Fast forward to February, 2006. My husband and I were giddy with excitement over our home visit with my midwife. We were planning a home birth, which was, of course, a part of my childhood dreams… somehow this stemmed from the inspiration of my mother giving birth to my oldest brother on the kitchen table (which has been graciously handed down to me, thank you, and if you’re shocked, well, you wouldn’t be if you met my mother). Everything was in order, sanitized, prepared. I had candles set everywhere as naturally, a pregnant body looks much more elegant birthing in candlelight. Two days later I was given the devastating news that our firstborn son was breech. Devastating may be an intense term to describe the moment, but being that this birth was what I had dreamt of for as long as I could remember, I was devastated. My midwife would not deliver a breech baby. We tried every possible action to get our son to turn. Acupressure, chiropractic, massage, stretches, handstands, swimming, floating, and our favorite: smoking mug root on my pinky toes (the best part is it smelled like pot, so we were pleased to circulate rumors in our neighborhood). March 7, 2006, our son, Carter, entered the world via-c-section into a bright, cold, and sterile room. It was far from what I had dreamed.
Regardless, he was there, with us, and he was beautiful. Two years later, we had moved from our country environment to the “big city”… our new insurance would not allow me to have personal midwifery care, but I was informed that I could try for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). This news was exciting to me as it is a growing trend in the medical community to ban VBAC’s. As the due date approached, I sadly felt a very familiar sensation: a head… in my ribs. My second son was breech as well. Again, devastated. I also knew this blew my chances for a VBAC in the future as two cesareans usually means your chances to give birth like a normal woman would are gonzo. March 21, 2008, our son, Everett arrived. The not-so-good news? His lungs were filled with fluid, a very common side-effect of elective cesareans…he spent four days in the NICU in which I had to sneak in like a ninja just to breastfeed him. The only word I could use to define the entire situation was unnatural. Everything about the process was completely unnatural.
We recovered, though, and eventually had two healthy, busy boys. One year later, I found out I was pregnant. From the beginning things were much different with this pregnancy than the previous two. At the end of my first trimester, we had a scare and thought we lost the baby. Come to find out, we had lost one, not both of them…that’s right, I was pregnant with twins! What a shock it was, but what a relief as well to know we had “fighter” in there. We found out weeks later that the fighter was a little girl. As my pregnancy progressed, my body did as well, in a way that was foreign to me. My hips spread, wide. The pants I wore all through the pregnancy with both boys wouldn’t even fit past my thighs. Something within me knew that my body was doing what nature had intended it to do, and a spark of hope stirred within me. This is when I decided to do all I could to fight for a VBAC. I’ll spare the details of my journey, but in the end, I was granted the opportunity to birth vaginally. I was elated. To add to my joy, my daughter very much cooperated with my new wide hips, had nestled head down and stayed there for the remaining time of my pregnancy.
We hired a doula as my husband and mother were quite nervous about me laboring at home (there is a slight risk for uterine rupture with VBAC’s). I wanted to labor as long as possible at home because I knew I would be on close watch at the hospital if I didn’t progress on their standard timeline… February 23, 2010, six days past my due date, had found me a miserable, tired, and grouchy mother and wife. I did what everyone advised against… I drank castor oil. I’ll refrain from all of the lovely details, but what I will say is that, by surprise, my beautiful daughter, Scarlett, was born near my bathroom floor (out of my very capable vagina, I might add), into the hands of her daddy. I held her on my chest, looked into her eyes, nursed her, talked to her, all while leaning against my husband. Her cord remained attached, her and I, still joined together for 20 minutes. My mom used chicken scissors to cut the cord, the doula delivered the placenta (which remains in my freezer to be planted–yes, you can gag, but at least we didn’t’ eat it), and we all sat shocked at the beauty of the VBAC that took place. Even though it took two very medical births to get there, we got the home birth I had always dreamt of…except this time, it wasn’t planned by me, it was given from her.
A run-down of the festivities:
7:00pm: I call my friends and get some support over taking castor oil. They tell me I'm not a bad mom for being impatient. Good move, girls.
8:00pm: I enjoy a castor oil cocktail, 2 oz mixed with Odwalla juice. Shortly thereafter, it starts it's course. What? The bottle says 6-12 hrs?
9:00pm: The braxton hicks contractions I had been experiencing all day (and weeks for that matter) were getting slightly more intense, but nothing near what I would define as labor. I go to bed hoping to get some sleep. I slept great until 11pm.
11:00pm: Visit the bathroom for a good hour. Castor oil definitely is working. Contractions are much stronger, somewhat painful. I still didn't know I was in labor, just thought the pain was from the castor oil.
12:ooam: Very intense contractions. Still very cautious whether to decide if I was actually in labor or if it was just my body reacting to the oil. We call the doula to give her a headsup. She assures us that castor oil gives your body a kick start, but definitely doesn't bring labor on that quickly. I'm feeling very foolish at this point to put myself through this if it wasn't even going to be real labor (again, this is what false labor does to one, makes them second guess when they're actually in labor!).
4:00am: I had been sitting in the glider in Scarlett's room for this whole time, trying to ride each "wave" (a crunchy term for contraction) and get some sleep in between. At this point, though, contractions had been about 2-3 minutes apart, only lasting 45-75 seconds each. Although they were intense, I was able to breathe through them and rest. I also was aware that sitting in the glider was not optimal for her position, but it was the only thing that felt comfortable, and in my mind I'm thinking I had about 20 more hours of labor left (what was I thinking?). I wake up Jason and ask him to call the doula--I told him I needed some coaching or encouragement and the poor guy was just speechless...he didn't know whether I was in real labor or not and because of that, had no clue how to react to me. The contractions suddenly were extremely intense, I was shaking, and using my moaning technique that Ina May suggests. I was feeling very wussy at this point as I'm still mentally thinking I'm just at the beginning. Little did I know I was in transition! Out doula suggested (over the phone) that I get out of the chair immediately (because of the chance of turning baby posterior) and lay over my birthing ball. I tried that through three contractions and it was way too intense. I tried to get up on the bed and lay down on my left side, still too intense. This is where I thought I may possibly be in transition as I found myself saying, "I can't do this!" I also called for help and asked Jason to pray. I wasn't getting any breaks between contractions, maybe 15 seconds. Still, as a rookie, though, I have to say I did not truly believe I was very far along. Partially because I hadn't been checked to even know, partially because I'm still thinking the castor oil was giving me false labor! I asked Jason to start a bath for me.
4:30am: The bath felt great... contractions still very close together. My doula arrives and I'm so grateful to have someone to "coach"me or at least help me find my focus. She talked me through two contractions, which was so nice. Between them I apologized for not relaxing as much as I should! The second contraction my body urged me to push. This scared me as I still was thinking I was maybe 2 or 3cm dilated! I thought, "I can't be pushing, I'm not 'open' yet" (sheesh, I think I had read too many birthing stories by then!). My doula suggests we go to the hospital (which was the plan, to leave when I started feeling pushy). At that point I thought I had to use the toilet again. Nope. I just had to push a baby out! This is the conversation that happened while I was on the toilet (with my doula):
M: "Oh my gosh, the baby's coming, she's coming. She's right here!"
D: "Okay, we need to leave right now for the hospital, the car is ready"
M: "No way, she's coming right now, I am NOT getting in a car like this"
D: "Well, I cannot legally deliver that baby for you, I can not do this, please understand".
M: "I take all liability, I understand, this is why Daddy Mock is going to deliver the baby. Now. I'm not going, I'm having this baby. Go get him!"
And that she did. Within 15 minutes, the small team of our doula, my mom, Daddy Mock and I proceeded to throw towels on the carpet, squat, and push out an 8 lb baby girl. Daddy Mock caught her and helped ease her out all by himself! She was in perfect position, had no cord wrapped around her neck and the bag of waters didn't break until she came out. It was unbelievable! My mom was helping me breathe and letting me use her shoulders to lean on, and the doula was on the phone handling play-by-play instructions from her midwife friend on what to do next!
I sat there, leaning against my husband, with our brand new daughter, cord still attached, eyes wide open for nearly 30 minutes. It was everything I have ever wanted and hoped for in a birth, but something I felt completely robbed from due to my breech boys and the c-sections previous.
Scarlett latched on almost immediately, which helped the placenta smoothly come out. My mom (Grammy) was able to cut the cord with the chicken scissors! My in-laws (Gigi and Papa) showed up around that time in shock to hear a baby crying! They had gotten the "hospital call" just a mere 30 minutes before...they had no clue how fast things were going!
Unfortunately there was one slight tear and the doula suggested we go to the hospital for repair. We took our time, though, and sat just the three of us in our bed. Feeding, resting, and talking over the previous crazy event!