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CAM Birth Story #37: Lexi’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)!

Lexi’s second VBAC…

My third pregnancy was very hard on me, both physically and emotionally. I had so many more fears this time around. I was afraid of labor, afraid of having another vaginal birth, afraid of not having another vaginal birth. Mostly I was afraid of parenting a third baby. This pregnancy had been a surprise, and not a particularly welcome one at that. I knew I wasn’t ready for a third child. I could barely manage with the two I had. I really worked at resolving this fear before the baby came, but sometimes nine months just isn’t long enough to fix everything.

Maddie and Emily both came at exactly 39 weeks and 2 days, with labor starting at 39 weeks and 1 day. With that in mind, as we headed to bed on February 7th (39 weeks exactly) I told Chris that I was scared. He had known of my struggles up to that point, but I really was expecting to begin labor sometime early the next morning, and that brought all my fears into a much sharper focus. I did finally sleep that night, but it wasn’t good sleep- I was much too worried. But labor didn’t start the next morning. I went to an ICAN meeting instead, and that helped some. The next two nights, the 8th and the 9th, I was up every 10-15 minutes with prodromal labor contractions. I had been having prodromal labor for awhile, but on these two nights it was particularly bad. On February 10th, I complained to the ICAN list about how tired I was and how much I just wanted the pregnancy to end. That night I slept all night. It was the best sleep I had had in months. And after that, all vestiges of prodromal labor just disappeared. I really believe that was a gift from God given to allow me to keep my sanity. I can’t imagine how I would have managed otherwise.

My due date, February 14th, came and went. Next, I set my sights on the 18th. At the beginning of my pregnancy, I had had feeling about the 18th. That morning, I woke up to some intense contractions about seven minutes apart. I ignored them for as long as I could, then called Chris at work and asked him to come home. Then I waited…and waited…and waited. About an hour later he called back. He hadn’t left yet! I was furious. In three pregnancies, I’d never once had a false alarm. I felt I’d earned the right to be believed, and when I said come home now, I meant it. Chris got home as quickly as possible and we started cleaning the house and waited for things to kick into gear. A few hours later, the contractions started to space out and then stopped entirely. I got into the shower, sat down under the water, and just sobbed. I was tired of being pregnant; I was frustrated at being so completely powerless, and I was embarrassed about getting mad at Chris and then it having been a false alarm after all. I decided that instead of waiting around, I needed to make some sort of plans. I needed something, however small, to look forward to. Two days later, on Friday, my favorite scrapbooking store was having a sale and a make-and-take event. It was perfect to just get my mind off of everything.

On Friday morning I got up early. The only way I could get out to the scrapbook store was to have Chris take me, since I hadn’t been able to fit behind the wheel of the car for months. The store was closer to the base than to home, and since Friday is a short workday anyway, we all went to work with Chris that morning. We got a really late start, and I took advantage of it and called my friend Sharon to let her know that it looked like we would be able to attend her daughter’s birthday party the next day after all. I had no signs of labor.

I had a light contraction a few minutes after I hung up the phone, but I had been having Braxton-Hicks contractions for as long as I could remember, and I didn’t pay any attention to it. We packed Maddie and Emily into the car and headed out.

Emily fell asleep in the car on the way to the base, so when we got there, Chris took Maddie in with him, and I stayed in the car to let Emily sleep. I played Sudoku and enjoyed the quiet. I stared to notice that I was having quite a few contractions, so I timed a few of them. They were consistently seven minutes apart. Interesting, but these were light, and the contractions a few days before had been consistent too. I was suspicious, but decided to keep my feelings to myself. I didn’t want Chris to insist that we go home. He’d had a dream a few nights before that the baby was born on the road we’d be taking home from the store, and I didn’t want him to be worried about it. Besides, I really wanted to go and play at the scrapbook store for awhile!

Emily woke up right as Chris and Maddie were coming out. She was hungry and crying for oatmeal, so Chris ran inside to make her some. Then we went to another building where Chris had to run inside for just a minute, so I waited in the car with the girls. Emily had made a mess of herself with the oatmeal, and she’s in a phase where she can’t stand messes. She started crying. “I’m a mess! Hurts me! Hurts me!” I got her cleaned off as well as I could. Chris came back and we headed to the mall for lunch and shopping.

I timed a few more contractions on the way to the mall. Still seven minutes apart, but something was different. I was pretty sure, but not completely convinced, that things were starting. Still, I didn’t say anything.

When we got to the mall we headed to Ruby Tuesday for lunch. I needed to use the bathroom, so I headed over there. Naturally, there was a line. One of the women asked me when I was due. She asked in a nice way, so I told her the truth. Last Saturday. She just looked at me and marveled that I was out and about while I was “overdue.” I laughed and told her I’d rather be out than stuck at home waiting. She seemed to understand. When I got back to the table, I made sure to order a light lunch. I usually throw up in labor and I wanted to make sure that was as easy as possible. Contractions were intensifying to the point where I couldn’t swallow my food during them. I could still talk though, and we were having a very amusing conversation. Chris kept telling me that he was sure I as going to have the baby that night. He was saying I was radiating “an energy,” just like when I had been in labor before. I kept saying things like, “We’ll see” and “Maybe.” I didn’t want to tell him yet, but I was pretty sure it would be that night too. As we left the restaurant, we passed by the table of the woman I had met in the bathroom. She wished me good luck.

I didn’t really notice any contractions while we were in the scrapbook store. I’m sure I was having them; I was just having too much fun to pay attention. I made some cards and did some shopping. Chris got me some new stamps. I didn’t stay as long as I normally would have, and I sure noticed the contractions as we walked out to the car! I had one that was really strong and I pretended to be looking at a store window display while I waited through it. Then we headed home.

I thought about telling Chris about my contractions once we were in the car, but again, I didn’t want to spook him, so I decided to wait till we got home. I did time a few of them in the car, though. Every six minutes.

When we got home, I had to use the bathroom again, and when I got out, Chris was filling out a job application on his computer. I lay down on the couch to wait for him to finish. The contractions were getting very strong now, and I needed to actively breathe through them. I also started using my Hypnobabies relaxation techniques. I must have dozed off for a few minutes, because the next thing I knew Chris was in the kitchen on the phone. I have a vague recollection of him taking the dog out and coming in on the cell phone, but I think I was sleeping between contractions and only partially waking during them. I decided that as soon as Chris got off the phone, I was going to tell him that I was in labor and then put all of my birth helpers on alert. Before he got off the phone though, Amanda called to see how I was doing. It was about 5:15 pm. I told her that I was pretty sure I was in labor and could she call everyone else to let them know? I also told her that I didn’t need them yet, but to expect another call soon. Then my phone battery died.

A second after the phone died I had another contraction. I felt a pop and wondered for a second if my water had broken, but I didn’t feel any water, so I guessed not. Chris came back into the living room before that contraction was completely over and said, “Did I just hear you put people on alert and not tell me?” I looked at him, feeling a little sheepish for waiting so long and said, “Yeah…” I started to get up and felt water gush out of me. My water had broken, but since I was lying down it had stayed put. As soon as I moved it started rushing out. I hurried to the bathroom while telling Chris, “I think my water just broke!”

In the bathroom I was able to see what I’d hoped I wouldn’t- meconium. I worried for a second that I needed to transfer, and then remembered that not all meconium is worrisome. I decided to take a shower and then I’d go look up meconium in one of my midwifery texts downstairs. I stayed in the shower for about 20 minutes, until the water was only trickling with each contraction instead of gushing. I climbed out and put on one of the adult diapers that are wonderful for broken waters. I got dressed and looked a little closer at the pad I had been wearing when my water broke. (I had known it was only a matter of time.) I was trying to get as much information about the quality of the meconium as possible. I also noticed that the waters were full of little tiny dark hairs! How funny! I headed downstairs and mentioned to Chris that our baby had short dark hair.

I did a little reading and drank the smoothie Chris made me for dinner. I was reassured that the meconium was nothing to worry about. I called J, my doula/midwife, told her to come and asked her to bring her fetoscope. I wanted to have it on hand just in case. I wanted to rule out fetal distress. I called Amanda back and let her know my water broke and today would definitely be the day. My friend Cassie called to check in on me after Amanda called her. She timed the contractions I was having while I was on the phone with her. She said they were about four minutes apart and lasting over a minute. I wasn’t on very long. I needed to concentrate.

I headed upstairs again and started to make the birthday cake for the baby. None of my other babies were welcomed in with a cake, and it felt like an important act of intention to make the cake. This baby will be born at home and we will eat this cake! Maddie helped me make it. The cake was a boxed mix, but it still took forever to get it to the point that we could put it in the oven. I had to stop for every contraction now. There was no ignoring these. As soon as the cake was in the oven, I set the timer and asked Chris to take it out when the timer buzzed. I couldn’t do anything but labor anymore. Chris put the girls to bed.

I went downstairs to the basement and put on my Easy First Stage Hypnobabies tape. I lay down on the floor, even though he bed was right there. I needed to be on the floor. I took myself down, deep into myself. The contractions were still very tolerable. J came in and just sat down and watched me for a minute. At the end of the contraction I was able to talk to her. She said things were moving along quickly. I thought she was trying to make me feel better. I was still just beginning. I had a long way to go.

My tape ended and I didn’t start it over again. I got up and J or Chris asked if I wanted the birth tub filled. I said no. I didn’t want to be in too long. I used the bathroom and told them I had changed my mind. I wanted the water! I also asked Chris to call Cassie and have her call everyone and let them know they could come and go as they wanted now. I didn’t want to have to worry about it anymore. I felt a weight lift as the last thing my mind had to think about was gone. I was free to labor.

There was about eight inches of water in my pool, so I got in. I sat on my knees and rested my body over the edge of the pool. During contractions I would grab Chris’ hands and breathe through. Eventually Claire got here and took over for Chris. The water got cold and was turned off. I threw up my smoothie. My feet started to go numb and I sat down. More people arrived. Cassie, Amanda, Carol, Sharon. I had no thoughts at the time beyond getting through the next contraction. As I headed into laborland though, that began to change. While I looked restful on the outside, my mind seemed to go into hyperdrive. I was laying my head back and resting my body between contractions. Inside I had many voices all at once. There was nothing scary or panicky- just busy. Part of me was listening to everything going on in the room. “Aww, she’s sleeping.” “This is going quickly-it won’t be long now.” There was my inner midwife, “She’s right. This is advanced active labor.” There was the pessimist, “No way. This is how I do things. I’m just getting started. They have no idea what they’re talking about.”

At some point we put more warm water in the tub. Labor continued. During contractions now I was moaning loudly and circling my hips with my arms outstretched and someone holding each hand. All of my helpers took turns. I got hot and was trying to tell my people and couldn’t. Eventually I managed to say I was feeling woozy at the peak of contractions. It actually probably came out as something like, “Pass out. Hot.” But they got the point and cold water was added to the tub and a frozen cloth was put on my forehead. My wonderful husband, in a moment of inspiration, had frozen several cloths at the start of my labor. Bless him. My mouth was dry and I kept asking for my Vitamin Water. It was the orange flavor. I don’t know if I’ll ever drink it again without remembering that night.

The contractions got longer and longer. There was less and less space between them. I was sure it was getting close to dawn. Any moment and I’d see the first vestiges of light in the windows. I was moaning louder and louder. A few times it felt like I was screaming and a few times I was definitely crying. I told my birth helpers how much it hurt. The thing is that it didn’t hurt, at least not in the traditional sense of pain. This was more like there was a strong current of power running through me, but it couldn’t get through. It was getting stopped up at my cervix and concentrating there, building and building until my senses were completely overwhelmed. But I couldn’t say that. So I said, “It hurts!” A few times I said I didn’t want to do it. But I didn’t say I couldn’t do it.
During a contraction. Amazing definition.

The contractions started to double peak. Not all of them, but enough. I heard whispers of the T-word. Transition. Inner Midwife: “Double peaking contractions. Definitely transition.” Hopeful Me: “Oh, please let this be transition. I’m so ready to be done. But I can’t believe it. I’ll be so disappointed.” Pessimist: “Won’t they be surprised when this goes on for a couple more hours and then everything stalls. Hahaha.” J checked heart tones, declared them perfect. I considered asking for the number, decided perfect was good enough for me. A contraction washed over me, peaked and peaked again, then peaked a third time. I remember saying, “Oh, come on!” I had a total of two contractions that triple peaked, and they were not back to back, thank Heaven.

I started to give little tiny pushes at the top of each contraction, just the faintest little bit of oomph while I was at the bottom of my hip circle. Amanda asked if I’d like J to check me. I agreed because I didn’t want to push on an incomplete cervix, but then I wouldn’t give up my miniscule rest periods to have the check done. After a few contractions we all gave up on the idea. Pessimist was still screaming at me that it was too early to push, that I was probably only at four centimeters. Inner Midwife was telling that little pushes in active labor are fine and won’t swell the cervix. I decided to listen to Inner Midwife. It didn’t take long before those little pushes were big pushes though. I was starting to worry about premature pushing urges and would I be able to avoid pushing too hard. I didn’t actually have an urge though, not the way I did with Emily. I didn’t feel like I had to push, my body just DID. No control by me at all. I moved around and changed positions a few times. Then my contractions started to get shorter and space out. Inner Midwife said, “These are pushing contractions. No more worries. Get this baby out!” For the first time all night, Pessimist had nothing. So I pushed!
I was surrounded by my people. Supported literally and figuratively.

My birth helpers probably would say otherwise, given the noise I was making, but I love pushing. The contractions are short and the rest periods are longer. The current of power can get all the way through and I can harness it, use it. I was on my knees, not consciously pushing, but pushing with all of my body’s might anyway. During contractions I was hearing many voices. Inner Midwife: “Don’t purple push! Breathe!” Amanda: “Breathe… breathe.” Another Voice In My Head: “I don’t know how to breathe!” But I did breathe, groaning so I wouldn’t hold onto my breath.

At one point, I heard the air coming out of my birth pool and I started to panic. No one else heard it, but every time I rested against the side of the tub the air was hissing out. Fortunately the tub didn’t deflate much.

Someone told me the baby was coming down, so I reached in and felt nothing. I cried in despair that there was nothing there. The very next contraction I felt her head come through my pelvis. It was like a rock sliding through my bones. At the end of the contraction it moved back up. When I pushed again it came down and stayed. But I wanted to sit down, so I moved the head back up on purpose. I did this a few more times then Amanda told me to reach down and feel the baby’s head. I reached down, expecting to feel a quarter-sized patch of baby head. Instead, as I touched the fuzzy softness of baby head, I realized that the head was halfway out! I decided that I wasn’t going to waste the progress I had made. And I made a conscious decision to let the baby be born. With the next contraction, the head was born. I tried to push out the shoulders before the contraction, but I had no power. I waited. And waited. Finally another contraction began and I pushed. The baby didn’t come and didn’t come then WHOOSH! Chris grabbed the baby and brought it to my chest. He looked and said it was a girl. Someone called out the time and I heard, but let it go, content that someone had noted it. I had my helpers pull my shirt over my head so I could be skin to skin with my new daughter. I started to cry. Chris got Maddie from our bed (she had been brought down during the early pushes) and she got to meet her new sister. At first the baby didn’t cry. She just looked at me and blinked a few times. Then she let out a tentative little moan, and then just wailed! She only cried for a moment though. I was caught up inn the emotion of it, and nothing existed anymore except me, Maddie, Chris and the new baby. I cried and cried. I was so amazingly happy.

About five minutes later the placenta was born. I started to get cold, so I got out of the water and moved to the bed. I was examined and there were no tears at all. I rested and there was a festive air to the room. I asked what time the baby had been born. 11:16. It was not even midnight! I couldn’t believe it.

Once the cord was white and limp, we cut it. I looked at the placenta, touched and examined it. Cassie had brought pink champagne and Amanda had frosted my cake. We all had some. It was a real Birth Day party. Emily woke up and came down. I gave the girls the presents from the new baby that I had made. We weighed the baby. I thought Chris was teasing me when he said nine and a half pounds. He wasn’t. She’s just a big girl. I was holding the baby near my breast, and when she was ready, she latched on, all by herself. Chris eventually got the girls back in bed. At around two in the morning, everyone started to head home. J stayed to start drying the placenta for encapsulation. Chris and I curled up with our now sleeping baby and slept, in our own bed, content and exhausted.

We named the baby Lauren on Sunday, the third day after her birth. The day after that we decided on Nicole as a middle name. When she was eight days old, we added Ainsley to the mix, and her name was complete. Lauren Ainsley Nicole. 9lbs. 8oz, 21 inches. Born at home on February 20th, 2009. It was the most perfect birth I could imagine.

Originally posted on Birth is Life

One Comment

  1. Shari says:

    I love this story! You did such a great job capturing your inner dialogue! I remember coaching myself internally, too. I didn’t have the pessimist butting in as much, but it did take a lot of coaching to RELAX as much as I could, get my shoulders down, and breath. Extremely worth it – my 3rd birth, my HBAC, was natural, safe and serene – like yours.