Emre’s birth story actually starts over 3 years ago with the story of Aydin’s birth. That sounds so beyond corny, but it’s true. Jason and I decide to try to conceive Aydin at a time when his birth would coincide with my graduation from law school. I always had this abstract idea that I would have a natural birth, but I didn’t really know what that meant. I’m almost embarrassed to admit how little I knew about pregnancy, but that’s where I was. I assumed a woman just decided to have a natural birth and that was that. I stopped taking birth control in August and we immediately conceived. I was so happy. In 9 months, I would be vaginally delivering my baby at a local birthing center surrounded by soft music, candlelight and violins playing in the background. Instead, I risked out of the birthing center at 19 weeks due to essential hypertension. They called me to tell me that I could no longer continue under their care while I was driving 70 down the interstate. I was devastated and had to pull over because I was crying so hard. No worries, they told me. They knew of a great, natural birth friendly OB whose care I could transfer to and still have a shot at a natural birth. Foolishly, I ignored their advice, basically opened up my insurance’s list of covered providers and chose one off the list. When I interviewed him, I expressed my desires to have a natural birth. He seemed very supportive of my decisions, but somehow I ended up on bedrest for what were at best borderline blood pressures, induced shy of 39 weeks and cut open to have my son delivered via cesarean. The very first thing my doctor said to me when he saw me after recovery was, “Well, all your babies will have to be born by cesarean and seeing how difficult this pregnancy was, you should probably only try for one more.” I was so emotionally devastated that I numbly agreed–how had I gone from violins and candlelight to being cut open, separated from my baby, unable to breastfeed him and being told that I could only have one more child because of my health? This couldn’t be right.
I have to admit that after Aydin’s birth, I fell into a bit of a depression. I didn’t really realize that’s what was going on or why, but I put on a lot of weight, I lost interest in doing a lot of things and I drank just a little too much. If you read Aydin’s original birth story, I think you’ll find a person who was trying to cope with a devastating experience without embracing that what happened was traumatic and that it was OK to be dissatisfied, even angry, with my birth experience. The girl who wrote that story, I don’t even know her.
Around April of 2009, I decided something had to change. I wasn’t going to get anywhere laying around just getting fatter and feeling sorry for myself. I found a really supportive online message board and began to discover that there was a better way to birth. Just because I was cut once didn’t mean it had to happen again. I could, and indeed should, become an active participant in my pregnancy and this had to start even before we could think about conceiving. So, I quit feeling sorry for myself, lost about 50 pounds, researched my options for VBACing and decided a home birth would be best for me. To do this, I knew I had to maintain my weight loss so that I could remain low risk and off blood pressure meds throughout my pregnancy. So, that’s what I did. In November, I came off my blood pressure meds and we started actively trying to conceive.
On our 5th month of trying, finally! A BFP on Easter Sunday!! I was so happy–I caught my little Easter egg. Fortuitously, I had an interview scheduled with a midwife the next day. It was supposed to be sort of just a general meet and greet because I was in the process of interviewing care providers before I even became pregnant. I thought finding out I was pregnant the day before we met must have been a sign and it was. You know that feeling you get when you meet someone and you just know? Well, that’s how it was with my midwives. I just knew Kari and Brielle were who I wanted by my side when I birthed my baby. Add to that, they were working with an apprentice midwife who also happened to be my postpartum doula with Aydin and pretty much the only bright spot of that entire time and I just knew.
My pregnancy was simply amazing. I had a fear of having my pressures taken because of what happened with risking out of the birth center, but my midwives were so understanding with me. I grew to trust them and my pressures went and stayed down during my visits. I have to admit, in the back of my head was the constant niggling fear that I would risk out at some point, but Kari and Brielle were sure to always tell me how much they believed in me and my birth. I think they believed in my home birth long before I truly did. I didn’t want to become too emotionally invested in it and then have it ripped away from me. I would feel like a fool, so I kept my guard up until I just couldn’t anymore. As my pregnancy progressed and I remained healthy and low risk, I began to believe that it was really going to happen. I was going to deliver my baby at home in the safety of my living room, surrounded only by people who believed in and supported me. I remained low risk throughout my pregnancy–I was so proud of myself. Our prenatals, at least an hour long each, were spent laughing and getting to know each other as people and as women. I wasn’t just a file amongst tens of other files….my experience was as unique as I was and I was treated as such.
I experienced contractions for the first time around my 37th week. I was so excited. Yet another milestone reached in this pregnancy. I had never felt any with Aydin–even once they hooked me up to the pitocin and tried to induce me. And here, my body is working on its own!! My midwives told me that a lot of VBAC mamas have gentle contractions for awhile before they actually go into labor–they think this is the body’s way of being gentle with the mama’s scar. Well I definitely had a ton of gentle, practice contractions. To the point where I began to wonder if my body did actually know how to work. Would I ever go into labor?
Around 41 weeks, I started to get really desperate. I had always said 42 weeks was my cutoff of feeling comfortable birthing at home and with only a week to go, I was starting to worry that it wouldn’t happen. I began to have the sickest fantasies about castor oil inductions, pitocin and all these other horrible, dirty things that I knew wouldn’t help. I made it through 41 and 41+1 because I really didn’t want to have a Christmas Eve or day baby. On 41+2, my facebook status referenced the fact that I was losing the will to live. It felt like my baby was never going to come and I was going to be doomed to have a repeat c/s.
(Please note: my twitter updates and my midwives’ charts are probably a lot more accurate in terms of timelines and the order in which things happened. I was definitely in labor land most of the time. My husband helped me get things right, but this is mostly just from my memory of things)
I went to bed on Sunday the 26th and noticed around midnight that I was producing a lot of fluid in my nether regions. It wasn’t like any discharge I had ever experienced throughout my pregnancy—it was watery. I didn’t want to get my hopes up because I figured if it were my water, it would be constantly leaking or drip when I went to the bathroom. Still, I noticed that when I wiped it up, it would return an hour or so later. I sent Brielle an email about it in the morning on Monday and told her not to get too excited because it was probably nothing. She told me it sounded like my water and to get rest. She would be over later to check. Jason started nesting like crazy and decided he would wait to go into work just in case. When Brielle arrived, she took out a ph swab and wiped it on the pad I had put on and confirmed that it was amniotic fluid. Today was my birthing day!!! I updated my facebook status with a link to my Twitter account, which I planned to keep updated throughout my birthing time. It looked like it was just a slow leak, so Brielle checked baby’s position. His head seemed to be off to the side, so we agreed that I would work on getting him in to a better position for birthing and putting pressure on my cervix. She sat with me for awhile, knitting her fingerless gloves and keeping me calm and conserving my energy while I rocked on the birth ball. I fell back to sleep for awhile while Brielle sat knitting in the room.
I learned that Jessica, the apprentice midwife and Aydin’s postpartum doula, was just recovering from a flu and wouldn’t be coming. Even though she was sure she wasn’t contagious anymore, she didn’t want to risk it…she would have come had I gone into labor just a day later. I was so disappointed because Jessica is so calming and I was really looking forward to having her at my labor, but what can you do? After sitting with me for awhile, Brielle left me to work on things on my own and I spent time pelvic rocking and climbing the stairs sideways.
Around noon, Brielle and Kari came back so that they could work with me on getting baby into an optimal position. I was sitting on the ball when they arrived and Brielle suggested pumping to maybe get some contractions going. She and Kari left the bedroom and began eating and chatting in the kitchen while I pumped. Now again, I have little concept of time, but it seems like about an hour into pumping and bouncing on the ball, I felt a pop and then about 5 gallons of fluid rush out of me, all over the ball and onto the floor beneath me. I was so shocked, I started yelling “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!” Kari and Brielle rushed into the room to check on me and told me to go ahead and rinse off after checking heart tones, baby’s position, etc. I think I heard them discussing that the earlier leak had probably been up top and that’s why it had been so slow.
I got into the shower and tried to contain my excitement. My body was moving!!! My baby was helping me get ready to bring him into the world. I asked Jason to get my hypnobabies and I listened to my Birthing Day Affirmations soundtrack and laid in bed to relax. I had a few mild contractions during this time, but they would easily peter out. They were also very gentle, so I thought it would be awhile before the real deal started.
Kari checked me after I showered and I was at a 3 and soft, so I was making progress. Last time I had been checked at a prenatal, I was only about a 1. I spent a lot of time alternating between the pump and the ball during the early stages of my labor trying to get my contractions to pick up. I had my best (read: hardest) contractions while pumping and I have to admit that it made me not want to keep pumping. But, I also didn’t want to be ruptured too long with no progress, so I did it. Ten minutes at a time and I would usually have 2 good contractions while pumping. Sometimes, I would have a third right as the session was ending.
My labor was long, slow and gentle. Kari told me funny stories and we all laughed and chatted through my early stages. I rested most of the night and didn’t really have any more contractions. It seemed that my body let me rest when I wanted to and would oblige me with contractions when I was actively asking for them. In the morning, I decided to lay down for about 20 minutes of serious rest and then get up and get serious about getting my labor moving. I asked Jason to wake me up after 20 minutes so that I could buckle down. I laid down and when I woke up around 11 or 11:30 which was definitely not 20 minutes later, Jason, Kari, Brielle and Jessica (surprise!) were all around my bed intervention style. I looked at Jessica and just said “I am” and then started to get up. Everyone left the room and I sat on the floor and hooked myself up to the pump. Jason came back into the room and I asked him if Jessica was here. Kari rushed in and felt my forehead for a fever since I had literally just seen and talked to Jessica. I was fine–I just thought I had dreamt that Jessica came over because I wasn’t expecting her.
Jessica suggested crawling up the stairs on hands and knees. This really sucked, but it did bring on a couple contractions. Brielle also started feeding me this herbal remedy. It wasn’t too gross—mostly tasted pepperminty. I really wanted to labor in the tub, but I couldn’t since my labor wasn’t really picking up and I was actively having to bring contractions on myself. About eight hours after my first cervical exam, I had another and I was only 4-5 cm. I began to take castor oil to augment my labor and I kept lamenting not being able to get into the tub. There it sat, taunting me all empty in my living room. Jessica took us out walking the neighborhood vigorously, doing curb walks and a fast pace to try to get things going. After we would walk around, I would come back in, get on the pump and do the stairs again. This went on for a bit and I still wasn’t getting into an active labor pattern of my own. I began to feel despondent and like I was staring down the barrel of a hospital transfer. I needed to have made some progress at my next cervical exam—at this point I had been ruptured long enough that we really needed to get things going. I was a 6-7 at my next exam.
I asked Brielle if she thought I was holding my baby in. She looked at me and asked me, “Do you think you are holding your baby in?” I was. Jessica got my birth ball and suggested I put it between my back and the wall and rock my hips side to side. I started this and I don’t know if it was the rocking or the fact that I knew I was holding my baby in, but all of a sudden I was breaking down weeping about how hard I had worked for this HBAC and how it wasn’t fair that I was going to have to transfer all because my labor wouldn’t pick up and I was doing everything I could. I said I would never have another baby if this ended in a cesarean. Jessica and Brielle listened to me and agreed that I had worked hard and that it wasn’t fair. It was so soothing to just have people listen and agree. I could easily have gotten hysterical, and probably would have if they had tried to reason with me. Instead, their quiet understanding really calmed me down. Brielle suggested getting on the pump while sitting on the toilet. Let me just say, I hated this idea. And I hated it because I had the hardest contractions while I was in this position. They were intense and hard, but this is what I needed to get things going. I couldn’t just sit around crying about how my labor wouldn’t pick up if I wasn’t going to do anything about it.
So, Jason and I went to the bathroom together. I was sick of holding the horns up to my breasts, so I had Jason doing it and my contractions were getting stronger and stronger. I was moaning through them and trying to make the “ooooooooh” sound. Brielle was reminding me to make the sound low pitched and to relax my bottom so baby could descend.
I don’t know how long we stayed like this but all of a sudden, I had the contraction from hell. I mean, they were intense before, but this was like nothing I ever felt before. I stood up off the toilet, ripped the pump off and yelled “I need help!!!” Jason asked me what I needed help with and I burst into tears and told him not to ask me questions. All of a sudden, my midwives were in the bathroom and I told them between sobs that Jason was asking me questions and to tell him to stop. This is what they had been waiting for.
I desperately needed to get in the tub. The contractions were coming on their own now and they were more intense than anything I have ever felt in my life. I wanted to be anywhere but in that bathroom laboring. I think at this point, I kept asking my midwives if my baby will be here soon. They told me yes, this was it, soon the baby will be born. Jason had left the bathroom after my outburst and Kari told me that he was scared. I burst into tears and told her I didn’t mean to hurt his feelings or scare him. She explained that he knew that—I was just at a point in labor where things were going to get intense and he was a little overwhelmed. I think Jason was in the bedroom at this point. I could finally get in the tub. Jessica scrubbed out our tub and it was filled. It was SUCH a relief to get in the water. I was butt naked and more open than I have ever been in my life. Every time a contraction would hit, I would try to force myself to say “I can do this.” Brielle helped me to keep my legs open during contractions so baby could come down—my natural instinct was to close them against the pain. Brielle checked me and baby was at a zero station and I just had a thick lip of cervix to work through. This gave me hope. Soon, I would be holding my baby. I was a little panicky and I remember saying a couple times to Brielle and Kari that I was scared and I couldn’t do it. They assured me that this is what every woman feels right before her baby comes out. Kari, who knows me so well, explained that this was often the hardest part of labor for women like me, who really don’t like to be out of control because all of a sudden our body is taking over and this birth is going to happen whether we like it or not.
My midwives kept encouraging me to drain my bladder because I had been drinking a lot but not eliminating. They noticed a bulge in my vaginal area—I think it was my full bladder, but baby was sitting on it and I could not for the life of me urinate.
I had to get out of the tub when Brielle noticed a little more blood than she was comfortable with after my vaginal exam and the midwives had set up a laboring station on the floor by my bed with chux pads and a tablecloth. I was beginning to think I would die if I had one more contraction. They told me to lean over the bed and rock my hips during these contractions, but I was really panicking. I told them I couldn’t and I laid on the floor and began asking for an epidural. I told them that I had to go to the hospital, I just could not birth this baby at home, even though in my head I knew it was too late for an epidural. My baby was coming and I would probably birth him in the car on the way if we left. Still, I kept asking for the epidural.
All of a sudden, I felt a sharp pain on the lower left side of my stomach. I said “my uterus hurts!” and Kari came over and saw that during my next contraction, the top of my uterus became really hard. She immediately got on the phone with 911 and got EMS on the line. I just kept saying that my uterus hurt and I had to go to the hospital. Brielle kept assuring me that we were going to the hospital, but that I shouldn’t worry—baby’s heart tones were fine, my color was good and it didn’t seem like a rupture. Still, I was panicking. I heard Kari telling the EMS person that I was a VBAC and she trusts mom’s instincts in situations like this. I fell back against Jessica and was squeezing her leg and telling her that they had to hurry, I needed to get to the hospital. Brielle and Jessica were so calm and reassuring me, letting me hear baby’s heart tones which were awesome and telling me that I was fine, but we were going to the hospital to be safe.
EMS got there and I couldn’t believe how slowly they were moving! Couldn’t they see that I was dying?!?! I’m laying naked as the day I was born crying about needing an epidural and that something just wasn’t right and here they were calm as can be strapping me to the gurney. Kari got to ride with me in the ambulance which was so nice. She kept reminding me of the birth I wanted and why I wanted it. I told her that I didn’t want that birth anymore, I wanted the epidural. I was so angry with the ambulance driver because he wasn’t even driving with lights and sirens. He told me they assess the situation and if it isn’t a true emergency, they don’t jeopardize other people’s safety by going full speed with lights and sirens. Hello! Couldn’t he see this was an emergency? Let me tell you—the worst contractions I ever had were strapped to that gurney, unable to move. The guy in the back was timing them and they were 3 minutes apart lasting 45 seconds. Kari was using their Doppler to monitor heart tones and she kept telling me baby was fine and I was going to birth him vaginally either in the ambulance or in the hospital once we got there. She asked if we could go to St. David’s because they work well with the midwives and their homebirth transfer clients are really treated well there.
When we get to the hospital, the EMS guys are STILL moving slowly. I am telling Kari over and over I want an epidural and I am dying. She is calm and telling me that I am going to birth my baby soon and that I am fine and baby is fine. I get into a room and I start to tell the nurse over and over that I want an epidural. She says “Honey, it doesn’t work that way. You can’t have an epidural until you’re admitted.” Everyone seems pretty unsympathetic to the fact that I am knocking on heaven’s door right in front of them…in reality, everyone’s calm was exactly what I needed. I am not sure if my midwives ever thought I or the baby was ever in danger, but I know they trusted me when I said that my uterus hurt and they kept me safe by transferring. I remember Kari telling the doctor she didn’t think it was a rupture, but that she was always cautious with VBACs. I remember how, even at the height of my panic, safe I felt with her as a midwife and hearing her say that just confirmed it.
The doctor checked me and I was at an 8 and baby was at minus one or two. What the hell?!?! I had actually regressed!!! I think it was due to the panic and fear I let in. Immediately after he checked me, though, I felt the urge to push—the one and only time I felt pushy during my labor. Everyone told me I couldn’t push because I wasn’t complete. I think I said that I didn’t care, that the baby was coming out. The doctor said that he thought it was time for a c/s. He noticed some decels in baby’s heart tones and he thought the risk of letting me continue to labor wasn’t worth it. I was watching my midwives’ faces to see if I could read what they thought—I desperately wanted to know if they thought I could do it and whether I should refuse the section. They didn’t say much of anything and I couldn’t read their faces. I wanted to ask the doctor to leave so that I could ask them whether I could push the baby out, but I thought that might be frowned upon.
At this point, I thought this baby had to come out. I consented to the cesarean and things really got going. I went to the OR, was put under general anesthesia. Jason couldn’t come with me since it was GA. From the discussions I heard afterwards, I get the feeling that the doctors felt the section was rather emergent, but to the hospital’s credit, I never felt like I may be dealing with a life or death situation. So many hospitals like to play the “dead baby” card and I appreciate that this one didn’t. I did not have a rupture at all, but the doctor did say he found varicose veins along my old scar line, which I have never heard of, but he told me could cause me to bleed to death during labor if they burst. Brielle is going to see what she can find out about this…he did say it was very rare, but I am eager to learn more about this. I would also like to know what the official reason for the cesarean was listed as in my birth records.
When I woke up, I remember being pretty loopy but I found out Kari, Brielle and Jessica had left because they were told I would be asleep for 4-6 hours. I was awake about an hour after surgery asking for Emre. He was brought to me and I nursed him in recovery. I was shocked that he immediately latched on and nursed. I couldn’t believe it! I was so sure breastfeeding would be a struggle as it had been with my first son. I learned that he weighed 10 lb 8 oz, was 22 in and had a 15” head. I took a picture of us nursing and sent it to Brielle and Jessica. I vaguely remember talking to Kari and asking her if she was disappointed in me. I can’t remember her exact response, but I know she said that she wasn’t and I am pretty sure she said that she was really proud of me. I told her I really tried hard and some other things I don’t remember.
I was expecting to be devastated if I had a repeat c/s, but I was surprised with how not only content, but happy I was about my birthing. I had worked so hard for two days, listening to my body and working through contractions. I felt really respected by the hospital staff. No one ever once made me feel bad about being a home birth transfer. In fact, the OB that delivered Emre told me that he is sorry that it ended in a cesarean because he knew how badly I wanted a natural childbirth and how hard I worked for it. He didn’t downplay the importance of my birth to me and that was so very special to me. I felt respected, validated and valued by every single person who was part of my birth experience. I never knew that a CBAC could feel like that.
I used to worry that I would feel hypocritical being such a natural birth advocate having never had a vaginal birth. I think that’s actually one of the reasons it was so important to me to have a vaginal birth with Emre (albeit not the main one, but it was one nonetheless). How could I preach the value of natural birth if I had never birthed a baby naturally? As I reflect on my birth experience, I realize I had just about as close to a natural birth as I could. The only thing I didn’t experience was pushing. I went into labor on my own and I labored for two days with no pain medication or chemical augmentation. I felt my uterus contract and work with my baby to move him into the birth canal. My cervix opened up fully on its own, working to birth my baby and I moved my baby down into a zero station all by myself. I know what a completely natural labor feels like, just not natural delivery, and I am OK with that for now. I feel like I can still advocate for natural birth, having felt the discomfort of contractions and basically been right there, about to birth my baby. And I am often reminded that I always told my midwives that all I wanted was a chance to have a vaginal birth, and that’s what I got. And it was amazing.
It feels really great to give myself permission to feel whatever came along with my birth. I was so sure that I would feel devastated, depressed and just sick over it all if my birth ended in a cesarean. I am pleased to find that I only feel power, beauty, peace and love when I think of Emre’s birth. Breastfeeding has been a breeze for us, for which I am so grateful. I have found so many blessings on this journey, not the least of which is an acceptance of my cesarean birth as a positive experience.
When I first wrote this birth story, I wasn’t sure that I would try for an hba2c. My earlier versions of this story included a paragraph about whether or not I would try given that I did have a pretty good freak out during transition and that I grow large babies (I know, I know….my body won’t grow a baby I can’t birth. I do believe that, I just have yet to birth one!). Since its original writing, I have decided that I will definitely be going for an hba2c with the support of my amazing birth team. I know now just what my body is capable of and I believe 100% that I can birth a baby. I also know that if I have to transfer for any reason, I will go to a hospital with respectful and supportive staff. If I absolutely have to have a cesarean, I know that it will be just as positive and uplifting as Emre’s birth—and I can’t wait to do it all again.
Anyway, all that is far in the future. For now, I am reveling in the amazing birth of my son Emre. I am loving nursing him, cuddling him, getting to know him and love on him. We will see what the future has in store, but for now, I am just so thankful for my wonderful HBAC turned CBAC.