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CAM Birth Story #34: Julie’s HBAC

In honor of Cesarean Awareness Month 2010, we will be filling the blogosphere with stories from real women (and their families) who know first-hand the consequences of a 32% cesarean rate. Each day we will post at least one birth story submitted by these women. Prepare to be moved (hint: grab a box of Kleenex)!

From Julie…

Coming to the decision to have a homebirth was a lengthy process filled with research, questions, and then isolation and fear. But finally, there was acceptance, excitement, and joy. I saw a doctor for concurrent care with the midwives so I could get ultrasounds, lab tests, etc. covered by my insurance.

I was induced and had a C-section with my first child, so I was running around asking everyone I knew, “How do you know when it’s labor?” Their answer? “You just do.” I will pass that valuable advice on to any expectant mother who is wondering, because it is true, you just do!

I didn’t realize it, but my early labor began in week 39 or so. I was having evenings every couple of days where I would start contractions around 8pm and they’d get closer, last through until about 3am, and then die off. This happened on at least three occasions, getting my hopes up, and then creating lots of frustration since I kept thinking it was labor. I only called Vickii, my midwife, once at about 4am and she talked me down. She told me to get some rest and call her in the morning. Somehow she knew it wasn’t the real deal.

At my 41 week prenatal, Vickii stripped my membranes at my request, after doing acupuncture at week 40. She checked me, also at my request, and I was shocked to find that I was already at 4cm. Apparently, my body was giving me “installments” and practice for what the big day would look and feel like. My body had already done the hard work of opening my cervix to 4cm, which usually takes people the longest (early labor). I had also taken 2 or 3 courses of caulophyllum and cimicifugus homeopathics to try to get things started. Baby J just wasn’t ripe yet and I had a lot more waiting to do.

Vickii left for a big trip to New Zealand, and now I was solely in the care of Darynee. We knew Vickii might miss the birth, but certainly didn’t expect to go 2 weeks postdates! This was the first birth she had ever missed, and she was so bummed! At my last OB visit, the doctor said, “Well, you know we only let you go to 42 weeks, so why don’t you schedule the C?” I was mortified, so this just made me anxious…

By 42 weeks exactly, I had a strange intuition that Jordan needed to be born. I was getting antsy worrying about another possible C-section, and just wanted to be sure he was ok. Daryne`e advised that I get a biophysical profile and NST done to make sure my placenta was still working well, there was enough amniotic fluid, etc. The appointment was for 3pm on Sept. 21st. I didn’t end up needing to go! Michelle Freund would be the assistant at the birth, and my doula, Kayti Ricker was the final member of my amazing birth team.

Before she left, Vickii advised that the best way to “naturally” induce labor would be to take castor oil. Since I had taken it with Camille and it did absolutely nothing, I didn’t have much hope for it that day. But, I was desperate and really wanted to get things moving. I made a grape castor oil smoothie with a whole 4oz. bottle of oil. It was tolerable, but kind of oily and disgusting. Within a couple of hours the effects kicked in and I was sitting on the toilet for the next couple of hours. The castor oil did exactly what it was supposed to! By the time my labor started, I was seriously depleted of water and food. I didn’t have time to replenish because when labor came, it didn’t let up at all until Jordan was born.

I cancelled the appointment for the biophysical profile when I realized I couldn’t be in the car away from a bathroom. By 3pm, the time when I was supposed to have gone to the appointment, my labor started, and it came with a bang! My contractions started around 3-4 minutes apart, but they were strong. I only was able to deal with a few before I jumped in the shower and needed the warm water to ease my back pain and help me relax. I began chanting “ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” and “maaaaaaaaaaaaaa maaaaaaaaaaaaaa” and just about anything I could think of. I remembered my yoga teacher recommended using vocal toning on consonant sounds (mama, vava, etc) so I tried until something worked. Later I realized that “Shhhhhhhh” worked really well, too for me. (Dan later asked me why I was asking for my “mama” which made me laugh.) It all felt so primal and I truly felt like a birth warrior! I was swaying and dancing and trying to move myself into a comfortable position in the shower. About 5-10 minutes into my shower, I yelled to Dan to call everyone. When he called our doula, she wanted to make sure I was really in labor after all of the false alarms. She told him to “hold the phone up” and could hear my primal moans. “That sounds great, I’ll be right over!” she said, and got in her car! I will never forget that hilarious part of the story.

Dan hopped in the shower at some point, helped rub my back, and just kept me calm as the contractions came in intense waves. At this point, there was definitely pain, but not like I have ever known. The contractions just took over my body and I surrendered to each one, while trying to keep myself comfortable by chanting, breathing, and still dancing around. In fact, even as I write this story, I can’t remember what the contractions felt like, exactly. It is strange how the mind works, and miraculous how you forget just how bad it was, so that you are willing to do it all over again. I guess I was in the shower for about 30 minutes or so, and then Darynee arrived and started preparing our bedroom for the birth. Dan and Darynee worked quickly to get the room ready, since we really weren’t prepared for everything to happen so fast. We had all of our birth supplies set up at week 36 and I got tired of looking at them, so they were all packed in a box next to my bed.

It was around 4:30pm, and Daryne`e suggested I get out of the shower and see how far I had progressed. My body had worked fast! I was already getting to transition and I was COMPLETE! I couldn’t believe it. Daryne`e didn’t seem that excited about it, since the baby was pretty far up, and she knew I’d have a while before he came down; about 5 hours or so. I spent the next hours contracting in labor land, moving my son down the birth canal. Dan and I got in the birthing pool for a while- I had hoped I could have a water birth, but it wasn’t meant to be. I was totally fine with that, but bummed that I only got an hour or less out of my $50 kiddie pool! I found myself getting into various positions in my room, leaning on different things and people. I was very hot and sweaty, and remember asking repeatedly for cold washcloths on my forehead. I was naked as the day I was born from the moment I stepped out of the shower, and it didn’t matter at all. My modesty went completely out the window.

It started to get dark, and it was only at that point that I realized how long I had been in intense labor with few breaks between contractions. Amazingly, I had the energy to make it through. The midwives and doula tried to get me to eat and drink between contractions so I could replenish myself, but it was difficult. It didn’t seem like I had many breaks. I never once questioned my ability to birth the baby, nor did I question my body’s ability to do exactly what it needed to do. I continued to surrender to my uterus and the baby and received positive affirmations from my birth team as I did so.

When I finally began to feel the urge to push, it was around 8:30pm and that was the craziest thing I’ve ever felt. I literally felt I had to pass a bowling ball from my colon, and grunted so loudly with each push that my throat actually felt sore for a couple of days afterwards! Everyone kept saying “Keep it low, Julie. Keep it in your bottom.” I really tried, but the shrieks and groans were what made it feel better. I remember that each time the midwives had me change position, I argued with them. When I found a position that was comfortable, it felt like nothing in the world could move me. At one point they had me sit on a birthing stool that had magically appeared in my bedroom. Daryne`e sat with my make-up mirror under me and watched the progression of the baby’s head. It was close, but then there was a lot of blood, and she wasn’t sure why. She had me move to the bed as quickly as I could and lay on my side with a leg up. When the bleeding stopped in that position, this eliminated the possibility of it being a uterine rupture, and she concluded that it was probably a laceration on the inside. After laboring in this position for a little while, I guess the midwives were a bit concerned that his head started to “turtle” back in, which is not a good sign. Michelle, who had been so soft-spoken and gentle the whole day, yelled “You need to get on all fours, NOW!” Of course, I summoned all energy and adrenaline, and moved as fast as I could!

The next hour was a blur- we could see his head, his ears were outside of my body, but he was not coming out. Daryne’e had to literally reach inside and manipulate his body because his shoulder was stuck under my pubic bone. I remember pushing so hard and he finally came out. I could feel burning, ripping, and all of the things that make childbirth the most painful experience in the world. I won’t soon forget those last moments of my son exiting my body, because it was nothing I could have imagined. When he came out, I didn’t hear any crying. I heard Kayti tell Dan to “Talk to your baby, he needs to hear your voice.” Someone placed the baby on my back, and Daryne`e said, “Be careful of the cord!” In moments, I heard something about him not breathing, saw Daryne`e give him a couple of resuscitative breaths, and I was just wondering why he wasn’t crying yet. I was later told that, due to the birth trauma, he was not breathing right away. At some point, their attention turned to me. I had lost a lot of blood and needed a stack of pillows under my legs to help with my blood pressure. Once everything was fine with Jordan, it was time to suture me. I had 2nd degree tearing and it took them 2.5 hours to stitch me up. The tearing was deep and jagged. He was born at 9:58pm on Monday, and they were still there at 5am on Tuesday. I was so exhausted, and felt like I had been hit by a truck. All of my muscles were tensed up but I felt exhilarated that I had done the unimaginable- a successful VBAC at home. No drugs, just a peaceful, wonderful but definitely painful experience. Jordan Travis was 8lbs, 3oz. and 21.75” long. He has been a great nurser, and is growing fast. I believe in the strength of the human body to do whatever is necessary to have a birth the way nature intended it, and Jordan’s birth was proof of that for me, and hopefully for women I can inspire in the future.


  1. Julie is my hero.

  2. Kayti says:

    Julie, your story is so clear and powerful. You WERE a birth warrior. And so elated when you held Jordan while Dan held you and you all were together, safe. Thank you for putting your birth story up to inspire others. It is a treasure.