This is my third child, my second VBAC and my first homebirth. And it was the most amazing experience of my life. To understand why this birth was so life changing and important to me, I will give a little background into my other births.
Punky’s Birth- Unnecessary Interventions and Trauma
My daughter was born in 2008. My husband (I’ll call him T) and I hadn’t been planning for children yet and were very surprised when we found out. Both of us were working full time and we had no idea how much we needed to prepare for having a baby. We just looked up the first OB listed from our insurance, read ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’, and registered for baby stuff at Target. We were very naïve. I mentioned wanting a natural birth to my OB and asked about birthing classes. She said it was too early for that and not to worry about it. When I was about 38 weeks, I developed the PUPP rash over my belly and legs. It was very painful and the worst itching I’ve ever experienced. My doctor said the rash would go away once I had the baby and she promised me she wouldn’t let me go more than 41 weeks. My due date came and went, so we scheduled my induction for a Thursday evening. I was admitted to the hospital at midnight. They gave me an I.V. and inserted a tablet that would ripen my cervix. I couldn’t sleep that night. I was in an uncomfortable room with machines and lights everywhere and I had an I.V. in one arm and a fetal monitor and contraction monitor strapped around my belly. Plus I was nervous and scared because I had no idea what to expect. It was a very long night. At 6:00 am my water broke and contractions started. The nurses kept coming in and turning up the pitocin. I was in so much pain and clinging to my husband’s shirt through each contraction. After about three hours, I asked for an epidural. I was crying and disappointed in myself. I was afraid that my husband was disappointed in me, too. While the first anesthesiologist was trying to do the epidural, the fetal monitor moved and they lost the baby’s heart rate. At least five people came rushing into the room, pushed me on my back, and one tried to internally move the baby until they found the heart beat again. It was scary and extremely painful. I looked over at my husband who had been shoved into the corner and his eyes were wide with fear. A second anesthesiologist came in and did another epidural. This one worked and I was numb to my eyeballs. I finally slept for a few hours. Once I was dilated to 10 they propped me up in the stirrups and told me it was time to push. I couldn’t feel anything so I tried but nothing happened. I pushed for about 20 minutes when my doctor just shook her head and said the baby wasn’t coming down and she would have to do a cesarean section. We didn’t know to ask questions. We didn’t know what to do to help my body progress through the rest of labor. So we consented. At this point, I had so many drugs in my system that I couldn’t keep my eyes open during the surgery. When they pulled Punky up, I didn’t even see her. They brought her over to T and he held her next to my face. He kept patting my face and told me to open my eyes to look at her before they took her away. I did and gave her one kiss and then he left the room with the baby. After several hours, I woke up in my room surrounded by my mother and my in-laws. I was crying and kept saying that I felt like I didn’t even have a baby and asking where she was. They all told me how beautiful she was. Everyone else had seen my baby but me. They finally brought her to me and I remember holding her and feeling so strange. It was like holding a foreign object. I knew she was mine but I didn’t feel like she came from me. I was broken. I had failed.
The next several months were very hard. She was a colicky baby and cried all the time. We were new parents and didn’t know what to do most of the time. I breastfed her for six weeks but then that fell apart. Just another way I had failed. Once she was a year old, I felt like I came out of a fog. I remember saying that to someone and suddenly realizing I had suffered from post partum depression. I started researching VBAC options and decided to transfer my care to a midwifery practice. The Vanderbilt Nurse Midwives had the best rates for VBAC and were suggested to me multiple times. I liked that I could receive the more personalized care of a midwife and birth at a hospital. At my first appointment, my midwife requested my medical records from my first birth and went through all of it with me. I cried in her office and she held me and said I’d had a traumatic birth. It was the first time I admitted that. She suggested I find the local ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) chapter and attend a meeting. I attended several over the next year and finally began to heal.
Bubba’s Birth- A healing Hypnobabies VBAC
In the spring of 2011, I found out I was pregnant with my son. We were excited and nervous about what to expect. We decided to hire a doula and take Hypnobabies classes to increase my chances of a VBAC. The Hypnobabies classes were wonderful and really helped my husband and I to release our fears from my c-section birth. We were still uncomfortable in hospitals and didn’t trust the nurses and staff but we did what we could to overcome it. We also knew we would wait as long as possible before going to the hospital to help prevent any unnecessary interventions. I wrote a clear birth plan and discussed it with my midwife and doula. We read and practiced hypnosis daily. We were going to be prepared this time!
I enjoyed my last few weeks of pregnancy and had a great sense of calm. I would spend my days walking through our neighborhood and listening to my positive affirmations track. As I climbed each hill, I would imagine it was like a pressure wave (contraction) slowly climbing up and increasing, peaking at the top of the hill, and then breathing out with relief as I came over the other side. Some hills were small and some took much longer. However, each one brought me closer to home. It was very therapeutic and I used the imagery and sensations during my birthing time.
I was due right before Thanksgiving. I knew I would probably carry over again so I wasn’t surprised when I was still pregnant for Thanksgiving dinner. That evening my belly dropped and we got excited knowing it was getting closer. The next night I felt several Braxton Hicks but this had been going on for weeks so I just took a warm bath, listened to one of my hypnosis tracks, and went to bed. I awoke at 4:00 am and knew it was time. I got up and ate some cereal then laid back down and started my hypnosis. My husband held me and rubbed my back for about 45 minutes. Then he got up, made coffee, and started timing my pressure waves. Things went very quickly and before we knew it, I was in transition. He called our doula and his mom to come get Punky. I was trying to get dressed and get out the door while T packed the car. The pressure waves were coming very fast and it was getting intense. I fell to my knees at the end of our bed and held on for dear life. My water broke and it was such a huge relief. Almost immediately, I started pushing. T called an ambulance. There was some chaos with all of the EMTs, firemen, and police officers showing up. They would only take us to the closest hospital so I didn’t make it to see my midwife. We arrived at the hospital around 7:00 and our doula got there right as the OB arrived and I started pushing. Bubba was born around 7:30. I was so happy and just kept saying, “I did it! I did it!”
I am so thankful that we had our Hypnobabies training. The staff panicked when they discovered I was attempting a VBAC and tried several times to give me an I.V. and other things that we didn’t want. We were polite but stern in our wishes. I didn’t want any interventions. Unfortunately, the OB did give me an episiotomy that required several stitches and they gave me Pitocin immediately after birth (said it was policy). However, we were very lucky to have that particular OB on call because he was very laid back about delayed cord clamping and waiting for the placenta to come on its own. Overall, we were just so happy that I’d had the natural birth that I wanted. I got my VBAC!
Baby Bun’s Birth- An Amazing Homebirth
When my son was about 10 months old, I had a drastic drop in my milk supply and started getting really sick. I took a test and discovered I was pregnant again! We were shocked. I was going to be a mother of three children—a 4 year old, an 18 month old, and a newborn. Lord help me.
I continued my care with the Vanderbilt Midwives but we began researching options for a homebirth. Because my last birth had gone so quickly, we knew we had to prepare for this one to go even faster. We also hated that we felt like we had to fight for everything we wanted during the birth. After Bubba was born, they kept taking him away to the nursery and we didn’t want any separation this time. We didn’t want to have to explain and negotiate our way through what we wanted. I had proven I could have a natural birth and we were very comfortable in our research and education of childbirth. I knew that with the right provider, we could comfortably make informed decisions and transfer to the hospital if we needed to. I interviewed several midwives and finally found one that I really connected with and felt was the most experienced.
The most significant difference at the beginning was that Sheryl came to me. All of our visits were right in my living room. We would sit and talk for as long as I wanted and she educated me more than any health care provider I had ever known. The closer I got to my due date, the more excited I got about the birth. When I reached the third trimester, I began listening to my Hypnobabies CDs again. I read all of my childbirth books again and tried to walk and exercise as much as my other two children would let me. I asked my sister to be my support person and my friend to come be an extra set of hands and take photos. My Dad would come get the other two kids and watch them for us. T and I were so excited to be surrounded by people we loved and that truly cared for us this time instead of strangers.
I invited everyone over to meet Sheryl and ask questions when I was 37 weeks pregnant. That Thursday evening we had dinner and talked about the baby and what each person’s role would be. My father had the most questions for Sheryl and she calmed all of his concerns over hospital transfer and the ‘what ifs’. My sister and friend mostly asked what I preferred during labor and how to assist with Hypnobabies. Both of them had natural childbirths in the hospital with their babies and were ready to assist as much (or little) as I wanted. When everyone left that night, I prayed and cried thanking God over and over for this opportunity and for surrounding us with such loving support. My sister and her family left the next day for vacation and we set up a slumber party for the next weekend for our kids. My son had never been away from home over night before so we wanted a practice run. I always carried past my due date so we had plenty of time to prepare and get a few more things together.
The following Monday I woke up and realized that I was having strong Braxton hicks (or so I thought) about every 45 minutes. I got up with the kids like normal and told T to keep his phone close by as he was leaving for work. I didn’t think it was anything to get excited about but I thought I would need his help if I got really tired. I went through our morning as usual. We went to the grocery store and then met a friend to pick up a sleep sound machine she was giving me for Punky’s room. Once we were home and the groceries were put away, I started making lunch. I realized that the sensations were still there and was surprised they hadn’t gone away like they normally do. I thought I had better start timing them. I wrote down the time every time I felt a tightening sensation but I wasn’t paying attention to the times I was writing down. After lunch, as I was getting the kids down for a nap, I looked at my paper to review the times and calculate how far apart they were. It was about every 11 minutes. Really? That didn’t seem right.
I sent a text message to Sheryl at 2:11 pm—“Hello! Hope you had a great quiet weekend. I wanted to let you know that I’ve had quite a few pressure waves today. I started timing around 11:30 and they are about 11-12 mins apart. They aren’t really strong but they are consistent. Treating the day as normal for now. Going to take a nap. I’ll let you know if it picks up any by tonight.” She let me know she would be hanging around town that day and not to wait too long to call her. I told her that I didn’t think it was anything to get excited about because I didn’t have that ‘this is it’ feeling. I called T at work and told him the same thing. He told me to call my dad to come get the kids just in case.
I posted a message to a private Facebook page for natural birth/parenting and asked if anyone else had contractions this close together that went away and didn’t have their baby for another week or so. This couldn’t be the real thing because I was only 38 weeks and my sister wouldn’t be back in town for another week. I really wanted her here because she had supported me so much and had really wanted to do a homebirth herself but didn’t get to. I got a few responses that said to rest but most people said I should probably prepare for it to happen in at least the next couple of days. I shrugged it off. I always go past my due date.
Can you say- DENIAL?
I called my dad and asked him if he could come get the kids early instead of waiting until later that week as we had planned. He asked what had changed and I told him that I’d had lots of pressure waves and I thought I might be too tired to deal with the kids if it kept up all night. I told him there was no hurry so to just finish whatever he needed to do that day and then come get them. I started to prepare my room and get out all of the supplies we had bought. I grabbed the video camera and recorded some of the day. It was sunny out but there was a light rain. It really was beautiful so I wanted to capture the moment just in case. At one point in the video you can see me in the mirror leaning over our desk and breathing through a pressure wave. But then I just kept walking around and talking like normal. Total denial.
Around 4:00 the kids were up from their nap and I was giving them a snack. I hadn’t really eaten much all day and just didn’t have an appetite. I realized that the pressure waves still hadn’t gone away and I started to feel uneasy about being alone with the kids. I called T and asked him to come on home. Then I called Sheryl and told her that she might want to stop by just to check on me. She told me she was already on her way. Apparently, I had a few pressure waves while on the phone with her and she could tell from my voice (even though I was still saying it wasn’t a big deal). I also called my friend as she was leaving work and told her that everyone else was coming over. She decided to stop by her house and then come on over, too.
T showed up around 5:00 and my dad at about 5:30. Sheryl stopped in briefly and then went to the store to get a few more things she needed. I was feeding the kids dinner and made myself some scrambled eggs to eat. T and my Dad got the kids car seats and bags together. At one point, I leaned over the dining room table to breathe through a pressure wave and my dad jumped right over and started rubbing my lower back. We started putting the kids in his truck and I got a little upset telling Bubba bye since he was going away for the first time. Then I had another pressure wave and leaned on one of our columns on the front porch. My dad started rubbing my back again and yelled out at T, “That was 4 minutes since the last one. Y’all better get inside and get ready.” I looked at him in disbelief. No it wasn’t. Well, it wasn’t as strong as the last one so it didn’t really count.
My friend showed up and Sheryl and her assistant got there around 6:00. My friend looked at me and told me I needed to call my sister and accept that this was happening tonight. So I went upstairs and told T to get something to eat while he still could. I laid on my bed and called my sister. As soon as she answered the phone, I started crying and telling her I was so sorry but I think the baby is coming tonight. I kept asking her not to be mad at me. She just laughed and told me it was going to be ok and to let go and let it happen. Once we got off the phone, my friend got me settled in with lots of pillows and my headphones playing my hypnobabies tracks. They all went downstairs and left the room dark and quiet so I could get in my zone.
At close to 7:00, I called down to T and told him I didn’t want to be alone anymore. The next couple of hours are a blur. I was using my hypnosis and breathing and moaning through the pressure waves as they got stronger. In between, I would smile and laugh and talk about meeting the baby.
I felt the need to start moving around so I got on the floor and leaned over my birth ball rocking back and forth.
Sheryl and her assistant were setting up the birth pool and gathering all of the things they needed. She asked about a baby hat and my friend brought me over the girl hat and boy hat I had picked out and asked if those were the right ones. I held them and they became my focal point for a little while. I kept laughing and saying that the girl one was so small and I really wanted it to be a girl! That boy hat just looked so big! I held the hats over my face and rocked back and forth on the birth ball. Then I started to pray and I chanted, “Thank you, God, for this baby. Thank you”, over and over again.
My legs started to get uncomfortable on the floor so I got back on the bed (the birth pool wasn’t ready yet). I propped up on a lot of pillows. The pressure waves started to get really intense and I wasn’t talking in between anymore. I moaned louder and louder and T held me and said, “lower, deeper sounds, lower,” and started to hum deeply right near my head. I put my hand on him and felt and heard the low tones and brought my voice down lower and lower. It was so helpful and became a very intimate moment that we shared just laying there holding each other. Then I wasn’t able to make noise anymore. I would feel a wave coming and would get really focused and start shaking my arm until it was over. It was so intense. I kept waiting for my water to break but it didn’t. Wave after wave came and I started to feel like this was going to last forever. Sheryl came over and asked how long it had been since I emptied my bladder. T told her about an hour and I almost melted down. I was sure I had just gone a few minutes ago. If that had been a whole hour, then it must be 1 am by now.
T and my friend helped me out of bed and to the bathroom. I had another pressure wave while I was sitting there and my legs shook like crazy. My water still didn’t break. What the heck?! I got up and went back into our bedroom and saw the birth pool. “Can I get in there now?” Sheryl told me yes so I undressed, put on my swimsuit top and climbed in. The water was fabulous! It felt like a hot tub. I looked around the room and said, “the water is great! Y’all should jump on in!” T went to the computer to play the hypnobabies tracks since I had to take my headphones off in the water. He accidentally put on some country song and we all laughed. “Or we could all go honky-tonkin!” I said.
I felt another pressure wave coming and I leaned over the side of the birth pool. Then my body started to bear down and push. It was very powerful and I couldn’t stop it. Sheryl whispered to me to let my body do what it needed to. Every wave came and I pushed harder each time. Then my water finally broke. I put my hand down and felt for the baby’s head. I felt swollen and I could feel something but I wasn’t sure what it was. I tried to slowly push down in between waves to keep from tearing and putting too much pressure on my perineum. After pushing about five or six times, I suddenly yelled, “Get this baby out of me!” and turned and pulled the baby up out of the water. I saw immediately that it was a girl! But I had told everyone to let my husband say what it was so I didn’t say anything. I leaned back on the side of the pool and put her on my chest. T and my friend were so shocked that it had happened that fast, they couldn’t believe it at first. Then Sheryl said, “Well, daddy, what do we have?” and he cried, “I don’t know! I can’t see!” I picked up the baby’s leg from my chest so he could peek and he exclaimed, “It’s a girl!” and everyone cheered. I asked what time it was and they said 9:01 pm. What?!! It had only been 3 hours since I had talked to my sister? Only 2 hours since T laid down with me and they started setting up the birth pool? Whoa. It sure did feel like longer to me.
We called Punky to let her know she got a sister just like she wanted. She was so excited. Then I called my sister and told her it was all over. She was so happy for me. We called a few more family members to let them know the good news. After I snuggled our newborn girl and nursed her for a while, Sheryl took her to get all of her vitals and measurements. She was 6 pounds, 4 ounces, and 18 ½ inches long. Everyone cleaned up the room, took down the birth pool and T went to IHOP to get me blueberry pancakes. I was finally really hungry and ready to eat. We sat around eating and I relayed what was going on in my head the past few hours. We all laughed and shared our perspectives of the event and took photos of our precious girl. Then Sheryl and her assistant headed off to another laboring mother. Around midnight, my friend tucked T and I in bed with our new baby girl and left us to sleep until she came to check on us the next day.
The whole experience was so amazing. It felt way more intense than the birth of my son. I think it was because I didn’t have any distractions. There wasn’t anything to slow it down. No drama. No ride to the hospital. No yelling at nurses, EMTs, and doctors to stop interventions. The only thing I had to overcome was myself. And sometimes that is the biggest mountain to climb.