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)!
This is the story of the birth of my third child, Anna Lily. She was my 2nd VBAC and I had to travel from Georgia down to Florida for that to happen.
Shortly before I became pregnant with Anna, my husband and I moved from Florida to Georgia. When I discovered our wonderful surprise baby I began looking into my birth options in the area. Sadly (and shamefully) I found that to have a homebirth with a midwife I’d have to do it “illegally”, and none of the midwives I spoke with felt comfortable attending a birth with me (because of my two previous SGA babies). I also found that some of the hospitals had VBAC bans, most of the obstetricians in the area no longer attended VBACs, and those that would theoretically attend a VBAC only delivered at hospitals with VBAC bans. My “choices” (and what kind of choice is it, really, when it’s forced upon you?) became to sign up for a repeat cesarean (even though I’d already HAD a VBAC!), enter into care with an OB and show up at the hospital and refuse a cesarean (who wants to fight when they’re in labor?), or have an unassisted birth.
I didn’t like any of the choices, so my husband and I decided that the children and I would move back to Florida for the duration of the pregnancy and seek out our options there. We ended up deciding on a hospital birth with a Certified Nurse Midwife. I still wasn’t comfortable with the idea of giving birth in the hospital. Afterall, if Caleb’s birth had begun in the hospital I never would have had a VBAC. Hospitals just don’t “do” the kind of labor I had with Caleb. My husband prayed with me throughout my pregnancy, though, that the Lord would protect me through the labor and birth. We even read a book that was recommend to us about painless childbirth, and so we were trusting the Lord for that as well.
It was very difficult living without my husband all those months. I was very ill, suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum for the second time in my life. At my lowest point I was hospitalized for a week, having lost 25 lbs at 13 weeks. In the hospital I was given three very strong nausea medications in my iv, and when I was discharged I was given a prescription for one of them, Zofran, which is a drug commonly given to chemotherapy patients to help combat their nausea. My husband and I were uncomfortable with me taking the medicine though. We knew it couldn’t be good for baby Anna and we wanted to just trust the Lord to allow me not to need it. We prayed, and less than a week after leaving the hospital I was able to make it through the day, keeping food and water down without the medicine.
Because I was a VBAC mother, I was required by the practice to have a consultation with one of their obstetricians. The premise of this “consultation” is for the obstetrician to make sure I understand the risks and benefits of both a VBAC and an elective repeat cesarean. It really was a joke though. He only discussed the risks of a VBAC and the benefits of the elective repeat cesarean. Then, he said to me, “well, we can try a VBAC if you really want to, but you only have a 50% chance of it being successful.” I reminded him that I’d already had a successful VBAC, and my husband told him we were Christians and that we were trusting the Lord for a safe VBAC. After that the doctor didn’t have much to say. He signed my consultation form and left the room.
[Now, since we're almost to Anna's birth, I want to share with you everything we'd prayed for the birth. I have a history of small for gestational age babies. My first was 3lbs 10oz at 37 weeks and my second was 5lbs 2oz at 41 weeks. It seemed I just couldn't grow a "normal size" baby. We prayed that Anna would be a good, normal, healthy weight at birth. I struggled with having faith in this throughout my pregnancy. It didn't help when people would tell me that I didn't even look pregnant, or that I "looked so good" (when what they meant was I looked so small). "Where's the baby", people would ask. With each of those comments my faith was weakened a little bit more. I was thankful to have my husband's faith to carry me.
Since Caleb's birth was so long and exhausting, we prayed for a quick, easy birth with Anna. My husband even said he didn't mind if it was so fast we didn't have time to get to the hospital first.
We prayed for a painless labor. We'd read the book Supernatural Childbirth and we knew that with the Lord, all things are possible.
I had a painful second degree tear when Caleb was born (all 5lbs of him). We prayed that I wouldn't have any tearing with Anna.
I also have a history of "failed" breastfeeding attempts. We prayed that baby Anna and I would have no trouble breastfeeding, right from the start.
Then there was my birth plan. I didn't want an iv or an epidural. I wanted to be up and moving. I wanted to be free to push on my hands and knees. I didn't want to be guided in "purple pushing" (I wanted to push when I felt the urge, for as long as I felt I needed to). I didn't want Anna's cord cut until it stopped pulsing. I wanted to hold her for awhile before she was taken from me to be weighed and measured. I had this list written out, but never talked with the midwife about it. I was afraid she wouldn't be agreeable, and I just wasn't up for the "fight". Thankfully, the Lord was!]
On Saturday, June 27th I felt the need to get my hair cut. It had grown very long and I don’t like to have long hair and a baby at the same time. My husband, the children and I went to his friend’s hair salon for my haircut. We stayed and visited for awhile, then decided to visit some other friends who lived in the area. There, I was served a wonderful meal of fresh, homegrown tomatoes with salt and steamed, homegrown squash and onions. I didn’t know it at the time, but this would be my last “meal” before Anna was born. We were very late getting home. I think it was 11 o’clock. My husband put the children to bed and then he went to bed. I tried lying down for awhile, but I was having contractions that were uncomfortable if I was lying down, but I could hardly notice them if I was sitting up.
So, 4 days past Anna Lily’s due date, I was up at 2 am chatting on facebook with one of my sisters. I had been timing what seemed to me like “braxton hicks” contractions (have you tried contractionmaster.com? it’s great!) and just mentioned to my sister that they seemed to average at about 4 minutes apart, but I wasn’t sure. “They just don’t hurt”, I told my sister. Since my husband and the kids and I didn’t get in until late that night and I felt bad about dragging them all down to the hospital for a false alarm, so my sister offered to drive me down to Baptist “just to get checked.” I told her I wanted to take a bath first, and shave my legs. What I had hoped would be a nice, relaxing bath that would, of course, help these “braxton hicks contractions” subside, turned into a fiasco. Sitting in the tub, I couldn’t reach my legs that well to shave them. I did the best I could, shaving almost to my knees, and then determined to lie back and soak for awhile. Nope. Then I see a huge palmetto bug crawling on the shower tile. Ordinarily I’m scared to death of these flying monsters, but I was not going to let a bug ruin my relaxing bath. Or, was I? I got a large envelope and a clear cup from the kitchen and chased that awful bug all around the bathroom.
I never did catch him. I put the cup and the envelope down and got dressed. I decided to take my bag with me, but I was sure I wouldn’t need it. “I’m not going to stay”, I’d convinced myself. I had my sister pick me up on the street with her headlights off because I didn’t want to wake my husband or the children.
As soon as I got in her car my sister began to time my contractions. When I was quiet for a moment and she’d ask, “are you having a contraction?” “yes”, I’d say. “well that one was only 3 minutes after the last one.” Again, she’d say, “are you having a contraction?” “yes,” I’d say. “well, that one was only 2 minutes after the last one!” Even though I was sitting there perfectly calm and happy, I think she was very worried I was going to give birth in her car. [Later, our grandmother would tell her, "well that's what you get for picking up a 9 month pregnant woman on the side of the road in the middle of the night"] Though I’d brought my bag with me, “just in case”, I decided to leave it in the car because “I don’t think I’ll be staying” (which became my mantra until I was pushing). We entered through the ER and when the lady at the desk asked how she could help us I stood there, calmly, and stuttered, “um, well, I’m pregnant and I… I’m having contractions, but I wanted to know if I was maybe in labor. You know I. . . just wanted to, uh, see.”
When I got up to labor and delivery, the nurse showed me to an L&D room instead of the triage room. It hadn’t dawned on me until I was in the bathroom changing my clothes that I was in a labor room. I called out to my sister, “I wish they hadn’t put me here just to be checked. I’ll be going home and then they’ll have to fix the room back up!” It took me about twenty minutes to change my clothes in the bathroom because I kept having what I was still calling “braxton hicks contractions”. The nurse checked me while my sister and I were chatting. I said to her, “well, if I’m not at least 4 or 5 cm then I think I’ll just go home.” The nurse looked at me with big eyes and my sister finally thought to ask, “how far along is she?” “7cm!” the nurse yelled as she headed out of the door. Apparently there’s a lot to be done to prepare for a baby to be born in the hospital and I hadn’t been polite enough to give much advance warning My sister and I got on the phone and called everyone who was planning to be there, including my poor husband who had to wake from a deep sleep, pack up 4 year old and 2 year old, drop 2 year old off with my mother-in-law and get himself and 4 year old down the hospital before I gave birth.
The nurse and the midwife, and my sister (who had given birth the summer before) were all standing around me, amazed that I seemed to be in little or no pain (just “discomfort”) during what looked on the monitor to be very strong contractions. The nurse said to me, “The nurses at the desk asked about you and I told them I thought you were probably in labor, but that you couldn’t be very far along. I sure was wrong!” About this time I thought to ask my nurse her name and when she replied “Faith”, I was sure the Lord was with us that night. My midwife was going to examine me, but said she’d wait until my husband arrived because baby’s head was right there, and she was afraid my water would break and baby would “fall out”.
So finally everyone arrived and the midwife checked me and said, “you’re 9cm. do you want me to break your water?” I didn’t really know what to say, still not feeling like I was in labor [how's that for denial? I'm told I'm 9cm dilated and I still convince myself I might be going home!] and sure I’d be sent home any minute. “I’m not sure. What would we do then?” “Have a baby,” the midwife laughed. So, I was still sitting up in bed feeling absolutely wonderful and I answered, “sure!” Big mistake She broke my water and I practically LAUNCHED myself out of bed, draping myself over the birth ball that I ordered be put on the bed, and began bellowing and rocking through constant, intense contractions. (note to self: allow baby to be born “in the caul” next time if necessary. Laboring after your water has broken SUCKS!) After awhile that didn’t feel good anymore so I threw the ball off the bed and climbed up and got on my hands and knees, with my head resting on the head of the bed.
I don’t think I was there very long before I had a contraction and it felt like a freight train was going through my body and I let out a kind of involuntary roar (something like oooohhhAAAAAAAHHHHHAAARRRGGHH!) and my body began to push. I heard the nurse tell the midwife, “she’s pushing”, and I remember thinking that was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard. I wasn’t pushing, my body had taken over this show and I was just barely hanging on for the ride! Here’s another place the Lord was really working in this birth. I was scared of pushing, and so He allowed me not only to not be directed in “purple pushing”, but I don’t think I pushed a single time. My body did everything itself. So the midwife told me not to push, she needed to check me. I tried not to push, but don’t think I ever succeeded. She told me several times not to push, “Don’t push, Becky. I’m not going to let you tear” (I had a 2nd degree tear last time so that was a fear of mine). I tried to pant, blow, nothing worked. I’m pretty sure at one point I was even begging “oooooze! oooooze!” at the top of my lungs.The midwife calmly (and I think she sounded a bit amused, too) asked, “so, are we delivering on hands and knees?” I was incapable of making any decision now and I just kept saying, “I don’t know… I don’t know…” So she just got ready for Anna to come and I stayed on my hands and knees.
The whole time I was pushing (”whole time”) I was thinking to myself, “I wonder if it’s too late to get an epidural?” It was sort of a scary experience for me- pushing. I think that’s the main reason I felt pain when pushing, unlike with the “non pushing” contractions. Do I regret feeling that pain though? Absolutely not, and I’m even thankful for it. Though I was scared, I wasn’t terrified. Though I felt pain, I wasn’t suffering. I felt strong through that pain, as if my pushing “noises” were roaring sounds. I was listening to, and working with, my body and I felt the Lord’s hand on Anna and me. The best way I can describe it is that it felt as if I was being pulled out in a massive undertow, drowning, but knowing all along that I was going to be saved. There existed in my mind both intense panic but constant peace.
After she was born I didn’t immediately turn around to face everyone. I rested my head on the head of the bed and asked if they were sure she was a girl (I’d felt she was, and the ultrasound said she was, but I had an eager 4year old daughter in the room who was expecting to have a sister and I wanted to make sure I’d “delivered”, as it were). Then I said I wanted to turn around. The placenta hadn’t been delivered yet and her cord was still attached and pulsing, so the midwife handed Anna to John and she helped me maneuver my legs around the cord and turn to face my beautiful Anna. I’ll admit that the first thing I thought to myself as I looked her over was, “oh no. I hope she’s at least six pounds!” She didn’t look very big, but was just 3oz shy of 8lbs, praise the Lord! I’d finally grown a normal size baby! Everyone in the room was shocked when her weight was read. Everyone knows that Becky has small babies.
It took about 20 minutes before I was ready to deliver the placenta. That was very uncomfortable. The midwife didn’t pull on the cord, even a little. She just waited until my body began pushing again. It felt really strange, and I had a small hemorrhage. I heard the nurse whisper to the midwife, asking her if she should give me a shot of pitocin. The midwife said she didn’t think it was too bad, but had the nurse apply some pretty “firm” (ha!) fundal pressure and I brought Anna to the breast to begin nursing. I also called my husband over to say a small prayer. After the bleeding had mostly stopped I was helped out of bed to change clothes. I was very dizzy, short of breath, and couldn’t even catch my breath well enough to speak. That passed quickly, though, and the next morning I was offered a discharge just over 24 hours after Anna was born.
At 4:49a.m. (just an hour and a half after entering the hospital) Anna Lily was born, weighing almost 8lbs and I didn’t tear. I pushed for only about 4 minutes. I pushed and delivered on my hands and knees, with no medication, and not even an iv. I think it’s about the best hospital birth I could have hoped for and it was an amazing experience!
I am also happy to report that Anna began nursing in the delivery room and has hardly stopped since!