January 12, 2019

my home birth after three cesareans

on december eighteenth at two minutes past nine at night, we delivered our cora girl at home, in our bed, surrounded by people who just believed in me. it was one of the most healing events of my life. but i can't tell you about my healing experience until i share (very briefly) my journey in my other three deliveries first.

my daughter bryanna was delivered via cesarean after twenty two and a half hours of labor. labor that was started by being bullied into induction after being only forty one weeks with her. i was told i could only be on my back, i couldn't eat or drink anything, i couldn't walk around, and had cervical check after cervical check until they decided to break my water at only four centimeters which ultimately resulted in them calling it "failure to progress" and said i had to go in for an emergency cesarean. i was then in recovery where i couldn't hold or see my daughter until four hours later.

my son oliver was delivered via "elective" cesarean after i had found a midwife that said she would do a vaginal birth after cesarean, only to be "fired" after several visits because she was going through a divorce and couldn't take on any more clients. which forced me to find a practice that would take me at twenty two weeks and ultimately forced me into having another repeat cesarean. and while his delivery was less traumatic, the lack of support and my lack of knowledge was incredibly discouraging.

my son joseph was delivered via cesarean after forty three plus hours of home labor. some would consider this a "failed home birth" and "failed vaginal birth after cesarean", but i call it a "you never know how much support your midwife will give you when you're actually in labor" and "get yourself a doula. period." birth. while my labor with him was long and did become stalled at some points, i was really only in active labor for about five hours before the traumatic and heart breaking transfer to the hospital. our decision to go was ultimately ours, but i can't go on without saying that our hand was somewhat forced into the decision by our midwife, who, apparently, just kind of gave up on us. at eight centimeters, joseph's head was hooked on my pubic bone (so we were told) not allowing joseph's head to come through and putting a lot of pressure on my cervix. my cervix had swollen down to six centimeters (so we were told) and my body was pushing for me, aggravating the situation more. with my midwife and assistant consistently telling me to "stop pushing", even though my body was doing it for me, i became scared and discouraged and panicked. when getting in the tub wouldn't work (yes, that is the only thing they suggested i do. no, they did not try spinning babies with rebozo or a different position or trying to manipulate his head or my cervix even just a little bit) my midwife said, "well, you could keep going or you could go to the hospital. i think we should go to the hospital, but i'll let you two talk it over and decide what to do." and she left the room. (this is not reflected in joseph's birth story for many reasons, but most of all because i never found healing in his birth until i delivered cora and i hate confrontation, so i never talked to my midwife about it) exhausted and defeated, i collapsed into my husband's arms crying "i'm sorry" over and over again and reluctantly requested we go to the hospital. joseph was delivered by the same doctor who delivered oliver and that was the only positive thing about that entire situation (besides joseph finally arriving earth side at forty two weeks exactly).

now, each of my labor and deliveries were extremely different from the other, just as any labor and delivery would be. but what is common between them is they were all traumatic and left me feeling like i was robbed of the vaginal, home birth i had always dreamed of having; that i knew i could have. so when we found out we were expecting in april, i reached out to a midwife to see if a home birth would even be possible and if she would be willing. as i walked down to the coffee shop where i was meeting her, i fully expected her to tell me she couldn't. but, she didn't. she supported me without reservation, though she did have some precautionary things to discuss with me to make sure her license wouldn't get stripped from her if she were to take me on as a client. if all i had to do was check a few boxes for her so i could have my vaginal home birth, i would - without hesitation. my meeting with her made my heart swell with encouragement and each appointment with her was even more reassurance that i would get to have my baby at home.

cora was due december seventeenth and she came pretty much right on time. on the seventeenth i had a visit with my midwife, justine, where she did a non-stress test and a hardcore stripping of the membranes. i had bry with me, so when we left the birth center we decided to walk around some stores to help get contractions moving along. by store number two i was hardly able to get from aisle to aisle without needing to stop briefly and breathe. we went home and i laid down to rest because i knew the time was coming. i ended up getting back up after an hour or so to take bry to get some piercings for christmas and by the time we got home, the contractions began and were about eight minutes apart. within an hour they were five minutes apart, but lasting maybe thirty to forty five seconds. i let my midwife know and she came over to check me. i was at three centimeters and about ninety percent effaced so i told her i planned to lie down to try to rest through the night and if i needed her, i'd call her right away. i also alerted my doula, hannah, that we were probably having a baby the next day and she helped talk me through some things i could do for comfort. through the night i labored, but they were more spaced out since i was resting and still in early labor. when i woke up that morning and got out of bed, the contractions kicked back up. joe was heading out to take oliver to school and i informed him that he should probably stay home from work today "just in case". he rushed oliver off to school and came back right away. the contractions were big and coming on strong. i sat in cora's nursery for a while, lit my blessingway candle, texted everyone who came to my blessignway to light their wish candle, put on my birthing necklace and after an hour of consistent, huge, rolling contractions, i called justine to come over and check me. around ten thirty that morning i was in active labor. hannah was on her way, my midwife was preparing for this baby to come, my husband was getting the house in order and bry was holding my hand through each contraction. i put on some music and swayed to the melodic sound which seemed to be in tune with the wave of every contraction.

my doula arrived and immediately gave me comfort. she helped time my contractions, rubbed my back, reminded me to stay moving, and suggested we go for a walk. i threw on some clothes and we headed down my street. as we were walking back to the house, a huge contraction washed over me and i stood in the middle of the street gripping my belly, face pointed toward the sky and the sun just so happened to peek out from behind the clouds and say a warm hello to my face. i think right there, i could feel the warmth of every woman before me - even ebbing in contractions with me at that moment - who had a successful vaginal birth after cesarean or was on that journey in that moment. it was like a warm hug and a quiet nudge of "you got this". and at that exact moment it seemed as though hannah squeezed my arm in agreement. the contraction melted away, the sun tucked itself all cozy like behind the clouds, and we continued back home. shortly after, my midwife and her assistant, natalie, showed up and i became very excited that soon i would be holding my rainbow baby. she and natalie did what they needed to do - monitor me and cora, chart, take my blood pressure. but it also seemed like - coupled with my doula - we were all just friends hanging out. there was something just so comfortable and harmonious about everyone's presence that made me feel even more at ease. they day continued on with contractions and bouncing on the ball and walking around the house. i even managed to get a shower in, drink a smoothie, and sing a few iron and wine songs (which was my playlist of choice thanks to my doula). i rested a few times in hopes of gaining a bit more energy to prepare for the hard part coming up.

at some point, my midwife checked me and i was still at a six after several hours, so i asked her to break my water and that's when then things really started rolling. my contractions felt deep and it felt like my body was opening up to bring this baby earth side. my chin tucked into my chest and i moaned deeply with each contraction and the intensity was unreal. all day i kept spouting out to anyone who would listen to me, "she feels like she is going to come out of my butt". it was so strange, all of that pressure right there. so strange and intense that i wondered, briefly, if there was some possible way that she could actually come out of my butt. i may have even asked my midwife if it was possible - we all just laughed. i began feeling like i needed to push and my body started to bear down. after a quick check, i was told i was at an eight. i immediately began to worry because that is what happened with joseph and ultimately, after being told repeatedly to "stop pushing", we were hospital bound and he was delivered via cesarean. i tried to breathe through the contraction in hopes that my body would stop bearing down, but unable to, i began to cry out, "i don't want to do this anymore. i can't do this." to which my midwife, her assistant, my doula, my husband and bry all told me, "you can do this! you are doing this! we're going to do this!". my midwife immediately took action and got me into this completely unnatural-feeling position where i was on my knees, chest and face on bed, and her and my doula switched off pulling and supporting my hips with the rebozo with each contraction. after what only felt like a few minutes (i later learned i did this crazy position for twenty five minutes) i requested that i get out of that position, i hate it, let's do something else. she had me get on the birthing stool through a few contractions, but decided that wasn't the best position for me and asked if i could squat and hold onto the bed for support. willing to try anything, i obliged, only to be reassured that i am indeed a very lazy person who's workouts only ever consisted of dropping the kids off at childcare and using the "lazy person's" stationary bike for twenty minutes, then "stretching", then sitting in the steam room for fifteen minutes. after that, i'd shower and then hang out in the lobby of the gym for another ten minutes scrolling through instagram before picking up the kids. so no; those lazy legs were not going to support me through the contractions and i decided that the best, most comfortable place for me to continue on was on my back, in my bed, knees and feet up in the air while gripping onto my headboard. while that isn't the most ideal position for women to push a baby out, it worked for me.

apparently doing that weird, unnatural, animalistic rebozo action worked because it took about three or four contractions of her stretching my cervix around cora's head and her head was finally through my cervix. hearing that was music to my ears. i had never been this far before and to know that soon i would be holding my baby in my arms, in my home, in my bed, after her being lifted out of the birth canal - something i've never done before - was the most encouraging and inspiring thing ever. and it put a fire in me that i'd never had before to push as hard as i could. with my daughter and husband and doula at my side chanting encouraging mantras, i braced myself on my headboard, tucked my chin into my chest, mentally reminded myself to breathe and moan, lifting my legs as each contraction flowed in - one leg supported by the assistant, one by my husband - and i pushed; three times with each contraction. my midwife reminding me each time how amazing i'm doing, how great i am pushing. and it felt great; both emotionally and physically. i still felt that crazy pressure in my butt, though, and it didn't help that she was pressing on it to help me direct each push downward. i kept telling her to "stop touching my butt" (in my birthing video, which bry happily recorded for us, the first thing you hear me say is just that!). i was really over the pressure in my butt apparently.

she updated me at each stage, asking if i wanted to have natalie hold the mirror so i could see where she was at in the birth canal or reach down and feel how much hair cora had. i shook my head no because i didn't want to be discouraged with where she was versus where i thought she might be, but also because i wanted to just press on. i had no idea how close she was until i felt her head come out. in between that contraction and the next, my midwife had to move cora's arm out of the way because her face started to turn upward so she could come the rest of the way out. when cora turned, her shoulder tore me and i let out a yelp of some kind (though i didn't know at the time i had torn).  with just one more push, she slid out and my husband brought her beautiful, tiny body up onto my tummy. practically in unison, everyone in the room said, "you did it!" and i just laid there staring at this life that i just brought earth side in disbelief. after just a few minutes i delivered the placenta and felt immediate relief. my midwife let me know i had torn and i think after bry had the honor of cutting the cord, started to suture me up, which really felt like a crazy tickle. i did accuse her several times of "touching my butt" (seriously - i was really over the butt pressure), but she told me she wasn't and we all just kind of giggled at how silly my (joking) accusations were. once i was all situated down there, justine and natalie started to clean up then they checked cora out. and of course she was perfect. eight pounds, eight ounces, twenty one and a half inches of pure perfectness. (*disclaimer: there are photos of a baby's head crowning and you might see some boob - just a warning before you continue!)

after everything was cleaned up and both cora and i were checked out, everyone started to leave. hannah hugged me and told me i did an amazing job and she was proud of me, followed by justine and natalie. they said their good-bye's and we just laid there on the bed staring at this beautiful create that i got to bring earth side how i wanted to, how i always knew i could - vaginally. cora girl began to nurse, my husband refilled my water and got me a snack, bry hugged and kissed me and said good night, and i just had this beautiful moment alone with my baby girl, my rainbow baby, my victory. i looked down at her as she drank up that liquid gold and whispered, "we did it."


midwife - justine at pure birth

doula  and birth photographer - hannah at honey pot doula services

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