My husband and his mother took a nap and I was so jealous of them. I was imagining myself sleeping.

Around 8 a.m., things got way too far and my doula called for the nurse, telling her that she thought I was ready. She could tell that by watching me during contractions. My contractions were so close together that actually I thought it was just one long contraction! It was incredibly long and painful. I kept switching positions, and I used the squatting bar too. The nurse, midwife and a bunch of other staff came in. There was a training midwife, too.

I got checked and I was complete and ready to push. I just didn’t want to push; I wanted to wait for the urge to push (which, by the way, never came). So they told me that I had to since I had been in active labor for 34 hours; I had to get it done. The doctor came; she was an ex-military doctor – a very tough woman, which at the beginning scared the soul out of me. (She was nice, but she was looking very intimidating to me at that stage). She respected all my wishes and was very professional, and she made it happen!

Because of that, my contractions stopped! I couldn’t believe it! After 35 hours! With the baby’s head visible! I had to regroup myself and stop being scared.

She said that I needed a little Pitocin for my contractions to pick up. That was the devil to me. I started to yell that I would not be able to manage the Pitocin without the epidural, and I didn’t want that. I was scared that would stress the baby; and then, after 35 hours of labor, to end up with the cesarean. Well, I had to agree because my contractions stopped completely.

So the Pitocin drip started, but my hep-lock was not properly inserted and nothing actually went into my veins (they figured it out after I gave birth). My doula did nipple stimulation. That’s when my contractions came back again, and I got back on track. I was pushing on my back with my chin tucked in, and holding my thighs. That’s the only position that worked for me. I had a mirror, and was able to see everything while it was happening.

Not a single time had I thought about my scar; I never had pain during labor, and I never had been worried. They offered the oxygen mask, which gladly I took. The head was almost out when I heard the doctor saying, “We have a hand!” His left hand was on his head, just a little bit over the left ear. The head came out and the doctor told me to stop; but I just couldn’t and pushed like my life depended on it. That’s when he came out very quickly, giving me a third-degree tear.

I pushed for two hours, and at 10:18 a.m. on June 22, 2016, baby Ethan was born; at 40w4d, after 36 hours of intense pain and a medication-free labor. He was 8 lbs and 11 oz and 21 inches long. He was right on my chest, purple and full of blood, and he started to cry immediately. The cord stopped pulsing and my husband cut it. Right away the placenta came out.

I started to heavily bleed and the doctor was pressing with one hand on my belly, and with the other one she was cleaning me inside. That’s when I started screaming. That pain was horrible; but she had to. I lost more than 500 ml of blood. She gave me a shot of Pitocin and a rectal Cytotec suppository to cramp the uterus and stop the bleeding. In about seven minutes I was fine; the bleeding had stopped and she started to stitch me up.

It was quite scary for them (I always felt that I was fine); the room was filled with staff, including ICU for my son, but things turned out fine and he nursed right away. My family from Romania (that’s where I’m from) watched the last two hours via FaceTime, so they saw my son coming into this world. Altogether, it was the most amazing experience I had. It was hard work and I had an incredible pain tolerance; I had no idea I was capable of something as huge as Ethan’s birth.

I had my VBAC, I had my healing and victorious birth, and I was so proud of myself. Everybody was cheering and my husband was crying like a baby. I could not have done it without my amazing doula. She was my rock, my shoulder and my mind when I lost my own.

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.

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