This is the story of the home birth after two cesareans of our third son, Evren Abel, whose birth was the culmination of five years of hoping, planning, wishing for the peaceful, gentle birth I wanted so badly to give to all of my children. I’m sitting beside him, having just nursed him to sleep in our bed, the bed he was born in, and all I can hear are the lyrics from that song “Breathe” by Anna Nalick. “I feel like I’m naked in front of the crowd/Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud/And I know that you’ll use them however you want to.” I’ve already shared his birth pictures on Facebook and in a lot of ways, that is much easier than sharing this will be. This feels a little bit like baring my entire soul in front of goodness knows who, because once I release this on to the Internet, I know anyone can read it. There are people who just don’t “get it,” this longing some women have to deliver their children naturally and not surgically. There are those out there who judge women who make choices like I did, and I know I am opening myself up to criticism for it. And then there are women out there who desperately need to hear that what they feel is normal and natural, and that their bodies are strong and capable of giving birth to their babies without the assistance of a surgeon or a scalpel. I know because I was that woman. I am sharing this now for these women.
When we got home from the hospital after my HBAC turned CBAC in 2010, I sat down at the computer and I wrote and wrote and wrote and cried and cried and cried. That is where the birth of Evren starts, with the processing of the birth of my second child, Emre, which by the way, I think I just finished two days ago when I gave birth to Evren. I started a blog soon after, with the intention of blogging my way through the prep I would do before we conceived our third and during our pregnancy and birth. It kind of quickly turned in to a huge part of my process, as I realize now that a big part of what I was doing was trying to understand what went wrong with that birth. Don’t get me wrong, Emre’s birth was beautiful, but I wanted to understand why it hadn’t ended the way I planned and intended. I had worked so hard for that birth and the vast majority of VBACs are successful, so why wasn’t mine? I wrote a lot in the early months and then as time went on, and life got busy with the boys, I wrote less and less…such is life. But the prep continued—Maya abdominal massages to break up adhesions and scar tissue from my cesareans, reading books about natural childbirth (more on this later), consultations with a local perinatologist about our options for a third delivery after my second son’s delivering OB said something to me about what he discovered internally that I wanted to get more information on. I was going to fix whatever it was that went wrong and we were going to have a VBAC next time, dammit.
At some point during my reading, I stumbled upon a passage in an Ina May book about how she loves nothing more than to see a mama who is a lawyer shut her brain off, let her monkey do it and give birth to her baby. Well, HELLO! This really clicked with me, and I realized that my biggest challenge during our next pregnancy and birth would be to get out of my head, as I tend to live there and play the “well, what if this, then this and this and then this” game and on and on. I could spit VBAC facts at you all day long, but obviously that hadn’t gotten me the birth I wanted, so I needed to do something to change that. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t like a one day turn around—I struggled to stay out of my head, both before and during pregnancy, and in fact, had to enlist outside help on many occasions (thank you, Catherine!) to keep myself from going down never ending rabbit holes.
When we discovered we were pregnant with Evren, I was both happy and really nervous. I had just decided that we would stop playing fast and loose with birth control since Emre had recently weaned and get serious about preventing another pregnancy for awhile. Little did I know, I was already pregnant. I only knew a few things: I wanted a VBAC, no matter how or where, I wanted him to come before or very soon after his due date so his head wouldn’t be a 15” unmoldable mass, I did not want the ambulance to come to my house again, and I wanted him to be smaller than my 10.8 pound CBAC babe.
We decided to keep this pregnancy a lot more private than we did with Emre’s, because I felt like I let a lot of outside pressure and influence come in to play in that birth, and I wanted to preserve my peace about this one by keeping it a little more personal. To that end, there were no Facebook announcements, my twitter, Instagram and blog were made private, and we just went about life with as little fuss about it as we could manage, only telling a few people who we knew would be unconditionally supportive. Something about the way I’m built or the way I carry my babies, I don’t necessarily look unmistakably pregnant until I’m fairly far along, so it wasn’t much of an issue.
The pregnancy itself was pretty blessedly uneventful. An early dating ultrasound put his guess date around 12/2 or 12/3, which was close to my charting of when he was conceived, which gave a date of 11/30. We found out we were expecting our third little boy at the anatomy scan, I confirmed my suspicions of an anterior placenta that was thankfully up and away from my scar, everything looked good for a VBAC. Throughout my pregnancy, I was so blessed to be supported, encouraged, uplifted, and sustained by friends who had much more faith in me than I had in myself. It’s a lot easier to believe other people are capable of something than you are, especially when you’ve tried before and not been successful. I depended on these affirmations from them, they carried me through. I hung out with my midwives and they’d talk about how big my pelvis was and how my body was built perfectly to birth my babies.
I had some grand plans for all the books I was going to read about coping techniques for natural labor and delivery, but I only ended up reading The Sears Birth Book (which was really good!!) before I felt myself slipping back in to that head space that I wanted to stay out of. So I decided I was going to focus on reading women’s firsthand birth stories and watching their videos, which is a nice, no pressure, not at all like studying kind of activity that really worked for me. I did have moments where I had to be talked off ledges, and at some points, I considered making a political statement by showing up to the hospital and declining a cesarean (that didn’t sound that fun), or renting a hotel room or birthing at my midwife’s house, which would be slightly closer to a hospital than I was, but at some point, I realized making all these contingency upon contingency plans was setting myself up to open the door to allow myself an out when things got intense. Obviously I was not opposed to a hospital transport if it was necessary for my or baby’s safety (and I am thankful that I live close to one in which I would be treated kindly and with respect should we need to go in), but I wanted a home birth, and I wanted a home birth in MY home, so I kind of let those options quietly go.
I saw a chiropractor pretty regularly throughout pregnancy because I wanted to be on top of positioning. Dr. Ron was great, and I didn’t deal with a lot of pain during the pregnancy, except towards the end when my pelvis started to spread. I started taking Gentle Birth tincture around 35 weeks based on testimonials I heard about it. It couldn’t hurt, I figured and hey, if it helped, all the better. As soon as I started taking it, I started having frequent Braxton Hicks contractions. I planned for acupuncture at the end of my pregnancy, just the last four weeks, though, because you know, I wasn’t going past my due date. I also took 1000 mg of Vitamin C a day because I wanted my water bag to remain intact as long as possible. Which it did. I mean, that thing might still be intact somewhere. What I’m saying here is, I had a really strong bag.
Around 36 weeks, I had a small Blessingway, which surprise!!! one of my internet best friends, who I had bonded with over our VBAC attempts with our second babes, flew in from Florida to surprise me for. I may or may not have closed the door in her face when I opened it and saw her on my doorstep. Sorry, Christine, I blame shock!! It was an intimate and really beautiful ceremony and Christine and I had a wonderful weekend of fun together. I was so blessed during that time.
At some point, I realized I needed to take a social media break. There was getting to be too much distraction and it was taking away from the peace I was working for, so I deactivated my Facebook account and told my twitter friends I’d see them in a few weeks.
Also during my third trimester, I started getting these flags with affirmations on them in the mail from the wonderful women I had met in my due date club on Mothering when pregnant with Emre. I thought it was so incredibly sweet, and was only slightly embarrassed that it took me about 7 or 8 flags before I realized this was a beautifully orchestrated plan to show their support and belief in me and my body’s ability to birth my baby. I can’t say enough about this group of women. They lifted me up and believed for me when I had a hard time believing myself. Another friend I met on twitter sent me a beautiful heart shaped rock that said “strength” on it, which I ended up holding on to the entire time I was in labor until the moment baby was on my chest. I think every birthing mother should have one of those rocks.
I had halfway convinced myself that I would be going in to labor on 11/28, which was a full moon and I also was going to an acupuncturist that day known for getting babies out. I mean, this wasn’t my first go round, I’d dilated before, I’m black, I mean come on!! This baby was totally coming before 40 weeks. Obviously. I waited patiently for the full moon to do its thing, and when it didn’t, I figured it had probably just started the ball rolling. Surely I would be in labor by the weekend. The acupuncturist, Alighta, who is basically one of the most awesome people I have ever met, suggested I come back in on Friday and we would try again. I had used our entire acupuncture budget in the weeks leading up to the birth at another acupuncture clinic, but this wonderful woman offered to see me through this pregnancy for no charge. I go in Friday and…..nothing. Well, forget this!!! I had been careful with my diet, but I could feel babe packing on the pounds in there. Could totally feel his little skull bones starting to become less and less moldable. I wanted him O-U-T. So, that Saturday, 12/1/12 (cover your eyes, hardcore natural childbirthers!!!!!!!!!!!), I tried to “naturally” (insert caveat about how there’s nothing natural about interfering with any part of birth) evict him. Let’s not go in to specifics here, but let’s just say it didn’t work. My midwives, who I feel I should say here are very non-interventionist and only supported me in decisions I made myself regarding this delivery, gave me the option to keep trying or just wait. I felt like it was clear that he wasn’t ready and I decided not to push it. All of a sudden, I had a zen attitude out of who knows where, and I just felt like he would be here by the next weekend. I could make it one more week, right? No big deal.
Then Wednesday came. That freaking hump day will get you every time!!! All of a sudden, I’m in despair. Baby is going to 42 weeks, he’ll be huge, I can’t birth a big baby, we had invested so much in this birth—emotionally, mentally and financially, and I was going to wind up on the operating table a third time. Even though she had offered, I felt so guilty taking Alighta up on the gift of her services. Brielle was like “shut your face and call her,” but in the nice way a midwife does (not really, she said it like that to me, but only because we are super close). So, I call Alighta and she tells me we will do it once a day until baby comes. I start back up seeing her Wednesday and I am also getting sweeps, which I had actually started before this 40th week, again, only at my request. And by request, I mean desperate begging and pleading. Seriously.
Wednesday. No baby. Thursday. No baby. Friday. No baby. Saturday. WHERE IS MY BABY???
I had a second Facebook account which I kept active so that I could keep in touch with the ladies from Emre’s due date club. One of them posted to check up on me. I mention that as each day goes by, I feel my HBAC, or even a VBAC, slip away. I just could.not.birth.a.big.baby. The girls encourage me to do things to keep my mind off it before my scheduled midwife appointment that morning, so I go to the post office and then head to see the midwives.
11:30 See the midwives, beg for a sweep. 4-5 and 70%. Started contracting. Don’t get excited, I had been contracting nightly since I started seeing Alighta. Never went anywhere.
1:00 See Alighta. More contractions. Not getting excited.
3:00 Second strip. More contractions. Tons of bloody show. Not getting excited. Been losing plug for weeks. Contractions not letting up, though.
5:00 Contractions getting painful. Different than they’ve ever been. Confused because I don’t feel them in my abdomen at all. I only ever experience them as waves of rectal pressure. This remained true for the duration of my labor.
5:30 Go to Sam’s and to get gas in the car just in case. Start timing and they are about 4-5 minutes apart, lasting 30-45 seconds. Thought about walking around neighborhood looking at lights as I labor. Quickly dismissed. Not leaving house. Kids starting to annoy me with being loud. My big kid asks me “Are you saying ‘oh God,’ because it’s <my uterus> hugging?”
7:10 Text Brielle. This really hurts. My bottom hurts. She’s asking me questions about the contractions. I don’t know. They hurt. She says take a bath and try to sleep.
8:00 Laboring away around the house. Brielle wants to know if she should come. Don’t want them to come too early and have labor stall or be really early on.
8:50 Out of the bath. Only had a couple more mild contractions in there, but things pick right back up after I get out.
9:15 Brielle wants to know if she should come. I’m still not convinced it’s time. I’m texting to her and giving updates to my girlfriends. I can’t be in that hard of labor.
10:30 I text Brielle that ok, I might finally believe it’s labor. She suggests wine. Choke wine down. Nothing. Still contracting.
10:50 I don’t want to do this anymore. Crying through contractions. I feel fine in between, but so much pressure during. Tell Brielle I can’t do it anymore. I want an epidural. She says they are on their way. They call me to listen through a couple contractions. I’m crying and asking them to hurry.
11:00 Tons of bloody show. My friend Emily says she guesses I am in transition. No way. With Emre, in transition, no way I could text or update anyone.
11:55 Last update for my girlfriends. 8 cm. Midwives here. Think they got here at 11:30. Don’t know.
Time melts away now. I have no idea what time anything happened from here on out except the time baby was born. I’m probably going to get a lot of details or order of events wrong, but hey…that’s what happens when you’re trying to remember what happens in labor. When they get here, I’m laboring in the bedroom and bathroom by myself. I have a towel rod that I’m hanging on to. It reminds me of my friend Jamie’s birth story and, since I now know how exactly it feels to want to rip a towel rod off a wall, I almost smile to myself. Almost. I tell Kari I want to punch someone in the face and then go ask her to get my “strength” rock. They ask if I want to labor in the water in my tub or the giant, glorious birth tub. Giant, glorious birth tub please. Brielle started to fill it and I’m working through contractions with Kari as Brielle handles that.
Brielle’s daughter Kaya is coming to the birth with the other midwife who is coming just in case, Christy. So glad Kaya is coming. She is the best girl ever, and very calm around birth. Also, she’s 10. I can’t freak out and embarrass myself in front of a 10 year old. Laura, my dear doula friend, comes to care for my older boys in case they wake during the labor, which they did.
I get in the tub and it’s ten times better than laboring in my little tub. Don’t get me wrong, it still hurts, but like I’m prone to do, I find the easiest position to labor in and try to stay there. By easiest, I mean, my contractions kind of start to space out and I can get a good break going. Surprise, my midwives want me in positions that actually bring baby down and encourage my labor to keep progressing. Darn it. So, ever a lawyer, even if inactive, I bring my master negotiation skills to the table. I will do some contractions in the tougher positions (on my knees, leaning over the edge of the tub), and then I get to get back in the easy position (sitting on my bottom in the pool with my back against the tub). I sometimes negotiate for 30 seconds, sometimes for a number of contractions. During contractions, I have Kari count—the contractions peak at 30 seconds, so I focus on her voice and getting to 30. Wish she would count faster sometimes. During one contraction, I feel myself start to lose control. I remember my friend Jordan’s amazing birth with her second babe, when she talked about how important it was for her to stay present in her body and not allow herself to slip out of it. I had started to say “I can’t, it hurts so bad,” thought of Jordan and started singing “Hurts So Good” by John Mellencamp. We all laugh, and I remain present in my body and in the moment. During a couple contractions, I chant “epidural, epidural, epidural,” which I remembered reading in a woman’s birth story. She said she knew if she could say it, she didn’t need one.
Kari and Brielle encourage me to reach in and feel—I can feel the bulging water bag and baby’s head behind it. I want the water bag to break because it’s holding me up, I think. Started to bear down through some contractions. They ask if I am pushing because I have the urge or if it just feels better. It just feels better and I do little, tiny bear downs during contractions. Makes it SO much better! Decide to break the water—takes what feels like forever, but then I can reach in and really feel baby’s head. I tell Kari and Brielle there’s a baby in my vagina, in case they didn’t know. I tell them, “I’m going to have a VBAC!!!” Soon after, I have the urge to go to the bathroom. You know, the URGE. Kari and Brielle get me out of the tub—I thought I was going to have a water birth, but very thankful for midwives’ intuition. This baby did not need to be born in water. Go to the bathroom because I think I have to go. Oops, no, time to push!!!
On to the bed. Kari and Brielle are down below for the catch and Christy is by my head encouraging me. Kaya is taking the pictures I’ve been wanting to have for so long and Jason is taking some that could be posted publicly. I start to push because I want to be done. Christy reminds me to wait for a contraction. Oops, just wanted to be done. Kari helps me get my pushing focused properly and she, Brielle and I all provide counter pressure while I push. My friend Catherine had told me that during her birth, she pictured baby’s head as a boulder that she had to use her body to push out. This visualization was so helpful, and at 3:31 AM, after less than a half hour of pushing, my first vaginally born baby flew out in to the world and was immediately placed on my chest. Kari and Brielle later tell me that I yell out “I HAD A VBAC!!!!” before he was even all the way out. When he was on my chest, I am crying and saying “I’m the only one touching my baby!!! Am I dreaming? Please don’t wake me up.”
Post birth rush, posting announcements to Facebook and my VBAC Support groups, etc. My husband, Jason, got to cut his son’s cord for the first time and stay in the room with both of us after the birth, not decide which one of us to go with (the baby, of course). My midwives gave us time to bond with baby alone and then we weighed and measured him.
I couldn’t birth a big baby, but then I pushed a 9.13 pound baby out.
I couldn’t birth my baby if his head was big and hard, but then I birthed a baby with a 14.75” head that did not mold.
I couldn’t go past my due date and Evren was born right about 41 weeks.
I am happy to report, though, that there were no ambulances called.
For reference, the CBAC birth of my second son, Emre: http://blog.ican-online.org/2011/03/02/emres-birth-a-powerful-cbac/