Birthday Celebration of a VBAC

So last night, I get this email from the beautiful Mae Burke, “Tomorrow is my friend, Chelsea’s, baby girl’s birthday. Her first was an unneccesarian, and the second was an HBAC. January, every single day she got on BWF, scowering the pages for info.”

So I of course click on the links she sent me and literally got goosebumps from the pictures alone.

Happy birthing day Chelsea and happy birthday to your sweet little girl. I hope you feel the raw power, the victory, the joy…that you felt on this day one year ago. ~January

Elliotte’s {VBAC} Birth Story:

A friend of mine suggested I sit down and start writing my birth story while it’s still fresh in my head.

So here goes. Brew some tea and get a snack because I’m giving you the long version!

All week, I had been going on walks and doing pelvic rocks in the shower while Conrad took his naps, I’d been resting a lot more and had been feeling more tired and irritable. I was having braxton hicks contractions all week but nothing major. I was anticipating going well past my due date. At this point though, I was 39 weeks. Saturday came and I was extremely irritable. Everything that Conrad did annoyed me. I just wanted to be in bed and be alone, so Dustin took Conrad to the park and the store so I could rest. When they got home, I was still feeling really tired and fatigued. I called my parents in tears and they came and took Conrad to their house. My Dad had made a comment that I was about to have this baby very soon, and I disagreed. I just wasn’t feeling like myself, I thought. Little did I know, He was so right. I was an emotional wreck. All I could do was clean and cry, for no apparent reason at all. I was folding baby clothes and was upset that the baby’s room wasn’t put together yet and Dustin sat down on the floor to talk to me and try to sort out why I was such a wreck. It was actually really great that we talked because we hadn’t realized just how distant we had both been. We ended up talking, crying and praying for about 2 hours and it was just what we needed as a couple to get on the right page before we welcomed our baby into the world. We were lacking that compassion for one another and that tenderness in our marriage. We were both stressed, excited, anxious, ready, and hadn’t realized that we had become so distant or hard hearted towards each other.

Dustin suggested that we go on a long drive and listen to music. I washed my face and put on a comfy dress and he made me some decaf coffee to sip while we drove. It was already getting late and about time to pick up Conrad, so we took the scenic route and drove to my parents house. We listened to an old Radiohead CD in the car. We turned up the music as loud as it would go and held hands. It was exactly what I needed. Just the two of us, in the car, listening to music we love and enjoying the last sweet moments together before we became 4.

We ate my Dad’s chicken enchiladas while Conrad played with my grandma and mom and enjoyed my parents company until about 9. We headed home, put the little man in bed and went to bed as usual. I was having little braxton hicks contractions here and there but nothing to get excited about. I woke up at 11:30 and ran to the bathroom throwing up. The food didn’t make Dustin sick at all, but it seemed to make me sick, which was weird (now I realize that my body was just getting ready for labor, and that’s why i threw up). I went back to bed and woke up at about 4:30 with stronger contractions that I had to lean over my bed to work through. I asked Dustin to time them. They were about 6-8 mins apart. I couldn’t go back to sleep. I kept telling myself that this was false labor and not to get obsessed over the contractions. Surly I wasn’t in labor, I was only 39 weeks! I told Dustin that if this was “false labor” this was a cruel joke because it was pretty intense.

By 5:00am, I decided that I wanted to go on a walk and be outside so I called my mother in law and she came over in her pj’s to wait for Conrad to wake up and then take him to her house for the day. We got into the car and planned to pick up the video camera at my friend Sofia’s house before our walk. I had two contractions in the car that rocked my world. I had to turn around in the car and hold onto the head rest, they were so intense. Sofia gave me the camera, was so excited for me she was almost in tears, gave me a hug and we headed to the park for a walk. While we were driving, it started pouring out and the windshield wipers were so annoying I told Dustin to TURN THEM OFF!!!! as i was going through another contraction. It really was the most amazing, rainy, cloudy day. It was perfect out.

I told him to take me to the store instead of a walk. I wanted to buy yogurt, cookie dough and candles. We ran through the rain and hurried into Albertson’s. The rain made us both super happy and we both felt like kids. If this was labor, we were excited to be enjoying rain. (We had specifically prayed for rain when we went into labor) Luckily, we were the only people in Albertson’s because as we walked through the store, I had two contractions that stopped me dead in my tracks that I needed to moan through in order to survive. At this point, I’m still wondering if this is false labor…..

When we got back home I wanted to vacuum. I would vacuum the living room rug and when I felt a contraction coming, I’d drop to my knees and call Dustin over to rub my lower back. I’d moan through it and breathe deep and slow until it passed, get back up and continue cleaning something else. At one point, as I was putting dishes away, I dropped to the ground on all fours with my head against the stove as he rubbed my back. During a contraction in the living room, I remember Dustin saying, “I know this is hard honey, but really try to praise God for each contraction knowing that it is bring our baby closer to being here with us. You’re doing great!” Something suddenly bubbled up inside of me and I had the urge to worship god, so I began praying and praising Him. As I prayed and cried, I could hear Dustin whimpering and crying behind me as he rubbed my back. I had never felt such a strong desire to praise god in my life. It was such an incredibly overwhelming feeling of gratitude and love. I couldn’t come up with enough words to describe how incredible my god was. In my mind, Dustin wasn’t even in the room, it was just me and Jesus. That moment was one of the sweetest times of my birth.

Dustin realizes that this might be the “real” thing so he called the birth tub company to come set up our tub. He also called our midwifes assistant, Marcie to get her opinion on whether we were in real labor or not. She heard me moaning through a contraction in the back ground and said she was on her way. She arrived shortly after and it was a relief to see her. I wasn’t able any longer to move or get up after a contraction. Now they were starting to get more intense. The three of us ended up in my bathroom in the dark, laboring over the birthing ball for the next few hours in silence. It felt best to be on all fours. Marcie would massage my shoulder blades to remind me to relax as Dustin rubbed peppermint lotion on my feet, back and calves during each rush. Marcie kept reminding me to breathe slow and deep, to moan deep and not raise my voice. All of my contractions were in my back.

I stayed on my hands and knees laboring for a few hours. I remember thinking to myself, “This is exactly why woman get epidurals. This shit is no joke!” (I probably said, “Oh shit!” a good twenty times during labor. Everything said or done in labor is forgiven, my midwife reminded me.) Laboring was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. I had to remind myself of the woman who birthed naturally, my girlfriends who helped me along on this journey. I told myself, “Janelle did it, Morgan did it, Mae did it, Laura did it…. YOU CAN DO IT TOO. You WILL do it!” Being in labor and in that pain is very isolating because no one in the room feels what you’re feeling. But remembering the ladies who had done it too really helped me persevere through it.

Time passed and I wasn’t aware of anything but trying to get through each rush. I needed silence and darkness. Dustin got up and called Carrington to come over. He also called Bobbie to come take a few pictures. When Carrington arrived, she anointed my head with oil and prayed over me for a long while. She held my hand and kept telling me I was doing a beautiful job. I remember tears falling on my birthing ball as I breathed through rushes and she prayed and stroked my hair. I was still on all fours in our bedroom with the curtains closed. The room was quiet and peaceful. Shortly after Carrington arrived, Dotty arrived. (One of my favorite memories of Dotty at my birth was when the midwife told me to make my lips loose like a horse when I moaned and Dotty kept making jokes about how excited Conrad would be if I gave birth to a little mini horse…. I laughed so hard I about cried. We kept saying I was giving birth to a baby centaur….) It felt good to have a big belly laugh between contractions. Her job was mostly just being there to pray and encourage me. She was a great part of my birth team.

The tub was almost ready and I was excited to get into it. I needed some relief. As soon as I stepped into the tub and sat down into the warm water, I began to cry because it felt so amazing and instantly took the pain away.

I labored in the tub moaning through contractions for about an hour with Carrington at my side feeding me spoonfuls of honey, giving me sips of cold water every few minutes and wiping my neck and forehead with ice cold rags that she kept dipping into an ice bucket that was on the floor in front of me. I asked Dustin to get into the tub with me at this point. I told Carrington that this was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and she said, “Well honey, that’s why it’s called labor. But this pain is beautiful Chelsea. God created our bodies to endure this labor for a reason. You’re going to look back at this and realize all of the little things he was busy teaching you through your birth…. I promise, you will be addicted to this pain when it’s all over.” She kept whispering over and over affirmations about who god is and who I am and how capable I am. She’d say, “After this is all over, there will be nothing you can’t accomplish.” And, “This is going to change you in ways you never imagined it could.” She was my birth guardian. I couldn’t have done it without her. While in the tub, because my mouth was so sugary from the apple juice and honey, I requested to brush my teeth which made me feel so much better. I think I was in transition for about 3 hours or so.

During my next contraction, I felt my stomach flex and it caught me by surprise. I looked at Marcie and said, “I just pushed! What the hell? Am I supposed to be pushing right now? Is this normal?” (Marcie never once gave me a vaginal exam. She said that she didn’t think it would help me to know how far I was dilated. What if I had done all of this work, and was in labor for hours but only dilated to a 4?) When she arrived though, she said that by the way I was acting, she thought I was probably about at a 6 or further. She just kept telling me to listen to my body, keep going and not worry about dialation. Every time she checked the baby’s heart beat, it was loud and fast, so I wasn’t worried at all. There wasn’t a single time during my labor where I doubted myself or said I wanted to go to the hospital. I never said, “I can’t do this!” I never thought about uterine rupture. I never had an ounce of fear. The only thing I could do was get through the next rush and was thankful for the breaks in between them when I could rest. I just had to focus on making it through the contractions. I had prepared myself for a very long labor and a very painful labor.

April, my midwife, arrived and knelt down beside me. Dustin said that as she entered the room, she had this attitude of confidence about her that all of us just fed off of. She wasn’t panicked or alarmed, she just assessed where I was at in labor and encouraged me. She held my hand and told me I was doing amazing. She kept saying how strong I was.

My contractions were extremely close together and without anyone telling me to “push” my body just started pushing and I had to push along with it. I was squatting on the side of the tub holding onto the edge and I’d bite a towel, grab onto Carrington’s shoulders and bury my head into her neck, hold her hand and just bare down as much as I could. Each time I had a contraction, I could feel my body pushing and urging me to push with it to get the baby out. I didn’t expect to yell as loud as I did. I felt like Tyler from Vampire Diaries when he’s going through his transformation…. My throat was on fire from yelling. Thank god for the honey and sips of cold water between pushing! (I pushed for an hour and twenty six minutes total which was fine because the baby was slowly making it’s way out and stretching the tissue.) I can’t imagine yelling like I yelled had I been in a hospital. I’m sure my neighbors would have called the cops thinking surely I was being murdered had I not told them ahead of time!

The backs of my legs were cramping up so badly that the midwife asked me to turn onto my back and try pushing that way to give my legs a rest. As I turned over, I saw my water bag in between my legs. It finally had broken toward the end of the pushing stage. April had a handful of olive oil that she used to lubricate my perineum. She gently put a little on me and It felt nice. Dotty grabbed one leg and squeezed it and Dustin grabbed the other to help get the cramps out. During the next contraction, I remember feeling the “ring of fire” and shouting, “OH SHIT! OH SHIT! It hurts! It burns! Make it stop!!!!!!! Oh Jesus! Get this baby out of me now!” Then I hear gasping and tears. I look over at Dustin and his lip is quivering. April had a flash light shinning so she could see what the baby was doing. I looked down and saw little blond hair floating under the water between my legs. I reached down and touched her head and then before I knew it another contraction came and I had to grab back onto Dotty and Dustin’s shoulders for support. The top of the head was coming out. Everyone was quiet but I could hear people starting to cry. I was instructed to wait for the next rush before I pushed the baby out so that I wouldn’t tear.

I felt the next rush coming and bared down. The head came out all the way and I started to panic. I was breathing really fast and April said I needed to relax, she showed me how to breathe, I mimicked her breathing, she said I needed to wait for the next contraction and then push the rest of our baby out. There was no cord wrapped around her neck, she looked great, I just needed to push her slowly so I didn’t tear. The next rush came and I pushed her all the way out, I put my hands between her arm pits and grabbed onto her bringing her up from under the water. The midwife knew how important it was for Dustin and I to catch our baby and she respected our wishes (she actually encourages parents to catch the baby if they wish to.) I instantly began crying, Dustin was crying, everyone was crying. I kept telling our baby how much I loved her, I thanked her for coming so quickly and I couldn’t stop crying. She just blinked and stared into my eyes. She didn’t cry, she was just the most peaceful little baby in the whole world. She was perfectly pink. No one needed to resuscitate her, or give her oxygen or stick anything down her throat to suck stuff out. She was just so alert and sweet. (She was born at 1:04 in the afternoon which put me in labor for about 8 hours from start to finish.) We talked to her for a good two minutes until someone shouted, “What is it?” and I remember saying, “Should we look?” I think I was nervous to check. Then I lifted her out of the water and saw her little lady parts! Our baby was a girl! I was so shocked and surprised that she was a girl because I just knew she would be a boy.

We sat in the tub for about 15 minutes with our baby. Everyone in the room sort of gave us privacy and walked into the kitchen, which was nice. The midwife came back over and fed me a cup of yogurt and gave me some ibuprofen. She then made sure the baby’s chord had stopped pulsing completely and handed Dustin the scissors to cut it. He cut the chord and went to take a shower while Elliotte (who still hadn’t been named) and I got out of the tub and went to take an herbal bath together. She still hadn’t cried. She was just so happy and content. It was nice to have her first bath together.

After about a half hour or so we got out we joined Dustin in bed to relax and Elliotte latched to nurse for the first time. April brought me toast and coconut water to drink. Marcie put in a load of towels. The birth tub company had been called to come clean everything up. Everyone was busy helping us get settled with our new baby. April showed Dustin how to weigh the baby and it took about 35 minutes for Marcie and April to complete Elliotte’s new born exam. We spent a while in bed talking and deciding on her name as she was being measured and looked over.

Dotty had picked up a birthday cake for Elliotte with a number “0” candle. We all sang her happy birthday to the birthday girl. Everyone except for the midwives had left shortly after that then they gave me my exam to see how my lady parts tolerated Elliotte’s delivery. I had a teeny tiny tear that didn’t require stitches. Everything went so smoothly and beautifully.

What I loved about laboring at home was that I was surrounded by woman who love me and who were there to encourage me, pray for me, hold my hand, massage my back, dry my tears, give me sips of water, wipe my head, stroke my hair and no one ever had a worried look on their face. They just knew I could do it. No one doubted me. I didn’t doubt me. I was prepared for the “pain.” I wasn’t hooked up to any machines or IV’s. There was not a single intervention done. I was told to listen to my body and go with my instincts. I felt more powerful during labor than I’ve ever felt in my entire life. When I reached down into the water to grab my baby, all of the pain instantly left my memory and she was all that mattered. I loved the whole process of preparing for her birth. My visits with the April, my midwife were so healing and empowering. I loved that she cared about educating me and preparing my heart, body, mind and soul for birthing my baby.

(Dustin’s cry face is the best.)

We are so in love with our baby girl. She is doing so well. I am SO thankful that the Lord gave me back what was stolen from me when I birthed my first baby. He redeemed my birth experience back to me and I can’t take credit for being “strong.” He was totally my strength. He kept my mind focused and not wondering off thinking about the “what if’s.” He sustained me through each hour and allowed me to birth her just as he promised He would.

Every single thing I prayed for during my pregnancy was given to me. I prayed that she would turn and not be breech and she turned. I prayed that I wouldn’t be “border line” diabetic with this pregnancy and I was totally healthy (I credit the Bradley diet). I never got pre-eclampsia when VBAC mom’s have a 45% higher chance of getting it, and if you get it, you have no choice but to have a repeat cesarean. I tested negative for step B when last time I had it. She didn’t get stuck coming out, she wasn’t in danger, she was perfectly safe and I got to birth her at home without FEAR. Her birth was by far the best experience I’ve ever had. The best day of my life, as cheesy as that sounds.

When everyone left, I told Dustin that I felt like God was shaking his head at me, smiling, saying, “You silly little girl, Chelsea. You thought I wouldn’t give you the desires of your heart….I gave you MORE than you ever imagined I would. How dare you doubt me, or doubt my love for you!” That was a humbling moment for me. She is sleeping well and nursing like a champ. We couldn’t be happier.
*Photography by Roberta Rae Photography.


  • Lisa @ Fat Chick Fed Up

    I rarely come out of lurking to comment, but I couldn’t help myself this time. This was the most beautiful birth story and described perfectly how I would want my birth experience to go (planning an HBA4C next year). The communion between you and your husband and God and your support team was just so, so beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

  • Amy

    This is just stunning! I LOVE that photo of you both. I’ve never had a caesarean but VBAC & especially HBAC stories tear me up – what you women have come through, the strength and healing it has taken to once again trust your bodies, the victory, the euphoria…words cannot describe. I wish every woman knew how much untapped strength she harboured.

  • Stacy

    Just the story I needed to read as I sit here at 39.5 weeks, waiting for my HBAC baby to arrive. Beautiful pictures, and what a face on that little girl! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  • Becky

    I noticed your photographer is in Milwaukee!Is it possible to get contact info for your midwife, if you are in that same area? I am interested in discussing my HB options after two inductions. Thank you!!

  • Tash

    What a beautiful story! My sister is about to have her second and has asked me to be her birthing partner with her husband. I am only 22 and pretty nervous about it, but after reading your story I am so encouraged to rely on God to help her through it, and just be the best support to her that I can be. I cant wait for her to share her story and be able to birth this baby naturally, quickly and memorably! Thank you

  • cait

    Thank you for sharing, such a beautiful, moving story. I love what your husband said to you early on about praising God for labor!

  • Bridget

    Love this story absolutely adore the video…your daughter is older now but I also want to have a home birth…as much as it scares the hell out of me your post makes it seem all worth while thank you for sharing your awesome story. I hope I can do the same one day too

  • Liz

    Brava!!!! Your last comments about God shaking his head at you made me cry because they so much echo my own feelings about when I had my son 5 months ago. Congratulations, mama 🙂

  • Ginger Garner

    Tears! Lots of tears of joy for you!! I love that you included your faith in this story. That brought more tears.
    To all you mamas out there, don’t be afraid of birth. I am a tiny thing and I did it three times, giving birth to a son each time, naturally – no drugs needed. It is more than empowering, and transforming beyond measure. Words fail to explain the enormity of experiencing love through birth.
    Thank you for sharing your story!

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