The birth of my first child was a failed induction that ended in a cesarean. I remember the nurses laughing at my natural birth plan when we checked into the hospital and telling me to “wrap my head around what was about to happen”. It wasn’t long after they started the Pitocin that I could feel intense cramping, but with the comfort of the yoga ball and some deep breathing, I was handling the labor well. After the internal monitor fell out the second time, the nurse told me I would need to get in bed and stay there. The doctor came in and broke my water, which is when things got intense. My contractions were hard, long, and one right after the other. I felt like I didn’t have time to catch my breath in-between contractions. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I asked for the epidural.
After dilating to six centimeters and 12 hours of intense labor, my doctor told me that the baby was showing signs of distress and that it was in our best interest to have a cesarean. Forty minutes later, we had a beautiful baby boy. I remember telling myself that I had a healthy baby and it didn’t matter how he came into the world as long as he was healthy, but I was lying to myself. The truth was, I was scarred physically and emotionally. I had planned on a natural, vaginal birth and nothing went as planned. I felt as though labor was done to me and that I was told what was going to happen instead of what my options were. It wasn’t long after the birth of my son, that I decided I wanted to VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) with my next baby. At my follow up appointment I asked my doctor about the possibility of a VBAC and she told me that it was “once a cesarean, always a cesarean.”
When we started trying to conceive our second child, I started researching my options and decided to look closer at home birth. I made a consultation appointment with a home birth midwife that was referred to me by a friend. I was pregnant by the time we went to our appointment. The midwife looked at my surgical report and told me that I was a perfect candidate for a HBAC (home birth after cesarean).
Fast-forward nine months later to a beautiful October evening, my labor started and we called the team. Labor with my daughter was long and slow to progress. My contractions were sporadic and changed in intensity; some were intense and some not so intense. After 36 hours of laboring at home my midwife suggested we transfer to the nearest VBAC friendly hospital for an epidural. She said that would give my body the chance to rest so that when it came time to push, I would have the energy.
We arrived at the hospital and had to spend quite a bit of time with the staff explaining our wishes. The doctor on shift agreed to continue my labor in the hospital with minimal interventions. After 12 hours with the epidural and a low dose of Pitocin, the doctor came in and said, “I’m sorry but it’s time.” He explained that because my water had been broken over 24 hours, I was risking infection. At eight centimeters and behind many tears, I signed the consent for cesarean. I was devastated. Once again, I was thankful for my healthy baby girl, but I was mourning the loss of my dream birth. I mourned that birth for over a year. I thought we had completed our family and I wouldn’t have another chance to have a natural birth.
We were surprised three years later by the news of our third baby’s impending arrival. I knew immediately that I wanted to try again for a home birth, but my husband was not so sure. We visited our midwife and she shared all of my options with us. She told me that she would love to have me as a client again, but my chances of a successful home birth were around 50%. I knew this was my last shot and that if I didn’t at least try I would wonder forever what could have been.
So with a reluctant, but supportive husband, I got busy with my Spinning Babies exercises and started listening to my Hypnobabies CD’s daily. One evening, months later, my contractions started, they were ten minutes apart and intense enough to wake me up, but they stayed that way all night and through the next day. My husband and I had a friend take our older children while we tried to rest and distract ourselves.
It was in the evening that things got intense. I contacted my birth team while my husband set up the birth tub in our bedroom. Contractions started coming hard and close together. I had to work hard to focus and relax during my contractions. My husband gave counter pressure on my back while repeating, “Breathe IN peace. Breathe OUT tension.” Those words helped me focus my breath and visualize my cervix opening. I labored in the tub, then on the toilet, on my side in my bed and then back to the tub. At some point in the tub, I asked my husband to get in with me. I just wanted to hold him and be close.
It was shortly after he joined me in the tub that my water broke, my midwife checked my progress and I moved to my hands and knees. The very next contraction the baby was on my perineum and I felt the urge to push. I had my husband behind me in the tub, one midwife next to me with a flashlight, the other midwife and my doula in front of me holding my hands and coaching me how to push and to keep me intact. I loved pushing. It felt great! I felt powerful, successful, and strong. My doula told me to reach down and feel my baby’s head and I did. There it was! I knew it wouldn’t be long before I could hold my baby in my arms. After five or six pushes she was out. I heard her let out a cry and then my team helped me climb over the umbilical cord and my husband handed me our daughter. I just sat there and held her. There was no rush for us to go anywhere, we could just BE. The room was dim, quiet and calm, and we all just stared at her in amazement. A home birth after two cesareans – I did it!!!
The experience of having a natural birth taught me to appreciate my body, because it is capable. A women’s body is amazing and although it’s hard to remember as you look in the mirror and focus on your flaws, it’s important to appreciate what your body is capable of doing. This experience also taught me to trust in my decisions and myself. It wasn’t easy telling my family and friends that I was planning a home birth after my last failed attempt. Only I knew what was best for me and I am so thankful I trusted in my team, my body, and myself.