Two weeks ago my sweet little #4 came into my arms, and I have been blissfully enjoying newborn-land ever since. It has however come to my attention that I now have FOUR children, count them: one, two, three, four—and I still have to just laugh about the reality of me taking care of 4 kids by myself in another week or so. But that’s my next adventure. This story is about becoming that mother of four, who actually got to be “just a mama having a baby”—my first vaginal birth with my fourth baby. (Donna wants this to be the story of my journey to HBA3C, but that’s a lot of letters. For me, it’s the story of how I finally stopped trying to be smart and instead learned to trust my intuition, my body, and the Lord.)
Here’s the back story: in college, my first major was to become an RN, and my plan was to go back and become a Certified Nurse Midwife after I’d had my kids. I have a memory of being a naïve little 19 year old telling someone about my plans and about how crazy it is the way that docs and hospitals treat pregnancy like an illness. Fast forward eight years later—my husband is in grad school and we are buying private health insurance to cover me because we’re hoping to get pregnant soon. So exciting when that little stick comes up positive!! It’s still in the back of my mind that I want a CNM not an OB, but we find out after I’m already expecting that our insurance only covers one group of 6 OBs. We’re poor students and figure the big group of OBs seems to work for everyone else so we’ll try it, but we do decide to drive to a hospital across town for a “lamaze natural childbirth class” because I know I do not want an epidural and my mom did lamaze. The night we cover c-sections our teacher tells us that 1 in 6 births happen that way—I say, “You mean one out of the couples here will probably have a c-section?!” I had no idea cutting a mama wide open to get her baby out was that common. (and those are pretty nice numbers compared to what they are today…)
My water broke 3 days before 40 weeks. It was dinner time and I was pulling laundry out of the washer. We did just what they taught us at the hospital: don’t eat if you’re in labor! and come right in and get checked if you have a gush of fluid! Well, that left me very tired and hungry by the time contractions started kicking in 4-5 hours later. And then after a couple hours, the doctor said we needed to do pitocin to speed things up, so the nurse said she’d put it on low “since I wanted to go natural.” After an hour or so I was dilated to a 5 (that was good progress! What I wish we had known…), but pitocin contractions were hard to deal with (no endorphins), and we were already wearing out our breathing techniques. The hospital staff basically patted my hand and said, “Oh honey, you probably have another 12 hours of this, don’t you want an epidural?”
So I caved and got one, and immediately after insertion our room filled with nurses. Fetal distress. They slapped an oxygen mask on me and started flipping my numb body from side to side. (I remember thinking: “See, I knew epidurals weren’t good for my baby!”) They couldn’t get his heart rate back up from 90s so we were prepped and headed for an emergency c-section before we hardly knew what was going on. Baby was acynclinic with a slight brow presentation, nuchal chord wrapped around torso/neck, and my sweet baby boy was sucking on his cord when delivered. Nine on his apgar, 8 lbs. 13 oz. I begged for and got one glimpse of him before they wisked him away to check him out. He was screaming and a healthy bright pink curled in the nurse’s arms—I sent my husband with him and stayed to joke in the OR about the way they were stapling me back together (it really does sound very much the same as the stapler on your desk). My firstborn was delivered around 3:40 am, I didn’t get to see him again and hold him for the first time until after the nurse shift change at 6am. Those two hours seemed an eternity to me and I was upset—keeping me from my baby was probably more traumatizing than anything else.
With baby #2 on the way two years later, “I want a VBAC” was my cry. My OB told me I was a great candidate for a vaginal birth, but that when we moved I would have to look hard for a doctor that would support it. Well, we made it to TX when I was 3 months along and I asked around. Lots of women from church used a group of OBs that said they “allowed” VBACs. One of the doctors even told me that they were one of the few groups that did VBACs in the area, and I believed them. Every visit I told them that I wanted a vaginal birth, they in turn reminded me every visit of the risks of VBAC, and agreed that they would “let” me labor as long as it began before 40 weeks. I dutifully scheduled a date for surgery, just in case.
The day of the planned surgery arrived, I walked and walked that morning, already so depressed that labor hadn’t come. When the nurse (who smelled of cigarettes) prepped me, I was contracting. “Can you feel those?” she asked, “Yes. I want to VBAC, I need to talk to my doctor!” I said, but she replied, “If you are scheduled for a c-section, you are having a section, honey.” The doctor and assistant talked about garage sales over me in the OR like I was an old Buick, and my sweet little girl was born, 8lbs. 7oz. “She probably wouldn’t have fit through there anyway,” the doctor reassured me as she sewed my belly back together. I later had to yell at the nurses to get them to give me my baby so I could nurse her—they had a policy about
moms on morphine not being alone with a baby. Did I mention that I don’t like being separated from my baby?
Donna summed up baby #3’s story for me, you can read it here. It was wild and disappointing, and again, even when I asked them to stop, they took away and poked my baby, this time because he was “big” 9lbs. 6 oz. I’ve never felt more beaten down than I did as I watched them wheel my baby away from me, and it sunk in that I had just had my 3rd “unnecesarean.” But I did have an angel nurse later that same day, and her simple kindness helped me feel again what I have always known: I was made to be the mother of my children. My husband had gone home to get a shower, and I was lying in my crinkly hospital bed with my sweet baby boy starting to fuss over in the hospital bassinet, out of my reach. As the hopeless feeling of again being stuck in bed unable to care for my new little one was threatening to overwhelm me, my good nurse picked up my baby and said, “He just wants to be with his mama,” as she tucked him in beside me. It was a turning point for me, bless that nurse!
Now I like to think that I’m educated about normal birth and rather loud and feisty to boot, and I fought hard, but fighting just doesn’t get you a peaceful birth. I did however learn much from my experience in getting baby #3 here. I learned that for me, labor stops in a hospital with bright lights and uncooperative staff. I learned that I can’t be smart enough and know enough to make people treat birth as healthy and normal when they are in the habit of doing things differently. And as I look back, there were key decisions that I made based on logic and convenience instead of what my intuition told me. I had heard of a very pro-VBAC doctor that I could have switched to, that was an hour drive from my home, but had ruled it out because it seemed too far away. My doctor who was supportive of VBAC had told me that there was only a 60-70% chance that he would actually be at my birth, that should have been a red flag, but it was more convenient to just stay with him. I also made the mistake of paying attention to my labor too soon and let myself be very discouraged by dilation numbers. And I allowed myself to fight against the very labor that I had hoped and prayed for when we had no care provider.
When we realized that baby #4 was coming it was a bit of a surprise and it put me in a very humble place. What do I do? I believe with all my heart in normal natural childbirth, but I have been cut open 3 times already. Even Ina May herself would send me to the hospital to have this baby, but I know that my body shuts labor down in a hospital. And my good husband at this point would rather just skip the whole birth phenomenon and go straight to having a 2 month old—he doesn’t trust hospitals and doctors anymore than I do, and he just wants me safe. So I did what I thought I had done before, but with my whole soul this time, I put it in the Lord’s hands. I told God Almighty of my desires to birth my baby the way He designed me to, and before I could add that I’ll do a c-section if I need to and I’ll stop trying to be too smart about all of this, I felt the sweet peace that He was good with my desires and that it would all work out just fine. Wow. That same peace has been renewed again and again and carried me through to holding that sweet baby in my arms.
Love this quote from Hannah at Intuitive Mothering:
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that has honored the servant and forgotten the gift.” –Albert Einstein
I formed what I call “my bubble” around myself to protect that peace and rely on my intuition as I prepared to birth this child. A very important part of that bubble was choosing care providers who were in the habit of treating birth as a normal, natural event. I did drive the hour up to the amazing doctor I should have gone to with baby #3, and he was supportive of my VBAC plans and fine with me doing most of my prenatals with my midwife. My awesome midwife helped put my husband at ease, and I had that same peace about her, my intuition telling me simply “she will help you.” I actually saw my chiropractor before any other care provider, and she got my uterus back in alignment (it was tilted over on my right side) and provided great care throughout pregnancy. I never worried about my scar (my husband let me know the other day that he did the worrying for me), and my awesome midwife reminded me early on that a chance of uterine rupture is very much the same during all the growing of pregnancy as it is during labor. Didn’t tell many people about our plans, if they did ask, I usually told them the back-up plan: we’ve hired a midwife to be our doula and have a doctor who is very supportive of me having a VBAC. As pregnancy continued, I grew sure that we wouldn’t actually need that doctor because this baby was going to be born at home. My husband was willing to ride on my faith, after plenty of discussion. He trusted our midwife—she had made it clear that if there was any indication of a problem for baby or me in labor that we would transfer to the local hospital less than 5 minutes away.
My water broke while she was checking me, huge release for my huge belly. And then from here things get a little hazy for me—I got in the tub again for a little while and I think I began to feel the urge to push. I had figured that I would spend a lot of time squatting to help get my baby down and open up my pelvis, but squatting didn’t work for me for very long. I had a lip of cervix that needed to get out of the way, my midwife held it back though a few contractions and I was ready to push. Pushing is hard, I know some women like it better than first stage and I can see how they might, but I just wanted to be done. I was getting more and more tired and a bit confused about how to make the pushing effective, and I had strained an inner thigh tendon that was freaking out when I pushed. Being a “first-time mom” I had mentally tried to be ready for hours of pushing, but it was harder than I had imagined and I was so tired.
We did it, she’s here! Sweet baby girl #4 is here!! And her big sister saw her birth. I don’t really know how to describe how good this has felt for me and for my family. I am whole and well, and able to enjoy this little one as I had never been able to with my older ones. Not a bit of the baby blues that hit me so hard after my previous 3 cesarean births. I do cry, but it’s when I think about the blessing of this new little one coming the way the Lord designed. And one of the best parts: my baby has been with me as much as I want! (I think I need to go snuggle her soft little head again right now…)
And speaking of her little head, my sweet little one was 9 lbs. 12 oz. and her chest was an inch bigger than her head. Her dad has called her our sumo baby. I had a 1st degree tear (sweet baby kept her hand up by her face too) that did need a few stitches, and felt better within several days. Recovery has been very different from major surgery. I feel so well, and my baby has been so alert, a great nurser and a really good sleeper.
Two weeks ago I got to be “just a mama having a baby” as we welcomed our sweet baby girl into our home and family. My intuition has always quietly told me that birth without unnecessary interventions would be best for me and for my baby and for our new relationship. I’m very grateful to have found people who believed in me and believed in natural normal birth. It has made all the difference for me. My body gave birth the way it was designed to, the same way thousands of mothers across the globe give birth every day. It was awesome. Not eventful at all, just plain old normal, and I loved it.