After the birth of my first daughter, I found myself on a journey. It was a journey of self discovery, and as cliché as that sounds (Aren’t all journeys a way to discover yourself?) it was a means of healing through action. I needed to heal after giving birth for the first time. I had to heal physically and mentally as well. I had to heal from the fact that because of the way I gave birth, some would say that I didn’t give birth to my daughter at all, but I was delivered of her. Why? I was coerced into a c-section due to a “big baby” at 38 weeks into a very healthy and uneventful pregnancy. Despite everything in my heart telling me that it wasn’t the right option, my obstetrician used very scary terms in order to convince me at that moment that it was my only option.
But, this story isn’t about that first experience. This story is from an empowered place. It is from a place at the end of one journey and the beginning of another. While still in the hospital, after the birth of my first daughter, I realized that what had happened to me and my daughter was not appropriate. I was ill-informed when I signed the consent forms, and I had just been the recipient of a surgery that in all reality was likely unnecessary. I felt defeated. I felt sad. Above all, however, I was angry. I was going to get to the bottom of what happened to me and my sweet baby, and I was going to make sure it never happened again.
Upon coming home, and after a long time of healing from the surgery, I began researching how someone with a natural birth plan, who read some of the most popular pregnancy books along with Natural Birth the Bradley Way, and had a very healthy, active pregnancy, could end up having a c-section without having experienced the first contraction. I joined an attachment parenting group in my city and from there found the resources I needed (including ICAN) and eventually became a part of a VBAC support group. I requested a copy of my medical records and was shocked by what I read there, but informed as to how it had happened.
After a year of trying, I finally conceived my second daughter. I found a homebirth midwife who was the perfect fit for me. I hired a doula who was a VBAC mother herself, and so supportive. I took Bradley classes and prenatal yoga. I trusted my body and my baby to do what was best. I knew I was capable of birthing my baby.
At around 39 weeks, I had an overwhelming feeling that I should be going into labor. I hadn’t experienced Braxton Hicks, but something within was telling me that labor should be starting. It did not. Due to our genetics (both my husband’s and mine) we knew our baby was going to be on the larger side. At 40 weeks, my fundal height was 45. My sweet babe was also in a persistent complete frontal facing occiput posterior position. At my 40 week appointment, I agreed to let my midwife strip my membranes and I began taking homeopathics in hopes that labor would start. My strong urge to labor had not gone away. It wasn’t that I was miserable being pregnant. I love being pregnant. It wasn’t that I was in a rush to have my baby in arms. I love having a baby inside. It was a feeling that labor should be happening.
At 41 weeks and 6 days, we had just ordered dinner when I felt a strange pinch in my lower abdomen and upon shifting my weight in my seat my bag of waters burst. When I stood, it immediately flooded my pants. I sloshed to the restaurant bathroom, while my husband asked the waiter to bag our food to go. We called our midwife and doula on the ride home. They met us there. Everything checked out fine. The only issue was I was not having contractions.
Eventually, after some natural methods used to help things along, I began to experience some contractions. The only issue was I was approaching a time that was no longer safe for me to labor without antibiotics and a broken bag of waters. My midwife felt best that we transfer to the hospital as there was no change in my cervix, and labor had not become regular.
On the ride to the hospital, I had the strongest contraction and realized that I could no longer remain in a sitting position. After stopping until the contraction ended, we somehow got me to the hospital before the next one hit. I was settled in a room, and there began to labor in a regular, strong pattern. Finally! However, the obstetrician was sure that I would not deliver vaginally after he checked my cervix. I told him that I would like to labor as long as was safe and we’d reassess then, and he agreed that that would be fine. As I labored, I had to remain on hands and knees as no other position felt safe to me. I moaned and rocked with the contractions as my husband, doula, and sister held space for me. At some point, my doula convinced me into the shower, which was awesome.
After 7 hours, the last two of which felt like transition to me and my doula, I agreed to another cervical check. There was still no change. The nurse monitored us awhile, and noticed some small decels. It was time to make a decision. At that point, I felt like there was something amiss and had been amiss since about the 39 week point. We all agreed that if things were normal, I would have shown some progress. Upon some heavy consideration, I agreed that a c-section was the safest way to continue.
My epidural was placed, and the staff gave me some time to rest before the surgery. I laughed with my doula and my husband. I rested. Sure, I was sad that I wasn’t birthing at home, and even sadder that I wouldn’t be birthing vaginally, but I knew this surgery was necessary. I knew it was the best thing for my baby. I made the decision from an informed place. It was an easier decision than I thought it would be. I had told my doula and midwife that if a transfer became necessary that they would have to take me kicking and screaming. But, I trusted my body and my baby. My body and my baby told me what the right thing to do was.
My OR was quiet, and it wasn’t long until my baby was born. It was so different than my first surgical birth. During the first birth, the OR radio played “Built This City” by Starship. I was so scared that I had to be sedated twice and therefore was very confused during the surgery. This time, I didn’t have to be sedated. I wasn’t scared. I was able to smile, and I didn’t cry until I heard my baby cry.
My beautiful girl (which we had thought was a boy the whole pregnancy) was born a round and joyful 11lbs. and 22 inches long. She was still in the OP position with her head tilted back instead of tucked. Her cord was wrapped around her arm three times tightly, and it left pressure knots in her muscle that we had to massage daily until they went away. Given her position, cord issues, and size relative to position, she could not have come to us vaginally. These were not things we could have anticipated. There was a real reason for the c-section that brought her into the world. I could actually be thankful for that option now. But, what’s more, is that I learned something. I learned how strong I was. I learned that giving birth isn’t only about vaginal birth. It’s about listening to your body and your baby. Follow their lead, and trust that you are made to give birth, you are made to know what’s best, and you will be okay regardless of what needs to happen in order for everyone to make it through to the other side healthy.
I still believe I can give birth vaginally. In fact, I know I can. I’m woman. I was made to give birth. Since, my CBAC I’ve become a birth doula, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and certified prenatal yoga instructor. I believe in birth every day I wake up to face the sun. I believe in the inherent wisdom of women to become familiar with their body and listen to its urgings. I believe any woman who has the access to the proper information can obtain a peaceful and healthy birth. Information is the key. Ignorance was not bliss for me. Information got me started. Then, using the information I gleaned I was able to give in to the reality of my situation and though not my perfect birth scenario, I birthed my baby from an empowered place. You can too.