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(HBAC 20 months after a planned cesarean for frank breech during peak of COVID shelter in place)
Labor started on Tuesday evening after very light contractions since the night before. Surges were 5-7 min apart but slowed overnight to every ten minutes. By Wednesday afternoon my labor shifted to be more “active labor” for another 26 hours. (It all felt active to me). I was in a multi day start and stop labor and I could tell baby wasn’t descending. It was a physical, mental, emotional rollercoaster.
My birth doula came on Tuesday night at midnight. (She was actually a backup doula because my main doula who I had been working with had had a fluke fever within the two weeks prior of birth for one night, so according to the rules with COVID precautions she wasn’t allowed at the birth). Our backup doula had to spend a lot of her time just helping with our toddler because we couldn’t have a specific person in our home for childcare due to COVID as well, and I wanted him at home for the birth and not with another family due to COVID precaution.
On Thursday am, we called the midwives (who we thought we were going to call either of the two nights before but didn’t because labor slowed back down so much.) They arrived at 8:20 am on Thursday April 9. I was given a bag of IV fluids to help me replenish since I’d been going for so long with labor. The midwives determined that the baby’s head may be a bit posterior with the baby at an LOT position instead of LOA position. We needed to shift him. So while getting the IV, I used a peanut ball and did the exaggerated side lying pose on my right side to turn him. I could feel him moving and contractions were painful in that position but turns out it worked. I had two requested cervical checks that morning but I chose to not be told what my dilation was at either. I wanted to trust my body to know when it was ready to push without having outside guidance telling me and I didn’t want the additional mental challenge of knowing certain numbers of dilation and feeling defeated if they weren’t “high enough” or whatnot.
The marathon I had been running felt like such a mental and emotional challenge when I’d get up to 3-5 minute contractions consistently, thinking I was near the end, but then not…because it wouldn’t stay there. After such a long labor, I mentally wouldn’t be able to hear that I was “only” at a certain dilation. I also had the knowledge that those numbers don’t necessarily correspond to lengths of time to completion. Birth is not a linear process. (This is one of the main reasons I planned for a home birth with midwifery care. I knew my labor and birth wouldn’t be put on a timeline or be forced unnecessary interventions like what happens in the majority of maternal care policies and just the cultural norms.) The mental “mind fuck” of knowing the dilation numbers wasn’t a risk I wanted to take after an already very challenging 2 days of labor at home (physically and mentally).
I came to find out after the fact that at 8:30 am on Thursday I was around 4 cm dilated and sometime around noon I was 9/10 cm and by 2:30 pm I was spontaneously pushing. I remember right before pushing that I told my midwife I wanted to but I was afraid And I don’t think I can labor for ten more labors, and she just replied with “listen to your body.” She didn’t say yes, do it, no, don’t. I had to trust that it was ok and truly just listen in to myself and my power and move past the doubt that I was just in that same start/stop labor as before. Once I started, the midwives started moving much faster in the bedroom prepping all of the materials needed, as I literally was birthing probably in the most inconvenient spot in our bedroom, blocking being able to walk to and from in the room. I could feel him moving down and at some point they said they saw the head and I was able to touch it. I was on all fours with a birth ball, pulling on my husband’s arms, next to the birth tub which we only used a few times during the two day labor.
Baby was born 35 minutes later. It happened quickly and I had my husband held captive on the other side of the birth ball, pulling on him so he couldn’t catch the baby as planned. The student midwife (who was awesome) caught him and pulled him up under me as I sat back to pull him up. They helped us onto the edge of the bed as they were checking him. I birthed the placenta not long afterwards. Our first son was able to join us soon afterwards to meet his little brother.
So, it was an extremely long labor which gave me a great opportunity for mental strength and a very short, spontaneous pushing phase which taught me full on personal power and trust. I should add, little man also surprised us with a nuchal hand (hand presenting alongside his head as he came out). I am so very grateful to my fantastic midwife team (Michelle Freund, LM and Christina Evans, student midwife) and my extremely loving and supportive husband. The long labor was hard on him too but he never gave up on me or us. He understood my desires for a spontaneous normal birth for my VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and he showed up for all aspects of the prenatal care and supportive role before, during and after labor. I am so proud of the team our family of four has become. I’m so grateful I was able to give birth to my son at home with a normal, spontaneous birth. I planned a homebirth way before COVID hit but I was even more grateful to have planned one when it did. Although it wasn’t without stress, I felt safer from interventions or policies that I didn’t agree with. I now have experience having a son by scheduled cesarean in a hospital with no labor, and a long labor, nuchal hand HBAC. Grateful for the blessings and lessons with each.