Today, I get to share with you my own VBAC birth story! It’s already been a few weeks since Ellie arrived, and I am finally able to sit down and write this and it still seems surreal to me! If you’ve been following my blog, you know that over the past three years I have been doing a lot to prepare for our second baby – even before we knew that they would be here!
My first baby arrived through a traumatic emergency cesarean section after a long labor in 2012. He presented in an asynclitic posterior position and despite the OB trying to manually turn him twice during the pushing phase – he would not budge. During the attempts to turn him, meconium stained fluid was released, his fetal heart rate plummeted and we were rushed to an operating room. I experienced a panic attack during the surgery and my son was rushed to the NICU due to inhaling the fluid and meconium. We were reunited again more than 7 hours later, an exhausted mama and baby. Recovery was very hard physical, emotionally and mentally.
The following days, weeks, months I started to heal. I started to realize that it was okay to not be okay with how my son was born. And once I acknowledged my own trauma of his birth I was able to truly start healing. I felt like my body had been broken and I needed to figure out how to fix it. I started to reach out to other mothers who had similar experiences to get more support for how I was feeling. And just as I had seen medical staff for my physical healing, I started working on my emotional and mental healing as well – combining PTSD counseling from the surgery with physical activity and took up running. Every mile that I ran started to prove to me that I was not broken – that I am strong and capable. I even ran my first full marathon in January of 2014!
In the Spring of 2014 my husband and I finally agreed that we were ready to expand our family, and that I had healed from our previous birth to try again. Little did we know that it wouldn’t take long to get a positive pregnancy test!
All things considered my second pregnancy was fairly uneventful. I didn’t have any pregnancy related complications. I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer during the first trimester however, and that did make it more interesting but it didn’t change a lot regarding our pregnancy. I really liked my providers and they have a great reputation for VBAC success with over 70% of TOLACs resulting in VBAC. I also hired a Monitrice as a labor assistant so that we would have someone with us throughout labor to assist with positions, pain management, and when the midwife couldn’t be in the room with us. I stayed active and healthy throughout the pregnancy; running until I was 34 weeks and continuing to walk until 38. I saw a chiropractor weekly to help get baby into a good position by using the Webster Technique. I think all of these factors combined really helped to get us ready!
My due date was 8 February 2015 and as the date came and went my anticipation built. Several friends due around the same time (and after me!) had their babies and I was eager to have our baby too! That last week we tried nearly every old wives tale out there to try and convince our little one that it was time to make their debut! Eggplant parmesan, fresh pineapple, sex, walking, acupressure massage, pedicures, evening primrose oil, pumping, spicy thai food and I’m sure there’s more that I tried and even tried twice. This kiddo was just not ready!
I had an appointment on Thursday when I was 40+4 and agreed to finally have a cervical check. I was already at 3 cm and 70% effaced! The midwife did a membrane sweep to see if we could maybe get labor going within the next 12 hours or so. Since I had already been experiencing contractions every night for over a week that didn’t stick around, I was willing to risk going into prodromal labor. I went home hopeful that it would be just what the baby needed, and waited. And waited. I texted my Monitrice around 9pm and she suggested I go to bed saying, “if it is going to work it will work! You’ll need your rest!” I woke up to go to the bathroom around 1:30 am on Friday and nothing was going on still. I chatted with my sister on Facebook, lamenting that the baby would apparently never emerge. and then went back to bed.
Contractions woke me around 5:30 am on Friday, just a few hours after complaining to my Sister. I started timing them and they were about 5 minutes apart already but only 30 seconds or so long. I sent a text to my Monitrice, Ellen, at 6:30 am and got in the shower. I woke up my husband after the shower and let him know that the contractions weren’t letting up and I was fairly sure that this was the real deal. I messaged Ellen again and let her know that I was going to eat some breakfast and keep her posted if they got more intense. By 8:00 am I was starting to think that maybe I should have Ellen here and I called her. She stayed on the phone with me for 15 minutes and at the end she said it might be a better idea to meet at the hospital rather than have her come to the house first – it was starting to snow out and it was the beginning of rush hour traffic on a Friday!
We headed towards the hospital and arrived there around 9 am. In triage they had me change, did some monitoring, took some blood, inserted my Hep-Lock and the Midwife on call, Meredith, came to check me. I was so thankful that she was the Midwife on duty! She had been so reassuring during our appointments and she immediately put me at ease. I was already at 5 cm and 80% effaced. By this time I think the contractions were 2-3 min apart and more than a minute long. I was starting to rely more on my Hypnobabies words and having counter pressure on my hips. Once a room opened up they wheeled me there – I didn’t think I could possibly walk through these contractions. On the way there I had to get the nurse to stop the wheelchair for one!
We got to the delivery room around 10am and that is when it all starts to blend together. I remember them bringing the birthing ball and using it to lean over the bed while Jeremiah, my husband, and Ellen did counter pressure on my hips. Then I was kneeling on the bed facing the wall. Jeremiah says that worked great because they could adjust the head of the bed for me and still give me counter pressure during contractions. Ellen and my husband were great at reminding me to keep my voice low during contractions, and that helped to make me feel more in control of the pain.
I started to transition around 11am and they checked me again; sure enough I was at 8 cm! The intensity of this time surprised me, and having Jeremiah by my side encouraging me was priceless. He even told me that they were starting to prepare the infant warming table – I was going to do this!! He even prayed with me for strength and comfort. Not long after this I started to have the urge to push, but Meredith and Ellen let me know how important it was to wait until I was at 10 so that I wouldn’t swell and make it harder to push when the time came. They had me blow my breath out like blowing out a candle through contractions to help resist pushing, it took a lot of focus and encouragement. They were having a hard time getting a heart beat from the baby, so they had me turn around on the bed so that I was laying on my left side. They found a great heart rate and checked me again.. and said I could push!! I was so relieved! It was 11:20 am.
I hooked my arm through one knee and Ellen helped to brace the other. Jeremiah held my hand and helped coach me through pushing, relaying to me what Ellen and Meredith were saying about slowing down, tucking my chin, staying focused and what was happening. We prayed together again, thanking God for everything and asking for more strength. The nurses brought a mirror out so that I could see what was going on – I took one look and was done with that! Ha! The need to push was so intense that it was hard to resist and slow down so that the baby didn’t come too fast. It wasn’t long until our precious baby emerged and as they helped me bring her to my chest, my husband announced that our little girl was here at last! 11:37 am! Only 17 minutes of pushing!
She was beautiful. I could hardly believe it was real! I had done it! She was here! The three of us reveled in the moment, soaking in the moment that we got to meet each other. She latched right away and we got to spend some time doing skin to skin as Meredith repaired a small tear and helped with delivering the placenta. After an hour of family time, the nurse took Ellie’s measurements while I started to get a bit cleaned up. Meredith and Ellen joked about us being able to leave the next day since everything went so smoothly!
I started to notice some bleeding as we were getting ready to go to the recovery wing. I told the nurse and she checked me before we left the delivery room and then called ahead to have an OB meet us at the recovery room to double check the bleeding. I was still feeling a lot of pressure and pain, which surprised me, but I had a hard time describing it to anyone so I wasn’t sure if it was normal or not. When the OB came to our room he was also followed by a small swarm of nurses with different carts and trays. He said that they needed to check me for a hemorrhage and not to worry. Lets just say that even though he was calm and collected, the influx of staff and the uptick of concern in the room made me anxious. Thankfully, Ellie was sleeping peacefully after her eventful morning.
Before the OB started to check for the hemorrhage, they gave me pain medication through the hep-lock that was placed while I had been in triage earlier that morning. I was so thankful that I hadn’t fought back on the hospital policy that required them for VBAC patients! Jeremiah took my hand and comforted me as the OB checked and found more than 800 mL of blood and tissue that had to be removed. It was a very painful procedure, but the OB was able to remove everything that needed to be and ensured that there was no active bleeding. Thankfully I did not need a blood transfusion, but they were going to keep a close eye on me for 48 hours to make sure that there was no more bleeding. They also double checked with an ultrasound machine that there was no additional tissue or anything remaining.
After a roller coaster of a day, we were finally able to relax as a family! We started calling our families and letting them know that Ellie Grace had arrived safely and that we were doing well. And I finally got to eat! Pancakes, bacon, eggs and a big glass of orange juice delivered right to my room for an afternoon snack. It was already after 4:00pm!
I am so thankful and blessed from this journey. Ellie is amazing, and Noah is a great big brother to her already. I know that many VBAC moms say that their births are healing and in many ways it was. During my pregnancy there were so many moments when I still doubted myself, my body, and God’s plan for us. When I crossed the finish line of my marathon last year I had finally had a moment where I felt like my body could handle anything and that I wasn’t broken anymore. Ellie’s arrival was the reaffirmation of that moment, and that as long as I trusted God I could do anything.
Sometimes, it’s hard to believe something that others have told you until you see it in black and white.
This is especially true if you weren’t ready to hear the truth before.
After more than a year and half, I finally requested copies of my surgical notes from my son’s Emergency Cesarean Section. I wasn’t sure how I would react to seeing the medical documentation, but I want to be able to move forward with my recovery. Part of that is facing what happened, and seeing what caused it in order to try to have a different outcome in the future. And what I found, was actually very validating.
You see, after my sons arrival, I was certain that my body had to have been broken. I was convinced that there was something flawed with me that made it so that I couldn’t do the one thing that women are designed by the great Creator to do. I felt like a failure, less of a woman, and on some days unworthy of being a mother.
Over the past year and a half, I have slowly but surely dragged myself out of that hole. I have built myself back up piece by piece; literally step by step as I trained for my first marathon. I felt like if I could just run further, and push harder, and do more – then surely next time I could birth my own child from my womb.
And as it turns out, my body was never broken. I progressed to “complete effacement, complete dilation, and +1 station. The patient pushed for greater than 90 minutes without a change in station. On assessment, [the OB] felt the fetal head to be asynclitic and ROP*. Two attempts at manual rotation were unsuccessful. The patient was counseled regarding the diagnosis of arrest of descent…”
After having been in active labor for more than 20 hours, my body had done everything that it could do to get my DS to come into this world on his own. He just happens to be one stubborn boy. I was exhausted, and he wasn’t budging. As much as I had hoped and wished for a natural birth, it just didn’t happen for me. And you know what? I think I might be getting closer to the point where I’m okay with that.
Sometimes our toughest critic, and our hardest judge is ourselves. I feel a sense of relief after reading the surgical notes.. as if I’m cresting the top of the mountain and now I can see the path ahead of me clearly. It’s looking pretty good from here. Behind me is a tangle of self doubt and unrealistic expectations, ahead of me is the path to full recovery – body and spirit.
*asynclitic and ROP indicates that the head was tilted to the side rather than positioned correctly, and ROP stands for Right Occiput Posterior which means that the baby was “sunny side up” or was facing outward rather than facing back towards the mother.
Miles came into the world on 9/30, but really, his story starts weeks earlier, on 9/9. I was 36+5 and had my first lovely episode of prodromal labour – but unlike the prodromal labour with my daughter, it would fade after a few hours and in between contractions, I had a stabbing/burning pain near my incision from Lily’s birth, lower left side. It started during contractions and hurt worse than the contraction, then lingered and eventually faded between contractions – but took longer and longer to fade. I was debating L&D when the contractions stopped, and the pain itself eventually faded too.
Over the next two weeks I had two more episodes like that, until 9/22 I contracted consistently every 10 minutes the entire night – and eventually there was no break or fading of the stabbing pain. I was officially freaked out – was this a sign of poor scar integrity? Adhesions to other organs in my pelvis? I’d had bowel injury due to adhesions before I’d ever even been pregnant so I knew my body was prone to them anyway, and the possible ramifications scared the hell out of me. It was funny – I’d spent my entire pregnancy debating VBAC versus RCS, and rupture had never even made it onto my list of pros/cons because the possibility was so rare. But this pain was so, so wrong…and so, fearing the choice had been made for me, we went into L&D after talking to my doctor. We went in fully expecting to leave with a baby – and in all likelihood, a c-section.
To my shock, my doctor decided it was SPD. SPD? You’ve got to be kidding me. I –know- what that pain feels like – this was my second pregnancy with SPD. It does cause significant pain. It does not cause stabbing burning pain localized to one specific small area of my pelvis. We were sent home, after a shot of dilaudid (I blame the shot for not being able to advocate appropriately with my physician – I felt drunk and woozy, and had trouble articulating myself), and I was terrified. What if I went into real labour? I sincerely felt we were ignoring a dangerous sign, and we were far enough from the hospital that I was afraid. I knew how fast my labour began with my daughter – no slow start, contractions immediately long, hard, and close together. If that happened again and I was right, would I bleed out before we got to the hospital? Would I lose my son? These might sound like really dramatic concerns, but I can’t describe the intensity of the pain…or how /wrong/ it felt. I instinctively knew this pain was not normal.
The silver lining was that, in a real way, this really had made our decision clear. I was afraid to labour, which had previously been the only part of the process I’d looked forward to – I had always wanted my son to pick his birthday. I enjoyed laboring with my daughter, being supported by my husband. Yes, it hurt, but…it was the most peaceful part of my daughter’s birth. And I looked forward to it.
Now I dreaded it. And so we chose a date – 9/30, when I’d be 39+3. I became the first heavily pregnant woman praying not to go into labour. In a way, it was a blessing; we were able to fill the weekend with fun events for Lily, Octoberfest and special breakfasts and dinners and lots of time focused completely on her, including Mommy painting her toes and fingernails. (I painted my own toes too, and used a gift certificate from a friend to go get a no-chip manicure. Ah, the strange small advantages to planning the date of a birth…)
Sunday night I barely slept, and I cried some tears that my daughter’s time as my only focus was ending. She woke up hours early because she was afraid to not be able to say good-bye, as much as she was excited the baby was finally going to be born and excited she’d get to spend days with her grandma. This sparked more tears on my part, but finally it was time for my husband and I to leave – so we headed out to the hospital.
The c-section was for 9:30, and we had to be there at 7:30 to prep and be monitored. It was so strange – my doula came, and helped keep me calm, but volunteering to be cut open felt…so strange. It was my strongest fear with my daughter’s birth and was the reason we chose homebirth the first time…and now I wanted to be cut open? I can’t describe the complexity of the emotions that morning. Primarily excitement – my baby was coming, and safely. But odd bits of regret, trepidation, resentment that I felt like my body needed me to sign up for a more painful and difficult recovery, and also peaceful, because as much as there were some negative emotions, I finally felt confident I’d made the right call. Finally it was time for my husband to get into scrubs and my doula to head off for a few hours since she couldn’t be in the OR (I figured out later it’s because the OR was teeny! We couldn’t have fit her there!), and me to head to the OR.
Walking into the OR though…volunteering sitting at the table for the spinal…(which funny enough, they had to bring in a stool…I’m short enough I couldn’t get up there by myself, haha!)…so strange. A little scary. Exciting, but a little scary. I didn’t really remember prep for my first c-section – I was so sick and it was so fast, but this time…I had to actively participate in the prep for slicing my belly open. So odd. So very very odd. Once the spinal was in, my legs immediately felt warm and funny and heavy…I lay down and my husband came in, and after a bit they asked me if I could feel “this” – as I couldn’t, the surgery began.
I was shivering, badly – the anesthesiologist was amazing though. Unlike my first section, where the doc was an ass and ignored me even when I began vomiting all over myself, he was attentive. “Are you in pain? How do you feel?” He spoke to me a lot during the surgery and was great. He held an emesis basin for me the one time I did feel like I was going to be sick (I never was during the surgery this time – hazaa!) and told me how great I was doing. I was just cold, but I was freezing even with warm blankets. (I knew once I started shivering holding my son in the OR was going to be out – I was shivering too badly and wouldn’t have trusted myself, much less expected someone else to trust me when I couldn’t even hold my own arms!)
Finally, at 9:52, with no warning, we heard a strong cry. Miles was born! And surprisingly, I immediately began sobbing. When my daughter was born, I was so sick I got confused at her tiny wet gurgle. The only part I remember from her birth is asking my husband if that meant I was still pregnant or not. Confusion was my only response to her birth – but this time, I was so overwhelmingly happy I couldn’t control the tears. (“Are these happy tears or are you hurting?” “Happy!” “Good!” …I told you the anesthesiologist was awesome.)
Immediately, I heard them say he was “big” and my doctor brought him around quickly for me to see – wet, kinda purple because he was just born, covered in vernix…I got to see him, untouched by anyone except my OB. And he brought him to me and said, “Kiss him, Mommy!” I got to kiss my wet messy baby fresh from my body. I still cry thinking about it…I couldn’t hold him, but I was the first one to touch him, to kiss him. (Me kissing him while he was “dirty” apparently grossed my husband out, hah!) It was only a second because we didn’t want him to get hold, but it is a memory I will forever treasure. This was my OB’s way of compensating since it was clear I couldn’t hold him – and it was more precious than I can ever hope to explain.
My husband followed them around to where they dried Miles off (no bath and they didn’t wipe him down – just patted him dry and swaddled him so he wouldn’t be cold). The nurse brought Miles around for me to touch and kiss while they closed me up, and once my husband finished taking pictures, he held Miles for me to continue kissing and stroking and talking to. Towards the end the shivering got worse, but the surgery was over quickly and it was off to recovery, having never been separated from my son.
In recovery, Miles was weighed and found to be 8#6. (“Big!” Argh, my only regret…if I’d known that would be considered big…I’d been predicting 8#8 since July! Not big in my book!) Skin to skin and breastfeeding were immediately established – my husband went to hand me my son for the first time and got scolded by the nurse. “Blanket OFF!” Hah!
He was so, so beautiful. After getting him latched (oy, same bad latch as my daughter – my kids just can’t open their mouths wide enough when they’re teeny! Like her, it would take days to correct and by then my nipples would be cracked, again, but it was what it was.), I spent time just touching him, stroking him, talking to him, and rubbing any vernix in. Being able to do that was awesome – my daughter had been scrubbed “clean” – literally scrubbed, bleh – by the time I saw her hours after her birth. The staff was respectful – skipped the eye ointment with no problem, and even offered to do the oral vitamin K supplement instead of the shot! We were never hassled over no circ either, even though it’s not a common decision in our area.
n the end, a surgical birth – but an active one, where I really felt like I was a person, where my choices were respected and ironically, got more of my crunchy wishes than I did with my planned homebirth. It was so peaceful and yes, completely beautiful. I was cut open, but I chose to be, and this time, I do not regret it. Recovery sucks, but I’ve been praised for how well it’s going too – by Wednesday I opted out of narcotics and stuck to Motrin for pain. It was strange; I found that in one corner of my room, where the glider was, as I sat nursing my son, I could hear the woman in the next room. She was pushing. I wasn’t trying to overhear, but with where I was even the TV on couldn’t drown her out – everyone there was loud. I heard as her child crowned and as her baby was born. I heard the screams of joy, the “GREAT JOB, MAMA!” and the baby cry. And as I realized what was coming right before the baby was born, I had a moment of – crap, am I going to end up in tears? How am I going to feel when she gives birth and reminds me that that isn’t an experience I can have? But all I felt when it was over was…a slight bit of regret for an experience lost. No more grief, no “I wish it had been me.” More like, “Darn, I never got to go to Ireland.” My son’s birth was exactly what I wanted and needed.
And it was beautiful.
Heather also adds, “Thank you all so much! I am…relieved it was such a positive experience. I do feel it was the right decision, despite also knowing the statistics said that a vbac is safer. I still believe that most of the time vbac is a better choice – it just wasn’t the better choice for me, right now.
And also – I appreciate how positive the commentary is. I know that my choice isn’t necessarily a popular one here, and even knowing how amazing this community is about education versus judging I was a little nervous to share only because…this was such a positive experience to me and selfishly I didn’t want anyone to rain on it, yknow? I still hate that I had surgery. I hate that that was the choice that felt best for me. I believe in natural birth. I believe vbac is safer. It just wasn’t a choice I could make here and now… I know it is tough, don’t feel bad that it isn’t clear cut – for some people it really is. For some people they have to try to vbac. And really, vbac is safer, statistically. For most people it’s the better option. But no birth is right for everyone, so if in the end you decide RCS is a better choice for you, then own that choice and find a provider who will support your choices.”
Three months ago, I had a successful VBAC that was way more than 9 months in the making. In fact, I have to go back 3 years, to the night my son was born. This was my first birth and so I had dreams of how birth would be. I went into labor 13 days past my due date and after hours and hours of labor, I’d stalled at 4cm. My OB was baffled why the baby wouldn’t come down and even though we tried different positions, breaking my water, and walking for what seemed like hours, we decided to go with a C-section. At the time I was too exhausted to be devastated….that came later. I spent my recovery days in the hospital in a sort of denial, refusing to let myself process the birth I had versus the birth I wanted. I was holding it together with the thought that there was nothing I could’ve done because my large, posterior-positioned son (8lb 15oz) had gotten himself stuck and couldn’t come out any other way. But then we prepared to leave and I went to sign my discharge papers…there on the bottom where it said “reason for C-section” were the words “dysfunctional labor”. I know now it refers to the fact that I never got past 4cm and that’s just what they call it. But for someone who wanted nothing more than a pure, natural, drug-free, intervention-free birth….it was devastating. I’d been grasping desperately to the idea that it was my son’s size and position that “caused” the C-section and not anything I did “wrong.” Reading those words crushed me and I fell to pieces on the inside feeling that it was my dysfunctional body that “caused” the C-section. My body had failed me.
My “failed” birth (how I felt…not reality) was followed by a difficult physical recovery and an even more challenging breastfeeding experience. For various reasons I had a hard time nursing my son, but was determined to make it work. (And in retrospect, I suppose I was so determined to make it work because I felt my body had failed me once and I wasn’t going to let it fail me again. We eventually overcame our challenges and 3 years later he’s still nursing.) These difficulties compounded the “normal” baby blues and were made even worse by our upcoming move to Pittsburgh (from North Carolina). With all the difficulties and depression, I remembered my OB telling me the morning after my son was born, that I would be a good candidate for a VBAC if I wanted to try in the future.
Within a couple months of his birth, I was already researching VBACs and trying to educate myself not only on the reasons for my C-section, but what I could do to avoid another one in the future. I knew we were still years away from a second child, but I never stopped thinking about and planning for a VBAC. For me, I wanted it (or maybe needed it) to truly heal from the devastation of the C-section. A little over 2 years later we decided to start trying for our 2nd. We got pregnant quickly and I began seeing a midwife group, as I felt it was my best chance at being supported for a VBAC. My pregnancy was uneventful and smooth but I the idea of a VBAC loomed over me, especially as my due date approached. My due date came and went, and with each passing day, my belly grew with what I was guessing to be a pretty big baby.
At 11 days past my due date, I went for my checkup with a heavy heart that I had not even started dilating or any other signs of early labor. My midwife said I was dilated enough to try a membrane sweep to get things going, but they still put me on the books for an induction 3 days later (42 weeks). I spent the rest of the day having mild cramps and walking a few miles around the neighborhood. By nighttime the cramps had diminished, along with my hope. I went to bed discouraged that this once again would not go the way I hoped.
The next morning (41 weeks 12 days) I woke up with more mild contractions but they were very irregular. I spent the day walking around as much as possible as the contractions slowly became stronger and a little more regular. By mid-afternoon I was sure this was labor and was walking, swaying, and breathing through each contraction. They were still pretty far apart so I knew it wasn’t time to call my midwife or doula yet. For now my Mom would be enough until my husband got home from work. When he got home I told him what was happening, showered, and then called the midwives to check in. While my contractions weren’t close enough together for them to want me to indicate active labor, I do live about an hour from the hospital (and as it was nearly rush hour, they suggested I come in. We packed the last of our things and around 5pm, said good night to our 3 year old son and my parents, assuming when they came to visit the next day, there would be a baby.
The hour and a half ride (yes there was traffic) was uncomfortable to say the least but my contractions were getting stronger and holding a pretty regular pattern. We arrived at the hospital, filled out the necessary forms, and were brought into triage, where I was hooked up to fetal monitors. My contractions were still fairly strong, but the longer we had to wait in that tiny room where I could do little more than walk a few paces or sway side to side, the more irregular my contractions became. By the time the on-call midwife came to check me, the monitor charts indicated irregular contractions indicating I was still in early labor (how was that possible?!). A vaginal exam confirmed this, as I was still at 1 cm (the same as I was at my checkup the day before). Nearly 10 hours of contractions and I was still 1 cm. I felt deflated when she said they would normally recommend sending me home….normally. It was then we learned that I was leaking amniotic fluid. My membranes hadn’t ruptured, but there was likely a slow leak. This information combined with our distance from the hospital convinced the midwife to admit me. It was now after 10pm. Finally, I thought, we’re getting somewhere. Our doula arrived shortly after we moved into our LDR room and we all settled in. I felt calmer just being in there knowing we’d really be able to focus on the labor and get to work….no more guessing “is this it?”
Within a few minutes the nurse hooked me up to their wireless monitors to I could go for a walk in the halls. As she was hooking me up she and another nurse joked that they were surprised the monitors were even working, since apparently they malfunction often. After a few minutes of walking my contractions seemed to pick up a little but I was already tired and thirsty, so we headed back to my room to take a break and use the birth ball for a little while. About 5 minutes after we returned to the room, a nurse came in the room to look at the monitor read-out and said the baby’s heartbeat looked a little irregular. She asked me to get in bed for a few minutes to see if it calmed down. No sooner had I climbed in, than a team of about 10 nurses, doctors, and who knows who else rushed into my room. We (my husband, doula, and I) thought it was a mistake, but when a nurse came toward me and put an operating cap/bonnet on my head, we knew something was up. For a minute there was a lot of “What’s going on?” “Who are you?” “What are you doing in here?” (mostly my husband, who was standing protectively over my bed). I felt fine, the baby was dancing around inside, so this didn’t make sense. My midwife sat down on my bed as the OB came over and said “we need to do an emergency C-section. Sign this form so we can put you under [general anesthesia].” Ummm, excuse me? My shock of how sudden this was happening had me keep asking “why?” “What’s going on?” The OB, who clearly expected me to just say “Ok” and sign the papers, seemed quite put out that she was having to explain to me why I needed emergency surgery. When I insisted I get an explanation before I signed anything, she finally told us (in a very condescending tone) that the monitor was indicating I might be having a uterine rupture and that the baby was in distress. I kept insisting that I was confused because all along they’d been saying how unreliable the wireless monitors are (not just that night, but always). While this wasn’t my plan, all my questions and confusion served as an important delay. After a couple minutes of confused explanations, my midwife interrupted to point out that I was in no pain and asked me if the baby was moving at all. I repeated that I felt fine and that the baby was as active as it ever was. She pointed out that if I was in fact having a uterine rupture I would be in a lot of pain and the baby would likely be quiet. The OB begrudgingly agreed but still recommended I agree to an elective C-section. As she put it “You’re only 1 cm and when [not if] this happens again, we won’t be able to put in an epidural and you’ll have to go under for it.” It was clear she was trying to bully me into an elective C-section so she didn’t have to deal with me (my words, not hers). We asked her to leave a moment so my husband and I could discuss this with my midwife and our doula. We knew it was our decision but it was so unexpected I was still a little in shock. While I might have been shaky on the outside with a racing pulse, I felt strangely calm. In my gut I still felt that everything was okay and I wanted to continue with my trial of labor. The question was how to get the doctors off my back so I could continue doing what I needed to do. Our doula suggested getting an epidural in place at the lowest setting. This way I could move around in my bed a bit and IF they felt I needed the emergency section, I wouldn’t need general anesthesia. While this wasn’t the OB’s recommendation (and she made that clear), she said she could live with my decision to continue and left the room (I never saw her again).
I really have no concept of time past this point, only that it seemed we were in for a long night. After they set up the epidural our midwife suggested we all try to get some rest, as it appeared we were going to be there for a while. At some point we all fell asleep and got some rest and were only awoken when our midwife came in to talk at the end of her shift. A couple hours had passed and apparently that’s exactly what my body needed. I’d finally started to dilate more. She left us quietly with a few encouraging words and we all slept a little more.
When I woke shortly after dawn, I knew I was approaching the 24 hour mark, but still felt calm in my gut. The epidural was taking the edge off, but I still had to breathe through each contraction. I was focusing on my years of yogic relaxation techniques and the voice in my head that said “you can do it”. For most of the day I was pretty unaware of what was going on around me. I was focused on my baby and visualized my uterus opening. The words “down and out” played over and over in my head with each contraction. What I do remember was a nurse occasionally coming in to check on me and ask if I wanted to “up” the epidural (“No thank you”); my husband getting me juice, ginger ale, and ice chips to sip on; the new midwife checking me occasionally and calmly reassuring me that it didn’t matter how slowly I was progressing as long as I was just progressing; and my parents bringing my son (dressed in his “Big Brother” shirt) to hopefully meet his new sibling. Every once and a while I would come out of my “trance” to change position in the bed, interact with those in the room, and apologize for being like a boring filmstrip they were forced to watch in history class. Then I went “inside” again. I’m sure everyone thought I was sleeping during these times (and I’m sure sometimes I was), but more than anything I was turning inward to focus all attention on my baby and my body’s ability to birth it.
At some point in the afternoon, my midwife checked me to see if we could get a sense of the baby’s position and told us I was at 6 cm (2 cm farther than I’d gotten laboring with my son, so I was thrilled). During this exam my membranes ruptured and we discovered meconium (no surprise considering I was 13 days past my due date). My son had meconium too so I wasn’t all that concerned. I knew it would mean I wouldn’t be able to delay the cord clamping or have immediate skin to skin, but that something I could let go of.
A little while later during the next exam, my midwife informed me that 1, I was about 8cm (yay!) and 2, she thought she felt something tear (sigh!). She seemed pretty calm so I wasn’t going to get worked up just yet. The OB came in to exam and confirmed it was a cervical tear but wasn’t at all concerned (that it happened more often than people realize and that it was an easy repair after the baby was born). Phew! As he was leaving the room someone asked about the baby’s size, and without blinking an eye he said “oh, don’t worry, women rarely grow babies they can’t birth.” I loved him for saying that and with this reassurance I went back to work, focusing my energy inward and on my baby and body.
As we approached evening, my parents left to take my son home (I hadn’t seen him and he could only be entertained by the fish in the pond for so long), and our midwife’s shift was ending soon. I had been at the hospital for over 24 hours (though I had no concept of time still) and had no idea if there was an end in sight. After another exam my midwife announced words I’d been waiting to hear: “fully dilated and effaced….you can start pushing.” Having never pushed before, and having the epidural, I didn’t know what the “urge” felt like or what to do, so the nurses and midwife coached me through a few contractions. After pushing for a while (again, no concept of time), I began to feel the natural urge women always talk about, but I started to feel deflated again. I was uncomfortable and tired. The baby was kicking me in the ribs and I couldn’t get a deep breath to really push. Pushing on my side was uncomfortable and they were worried I was too tired to squat (even with support), so on my back it was. As the midwife’s shift was ending, she informed the next midwife of everything happened in the past 24+ hours, including the fact that I had been pushing for 2 hours (I had no idea). I pushed for a little longer and then sensed some concern in the room among my midwife and others. Apparently the baby was getting stuck and moving out and then back in with each push (no real progress). Knowing this was probably my last chance, I summoned all my strength (who knew I still had some left?) and gave a few pushes that could have moved mountains and prayed they worked (I knew I only had a few of those kinds of pushes in me). A few pushes later baby girl was here…..all 9 lbs 10oz of her. (And they said my son was “too big to fit”?)
I knew I couldn’t have her on my chest because they needed to check her lungs (meconium), but I was quite frankly too exhausted from 34 hours of labor to be that upset. “I did it!” was really all I could think of. I was so relieved, so excited, and so exhausted….and the night was far from over.
While the nurses check her over (she was fine), the room was still buzzing over me. I had apparently lost a lot of blood between the cervical tear and a 3rd degree perineal tear and they were worried about my blood pressure. The room was too crowded to repair the tears so they asked if they could bring me to the OR, but not before I had some time to hold my new daughter and nurse her for the first time. She latched immediately and nursed like an old pro.
As I held her and watched her nurse so expertly, I felt not just the stress and exhaustion of a drama-filled lengthy labor melt away, but also the pain and disappointment I’d felt for nearly 3 years because of my first “failed” labor. It certainly wasn’t anyone’s dream birth, but I’d done it. I kept calm throughout the labor, even through the 4 times when other’s thought we might be heading for a section. I’d trusted my body’s ability to birth the baby it had grown. And while there was still some drama to come (difficulty repairing the tears, inability to stabilize my blood pressure due to blood loss, worry over my uterus not contracting (until I suggested I go back to my room to nurse my baby for a while to see if it helps….it did)), I look back at those first few hours of nursing her and holding her in my arms, and felt peace and healing. Whatever was going on in the room was all peripheral. We looked into each other’s eyes and I could hear her spirit telling me “I knew you could do this, Mom.”
In the hours, days, and weeks that have passed, I have reflected on this experience. I needed time to process it all and let it sink in. And while I feel many, many emotions, one stands out: gratitude.
I’m grateful for everything I learned following my C-section, as it empowered me to learn more about birthing options AND gave me the drive to not give up on breastfeeding my son in the beginning.
I’m grateful for our move to Pittsburgh, as it gave me access to a great midwife group in a great hospital.
I’m grateful for a loving and supportive husband who saw me struggle through depression over my first birth and helped me fight for the VBAC I wanted.
I’m grateful for my support team during this labor and delivery, who stayed calm when others wanted to rush into big decisions.
I’m grateful for the midwife who spoke up to the surgeon who wanted to rush me off to emergency surgery and told them to stop and look at the patient not the charts.
I’m grateful for my doula suggesting the epidural to get the OB off my back about a C-section and let me labor in peace.
I’m grateful for another midwife quietly encouraging me and not becoming concerned that my progress was painstakingly slow.
I’m grateful for another OB who didn’t panic over a possible cervical tear and added that he was confident my body would be able to birth the baby it grew.
I’m grateful for yet another midwife not giving up on me after 2 hours of pushing and telling me she knew I could do it.
I’m grateful that after great blood loss, I was allowed to hold, nurse, and bond with my daughter for over 20 minutes before I went to the OR, a bonding time I never got to have with my first birth.
And I’m grateful for this opportunity to share my story and finally let go of the pain of my first birth and find peace.
Larissa also said, “If I could say anything to someone thinking of vbac/vbamc is to do the research themselves, find the true facts and have faith in their ability to birth their baby naturally. Our bodies magically concieve and grow these beautiful babies, they know how to birth them too.”
Please welcome our guest writer Tracie! This week’s birth story brought a smile to my face as Tracie described how she stuck to her guns during her long labor, and how her OB stuck up for her to those who were on call when she went into labor. Tracie also said, “I found my OB through recommendations of my local ICAN chapter. So many moms seem to be unaware ICAN exists, and it was an invaluable resource for me.” Enjoy her story!
Ayla’s Birth Story
I’ll start from the beginning so there is an idea of how long everything was from start to finish.
A little back story… Ayla’s big brother, Cooper, had a stomach virus Friday, July 20. The rest of the family got it on Saturday evening just before bed. It was one for the record books. Lots of yuckiness mostly out of the top end, but occasionally both ends. 39 weeks pregnant and having a virus like that is NOT fun. Sunday afternoon, we had all stopped being sick but were incredibly wiped out. We did as little as possible for a few days.
Now for the baby related stuff. I had a routine checkup on Tuesday where the amniotic fluid level was the highest it’s been – 24. I was spilling ketones into my urine so while Ayla had too much fluid, I didn’t have enough. :). I spent the rest of that day and evening trying to rehydrate myself. About 2am Wednesday morning I woke up with excruciating pain in my lower abdomen. I attempted to go back to sleep but couldn’t. I suffered until about 9am when the constant pain lessened, and I started having mild contractions. They weren’t regular, but pretty frequent. We were meeting our potential doula at 11, so I managed to get out of the house and do that. When we got home around 12:30, the excruciating pain was back. I laid down and tried to rest but around 2pm decided to call my OBs office just to be sure I didn’t need to come in. They of course told me to come in. I went in and they found that my fluid levels had increased from 24 to 34. They said the pain was at the bottom of my uterus and likely due to the excess fluid. They kept me overnight just to be sure nothing was wrong and the next morning fluid was back down to 22 and everything looked so I got to go home around 9:30 am.
We went through the day with mild contractions and went to bed Thursday evening. Around 9:30pm I wanted to roll over and couldn’t because of the abdominal pain. (a different pain from the previous day.). Then I needed to pee. I got my husband to help me up, but even with his help, I still couldn’t get up. My husband picked me up so that I could go to the bathroom. I decided that even if it wasn’t real labor that my entire abdomen shouldn’t hurt like that so I decided to head back to labor and delivery. I was greeted by a physician who told me that I should go ahead and get a section because with a previous section, my unproductive labor, the pains I had been having, and too much amniotic fluid that is where I would end up anyway. I tried to ignore those negative thoughts. I refused pain meds at first but then decided I would take some anyway because I wanted to be able to sleep as I was anticipating a big day Friday. I had regular (every 2 mins contractions, but was not dilating.). The doctor on call didn’t feel comfortable sending me home even though the excruciating pain had become bearable because of all of my minor issues that were stacked together. I was okay with that since I seemed to feel better when I was in the hospital anyway.
Around 5:15, my amniotic sac ruptured. The doctor on call (a different one from Thursday evening) said I needed to deliver within twelve hours because of my GBS status. I knew that was unreasonable and asked her to call my doctor. She called him and I guess he calmed her down because it became “let’s see how you are doing by 5am instead of you must deliver by 5am. My contractions had gotten more intense but were still ineffective as by 11pm (6hrs later) I hadonly progressed .5cm from Tuesday. I made the decision to ask for an epidural because I was in pain, and at the rate I was going, I was headed for a section anyway. In my mind, I had nothing to lose, and maybe with the pain gone, I would relax enough to allow my body to do its thing. They kept trying to start a very low dose of pitocin, but baby was not tolerating it very well. That shift decided to leave it alone. My OB came in Saturday morning (on his day off) to check on me. He had them start pitocin and she was tolerating it fine until it got to 4mL/hour. Baby’s heart rate dropped, but I didn’t realize it. All I saw was three nurses and my OB rush in and start doing stuff trying to aggravate her and raise her heart rate. They left pitocin off for a bit and started it again. They got it to 4 and her heart rate dropped again, but they were on top of it that time. They cut off the pitocin again. Got her heart rate up again and started pitocin a little bit again. They got it to three and decided to leave it there.
Around 2:30, my OB had to leave for a prior engagement. He checked me and I was at 8cm. He said maybe I’d have a baby before he got back. I had been fighting the urge to push since shortly after my OB left. The nurse checked again and said I was around a 9. I continued to get the urge to push, and a bit later the nurse checked again and said I had a tiny bit left on the top. Around 4:30-5 the urge to push became unbearable. The nurse checked me again and said I was complete. I started pushing with the nurse attempting to coach me, but the epidural had worn off and I was telling her when I wanted to push. :). A little after 5, my dr came in and said he was going to get in scrubs. Before he got back the nurse coaching me told me to stop pushing. I told her I didn’t care if she caught the baby – I was NOT going to stop pushing. :).
My OB came in and said he wanted to check to see which way her head was coming out. It felt like he pushed her back in a little. I told him I’d worked hard to get her there not to push her back in. Then we started pushing again. Shortly after that, he told me he needed to give me some more room (an episiotomy) and asked if I knew what he was talking about and if it was okay. We had talked about how i would prefer to not have one. At that point, I’d have consented to anything. I told him it was fine. He started cutting and I could feel it. Then, I started feeling what I thought was cutting at the top. I said you are hurting me! Please stop! Everyone told me she was almost here – just one more push. I pushed and there she was. Such a surreal moment, but why in the world was he cutting me at the top??? He didn’t. LOL. In addition to the 2nd degree episiotomy, I had a tear on the top left side. I apologized at him for yelling at him. He told me it was not the worst he had heard. It was okay.
Baby Ayla Ivy Rowe was born at 5:47pm on July 28, 2012 (her guess date.) She weighed in at 8lb7oz and was 21″ long. The only thing that happened the way I had planned was that I did have a VBAC and healthy baby girl. Everything else was completely different than I had imagined, but the end result was a beautiful, healthy baby girl, and that’s all I really wanted anyway. :)”
Story and pictures are courtesy of Tracie Rowe. Distribution and reproduction is not authorized without the written consent of the original author. If you would like to share your VBAC birth story, please email it to email@example.com
This birth story is beautiful! Please welcome our guest writer Jami and her story of her daughter’s birth! Thank you for sharing your story with us!
Jessica’s HBAC Birth Story
I knew before I was pregnant that we were going to plan a homebirth. I had had 2 traumatic hospital births prior and in deciding to have more babies, we also decided that we would never birth in a hospital ever again. Juilanna’s birth was a horrible forced csection and Jacob’s birth was a hospital vbac filled with unwanted interventions and medical mistakes. Both were horrible experiences that left me emotionally and physically scarred and damaged. I knew if I ever gave birth again, I needed to do it on my own terms in my own home where I’d have the best chance of the birtth that I wanted.
Jessica was due 10-23-11. She was our third miracle baby, hard tried for and such a blessing. In October 2010 we were thrilled to find out I was pregnant, but things didn’t feel right and I pushed for bloodwork which revealed very low progesterone, and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t find anyone willing to supplement me, and I lost that baby at 6 weeks. I went through the grief stages and was very determined to get pregnant again, and I did, at the very end of January, ovulating way later than anyone would ever expect to be able to ovulate and get pregnant. Again, like with my pregnancy with Jacob and the baby I lost, I felt implantation 5 days after ovulation and knew before a test that I was pregnant. A very faint test at 12 days past ovulation confirmed it. I was so excited and at the same time, terrified. I couldn’t imagine losing another baby and didn’t think I could handle that again. I wanted so much for things to be okay, but again my instincts said there was something not right. But I felt strong and determined to make people listen to me and keep this baby safe.
The beginning of the pregnancy was precarious with extremely low progesterone levels and the threat of a miscarriage. But we convinced the dr. to prescribe supplemental progesterone and it saved her. 🙂 We chose her name early, Jessica means “God beholds” and I knew from the start that God had seen she was meant to be and helped me fight for her and for her to hang on. Her middle name, Lea, is also my middle name, it was special to me that we share that. 🙂 I had a good pregnancy, although I had a lot of anxiety and migraines and things I hadn’t dealt with in my other pregnancies. But I was thrilled and felt so blessed to be pregnant with her.
The week before she was due, we found out that I was severely anemic, and I was told that I’d need “transfused at delivery or die” according to doctors at the labor and delivery unit. It felt like a familiar scare tactic that I recognized from my previous births… and I knew that if I gave in to them and bought into the fear I’d surely end up with a third traumatic birth. I left in tears but called my midwife right away who reassured me that there were things I could do other than a transfusion to bring up my iron count before giving birth and I followed all of her advice and through supplements and diet, brought my numbers up faster and higher than the doctors said was possible. No transfusion necessary. 🙂
On Friday the 21st, I had contractions on and off all day. I had to take Jacob in for a visit to the pediatrician and while sitting in the waiting room I counted several contractions and thought that if they didn’t call us back I’d be giving birth in their waiting room. 😉 But the contractions came and went all day, not very regular. I just kept telling myslef it was prelabor and not to dwell on it. And I told Jessica to stay put as long as she wanted and give mommy a chance to keep raising her iron levels. That night, Jon and the kids went to bed and I was still feeling the contractions irregularly but low and significant as I layed in bed. Sometime after midnight I decided to just close my eyes and relax but I couldn’t fall asleep so I just rested. Between 1am and 2am while I was resting with my eyes closed I counted at least 10 contractions in the hour, bigger more regular and intense contractions.. so I put on my Hypnobabies fear clearing and deepening CD and thought I’d just lay and drift and that they’d probably go away as I slept. I ended up listening to both tracks and still not being able to fall asleep (the first time EVER that the deepening cd didn’t put me to sleep!) and the contractions got more regular and closer the whole time. I was pretty sure it was still just pre-labor, as I had had hours of pre-labor contractions with Jacob several days before he was born. But, at some point since I couldn’t fall asleep, I thought I’d just time them for a little while and see how close they really were. From 2-3am I had 9 contractions. Then from 3-4am I had 8. Then things changed around 4am and they started getting closer and I started vocalizing a little bit through them. Between 4 and 5am I had 17 and decided to just check in with the midwives. They were at another birth, close to my house, and I called and talked to MeriBeth and let her know what was going on, but told her about the pre-labor I had had with Jake and that I was sure this was probably nothing. She told me that if it changed to give her a call back, and I ended up calling her within the hour again, feeling a little bit silly as I still didn’t believe it was “real” labor, but the contractions were getting undeniably closer and more intense. She said they were finishing up at the other birth and would come check me out just to see what was up. Between 5 am and when the midwives got to my house around 5:47am, I had had 19 more contractions and was AHHing through them but still not totally believing it was real labor.
MeriBeth and Joanna, my midwives, were very tired after being at another birth for days, and I was hoping they’d tell me that this was pre-labor stuff that was going to fade out and that we could all get some sleep and Jessica wouldn’t be here for a few days. Instead, MeriBeth wanted to check me and didn’t seem convinced it was only pre-labor. I hemmed and hawed, not wanting to be checked in general and even more not wanting to hear any bad news about where I was dilation-wise that would put negativity into my mind about my progression, since progression was a big issue for me at both of my previous births. Eventually I agreed to a check, and resigned myself to hearing that I’d only be a “fingertip” or so. MeriBeth joked with me that she could lie and tell me whatever I wanted about my dilation. lol She checked me and said several times how incredibly soft my cervix was, so soft she had a hard time feeling both sides of it. When she told me that I was already 5cms I said there was no way and honestly wondered if she was feeling things wrong. I hadnever progressed quickly in my other labors and had been sure this was not even real labor. She said that I was at least a 5 and she could manually stretch me to a 7 if she tried and I think I stared at her like she was crazy, not believing it. lol I asked if that meant it was real and she and Joanna told me that yes this was real and they were staying and I was probably going to have a baby before lunchtime. It sounded like insanity to me lol and I still didn’t believe it was real. But we called Jon up, who was straightening the downstairs and told him where I was in dilation and he started getting my birth things organized down there. We stopped timing contractions and I was waiting for them to slow down still haha but MeriBeth said they seemed to be getting longer and more intense by how I was responding to them and I was still AHHing and now rocking on my hands and knees through them. I was starting to think maybe this was real, but still had doubt.
MeriBeth rested on my bedroom floor and Joanna kept an eye on me changing positions, walking around, squatting, doing hands and knees, etc through the contractions as I got more and more uncomfortable with them. My AHHing was getting louder and deeper and a few times I felt bad because it caused Jacob to stir in his sleep. After a while, it was more than stirring and he was peeking at us from his toddler bed in curiosity saying “who dares trespass?” which made us laugh. Then after a particularly loud AHHHH from me he said “Can you keep it down??” and we laughed and I knew by then that I couldn’t keep it down because they were so intense and close together and I was concentrating hard to get through each one. I think a little after 8am or so I asked MeriBeth to check me again. I was feeling nauseous and Joanna had gotten me a bowl to throw up into if I needed it and sweat was running down my forehead and I was getting irritable and impatient and wishing it were over. I hadn’t planned on being checked in labor, but my feelings changed in the moment and all of a sudden I wanted to know what was going on. She checked me and shocked me by saying that I just had a lip left. I think my eyes must have popped out of my head, I couldn’t even take it in and grasp what she was saying.. with Jacob, it took 22 hours of very hard agonizing labor before I was to that point. I said “What do you MEAN? Are you saying I’m almost DONE? That I’m a NINE????” and she said “No Jami, you are a nine and a half, just a cervical lip left and baby is at -1.” I was shocked and we told Jon, who was still setting things up downstairs to move faster with the pool. I got Jacob on his potty and woke up Juli, telling her that it was time to have the baby. She looked around blurrily and asked who was in my room and I told her MeriBeth and Joanna were here and that the baby was coming soon. She got right up and moving, wanting to be a part of the birth. 🙂
Around that point I was getting more and more irritable, sweat standing out on my forehead, feeling restless and nauseated, the contractions were harder to get through with each one and I remember saying I wanted it all to be over and I wanted to be in the DAMN pool! 😉 Joanna went to help Jon hurry it along and we decided to go down. He had had trouble filling it because the hose wouldn’t attach well to the sink.. so he and Joanna were boiling pots of water and dumping them in. I was frustrated and annoyed and I think I told him several times that I hated him and MeriBeth assured him that I didn’t, it was the contractions. lol I got out of my nightgown I had been in, and just into a bra, and we all went downstairs. I wanted to get in but it was only about half full and I was very impatient and upset. I got in and started demanding more water and Jon and Joanna were dumping boiling pots in as soon as they were ready. I was on my hands and knees in the pool, arching my back through contractions and AHHHing and moaning louder all the time. I squeezed Joanna’s hands tight and wanted to cry a few times the pain was so intense and I was having a harder time with each contraction. I kept telling everyone that I just wanted it to be over, that I was so tired. I was doubting myself and that I’d be able to really do this. At one point MeriBeth tried to snap me out of it by asking if I wanted another csection. I think I flipped out and yelled at her not to ever say that and was upset, but I became more determined at that point and stopped vocalizing as much that I wanted it to be over.
We put on the Hypnobabies “pushing your baby out” track and at some points it annoyed me and I talked back to it telling it that NO the pressure waves did NOT feel good, they hurt like hell and to shut up. I think MeriBeth’s favorite part of my labor was when I said “Oh fuck you hypnobabies, this HURTS!” lol But it helped me to focus as well when I was contracting and we replayed it several times. Julianna videotaped me in the pool and Jacob played with his toys and watched cartoons upstairs now and then. Jon was still monitoring boiling water and that was okay with me.. I wanted my space this time, something that surprised me. During my labor with Jacob, I had needed Jon, and Joanna who had been our doula at the time, to constantly be touching me, holding me up, rubbing my back, holding my hand, etc. I didn’t let go of them for most of the 23 hours I was in labor. But this time was different, I felt stronger (emotionally at least, despite the physical weakness) and wanted my space and kept telling myself what hypnobabies had drilled into me the past few months, that each pressure wave brought me closer to my baby. So even though I was saying repeatedly that I needed it to be over, during each contraction I told myself to let it do its work and open me up. I made a very conscious effort to keep my mouth open in an “O” shape and my hands open and un-tensed because its supposed to help dilation. Each contraction I AHHHed or OHHHHed and tried to be open and strong and tell myself that my body was working the way it was supposed to. And it WAS!!! I’m still kind of in disbelief over that.. after 2 births where it didn’t feel like it worked, this time it DID. I had been told with both Juli and Jacob that my body was broken, that I couldn’t progress, that I needed pitocin or a csection etc and felt like a failure in the most profound way. This time I was NOT broken. My body was doing everything it was meant to do and I kept telling myself that, in my mind, that my body was NOT broken.
When I got into the pool at 9.5 cms I thought it would be fast from there out because with Jacob’s birth it wasn’t long after I was to that point till he was born. But this time was different. This was my first labor where my water hadn’t broken to start labor and things were completely different with how I progressed. I had MeriBeth check me again and she said I still had the cervical lip and baby was almost to a 0 station, that my bag of waters was bulging beyond the baby’s head. I kept asking her if we could break it and if that would make it over faster.. I must have said dozens of times I just wanted it to be over. It wasn’t just the contractions, it was the past several weeks of stress that had been weighing me down and feeling so weak and sick with the anemia, I just felt like I wanted it all to reach its conclusion. The anemia had me feeling so weak and dizzy and like I had absolutely NO energy.. which, in labor, was very difficult, it took everything I had to just keep going and there were moments of feeling like I was going to pass out. Saying I needed it to be over wasn’t just a complaint, it was absolutely that I felt I could only last so long on my very limited energy. She said it would break on its own and I was frustrated and started reaching down and feeling it. During contractions it felt like a very thick water balloon was coming out of me and I started to feel like pushing and was grunting through contractions and pushing down. At one point after pushing through a contraction we saw that my bloody show had come out and there were bits of it all through the pool. I kept reaching down and just pulling more and more globs of it out of me and felt like I wanted to keep pulling it all out like a magician pulling a never-ending scarf out of his sleeve.
The pressure of the water bag was driving me crazy and at one point after MeriBeth telling me again that it would break on its own, and wanting it broken faster, I pushed down so hard and determined to break it that I succeeded and felt a huge POP! as it broke. I told her it broke and she confirmed that it had, and said she saw light meconium in the water. All of a sudden I felt a huge urge to push and MeriBeth reached down to support my perineum and I snapped at her not to touch me. She told me to put my own hand there then and support it, and as I did, I pushed so hard I felt Jessica’s head coming down and out and the pressure of it spreading me apart was so intense and painful that I realized I couldn’t do anything to suck her back in and make it stop, so I needed to keep going until she was out. I kept pushing one huge long push and felt her entire head emerge. The relief was immediate and amazing. I said “She’s out! Her head is OUT!” and MeriBeth told me to stop for a minute while she checked for a cord. I was on my knees still and cupping her head in my hand, feeling her hair swirl in the water. I asked MeriBeth if she could see a lot of hair and she said she couldn’t see it and I told her I was feeling it. It was the most amazing thing I have ever experienced, feeling my baby be born into my own hands, pushing her with part of my body and embracing her with another. I can’t put into words the magic of that feeling, but I know I will never forget it. On the next contraction, I gave another huge instinctual push, a long, no-going-back push, and felt her shoulders come out of me with enormous force and her plop into the pool. MeriBeth told me to reach down and get my baby and I did, pulling her up and out of the water as I sat up and back.
I put her on my chest and looked at her and she was beautiful, so little and delicate and just breathtakingly beautiful. Juli and Jon were videotaping and watching and we were all just saying how beautiful she was was. She was screaming right away, and MeriBeth said to just hold her close, that she was a little shocked at having come out so fast. They got me a towel to hold around her as I snuggled her, and we just sat there in the pool for awhile with her on my chest, me kissing her and saying that I did it! 🙂 She looked tiny, we all commented how small she seemed and guess around 7lbs. After a few minutes of snuggling her in the towel, I asked if it would be okay to latch her on and MeriBeth said okay, so I pulled my bra aside and she latched and nursed immediately. She was so beautiful, so perfect, worth every bit of struggle and stress and pain I had been through to get pregnant with her, stay pregnant with her, and birth her. I was instantly in love.
Joanna told us that she was born at 10:48am and MeriBeth reminded me that she had told me I’d have a baby before lunchtime. 😉 We sat in the pool for awhile and nursed and snuggled and I got to just enjoy her. It was the first time I have ever gotten to see or hold one of my babies first, before anyone else, before anyone had cleaned them or checked them. It meant the world to me. I was in shock that I had finally had not just a non-traumatic birth, but a birth so amazing I couldn’t have wished for any better. The pool had a lot of blood in it and I kept asking MeriBeth if it was okay, we had been concerned about me losing too much blood because of the anemia. But she said it was fine and I relaxed. One big fear of mine was birthing the placenta, since at Jake’s birth it had been so traumatic. At his birth, the OB who assisted his birth pulled on my umbilical cord and tore my placenta into pieces, causing a severe hemmhorage and making an emergency D&C necessary. It was awful. So the placenta was something I was very nervous about. I asked MeriBeth if it was okay to push it out and she felt my belly and made sure it seemed separated and told me when I had a contraction I could push. I easily pushed the placenta out in one push, it was perfect and whole and I was so relieved. Again, my body was not broken. 🙂 We let her cord pulse until and awhile after it was completely white and finished, I asked Julianna if she wanted to be the one to cut it. MeriBeth put the clamps on and showed her where to cut and Julianna got to be the one to cut the cord, something I know she’ll remember forever. She was such a big part of the birth,and that meant a lot to both of us. 🙂
After the cord was cut, Jon got to hold Jessica, and MeriBeth and Joanna helped me out of the pool and upstairs to rinse off in the shower. They kept telling me if I was lightheaded to let them know, and when I caught sight of myself in the mirror that made sense, as I was white as a sheet. But I held together and took a quick shower and put on a fresh nightgown and was happy to be able to go to my own bed just a short time after giving birth. MeriBeth performed the newborn exam right on my bed as I watched and said everything looked great and that Jessica was 8lbs 1oz and 20.5 inches long. We were shocked, we all thought she looked so much smaller! (And- after taking her to the pediatrician a few days later and seeing she was 7lbs even, the pediatrician and I speculate that her birth weight was probably a little over 7lbs… not 8 afterall…? but we will never know for sure. By 10 days old she was up to 7lb10oz and nursing well so we weren’t too concerned 🙂 )But she is beautiful and perfect, a very eager nurser and already so attached to mommy that she never wants to be an inch away. Which is fine with me, as I am completely in love and can’t get enough of her. 🙂 I am so happy and proud of her and of myself. I finally feel healed from my past births and like I am not broken, but complete and blessed. 🙂