After early labor starting Sunday morning, "active" labor starting Monday morning, I finally gave birth this morning at 5:09am! My labor pattern was weird, to say the least. It started and stopped several times. I'll write a full birth story later.
Here's the gist of it...
Andre (middle name coming soon), August 29th at 5:09am weighing 9 lbs 6 oz (exactly what his brother weighed!) and 22" long. He was a homebirth, waterbirth, all natural VBAC/HBAC!
I'm feeling great. Just tired after a 3 day haul.
Andre Smith Mackey was born 8/29/07 at 5:09am weighing 9 lbs 6 oz.
The gory details…
First of all, let me explain what happened (briefly) with my first son’s birth. I planned a homebirth, but ended up transferring to the hospital while in early labor because of signs of pre-eclampsia. I was immediately put on magnesium sulfate to stop any seizures that might have happened because of the high blood pressure. The doctors also started Pitocin and broke my waters to speed up the delivery process, because the only ‘cure’ for pre-eclampsia is to deliver the baby.
After 20 hours in the hospital, and 10 or so hours of being ‘stuck’ at 5cm, I agreed to a c-section. It happened without complication, and my recovery was quick (for a cesarean), but I found the entire process to be horrible.
7 months later, I was pregnant again, and knew that I wanted a VBAC (vaginal birth after a cesarean). The only problem was that I live in a small town in rural Washington where there are no options for a VBAC. The only local hospital won’t attend them, and the only homebirth midwife who is highly supportive of VBAC’s wasn’t able to attend because of the political and legal pressure from the local medical community.
So, I started the long journey of making a VBAC happen in the nearest big city (Seattle) which is about 3 hours away. I found a midwife who has attended over 100 VBACs, and has a very hands-off approach to labor and birth. Every prenatal appointment took up a whole day, because of the time it took to commute. Eventually we worked out the plan for me to birth in my midwife’s home office, in a birthing tub which we’d rent.
My official due date was August 18th, and FINALLY on August 26th (Sunday) I had bloody show and started into early labor! My contractions started out about 3 minutes apart, which had me worried. I was afraid that the labor would be too fast, and I wouldn’t be able to make the 3 hour trip to our birthing location. Oh, if I’d only known…
We got to Seattle early Sunday afternoon, and S (our midwife) checked me. I was dilated to 2cm, which made me happy. My husband got us a hotel room, and my mother watched our son there. So, Sunday afternoon and evening I napped, ate, walked and just tried to relax through these early contractions. But, by 10pm, the contractions had slowed down to about 30 minutes apart. For the week before this, I’d had Braxton Hicks contractions which had done the same thing, so we decided that it was just the pattern I was in, and I should get some rest and let them come back in the morning.
Early Monday morning, they were back! We went to the midwife’s office to labor, and we again found that the baby’s head wasn’t low enough, so S had me walk downhill and try different positions to get him moved down in the pelvis. By evening, I was dilated to 5cm but stretchable to 6-7cm. But, contractions spaced out again, and I needed to wait for labor phase #3. S said that I would probably start right into transition by the next phase.
Jump ahead to early Tuesday morning, and low and behold, transition! I had some intense contractions, and then got the shakes. I got into the birthing tub, and my doula, J, joined us. By this point I was really tired, from only sleeping in 20 minute increments. I spent a long time in the tub just spacing out and nodding off in between contractions. I was exhausted. And, apparently, my body decided it was time for another break… by 10am Tuesday morning, the contractions nearly stopped altogether, and I was in for the longest break yet! S checked me, and now I was dilated to 7-8cm! I think it was at this point that I told S that I had at least another 2 days of labor in me before throwing in the towel and transferring to a hospital! I was determined to have this birth the way I wanted.
For Tuesday, I went immediately for acupuncture, which seemed to take forever. By this point I was getting very frustrated with my body. How could I get to 8cm, be in transition, and then completely STOP?! It didn’t make sense. But, after the acupuncture, we went back to the hotel where I got the best sleep yet of the entire ordeal, and ate some good food. The entire process wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t been eating and drinking to my heart’s content.
Wednesday morning at 1am, I had a very intense contraction at the hotel, and got up to go to the bathroom. Once I got to the bathroom, a gush of water came out! I called S and told her my water broke, but that contractions hadn’t picked up yet. She told me that they’d probably happen in a couple hours, so to just rest while I could. I got off the phone with her, and started to tell my husband what she said… but then a contraction hit. Then, when it was over, I tried to tell him again… and another contraction hit. That kept up for a few minutes, before he said “We need to go to S’s office… now!”
The contractions at that point were very intense. My husband says that I had NO sense of humor by this point. I vaguely remember being amused at jokes, but never had a chance to respond to them, because it took so much effort to say anything. I kept a running mantra in my head of “Down” which I’d just repeat through every contraction. It had been such a focus for a few days to get the baby to move down onto the cervix, that I was more interested in him moving down than in my cervix opening.
Throughout this, I’d been walking, standing, hanging and squatting on the birthing ball. I kept facing my husband and having him hold onto me, while my doula rubbed my back or squeezed my hips (which felt great!). Having my husband there was something that I’d wondered about beforehand, but he was my rock. He stayed by my side and let me use him whatever way I needed.
At one point, I asked to get into the tub. S said that I was making such good progress on land, that I should do that for a while. I think I muttered “Bitch” under my breath, which was the closest I came to acting like the image of the mean woman in transition. But, a while later I felt a contraction that made me feel almost like pushing, and I asked again to get in the tub, and S agreed!
As soon as I was in the tub, I had to push. I pushed for a while, without giving it 100% of my strength. M (partner midwife) checked me, and I still had an anterior lip on the cervix, so she said to try not to push for a while. So I squatted, and then stood and rocked and tried not to push. That worked for a few contractions, and then I had to push again. M held the lip through a few contractions, to try to get it to go away. At this point she cautioned me that the average pushing time for a first time mom (which, effectively, I was) was 2 to 3 hours. But, that isn’t counted until the lip was gone. In essence: I’d been pushing for 45 minutes or so, and it didn’t even count towards those 2-3 hours! That was disheartening to hear, but I knew it would happen eventually.
Even though it was difficult to think about how long this could go on, I just kept thinking “I’m pushing!” I couldn’t believe it was finally happening. There’d been so much worry over the previous year and a half, over whether or not I could even dilate to 10cm, that I thought it was a huge triumph to just be pushing! Also, apparently my water HADN'T broken at the hotel, because it broke while I was pushing!
But, it didn’t take that long at all. Suddenly, everyone was in the room, and seemed surprised that I was progressing so quickly! I could feel his head moving down the birth canal, and then the famous ring of fire. This was the only time I really felt any pain. I thought sure that his head was just crowning, when S held up a mirror for me to see… and his head was out! I said “Wow, that’s quite a site!” and everyone laughed. One more big push, and he was out!
He was brought to my chest, where he started breathing right away, without the need of any suctioning. I just held him and kept looking at him, amazed that I’d just given birth to him. Pushing the placenta out took more effort than I thought it would, but there was still no pain. It just felt different because I didn’t have an overwhelming urge to push.
I had a few small tears, and required a few stitches, but nothing that had to be done immediately. We spent about an hour just getting acquainted and letting Andre latch on.
After the fact, I’m struck by a few things. The first is that there wasn’t much pain, and I wonder why it is that I don’t describe anything but crowning as painful, while other women describe childbirth as an incredibly painful event. Do I feel it differently? Am I just plain tough? Is it because I didn’t expect it to hurt, and so it was all in my head? It’s amazing that something that so many women have gone through can have so many different perceptions about it.
The other thing that keeps going through my head, is that if I’d tried to birth this baby in a hospital, I would have ended up with another c-section. Even if I’d delayed going into the hospital, I’m sure I would have seen Tuesday morning’s labor as ‘hospital worthy,’ when I seemed to be in transition and was dilated to around 8cm. But, if the hospital staff had seen a labor just stop at that point, they would have kept it going with Pitocin, which (I believe) would have exhausted my uterus and my energy levels, leading to a ‘failure to progress’ diagnosis. Also, I wouldn’t have been allowed to eat, and would have been restricted to bed, which would have prevented the baby from getting in to a good birthing position. Instead of that set of events, I had one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. How many other women would have an empowering experience, rather than a traumatic one, if only they’d stay away from hospitals?
I was also amazed by the natural process of things. Despite the fact that this labor lasted for 3 days, it felt right. I was never forced to do things that went against my better judgment, and it was never pointed out during labor that this was different (meaning: a VBAC). There was no fear, and the only sorts of intervention or medical procedure were checking the baby’s heart rate with a Doppler, and monitoring my blood pressure (which stayed consistent throughout labor). This labor truly progressed naturally, and in the end I had a perfect birth and recovery. It was exactly what it should have been, and I only wish more people could experience labor and birth this way.