Watch January, Brandon, their kids, and grandparents hunt down Birth Without Fear: The Judgement-Free Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum at the book store!
It’s 18 days until the release of Birth Without Fear: The Judgement-Free Guide to Taking Charge of Your Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum(Hachette Books, March 5, 2019)!
January reads a snippet out of Chapter 6 of Birth Without Fear, and she and Brandon discuss VBACs!
Pre-order your copy of Birth Without Fear: The Judgement-Free Guide to Taking Charge of Your Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum today! If we want to see real change in our society where pregnancy and birth are concerned, let’s use our collective voice to change the narrative by getting a copy of this book into every birthing person’s hand! Pre-order a copy for yourself, or pre-order a few copies to hand out to friends and/or family!
The birth of my second child was shared on your blog several years ago: Long Labor Ends with Beautiful HBAC. With my home birth I really wanted to inspire other women. I wanted to show them that they are capable of having the birth that they want. This time around, I think it’s important to share that sometimes the birth you want ISN’T the birth you get – and that’s okay too. Here’s my story that talks about when VBAC doesn’t happen…
The birth of my sweet Kelsie.
Every labor is different.
How many times have I heard that sentence? How many times have I said that sentence? I thought that I understood that as well as anybody. My first two children had completely opposite births. My son was born at 36 weeks via emergency C-section and my daughter was born at almost 42 weeks, at home, after 35 hours of drug-free labor. Because of these completely different experiences, I really thought that no matter how Kelsie’s labor and birth went I would be pretty prepared.
My water broke at 4:30am on June 15th, 2015. I was 41+1 weeks pregnant. I woke up to a small gush and quickly ran to the restroom. Broken water – Check. Bloody show – Check. YES!!! It’s baby time! My water has never broken at the start of labor before, but I had dozens of dreams that it would this time around, so I really wasn’t too surprised. I went and woke up Eric and let him know that my water broke and we would be having a baby either that day or the next. I knew that it could be several hours before contractions kicked in, so I kissed my hubby, told him to let his work know that he wouldn’t be in that day and advised him that we should both try and get a bit more rest since we would probably need our energy later that day.
About a half hour later I gave up on sleep and went downstairs to make some coffee. Eric joined me and we had a light breakfast, played some cribbage, and talked about what we thought our labor would be like and how excited we were to finally meet our newest daughter. A couple hours later my two kiddos and my parents (who flew out to stay with the big kids while we were in the hospital) got up and I told everyone that I was officially in early labor. We decided to try and get the contractions started by going to Ikea to eat some breakfast and to walk the entire store. We spent over an hour and a half walking around. We left Ikea and decided to take a drive by the hospital to show my parents how to get there later. We also wanted to show them how close the hospital was to the beach, an awesome park where they could play with the kids if they needed to burn some energy, and most importantly, the closest coffee shop.
We went back to the house after and I decided to rest. A little bit later I decided to try the breast pump to see if I could get contractions going. Afterwards, my hubby and I went to a park and walked close to a mile as quickly as I was able to (which isn’t saying much). My water had now been broken for almost 12 hours. I started to get really emotional and frustrated. I decided that I must have been imagining what had happened that morning. I called my doctor, Dr. C, to give him an update and after going over our options in lengthy detail Eric and I decided to go in to the hospital to get confirmation that my water had broken.
We took our time getting our bags together and made sure to give the big kids extra hugs and kisses. I cried off and on the entire way to the hospital. I told Eric that my two best case outcomes would be that either my water had in fact broken and I wasn’t losing my mind, and even though the contractions I was having weren’t super uncomfortable I would somehow still be dilated to 6cm OR that I had completely misread the situation and my water had NOT broken.
Then we could just go home and come back a few days later to have a baby. We got checked into the hospital and were taken to our room. I got changed into the hospital gown and went and sat on the bed; my husband said I looked so scared and anxious that he decided to build my confidence by dancing for me like Ray Lewis (you can see it here…). My goofy husband was able to make me smile but I was definitely not feeling any more relaxed.
Not long after we arrived it was confirmed that my water had broken. A bit later Dr. C came in and checked me. I was dilated to 2 to 3cm on the bottom, but my cervix was still very posterior and almost cone shaped, meaning it was still closed pretty tight at the top – not at all what I had hoped for. Because I am a VBAC, we were told that we would be staying put, but that we would not be on any clock – meaning that even if my water was broken for over 24 hours as long as the baby and I were doing well we would be able to continue labor as long as we needed to. This was not at all our original plan, as we had hoped to labor at home as long as possible and only go in to the hospital once, in my doctor’s words, there was a “baby coming out of my vagina.” However, I knew there was nothing I could do about that now. Dr. C told me I needed to have a good cry about it and then I needed to get out of bed and see what I could do to get this baby coming.
So I did. I sat there and cried, trying to understand why my body didn’t want to start the process that would bring my baby into my arms. I sent Eric out to the car to grab our bags and tried to focus on the few positive things that came with being at the hospital so early. We had plenty of time to set up our music and oil diffuser and for me to spend a few minutes playing birth photographer for my own labor. I changed into the labor gown that I made and called my parents to bring my kids over for a visit. I really just wanted to hug and kiss them and needed a bit of a distraction. My family showed up soon after and I snuggled my babies and my oldest read me a bed time story.
After they left, we called in my doula. I paced the room back and forth as far as the monitors I was hooked on to would allow. I paced and paced and paced and began to feel increasingly like a caged animal. I was so frustrated having to be attached to those stupid monitors and not feeling like I was really being given a chance to get things going. My wonderful nurse Lisa came in around this time and reminded me that no one could make me do anything that I didn’t want to do. She had to have some record of monitoring, but that if I refused there was nothing they could do. So I did. I said I needed to use the restroom for a long time and removed the monitors so that I could have at least a half hour of freedom to move about the room. I walked some more and spent some time on the birth ball. A little after 10, I got back on the monitors to try and give my poor nurse some more readings. She had been so kind to me and I didn’t want to put her in a bad position.
A few minutes later my wonderful doula Crystal arrived. She was quick to offer help in any way that I needed. She rubbed my back and shoulders and feet and prayed for me. She whispered words of encouragement and when I wanted to try and sleep she sat beside me and held that stupid monitor in place since my little lady inside insisted on kicking it off.
Now I know that during the next several hours I had another visit from Dr. C, I cried and felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster going from completely defeated, to motivated, to crushed, to relaxed. I was emotionally and physically exhausted. We were coming up on 22 hours since my water had broken and I had slept less than ten minutes. Around 2:30 in the morning, the nurses moved me and my crew into a different room with wireless monitors. YES! But they didn’t work. NO! So we continued pacing as far as they would allow me and bouncing on the birth ball. And many times I crawled into bed hoping that rest would bring something on. My doula kept offering things that we could try. Some of them I did, others I looked at her like she was crazy.
This pattern continued for the rest of the night and well into the morning. My big fears at this point weren’t only what would happen if my body never went into labor, but also what would happen if it did? I had been awake for going on 30 hours and I could barely put together full sentences. How was I going to push through a labor?
I was anxious for Dr. C to come in for a visit. I really wanted a check to see if anything we had tried throughout the night had helped. He arrived a bit after 9:00am. It had been 15 hours since my last check. I tried so hard to remain hopeful, but as soon as the check started I knew.
Before he even had the chance to say anything I looked at Eric and Crystal, shook my head no and let the tears fall. There was no change.
No. Change. At. All.
My heart broke. Off and on throughout the night I had thought, talked, and prayed about what to do if there was still no change the next day. I didn’t feel like I had it in me to keep going. Dr. C sat down and we started to talk about options. As far as he was concerned I had several. First, everyone looked good so I was free to continue laboring as long as I wanted. Second, we could start to talk about other ways to get this baby out. Third, I could take off the monitors, go to sleep and not decide anything at all. I had already shared with Eric and Crystal what I was thinking. I feel so strongly that babies know how to be born and I know for a fact that my body is strong and capable of birthing a baby – so in my heart I felt that if Kelsie wasn’t coming there was a reason for it. I didn’t want to make this decision based solely on exhaustion or fear so Eric and I asked Dr. C a bunch of questions and then agreed that we would all just take a break before we made any decisions.
Dr. C left, saying that he was hoping that rest was all I needed and he hoped I woke up in active labor. I no longer felt as hopeful. Crystal left shortly after to get some rest and to allow Eric and I some time together. While Eric and I were alone I was able to be completely vulnerable and vent out everything that I was thinking and feeling. I told him that I was leaning towards a gentle cesarean, but I needed to know that he wouldn’t be disappointed in me. He hugged me close, kissed me lots and told me that no matter what choice I made he knew I was making it for the right reasons. He reminded me that I was strong and that I was a wonderful Mom just trying to take care of our baby. He told me that he was proud of me.
He laid down to get a much deserved nap, while I laid in bed, finally free from the dreaded monitors. I tried to sleep, but wasn’t able to. I don’t think I could possibly put into words how much I battled with myself during this time. I tried to rest, but when I wasn’t able to I decided to call my munchkins and make sure that they each knew how much I loved them. Hearing their sweet voices calmed me.
A while later Crystal returned and Eric woke up. I didn’t tell either of them what I had decided. Our nurse walked in to check on me, “What do we think?”
My eyes filled with tears and I looked at her and answered, “I think it’s time to meet my baby.”
Even the nurses knew that Kelsie was in charge.
At this time things started to move pretty fast. Despite the speedy pace though, I felt in control and respected, which is so different then my first cesarean. Everyone was kind and went out of their way to try and keep things as calm as possible. Eric was given his awesome new duds, Kelsie’s blanket and hat were brought into the operating room and I was introduced to the anesthesiologist that would be working with my doctor. I sat on the bed in our hospital room, trying to just remain calm and cling to the small moments of peace that I felt. As I was sitting on the bed, letting Eric put some cozy socks on my feet, I heard my phone vibrate next to me, indicating that a text message had arrived. I had mostly been ignoring all messages since we had kept the news that my water had broken very quiet. But for some reason I decided to read this message before I walked into the operating room. It was from my best friend Lisa:
“I love you so much. You are an amazing mom and will see that sweetie soon! Enjoy as her story happens knowing that God wrote it just for her!”
Wow. The exact words I needed to hear in the exact moment that I needed to hear them. Eric helped me out of the bed, we walked to the operating room and I kissed him and let him know I’d see him soon.
This cesarean was so different than my first. The operating room, while busy, was not at all chaotic. Everyone let me know what was going on and what to expect next. I was treated with respect the entire time and even felt comfortable enough to make jokes. For instance, when the nurse asked someone to let Justin know that he’d be able to come in just a few minutes I calmly replied, “Actually if you don’t mind I’d rather Justin just wait outside, but if you see my husband, Eric, he’s welcome to join us.” Prep went quickly and easily and before I knew it the drape was up and Eric was sitting next to me holding my hand and waiting on our girl. Before we knew it the drape was being lowered and the anesthesiologist was lifting my back up a bit so that Eric and I could watch our daughter being born. I cried and cried. She was here. 32+ hours after my water broke – and born at the exact same minute that I was: 12:31 p.m. She was perfect and pink and loud and tiny and COVERED in meconium. I mean head to toe covered in poop. And I had only ever seen anything that beautiful two other times in my life. She was quickly looked over while Dr. C did his best to get her as much cord blood as possible, while still keeping me safe. And less than two minutes later she was in our arms. As requested she hadn’t been bathed or weighed or measured. None of that mattered.
One of the nurses came over and helped pull my pajamas down and slide Kelsie in so that we could lay skin to skin while the surgery was completed. Eric also held her during this time and we all laughed at how much she was rooting. The anesthesiologist mentioned that he had never seen a baby with such an immediate and enthusiastic root instinct. While she was laying on me and trying so hard to find what she was looking for I said, “I’m so sorry baby. You have to wait just a few more minutes.” Her response was the most perfect, most dramatic pouty lip that you can imagine. She had Eric and I and several others in the room laughing. Before I knew it everything was done. Eric held Kelsie while I was moved from the operating table to a bed. Kelsie was again tucked in with me skin to skin and we were rolled back to our room together.
Eric, Kelsie and I were left mostly alone for more than an hour after she was born. Everything else that needed to be done was done with her in my arms. She wasn’t measured or weighed until we requested and when I did decide to have them rinse some of the poop out of her hair, they were quick to honor my request that they only use water.
We stayed in the hospital for two days and were blessed to be taken care of by so many wonderful nurses and one exceptional CNA. I have had a few moments where I have felt sad about the way everything went down – like when I had to sign my consent to have cesarean, because of a “failed trial of labor” (I don’t think that’s the right reason – I never went into labor and I certainly didn’t fail). But the fact is I made the best choice that I could make with the information that I had at that time. I was supported and respected in all of my choices and I felt like I was in control. I never felt bullied or pushed into anything I wasn’t comfortable with. I wanted Kelsie’s birth to be joyful. I prayed for that for the entire 10+ months that I carried her. And when I look back at her birth, I will remember laughing at her silly faces right after birth and joking with my doctor about a dream I had where I had a C-section, but in the dream he had bleached blonde backstreet boy hair and him asking someone to bring him a wig. I will remember the jokes and fun that I had with my husband and doula in the middle of the night when we were all so exhausted that we were borderline giddy.
I will own the choices that I made during this labor and I choose not to regret any of them.
This is Kelsie’s story and I will tell it to her proudly and remember it with joy.
Welcome to the world, Kelsie.
You are loved.
You are wanted.
You are precious.
*** I wrote Kelsie’s birth story the week that she was born. That was over 6 months ago. One thing that I wasn’t prepared for after her birth was how hard it would be to process everything. How much I would doubt my choices. How often I would ask myself, “What if…” Not having a VBAC when you prepare for one and want one so badly is HARD. With my first child’s birth his emergency C-section was out of my hands. It was easy to be frustrated with everyone else, because I had zero control in that situation. But this time around the decision to have a cesarean was mine alone. Processing Kelsie’s birth has been hard. For over four months I obsessed over everything that had happened. What could I have done differently? How much better would it have been if I had just planned a home birth? What if I had just given myself more time? Did I give up too easily?
The self-doubt that comes in can suffocate you and it felt like nobody really understood WHY I was upset. My baby was healthy after all and my recovery had been as easy as it could have been. Yet still, I felt like I had let myself and my daughter down. For months (and sometimes even now) I couldn’t read birth stories without feeling sad, disappointed, and even jealous of these other women achieving their drug-free vaginal births and VBACs. My sweet doula sat me down and told me, “You’re only thinking of this one way. But what about these ‘what ifs?’ What if you HADN’T had a cesarean? What if you HADN’T followed your instinct? You birthed a beautiful baby. Be kind to yourself.”
And you know what? She was right. The decisions made that day were mine alone. I chose the decision I could live with and now, over half a year later, I truly can accept that. Her birth story is unique to her. I did the best I could do and I am so grateful that the choices I made led to a beautiful, healthy, joyful baby girl. I think that I will probably always have moments when I wonder “what if,” but I no longer feel like I failed. Kelsie’s birth story is her own. I hope that other women reading this, possibly in the same situation, will know that they aren’t alone. It’s hard when VBAC doesn’t happen. Those feelings of disappointment, sadness, and anger are real. But in the words of my favorite doula, “You birthed a beautiful baby, be kind to yourself.” ***
(Editor’s note: this birth experience was originally posted on August 23, 2011.)
To gain a little insight of why I had a C-section with my first born, I have it written down as a “vent” on my blog. It basically started out as one intervention cascading into a ball of interventions that led me to a transfer from a “Birth Center” birth to the hospital that ended in a non-emergency C-section for being stuck at 5cm for hours and hours. I did a lot of processing and mourned the birth and post par tum bond of my beautiful baby girl, Alana.
I did my research, got in touch with my local ICAN Chapter and soaked up as much info as I could. I also found a lovely CPM who takes VBAC’s as I knew the best chance of a successful VBAC would to be at home with the least intervention and the most support. I did all my own prenatal’s, skipped the ultrasound, listened and trusted my body to grow my baby and prepare for birth. I was on top of my nutrition and got monthly adjustments from my chiropractor and even got a wonderful massage at the end of my pregnancy.
My VBAC Baby Born at Home
Wow! Where do I begin? Ethan’s birth has so many emotions attached to it. So many hopes and dreams came true the night he was born, on Wednesday, May 19th, 2010. It’s hard for me to even write what I really want to write here. Whatever I write, it comes from a deep place in my soul.
First, I just have to give praise and honor to our Heavenly Father…for knowing the desires of my heart, for loving me through some hard challenges in my life and for allowing them to grow me. Our Creator is so good. While Ethan’s birth was hard work for me, I have no regrets. I guess I could say I “wish” things had gone differently, but really I’m grateful for how it was. This is his story.
I woke up Friday the 14th (9 days after my due date) still very pregnant and no end in sight. Then around 10am I went to the bathroom to find “bloody show”. It renewed my faith in my body that things were progressing and that I would be having this baby. I was really hoping that I would be holding my baby within 24 hours, but no. Bloody show came and went and Istill had my all day, every day braxton hicks that would always go away when I went to bed. There was no way I was willing to do anything to speed things along. I knew that in order to have the best possible chance at a VBAC, I would have to allow things to unfold completely unhindered. While it was hard and uncomfortable being so big, I was so at peace with where my body was at and what it needed to do. I continued to have bloody show all through the weekend.
Monday the 17th, I felt different. Lots more bloody show and my contractions were slightly stronger. So I did some massive “nesting” and Alana was my sidekick. It was truly a wonderful day spent with my daughter for the last time just the two of us. We made a pot roast in the crock pot, went to Trader Joe’s for some shopping, cleaned the house top to bottom and made cookies! It was such a beautiful, peaceful day. A day that I will remember forever. Matt was in and out of the house throughout the day working and it allowed Alana and I some time alone together.
Monday night, as we got ready for bed at 11:30pm, I noticed that my braxton hicks were still coming despite how late it was. Usually they had died down by now. So of course I wondered. Went to bed and as I lay there, I couldn’t sleep. Contractions were still coming. I got up to find my phone so that I could start timing them. They were coming every 3-6min. Very short though.
After an hour of this, I decided to get up to pee and I woke up Matt telling him I couldn’t sleep, that I may be in labor. I went pee and had a huge gob of bloody mucus, so I knew that this was the real deal. I told Matt I was going to shower and asked him to pump up the pool. Actually, I think I demanded him to.
I felt really calm, but part of me wanted things ready in case things went quick (wishful thinking). Took a shower and tried to check myself, but everything just felt like mush. I couldn’t tell or maybe I just couldn’t reach my cervix. Matt and I then made the bed up with a shower curtain and a sheet over it while the tub filled. I went downstairs and made some raspberry leaf and nettle tea and grabbed a water and set up my birth snacks on my dresser next to the tub. I told Matt I was happy to labor alone if he wanted to sleep downstairs on the couch. So he grabbed his pillow and a blanket and headed downstairs. To help pass time, I blow dried my hair and did my makeup in between contractions.
I did some hip swaying to give room and even did some squats during the contractions. I made sure to empty my bladder every hour. I was drinking and eating to sustain energy. At 6:30 am, I text my girlfriend, Jessica, to give her the heads up that I had been in labor since 12 am. She was my birth photographer and has an almost 2 year old and knew she was up getting ready for work, so I wanted to give her time to plan for the birth and would keep her posted.
At around 7am Matt’s alarm went off, so I went downstairs to tell him he probably shouldn’t go to work. Matt then asked if I had called the midwife to give her a heads up. That kind of annoyed me because I felt like it was too early yet. Then Alana woke up and pretty much my contractions died at that point. Matt took Alana downstairs and told me to sleep for awhile. I was really distraught because I felt like things were progressing and then the moment Matt and Alana woke, it distracted me and labor had stopped. Ugh!
So I took some Rescue Remedy to help me calm down and I layed down and slept for a couple hours. Then I woke up and took a shower to freshen up. Matt and I had an “upset” so we worked that out (I was still mad over the comment her made about calling the midwife). Nothing like getting irritated at each other when you want to be laboring. Then we ate and decided to go for a walk around 3:30 pm. While walking, I timed my contractions and there were coming every 5 min. I had to stop and lean over something for every contraction or hang on to Matt, whatever I could grab first. I’m sure I was a sight to the passing drivers.
Contractions continued to come after walking and eating dinner. I called Jessica, my mom and sisters and let them know to head on over around 8pm. Even though I had planned to labor alone for the majority of labor, I was so ready for some support. They all showed up and my sister Callie announced that she was making brownies. Grrr. I really wanted some and I never got any. I called my midwife sometime after 8 pm to give her the heads up. She listened to me while I went through a couple contractions and said they are about 3 minutes apart, but only lasting 30 sec. She was currently at another birth and I agreed to keep her posted.
I labored all through the night. Everyone found places to sleep and in the early hours, I want to say around 2am, things were intense. I think I was pretty tired and my contractions were getting painful. I was in the birth tub for quite a while at this point, but I had been in and out and changing positions every hour. I called the midwife around 3:30 am and was ready for her to come. She and her assistant headed over. I remember about this time feeling intense energy and it was quite overwhelming. I was getting very vocal and loud.
When my midwife came in, she prayed over me and told me where to release the energy in an effective way by vocalizing in a low/deep tone. What a difference that made. I really wanted to scream the pain away, but with the direction from my midwife I was able to welcome the pain and release the intense energy in an effective way. That is what gets me through the rest of my labor.
I ended up moving to my bed to lay down and rest. Contractions spaced out to allow me to doze and get some sleep. I held on to my mom’s hand and squeezed for every contraction. After an hour or so, I was up and ready to get back to business. I labored all over my room and in the tub. Mom made me some breakfast-eggs and hash browns. I layed down again and was able to get a good sleep. I decided to not vocalize and just relax during my contractions. That was hard, but I needed the sleep.
Around 9am, I got up and decided I was ready for a check. I NEEDED to know at this point what progress had been made. My midwife said that I was about 7cm. Yay! To me, that was a good thing. I had only progressed to 6 cm with Alana, so I was happy to be past that hurdle. It was just what I needed to hear to keep me going. My midwife needed to head out for a little while and so did my mom, sisters and Jessica. It allowed me to focus on getting busy with labor.
My mom and sister Kimberly came back around 1 pm and started timing my contractions. I was in the tub, on my knees, hanging over the side and contractions started getting closer, longer and more intense. I held on to my mom for every contraction. My almost 4 year old daughter pretty much stayed in my room. She was amazing. I rubbed my knees raw from staying in this position for so long. There was lots of pressure in my bottom and at the peak of my contractions, I wanted to push. It was so intense, its all I could do. We called the midwife and she was on her way.
About this time, it started to storm outside. It was really cool. I walked the hall, did some laboring on the toilet and would hang from mom’s neck. Midwife got there and I asked her to check me and she said I still have a rim of cervix (9cm) and that I would need to relax through contractions to melt it. “Yeah right!” is what I thought. She said another option was she could hold the cervix while I push the baby past it. I told her I would try “relaxing” to melt the cervix.
Well, an hour later, I hit my wall. I started having thoughts of going to the hospital. I just couldn’t go on. I was exhausted and there needed to be progress. So I yelled down the stairs to my midwife that I would like her to hold it back. She came upstairs and got prepped. She warned me that it would hurt. I didn’t care. What could hurt worse than those contractions? I got propped up in my bed with Callie and Jessica holding each of my legs, while my midwife massaged cervix in between contractions and held it up while I pushed during contractions. It was so hard finding the right place to push. Thank goodness I even had the urge to push. I pushed 4 times per contraction and pushed hard and at one point the assistant told me to hold my breath while pushing. I tried it once and I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath in time for the next push so decided that wouldn’t work and I needed to blow air out while pushing.
During this time, I was fed yogurt and drinking Recharge and Emegen-C to keep me fueled. I think I even apologized for any toots I couldn’t hold in. LOL. Finally, the cervix was gone and his head was low enough that I was able to get into a different position.
I head straight for the toilet. It’s amazing how intense the urge to push is. Our bodies our amazing in that it just takes over and you don’t have a choice. While sitting on the toilet, I was hugging the assistant and my mom and reaching for my midwife’s hand. I think I was reaching for help, for someone to just take the intensity away. For whatever reason, it made sense at the time. I really used some muscles in my body as I was hugging on them hard. I remember saying out loud “I can’t” and the assistant saying back to me, “but you are”. That was powerful and gave me the push to keep going (not like I had a choice, but I was able to rationalize it in my head to keep going).
Some of this is really hazy and I don’t remember much detail, but at this point I was sooo hot and sweaty. I asked for cool rags so the ladies started putting cold rags on me. Then I got in the tub in a reclining position and was still cooking so they brought in a fan and aimed it right at me. I pushed and pushed, then got onto my knees to hang over the side of the tub. I had Callie put counter pressure on my lower back and that was AMAZING relief. I could feel the head come down low during pushing and then suck back up in between contractions.
Midwives suggested moving into different pushing positions since its like trying to cork screw the baby out. So I said I wanted out of the water, but when it came time to move, I didn’t want to. The ladies said “lets go” and so I finally just did it. I really didn’t want to move in fear another contraction came while moving. I squatted on the floor at the foot of my bed and wrapped my arms over my mom and sister’s necks for support. There was a mirror on the floor so that I could see the progress. That was cool and kept me going! Then I decided I wanted to push in a reclining position on my bed. I really wanted to see the progress and my legs were tired so it was time to move.
Propped in reclining position and hanging on to my mom for dear life, I pushed and pushed. There is no pain like the ring of fire. I seriously dislike those ladies who’s babies come flying out and don’t feel the ring of fire. It’s so intense. I watched in the mirror the whole time and reached down and touched his head. It was incredible! I’m so thankful it was slow so that I could process the whole experience. I didn’t want to miss a moment. I just wanted to soak the experience in…the experience that I had longed for and what I missed with my daughter’s c-section. So even though it was painful, God knew that it needed to happen slowly. It was needed for my healing. I will never forget, I was the first one to touch my baby. I was in the moment and feeling totally connected to my unborn baby.
My midwife suggested I grunt, to not push him out too fast and I did that to get his head out. Part of me just wanted to push hard and to get it done and over with. But I chose to ignore that thought since I really didn’t want to tear. Once his head was out (sweet relief!!), I reached down and started touching his face. I got a good minute of touching him and it was surreal. Then my last contraction came and out he came with some maneuvering by the midwives since there was a loose cord around his neck and wrapped around his body and then I reached down and pulled him up to my chest.
He was born on Wednesday, May 19th, at 8:01pm. My sister Callie then saw his parts and announced “its a boy!” and we all squealed in delight! His apgars were 8 and 9 and he squawked when he was born and then it took him another 45 seconds or so to get out a good cry.
The “love cocktail” is real and I got to experience it with my beautiful son. I was instantly in love with him and I smelled, touched and kissed him within minutes of him being born. My daughter got to experience and watch the whole thing. She was right at my side within a minute of baby’s birth, talking and touching him. He knew who is sister was. When she talked, he looked for her and it was soothing to him. She has been so loving with him and I know that her being there for the birth, instantly bonded them. My husband had to walk out of the room because of the intensity, but I know that his heart was full and that he was happy with the outcome. And that he was a BOY!
I had two small tears, one on each labia. I took the stitches in hopes of a quicker recovery. Baby boy weighed in at 9 lbs 10 oz (major shock), 22in long and a 14.5in head! Big, happy and healthy boy milked his time in mama. He came at exactly 42 weeks with no pressure from anyone to have him before then. He chose his birthday! And it took us a little over a week to choose his name, Ethan Matthew Wright. He is simply amazing!
I am forever grateful for my “hands off” midwife who became “hands on” when I needed a little bit of help at the end to get that pesky lip of cervix to move and for her patience and trust in my ability to birth my baby!!!
I also have a picture video here.
Birth experience and photographs submitted by Melissa.
“I thought you might be interested in my HBA4C from last year. I have 9 children with 3 vaginal births, 4 cesareans, hospital VBA4C and a HBA4C. I’ve experienced many ups and downs during my labours and births. I am committed to sharing my birth stories to help give others strength and confidence that they CAN have control of their births.
My greatest achievements in life have been my 9 gorgeous children. Each of the journeys that delivered them to me has been unique. With each new pregnancy, my “risk” status grew in the eyes of healthcare providers and I became more determined each time to have the birth that I felt was not only mine by right, but what was best for myself, my baby and my family.
My birth history is quite extensive. I have had 8 hospital births. My first 3 were vaginal births (with interventions), the next 4 births were c/sections (after “failure to progress” diagnosis) 2 of those c/sections were attempted VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean), 1 was a “forced” elective. My next birth was a successful VBA4C in hospital. This leads me to the birth story of my most recent little cherub.” – Gerri
This story starts during my 2nd trimester. I had booked into John Hunter Hospital for my 2nd VBA4C. I had birthed my 2 previous babies there with the last one being a VBAC. With this in mind, I expected to have my “risk” level lowered and not be subjected to the same old restrictions whilst in labour. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. In fact more restrictions than ever were placed on me… continuous monitoring, NO shower/water, laying on the bed, epidural upon arrival… it was unacceptable that there was no room for negotiation. I began looking at my options.
I met my wonderful midwife at a VBAC support group when I was about 32wks. We got to talking all things birth and one of us mentioned homebirth. It was always something I admired but never thought possible with my history. Lisa was very supportive. We met up a few times and discussed the possibility of me home birthing in detail. My main obstacles, as I saw them, were the fact that 3 out of 4 of my vaginal births were assisted with ventouse (due to posterior positioning of bubs) and I had always been a huge fan of epidurals. A homebirth meant NO medical pain relief. My husband was against the idea as well, but being the independent person I am, told him that I would do it with or without him. After much toing and froing, research and discussion, I decided that a water homebirth would be the best option for another successful vbac.
5th August 2012 – 40+5wks. BAM!!! I’m woken by a particularly strong contraction. It’s 4am. I get up and go to the bathroom to investigate if I’d had a show. Another strong contraction. Wow, this is it; we’re having a baby today!!! 1st thought… remind Rob to get Jasmine to surfing and kids to footy. I wander around a bit with contractions coming strong and regular. 2nd thought… Damn, didn’t do groceries or fold the washing! At 5am I text midwife, Lisa, and doula, Emma, to let them know todays the day.
I get the birth ball out and try some rocking. After a while I feel a bit faint and have to lie down. I text Lisa again at 6am letting her know and ask if she can come over.
When Lisa and Emma arrived I was leaning over the bed. I had started to get the dreaded backache that generally goes with my posterior babies. The girls were both encouraging me to move around and also had a hot water bottle on my back. I just wanted to get in the birth pool. Hubby, Rob, and the kids were putting it up as I was thinking it.
I don’t know what the time was but finally the pool was ready. OMG it was heaven. I was so worried that I wouldn’t be comfortable in the water, but it really helped ease the pain of the contractions. Some of my little ferals popped their heads in at some point to check out what was going on. I could hear the kids on and off all day as they kept themselves amused.
I was so tired. After 5 or 6 hours, sometime around 10am I guess, I asked Lisa to examine me. I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere and wanted to know how dilated I was. 8cm, waters bulging… this was good. 7cm had always been my hoodoo number where everything stopped. I could do this, it wouldn’t be much longer.
“Relax, release” I started thinking to myself. I was surrounded by lovely warm water. All I was missing was some drumming music and incense…lol.
Things appeared to be slowing so Lisa and Emma helped me out of the pool and tried some rebozo while I was head down, bum up on the floor. What an odd sensation and damn uncomfortable. Didn’t like it at all!!
Back into the pool. OMG, it still felt awesome! Very relaxing. I had no idea of the time. I had so much backache and pressure in my bum.
After what seemed like an eternity of contractions, I asked Lisa for another VE. I don’t think she was keen. Maybe it was for the best. I didn’t want to know if I wasn’t making progress. There was NO WAY I was transferring to hospital without it being an emergency. I could tough this out! I think I wonder aloud if the hospital would give me an epidural and let me leave? Hmmm… probably NOT!
Next thing I recall is lying in bed with the electric blanket on and a TENS machine attached to me. It was dark, where had the day gone? I felt like I had been labouring a long time, yet I was still surprised when I realised how quickly the time had passed. I was comfy in bed and was sleeping between contractions. The TENS machine kept stopping so I didn’t really use it much.
Random thought… I bet those kids didn’t clean the microwave like I asked!
Emma, my doula, was a constant presence. Whispering encouragement in my ear, getting me to drink her god awful labour concoction and just generally making sure I was as comfortable as could be.
Something was going on with Lisa and Emma. I asked what was happening but Emma assured me everything was fine. I later learnt that Lisa was sick and had to call in her backup midwife. I remember lying in bed and this stranger popped up and introduced herself as the backup. She’d scared the crap out of me… She explained that Lisa had reluctantly gone home and she would now be helping me. All I could think was “poor Lisa, I hope she’s ok, she’s guna be pissed she missed it”.
At some point Emma got me up to the toilet to help keep things moving. I was getting the urge to push with some contractions but it was excruciating. I had so much pressure on my back that I felt I would snap in 2. I tried to stay on the toilet to open my pelvis but had to stand and lean into Emma when a contraction came. I tried reciting the “relax, release” mantra in my head. Stuff that crap, it wasn’t helping!!!
I leant against the bed again with one leg up to open everything and help bub come down more. At some point I vomited in the shower. I had to get back in the pool. Finally the water was warm again and I got back in. Instant relief!
It was around 11pm and I remember thinking our baby wouldn’t arrive until Monday now.
Surely this can’t go on much longer. I was so tired and didn’t want to keep going. I asked the midwife for another VE. I was talking to bub, saying “come on baby it’s time now”. She examined me during a contraction while I pushed to see how far bub came down. The midwife said my waters broke, but I know she helped it happen, bless her. There’s no going back now. I tried pushing with contractions. I don’t know if it was helping. Sometimes it was involuntary and I could feel bubs move, other times it felt like nothing was happening. I was leaning over the edge of the pool on my knees. All of a sudden I felt bubs head come down almost with a whoosh! It seemed to happen so quickly. When he started to crown, I screamed. I had never felt the “ring of fire” quite like this. My contractions slowed and the pain was almost unbearable. This baby was going to rip me in two.
I tried pushing without the help of contractions but it didn’t work. Slowly bubs head made progress. “It’s breech” I heard the midwife’s surprised voice. What? “No, it’s ok. It’s just got big cheeks”. What did this baby look like if you could mistake its face for its bum…
It seemed like forever but finally his head was out. The midwife asked if I wanted to touch it. No, it was too distracting; I had other things going on. I could feel him moving inside trying to position his little body. It hurt like hell!
After a while the midwife’s voice became urgent. She told me to push harder. I was trying. Push… again… harder. “I am” I screamed. Emma and the midwife helped get me over the side of the pool to the floor. I had an enormous head between my legs and couldn’t manage on my own. What an odd sight that must have been.
I’m on all fours on the floor pushing as hard as I could. The midwife’s voice was more demanding and urgent. “Push harder! Baby’s turning blue!”
What was happening? She got me onto my back with my legs pushed back as far as possible. My hubby had called an ambulance but the midwife was still trying to get baby out.
Next thing I know, he’s out and she is talking to him, telling him to breathe. I keep asking if he’s alright. I hear a cry… THANK GOD!!!
It was 2am on Monday 6th August 2012. My brand new baby was put on my chest. I was asking if it was a boy or girl. I couldn’t lift bub high enough to see for myself. IT’S ANOTHER BOY!!! He was so very big and very pink! No wonder he got stuck. Everything seemed to be normal again. We were covered in a blanket. It was almost like there was no emergency. The midwife looked incredibly relieved.
In the meantime the ambo’s arrived. They gave bubs the once over and declared him perfectly healthy. They were only there for 10mins or so.
Someone woke the kids and all of a sudden we had an audience. They each had a little look at their new brother but couldn’t nurse him as he was still attached to the placenta. After a little while, they went back to bed. About an hour later I birthed the placenta but also some clots.
The midwife tied his cord with a string with beads and Rob cut it, “every baby should have beads” she was saying. We still hadn’t decided on a name for our boy. I gave him to Rob for a cuddle, and moved off the floor to the lounge. I complained to the midwife of having a sudden headache and began feeling faint. My vision went blurry and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. The midwife and Emma tried getting me to eat and drink something but I just couldn’t be bothered. Rob called the ambo’s again. I heard them arrive but didn’t have the energy to respond. They gave me some fluids and oxygen and I started to come to life again. 2 hours after my homebirth we were off to Hospital, but that’s the beginning of a whole other story.
I have NO regrets about my homebirth. I am incredibly proud of myself and feel that I can achieve anything. I birthed a 12lb 4oz (5.56kg) baby after a 22hr labour without drugs and without tearing (thanks to the magical birth pool) after 4 previous c/sections. My only disappointment was that I didn’t get to shower at home and curl up with my new baby in my own bed.
I feel complete. I finally had the birth that every woman should be able to experience.
My body, my baby, my birth.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.