Antonette is the writer for the Homebirth and Midwifery column for Mother Earth News Online. She is currently expecting baby #3 at home any day. This is the story of her home birth VBAC of her second baby.
It has taken me a year and a half to write our birthing story. I couldn’t write it because it was ours and I wanted to keep it with us and savor every memory. I’m still amazed each and every day at the entire experience. I look at your sweet face and can’t believe that you are here, and how you came to us on October 6, 2010 was peaceful and nothing short of amazing. Welcome Evangelina, you have given me more than you will ever know.
Birth Story of Evangélina Antoinette
October 6, 2010, at 11:04 am I said the three words I waited over four and a half years to say. I looked in to my newborn daughter’s eyes and said “I DID IT.”…
My pregnancy with Evangélina was easy and I spent 9 months reading everything I could get my hands on about homebirth and VBAC’s. I had prenatal care with the most amazing homebirth Midwife who never treated me like I was a “VBAC case”. I was a woman, who was pregnant, and healthy, and unless something proved that otherwise she would treat me no differently. Sometimes I would actually forget that I was planning a VBAC. She made me feel like I could do this, and that I have been doing this for ages, and to trust my body even during the gestation process. The empowerment she gave back to me during my pregnancy gave me strength during labor and delivery. I am forever grateful for the care she gave me.
On October 5, 2010, I was 41 weeks and ready to meet our daughter. I was very anxious and excited at the thought that at any minute my body would be starting labor, on its own! That evening my mother took me to a local diner in our small town for a mother/daughter dinner. During dinner I started having some light contractions. This was no different than the nightly contractions I was having every night for almost two weeks, and by this point I just ignored them and didn’t get excited. I learned to welcome these contractions as a way to practice focusing and relaxing. It was also a beautiful way of my body reminding me “You CAN do this, because we ARE doing this”. My body worked.
Clément had been battling a cold for a few days and wanted to go to bed early. I thought this was a great idea for the both of us since I knew labor could start at any moment, it was probably best that we got as much sleep as we could. The contractions from dinner hadn’t stopped and I couldn’t fall asleep so I decided that I would lay down and put on my pregnancy visualization cd to help soothe me. At about 10pm my contractions were feeling a little stronger than I was used to. I laid there and timed them at about 5 to 6 minutes apart. I rested for another hour as the contractions grew stronger. I went downstairs to the kitchen, not wanting to wake Clément because I was still in denial that I was actually in labor at this point. I started walking back up the stairs when my water broke. It was more of a small gush, but in that moment there was no denying that this was it…I WAS in labor. I had been waiting for this moment for weeks!
I ran (waddled) up the stairs, tried to wake Clément who was passed out on nighttime cold medicine.This is a man who never drinks coffee or alcohol, and had just taken cold medicine before bed. He wouldn’t budge. The words “honey, my water broke” didn’t even phase him. This was a good opportunity to make some phone calls. I called my midwife, our doula (and good friend) Flora, my mom and my best friend Jes (who lived in Kentucky at the time). I told the midwife, doula and mom that I didn’t feel there was any reason for them to come over just yet, the contractions weren’t too painful and I would really like to just be with Clement at the beginning and try to rest.
Our doula arrived at around 2 am, and my contractions were still a good 5 minutes apart. I had moved to the birthing ball and found it helpful to bounce and open up my hips with each contraction. I wanted to get some rest before things really picked up, so Clement shut off the lights and Flora went downstairs and rested on the couch. Clement and I laid in our bed together and worked through the contractions for a half hour when I decided it was time to call the midwife, the contractions were coming closer at 3-4 minutes apart and it was getting harder to manage them. After calling the midwife, I moved to the shower where I stayed on hands and knees and rocked through each contraction. The warm water felt so good as it came down on my back. The contractions were painful, but I loved being able to move the way I needed to in order to handle them as they grew stronger.
After the shower, we moved to our bedroom and stayed there on my hands and knees, resting my head on the ottoman to the glider and rocking back and forth to the rhythm of each contraction. I later saw a photo my doula captured of me in that moment and I had my eyes closed and a smile on my face. I looked so happy to be in labor, no matter how uncomfortable I may have been.
At 4 am our midwife and her assistant arrived. They got me on the bed and checked me. I was 4 cm. Those were the sweetest words I had ever heard. That’s 2 more cm than I ever got with Baylin. I felt like I could do anything in that moment. I started crying and turned to my doula and said “Did you hear that? I’m 4 cm!” I was smiling. My body was working. It wasn’t broken. I didn’t feel afraid of what was to come. I gave in and fully trusted whatever my body intended to do. This was going to be me experiencing ME. My body knew exactly what to do, and I was just along for the ride, and I had a wonderful and loving group of people in my home stepping back and trusting the same.
After I was checked, the midwife suggested the birth pool and I couldn’t have said “YES!” faster. Clémentwent downstairs to fill up the pool. Half an hour later I stepped into what I thought was heaven. Tucked in the back of our dining room, in my own private little space, was my birth pool full of warm water. I had the freedom to stay on my hands and knees and rock and sway. In between the contractions I was able to rest my head on the pool’s soft side. It made the contractions space out more, but didn’t lessen their effectiveness, and offered a wonderful sense of relief in between each.
My midwife went home to rest, and her assistant stayed with me while Clement and our doula rested. We dimmed the lights as my doula lit all the beautiful votive candle holders made for me at my blessingway. The room had such a peaceful warm glow to it. In between the contractions I looked around and thought “this is how it should be”. Everything felt right. No one was in control or trying to orchestrate my labor.
At 7 am my mother arrived to help take care of Baylin. Bay was amazing from the first moment he came in the room to see I was in the labor. He came up to me and softly spoke and told me it would be ok, and gave me a kiss, then walked back to the living room to be with my mother. He wasn’t worried or scared. Even my 4 yr old trusted my body and stepped back to let it do what it had to. The deep loud moaning sounds never once concerned him. He would give me a gentle kiss as if to say “you CAN do this mommy” before heading back to the living room.
As the hours went by, my contractions grew even stronger and more painful. Each contraction required more focus. If I felt myself slip even just a little, if the thought “I can’t do this” slowly started to creep up I could feel even more pain and I had to snap back. When you are having a natural birth at home, you don’t have the options of drugs. The worried me when I was pregnant, but when I was in labor it was what actually helped me through each and every contractions. When pain meds aren’t even an option you have two choices….teeter off into a dark place hide in the corner praying to god it all ends soon and feeling 99.9% sure you are going to die, or….you just do it…you just get through each every one. As a contraction started I faced it with a “bring it on” attitude. That contraction and I were going to work together to get this baby out. I rocked, and moaned to the same rhythm each and every time. I was one more contraction closer to holding her.
Our bathroom was upstairs and it felt to me like it was a mile away. My midwives finally got me up and out of the water and headed to the bathroom in between a contraction. A contraction slammed in to me as I was going up the stairs. I didn’t have my pool, my warm water, or a flat surface to get on my hands and knees and rocks. When I finally made it up the stairs I told everyone that there was no way I was going back down. While sitting on the toilet, I had a few really intense contractions, but sitting on the toilet made them feel so good. I felt very in control. Since I was not going to go back down the stairs, no matter how much I loved being in my birth pool, we decided to try and get me squatting on the bed. I was about 9 cm with a cervical lip. I was feeling a lot of rectal pressure and wanted to try pushing. With every contraction my poor husband was being squished further and further into the memory foam mattress. It was very uncomfortable for the both of us to be on the bed.
The midwife brought the birthing stool into our bedroom and I immediately moved over to it. Pushing on the stool was amazing. It allowed me to push down with each contraction, and watch as she crowned. I was able to SEE how effective my pushing was. No one was telling me to push, it was just my body and my baby, and I was just experiencing it all. I remember looking out the window at the changing leaves thinking “I’m doing it! I’m actually doing it!”.Then thoughts of Baylin’s birth flooded my head: an OB who didn’t allow my body the time it needed, he didn’t trust birth. Sitting in a hospital bed for 12 hours curled up in pain and scared of what was going on with my body…fighting the process, having the “snowball” of inductions and getting stuck at 2 ½ cm., then having my body cut open, my baby removed from my body, and taken away from me. In that moment as another contraction was building up, I pulled all that anger, and hurt and I felt like Super Woman. I pushed with everything I had. I pushed out years of hurt. At 11:04 am my beautiful 8 lb 4 oz baby girl was born. An overwhelming rush of relief and shock came over me. I sobbed as I held her in my arms saying “I did it! She came out! “. She was beautiful. To me, there was no one else in that room but her and I. I savored that moment. She had my lips, Clément’s ears, and dark hair. When Clément came over and kissed me, I felt like the luckiest woman in the world. I did it! I brought my daughter earthside on MY terms. I birthed my daughter and also the trust I thought was lost in my own body. I was healed.
“Women who are giving birth, trust yourselves. Trust your inner power. Trust your ability to give life. This is something absolutely sacred that is inside all women in the world. “ - Ricardo Jones, Orgasmic Birth
Slideshow created by our talented birth photographer Christine Lillard at Eyes of a Child Photography: HBAC of Evangélina Antoinette