Thursday, October 28, 2010

J2's Birth Story

Last week I shared some of the details of our first baby's birth. A year and a half later when we got pregnant with our second baby, we knew we wanted to do things differently. 

Since I had had a c-section the first time, I knew I didn't have many options. The most obvious would be to have a repeat c-section. Although it would have meant another surgery, which I dreaded, I was willing to do it if that's what it took. But since the reason for the first c-section wasn't that legitimate, in my book, and because I had wanted so badly to give birth naturally, I didn't rush to sign up at the nearest OBGYN's office. 

Instead, I spent the first couple of months of the pregnancy researching. I did most of my work online, and while that's not always the most reliable source, I did try to keep to mainstream sites and techniques I was familiar with. One of those was the Bradley Method, a training course expecting couples take to help them know how to cope with labor and delivery. Doctor Bradley is a huge proponent of natural labor, including VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean). Read more about the Bradley Method here.

I also learned through my research that the average gestational age for natural onset of labor (which I never experienced the first time) was at 41 weeks, 2 days. I was induced at 41 weeks exactly. I felt that if my body had been given more time, I would have gone into labor naturally, could have avoided the drugs and subsequent failure of the induction, and resulting c-section.

Armed with that information, I called the nearest Bradley instructor. She had great information for me, including a class my husband and I could take that would help us with the birth process. I spoke with her about attempting a VBAC and asked if she knew of a clinic that would support my choice. The Bradley instructor also recommended her midwife to me.

My husband was excited about the midwife. Just out of curiosity while we were expecting our first baby, he had asked a lady at his work about her midwife/homebirth experience. She gave glowing reviews--and in fact had had a VBAC! Come to find out, it was the same midwife the Bradley instructor had recommended. 

It took me awhile before I really warmed up to the midwife idea, but as we thought more about it, it seemed to be the best choice for us. I have a huge amount of respect for the medical community, but I felt that in my situation with the outcome I was looking for, it wasn't a medical doctor who I wanted for my prenatal care and delivery. See, even if a doctor supports his patient's decision to attempt a VBAC, the woman has to be monitored--the IV, the infant heartrate monitor, the works. She is also under pressure to have the baby in a certain amount of time because the hospital is required to have a surgical team standing by incase of emergency cesarean. I knew that if I was going to labor and deliver naturally, med-free, and successfully, I didn't want to be in that kind of setting.

That's how I got to the point of calling the midwife. I was nervous about the first visit, but Kathy was so personable and friendly that I soon forgot about my nerves. She is a registered nurse-midwife with the state of Iowa and has many years of service under her belt, both in the hospital and with her own midwife practice. Kathy also explained to me that it's very typical for women with longer cycles to carry their babies longer--as in up to 43 weeks. Huge sigh of relief there!

Kathy and I met regularly, at first in her home and then at mine. She measured and listened, did the typical urine tests, let us listen to baby's heartbeat every time... Love that! She gave us a list of supplies we needed to make the home birth go smoothly, and though I was still a little apprehensive, I was grateful to not be planning a hospital stay!

I felt huge with this second baby! I also had lots of Braxton-Hicks (practice) contractions, though I hadn't had many at all with my first. Kathy explained it was because my muscles had been stretched out once already. 

We chose to be surprised with our baby's gender, mostly because we didn't want to pay out of pocket for an ultrasound. On a fluke, our insurance didn't cover midwifery, even though Kathy had other clients whose insurance did cover her services. In the end, it was fun to be surprised and I highly recommend it!

The big day finally came! My unofficial due date was April 24 and I went into labor on May 4. (I think it was 41 1/2 weeks.) At first I was just uncomfortable and couldn't sleep. Then it started to hurt! My husband drew me a bath at about 4:30 AM and started making phone calls. Once the midwife and doula (bonus! I loved the doula!!!) were on their way, he called the person who was to take care of our son and got that ball rolling too. I was pretty much out of it. 

It was a loooooong, hard day. The labor pains were intense and nearly constant. I've never worked so hard and been so tired in all my life! I was so thankful to be home and only have three other people there--including my husband who left my side only long enough to eat. Before, I had been a huge proponent of drug-free labors, but now, I get it!!! 

The midwife and doula would do periodic checks and were always available to help or answer questions, but for the most part, they just let nature do it's thing. The midwife did break the waters sometime in the early afternoon. Not long after that, I wanted to push. However, I wasn't fully dilated and was advised not to do so. That was the hardest thing ever!!! I nearly hyperventilated with the effort of trying not to. It was horrible. And it lasted for hours! Not only was I in constant pain with no position offering relief, I couldn't do the one thing I felt like doing! Thankfully the doula and my exhausted husband were there to help me.

Finally, they let me push that baby out. I had no idea it was taking that long, but it took 45 minutes. It was so much better than NOT pushing that I didn't care. And finally something was happening! Over 12 hours of extreme pain, exhausted to the point of tears... And at last I was being productive.

Our second son was born at 5:45 PM on May 4th, 2009. He weighed 9 lbs, 12 oz and was 21 1/2 inches long. Yes, he was nearly 10 pounds! Immediately after his birth, he was placed on my chest and it was the sweetest thing! My first baby had been cleaned and swaddled before I saw him for a moment, then he was whisked away. My second never left my sight. 

The midwife and doula cleaned, weighed and measured the baby. He had some troubles with breathing at first and we did a lot of praying while the midwife suctioned out his nose. That was the first time he really cried, which she encouraged for his circulation and respiration. Thankfully, the effort worked and we avoided a trip to the NICU. 

The midwife also cleaned everything up, if you know what I mean, and helped us get changed and comfortable. She stayed until she knew the baby was nursing ok, then left us on our own. Our older son was returned to us about 9 PM. He immediately fell in love with his baby brother!

The midwife returned the first day and after 1 week. The doula came for a separate visit and also left her cell number in case I needed help--she was also a breastfeeding advocate and I did call her at one point. I was so thankful to be home to recover! I can't say it's much easier than a c-section though! I mean, sure, there was no huge scar on my tummy, but I was very, ahem, tender for more than 2 weeks! 

So, there you have it. I know our decision is not mainstream, nor the right decision for everyone, but it certainly was for us! I'm so thankful to have been able to give birth naturally. My midwife swears it'll be easier next time! I think her words were, "It'll never be this hard again." I sure hope so!

I need to call her--today is 11 weeks!    

On the Banks of Squaw Creek


  1. I'm totally with you on the natural birth thing. I had the best of both worlds - natural birth in a hospital. I'm not sure I'd have the guts for a home birth!

    But I felt ready to push before I was completely dilated, too. So I understand how hard it is! That was the worst part. Pushing was such a relief!!!!

    Yay for med free births!

  2. Wow! What a beautiful story and it's great to hear a different perspective. Sounds like quite an experience.

  3. I absolutely LOVED reading your birth story! So amazing!

    Congratulations on the baby boy # 2! I am expecting my second boy in March and I'm hoping for a homebirth...although that gets complicated (as I'm sure you know.)

  4. Hey, thanks for visiting my blog! Congratulations on your pregnancy! I was really thrilled to read your story--I'm a new Bradley teacher myself. What a great birth story!



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