This is an old blog post I wrote many years ago and I thought it’d be fun to “rebirth” it on VGN. I wrote this story on August 26, 2012. To give it some context, Jeremiah was born in 2012 and Samantha was born in 2010. Samantha’s birth didn’t’ turn out like I had hoped, she was a c-section. I discuss some aspects of Samantha’s birth story in this post (and I have her full birth story, somewhere) and how Jeremiah’s birth was a complete healing experience for me. I’m convinced that when a woman’s body goes through the birthing process, not only is a baby born, but a woman is empowered. Birthing Jeremiah was the catalyst for my spiritual revival, although I didn’t realize it until many years later. I hope you gain a glimpse of that in this story!
Sidenote: When I reference “The Farm” I’m talking about the birthing center in Tennessee where I had hoped to birth Samantha. It was started by a now famous midwife, Ina May Gaskin, and continues to be an amazing environment for woman who want to have their babies outside the hospital.
This story comes just over 21 months from Samantha’s story, and oh how different it is. Jeremiah’s birth story is, in many ways, a story of healing. Because it wasn’t until I became pregnant with Jeremiah that I realized the unresolved issues I had about my first pregnancy ending in a cesarean section. I think if you ask any mother who wanted a natural birth but had to have a c-section she would tell you that she’s grateful to modern medicine for bringing a healthy baby into her arms but frustrated as to why she couldn’t birth her baby the way she wanted. Having a c-section can be a confusing, frustrating, and scary thing . After you’ve been through the process and had time to think about your surgical birth, the overwhelming thought in your head becomes “how can I avoid this same outcome with my next pregnancy?”
The truth of the matter is, you can’t. You can try to have the perfect pregnancy, take all the right vitamins, eat all the right food, do all the yoga and hypnobirthing exercises you want. But you still have to be prepared for the unexpected. And if there’s one thing I learned from Samantha’s birth it’s to be open to the unexpected. That’s the approach I took with this pregnancy. I planned for a VBAC at a birthing center but was not going to let myself feel guilty if things didn’t go exactly as planned.
When I became pregnant with Jeremiah I knew that my options for having a VBAC outside of a hospital were limited. North Carolina is not a midwife friendly state. Within a short time of living in NC I learned that most women who want an out of hospital birth go to South Carolina, where birthing centers and home births are more prevalent. However, shortly after becoming pregnant a birthing center opened in Statesville, NC. There was one other birthing center located in NC but was far away and not an option for us. Birthing at home was not really something my husband or I wanted to do either so we were super excited when this new birthing center was less than an hour away.
This birthing center, Natural Beginnings Birth Center, was staffed with two midwives and one OB. The midwives are CNM’s and attend a majority of the births in hospitals. Most of the midwives’ patients request a hospital birth but with the opening of this birth center they are providing the option for an out of hospital birth. Which is perfect for a patient like me!
After meeting the midwives and telling them my first birth story they were enamored with my history with “The Farm” midwives and my birthing experience. Everyone in the clinic soon recognized me as “The Farm” girl. While it was nice to be recognized, I didn’t really care for the attention. I had it stuck in my head that my first birth was a failure. I was one of the very few woman who went down on “The Farm’s” stats book as a c-section, not a natural birth. I didn’t have this amazing “Farm birth story” to tell. And I didn’t want to explain that to every person who said “Hey, I would die to have met Ina May. What was your experience like on The Farm?” I knew what they wanted to hear and I didn’t feel like I had anything wonderful to tell them. That’s when I realized I had more c-section baggage than I wanted.
Shortly after this scary epiphany I called my old midwife from “The Farm.” She was really encouraging and helped stop my mind from spinning. One thing she said I needed to do was have lots of communication with my current midwife about my fears. It was probably about half way through my pregnancy when I finally opened up to the midwife and told her what I felt. While she politely listened and made some suggestions, she ultimately told me to “just get over it”. She helped me see that I’m not the first woman to attempt a VBAC, nor the first woman to have fears about a VBAC failure. From that moment on, I refocused my energy and took a new approach towards this birth.
So, lets get to the actual birth experience.
I’m not sure exactly when the Braxton-Hicks contractions started but I think it was around 36 weeks. I was super tuned in to my body because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing a cue that something was wrong. With Samantha’s birth I NEVER went into labor. I had dilated to 3cm but never had active contractions. Even though this was my second pregnancy I was like a first-time mom having her first experience with a birthing body. I was having so many Braxton-Hicks contractions I thought I might go into labor before 40 weeks. I remember talking with my midwife and telling her how excited I was that my body seemed to be doing all the right things and how I hoped this baby would come early. I became so convinced that this baby would come early that I told my mom to book a flight and plan her trip! Note to self: don’t do that EVER again.
I must have jinxed myself because my mom was here for almost a week before Jeremiah was born. My poor mom had tried everything she could to get labor to start. We went on walks around the property (we live in the country so no nicely trimmed sidewalks to stroll on), took Samantha to the park and walked there, ate some spicy foods but stopped short of the castor oil. Almost every night I would awake to find consistent contractions. The birthing center was about an hour away so my constant concern was getting the timing right; I wanted to labor at home as long as possible but not get caught birthing this baby on the side of the road.
On Tuesday morning I was contemplating going to the birth center because we had been up most of the night with contractions and I was anxious. Intuitively, I knew that I wasn’t having a baby that day but I needed to know what kind of progress I had been making. So I called the midwife and she okay-ed it for me to come in. We stopped at a restaurant first and I ordered some spicy food, hoping that would kick labor into a higher gear before we met with the midwife. I was continuing to have some nice contractions but nothing unbearable. When we arrived at the center I was only 3cm. The midwife sent us to the local mall and told us to walk around for two hours and then come back for another check up. If no progress was made after two hours I would go back home. So, we walked (in the most dismal mall I had ever been in) and I was having strong contractions, strong enough to make me bend over and breath through them. After two hours no progress had been made so we went back home.
I figured that was going to happen but at least I knew where we were at and how to gauge my contractions. My body needed more time. That was Tuesday night, by Thursday the contractions were stronger and consistent. After lunch on Thursday I decided it was time for us to trek back to the birthing center but this time I knew I wasn’t coming home without this baby! I went over the routine with my mom and said goodbye to Samantha. I felt ready to birth a baby.
Upon arrival to the birth center I was 5cm dilated. At first I was disappointed that I wasn’t further along but told myself that was “half way”. Immediately I wanted to get into the birthing tub. My contractions were strong and consistent and if they accelerated in the tub than I was in true labor. If they stopped in the tub than I was in trouble, I did not want to regress.
The tub was heaven and the best birthing tool ever invented. With every contraction the water supported my weight and allowed me to move comfortably to ease the contraction. I had finally gotten the rhythm of contractions down and could tell Brent “heads up, here we go again!” Brent was so great, I mean so great, words can not convey what that man did during the entire labor. He made sure I was drinking and eating, offering encouraging words and supportive hands whenever I needed them. It was a labor for him as well.
A few hours in the tub and my contractions picked up, the midwives were pleased with the way things were going. I was too but started to get restless after awhile. The midwives (and a student midwife/doula who elected to attend our birth) were so laid back and calm. Almost too calm for me, it was frustrating for me because I couldn’t tell what they were thinking. They would just sit next to the tub and tell me how great I was doing, they focused on providing me with a calm environment. They provided cool clothes with essential oils for my forehead and music from the HypnoBabies class. They didn’t want to check me, they said there was no need to, but I wanted to know the progress. Now I know why they don’t check routinely, it can be a total let down if you’re not as far along as you think and thus slow labor down even more. (Labor is really about the battlefield in your head, physically I knew I could overcome and bulldoze this baby out if I needed to, but I wasn’t prepared for the mental games). They checked me after about 6 hours and I was 7cm. I was crushed, totally thought I was further along than that because I was doing so much work. That’s when I realized that this was a mental battle for me. It’s so easy to lose your momentum and thus stop, or even regress, your labor. And on top of that realization I was tired. I just wanted to sleep, I wanted out of the tub and in the bed. The midwives encouraged this and got me dried off and in bed, telling me to “just rest”. That was alot easier said than done as my contractions continued to come but I didn’t have the warm water to help take the edge off. Brent, on the other hand, was trying not to sleep but couldn’t help himself. He was exhausted and needed sleep too. Because we had been up at home the night before we hadn’t received any sleep in almost 24 hours.
I tried to sleep but kept getting aroused with every contraction; I needed more sleep than 5 minute increments could provide. I started to feel really alone. The midwives would come in about once an hour to take my vitals and then leave to go lay down and Brent was passed out on the bed. I felt exhausted, tired, alone, frustrated, and at my breaking point. The next time the midwife came in to check on me she asked if there was anything I needed. In my frustration, and with a sarcastic tone, I said “pain medicine”. She just tried to console me and tell me that I was doing fine. The next thing I know the other midwife comes in the room and says “I have some pain medicine do you want it?” What? I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. “YES” I said, I want it. She gave me a shot in the hip and the next thing I remember it was morning.
I think I had slept a good four hours when I woke up and realized it was morning. Brent was up and looking for some coffee. I was groggy and wanted to go back to sleep. I remember asking the midwife what was going on and how I was doing but don’t remember what she said. Later on my husband told me I just went in and out of sleep, really unable to stay awake. I remember thinking “I need to get up and get this baby out” but not having any energy to do so. My contractions had slowed down a lot and my body was taking a break. It was after 10AM when I really woke up and felt rested and ready for round two.
Looking back on this time of my labor I realized what a wonderful gift I was given. The midwives understood that my body needed to rest and that it wasn’t a “regression” at that time. My water had not broken and my vitals were stable so there really was no cause for concern. If I had been in a hospital I would have probably been convinced to have a c-section due to “regression” or stalling. With some good rest my body was able to regroup and do its job!
I was renewed and ready for this day, the day my baby would be born. It was May 25, a good day to have a baby! To help get things going the midwives suggested we go outside for a walk. Before we got out the door my contractions were causing me to stop and lean over. It was like my body just picked up where it left off a few hours before, only stronger. It was super hot that day so I couldn’t stay outside for long. I didn’t want to be outside at all actually but Brent convinced me to walk to the horse pasture that was behind the birthing center, hoping that seeing some horses would make me feel better. There were no horses to be seen (they were probably hiding under some shade trees somewhere) so then he convinced me to walk along a row of trees. I could only take a few steps before having to lean on a tree and breath through the contractions. At this point the pain was not unbearable but it helped to have Brent pushing on my back for counter pressure. The midwives came outside to tell us they were leaving for lunch, I didn’t want them to go. I knew if they left something would happen!
I don’t think we were outside longer than 45 minutes and when we finally went back in I wanted to get in the birthing tub again. The assistant called the midwives to ask if I could get in the tub but they said “NO”, just a shower. They knew the tub would probably accelerate labor and so they wanted to wait until they returned to the clinic. I took a shower and it felt great, having consistent contractions but nothing crazy. I remember getting out of the shower and feeling like I wanted to walk around in the room. I walked back and forth in the room, pausing for strong contractions. For these contractions I started pushing on the counter and pulling on a cloth like rope. Pulling on the rope and squatting really helped. Brent was in full support mode, pushing on my back with every contraction. This is when I started really moaning through my contractions. I had been softly moaning before but now it was like an involuntary sound that just came out. The midwives always told me to moan “deep” and not in a high pitch. You wouldn’t think that would make a difference but it did, a huge difference.
I don’t remember being checked at this point, not sure where I was but after a couple hours of walking in the room I wanted to get in the tub. The contractions were so much more bearable in the tub. I naturally found myself on all fours when a contraction would come along, “here we go again” I’d say. At the end of the contractions I was letting out a loud moan as if I was pushing really hard. It was the most amazing thing because my body was just doing its thing and I was just “riding the wave”, knowing I had really no control over anything. After a good, strong wave the midwives would say “great job”, “way to go”, only encouraging words. I knew I was making progress but after a few hours I could feel my strength start to wane.
The birthing tub was by a window and I could see the sun beginning to set. I started to panic thinking maybe my baby wouldn’t be born on May 25. The midwives sensed my anxiety and made some suggestions to help me along. At this point I was 9cm dilated and the midwife kept saying something about a “lip” being in the way. To help me get to 10cm the midwives suggested I flip over on my back and, while letting Brent hold me up under my arms, the others would hold my legs in the air while the midwife tried to manipulate the “lip” during a contraction. This was not comfortable but really helped jump start things again. After going through a few contractions in this position I wanted to turn around on all fours and push out a baby. This is really where I had to just hang on and ride the contraction wave, I pushed as hard as I could with each wave. Knowing I would be meeting my baby soon was motivating me beyond fear or pain. I can’t remember really thinking anything about pain, just that I would be meeting my baby soon. Next thing I know I felt a big rush of fluid gush out of me, my water had broke. With the next one or two contractions I could feel my baby’s head come out. I reached down to feel for the head and there it was, his tiny little head in my hands. The next contraction took what felt like forever to come, I knew I only had one more contraction left and this baby would be out! And then it happened, a small push with the next contraction and my baby boy was born! I reached down and pulled him out of the water and to my chest. It was such a surreal moment. Such a magical moment, a feeling I can not describe. Joy unspeakable! It was shortly before 9:30pm. His little head was misshapen and apparently the major cause for a long labor. It just took him awhile to get into the perfect birthing position. The labor was almost 48 hours from start to finish, with 30 hours being spent at the birthing center.
We stayed in the tub for a few minutes while the midwives prepared the bed. The umbilical cord was left attached as we stepped out of the tub and into the bed. The staff wrapped us up in warm blankets and I held my son to my chest. His eyes were bright and his demeanor was calm. He just melted in my arms. I don’t remember what was going on around me because I was on such a hormonal high. I was full of energy and so much happiness. The room was just so calm and everyone was laughing and joking. I can’t say enough about the midwives and how much I appreciated their commitment to my labor. They were determined to let this “The Farm girl” get her VBAC.