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My 2nd VBAC-Hypnobabies hospital birth!
My first child, Sebastian, was a much anticipated baby. His father and I were so excited to be expecting him, and once we found out that we were, we jumped feet first into what we thought was a really good education on how to peacefully bring our baby into the world. We took Bradley Method classes, and practiced for our natural childbirth. When his “due” date came and went, we got into a pattern of seeing our nurse practitioner midwife every other day to monitor the babies progress. We were asked to schedule an induction at 41w4d gestation, and because we were unaware of the statistics surrounding induction, we agreed. Plus, in all honesty, we were ready to meet our baby!! This induction, like many others, failed—and we met our baby after he was born via cesarean section.
Like many mothers, after the c-section, I felt a sense of loss. When I thought of bringing a child into the world it did not involve my being strapped to a bed in a cold, brightly lit operating room. The reasons behind Sebastian’s cesarean birth could be debated—but I’ve never seen that debate to be worth my time. What I can take responsibility for is the fact that while we were making preparations for a natural birth, I was not taking care of my body—and I gained a lot of excess weight. This resulted in a very large 10lb, 22.5 inch long baby and a scarred uterus.
At this point, I desperately wanted a different experience. So I did a lot of reading on Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC), and worked on readying my body before I attempted to get pregnant again. When I got pregnant with my second child I was in better physical shape and felt that I was prepared for what was to come. My pregnancy progressed normally, I took better care of myself physically, and I had a great team of supportive care providers in place to help deliver my second baby. When the 40 week mark came and went uneventfully, I started to feel a lot of pressure from the midwives and obstetricians that I was working with because no one seemed comfortable with my going “postdates.” I was convinced to attempt to induce labor in various ways, including cohosh tinctures and sweeping membranes. This resulted in days of prodromal labor followed by a marathon 32+ hour active labor after my water broke. It was a very difficult birth, which was very painful and long because it kept stalling. In the end, I had some additional interventions including an epidural and Pitocin. Even though I had a successful VBAC, Atticus was stressed in the end (likely as a result of the interventions) and inhaled some meconium on his way out of the birth canal. My sweet Atticus was the healthiest 8lb.3oz., 21 inch baby who spent 7 days in the NICU after he was born.
My first two pregnancies were similar in that each baby boy was born at 41w4d gestation, and each birth was full of medication and interventions. Also--between a cesarean section for the first and an episiotomy for the second, I’d not experienced labor without a scalpel.
So, that’s my history. Hopefully, I’ve illustrated it well and how it played into my thoughts and feelings going into this pregnancy.
And now finally, 600 words into this story, I get to my third birth.
When I became pregnant for the third time, I’d had a successful VBAC which gave me the confidence that I could birth a baby naturally. We were in a different state, and while researching new care providers I came across a wonderful group of nurse midwives who had an 11% cesarean rate and upon interviewing, liked very much…score! I knew from experience that I needed additional labor support, so I began working with a hypnodoula, a wonderful doula named Kathy who is certified by Hypbobabies to aid women in self-hypnosis during childbirth. After talking with Kathy about Hypnobabies (and reading the great reviews on Amazon!), I decided to take the Hypnobabies home course.
The pregnancy progressed normally, and was really the easiest of my three. When my due date approached, I was very comfortable with my progress with the Hypnobabies course—and felt prepared mentally and physically for a natural childbirth. In the last weeks of my pregnancy, I focused a lot on what Hynobabies calls “Fear Clearing” to rid myself of the baggage that came with my first two births.
The Saturday before my due-date (I was 39w2d pregnant) I was feeling really good. We’d had a garage sale that day to make room for baby stuff—and by that night, I was tired, but my house was in order. At around 10pm, my husband was in bed and I got into the shower. What I remember most about that shower was that my skin felt really good, and I felt really good in it! After the shower, I stood thinking about which Hypnobabies disc to listen to and decided to do another Fear Clearing session. I really felt the need to focus on giving up control of my body and the timing of my labor, as the baby is the one who is in charge of when they will come—not me! During the session, I got very deep into hypnosis—much deeper than I’d ever been before. Then, in the middle of the session I had such intense feelings of love for my baby that I actually started tearing up, and crying--without ever opening my eyes. At that same time I wanted to smile, but my switch was off (meaning that I couldn’t move) so my mouth didn't move. So that's how I spent the rest of the fear clearing session--happy as a clam and calm, but with tears going down each side of my face.
When the fear clearing track ended, I was feeling really good and didn't want to move around a lot--so I let the next track play, thinking that it would help me get to sleep. As soon as the track started, so did some really intense birthing waves!! I got comfortable and flipped my switch to off--and reminded myself that I needed to get some sleep. I continued listening to the track and relaxing through the birthing waves, and eventually fell asleep. But, the birthing waves--still very strong and intense enough to wake me up--came all night! I have no idea how regularly--or how many--because I wanted to make sure that I got enough rest (in other words, I didn't allow myself to get excited, start timing them, and miss out on sleep!!). When I woke up on Sunday I still felt really good, but the birthing waves tapered off—dwindling down to 2 or 3 an hour. Then, Sunday night after I put my kids to bed they picked up again, coming every 5 minutes for almost 2 hours!
This was my pattern for the next few days. Instead of allowing myself to become annoyed by my lack of true labor, I took the advice of my doula and got plenty of rest and a made sure to feed myself well. I was also SO excited to have any kind of activity before 41 weeks gestation! This, to me, was an absolute win! Even though my very sweet midwives expressed to me at my 39 week appointment (when I politely declined an internal exam) that it would be okay for me to be pregnant 2 or even 3 more weeks—and that I was not on a “timeline,” I was afraid that would change if I got to the 41 week gestation mark.
At my forty week appointment on November 1st, I was asked again if I wanted an internal exam. Instead of turning the midwife down, I told her that I’d been experiencing prodromal labor for several days, and would be so disappointed if I were a “half-a-fingertip-of-nothing” dilated. So, we made an agreement that she would do the exam, and if there were no good news she would smile and say that she’d see me next week! When doing the exam, she smiled and said that she wouldn’t even have to lie—I was 3 cm. dilated, 80% effaced, and baby was sitting comfortably engaged at zero station!! This, at 40 weeks gestation!! I was a pretty happy camper.
I made the appointment for my 41 week visit, and prepared to make a call to my doula’s back-up. On Halloween night, I’d gotten a call from my primary doula because her mother had experienced a very sudden stroke. She was leaving for California, but was hopeful that she’d be back before I delivered. I was comfortable with my doula, and trusted very much in her experience, so I was disappointed to see her go—but my husband and my midwives were very confident that her back up was equally as great. As I settled into the car for the ride home, before I had the opportunity to make any calls, I started getting very strong birthing waves that were forming a pattern!
My husband and I decided to stop at the grocery store—we needed some essentials, and at the store I had to stop walking and breathe through the waves. We made it home, and my husband got dinner ready for our boys while I did some last minute packing and I made the call to the back-up doula, Michelle, to introduce myself and to let her know that we were having some action! When dinner was ready I joined everyone at the table, and tried to hide the fact that I was in labor from my boys. I did eat a little food, but had to excuse myself to visit the restroom as there was no keeping food down at this point. I thought that it’d be a good idea to take a shower, and during the shower I was having back-to-back birthing waves. I made the decision when I got out of the shower that I wanted to change the plan of having Michelle meet us at our house, to have her meet us at the hospital. I told my husband about this change of plans, and for some reason he took this as a cue to begin vacuuming the house? I’m still having issues wrapping my head around that one! Anyway, as soon as I made it very clear that we were leaving; he got into gear and began packing the car while I talked to our boys. We said our “see-you-laters” and I settled my babies into an impromptu movie night with their Great-Grandma.
When we got to the hospital, Michelle was there waiting for us in our room. She had a wonderful, calm demeanor and I knew right away that she’d be a great fit for me and Richard. When we got settled into the room, our nurse came in to take my vitals and to monitor the uterine waves and baby’s heartbeat. For the time that we were on the monitor, the baby’s heart rate was high—normally in the 180s. The general consensus was that I needed fluids—but I wasn’t pushed into getting an IV (or even a hep-lock!)—instead, I was given fluids and they asked that we continue with intermittent monitoring (15-20 min/hr) once we saw the baby’s heart rate drop to normal range. The midwife on call, Tania, also did an internal check (the only one that I’d have until it was time to push) and found that since my appointment that afternoon, I’d dilated to 5cm. and baby was still at zero station…so, we were making progress!!
At this point we began getting into a rhythm. We’d walk the long Labor and Delivery hallway, spend time with my sitting on the birthing ball, I’d also get into some squatting positions during birthing waves so that we could encourage the baby to descend—all the time getting to know Michelle and appreciating everything that she was doing to make this time easier on me and Richard. Because of the intermittent monitoring we were asked to do, we had to take a break every hour for 15-20 minutes and we found that this was a perfect time for me to listen to some Hypnobabies tracks to stay relaxed and in tune with my body and our baby. During these breaks I was able to relax to the point where I was quite literally falling asleep—and get much needed rest. Once the monitoring was over, I’d get up refreshed and ready to go until the next break. All the while my nurse would come and check on me, and she was so nice and respectful, she whispered when she was in the room, and never touched me when my switch was “off” and I was unable to move while in self-hypnosis. Michelle also noted that while I was deep in hypnosis, and very relaxed, the baby’s heart rate would slow from the 150 range down to 120-130—so, we were both relaxing!
As the hours passed, everything settled into the pattern we had set. I was handling the birthing waves very well—for several reasons. The first is that these were birthing waves that had not been altered by any sort of medication, when in labor with Sebastian I’d been given Pitocin and with Atticus I had been given cohosh tinctures and both of these things produce artificially strong birthing waves. So, these were the first “real” birthing waves I’d ever felt and they weren’t that bad! The other reason I handled the birthing waves so well is the relaxation that I got from practicing Hypnobabies—in the state of self-hypnosis that I was in I was very relaxed and well rested—two things that I had never before experienced in labor!
In the early morning hours I began to get bored with walking the halls. At that point my midwife Tania suggested that I get in the wonderfully huge birthing tub that was in my room. Michelle drew the bath, and I got in and felt really good floating around. I was comfortable, and in my mind I was too comfortable—this brought me back to Atticus’ birth when I stalled for a long time when I’d get too comfortable. This combined with the fact that I’d all of a sudden gotten very hot, prompted me to get out of the tub. It was about 3AM at this point, and time for another round of monitoring.
For this monitoring session, I decided to listen to the Hypnobabies “Deepening” track, which flips your switch to “off” and gets you very deep into self-hypnosis. I was lying on my side, attached to the monitors in an otherwise dark room and it appeared that I was asleep. Michelle was sitting in a chair and Richard was on the sofa, when all of a sudden I sat straight up and started moving the pillows from around me on the bed. I’d gotten a very strong contraction, and felt the need to move—immediately! This was around 3:45 in the morning, and everyone present agrees that this is when transformation started.
The next 45 minutes progressed quickly and are really a blur. I was very hot and thirsty. Michelle was bringing me water and I downed two large glasses very quickly. Then I started to feel sick and Michelle was there holding a wastebasket as I threw up twice. The birthing waves continued to be strong and intense, but not overwhelming, and I managed them by bouncing on the birthing ball in front of my bed, squatting, and using the birthing bar attached to my bed. The primary thing that I was having an issue with was my hips—they felt very loose and there was a lot of pressure behind them. Now I know that my baby was making a very quick descent down the birth canal and that is what I was feeling, but in the moment all I knew was that my hips were very sore and no amount of counter pressure was doing anything for me!
I was trying to find a comfortable position, but couldn’t, and ended up sitting at the edge of my bed. My nurse and my doula did not want me sitting there, as it had become obvious to them (but not to me!) that I was pushing through birthing waves. So, between birthing waves I was able to scoot about 6 inches back on the bed and to help support me, Michelle put the birth ball on the bed behind my back, but that was awkward because I had nowhere to put my arms to support myself. Since I seemed to be close to having a baby, the nurse thought it’s be best to do an internal exam to check my progress and found that I was 9.5 cm. dilated with a “buttery” cervix during a wave, which meant that I’d be at 10cm. when ….I was SO not happy with her for checking me during a wave, and I let her know it! At this point the nurse made the call for the midwife to come to the room, and everyone was telling me that we’d be meeting our baby soon. Because of my incredibly long labor with Atticus, where I stalled for a long time at 9cm., I was having a very hard time believing them. This was a difficult scenario for me, because I kept thinking that I’d be having these intense, back to back, birthing waves for hours to come…little did I know that Josiah would be making an appearance in less than 20 minutes!
It was again, suddenly very hot in the room--and Michelle draped my head and neck in cold cloths to cool me off. She also thought that I’d benefit from using a Rebozo wrap for some counter pressure while pushing—so, my incredible doula got the wrap and instructed Richard how to use it, since he was standing in front of me while I was still sitting toward the end of the bed. He was supposed to hold the middle section of the wrap while I pulled on each end. I didn’t get those instructions and wanted to pull on the small section of cloth between his hands. The only comical memory of my entire birth process came after the 2nd contraction that I had while in this position, when I got aggravated with Richard for not providing enough counter pressure for me to pull as hard as I wanted to --and I (very seriously) told him to “Pull hard, and don’t make me tell you twice!” Once he listened to those instructions, pushing in this position felt very good (mind you, I still didn’t think that I was pushing) and I kept doing this for a few more birthing waves—even feeling strong/primal enough to stand during one of them.
My midwife came into the room (I later found out that this was to the nurses relief, she thought that baby would be born before she made it!) and sat on a stool at the end of the bed, complimenting me for my choice of position toward the end of the bed, which made her job really easy! Once she sat down, everyone saw my sweet Josiah’s little head—and for the first time, I realized that he was about to be born. This was it, so I pushed through 2 more birthing waves and felt the “ring of fire.” This was also the first time during this birth that I was consciously pushing and it was not painful at all, just a lot of pressure. One more push, and his little head was out—I looked down and saw a perfectly round little head and everyone knew that he’d passed through the birth canal very quickly. Richard readied himself, and on the next push, baby Josiah was born into his Daddy’s hands at 4:43am, Friday November 2, 2012. Richard placed Josiah on my chest and the moment I looked into his eyes I fell head-over-heels-deep-in-love with my beautiful baby boy. I could not take my eyes off of his sweet face. He was very peaceful and quiet and gorgeous. We waited for the cord to stop pulsing, and then Richard cut it. Josiah was a hungry little guy with a great latch, and he fed for forty minutes—staring into my eyes while I birthed the placenta and my midwife put two stitches in a small tear. At this point I was in a state of shock and amazement at my body’s ability to produce three perfect little babies, and to also give me the gentle birth experience that was better than I’d ever truly imagined.
It’s funny, because all of the fear clearing and thought that I put into doing away with my past birth experiences didn’t stop me from referencing the labor process from my prior VBAC. I really thought that I’d spend hours and hours “stuck” with no progress, and had prepared myself mentally and physically for that scenario. I never allowed myself to truly believe what I’d envisioned for my birth…but I got it anyway!! Me, the gal who carries her 8-10lb. babies for almost 42 weeks, had a tiny 7lb.3oz. baby boy who started active labor on his due date and was born 8 hours later with no interventions and no trauma!
After everyone left, and it was me and Richard and our sweet baby boy, we had a rest for a few hours and then Richard brought our big boys to meet their new baby brother. We spent all afternoon together, and then the boys went home and Richard and I spent some more time alone with Josiah. The next day, we were discharged from the hospital, and during that time our CNM, Tania, asked if I were going to have a homebirth next time. Well, *if* there is a next time, I think I will! I thought that I needed to be at a hospital –just in case- but after experiencing my first normal birth, I no longer feel that way.
This birth is testament to the power of Midwives who practice evidence based care, Doulas who are there to support you during birth, Chiropractors who are trained to keep mother and baby in the best position for birth, and Hypnobabies to keep you calm, positive, and relaxed during labor. This beautiful experience was made possible because of each of them…and Josiah & his mommy.
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