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Dawn’s Birth of Markalee

Baby Markalee

My first c-section was with my sixth pregnancy, which I carried as a surrogate mom. I unfortunately wasn’t matched with the best doctor or couple. The doctor claimed the baby was large and was going to get stuck in the birth canal during birth. The couple I was carrying for just wanted the baby out of my body ASAP because they lived far away and wanted it scheduled! I was in a no win situation where going against medical advice wasn’t in my best interest.  Even the hospital staff gossipped about how at 5’9”, I did not need a c-section  The baby — who ended up weighing only 8 lbs at birth — was c-sectioned from my body and wisked away to be with his parents.

Four months later — to me and my husband Todd’s surprise — we were pregnant with our own child. All I could think about was how much pain I was in after the c-section and worried how I would be able to care for my new baby and the three older kids we already had at home. I had also just been in a roll over car accident three months ago and still having intermittent problems with my back. I was worried that should I have another c-section, the spinal anesthesia would cause additional problems with my back.

At the time, we lived in Los Angeles, and we were successful in finding a doctor who was very pro VBAC. We started our pregnancy care with him. In favor of more space for all of us and to be closer to immediate family, we ended up moving up to the Santa Barbara area.

Unfortunately, the Santa Barbara area is not VBAC friendly at all.  I was 25 weeks pregnant and determined to have a VBAC. I approached my husband about a midwife. He agreed to be open-minded about it. We found a lovely birth center 60 miles north of where we live, in San Luis Obispo. The mid-wife there agreed that I shouldn’t have any problem having a VBAC after 6 vaginal births and 1 c-section. My pregnancy went great until 35 1/2 weeks. Prior to us giving birth at the birth center, our midwife wanted us to have an ultrasound to make sure everything looked good. I had started experiencing what I thought were contractions, the baby was very low, and we were excited to meet our new daughter.

The next morning after our ultrasound I got a call from our midwife. Our fluid level was too low for a birth center birth and I need to promptly transfer my care to a doctor. She referred us a doctor who was open to VBACs.

I was crushed. I wanted nothing more than to have a water birth with my daughter, and in many ways blamed myself for not being able to. Even though I had helped 3 couples become parents by being a surrogate mom, I couldn’t help but blame myself for the strain I had put my body through over the years from carrying that many pregnancies and for agreeing to be c-sectioned in the first place.

We promptly went to see the new doctor. Our fluid level was 3 on the ultrasound. The doctor told us that he was going to recheck and if the fluid was under 5 we needed to promptly go to the hospital and be delivered. He explained that the baby would need to spend a little time in NICU should she be born now at 35 1/2 weeks.

Fortunately, our fluid was up a bit to 6 and baby was doing well. Our new goal became going into labor on our own prior to 40 weeks, and keeping the fluid level up. I had never gone into labor by myself before 42 weeks, so I knew this was going to be a challenge.

I promptly texted our midwife and asked her what I could do to bring the fluid level up. I still was hopeful I could go back to the birth center and that my birth plan was just temporarily on hold.

She previously told me the fluid had to be 7 or higher to have a birth at the birth center. She suggested I drink as much fluid as I could but told me if the placenta wasn’t functioning, it probably wouldnt help. I went home and drank as much fluid as I could and began bouncing on a birthing ball throughout the day and doing squats a couple of times a day all in hopes of bringing baby down and starting labor.

Our fluid level stayed at 6 1/2 until 37 weeks. The morning of our 37 week appointment I insisted we stop for coffee on the way to the doctors appointment. My husband suggested we wait until after the appointment just in case there was a problem with the baby. I said to him, “don’t be silly you know the baby is fine. We just saw the doctor on Thursday and today is Monday.” In the waiting room of the doctor’s office, I gulped down the rest of my coffee and went in for my stress test. The doctor came in and said, “oh this isn’t good! There is only fluid in one pocket. I’m going to check your cervix and we need to talk.”

All the squats and bouncing on the birth ball and I was only 1 cm and the baby was now high. Since I had a previous c-section, induction was not an option due to the increased risk of uterine rupture. I had no choice, I was having my baby today via c-section.

Since I had just had coffee I had to wait 6 hours before I could have the c-section. I asked if I could run a few errands. It was a few days before Halloween, and I wanted to get a costume and a few extra things. The Dr. gave me a firm NO and told us to go straight to the hospital. We were monitored for 5 hours, and finally it was time for the c-section. During my first c-section I was really groggy and could hardly keep my eyes open. I begged the anesthesiologist to make sure that didn’t happen again. I wanted to see my baby being born.

I was prepped for surgery and they attempted the spinal for what felt like forever. I was full of tears, emotions, and fears.  Finally, after a number of attempts they got the spinal in, got my husband and began the c-section. Then I begged the doctor not to cut my babies head, which happened with my last c-section by accident.

Our daughter Markalee was born October 24th, 2011, a healthy 6 lbs 4oz.  She was brought to the warmer, then wisked off with dad. While the doctors finished up, I began to become ill and began throwing up. This was not the birth I had dreamed of, but I had a beautiful healthy daughter, which, in the end, is all that matters.

The more I look back, the more I wish I would have insisted on attempting a vaginal delivery instead of agreeing to have my first c-section previously. I knew I did not need a c-section, even questioned it all the way into the operating room. With my last pregnancy, I knew I made an informed decision and in the end, c-section was what was best for the baby. In the end, having a healthy baby is all that matters regardless of how the baby is born.


  1. Sarah (@anderzoid) says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. What an amazing thing to have been able to carry a baby for 3 families! And oh momma, BIRTH MATTERS. Yes, I am so thankful to have precious children and I am still so hurt by the bad experiences during giving birth.

    I have so many mixed emotions just reading your story, particularly with the initial Cesraean. The worst pain in my life was during my ceserean recovery & I don’t know how I would have handled having that added outside pressure from people who wouldn’t need to recover or be there to care for you during the recovery from surgery. My mom was pressuring my OB to “end it [w a cesarean]” & it still feels like it was a betrayal. The calmness in your telling of these cesareans is reassuring to me, one day I might be that calm ratel long my cesarean stories.

  2. Megan says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, Dawn.