I should perhaps preface this story with the birth story of my first son.
I was a Labor and Delivery nurse by trade, however my frustration with ‘the system’ led me to teaching. I teach nursing students in college about babies, birth and breastfeeding. I love it. I provide them with a sound, evidence based education and tell them the truth about birth and the power of women. It’s my calling.
I found myself pregnant with our firstborn at 30. He was SUCH a wished for baby. My pregnancy was perfect, normal, easy. I fully believed in the power of birth, and planned a homebirth with a midwife I knew and liked very much. While I had been around many laboring women I was not sure how I would handle it myself, but was excited to birth our child, no less. I prepared myself best I knew how and eagerly anticipated labor. My water broke on a Sunday morning at 8am. Surges didn’t start to come regularly or with much intensity until dinnertime. At around 10pm I called the midwife to come, as I felt we were getting closer. She came, I got in the tub and labored some more. Contractions were intense but totally doable, I had a brief emotional outburst (which I felt was transition), and I asked to be checked. I was 9cm. To make a long story short, I was 10cm an hour later and stayed that way for another day and a half. Labor started and stopped, baby tried to arrange himself to come out, and we did our best to help him. Every trick in my bag, in my midwife’s bag and every trick in the doula’s bag couldn’t get my sweet baby to budge. He was persistently posterior and asynclitic—not a desirable combination. He was never in distress, there was no emergency. We went to the hospital at 6am on Tuesday. The OB (whom I know and trust) even tried to help baby to manually rotate and descend through my pelvis, to no avail. He was born via Cesarean at 8:05am, almost 48 hours after my water broke. He nursed vigorously, and I loved (still do!) him fiercely, but my birth left me broken and scarred both mentally and physically. It was at once, the happiest and saddest day of my life. Birth is my passion, and it let me down that day but I did not give up on it.
We learned we were expecting our second child 17 months later. I knew immediately I had to try to VBAC. Whatever the outcome (VBAC OR RCS) I knew I would have to try. I had to compromise my birth plan, as there are no midwives anywhere near me who will attend a primary HBAC. So, I saw my midwife for prenatal care, but planned to transfer care at 36 weeks to a local obstetrician and deliver at the hospital. This pregnancy was again blissfully enjoyable and without any complications. Again, I ate well, took good care of myself. I felt fantastic. But, I was honestly quite scared to put myself and my belief in birth ‘on the line’ again—if I was let down again and needed a cesarean I knew I would survive but I wanted more than that. I wanted a slimy baby on my chest. I wanted that oxytocin rush. I wanted birth as I know it, to be. So, even though I knew it meant putting myself ‘out there,’ I had to try to VBAC.
I had a few weeks of prodromal labor, every evening surges would come, but the next day I would wake up pregnant. I honestly didn’t mind, I knew baby would pick a good birthday. I was still nursing my firstborn and being a mother of two was a real mind trip, ha! I woke up on the morning of January 22 at 40 weeks and 4 days, at about 5am to some mild cramping, nothing new. My toddler woke up at 6am, I nursed him back to sleep and got up for the day. As soon as I stood up, I could tell these were the real deal power surges! I started some laundry, make coffee, and prepared dinner and generally just tried to ignore labor the best I could. By the time my husband and toddler woke up at 7am I told my husband I was pretty sure this was labor, that he should take the day off work. I continued to putter about the house, ignoring everything going on and just trying to keep it normal. By 9-9:30 the surges were so intense that I had my mother in law pick up our toddler as I couldn’t talk to him during contractions and it was confusing him. My plan for labor was to labor at home until birth was close and then drive to the hospital to deliver. I am dear friends with my midwife and she offered to come monitor baby and check me when I desired it. I called her around 11, and my doula, asking them both to come. They both arrived around noon. I was GBS positive, my midwife administered my antibiotics quickly via IV.
My doula had her hands on me for every single contraction, and it was amazing. I had my husband at my front, holding my hands and reassuring me and my doula at my side, massaging my hips, keeping me moving and providing so much help. It was an incredible feeling of love and support—one I wish every laboring woman could feel.
I labored all over the house, in our bed, in the bathroom, in the kitchen. I was always upright or leaning over something, or on my hands and knees. To this day, I can’t understand how a laboring woman is ever expected to lie in a hospital bed, I do not think I could labor that way. I can’t imagine it. Around 2pm I asked to be checked. I had been in the tub and was feeling like labor was intensifying. I was 4cm. This made me happy, I was mentally prepared for a long labor, after last time. I kept doing what I was doing, with my doula and husband at my side. Around 3-3:15pm I was feeling things progress, and it seemed that baby was lower in my pelvis. I asked to be checked again and to my surprise I was 7cm! I had my bags packed and ready to go, so my husband threw them in the car and started it. Once I knew I had to leave my home, I was devastated. I started to cry and said, “I don’t want to go to the hospital!!” But, I knew I had to. I had no other choice. I got off of the bed and started to walk through the house between contractions. I got to the kitchen and had a surge that was particularly intense. I felt myself go from the low, “oooooooooh” sound I had been making before change to a very low grunt at the peak of the contraction. I said out loud, “Oh my goodness, I am pushing!!!” even though I’m sure it was obvious to all!
My midwife checked again and sure enough I was crowning. The fetal ejection reflex is real and powerful!
Surprisingly, while contractions in labor were somewhat ‘painful,’ while I was pushing I had ZERO pain. Just sheer, absolute pleasure. I felt my baby’s head and exclaimed, “Ohhhh, that’s my sweet baby!!!” I had just a few more contractions and roared my baby into the world.
Into my waiting hands. In my kitchen. He cried immediately and I cried with him on my chest, in amazement at what had just unfolded. While the car was running! He was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Luckily, my midwife travels with all of her equipment. Since we were both healthy, we just stayed at home. I could not have asked for a more triumphant, ecstatic birth. I was on a high like no other. I did it. And my HBAC baby was a pound bigger and an inch longer than my firstborn. I was not broken, after all. Birth believed in me, too. I feel so blessed to have experienced birth the way I have, I believe it has made me an even better educator! I also think it really illustrates the truly unpredictable nature of labor! My doula was instrumental in my birth, and I think of her fondly as I recall this experience. Every woman should be so lucky to have a doula attend her birth!
Happy Labor Day! ImprovingBirth.org is holding their annual “Rally to Improve Birth” today in the US, Mexico, Canada and Australia (September 5, 2016). Women, men, and families will be gathering and rallying for VBAC Access.
Improving Birth makes clear that this rally is “isn’t about natural birth vs. medicated birth. It’s not about hospital birth vs. homebirth or birth center birth.” Instead it’s about “women being capable of making safer, more informed decisions about their care and that of their babies, when they are given full and accurate information about their care options, including the potential harms, benefits, and alternatives. It’s about respect for women and their decisions in childbirth, including how, where, and with whom they give birth; and the right to be treated with dignity and compassion.”
Women should be given all of the information to make the right decision for themselves and their babies! No one should be forced, coerced, or threatened for choosing to attempt a vaginal birth after cesarean – women should have options for comfort measures, where to give birth and with whom, and be supported, respected and honored.
VBAC access is a major problem for many women, and with such high first birth cesarean rates, it may mean that a woman feels coerced or forced into a repeat cesarean. Homebirth VBAC is banned in many states – but even hospitals around the globe have banned VBAC access for women. “In fact, vaginal birth after cesarean is not allowed in over 40% of American hospitals.” (ImprovingBirth.org). That rate is staggering considering ACOG’s position “Most women with one previous cesarean delivery with a low-transverse incision are candidates for and should be counseled about VBAC and offered TOLAC (trial of labor after cesarean)
Will you be rallying today and what are you rallying for? Join the movement – find a location near you: and tweet us at Orgasmic Birth