My daughter, Claire, is three years old and I have never written her birth story. I want to clarify that the reason isn’t because I don’t consider my c-section a birth, or because I don’t look back on her birth with as much love and gratitude as I do my son’s birth. Both of my birth experiences have given me very different and important perspectives on who I am as a mother and have shown me how strong and fearless of a woman I really am.
I would say my story starts even before I got pregnant with Claire in 2010. About a year before, I read my first birth story from a college friend on Facebook. Her birth was a breech c-section and after reading her story, I knew that I didn’t want to have a c-section. When I found out that I was pregnant with Claire, I remember sending her an email asking her “how do I avoid a c/s?”. Throughout my pregnancy, I was aware of the risks, but I didn’t really think it could happen to me. I found out Claire was breech at 37 weeks and I was devastated. After trying to get her to flip with a chiropractor and lying upside down for hours at a time, I went ahead and scheduled my c/s. I have never been so terrified as I was when I walked into the OR and saw what felt like thirty people staring at me, waiting for me to get on the table. I was cold and alone and I wanted to run. The epidural was awful. I hated the feeling of losing control. The nurse who was holding my hand during the epidural asked if I was ok, and I replied “no”. I wasn’t ok. Medically speaking, the epidural was fine, but I needed Juan there.
Juan finally arrived after I was numb and they started with the c/s. The tugging and pulling was so strange and I just wanted it over with. Once Claire was born, I assume they took her to a warmer to be looked over and then she was swaddled up. I couldn’t see and the work of fixing me up was underway. Eventually, Juan brought her over and I got to see her little face. That was it. I was able to see her for one minute and then they left so that Claire could get checked and I could get finished up. I started to panic again. Was Claire ok? Was she healthy? Am I ok? Why isn’t the OB saying anything to me? Is there something wrong? It seemed to take forever until I was with Claire again, but Juan says it was only 45 minutes. When I was finally able to hold Claire, it was difficult for me to connect the baby that was inside of me with the one that I was trying to nurse. We had a difficult two nights in the hospital. Being restricted to the bed and not being able to change her diaper or walk with her was miserable.
I suffered with postpartum depression for the next 11-13 months. It went undiagnosed. I knew that the birth was a big part of the reason why and I was already asking at my 6 week checkup about the possibility of a VBAC with my next child.
I can only describe my pregnancy with Mason as proactive. I had frequent visits with a chiropractor to make sure he was head down, I practiced yoga until I was 38 weeks pregnant and I decided to get my prenatal care and birth at a birthing center with midwives who supported my desire for a VBAC and a natural birth.
I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions with Mason starting at 37 weeks and by the time I passed 40 weeks, I was getting anxious and impatient. I knew that he would come when he was ready and I could feel my body doing what it was supposed to do, but I was definitely nervous about going over 42 weeks and having to transfer to a hospital. At 40 weeks and 3 days, I decided to have a membrane sweep. My appointment was at 9:00 am and by the time I put Claire down for her nap at 12:30, I was feeling crampy. I tried to lie down and take a nap but after lying down for two hours and not being able to fall asleep, it was time to wake Claire up. At that point, I still thought I was just having cramps from the sweep. I spent the afternoon playing with Claire and watching cartoons while sitting on the exercise ball. At 4:30 pm, I noticed that my cramps were actually contractions and were coming in waves, so I decided to time them. They were about 6-12 minutes apart. I called my husband at work and asked him to come home early because I was having a hard time handling Claire and managing my contractions (especially since she would tickle me and tell me to stop during them!).
Juan got home with dinner around 5:30 pm. We decided that I would eat and then time them again. At that point they were closer and a little more intense, probably ranging from 3-7 minutes apart. I decided to take a shower to see if they would slow down, but they continued to come just as strong and consistent. We weren’t sure if it was the real thing, so I called the midwife on call at 7:00 pm and asked if she thought we should take Claire to my friend’s house. She thought it was just my body reacting to the sweep and told me that this could continue for a couple of days. If I didn’t have the baby within two days, I could go in for another sweep. WHAT?! I remember thinking that I couldn’t last two more days with contractions like that!
So, we went about our routine; watching some TV and putting Claire to bed. By the time we were finished, I had to breathe through my contractions. I laid on the couch for the next hour while Juan sat with me and rubbed my thigh with each contraction. I tried going to bed to get some rest at 10:00 pm, but there was just no way that I was going to sleep. Juan and I laid there for the next hour, breathing through contractions and he continued to rub to the rhythm of our breath. Luckily, Juan decided to take Claire to our friend’s house around 11:30 pm. I labored in the kitchen by myself while he was gone, leaning on the kitchen counter because it was the only comfortable position that I could find. By 12:00 am, contractions were 2-3 minutes apart for at least an hour and a half. It was time to call the birth center!
When we called, a different midwife answered. Juan told her how close the contractions were and then asked if I wanted to talk to her. As soon as I grabbed the phone and started to talk, another contraction hit and I unable to talk through it. That’s when I knew I was ready to go to the birth center. The midwife listened to me have the next couple of contractions, and then told us to meet them at the birth center in 40 minutes.
It was so great to walk into the familiar waiting room of the birth center instead of walking into a hospital. It was like walking into a friend’s home. Even with the familiarity, my contractions slowed down with the change in scenery. After checking my progress and finding out that I was indeed dilated to 5, my midwife told Juan and I to walk around for about an hour and see if contractions started back up. I felt a little discouraged at this point because I wasn’t sure that my body would start it’s work again. I felt nervous and watched. I think this is where being at the birth center with midwives that I trusted and knew really helped. I wasn’t hooked up to any machines, the temperature was comfortable & I controlled the lighting. Juan helped so much; following me where ever I went, rubbing my back, applying counter pressure and giving me encouraging words every step of the way.
At 1:30 am, I was dilated to 6. I remember almost crying at that point because I felt like I had done so much work and should have been further dilated. Then my midwife reminded me it had only been one hour and told me that I was doing great! Sometimes, I think that’s all you need to hear as a laboring woman. “You’re doing great.” It was enough to get me through the next couple of hours.
Juan and I got set up in the birthing suite. I had to get a hep-lock in, which I hated, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. I spent the next two hours lying in bed next to Juan, sleeping in between contractions. After getting up to use the bathroom and lying back down, my water broke at 3:30am. The contractions got so intense. The birthing assistant lived an hour away, so my midwife wanted to check my progress. I was dilated to 8! I couldn’t believe I was making such solid and consistent progress!
Some things from this point on are a little blurry, but I remember getting in the tub shortly after. I couldn’t believe the pain relief that I felt once I got in. It truly was a miracle. I had no idea what time it was, but I heard my midwife calling the birthing assistant and I could tell that she didn’t think she was going to make it on time. She sat on one side of the tub and Juan on the other. Once I felt the pressure to push, I started to lose track of my breathing and focus. I was so scared to push. It surprised me how strong the urge to push was and the fact that I couldn’t take more time and I had to push when my body told me to push was frightening. This was the most difficult part of labor for me because I felt like I didn’t have any control. I never thought I would be one of those women who yelled and screamed during labor. Well, I was! I reached a point where I thought I couldn’t do it. I remember asking my midwife if I was close. Each time, she assured me that I was close and that I was doing it. With her encouragement and support from Juan; who reminded me to slow my breathing, I was able to pick it up again. Pushing lasted for only 38 minutes, but it felt like a lifetime!
I was still telling my midwife that I couldn’t do it when I reached down and grabbed Mason. I think I was still in shock. I did it! I did it because I told myself that I could; because Juan knew I could do it too and because this was what was best for me and for Mason. Mason was born at 5:28 am. He was so quiet when he was pulled from the water that I had to ask if he was ok. After they assured me that he was fine, they let the cord stop pulsing while he laid on my chest. That was enough for me to realize that all the pain was worth it. He was 6 lb., 12 oz, 20 inches long and his head was 14 inches. I spent the next four hours holding and nursing him in bed. After a quick shower and a newborn check up, we were ready to go home! We were home by 10:00 am and that included a pit stop at McDonalds. Juan went to pick Claire up at our friends house at 1:30 because we couldn’t wait any longer to introduce her to her new baby brother.
Recovery has been so easy. I feel great, both physically and mentally.