By Caroline, Contributing Writer
After an unnecessary-cesarean that, if I had known my options, never in a million years would have happened, I knew that homebirth was the only way that I’d ever be able to have any birth other than a repeat c-section.
“You’ll Never Be Able to VBAC”: An HBAC Story
As usual for my births, my due date came and went with little fanfare. My midwife wasn’t worried, and neither was I. And so we waited. And waited. And waited some more.
When I was a week overdue, we had a huge storm blow through with flash flooding and heavy winds that wound up knocking out our power. Suddenly, for the first time in probably a month, I was praying for labor NOT to start! In the hottest summer in recorded history, I had no power for almost 12 hours. Thankfully, only one contraction that was, honestly, probably brought on by a combination of stress and being a 41-week pregnant beached whale.
The next week slowly passed, filled with many “is this it?! THIS IS IT! Oh…. it stopped” moments, and I finally resigned myself that I was going to be the first woman to be pregnant forever. I’ve said this to every first-time mom I know: Once you realize you’ll be pregnant forever, the baby comes.
And Wouldn’t You Know it, it Happened.
My husband asked if he could work late on Friday night and I told him “Sure! I don’t think this baby’s coming soon anyway.” Silly words for a 41-week-5-day pregnant woman to speak, but I spoke them nonetheless.
I was in bed when he got home at 2:30, and I was sound asleep when he came to bed at 4. And he was sound asleep when I was jolted awake at 5:30 by a contraction. I was confused, I’ll be honest. A contraction like that had never just woken me up. I thought that maybe it was a muscle spasm and I tried to go back to bed. It happened again a few minutes later. I figured that I’d try to get into the shower to see if that would help the “muscle spasms” that I still thought they might be.
I turned on the water, but I didn’t even have a chance to turn the shower on before I had another. I have terrible back labor with all of my births, so once I feel like I need someone to squeeze my hips together, I know that it’s the real deal.
Right up until this point, at roughly 5:50am on Saturday June 27, I had never had a moment where I knew I was in labor. I was so happy! In pain, but happy! I finally had the moment where I could say to my husband that I was for sure in labor. For some reason, that was funny and comforting to me. So I waddled into the bedroom and told my husband that “it’s time! I’m in labor!” Despite only having about 2 hours of sleep, he sprung into action: calling the grandparents to pick up our two older boys, getting their go-bags ready, calling the midwife, getting me some Laboraid, and rubbing my back when I needed him to.
The midwives showed up just as the grandparents were getting the kids into the car. At this point, the contractions were 5 minutes apart, so we were able to time getting the older boys into the car without having to see me in pain. From then on, it was go time.
This was my second HBAC, so I knew what to expect, which was why I loved every step of this labor.
I was able to talk and laugh a little between contractions and help everyone know where everything was and what I needed. It was amazing. I never thought I’d be able to explain being in such pain as “amazing,” but it was. I knew exactly what was happening, I had my birth affirmations on my phone, I had my support team around me, and I was in my own home. Everything was perfect.
Of course I was in labor, so it was uncomfortable, but it was very normal. I knew that I was capable of doing this. I knew that my body was not broken and that I was able to birth this baby without another c-section.
As the contractions picked up, I remember going from a conscious, coherent state into a trance-like concentration; I knew what was happening, but the communication that required the use of full words or sentences, seemed like it was more than I could handle.
Being a People Please in Labor
I’m a people pleaser by nature. So when I’m in labor and I need someone to support me in some way, asking for help just doesn’t come naturally for me. In labor, I turn into a mouse: I can’t bring myself to ask people for help at a human volume, so I ask in the tiny, almost inaudible voice. My midwives knew exactly what I needed without me ever needing to say anything. My husband, however, a gregarious extrovert, had more trouble hearing my tiny pleas to squeeze my hips together. But eventually, he figured it out.
I stayed downstairs in my living room for most of the morning. I paced into the dining room and the kitchen occasionally but mostly I stayed in my living room. I was able to bounce on my birth ball, rest my head on the couch, slump over for some shut eye (which came remarkably easy between contractions), and eat when I wanted to.
Into the afternoon, I needed a change of pace. My midwife helped me up the stairs into my shower while my husband and the assistant midwife were filling up the birth pool (which is apparently the official, unofficial birth pool on Amazon… all of the reviews are for its use as a birth pool, and they’re spot on).
I spent the better part of 2 hours in the hottest shower I could stand. In between contractions, I just stood there in the hot water. When a contraction would come, my midwife would squeeze my hips together while I let the hot water hit my belly. She was an amazing rock; never once complained about being soaked from my shower curtain being open, or about how the bathroom had turned into a literal sauna in June. She stayed in there with me, with no place for her to sit or rest, for 2 hours.
Was My Body Able to Do This?
While I was in the shower, she asked if I wanted to be checked to see how far along I was. I hadn’t been checked the entire time I was in labor. I was scared. There will always be a part of me that goes back to my first labor (an induction resulting in c-section) and stalling at 4cm and “failing to progress.” I avoid being checked because I know that if I am only at 4cm, it will be so crushing.
But probably around 2pm, something told my midwife to check me. Sure enough, I was 8cm dilated! I could do this!
By this point, the hot water had run out and the birth pool was full. My midwife helped me downstairs and I hurried into the tub before another contraction outside of the warm water. Because of the back labor, the birth pool can get in the way of the person who is trying to apply counter pressure to my hips. But thank God for my skilled midwife and her assistant. They got on either side of my hips and pushed them together while I was on hands and knees. My husband poured hot water over my back during contractions.
In between contractions in transition, I passed out. I had a towel to put my head on and I just passed out once the contraction passed. Even the 30 seconds in between contractions was enough to get some much-needed rest.
While I was in the birth pool, I instinctively started pushing during contractions. There was nothing I could do about it, my body just started pushing. But I remembered that if I wasn’t fully dilated when I started pushing, like my last birth, pushing could really work against me and make my labor longer. I kept apologizing (again, people pleaser) for pushing during contractions.
Everyone in the room had a little laugh at the woman about to give birth apologizing for giving birth!
At around 3:15, my midwife checked me again in between my blur of contractions and found out that I was fully dilated! Even in the haze of transition, I was so excited! I could finally start pushing during contractions without fear of prolonging my labor!
The end was near! I could see the finish line!
Once I was fully dilated with my last birth, I only pushed for 15 minutes, so I figured that I was only about 15 minutes away from having my baby. I could do it.
Sadly, that was not the case.
Then Labor Stalled…
In the last few weeks of this pregnancy, I had this irrational fear of my water breaking in public. I guess it happens, but the thought of having it happen to me was just unacceptable. So I made sure to take my zinc and calcium religiously to help strengthen my bag of water.
Well, apparently it worked.
My pushing had only made it very clear that the bag of waters was very, very strong. My water hadn’t broken at this point. My midwife is very hands off, so it’s not like her to do anything that isn’t happening naturally.
For 2 hours we waited. I walked around my house in between contractions (because I was no longer a zombie in transition) trying to get my water to break. Every time I stopped for a contraction, my midwife and her assistant would sprint over to me with chux pads and a bowl to try to catch most of the waters. When the contraction had passed, my husband and I kept walking the 45 foot walk from my front door to my back door to try to get my water to break.
I must have looked tired (shocker, right), because my midwife asked me if I wanted to sit down to try a change of pace. So I sat on the birthing stool she brought and kept trying to get my waters to break. Still nothing.
I was starting to get very discouraged. My labor was still going, but I had “stalled,” in my own mind, at least. I was starting to feel like I was going to need to transfer to the hospital to get this baby out. I was on the verge of sobbing. I stood up to hold my husband during a contraction. I needed the physical support, reassurance, and love that only a husband can give. And it finally happened. And it happened.
And then, it finally happened. And it happened fast.
My water broke. Thankfully, it broke on all of the chux pads and plastic tarps in my living room. It was greenish, but fresh. My midwife thinks that it was within the last few minutes that the meconium passed, so she wasn’t too worried about it.
She was more concerned that the baby’s head was right there!
I went from my baby being in the +2 station, to him crowning with the pop of my water breaking. And, boy, did it hurt. I didn’t feel the ring of fire with my first HBAC, but this… this was awful! “This HURTS!” I remember telling everyone. My midwife very calmly said “I know it does, but the only way to get passed it, is to push through it.”
And so I did. And out came his head. He had the cord wrapped around his neck twice, so my midwife quickly unwrapped him and told me to do little pushes to make sure I didn’t tear. With the next set of little pushes, he was out!
My water had broken at 5:12pm, and my baby was born at 5:17. My midwife handed him right over to my husband while she helped me onto the couch. Once I was on the couch, I got to hold him. My husband and I were so happy that he was here and that labor was over. Finally, he was here!
My midwife delivered the placenta with no trouble, and I only needed 2 stitches (to quote my midwife: I “probably didn’t need them, but rather be safe than sorry.”) It was all over. My midwife checked both of us out while my husband and her assistant emptied the birth pool and cleaned up the rest of the house. My house looked like a scene from Dexter: everything was covered in a plastic tarp. Which was fantastic for clean up, but wouldn’t have been so fantastic if I had to explain to the trash men on Monday why it looked like I had murdered someone!
Not-so-little Michael weighed in at 9lb. 15oz. and arrived at 41 weeks 6 days. The abrupt birth didn’t seem to phase him at all. He was a healthy, big boy.
When my midwife weighed him, my jaw was on the floor. He was 6 ounces heavier than my oldest son. The OBGYN practice who had delivered my oldest via c-section said that they would never even let me try a hospital HBAC because I had a 9lb. 9oz. baby to start with. They said I’d never be able to give birth naturally. With every fiber of my being, I wanted to call that doctor and tell her “guess what I did! And you said I could never do it!”