This birth story, in honor of Cesarean Awareness Month (CAM), comes from Sarah Fuerstenau. To have your story posted on this blog, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My birthing story begins back in 2005 when I had our first child. I had prepared myself for a natural, drug-free vaginal birth but I ended up with an emergency C-section. I was already 2 cm dilated when my labor started at 1 in the morning. My contractions were very intense from the get-go, and just 5 hours into it I felt the need to push. When we arrived at the hospital at 5:30, I was 8 cm and my water broke. Immediately I started pushing, but the nurse who was checking me didn’t see any progress, and after just an hour of pushing, the doctor wanted to do a C-section. Being a first time parent and an emotional wreck, I consented, and at around 7:30 my baby boy was born. I was very thankful for a healthy baby and concluded that modern medicine had saved us both.
I had a very hard time accepting my birth experience, but when I became pregnant with our second child just ten months later, I was told I would have to have another cesarean. I didn’t know I had any other options, so I once again consented. I hadn’t heard of VBAC before, and the hospital we went to didn’t allow them anyway. Naively trusting my doctor to know better than me, I concluded that I’d always have to have my babies this way. Thus, my next two children, born in 2008 and 2009, were also born by C-section, but we started questioning how safe it really was and really started desiring to have a baby naturally. In 2010 I met a woman who was going to have a VBAC with a midwife from out-of-state, since midwifery was illegal in Iowa. This sparked my interest because my husband and I wanted to have more children, but we were afraid of the dangers involved with major surgery. Much more, we just felt that we couldn’t keep having babies this way. It cost a lot of money and it just didn’t seem right.
Well, we moved to a different state during the summer and we were glad to discover that midwifery was legally practiced in the state of Idaho. Lo and behold, the month after we moved I found out I was pregnant again! We concluded that midwifery care was the way to go, but were thoroughly disappointed when we found out that Idaho licensed midwives were not allowed to catch babies for women who have had more than one C-section. My midwife, however, was determined to help me find a way and we continued to see her for prenatals.
Throughout my whole pregnancy I prayed about the situation, and both my husband and I felt at peace with our decision to do a HBA4C. I did a ton of research on the topic, so I knew I had a good chance for a successful birth. The problem was finding a provider who would assist me. I tried the local hospitals, the not-so-local hospitals, an unlicensed midwife, and traveling midwives, but to no avail. Thankfully God’s blessing was upon us and he provided an out-of-state MW who was very much willing to help us. She lived 4 hours away, so there was some logistics to work out, but the first time I met her, I knew she was our answer to prayer. She had just assisted another woman who was a VBA3C and was familiar with the danger signs. We all agreed that we should be closer to the hospital (we live in a rural area), so once labor was going good, we’d drive to town and rent a room at a hotel that was a few blocks from the hospital. So, with our plan in place, all we had to do was wait.
And wait we did! I was due the 15th of March, but my labor didn’t begin until more than a week later. On March 24th I awoke at 12:30 a.m. to waves of nausea, and after walking around the living room for half an hour, I called my midwife, PJ, and told her what was going on. She thought this possibly was the onset of labor, but we both decided to go to bed, get some rest, and see what things were like in the morning. I was able to go back to sleep, and when I awoke at 7:30 I was still having contractions, although thankfully they weren’t making me nauseous anymore! I called PJ to give her an update and she decided she’d head down. When she arrived in the afternoon, my contractions were still mild and about 8 to 10 minutes apart. We went for a couple walks, and that helped things along. Now they were 5 minutes apart, and I had to stop to breathe through them!
My husband got home around six, we had supper, put the kids to bed, said goodbye to my mother who had come to help out, and headed for the hotel. It was 9:30pm before the birth pool was set up, but it was worth the wait. The water felt so soothing, and after a minor lapse in contractions, they picked right up again and I felt like pushing a bit. I did this for a couple of hours, but felt I wasn’t getting anywhere. It was really late, and when PJ and the assistant saw that my progression was really slow, they suspected the culprit was a stubborn cervical lip. We opted to rest for the remainder of the night rather than keep pushing and possibly irritate and inflame my cervix, but trying to sleep through the type of contractions I was having was a challenge to say the least!
I don’t know how everyone was able to sleep through my moaning, but they did, and fortunately I was able to doze in between contractions! By 6a.m. I was ready to start again, so they emptied the pool, filled it up again, and I was in by 7:30. It didn’t seem like the baby was moving down, so we tried all kinds of positions, and I ended up laying on the bed sideways with one leg braced against my husband for pushing. PJ and the assistant took turns keeping the cervical lip out of the way. It was a bit frustrating because even though the lip was soft and pliable, it would come down with the baby’s head, not allowing him to move down, but when they used their fingers to keep it up, their fingers kept the baby’s head from coming down too!
We kept at it though, and eventually the baby’s head made its way down and was crowning. At that point, I moved to the end of the bed, and after a couple of pushes I felt like I had the biggest poop ever! Oh my! What pain and subsequent relief I had! His head was out and after a couple more little pushes, he came slipping out! I did it! I couldn’t believe it! After a total of 38 hours of labor, 6 of which were actively pushing, I delivered a perfectly healthy baby boy!
I was totally exhausted, as anyone can imagine, and I did lose quite a bit of blood, but my recovery went very well. Russell was a trooper through the whole labor, keeping his heart tones steady the whole time. He also took to breastfeeding very well, and I was so happy to be able to cuddle with him right after he was born. My contractions had stayed 5 minutes apart the whole time, but it was just what my body needed to recover from each one. There also were a couple of times when I felt like giving up, but then I would make some progress, and that kept me motivated. I really contribute my successful delivery to God because I never would have made it had he not given me the strength and endurance. I am so grateful he gave me the opportunity to experience the wonder and excitement of a natural birth.
My two labors were so very different, and I wonder how things would have gone had I been with a midwife or had a doula the first time around. I found out through my medical records that my first child was posterior, hence the short contractions and “back” labor. I’m sure his head was having a hard time getting past my pelvic bone and cervix too. It probably would have been remedied by position changes and a little bit of patience, but the doctor and hospital staff weren’t up for the challenge. Needless to say, the doctor concluded that my pelvis was just too small to birth a baby and diagnosed me with CPD. Boy do I have news for her!
My first was 8lbs 14oz with a 14.5” head circumference. Russell was 9lbs 2oz with a 15” head! I’ve always known that my body was capable of birthing, and it upsets me to think that I was led to believe otherwise. I plan on sharing my story with the doctors and hospitals who told me it couldn’t be done, and hopefully I will encourage them to question their policies and way of thinking. I also hope to start an ICAN chapter in my area in the near future, but for now I’m just praising my God for making my dream come true and enjoying the precious jewel he has given me.